An introduction to The Skids
Not many people get the chance to choose between being a football hero or a rock ‘n’ roll star, but The Skids’ singer and lyricist Richard Jobson is one such enviable talent. But then Richard Jobson is no ordinary young man and The Skids are no ordinary band.
The Skids story actually starts with Stuart Adamson, their likeable lead guitarist and the one who contributes the music for Jobson’s words.
Stuart and bass player Willie Simpson used to be in a band called Tattoo who spent most of their time playing cover versions of David Bowie, Status Quo etc around the north of Scotland (All four Skids come from small mining towns around Dunfirmline in Fife.)
Latterly, however, the twosome decided to form their own band around a batch of some six or seven songs that Stuart had written.
A mutual friend told them about Richard Jobson, who’d never sung before but was into boxing and football instead – a Scottish schoolboy international centre forward, no less!
Richard was invited to a party at Stuart’s house and certainly created an impression – he was thrown out for “being vicious”
we stole from the English bands
A week later, they met up again at a Rezillos gig and came to a more peaceful arrangement. Richard would do the singing and being vicious was left to other sadder creatures. The trio then advertised for a drummer and found Tom Kellichan, who had previously played in cabaret bands.
In common with many bands starting up in the summer of 1977, The Skids started life as an out-an-out punk band. Richard, then only 16, was one of the area’s first punks and his bleached hair was the object of much amusement and scorn from the rest of the locals, who were still into boring old heavy metal.
“We stole everything from the English bands, as much as we possibly could,” admits Richard with a grin. “Not the music, but the image, the attitude, the lot.”
Stuart, however, thinks the term ‘punk’ to be wrongly applied. “If you take it as music by young folk for young folk – which is what it really was when it started – that’s what we were.”
Unlike most punk bandwagon jumpers though, The Skids had minds of their own and weren’t slow in exercising them. They soon decided they had more to offer than the bands they were trying to copy.
“It didn’t take us long to realise how ridiculous some of the English bands were,” Richard remembers, citing Chelsea and The Cortinas as examples. “We couldn’t believe they had got onto vinyl, songs like that. That’s when we started writing songs like ‘Charles’ and realised we could do it ourselves, and maybe more.”
Though the punk hangover took a while to wear off, it was soon pretty clear that The Skids were a cut above the rest.
While others were following the party line and ranting away to pseudo-angry scratchbags, The Skids were never afraid to follow their own ideas or to experiment.
The title track of their new album, ‘Scared To Dance’ – still probably their best song – dates from this early period. Mean and moody, it features some very fine extended guitar work by Stuart, a complete contrast to the regulation two-minute blitzes practised by other bands at the time.
debut record ‘Charles’
As the band’s local popularity grew by leaps and bounds, ‘Charles’ and two other songs were recorded for the local No Bad independent label, and the resulting EP topped the New Wave best-selling lists round the country.
The band then signed to Virgin – from whom you can still get that ‘Charles’ EP – and the climb to the top continued.
A single ‘Sweet Suburbia’ and a four track EP ‘Wide Open’, followed before the present magnificent smash hit ‘Into The Valley’ finally broke the chart barrier to give The Skids the success they so deserve.
Their new album is great too, and knocks everything else released this year into a cocked hat. A memorable collection of 12 strong tunes and Olympic-qualifying riffs, it’s performed with a truly inspiring brand of developed skill and riotous raw power.
It also boasts some very unusual lyrics from Richard, an intense young man who’s already written a volume of poetry and carries books by French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre around.
“They’re all personal,” he says of his mysterious verses, “but I always write them so that people can take something from them.”
“It’s just imagery,” adds Stuart. “If you can take something from the imagery, that’s all there is about it.”
The Skids aren’t being deliberately obscure: it’s like their logo says – they’re ‘Wide Open’ to possibilities.
So there you go. That’s your introduction to the Skids. If I didn’t mention Willie or Tom much that’s because they don’t talk much – they make their contribution felt on stage, OK?
And that’s how you should meet The Skids – live on stage. Catchy tunes, great rock ‘n’ roll riffs, irresistible excitement, dance music, a laugh and always something different: What more do you want?
Smash Hits, March 1979