What does it sound like?:
In late 1978, I bought three EPs in the same month. They were The Fall Bingo Masters Break Out!, Gang Of Four Damaged Goods and Skids Wide Open. My favourite was the agit-funk of Damaged Goods. I was least impressed by Wide Open. I heard the twin guitar front-line of Skids as being closer to Jailbreak era Thin Lizzy, enjoyable melodic Rock music, lacking the sense of danger in New Wave. Come the following year and the release of their respective debut albums, my affections changed. Scared To Dance was a real step-up in aggression, in real tunes, in euphoria compared to the chaos of Live At The Witch Trials and the sickly glossy coat painted onto Entertainment!
Richard Jobson wrote and sang the words. Judging by a gig I witnessed in Wolverhampton in 1979 and the live third disc of this box, he is a brusque Scotsman. His rebel yell was often regarded as hectoring and his subject matter, at least at this point in his career, was passionately anti-war and obsessed with Scotland. However, he did manage to melt the heart of Mariella Frostrup, so there is probably more to him than the persona presented in Skids. The band, although still teenagers, were skilled musicians better than the average post-punk band. Thomas Kellichan’s drumming was robust and full of military trills. William Simpson loved to run his fingers up and down the neck of his bass guitar. Chris Jenkins powered the chords along relentlessly but the real star is a pre-Big Country Stuart Adamson. He was equally capable of heavy riffs and fluid finger-work. He interspersed snaky melodies in between the shouty sloganeering. His timing was so perfect, he could light and smoke a cigar during songs. Without him, Skids might have degenerated into a Scottish Sham 69.
Their best selling single, Into The Valley, is also the best example of their work. Adamson’s tune underpins the opening narrative, until the notes rise into the exhilarating football chant of the chorus. Most of Scared To Dance and many of the singles that surrounded it, are of a similar quality. Charles, The Saints Are Coming, Night And Day, Of One Skin, Sweet Suburbia are all present and correct. Their music appealed to the collective wisdom of crowds and is all the better for it.
Disc One is the whole album, the Wide Open EP, the singles and B Sides. Disc Two are early studio versions. They are really good but almost all are fully formed. They don’t tell the listener much about how they were developed. A version of Walk On The Side is of interest. They fuse it with the riff from Sweet Jane. Disc Three is the live performance from The Marquee in 1978, the origin of the B side, T.V. Stars and its ALBERT TATLOCK refrain. Each disc comes in its own sleeve, plus there is a booklet with all the lyrics and sleeve note.
At roughly fifteen notes, this 3CD set is a bargain.
What does it all *mean*?
Scared To Dance is a magnificent album, capturing Skids at their creative peak. Guess what? They’ve reformed and are ready to tour. How they are going to manage without Adamson will be interesting.
Goes well with…
A belly full of beer and punching the air with a bunch of mates.
Might suit people who like…
Anthemic Rock Music. Big Country.