16 Years. Gigs in Scotland 1974 – 1990
Book by Chris Brickley
There are photography books, there are books about music, and then there is the painstaking collation of photos, ticket stubs, posters and other assorted ephemera that makes up the 550 pages of ’16 Years’. Quite how author Chris Brickley was able to assemble this amount of memorabilia is something that only he can know and it is a seriously impressive publication, larger than an old phone book and with at least as much information contained within it.
Looking at the book chronologically, it begins with ticket stubs from Greens Playhouse, later the Glasgow Apollo, and if you needed to know exactly when the Who, Stones, Mott the Hoople, Manfred Mann, Roxy Music and others played there between 1973 and 1976, Chris Brickley has done that for you. Every large urban settlement in Scotland is included here, along with some lesser know ones, with bands that went onto worldwide fame and others that played one gig and split up, plus everything in between.
There is a lot to be said for the amount of gig posters Brickley has been able to find. If you were around Edinburgh in the late 70s, Don Huggan’s meticulously drawn advertisments were probably sufficient to persuade you to see the likes of the Ramones, Magazine, 999 and others. The same can be said for the mid 80s pop art look that attracted punters into Glasgow’s Splash One nights, while Kilmarnock and Greenock audiences had their own versions of xeroxed publicity flyers.
Amongst all this are the photographs, which range from professional quality to crumpled polaroids, photos of bands and audiences. There’s a particularly good one of Ian Dury reclining in an Edinburgh pub garden, there’s Adam Ant wearing red and blue face paint, Madness goofing around in an alleyway, and more complete sets of pictures from gigs by Bauhaus and Echo & The Bunnymen, among others. Then there are crowds at outdoor events, people’s bedrooms, people on their way to or coming from shows.
16 Years is an achievement, beyond question. There are no end of books written about the late 70s, about Punk, about sociological and cultural matters, about the music and about writing about the music, but Chris Brickley brings an immediacy and documented veracity to his subject here. I hesitate to describe it as a historical document, although that is exactly what it is. It’s a colourful, informative, actually fascinating and very large book of everything you ever wanted to know about punk rock but were afraid to ask. Also, at a time when live music is in a covid-induced coma, it’s a salutary reminder of exactly why anyone ever goes to see a band onstage. And you don’t need to be Scottish to appreciate that.
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