1979 in Dundee

By Heather Pantling

This film Scheamer’s traces a group of friends and their musical journey in a time of a changing world in 1979 Dundee; a music history.

1979, Dundee, and it’s a rather harsh reality. As I drive down the waterfront, past the Tay bridge, and into the city centre, there is a greyness that hangs in the air. It is hard to imagine that this was once an epicentre of Scottish industry. Today though, only the final dregs remain. In the distance a light plume of smoke filters into the bright blue sky, reminding me that there are a few factories clinging onto their past. Those who remain tirelessly produce Jute, the sacks used to hold grain, all packed onto ships and transported off to some faraway land. I often wonder where it all ends up. India maybe, or Russia, even Australia. And then I think, it all came from Dundee.

It seems to be the parents of our generation pushing us towards working in the factory. Things are changing, but they say ‘a job for life son’. And it is here, I find myself on my way to interview for a job unloading sacks of jute at the port. I don’t even want it, and I certainly don’t want it for life. To be honest, I’m surprised they are even hiring. All the newspapers are saying factories are closing down, but I just need something to tide me over until I find something better. London I often think, imagine going there… The fashion, the music, the clubs, everything is new and exciting. Just as I escape into the day dream of the big city, reality hits. The traffic comes to a grinding halt, and I find myself sat waiting at a red light, surrounded by sad, tried looking buildings. Children are out playing in the street, their mothers perched on the front wall, gossiping about the latest neighbourhood scandal no doubt.

As the lights change, I turn on the radio. Simple Minds is playing, I turn it up and allow myself to escape into another world. I blare out the words, forgetting I am on my way to an interview. But how can I be nervous for a job I don’t even want? Apparently, my choice of leather jacket and Dundee United football shirt wasn’t appropriate for an interview. According to my parents anyway… it’s a form of expression?

I pull up to the monstrous looking factory building, and find myself sitting, just listening to the radio. The Specials come on, their music is so full of energy, you just want to get up and dance. I close my eyes, gently tapping my finger to the beat on the steering wheel. A band I have never heard of, U2, plays next. Their debut single, 11 o’clock tick tock, I’m not convinced to be honest, I doubt it will ever take off. Ah, an old familiar favourite from Madness, now they really are a class act. They know how to get the crowd up on their feet. I saw them once in Glasgow, it was just a small club night, but I’ll never forget it. Just as I remember the smoky haze of the basement venue, a man in overalls approaches me, with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. ‘You cannae park here lad’. I reverse back, and as I turn my head, I can see out across the Tay. A vast expanse of water, reminding me that the world is a big place.

Post-war Britain was a far cry from the success of the Victorian era. The inner city was sad and stuck in a vicious cycle. To escape the realities of a declining post-industrial city, 1970’s British youth turned to a sub-culture focused on music and fashion. As Davie Mclean find out, the world is a much bigger place than Dundee. The 2019 film Schemer’s tells the story of a young Mclean, and his two friends, who daringly explore the underground music scene, and host some of the most outlandish music events Fife has ever seen. It’s a coming of age story, that inspires a sense of nostalgia, and reminds us that the craziest stories are merely built on a dream. And a hair brain scheme, not a formal career maybe but certianly one that was sucessful

Find out more about the film here

If you this article, 1979 Dundee a music history and the film Schemmer’s about a group of friends and their musical journey in a time of a changing world, then why not read about another great Scotsman Rennie Macintosh