Glenn Freychurch RIP

26 01 2016

Glenn Leodhas Freychurch RIPWhen the Outer Hebrides Licensing Board met in 1975 to make up their infamous List of Songs That All Bands Playing In Stornoway Pubs Have To Play All The Time For The Next 100 Years At Least, Glenn Freychurch’s “Take It Easy” was beaten to the top only by “Freebird”. (And maybe “Whisky In The Char”). 
Indeed, “Take It Easy” was the only song that many Stornoway covers bands bothered to learn, and a fair few of them made a good living out of playing it over and over and over again all night, every fleekeem fleekeen night.
That’s one of several reasons why the demise of the Seagles’ guitarist is such a bitter blow to his fellow Hebridean musicians, following so swiftly on from the departures of Lemmy, David Bowie and thon cove in the Specials.
Freychurch and the Seagles popularised their smooth, mellow brand of West Side sounds in the early 70s. These were cold, grim times in Stornoway – plagued as they were by peatcutters’ strikes, herring shortages, brown flared boiler suits and Austin Allegros. Freychurch’s songs transported the listener to a different world, where they could cruise down the sunny boulevards of Santa Bragar in a convertible, sip cocktails in a beachside bar under the palms in Malibu ( or Melbost Borve, at least), and strut about Los Arnol-es wearing a daft big medallion and a chest wig.
Freychurch’s songs captured the contradictions of 70s West Side life – a laid-back freewheelin’ lifestyle of empty hedonism on the surface, with an undercurrent of melancholy, desperation and impending cuiream beneath.
Glenn Leodhasach Freychurch was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1948, to parents who’d emigrated to Canada on the Metagama then sneaked over the border to get jobs in the city’s automobile industry. Glenn was a mere 6 months old when the family returned to their home village of Grimshader in 1949. His old man had been deported for receiving contraband marags, duff and craggan’s biscuits from dubious West Side associates in the post and peddling them among Detroit’s large exile community. (This experience was the basis for his solo hit “Smuggler’s Brues” in the 1980s).
Growing up in the beat boom of the early 60s, Freychurch developed an early interest in music, His first band in the mid-60s was The Subterraneans, not to be confused with the 1980s Sandwick band of the same name. Unfortunately Freychurch often did get the 2 bands mixed up, and for most of 1964 was in the habit of turning up for practices at Deadollac’s shed on North Street, only to find that it hadn’t been built yet, and the rest of “his” band were either in nappies or hadn’t been born. Many years later, in his drug-addled 80s period, Freychurch once again took to appearing at Subterraneans rehearsals until AJK told him to fleek off. 
In the late 60s Freychurch got tired of Grimshader and decided to make for the West Side, where he cruised the freeway between Ness and Carloway, networking with various hippy musos such as JD Southdell and Jackson Breasclete, and spending a lot of time smoking kippers with the self-absorbed community of singer-songwriters up in Lionel Canyon.
The Seagles first came together in the early 70’s to back well known country singer Linda StRonanstadt. The original four musicians immediately gelled and decided to develop the country rock sound by forming a band. Joining Freychurch in this line up were Domhnall Henhouse, Berniera Leadon (previously with the Frying Buntata Brothers) and Randy Minister.
Their first album, simple called Seagles, became a overnight sensation with local music fans and sold over 5 copies in DD Morrisons. It contained such tunes as “Peaceful Easy Sheiling” and “Witchy (Tolsta) Cailleach”, which set the template for their musical direction.
Leadon decided to leave the band in 1975, unhappy that they were moving away from the chanter and melodeon tunes he loved and becoming more rocky to appeal to the crowd in the Lewis Public. This rocky element was beefed up even further when Don Elder joined the band as lead guitarist.
In 1977 Joe Lochalsh joined the band. A native of Wester Ross, he’d made his home in Stornoway after being chucked off the Loch Seaforth in 1968, and had made a name for himself with the Jamieson Drive Gang, scoring big hits with “Fank#49” and “Waulk Away”.
Lochalsh’s first album with the Seagles was the legendary “Hotel Callanish”, and his epic solo on the title track was to become a timeless classic. Indeed it won “worst lead break of all time” in a 1998 “Tolsta Guitar” magazine poll. 

The band had always been a fractious bunch of bleigards, continually fighting over what chords to play and who got to sit in the wee seat next to the driver whilst on tour on a Mitchell’s bus. Arguments were ten a penny and threats of bodily harm flew thick and fast across the stage. Eventually it all came to a head and the Seagles announced that they were splitting up at the end of a massive tour of the Scout Hall, the YM and Sandwick Hall. 
Famously, Domhnall Hensupper was asked if they would ever reform, to which he replied ‘When Wee Free’s Is Over’, making reference to the small chance of the Free Church rejoining the Church of Scotland.
Freychurch had a successful solo career following the Seagles’ breakup, and he always remained on good terms with Henshed. He had a big hit with ‘The Peat Is On’ from the soundtrack to ‘Barabhas Hills Cop’. 
Eventually the lure of a lucrative residency in the Golf Club (every second Saturday throughout April and May depending on competitions and weddings) brought the five band members back together. They toured extensively round the whole of Lewis and recorded several live albums and one studio album.
But let us close our appreciation of Glenn Leodhas Freychurch with his own words, the original lyrics of “Take It Easy”- about a tractor driver providing his services to folk taking their peats home – (before the band persuaded him to change them because it was “too fleekeen maw-ish”):

Take It Peaty

Well I’m driving down the road

Trying to hang on to my load

I’ve got seven peatstacks on my mind

Four wanna go to Bayhead

Two wanna go into a Cearns shed

And one load’s for a friend of mine
Take it peaty, take it peaty

Don’t let the sound of your own Massey

Drive you crazy

Load up while you still can

Don’t even try to use a van

Just find a place to dump your load

And take it peaty.
Well, I’m dumping at the corner

In Willowglen so warn her

and such a fine sight to see

It’s a blone, my lord, in a 52 Ford(son Dexta)

Slowing down to give an order to me

Come on baby, don’t say Tuesday

I got to know when your Peatstack 

Is going to be ready.

We may lose some peats and smuir

But it’s better than carting manure

So fill the trailer and climb in

And take it peaty.

Bowie: Scary Ministers (and Cheeky Chips)

16 01 2016

2016 has already been a year of tragedy in the Outer Hebrides’ music scene (see our Lemmy tribute), and now we mourn another much-loved Leòdhasach after the shocking loss of international pop icon David Bowie. 
Born Donald John Macleod in 1947 in the leafy Stornoway suburb of Branahuie, DJ became fascinated by Tibetan Presbyterianism at a young age. He studied the discipline for some time under the watchful eye of a Cheviot ewe (as there weren’t any llamas on the island at the time). However, his patience with mysticism wore thin, and he eventually jacked it in and spent his time studying Jazz chanter.
Donald’s growing interest in music saw him join a series of early 60s rhythm ‘n’ blues combos including the King Frees and promising Hearach band the Mànish Boys, before crossing the Braighe to Point and forming his own outfit – Donald John and the Lower Bayble.  
A master of reinvention, Donald began to experiment with dyeing his hair in the mid 60s. Back in these days, Kenny Froggan’s wouldn’t sell hair dye to coves, so Donald resorted to using various flavours of J*mmy B*ller’s luridly-coloured “Slàinte” lemonade instead. In 1965, inspired by Gress beat combo the Diamond Dogs and their flamboyant guitarist Daibhidh Bàn, Donald applied a Pineappleade rinse. Proudly sporting his new tartrazine yellow hairdo, Donald announced that his new name was “Daibhidh Buidhe”. Predictably the Townies were unable to cope with Gaelic spelling or pronunciation, so it wasn’t long before Daibhidh Buidhe became “David Bowie” and started out in new musical directions.
After several abortive attempts to jump on the Mòd bandwagon, and a singular lack of success at cabaret crooning in the style of Anthony Newallsnursery, Bowie scored a minor novelty hit in 1967 with “The Laughing Genome”, about the Niseachs’ abortive attempts to clone guga. But it was in 1969 that he first captured the zeitgeist conclusively. In a year that saw the moon landings, Stanley Kubrick’s “2001”, and the beginnings of the traditional music tuition movement for kids in the Summer holidays, Bowie released “Fèis Oddity” – a concept single about a botched attempt to send Duncan “Major” Morison into space.
“Ground control to Major Mor-is-on

Fetch your boilersuit and put your wellies on”

Bowie’s reputation grew steadily with the release of acclaimed albums such as “The Maw Who Sold The Wool” (1970) and “Fanky Dory” (1972). At this time he began to work with long term collaborators such as top producer (and BEA baggage handler at Stornoway Airport) Tony Viscount-i, guitarist Mick Rawasamaw, bassist Trevor Ollack and drummer Woody Woodlandcentre. 
Megastardom arrived in 1973 when Bowie developed his first alter-ego; “Ziggy Starmore” – a fictional extra-terrestrial rock hero who designed knitting patterns in his spare time, a persona which he later morphed into “Aladdin Stèinis”. 
Around this time Bowie experimented with religious androgyny, leaving people unsure if he was an FP or a Wee Free, as he wandered around the Ordhuigheans in his knitted uni-sex wellies and outrageous boilersuits. Sadly his bobban Ziggy outfit got wet after an open air gig in the Town Hall carpark and sagged so much he had to dash into Burton’s across the road to preserve his modesty. Bowie emerged from the shop in a dapper suit and tie and his next incarnation, the Thin White Plook, was born.

In this particular style, Bowie released “Young Amadans” and “Mitchells Bus Station to Bus Station” (a concept album about a trip on the West Side Circular) featuring songs described as ‘soul destroying’. 
Bowie also spent several notorious years in East Garrabost, living and working with Iain G Pop – and Brian Eneclete, producing two seminal albums “Hearachs” and “Low-erBayble”. Life in the seedy demi-monde of cold war Garrabost took its toll, however. Bowie grew addicted to a toxic diet of 4 Crown, Woodbines and Hen Suppers, joined the Dawn Squad in the Castle Grounds and released the not very good “(Porter’s) Lodger”.
He returned to form in 1980 with “Scary Ministers (and Cheeky Chips)”. This contained the groundbreaking single “Ash Carts to Ash Carts”, which had a video filmed in front of a bulldozer out in Tawse’s quarry. The video and single heavily influenced the Newton Ram-antic movement. 
Bowie was a great collaborator, producing and writing for other artists and also copying the fleek out of them and kidding on it was all his idea. Some of the more successful ones include:
Writing “All the Tong Dudes” for Mawtt The Hoople”.

Producing “Transfarmer” (1972) for Paddy Reed, the album which many say rescued Reed’s career after he split with 60s avante-garde legends the Bobban Underground. Bowie was often accused of plagiarising Reed’s decadent image and edgy material, and indeed they had a famous catfight in the Macs in 1973 when Reed accused Bowie of nicking 2 of his songs, plus 4 penny chews and a bag of maltesers.

Producing “Maw Power” for Iain G Pop and the Stoodies

Recording Xmas carol “The Little Drum an Aoil Boy” with Bing Crossbost, to raise money for North Lochs Community Centre

Two collaborations stand out above the rest. A productive writing session one summer at Freddy Mer-coorie’s Shawbost àirigh spawned a classic duet inspired by the Queen frontman’s prize Galloway cow and her battle with mastitis; the 1981 hit collaboration, “Udder Pressure”. 
The other stand-out partnership was 1985s “Dancing In The Peats” with Mick Bragar as part of LimeAid, the global charity event to raise funds to enable Parkend beverage firm Sm*th’s to develop a replacement for Z*p-a- Cola (banned due to new EU regulations on creosote). The video was shot entirely at Parkend Industrial Estate behind the Lemonade Factory where nobody could see how woefully inept their actual dancing was.
Despite all his successes, Bowie’s private life wasn’t a bed of roses. He divorced his first wife when he found out her name was spelled Angie rather than Angaidh but later found lasting happiness with Ioman, international supermodel and captain of the Somali ladies’ shinty team.
Bowie also tried his hand at acting when he joined the Stornoway Thespians. He took part in many of their Christmas Pantomimes including “The Man Who Fell To Urgha” and Jim Henson’s Gaelic Fantasy “Abair-ynth” (which featured the Mawppets and a revolutionary puppeteering technique developed in Arnish known as Animacantronaichs). 
His output during the 80s and 90s varied in quality, tone and topic, from 1989’s experimental “Tin Masheer” to the 2002 Sunday Ferry protest album “Heathen” but he returned to form in later years and as a thank-you to all his fans in the Broadbay area released his final album “Backstar” only days before his death.
Bowie often contemplated life beyond the here-and-now and one such quote in particular has been oft-repeated in these last few days; 
“I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be Borsham”