Glasgow in song, on a map

Musicians are forever reminding us in their lyrics about how bloody perfect New York is, or asking for directions to San Jose, or misplacing a vital organ in San Francisco. Why aren’t there more songs written about good old Glasgow? Surely, there are plenty of optimistic, life-affirming messages to share about Scotland’s music capital – a captivating, bustling city that mixes swagger, self-deprecation and a sense of humour.

Yet, what’s its claim to fame in song? “I was sick and tired of everything when I called you last night from Glasgow.” Yeah, thanks for that, Abba, I hope a wee radge let down the tyres of your tour bus.

AbbaSuper Trouper

Then again, our homegrown artists aren’t exactly beaming with positivity either. “Love is rain in Glasgow,” wails Malcolm Middleton in Love Comes In Waves. Even those chirpy Endor boys manage to finish St Michael’s Bells with the line “When it’s raining in Glasgow”… four times! Julia And The Doogans’ ode to the city, called Glasgow, is undeniably beautiful but even that song uses football hooliganism to set the scene: “Streets get ready for another fight between the boys in blue and green and white.”

Malcolm MiddletonLove Comes In Waves

EndorSt Michael’s Bells

Julia And The DoogansGlasgow

In the meantime, we’re stuck with a guy from friggin’ Cambuslang sounding like he’s on the verge of an orgasm while extolling the virtues of “Oh Vienna”.

All is not lost, however. Musical recognition for Glasgow CAN be found if you probe a lot deeper and go so far into its seedy underbelly that you’re peering through some random’s window on Google Street View.

While the following locations might not be familiar to an outsider, they are ingrained into the soul of every Glaswegian. And now that there’s a homemade Pop Cop map to detail 16 of our favourite contemporary song references, some bright spark will no doubt turn it into a pub crawl.

(Glasgow song map, click to enlarge)

13th Note
“You met her at the 13th Note, she was there to see her brother’s band”
Kid CanaveralSmash Hits

“Tonight I wander carelessly through the tunnels of the ABC”
Tommy ReillyGimme A Call

Ashton Lane
“She suggested coffee down the road in Ashton Lane”
Tommy ReillyI Don’t Like Coffee

Barrowland Ballroom
“Oh won’t you take a ride with me through the Barrowland history” and “Oh nothing beats the feeling of the high Barrowland ceiling”
Amy MacdonaldBarrowland Ballroom

Byres Road
“Stuart says he’s seen about nine foxes there when he’s jumped over the fence on his way to Byres Road”
Belle & SebastianA Century Of Elvis

Central Station
“Down in Central Station waiting on my friend”
TravisCentral Station

George Square
“She was walking ‘cross George Square in the rain” and “We were back in George Square when the rain gave way”
David BerkeleyGeorge Square

Glasgow Green
“Sipping summer through the air blows over the Green to me”
Emma’s ImaginationThis Day

Glasgow School of Art
“Sukie was the kid, she liked to hang out at the Art School. She didn’t enrol, but she wiped the floor with all the arseholes”
Belle & SebastianSukie In The Graveyard

Kersland Street
“Too much time on Kersland Street has never ever been a bad thing”
Dot JRCollar And Tie

M8 Motorway
“I was flying Superman-style along the M8”
The Beta BandDance O’er The Border

River Clyde
“Bobby drank too much and fell in the Clyde”
Belle & SebastianNice Day For A Sulk

St Rollox
“Because you kissed St Rollox adieu, because you robbed a supermarket or two. Well, who gives a damn about the prophets of Tesco?”
Franz FerdinandThe Fallen

Station Bar
“Then we went to get the train home and had a few in the Station Bar”
The Arches
“Then on Friday night we went through to The Arches”
Arab StrapThe First Big Weekend

Woodlands Road
“I was sitting in the car in a garage on Woodlands Road when a big blonde caught my eye”
Aidan Moffat & The Best-OfsBig Blonde

So there you have it. I’m sure there are many, many more song references I’ve overlooked so feel free to point them out. I won’t take it personally. One obvious omission was the ingenious line in Belle & Sebastian’s This Is Just A Modern Rock Song: “Emma tried to run away, I followed her across the city. She went out to the Easterhouse because she liked the sound of it.” Alas, Easterhouse is outside the 6.7 square mile radius of the map I used.

Give yourself a pat on the back if you spotted that David Berkeley is the only non-Scottish artist on here (not really a surprise when you see how healthy he looks in this photo). The New Jersey-born, California-based singer was kind enough to tell The Pop Cop how his blissful song about George Square came to be:
“I’ve never lived in Glasgow, but I love the city and I’ve been a number of times for shows. A friend/fan from there (James Gouck) liked an older song of mine called Times Square and he kept asking me to write one for George Square. Sure enough, as I was sitting in that beautiful spot one spring night, I got the first strains of a guitar line and a melody. Watching this girl crossing the square upset about something, looking to the statues almost for some help, it seemed. That was the start. It’s the first track on my new album Some Kind Of Cure, and it’s one of my favourites.

22 Responses to “Glasgow in song, on a map”

  1. Graham Says:

    January 14th, 2011 at 11:59

    Great post. First omission that springs to mind is Jocelyn Square by Love and Money (but probably only because I’m seeing them this weekend).

  2. Graham Says:

    January 14th, 2011 at 12:04

    Edited to add – not that contemporary right enough! Slew of bands from that generation that you could add in who had lots of Glasgow references – usual suspects such as Deacon Blue, Silencers etc etc

  3. John D. Says:

    January 14th, 2011 at 12:09

    Really superb work Mr Pop Cop – I have a Pin Ups fanzine article very similar to this in production. I put a link t “tinseltown in the rain” on the pin ups facebook last week, asking “is this the most magical song ever written about Glasgow?” – and it occured to me that somebody should write a definitive article about contemporary songs about Glasgow.

    So I have knuckled down to it, or at leats a top 10. I was therefore very relieved to see you have approached it from a sort of different angle.

    I had never heard “George Square” before.

    I can see what Tommy Reilly is trying to do, but somehow his references to the ABC and Ashton Lane just sound, in my opinion, forced and not a little cringeworthy.


  4. thepopcop Says:

    January 14th, 2011 at 12:18

    Let’s see your top 10, John D!

  5. Jocknroll Says:

    January 14th, 2011 at 12:32

    Aztec Camera’s Killermont Street
    The Bathers – Kelvingrove Baby

  6. AKMA Says:

    January 14th, 2011 at 12:49

    I’ll listen through the Social Services; I would think Glasgow might make a cameo in there somewhere.

  7. AKMA Says:

    January 14th, 2011 at 14:19

    OK, in the song “Electric Brae” the Social services bid farewell not only to the Ayr roadside attraction, but also to Glasgow:

    So long, Electric Brae
    From the land of my father
    You used to make me laugh
    Now you’re so far away
    So long, Electric Brae

    So long, Glasgow town,
    It’s been a while since I’ve been around
    I miss your red skies and your gracious frown
    So long, Glasgow town

  8. P Says:

    January 14th, 2011 at 16:27

    Ace article.

  9. ah fong Says:

    January 14th, 2011 at 17:53

    you’ll get a few from Sleepy Eyes Nelson, Bottle of Wine at the Bellgrove Hotel, St Vincent Street Blues

  10. Marco Says:

    January 14th, 2011 at 18:08

    Great mention of David Berkeley’s “George Square”, I am surprised he is the only non-Scot in the list!
    John D., not surprising you had’t heard the song before, the album it is in was released only last week.

  11. Neil Says:

    January 14th, 2011 at 18:41

    Awesome article. Third entry for Arab Strap: Where We’ve Left Our Love, mentions the Sub Club and the Art School

  12. Neil Says:

    January 14th, 2011 at 18:43

    and the Cineworld on Refrew Street.

  13. Jonathan Says:

    January 14th, 2011 at 19:01

    Here’s another: Ted Leo & the Pharmacists – A Bottle of Buckie

    “Nine years down the road and I remember it still
    Standing on the corner back in Govanhill
    Nine days out from home, feeling no pain
    That northern city sun breaking through the rain
    That warmthless sun barely shining on
    Me and you and a bottle of Buckie

    Nine years come and gone since I left you at home
    And this restless soul of mine had me starting to roam
    But the first time I stood by the banks of the Clyde
    I was so glad to have you standing back by my side
    I was so proud of what we were doing
    Me and you and a bottle of Buckie “

  14. Jocknroll Says:

    January 14th, 2011 at 19:03

    Deacon Blue’s “Christmas and Glasgow” mentions St. Enoch, Kelvin Hall Circus and Cowcaddens.

  15. A. Nony-Mouse Says:

    January 21st, 2011 at 14:01

    The Burns Unit have one that mentions Kelvingrove – one of the ones Kim Edgar sings.

  16. jc Says:

    January 21st, 2011 at 16:45

    ‘Pollokshields’ by The 1990s is one of the few songs that celebrates the south side…..

  17. colin Says:

    January 21st, 2011 at 19:26

    “I found a dead man at Kelvinbridge Underground”

  18. Kowalskiy Says:

    January 25th, 2011 at 08:46

    You Told The Drunks I Knew Karate on Zoey Van Goey’s new album mentions Great Western Road. Great song too!

  19. John D. Says:

    January 25th, 2011 at 14:22

    Yo Pop Cop, as promised/threatened, my Songs About Glasgow article! http://www.pinup-nights.co.uk/fanz.php?ide=84 Enjoy!

  20. Jocknroll Says:

    January 25th, 2011 at 19:25

    Randolph’s Leap – Please Don’t Belong (mentions Finnieston)

  21. Anonymous Says:

    January 28th, 2011 at 23:47

    what about a sunny day in glasgow?

  22. Thomas Mccallum Says:

    March 1st, 2012 at 20:12

    I myself penned a song called 40 miles with several refrences to the fine city of glasgow

    as the lyrics say it’s 40 miles to glasgow and the rain is falling fast 40 miles to glasgow and am going home at last….
    you can check it here http://www.facebook.com/sharer.php?u=http://www.reverbnation.com/play_now/song_12219054

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