Jo attended the Edinburgh International Film Festival premiere party for a documentary movie about the city’s punk, post-punk and new wave music scene on Friday night – and it’s presented the chance for him to think about his position and contribution to that scene.
He features in Big Gold Dream as creator Innes Reekie follows the Scots capital’s experiments, success and failures as it forged an important place for itself in popular music history. View the BBC’s coverage of the premiere.
Here’s Jo’s thoughts on the heady days of The Rezillos, their manager Bob Last, and how the pair progressed via his label Fast Product and the Human League to the ‘big gold dream’ of the mainstream music business…
“Apparently unlike many of the other contributors, I was always quite comfortable with having one foot in the major label camp while keeping in touch with the local underground and independent side of things.
“I never felt that taking the mainstream route meant I had to compromise what I wanted to do. My idea of pop music was the Beatles, the Stones, Hendrix, Bowie, Roxy Music – acts that were self-contained, who mostly wrote their own music and their own image. Even if they received a little outside help they took it without compromising their output that much. most importantly, I was trying to create a job for myself that I enjoyed doing, and you couldn’t do that without selling records.
“I found Bob’s contributions to the film most interesting. I can say without any doubt that if he hadn’t resigned as manager of the League, I’d never have left either. The fucker would never have let me anyway! We had great faith in each other during those times and Bob was a huge influence on my life. And that’s a rare thing.
“It was interesting to discover that he’d studied military strategy and applied that to the proceedings. I hadn’t known that at the time – a pity really, as we could have shared thoughts on Sun Tzu. The best plan is a flexilble plan.
“After watching Big Gold Dream I can say that the whole scene was probably far more pioneering and influential than I’d previously thought. It did force change onto the musical and cultural landscape that followed.
“I was also reminded of how much fear of success existed within the Edinburgh side of things then – a lot of horses were taken to water then, but few chose to drink. I’ve always liked a drink, me.
“At the start of the film there’s much talk of how everything at the time seemed dull, grey, miserable and overcast. Well, in the spiritual and political sense, perhaps it was. But I remember the summer of 1976 being one of the longest and hottest on record – I don’t think we’ve had a better one since.
“Anyway, you’ve got to try and make your own sunshine in this world – that’s always been my big gold dream.”