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Teenage Fanclub remastered

the Lanarkshire legends relive their past (with Brendan O'Hare)

By • Sep 6th, 2018 • Category: features

Nostalgia, it must be said, is big business – but sometimes it can lead to a whole new audience for music that could be otherwise be the preserve of a previous generation.

And the vinyl revival will surely draw fans old and new to rediscover seminal indie rockers Teenage Fanclub, whose five long players for Alan McGee’s Creation label are being reissued.

The Bellshill act, formed in Lanarkshire in the early ’90s, has long had a core of three members – Norman Blake, Raymond McGinley and Gerry Love – as well as a rotating cast of drummers, including Brendan O’Hare, who was behind the kit for the first couple of these – ‘Thirteen’ and the critically-acclaimed ‘Bandwagonesque’.

That release, the band’s second, prompted Kurt Cobain to refer to Teenage Fanclub as the best band in the world. Perhaps even more impressive, Liam Gallagher described ‘the Fannies’ as the second best (you can imagine who he named as first).

But despite hitting the album charts regularly over their close-on 30-year career, it’s their peers and critics who are their most notable supporters – the band pipping Nirvana’s landmark ‘Nevermind’ to the top of critics’ polls in 1991, even if Cobain’s trio won out in the chart battle.

As O’Hare remembers, the critical acclaim was still some consolation.

“We definitely wanted people to buy our records,” he confides, “but, if I’m honest, the press were pretty nice to us. We always had a good time with the journalists and the photographers and that probably made for nice articles and pictures.”

That included trips across the Atlantic, where their influence was undoubtedly noted. “My favourite moment from the first period was probably around the recording and aftermath of recording the ‘God Knows It’s True’ EP in America with Don Fleming,” O’Hare recounts.

“It was a bit of a surreal event, that whole trip. Summer 1990 I think – we did quite a lot of outrageously cool things and met cool people and I think that by the time we got home we’d fully laid the foundations for the next bit. which, I guess, is the part that these albums cover.”

The high bar set by ‘Bandwagonesque’ meant its follow-up didn’t quite reach the same levels of acclaim. “There’s some great songs on that one,” O’Hare insists, and indeed, it includes ‘Radio’, one of the band’s earliest entries into the Top 40.

Despite their second album’s ‘seminal’ status, O’Hare is looking forward to the rest of the quintet of releases. “I reckon the most interesting one will be ‘Thirteen’, sonically that is.”

O’Hare’s interest in the sound of the band, whose noisy beginnings saw them morph into purveyors of bright, Californian-style melodies, is understandable.

Following his departure from the band, he joined Mogwai, an act only rivalled for sheer volume by the drummer’s own outfit Macrocosmica, which saw him switch to guitar.

And he’s modest about his own contribution to the Teenage Fanclub legacy.

“I think there was a definite shifting up a gear after the ones I played on,” he confides. “‘Grand Prix’ is brilliant and seems like it was recorded in the spirit that ‘Thirteen’ started off in.

“And ‘Songs From Northern Britain’ is sensational I think, it’s definitely my favourite Fanclub album.”

The celebration of the band’s past, however, is something of a bittersweet affair, with the news that due to the tour, which takes in Hong Kong and New Zealand as well as dates in Scotland and England, founding member Gerry Love has decided to leave the band, due to a “sadly unresolvable difference of opinion on… proposed touring plans.”

It’s a curious and certainly unexpected end to the core trio’s long association – for his part, Gerry Love has responded to the original news of the split, saying: “I didn’t leave the band and certainly wasn’t kicked out, the idea of this tour eventually became a fork in the road… it’s as amicable as it can possibly be”.

The news came as a shock even to O’Hare, who admits: “I wasn’t expecting the Gerry thing at all”.

But the drummer is looking forward to reuniting with Love and the rest of the Fanclub’s members throughout the years for the UK dates, which will now act as a poignant farewell.

Despite now being based in England – making music as Dark Globes with “four Cockneys from Southend-on-Sea” – O’Hare is making a trip up to Glasgow where the band will cover the reissued albums over the space of three nights at the end of October. Although, he’s not heard the remastered versions yet due to his record deck having been borrowed!

However, it’s not just about the sound. “I saw the covers in the flesh recently,” he laughs, “and they all looked ace!”

‘Bandwagonesque’, ‘Thirteen’, ‘Grand Prix’, ‘Songs From Northern Britain’, and ‘Howdy!’ are all out now. The band reprise the albums at Glasgow’s Barrowland on October 29, 30 and 31, followed by Manchester, Birmingham and London triple-headers in November, while the dates in Japan, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Australia will take place – without Gerry Love – in 2019. More at www.teenagefanclub.com.

This article originally appeared in print in our sister titles, the Bellshill Speaker and Motherwell Times

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