National Museum of Scotland: Rip It Up

Hailing from Manchester, I’m very aware of my musical heritage and the disproportioned input my home town has provided to the worlds cultural activities in the last fifty years.  From the Hacienda to the regeneration of the Halle, as a Mancunian I’m very proud of our musical heritage. So when the National Museum of Scotland ran an exhibition called RIP IT UP – THE HISTORY OF SCOTTISH POP, I was intrigued, as a sucker for anything relating to pop music history I was excited to see this installation inside the always intriguing and handsomely presented museum HQ.

Immediately as you immerse yourself through the entrance into the main exhibition it’s the swirl of musical snippets that lead you, pied piper style, to various sections of the artefacts on display.  There is a rough chronological order: We have the skiffle of Scottish born Lonny Donegan. Folk music, which leads to the establishment of Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull, via the sixties revolution where the breakthrough acts were Lulu and Alex Harvey.  There are a couple of extravagantly created costumes for Lulu where you realise behind the great booming voice of ‘Shout’ there is a pixie of a body projecting it.

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Via the ubiquitous Bay City Rollers display we move onto the punk explosion with a couple of punk pioneers such as The Skids which creates the pathway for my particular area of interest, the post punk boom where legends such as Simple Minds, Orange Juice, The Associates, and eventually the awesome Lloyd Cole and the Commotions are featured.

I whiled away a good couple of hours marvelling at the artefacts here.  The legendary Ultravox video for ‘Vienna’ is remembered via the iconic mackintosh Midge Ure wore is on display.  The black leathers Charlene Spitteri wore for the ‘Inner Smile’ video where she dressed up as Elvis are here. Clothes worn by various Scottish contributors to the scene, original song lyrics, and touchingly a guitar smothered in cigarette coupons played by Charlie Burchill of Simple Minds in tribute to his mother, who bought his first guitar through that very method of procurement.  I was intrigued at a hand-written note sent by David Bowie to a Scottish producer…I could go on.

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It all comes back to Manchester in all musical circles, there is a feature on Alan McGhee, who amongst other achievements will be primarily remembered for breaking Oasis.

To the end of the exhibition and new music abounds, I’m currently interested in the Young Fathers and how they will add to this Scottish soundscape.

If you are a music fan, somewhere in your record collection there will be a Scottish artist.  You don’t realise until they are all caged together in this wonderfully evocative display how many Scottish performers we have enjoyed over the years.

STEVE HEALD – Writing is my passion, contact me at if you would like me to review your event.

Disclosure: The Plus Ones were invited guests of the National Museum of Scotland.