We explore Dundee's thriving music scene and many of the famous and successful bands that have links with the city.
I’m Michael Marra and welcome to the University of Dundee and our weekly look at the moments in history – both of the institution and the city – that have created the vibrant, dynamic place that we’re now part of. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the University becoming independent, we examine the people, discoveries and decisions that have brought us to 2017 as Scotland’s University of the Year and one of the world’s Top 200 universities, delivering teaching and research that is helping to transform lives across society. In the years to come we have ambitions to be the top University in Scotland in everything we do.
Dundee has always had a thriving music scene with many famous and successful bands having links with the city. There has always been a plethora of live bands and acts for the people of Dundee to enjoy and many of these musicians have gone on to worldwide fame.
The Average White Band were formed in 1972 by Dundonians Alan Gorrie, and Malcolm "Molly" Duncan, with Onnie McIntyre, Michael Rosen, Roger Ball, and Robbie McIntosh completing the original line-up.
Both Duncan and Ball -- affectionately known as the Dundee Horns – were students at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art. When the band won a coveted spot backing Eric Clapton in 1973 they were well on the route to stardom.
In 1975, the single "Pick Up the Pieces” reached No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and sold over one million copies. Average White Band has continued recording and touring since but these days, only Gorrie and McIntyre are original members of the band.
As well as bands, there have been several widely-respected solo artists from the city, including Michael Marra known as “the Bard of Dundee”. An Honorary Graduate of the University, his songwriting was rooted in Scottish life and he found an audience within and beyond the folk music scene, which led to him work as a support musician for such performers as Van Morrison, The Proclaimers, Barbara Dickson and Deacon Blue. His song "Hermless" was jokingly suggested as a potential Scottish national anthem. He sang duets with Patti Smith, Eddi Reader, Karen Matheson and Karine Polwart.
While mainly known as a songwriter, he also worked extensively in theatre, radio and television.
Marra wrote original music and worked both as an actor and musical director in theatre. Among the various productions he was involved with, he wrote and performed in the show In Flagrant Delicht which was written in collaboration with playwright and Scottish Makar Liz Lochhead. The show was performed in Washington DC and Melbourne, Australia.
Marra’s children, Alice and Matthew, are also musicians and members of The Hazey Janes. Sadly, Michael Marra died in 2012 but his legacy lives on.
Billy Mackenzie grew up in Dundee and following a spell of travelling the world, he returned to Dundee in the mid seventies where he met Alan Rankine and formed the Ascorbic Ones. They changed their names to the Associates in 1979 which McKenzie stayed a part of until the 1990s when he began to work solo. On 22 January 1997, following a period of depression, Mackenzie tragically took his own life. His influence is still frequently cited and his loss has always been felt keenly.
Snow Patrol, another global phenomenon, were founded at the University of Dundee in 1993 by Gary Lightbody, Michael Morrison, and Mark McClelland. The band signed to the major record label Polydor Records in 2002 and their breakthrough album, Final Straw sold over 3 million copies worldwide. Their follow-up studio album, Eyes Open, and its hit single, "Chasing Cars", propelled the band to even greater international fame. The album topped the UK Albums Chart and was the best-selling British album of the year, selling over 6 million copies worldwide.
During the course of their career, Snow Patrol have won seven Meteor Ireland Music Awards and have been nominated for six Brit Awards. They have sold 13 million albums worldwide. Gary Lightbody is due to collect his Honorary Degree from the University in June 2017.
Tune in next week for another podcast from the series, subscribe to Itunes to get the podcast delivered to your inbox and check out the website – www.dundee.ac.uk/50 for extra material.