Teenage Fanclub Biography

Formerly the bulk of infamous Glaswegian band the Boy Hairdressers, Teenage Fanclub, a more sober sobriquet than the original suggestion of ‘Teenage Fanny’, came into being after Norman Blake (20 October 1965, Bellshill, Scotland; guitar/vocals), Raymond McGinley (b. 3 January 1964, Glasgow, Scotland; guitar/vocals) and Francis MacDonald (b. 21 November 1970, Bellshill, Scotland; drums) moved on from that pseudo-punk combo and linked up with Gerard Love (b. 31 August 1967, Motherwell, Scotland; bass/vocals). During 1989 the quartet recorded an entire album - completed three months before the band had even played live - until MacDonald (later to join the Pastels) made way for Brendan O’Hare (b. 16 January 1970, Glasgow, Scotland). As well as the historical connection with the Boy Hairdressers, members of Teenage Fanclub also had dealings with fellow Scots outfit BMX Bandits. Thus brought up on a diet of fun, loud guitars and irreverence, Teenage Fanclub stamped their mark on 1990 with a series of drunken live shows and the erratic, often out of tune, but highly promising Americanized rock debut A Catholic Education. In October, the band paid tribute to John Lennon by covering his ‘Ballad Of John And Yoko’, releasing and deleting the record on the same day.

A year on, having signed to Creation Records and supplemented by the support of a vociferous music press, Teenage Fanclub toned down their sound, allowing the melodies to come through more forcefully in a manner that self-consciously recalled the 70s guitar sound of the Byrds, Big Star and Neil Young (they became fundamental in instigating the former band’s revival in the early 90s). Inevitably, ‘Star Sign’ - with a cover version of Madonna’s ‘Like A Virgin’ on the b-side - threatened the UK charts on the back of the band’s new impetus, although the shambolic album the Madonna cover was drawn from (The King) was deleted on its day of release. Bandwagonesque arrived at the end of 1991 and became one of the year’s most memorable albums (in marked contrast to The King, which was roundly derided). Laced with chiming guitar and irresistible melody, Bandwagonesque suggested a band ready to outgrow their humble independent origins. It also showcased a band with three equally accomplished songwriters in Blake, Love and McGinley.

A sense of huge disappointment accompanied the release of 1993’s Thirteen, completed in eight months after touring on the back of Bandwagonesque (which sold 70, 000 copies in the UK and 150, 000 in the USA). This resulted in a concerted effort to make the band’s fifth studio album, Grand Prix (1995), an exceptional return to form. The songs were rehearsed for three months before entering the studio, where everything was fine-tuned over a five-week period at the Manor in Oxford with producer Dave Bianco (formerly Black Crowes producer George Drakoulias’ engineer). It also saw the introduction of new drummer Paul Quinn, formerly of the Soup Dragons. O’Hare, meanwhile, formed the Telstar Ponies with ex-Creation guitarist David Keenan. Reassuringly, the opening singles from these sessions, Blake’s ‘Mellow Doubt’ and Love’s ‘Sparky’s Dream’, showed the band still to be writing basic, heroically romantic and happy guitar pop songs.

The 1997 follow-up Songs From Northern Britain continued the theme, showing further shades of the songwriters’ 60s mindset with all the band’s strong Beatles and Byrds influences present and correct. Although the pace was lighter, this record contained some of Teenage Fanclub’s finest moments, with the jewels being Love’s ‘Ain’t That Enough’ and Blake’s glorious ‘I Don’t Want Control Of You’. Gene Clark would have doffed his cap to this magnificent slice of lilting pop.

Ex-BMX Bandits keyboard player Finlay McDonald joined the band full-time at the end of 1997. Following the collapse of Creation, Teenage Fanclub signed to Columbia Records for the release of the rather lacklustre Howdy! During the mixing of this album Quinn was replaced by the band’s original drummer Francis MacDonald. Teenage Fanclub’s next showing was a sometimes inspired collaboration with maverick singer-songwriter Jad Fair on the Velvet Underground -inspired Words Of Wisdom And Hope, which though it had been recorded in 1999 was not released until 2002. Later in the year the band recorded three new tracks for the compilation set, Four Thousand, Seven Hundred And Sixty-Six Seconds: A Short Cut To Teenage Fanclub.

Once again the band found themselves without a recording contract, but rather than give up they wrote and recorded a collection of songs and dug in for survival. The result was the excellent Man-Made, released on their own label in summer 2005. It was Teenage Fanclub’s strongest album since Songs From Northern Britain. Many of the songs were simple and stripped down (‘It’s All In My Mind’, ‘Cells’ and ‘Only With You’) yet after a few plays managed to soak into the consciousness. Another blinding excursion was ‘Born Under A Good Sign’, the band’s tribute to the Byrds’ ‘Eight Miles High’. In 2007 the members worked with Kevin Ayers on the recording of his new album, The Unfairground.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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