Friday, 14 March 2008


The most prolific winner of the NME's Single Of The Week award - six times - and probably the winner who gained least benefit from this distinction, Champion Doug Veitch, who came from Hawick and had apparently previously been a dustman, released with careful carelessness a series of intermittent singles through the central bone of the eighties as inventive in their own low-wattage way as Kevin Ayers or Badly Drawn Boy; played endlessly on distinguished radio shows of the period but flitting in and out, nervous of fitting into any less than suitable flame. "Lumiere Urban," "Not The Heart," "One Black Night" and more - all inventive, as though Vic Godard had snagged himself on a tightrope stretching from Western Swing to Hyperdub.

The King of Caledonian Swing, he called himself, and 1985's "Jumping Into Love" was maybe his modest masterpiece; produced by Tony McDermott and crucially mixed by the Mad Professor, it's a woozily attractive effusion of Burrito Brothers and Aswad, firm horns and dub echoes (Roger Hilton's Simmons drumkit being the only acknowledgement that this was the eighties) blending with liquid Sneaky pedal steel flotations (courtesy of one "Gentleman" Jim Craig). Over this backdrop Veitch sings, in accent, of his multiple misfortunes with love ("When my heart leans on my head, it's for the door/I got burned more times than I got fingers") but is still manifestly in love with the idea of record as thing in itself ("Feel like dancing into love - play 4/4!" he exclaims at the end of the second verse).

Two-thirds of the way through he jumps into a startling and unprecedented blur of Borders MC toasting, fleet of tongue, rabbiting on about wearers of American tweed south of the border, Kinshasa, and people who think that reggae and country can't mix - "Listen to this tune, your brain will FIX!" he squeals - occasionally switching into an unsettling falsetto before resurfacing to complete the song. With his "bloodshot eyes" he leaves trombonist Dave Killen to take the record out. It sounds warm, approachable and cheeky, music concocted for the love of watching what happens with the accidental ballets of its elements. He subsequently set about recording many worthy artists, most notably the Bhundu Boys, and in more recent years has kept a certain distance from music. However, these singles are in urgent need of CD compiling and his tweedily twirling visions should be championed anew.