Another Trip to Dundee, Aztec Camera and Keeping it in the Family

I was away from home last weekend and suspect I may have fallen behind with visiting some of my fellow bloggers’ sites. Apologies for that, but for once we left home with no devices other than a phone. We are slaves to the various shopping sites and booking platforms we peddle our wares on (you lose all your brownie points if you take too long to acknowledge sales or reply to queries), but sometimes you just want it all to STOP, if only for a few days, which we did manage to do. The box of padded envelopes which arrived when we were away sadly suffered the fate of being left outside our garage for three days, next to a leaky downpipe. Fortunately I saved most of them by lining them up along the radiators but for once the sometimes risky practice of leaving deliveries in the recycling bin might have been a better option.

So, where did I go? Nowhere warm and exotic sadly, but to celebrate Mr WIAA’s birthday we decided to, wait for it…, head to Dundee. We chose Dundee as a place for a short break a few years ago (written about here) and really enjoyed it so thought we’d give it another whirl. Dundee certainly doesn’t have the same tourist appeal of places like Edinburgh, and like most post-industrial cities it has its fair share of problems, but it’s definitely a city on the up. There has been much development going on along the waterfront of late and it also has some of the most interesting visitor attractions in Scotland. Everywhere we went the people were really friendly and a fair bit of ‘banter’ was had with the locals.

Dundee: The home of DC Thomson, Desperate Dan, The McManus Art Gallery, The Transport Museum and some fine local graffiti

We did head along to the V&A Dundee which is housed in an impressive new building designed in the shape of a ship, overhanging the Tay. The building itself is actually the most impressive thing about it however and so far the permanent collections are a bit sparse. A nice restaurant, gift shop and conference facilities, but not much else. Give me the McManus, the Transport Museum and a revamped Jute Mill any day, but maybe just me. Perhaps it will improve with time.

One exhibit in the V&A that did pique my interest was this one. Many visitors to this place will recognise these album covers but until now I hadn’t realised they were the work of Scottish artist David Band. As it says in the caption, his bold graphic style helped define the look of early 80s music. He apparently collaborated closely with Altered Images, Spandau Ballet and Aztec Camera to create these covers. As the first two bands in that list have appeared around here before, a good time to include something by Aztec Camera who quite unfathomably have never been featured. Here is the song Oblivious from their first album High Land, Hard Rain on display below, from 1983.

Oblivious by Aztec Camera:

Perhaps I should have chosen something by a Dundee band for this post but the usual suspects, Deacon Blue, Danny Wilson and The Associates have all already appeared. When writing about those bands I always expressed surprise that their most familiar songs only reached the lower reaches of the UK Singles Chart. Here we are again with Scottish band Aztec Camera, as their song Oblivious apparently only reached the No. 18 spot and that was after being re-released – what were we thinking. Aztec Camera were one of those bands first championed by Postcard Records, the Glasgow-based independent record label co-founded by Edwyn Collins and Alan Horne, a fertile period for music-making in Scotland. Roddy Frame of Aztec Camera was aged only 16 when he joined Postcard Records and doesn’t he look young in the clip above. Roddy is still active in the industry today.

Another reason we chose Dundee last weekend was because Mr WIAA has family who have moved to a place not too far from the city. Last time we visited them, I recounted the tale of how his two cousins have had a life-long involvement in the music industry which even included being signed to Atlantic Records for a time. We met up with them at their parents’ house on the Saturday and heard of the EP released to commemorate the 30th anniversary of that first signing. A lot of water under the bridge in the intervening period, regular jobs, families and lives going in totally different directions, but quite something to have ‘got the band back together again’. I give you Kiss of the Gypsy with Forever Loved:

Of course I had to take a few family photos on Saturday and here is one that shows how things can change over the years. Back in the day they could have been construed as a Hair Metal band. Now…, not so much!

All very Rock ‘n’ Roll, a photoshoot in your mum and dad’s conservatory!

Back in the day, the cousin on the left took the role of roadie for the band, however he has always been a drummer and is currently a member of Scottish punk band The Tolerated. This next clip is certainly a far cry from the soft rock and orchestral pop I usually share around here, but here they are with their cover of Maxwell Murder. Some very energetic drumming going on there.

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – Despite being a home-loving kind of girl, I really enjoyed my few days away, and yet again found a great affinity for the city of Dundee. I would thoroughly recommend giving it a visit sometime although it might be best during the summer months, when it would be a lot warmer (it was very parky).

Cousins are in most cases the family members we see least once we are fully grown adults making our own way in the world. If you do ever meet up however, there are always lots of memories to share. As Mr WIAA spent most of his childhood holidays with his two cousins – in caravans by the beach usually – they had a lot of catching up to do. The music might be of the hard metal and punk persuasion, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a nicer couple of chaps. Glad they are still plying their trade.

Until next time…

Oblivious Lyrics
(Song by Roddy Frame)

From the mountain tops
Down to the sunny street
A different drum is playing a different kind of beat
It’s like a mystery
That never ends
I see you crying and I want to kill your friends

I hear your footsteps in the street
It won’t be long before we meet
It’s obvious
Just count me in and count me out
And I’ll be waiting for the shout

Met Mo and she’s okay
Said no one really changed
Got different badges but they wear them just the same
Down by the ballroom
I recognized
That flaming fountain in those kindred caring eyes

I hear your footsteps in the street
It won’t be long before we meet
It’s obvious
Just count me in and count me out
And I’ll be waiting for the shout

I hope it haunts me ’til I’m hopeless
I hope it hits you when you go
And sometimes on the edge of sleeping
It rises up to let me know
It’s not so deep, I’m not so slow

They’re calling all the shots
They’ll call and say they phoned
They’ll call us lonely when we’re really just alone
And like a funny film
It’s kinda cute
They’ve bought the bullets and there’s no one left to shoot

I hear your footsteps in the street
It won’t be long before we meet
It’s obvious
Just count me in and count me out
And I’ll be waiting for the shout


As I’m feeling a tad guilty about not having shared any music by Dundonians in this post, here is a discovery I made recently. Two of the founding members of the Average White Band were from Dundee and met whilst at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art. Roger Ball and Malcolm ‘Molly’ Duncan were affectionately known as the ‘Dundee Horns’ as they both played saxophone.

I was a teenager when they were at their peak in the 1970s and to be honest didn’t even realise they were Scottish, what with funk and R&B not really being on the musical menu up here back then. They were the first Scottish band, in 1974, to get to No. 1 in both the US Singles and Album Charts simultaneously. Here they are with Let’s Go Round Again from 1980. (Still find it hard to believe they are Scottish – they don’t look or sound like any of the Dundonians I met last weekend!)

Let’s Go Round Again by the Average White Band:

And, that’s your lot for this time – you can’t say I don’t give you plenty of variety around here.

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days. I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 57 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team, Bacharach and David. The opening line to that song was, "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

23 thoughts on “Another Trip to Dundee, Aztec Camera and Keeping it in the Family”

  1. We stopped for a bite to eat and a leg stretch in Dundee on the way from Edinburgh to Lossiemouth. Desperate Dan *and* the two closest local football teams in the same town! Must stop longer next time…
    I listened to your cousins and, to borrow a Swedeism, they make a pleasant racket. And I absolutely love the AWB. I can remember telling the story of Pick Up the Pieces over at mine a couple of years back.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Looks like you had a good time
      I’m getting the bus up to Dundee today to catch up with George for a couple of days in Broughty Ferry

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Hi John – If you’re up that way again I would recommend a longer stay – there are lots of things to do and the people are really friendly. We didn’t pass the two football grounds this time but yes, must be the closest in any town in the country.

      We had a bit of everything in this one – pop, punk, hard rock and funk/R&B. I’ll have to look out for that Pick Up the Pieces story over at your place. Took me a long time to click that they were Scottish.


    1. No cow pie as such but we did have one of those really nice handmade burgers with a little pail of chips on the side. I think Dan would have approved.


    1. I hadn’t heard of him but having looked at his art, yes I see what you mean.

      I couldn’t fit this into my post but there was a lot of amazing graffiti painted on walls around Dundee and the lane next to our apartment was full of it. We met two of the artists on the Sunday who are paid by the council to apply it. Real works of art.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I was rather taken by the Kiss of the Gypsy track, and loved the video. The locations seemed particularly well chosen.

    Back in the mists of time, I wrote adverts for the radio station in Dundee. I did this from Bradford, but spent a lot of my time on the phone to various local businesses. They tried to get me to move up there, but I was too much of a home-bird. Still, I wish I’d have got the chance to visit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mr WIAA’s cousin makes short films for a living now so I’m sure he would have had a hand in it. Things have moved on since the one they made 30 years ago.

      I think I remember that Dundee connection when I wrote about my last visit. I think you would like the place – a large student population and a big arts community, all on top of a city with a really interesting history. It also feels like a working city so not overly touristy at all – you must visit sometime and give me your verdict.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sounds like you had a great break, really pleased you could get away. Lovely to see that album cover art, took me right back, a very familiar look from the time – and seeing one of your comment replies above too I’m intrigued by the graffiti art you mention, would love to see too some time! Your ‘compare and contrast’ pics of Mr WIAA’s cousins are brilliant, that stuff always makes me smile. Very reassuring. (A bit of a side-step here but, on the subject of growing older, did you watch that Kathy Burke 2-parter ‘Growing Up’ on Ch4 Weds/Thurs night? We’ve yet to watch the second part but the first episode was also really heartening…) And I never expected to hear a Rancid cover on your blog, great drumming indeed! Good to know he’s still at it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lots of great street art in Dundee – I’ll send you a couple of pictures. Yes, the before and after pictures 30 years apart. Brilliant. I’ve not seen the Kathy Burke doc but will look out for it – I need to watch something heartening about the process of growing older/growing up.

      I doubt very much if anyone expected a Rancid cover around here, but wanted to include both cousins this time. Glad they’re both involved in music, albeit on a part-time basis as a very big part of their lives.


  4. A great and varied post, Alyson, with a vivid and lovely depiction of your time in Dundee and catch up with family. I love Roddy Frame/Aztec Camera’s music and my mind still boggles that he was writing and releasing such timeless songs whilst a teenager. Great to close with The Average White Band and Let’s Go Round Again, too.

    I’m a big fan of local authorities commissioning art on walls and buildings. There are some stunning examples in and around my birthplace Bristol. I was on a work commute to a suburb of Cheltenham the other week and unexpectedly discovered several adorning a staggered row of semi-detached council houses. All by different artists and some more appealing than others, but brightened up an otherwise austere block of housing and a great showcase for the artists.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Khayem – Yes, I knew Roddy Frame was the man behind Aztec Camera and the songwriter, but hadn’t realised he was just so young when he started out. A talented chap indeed.

      Since the subject of art on walls has come up in the comments boxes I’ve added a few of my pictures to the mosaic above. These were just from the lane we used to get from our flat up to the centre of town but quite stunning I thought. We spoke to one of the artists (Syke) on the Sunday – he gets paid (not sure if by the council or some arts body) but uses the lane to practice on. There were a few of them there of varying abilities but if used well on as you say, austere blocks of housing, it can certainly brighten up a place.


  5. It’s very interesting to read someone’s views of Dundee, you have a better opinion of the place than I do after my recent visit. The V&A building looks magnificent, much better than it does from pictures, but the city itself is tired, indeed I thought it was quite scabby. And the Dundonians look very very unhealthy as well. It does though have a splendid noodle bar, where I took my mum for lunch (and she slaistered soy sauce all over face). The Ferry looks lovely, though, but I could not wait to get back home

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know what you mean George, there is a lot of ‘scabbyness’, and a lot of unhealthy-looking people, but show me a large post-industrial city that doesn’t have that nowadays. We went to Aberdeen at around the same time last year and that visit made me really sad – it wasn’t the ‘silver city’ I used to live in at the height of the oil boom in the ’80s at all. Half the shops on Union Street boarded up and most of the shopping centres closed or half empty. The pandemic has accelerated this downturn a lot faster than would otherwise have happened.

      What I do like about Dundee is that there is a lot of regeneration going on (along the waterfront) and a lot of money going into the arts and visitor attractions. Last time we visited the old jute mill at Verdant Works and The Discovery. This time we did some different things equally as interesting. Dundee in March not the best for weather, but in the summer it looks a lot better. And, Broughty Ferry just along the road.

      We went to that noodle bar last time and were interested to see it was still open, as lots of casualties in the restaurant business in the intervening years. For the record, we made a right mess with the soy sauce too – impossible not to I think!


  6. Hi Alyson. David Band’s work is all over my music collection… what a treasure. I do wish Mr. Frame was a bit more prolific. The gaps between albums have become wider and wider. Still, so thankful for what he has given us. Happy to hear you had a nice little getaway. We had a similar experience with a three-day weekend to Vancouver a week ago. Only a couple of hours drive but far enough away to feel like the daily grind was somewhere else entirely.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As a big fan of British music from the 1980s I’m sure you will recognise those David Band covers well. I’ve just discovered he died 12 years ago though, at the very young age of 51 – how sad.

      Glad you had a good time on your weekend away too. If it doesn’t happy very often, you savour it that bit more. It’s been 8 years since we’ve had a week-long holiday so would like to aim for that later in the year – let’s see.


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