Belle and Sebastain

Belle and Sebastain

A friend of FirstFoot's nominated Belle and Sebastian for inclusion in the Good Scottish Pop archive.

So, we bought the albums. We listened intently over a period of several weeks.

And the conslusion we reached? Twee pish. Music and lyrics written by middle-class students for middle-class adolescents. The evidence? Lyrics as powerful and insightful as these:

I love my dog
I love my pussy cat, I love the rat
That lives under the floor and makes his bed from novelettes

or these:

You're just a baby, baby girl
So kiss me on the cheek and then go off to sleep
You're just a baby, baby girl
So kiss me on the cheek before you know what's sweet

Belle and Sebastian are an 8-piece Glasgow band. FirstFoot suspects that part of the reason that we find them so irritating is that Glasgow's social and economic infrastructure should be producing bands that are angry, loud and polemical. By contrast, the plinky-plonky music and smugly clever clever bedsit lyrics of B & S sit uncomfortably.

The origins of the band lie with two Stuart's. Stuart Murdoch and Stuart David met at a government funded music course in Glasgow in 1996. Stuart Murdoch had previously been writing and recording under the nom-de-plume of "La Pastie de la Bourgeois" (FirstFoot will resist comment). The Belle and Sebastian name that the duo adopted has similar French roots, taken from the novel "Belle and Sebastian" by French author Cecile Aubrey. The book was turned into a popular children's television show which was syndicated widely in the 1970's.
Belle and Sebastian with lots of dogs, looking young and fresh and not at all twee.
Belle and Sebastian with lots of dogs, looking young and fresh and not at all twee.

Their route to fame and fortune was through Ian Rankine, ex-songwriter with The Associates. Rankine runs a Music Production course at Glasgow's Stow College. Each year, from the hundreds of demo tapes received, one band is chosen to have their music professionally produced. In 1996, Belle and Sebastian, expanded from the original Stuarts, to a six-piece, were the chosen ones.

The result, was the LP, "Tigermilk". Only 1,000 vinyl copies were pressed. These now fetch ridiculous prices from people with little sense and less taste.

As a result of the album, the band were signed to the independent Jeepster label and, now an eight piece, released "If You're Feeling Sinister", before the end of 1996.

Following a period of relative obscurity and the release of "The Boy With the Arab Strap", which made the UK top 20 album chart, the band burst on to the public consciousness in an unexpected way.

The Brit Awards is the Music Industry's annual showcase event. In 1999, Belle and Sebastian, now some three years since they released their original output, were nominated as "Best newcomers". In an extremely lightweight category, with bands such as Another Level, Billie, Cleopatra, Cornershop, Five, Hinda Hicks and Steps, it was widely expected that Pete Waterman's "Steps" would walk away with the award.

They didn't. Belle and Sebastian won. Despite Waterman being furious, that might have been that, but for the Scottish edition of the Sun tabloid splashing allegations of vote rigging on its front page three days later.

So, at least the band are renowned for something apart from tweeness and shite lyrics.
Stuart Murdoch, the other founder member
Stuart Murdoch, the other founder member

The egotism of musicians knows no bounds. In 2001, Stuart Murdoch put himself forward for election to the post of Rector of Glasgow University. In a 3 horse race against a couple of comedians and Alisdair Gray, one of Scotland's most renowned authors, he came third. Perhaps the students had read his lyrics.

As we reach the end of 2002, the band have lost a founding member, Stuart David, and a cellist, Isobel Campbell. They all seem to be involved in individual side projects. Usually a precursor to splitting up.

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