2008… amongst the throngs of indie guitars and X-Factor forgettables, Glasvegas released their much hyped, self-titled debut album. It was aptly described at the time by BBC Music as ‘like the east end of Glasgow that gave birth to it; rough, raw and epic, it is a stunning wall of sound that strains the rich rockabilly and doowop of the 50s through the raucous brooding rock of The Jesus and Mary Chain to create something timeless’.
For many, discovering the album and the music leading up to it was like the start of a beautiful friendship, only enhanced by the release at the end of the year of A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like A Kiss) – a Christmas record not quite like any other. 10 years on and the reaction to the announcement that the band would play the album in full, initially in their home town at Stag & Dagger Festival and then touring the UK, made it clear just how important Glasvegas and their music have been, and still are.
It’s too big a story for one person to tell so huge thanks go to the following people for sharing their thoughts about the tour, their favourite tracks and their own personal stories:
Becky Jones, Carl Knott, Charlie Smith, Craig, Daniel Angelus, Daniel (Sweden), Daniela (Germany), Graham Stewart, Jean, Matt Clow, Stuart Blair and Tasha.
Stuart: Glasvegas were one of the very first bands I fell in love with. The music that I first heard them play in 2006 is what made me love them – something different from what was going on elsewhere. So much of my 20s was locked into following the band, meeting friends and making some great memories. The band has always treated all their fans with love and kindness. I love Glasvegas and I love the music they produce; this is only second to the amazing fans of the band I now call friends.
Glasgow o2 ABC, Stag & Dagger Festival, 6th May 2018
Daniel: And there I am with my arms in the sky. So happy! Flew from Stockholm as a 40 year present to myself… What a trip! What a night! What a crowd! What a gig! Glasvegas were amazing…
Charlie: When I first heard the song it hit me like a sledgehammer. My Dad left home when I was a kid, young enough to think it was somehow my fault, old enough to be angry. I didn’t understand it and it didn’t seem like something people talked about. I kept it at bay for years, pretending I didn’t care. When I heard the lyrics all those feelings came back and I cried my heart out. I was amazed that someone had said what I thought out loud and I listened to the song constantly. These days things are good, I see my Dad and we get along ok. I wish we’d worked things out sooner. I’ll always be grateful for feeling like I wasn’t the only one, always grateful for that song.
Leeds Brudenell Social Club, 9th October 2018
Carl: You could tell in the venue there was a build up of excitement from the fans, eagerly waiting to see Glasvegas perform. They did not disappoint! It was the first time I have seen James perform Stabbed, I felt like I was the only person in the room. It was like he was talking to me directly and had a story to tell, and I’m sure everyone else felt as captivated as I did. As usual, Glasvegas were amazing live, the ending of Ice Cream Van reminding me how much this album means to me, even more so now than when it first got released.
Daniela: Being a big Glasvegas fan since 2008 I was happily surprised they played a full tour again after several years. That’s why I bought tickets for 5 of the shows and I can’t even say which one was my favourite. Being on this tour showed clearly how many people still love the first album and how much it affected them. All the venues were full, people singing along to the songs everywhere. The band played themselves back into their audiences’ hearts and minds and hopefully will continue with a new album next year. I also loved it that they signed the album after most of the gigs and took their time to talk with their fans. Over the years I met many great people through Glasvegas, and coming to Glasgow or coming to one of the shows now feels like coming home for me. My favourite track from the debut album is Flowers and Football Tops; I love how the song builds up, and the lyrics touch me deeply.
Polmont On My Mind
Matt: I think it’s my favourite track on the album because it breathes the most and you can hear all 4 members playing their part. I always imagine what it would be like with a huge orchestra and choir playing on it. It sounds like it could soundtrack the main scene of a blockbuster film. Daddy’s Gone and Cheating Heart had been everywhere at this point and I’d binged on The Home Tapes as soon as they surfaced. I watched the band for the first time on Valentines Day at Gloucester Guildhall in 2008. The moment the first chord hit I knew it was going to be the track I couldn’t let go of. Rab’s guitar slowly builds through the opening verse, tambourine just low enough in the mix to warn you that something big is coming. 1 minute 12 seconds and those drums come pounding in. Paul’s bass is fuzzy and drives the song along, James’ melody perfectly complimented by the guitar line, the lyrics building those images only certain people can master. It’s one of those you only wish it carried on forever.
Liverpool Arts Club, 10th October 2018
Carl: Friends I have made from following the band travelled down from Glasgow. The goosebumps are still there everytime I hear the intro of Flowers and Football Tops and I still wish I could help another in the way Geraldine portrays. Glasvegas are just as important now as they were when their first album was released. James’ vocals and lyrics need to be heard by the masses, Rab’s reverb and ability to tell the tale through his powerful guitar performance are mesmerising. Paul and his bass give me the chills in a way I find hard to describe, the deep and dark rain clouds behind every song. And last to mention is Jonna. Seriously, what a drummer!! She is just perfect for this band, her style, her energy, the way she brings the whole show to another level is a talent that the fans appreciate and it showed at the end of every show when she was so well received.
Tasha: I grew up moving from one foster home to another because my behaviour was out of control. Ignored and abused in equal measures, I felt like society didn’t care for me and the feeling was mutual. I’ve suffered with my mental health over the years and hit rock bottom in my late teens, no job, no proper home, no future (as the song goes). By chance, I went along to a drop-in centre with a friend and got talking to a support worker who didn’t seem phased by my hatred for the world and for myself. She let me talk (shout), didn’t judge me, made me feel like maybe my life was actually worth something. With a lot of persuasion and encouragement I went back to studying and for the last 4 years I’ve been mentoring kids in care, trying to turn a horrible experience into something positive. When things were dark, I listened to this song so much. It used to be something to cling on to; now it’s become a poignant reminder of how my life changed because just one person made me think that was possible. I have no doubt that without my ‘Geraldine’ I wouldn’t be here now to tell the tale.
The Old Market Brighton, 13th October 2018
Becky: After too many years I saw Glasvegas again at The Old Market in Brighton and hearing the debut album in full was every bit as good as I’d hoped for and more. Considering how sad some of the songs are they make so many people so happy. There was even a surprise proposal from the crowd and of course she said yes. I saw some old friends and I met some new friends, my face hurt from smiling, singing and crying all at once. Loved every second.
Go Square Go
Graham: It’s a blistering track full of energy that takes me back to the school gates and when school finished at 4pm. The idea that you had to fight when challenged is spot on, got to keep up your street credibility in Glasgow. James nails the whole idea of saving face during your school days here with the idea that win, lose or draw’s alright, if I don’t fight I can’t go home. The track takes on a whole new life live, it must be amazing for the band to watch the whole crowd chant the lines ‘Here we, here we, here we fucking go…’
Nottingham Rescue Rooms, 18th October 2018
Carl: It still amazes me how well received anthems such as It’s My Own Cheating Heart and Go Square Go can make a room full of strangers join together as if we all had a part to play in these amazing stories told. Daddy’s Gone provoked emotion from all age ranges within the crowd, with fans crowd surfing and on shoulders to sing the band’s most famous track.
Daniel A: I saw Glasvegas on the 10 year anniversary tour in Nottingham. I was mesmerised by the set and it was a really emotional show. Glasvegas’ music has helped me to understand my inner struggles and matched my desire to be happier. I often believe that the songs that are written are aimed at me as they seem to understand my feelings and experiences. They put into magical words my emotions. Glasvegas will always be a band close to my core and their songs heavily in my heart.
A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like A Kiss)
Graham: Favourite song from the Christmas EP has to be the title track, the way the song builds from being a song of despair and thoughts of death to one of looking forward to the future is quite uplifting. Just the idea and realisation that something so pure and beautiful as a snowflake can fill a person with hope that tomorrow can be better and life indeed has a meaning after all. I like the way the track goes from despair to hopeful in the fall of a snowflake that lands on the face of the character in the song, and feels like a kiss that perhaps signifies a sign from the heavens above that everyone is important, and life is worth it after all. A song of hope and new starts that could indeed be the best Christmas message ever.
Daniela: Just the perfect Christmas song for me.
Manchester Gorilla, 22nd October 2018
Jean: What a fab experience and a privilege it was to see Glasvegas on their GV10 tour. A band that never disappoints, that gives a brilliant experience to their fans and a night of raw emotion like no-one else. Also wonderful to meet all the band after, they really appreciate the support of everyone – and thanks for the beer Rab, only someone swiped it while I was looking adoringly at you lot! There’s really no other band like Glasvegas and I love them loads! My favourite track on the Glasvegas album is My Own Cheating Heart, a song of power, passion yet vulnerability which builds to a climax of emotion which washes over you and leaves you wrung out.
Carl: It still is hard to understand how a band who may not follow the normal protocol of others can sell out shows (without an album for 5 years) doing things their own way from the start to now (which I admire). Yet the crowd was like a sponge, absorbing every lyric, every drum beat, bass note and fuzzy guitar as if it was all that mattered, to be there in that moment of time. The album performed live is one of my greatest memories, I played this album repeatedly on a daily basis, until the release of ///Euphoric Heartbreak\\\ in 2011. It was noted that Alan McGee was in the audience, as well as a special mention to ‘Geraldine’ who I have been fortunate enough to meet. She is humble and the song portrays her and the service providers in the best possible light.
Daniel A: My favourite song from the Christmas EP is Cruel Moon. It is such a heartbreaking song to listen to that humbles me each and every time I hear it. The song used to be a stark reminder that homelessness could happen to any of us but then in 2012 I actually became homeless for 2 months and the song took on a really personal meaning. Ever since then I play it every year from November onwards.
Jean: Such a beautiful tune and insightful lyrics.
Carl: James sure knows how to evaluate and tell the other side of Christmas we all experience from time to time. The song provokes a reaction inside me that makes me realise how precious life can be.
Stuart: When I heard Cruel Moon it totally changed my mindset. The lyrics are the saddest Christmas song I have ever heard. This had a massive impact on me and made me look at the world differently. Every payday since I heard that I would go and sit and have lunch with someone who was living on the street and listen to them. I felt so lucky to have my family and think that it could be me one day that is living on the street. It’s something that happened due to a lot of things going on that made me think about life and how luck has a massive effect on people. I have been lucky enough to not fall from grace. That song was just right for me to make me change or enforce how I felt.
Glasgow Barrowland, 14th December 2018
Craig: I’ve no idea what the future looks like for Glasvegas but I do know that tonight in Glasgow Barrowlands they made me reflect on so many aspects of the 10 years that’s zipped by in a flash since they released an album that, when the dust settles, will surely be perceived as a seminal and iconic debut. It’s a beautiful record and when played live gets the goosebumps going like all the greats. They also look amazing – The Dalmarnock Velvet Underground. Context-wise they have been incredibly important and integral to certain events in my life that will never be forgotten (good and bad) culminating in why I was there today and how the day played out. Thank you James, Rab, Paul, Jonna and Caroline.
2018… a 10 year anniversary, many miles travelled, friendships made and lives turned around. The songs are still raw and epic and Glasvegas are most definitely still a force to be reckoned with.
Photos (from o2 ABC Glasgow – Stag & Dagger, The Old Market Brighton, Wedgewood Rooms Portsmouth, Barrowland Glasgow) and additional words by Siobhan
21st December 2018