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The Skids were a Scottish punk rock and new wave band, formed in Dunfermline, Fife, in 1977 by Stuart Adamson (guitar, keyboards, percussion and backing vocals), William Simpson (bass guitar and backing vocals), Thomas Kellichan (drums) and Richard Jobson (vocals, guitar and keyboards). Their biggest success was the 1979 single “Into the Valley” and the 1980 album The Absolute Game.

Skids played their first gig on 19th August 1977 at the Bellville Hotel in Pilmuir Street Dunfermline.  Within six months they had released the “Charles” EP on the No Bad Record label, created by Sandy Muir, a Dunfermline Record shop and music shop owner turned Manager. The record brought them to the attention of national BBC Radio 1 Disc jockey John Peel. This led to a local gig supporting The Clash. Virgin Records then signed up Skids in April 1978.

In a two year period in 1979-80, the Skids hit the UK top 40, four times, with singles like “Into The Valley” (a top 10 hit), “Masquerade” and “Circus Games” plus the singles “Sweet Suburbia” and “The Saints Are Coming” both made commercial inroads, Guitarist Stuart Adamson left the band in 1980 to form Big Country, while singer Richard Jobson went on to form The Armoury Show, before becoming a poet, TV presenter, writer and film director, with six features films to his name.

Adamson took his own life in 2001. The Skids first reformed in 2007, with Adamson’s former Big Country band mate Bruce Watson, and Watson’s son Jamie, on guitars.

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Scared to Dance

The band released their debut studio album, “Scared to Dance” the same year. It was recorded at The Townhouse Studios in London, England with record producer David Batchelor, Adamson walked out towards the end of the sessions before all the guitar overdubs were completed .Session guitarist Chris Jenkins was chief maintenance engineer at Townhouse studios and completed the album using Adamson’s studio set up, adding additional guitar to four tracks “Into the Valley”, “Integral Plot”, “Calling the Tune” and “Scared to Dance”.

The Skids’ anthem was born from Alfred Tennyson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade – its anti-war sentiments are still relevant today. People seem to remember it more for my daft dancing rather than the themes we were exploring. That’s the price you pay for doing a daft dance on TOTP.”

In the meantime, Adamson had returned to Scotland when the recording was finished. He re-joined the band for the live concert tour promotion of the album. The record included “The Saints Are Coming”, which was later covered in late 2006 as a single by American band Green Day.

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Days in Europa

Skids enjoyed a further year of chart success as “Masquerade” and “Working for the Yankee Dollar” reached the UK Top 20 singles chart. Both came from their second album, also released in 1979, “Days in Europa” with the record’s production and keyboards by Bill Nelson (musician) of Be-Bop Deluxe” Nelson was the obvious choice for the record’s production duties as he was not only Adamson’s principal ‘guitar hero’ but also an enormous influence on Adamson’s playing. Nelson also played an important role in polishing Skids’ sound and in encouraging the development of Jobson’s lyrics. Just before recording of the album commenced, Kellichan left the band and was temporarily replaced on drums by Rusty Egan from the band Visage and later The Rich Kids The New Romantic Egan played on the album and later on the live concert tour of the record. Keyboard player Alistair Moore also temporarily joined the band to perform live with them. He had been recruited to play Bill Nelson’s keyboard parts from the record. The opening track of [second album] Days In Europa. It sets the tone for the new Skids. This was our second album. We had gone to Wales to record with Bill Nelson and we wanted to do something new and fresh. Bill encouraged me to write lyrics the way I wanted to write, which is captured perfectly here in this abstract poem on the working man. “Thanatos” “A blistering, ferocious song that always seemed to work better live than on record. It sits well on Days In Europa. We still play the song today as part of our live set and it still works. A song about Death called Death. I think I must have been going through a difficult period with my health at the time which has dogged me all my life. I’m epileptic.”

I was thinking about my father when I wrote it, he was a coal-miner. Adamson’s guitar work is brilliant and Rusty Egan helped develop a new sound through his innovative drum playing.” People missed the irony of Days In Europa and misread the lyrics as having some kind of Fascist fetish thing going on. I hate fascists and everything they stand for. The song was about the undue pressure put on young men to be somebody in the traditional sense of masculinity. This was something we all rejected.”

“A backwards version of Animation with a spoken word poem about the crumbling fabric of Europe after WW2. It was a brave thing to do at the time and critics were always looking to shoot anyone down who dared rise above their station. Fuck the critics.”

In November 1979 Mike Baillie, ex-Insect Bites, was recruited as a permanent band member, taking care of the drums, backing vocals and percussion). He slowly took over from Egan, while the band was still touring “Days in Europa”. Some of Jobson’s lyrics as well as the album cover caused controversy. It showed an Olympic Games” Olympian being crowned with laurels by an Aryan looking woman, and the lettering was also in Gothic script. Some, including DJ “John Peel” felt that this glorified Nazi ideology and it was indeed similar to posters from the “1936 Summer Olympics” held in Germany. After the original version of the album had already been released, The Canadian record producer Bruce Fairbairn was brought into the project. The original cover and the track “Pros and the Cons” were removed. The sleeve was completely re-designed and the song “Masquerade” added. The album was also remixed and the tracks re-sequenced. This second version was released in 1980.

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The Absolute Game, Joy

In February 1980 one of the Skids founding members William Simpson left and was replaced by Russell Webb (bass guitar, backing vocals, keyboards, percussion, and guitar). Webb joined as a permanent band member and immediately started work on the recording of the band’s third album “The Absolute Game”, released in 1980 and produced by Mick Glossop. It proved to be the band’s most commercial release, reaching the Top 10 of the UK Albums Chart and contained the minor hit single “Circus Games” Jobson has great memory of recording in the manor studios in Oxfordshire. We were working with Mick Glossop who focussed on Adamson’s guitar work and the band’s love of big choruses. We weren’t sure of how to make this song ignite until we decided to try kids singing the chorus. Its a song about people making mistakes and somebody paying the price, which is normally kids or the next generation.”

A few of the tracks on the album also included a collection of fourteen adult and child backing vocalists, along with a lone didgeridoo player. Initial copies of The Absolute Game came with a free limited edition, second album entitled Strength Through Joy, echoing the band’s previous controversial themes. Jobson claims to have got the title from Dirk Bogarde’s autobiography

Soon after the release and live concert tour of The Absolute Game Baillie left the band and was followed soon after by Adamson (although Adamson did stay around long enough to play on one more song for the next album “Joy”, called “Iona”). Baillie moved back to Scotland to live and Adamson went on to launch his new band, Big Country. This left Jobson and Webb to write and record the band’s fourth and final album Joy, which Russell Webb also produced. The pair played multiple instruments on the album, and also invited a collection of seventeen musical friends to perform on various tracks with them. Skids finally dissolved in 1982, with the compilation “Fanfare” posthumously issued by Virgin. It was a mixture of most of the band’s singles and some B-sides, though it omitted any tracks from the Joy period.

Jobson and Webb then went on to form a new band called The Armoury Show. The group recorded just one album, “Waiting for the Floods” in 1985 before splitting up. Jobson went on to pursue a solo career as a poet, songwriter, television presenter and most recently, as a film director. He released albums on the Belgian record label Les Disques du Crepuscule and the UK’s own Parlophone Records. Webb proposed a solo career and, according to Armoury Show fan page, later joined Public Image Ltd. in 1992 (but played only on their last tour), and is now a video game designer.

Studio albums

  • Scared to Dance (1979)
  • Days in Europa (1979; remixed and re-issued with a new sleeve design in 1980)
  • The Absolute Game (1980)
  • Joy (1981)

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