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Baker's Dozen

Songs Of Praise: David Keenan's Baker's Dozen
Jennifer Lucy Allan , December 2nd, 2020 09:46

Jennifer Lucy Allan hears about high-fiving Edgar Froese, frightening the neighbours, disavowing the devil and how Scottish author David Keenan is all about saying yes. Portrait by Heather Leigh.


The Pastels - 'Truck Train Tractor'
Virgin Records in Glasgow had a fanzine section. I was starting to fall in love with DIY culture, just picking them up because I loved them as objects. I read the articles about these amazing groups that were in Glasgow, just a train ride away, then heard The Pastels. It was so raw, primitive, celebratory and romantic. It came from Glasgow and you could see them walking round the streets looking really cool with their bowl haircuts and weird anoraks. There was a gig at Fury Murry's, April 1987, The Pastels supported by The Vaselines. I didn't know anyone else who liked it and had nobody to go to the gig with, so I asked my dad to drive me in.

I asked him what happened at gigs, because I'd heard all this stuff about gigs being mental and people going crazy. My dad said it was nothing like that, that I'd sit at a table, with table service, while the group played. I asked what I should wear, and he said I'd need to wear a suit. So I wore his green dogtooth handmade suit, and he drove me in. Already the queue looked like I was not dressed right, everyone looked like the fucking Ramones – too small leather jackets and bowl hair cuts and drainpipe jeans. All the women had makeup like Siouxsie Sioux. I got to the door and the guy ID'd me, but then my dad saw and came over, and the bouncer let me in. I walked in and thought, fuck's sake, I look like an absolute tit. Everyone looked cool, I was 17, still a bit square, but I looked round the room and just thought: this is my world.

The Vaselines came on, songs with titles like 'Up Your Arse' – I'd never heard anything like it. Then there's a tap on my shoulder and I turn around and my dad's handing me a Coke! He says: ‘I was worried about you, so the doorman let me in.’

I didn't want my dad hanging out with me during the gig, I was trying to make friends and look a bit cool, so he says: ‘Aye alright, nae bother son,’ and just climbs on stage, sits next to the bouncer, and starts talking to him. I'm in the moshpit, everyone's getting pushed around, and occasionally my dad and the bouncer would walk on stage, push everybody back, he'd make sure I was ok, then sit down again. My dad basically became a bouncer for the night.

The Pastels blew my mind, they had very minimal chops, totally DIY, couldn't really play, absolutely joyous noise. It was like our own Velvet Underground, alive on the streets of Glasgow. It seemed all these secret artists were everywhere, everyone was writing a fanzine, putting up posters for a gig or cutting a demo tape – it was a big inspiration for when I wrote Memorial Device. You couldn't be passively involved – you needed to do something. I remember coming home from that Pastels gig, standing in front of the mirror, messing my hair up and knowing I would never ever comb it again. I haven't combed my hair since 1987.