Mull Historical Society — committee notes: 

The Best Of (so far) (2000-2015)


On today's agenda, Colin MacIntyre, the founder of Mull Historical Society, takes some of his memories and stories about the last 15 years and matches them up with 18 tracks from his splendid Best of album. He discusses each moment in time, and where they fit.

You can get a copy of Mull Historical Society's The Best of on CD from our digital shop, or on CD and gold-coloured double vinyl (released as a Record Store Day 2015 exclusive) from real physical shops. Please take note of Colin's words on the past and the present.

1. Isle of Mull ferry public service announcer

"If you've grown up in the Hebrides then this is a familiar sound. The Caledonian MacBrayne ferries have been the soundtrack of my life to-date and so I felt it was a fitting way to arrive on 'Mull' and to begin this collection. 2000-2015: time clearly flies when you're making tunes. Does for me. This recording might be the finest use of the word 'disembarkation' in the English language. So we're the island, on the good ship Xtra Mile. There's room on the top deck."

2. The Final Arrears

"Still my biggest chart hit to date. It was a song written about the end of somebody's life, and that final distribution of their life's possessions; the journey away from Earthand family, to what comes next. The opening line (almost) mirrors Bowie's own in 'Modern Love'. It's always a live favourite. We just finished playing a tour of my debut Loss album to celebrate this Best Of album and we finished each night with this song. 'Join all the hands...' --the voices coming back at me are still ringing in the ears."

3. Animal Cannabus

"My third-ever single. It's about old people breaking free, out of any confinement, nursing homes or whatever. I remember being inspired by Orwell's Animal Farm and exploring that parallel of revolt and the inhabitants making up their own rules. The video depicted that escape by way of my mate stripping off and taking to the Atlantic Ocean, at Calgary Beach on Mull's west coast: my favourite place in the world. But really, I just wanted to write a melodic sugar rush."

4. The Lights

"This was one of the radio hits off my last MHS album, 'City Awakenings', which is also on Xtra Mile. It is a joy to perform live. It's about travelling from an island to the city for the first time. I was the child in the back getting the stereo feed; good memories of seeing the city lights for the first time." 

5. Barcode Bypass

"My debut single came out on Rough Trade. I might not have released six albums to date without this song. Best memory? Well there's two: one being when I was soundchecking in Glasgow's King Tuts venue (MHS's second home back then), and Dave McGeechan who runs it came bounding down the stairs to tell me the song was playing on Jo Whiley's Radio 1 show, all seven-and-a-half minutes of it — my first ever national play. And then I received a call to say it was NME's 'Debut Single of the Year'. A good day. It seemed to connect with people. It was written from the standpoint of an old corner shop owner trying to break the news to his wife that the 24-hour supermarket recently opened up the hill is putting them out of business. He practises his delivery of this sad news on his dogs, walking them for miles. I don't think he ever comes back..."

6. The Supermarket Strikes Back

This was on my second MHS album Us. This is the follow up to 'Barcode Bypass', written from the point of view of the supermarket owner. Gradually his conscience takes over to the extent he goes off to catch up with the corner shop owner. 

7. You're A Star

Off my album The Water (which came out under my own name, Colin MacIntyre), produced by Lemon Jelly's Nick Franglen. I suppose it was a finger in the air to material things. A very positive message, I hope. But yeah, really just another sugar rush. 

8. Instead

"One of my favourites of my own songs. The intro sample is from an old film featuring James Stewart called The Shop Around The Corner. In it, at one point, he says a series of lines beginning 'Instead of a...' — I just felt inspired. It is a song which tries to capture a moment: forget goals, cliches, what you're 'supposed' to do with loss; just be, just feel. Sometimes when I sing, I reach that state. I had suddenly lost my father. Instead of everything else, I'd rather Y-O-U."

9. Watching Xanadu

"Off my debut Loss. It was about several things — a homeless man watching the TV through a shop window (Olivia Newton John video?). It also has references to Coleridge's vision of Xanadu in the Kubla Khan poem, as referenced in the film Citizen Kane. It was about wanting another place, another time, desiring somebody else's shoes. Best memory? Hearing live on the radio that it was my first chart 'Top 40' entry. The rest of that night is less clear..."

10. Five More Minutes

"Always one of the highlights of any Mull show to play this, and feel and hear it coming back at me. It feels like a genuine connection with anyone who has lost someone. We all want extra time with that person. It's only seconds away... It sits alongside 'Instead' in that way." 

11. Peculiar

"A song I wrote a long time before I ever got a record deal or it ever appeared on an album. I demoed it and it hung around. It's a narrative of a quirky family, kind of Twin Peaks meets The Adams Family or something. But as with all narratives, it's whatever you want it to be. When I sing it, it's me."

12. I Tried

"Best memory? Filming the video one festive season with my mates back home on Mull. It snowed, covering the island, and suddenly the video had a stunning backdrop. So much fun and it was made on a budget of peanuts (or grassy turf, in fact) which then, to our amazement, got play-listed on MTV. Second best memory? I decided I wanted to use a photo of my boyhood hero Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins in the single artwork. The label got his number. I called. He was in a betting shop. I called again. He was in a bar. Would only refer to me as Mr MacIntyre. Wanted a lot of money for the photo. No go. Snookered even. But he remains a hero. It was a song I wrote while working in Glasgow. In all reality it was a homage to office/corporate life/politics, depicted on film by a man trying to befriend or maybe outwit a sheep while inside a cottage. You, you, ewe...decide. Oh, one more memory: I toured with The Strokes for a month on their debut UK tour. What a riot! On the final night in Liverpool they sang this back at me in the dressing room, top volume, beers in hand. Unforgettable."

13. How 'Bout I Love You More

"I recorded this song in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York, at the legendary Bearsville Studios where Bob Dylan, The Band, and many others had recorded before me with a backdrop of flying, croaking turkeys. I sampled them — why would you not? It was a great experience, living there in Woodstock, with Janice Joplin's Mini still in the garage. Oh, the song is about man vs machine."

14. Keep Falling

"The exclusive new single on the Best of album, which is also available in swanky gold double vinyl. It really looks great (artwork: Jo Burton). The single is very uptempo and lyrically, in some ways, the song sits well with 'Barcode Bypass' in that it is an older couple dealing with life as it changes. Most songs have a spark in terms of what leads you to write it and this one came from watching an interview with a couple who finished each other's sentences while being interviewed on News 24 about the English floods. It also references Xanadu again.

15. Out Stealing Horses (feat. King Creosote)

"This was written Stateside but then recorded back home for my fifth (and mostly acoustic) album 'Island'. It was captured in An Tobar in Tobermory in a venue which used to be my old primary school classroom. Amazing place. It features a lovely vocal and accordion from Kenny Creosote, and beautiful guitar by Sorren MacIean. The title comes from one of my fave books, by the Norwegian novelist Per Petterson. Worth checking out. My own debut novel 'The Letters of Ivor Punch' is now available and the opening chapter of the book is titled 'Out Stealing Firs', so there is lots of crossover. Also, some of the lyrics from that album have found their way into my novel." 

16. Fold Out City

"This track is off my last Mull album 'City Awakenings'. It sits alongside 'The Lights' in that it is a child trying to imagine a city, but in this case it is about a boy trying to build one, from his island bedroom. I compiled a city on my bedroom floor with various paper sources and gradually I took over the hallway of my house as this conurbation grew. It got out of hand until one day I had to pack it up. Rates were too high... But at least now I can re-imagine it."

17. Mull Historical Society 

Well, the song that started it all. I was back home one time on a break from uni in Glasgow when I spotted a sign in the local venue, the Aros Hall, Tobermory. It was advertising a meeting of the local MHS. Soon I had written a song imagining this organisation controlling the island; again, in Orwellian fashion. 1984 had a big impression on me. And that was it. I had my identity and decided to call myself that too. Several years (and albums) later the real MHS decided to change their name to make a distinction from me: they became the Mull Historical & Archaeological Society. Which brings us full circle, because, for the purposed of a brief cameo in my novel, I wondered: what if I then decided to call myself the Mull Historical & Archaeological Society? 

Join us now...

18. Tony Benn poem 'Pay Attention To The Human'

"I wrote a song of this name for my album The Water and it was a song documenting the experiences of an Iraq war correspondent as being observed by the armchair viewer. I wanted a fitting and original voice to perform a spoken word element to finish the song (and album). I tried Tony Benn. He called me. I went to his house. Very nervous. He put me at ease and was so kind. My recording device wouldn't work. His did. And he spoke this poem which he had composed specially. (I then discovered the meeting made it into his diaries 'More Time For Politics'). That day, he talked about Mull and how he had in fact sat on the Tobermory town clock as a young man. Back full circle right enough. 'We the people they all say...we must break free and be ourselves.'"

I hope you enjoy.