When a much-loved band attempts to recapture the spirit of its glory days after a long absence, there’s often a feeling of apprehension alongside the anticipation.
So when Scottish punks The Skids announced they were releasing their first album in 37 years, it wasn’t just fans who were nervous.
Frontman and founder Richard Jobson admits he had concerns too.
‘I was probably as sceptical as anyone about it - why am I doing this? What’s going to be the end result? But I was encouraged by our producer, Youth, who’s an old friend of mine, and he really pushed and pushed, and it was really down to him. He was a big fan of The Skids and that anthemic music we were making back then, and he wanted to take some of those ideas and update them.
‘In many ways, the modern way of recording, the digital way suits me. I like to work fast, and with someone like him you can work very quickly and capture the mood very quickly.’
The resulting album Burning Cities was released in January to largely favourable reviews, and now they’re back on the road.
The band, who formed in Dunfermline back in 1977, had hits with the likes of Into The Valley and The Saints Are Coming. But by 1982 the band had dissolved, co-founder Stuart Adamson went on to form the massively successful Big Country while Richard carried on working in various other music projects, and also in film and TV.
The Skids reformed in 2007 for a 30th anniversary run of shows, and to pay final tribute to Adamson, who died in 2001. But when it came to the 40th, Richard refused to coast on former glories.
‘Rather than just touring on the sort of nostalgia heritage trail, I wanted to be maybe just a little bit more relevant and make some new music for the 21st century, rather than just looking back over our shoulders to the 20th century – and to see if we still had it in us, to reflect the world in the way that we used to when we were younger.
‘And we did, we managed to do that and I’m very proud of what we achieved with that album, because it could have been an awful series of cliches, and copied templates of what we had done in a previous age.
‘But it’s not that, it’s certainly done in the style of The Skids, but it’s got a modern edge to it.’
And even Richard admits he’s been taken aback by the positive reception they’ve been getting.
‘It’s been a very pleasant surprise, but we’re a very honest band. We don’t hide behind our songs, we don’t hide behind our instruments, we’re very open, I talk a lot to the audience, and a bit like the old days, it’s all about communicating, and I think people like that.
‘I see some of the other bands from our era out on the circuit and they don’t communicate at all. They just hide behind the songs and believe, or hope, that that’s enough, but I really believe that the live show is about the interaction you and the audience, there’s a bond.
‘If people have been following you for 40 years, they’re not just fans any more, they’re friends, so your relationship with them is very different.’
Although they did score significant success at the start of the band’s life, The Skids are often ignored in punk retrospectives or viewed merely as a footnote to Big Country’s story.
Has that ever irked Richard?
‘That’s a difficult one,’ he admits. ‘It makes me sound arrogant if I say “Yes”. But the reality is, the last time was very short, people think it was longer because we had those hit records and that it was over a much longer span, but it was only a couple of years. We had kind of been forgotten but I think that’s changing now, there’s an exhibition about us now in our home town [Dunfermline] and there’s a big exhibition in Edinburgh [Rip It Up at the National Museum of Scotland] which opens this week, and we’re mentioned in, so I think it’s slowly changing.
‘But being out there and playing live, it’s very physical The Skids’ music, a lot of bands who are in their twenties couldn’t match us for our energy and passion at the moment. That’s not been ignored by real people when they come along and see you, and they respond to that.’
The Skids’ profile received a major boost when U2 and Green Day teamed up to cover The Saints Are Coming for the Music Rising charity in response to Hurricane Katrina, which battered New Orleans in 2005. It became a huge international hit.
‘It was pretty extraordinary,’ recalls Richard. ‘I wrote the lyrics to that song when I was 15 in the local library in Dunfermline. It’s a song I still love very much, but it was taken to another level, being played to the largest audience in television history – a song you wrote when you were a kid. It was all a bit surreal.
‘Most people usually ask if I made loads of money out of it, but I didn’t make anything because it was for charity. But to be part of that and to be part of the history of U2 and Green Day, in a strange way, is quite remarkable.
‘[U2 guitarist] The Edge was a big fan of Stuart Adamson’s guitar playing and Bono felt the words fit the mood they were trying to create around their response to Hurricane Katrina.’
But not everyone has realised it was The Skids’ song in the first place.
‘Weirdly enough, sometimes when we play the song live, we get younger people asking why are they doing a U2 song?’ he laughs. ‘So it works both ways.’
The Skids will be supported by Portsmouth’s own garage-rock upstarts, The Glorias.
Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea
Wednesday, June 27