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‘Since Yesterday’: The beautiful pop of Strawberry Switchblade

Strawberry Switchblade was Jill Bryson and Rose McDowall—two girls from the opposite ends of the city of Glasgow.

Jill was at art school with ambitions to be a painter. She loved music and dreamt of maybe one day being a singer in a band.

Rose was from the deprived working class side of the city where violence was endemic. Her father had once been hit in the head with an axe in a case of mistaken identity. Rose felt different and wanted to do something more creative than just tick a box of the choices of life offered.

She therefore started her first band with her boyfriend after seeing the Ramones in concert. Her attitude was if they can do, so can we. She took up the drums and the pair formed The Poems.

After punk, it seemed every teenager in Glasgow was in a band. In 1977 there was Johnny and the Self Abusers, who became better known as Simple Minds; Edwyn Collins formed a band called Nu-Sonics that evolved into Orange Juice; Paul Haig and Malcolm Ross were in TV ART which became Josef K;  and so on so on and so forth….

Come the 1980s, the next generation of post punk, new wave, new pop artists were coming through: Roddy Frame and Aztec Camera, Orange Juice, Bobby Bluebell and The Bluebells. It was in this milieu that Jill and Rose formed Strawberry Switchblade in 1981.
Rose and Jill in all their finery.
Jill quickly learned how to play the guitar and started writing songs. Rose had the voice and moved from drummer to singer. Together their voices created beautiful uplifting pop harmonies. Over a short period of time, they wrote songs, appeared on John Peel and Kid Jensen radio shows, which was quickly followed by a management offer from Bill Drummond (later of the KLF), who also offered the girls an indie record deal. They move to London and released their first single “Trees and Flowers” in 1983. This led to their signing with a major label—Warner Brothers.

Theirs was the kind of whirlwind career that only happens in books or in movies or on TV. Dressed like they had woken up in a haberdashery for dolls, Jill and Rose’s beribboned polka dot chic was soon everywhere.

A second single “Since Yesterday” came out in late 1984 which propelled the girls to even greater success.

“Since Yesterday” hit number five in the charts and the Strawberry Switchblade were suddenly on every TV chat and music show. The song’s upbeat sound belied the serious intent of the subject matter—which according to Rose is about nuclear war.

Strawberry Switchblade became a sensation in Japan—their look, their sound made hundreds of thousands of Japanese weak at the knees. Sell out concerts, traveling in limousines, mobbed by fans wherever they went—it should have been the start of an even great career—but things were falling apart.

Jill suffered from agoraphobia which stymied much of the pleasure she could have from the band’s success—it was also something that had inspired the song “Trees and Flowers.” There were also problems between Rose and Jill that led to a “cold war” between the two. They worked together professionally but in private had little in common. It was business, but it was no longer a fun business.

More Strawberry Switchblade after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
YouTube musical fuckup of the week
06:14 am


Leonard Cohen
Edwyn Collins

Edwyn Cohen
YouTuber broccoliz has his wires scrambled but this might actually work, if Leonard Cohen decided to cover Edwyn Collins’ pop classic “A Girl Like You.” Just imagine it. Cohen and Collins do share a robust masculinity in their voice. No, yes?

From Leonard Cohen’s Orange Jews period.

Misinformation, the herpes of the Internet!

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Edwyn Collins brings some heart and soul to SXSW
09:42 pm


Orange Juice
Edwyn Collins

Regrettably, I missed Edwyn Collins at SXSW and based on the YouTube videos of his performance at club Nuvola, it would appear that I missed something quite special. With all my pissing and moaning about this year’s SXSW, there were some wonderful moments. Unfortunately, many of them got lost in the shuffle. I’m doing my bit so that this one doesn’t.

John Robb’s piece from blog Louder Than War is so heartfelt and sweet that I’m sharing it in its entirety:

Perhaps the most heart-warming moment of the whole of SXSW was Edwyn Collins set.

Still recovering from 2005’s double brain hemorrhage, Collins had to sit down for the whole set and had a stand for his lyrics.

Despite this, he is in great voice, in fact I can’t remember his voice ever sounding better. It’s slightly deeper and warmer now as he leads his band through a selection of Orange Juice and solo classics. He is also still sharp as fuck. His witty asides between the songs are as funny and astute as ever and if it wasn’t for the fact that the right hand side of his body is still semi paralyzed from his illness he would still be same old Edwyn.

The fact that he is here at all is a miracle and the fact that he can still tour and sing with such passion and beauty is tantamount to an inner toughness and the redemptive power of great music.

There’s only the guitar missing as he sits on stage giving each song the hindered per cent that is so often talked about by glib singers and so little delivered.

Way back in the early eighties I used to go to Orange Juice gigs when they were an emerging cult band on Postcard records. It was a period of fascination with all things Scottish underground from Josef K to the Fire Engines to Orange Juice- bands that took the energy of the Subway Sect end of punk rock and criss crossed it with sixties underground. They were making a brave new pop that made none of them millionaires but whose DNA is all over modern music from Franz Ferdinand to the Artic Monkeys- what was once weird is now mainstream.

Orange Juice’s spindly, kinetic Velvets take on punk rock was simply thrilling honey and we saw them several times in that period that is now called post punk and seems to have a load of rules written into it. The fact was that at the time we were watching all sorts from Discharge to Postcard to Bauhaus to Killing Joke- the music scene was far more eclectic than we are now being told.

The 2011 Edwyn is proof of the redemptive power of rock n roll and its healing nature. He sings the songs beautifully and his superb band including ex Ruts drummer Dave Ruffy and Rockingbirds Andy Haackett is shit tight. They play the songs with a comforting aplomb and that sort of loose swagger that only great musicians can.

They also play with a real joy adding to the genuine warmth of the gig. It’s a genuine, very human warmth that can be so rare in the fast food conveyor belt of modern music. Edwyn Collins is not on that conveyor belt. He is not in a rush. I guess what happened in his life puts everything into perspective. The music means everything but it’s not part of the pointless contest. The songs stand the test of time and infact sound even better twenty, thirty years down the line.
Edwyn sits there and croons in only the way he can and brings a new life to all corners of that wonderful catalogue, ‘A Girl Like You’ is rearranged slightly and sounds even better, the old Orange Juice stuff replaces its nervy, kinetic punk rock haste with the assurance of middle age without becoming flabby. The songs now sound like the classics they are, timeless pieces of great guitar action.

It’s also a family affair with Edwyn’s son joining the band for a couple of songs, Edwyn Junior looking the spit of father. It all really should not work atall but this is as rock n roll as it gets, if rock n roll is the purest expression of being human then here it is.”

Here’s Edwyn doing “Rip It Up’ which was a hit for his group Orange Juice in 1983

Edwyn Collins and his band Orange Juice perform “Rip It Up” on Top Of The Pops in 1983 after the jump…
Thanks Elloise.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment