Graham Simpson MSP: Political Spin
What was the first record you ever bought?
I knew you would ask me that. I know where I bought it, but I cannot remember what it was – some kind of disco tune. I bought it in Eldon Square in Newcastle. But I can’t remember the record, so I’m not gonna make it up. It might have been Rose Royce, but I couldn’t swear to that.
What record will always get you on the dance floor?
There’s quite a few of those to be honest. When I was a teenager, I was a bit of a disco dancer. At school discos, probably when I was 16 upwards, I had a reputation of clearing the dance floor. I did a party piece; every time The Real Thing came on with Can You Feel The Force, I would be up. They had an extended version. In those days, I could dance to the extended version. These days, I couldn’t even manage the shorter version.
Did you clear the floor because you needed the space or did people not want to be near you?
There was an element that was quite theatrical. I like to think I was a good dancer. I needed the space, I recreated many of the moves that John Travolta did in Saturday Night Fever, I could do all those moves, including the Cossack move that he does. I could do all that when I was young and fit. I could probably manage most of it into my 30s. But now, I wouldn’t even get up, I’d be collapsed on the floor.
Do you dance much now?
No. I guess if I did go to a wedding and the right tune came on, I wouldn’t be able to help myself. Because the music, it does go to my feet. I can’t really help it. But I would have to temper my moves, it wouldn’t be John Travolta anymore.
But yeah, I really love music, I love the disco era. Bee Gees stuff, anything of that era, that was me. I probably got into music before that, though, when I discovered my uncle’s collection of Beatles records. I was probably eight or nine – I remember I was around at my grandparents’ house, and he’d obviously just left his collection there and I started to play them. I’ve always really loved the Beatles, I was a fan of Paul McCartney mainly, so I followed him when he went into Wings. That’s what got me into music, then into the disco era, and then into jazz. It was my dad that got me into jazz. He took to me my first ever jazz gig to see Buddy Rich who was a drummer, he had the Big Band. That was me hooked.
Do you have a favourite jazz record?
There are several. One is a collection of records by a saxophonist called Art Pepper, an American who played the alto sax, and he did a series of live recordings in a New York venue called the Village Vanguard. It’s Thursday Night at the Village Vanguard, Friday Night, Saturday Night. I just love that collection because they’re all different; he’s playing different sets every night. Those are probably my favourites, but there’s a few. I really liked saxophone, any saxophone. Sonny Rollins is a favourite. I saw him a few times in Edinburgh, at Usher Hall. I saw Dizzy Gillespie in Edinburgh as well. I used to travel around a lot just to go and see people. I would just go where the music was. Miles Davis, I came to see, I was living in Newcastle at the time and I came up to Glasgow. He was playing at the SECC. I was really lucky to see him.
Do you play an instrument yourself?
Well, the answer is no – but I would love to own and learn how to play even a few notes of the alto sax. I promised myself if I got re-elected last time, I would buy myself an alto sax but I haven’t got around to it yet. I don’t know what’s holding me back. Even if I couldn’t play it, I would just love to have one – they’re a thing of beauty. My wife did buy me a set of bongos once, thinking I might play them. They just sat there, I don’t use them. [Simpson starts drumming on the table] I don’t know how you’d put this into an article, but I can do that while a tune is playing.
What was the last gig you went to?
Simply Red at the Hydro just after lockdown. We’d bought tickets prior to the pandemic. It was brilliant. I’ve got another gig coming up – I don’t go to that many now, I used to go to loads – I’m going to see a Scottish female jazz singer called Georgia Cécile. I got her album for Christmas and I was blown away by it. Absolutely brilliant. One of the best things I’ve heard in years, singing all original songs, all her own stuff. She’s playing at the Glasgow Jazz Festival, so we’re going to that.
What music would you always associate with your childhood?
There would be a standout tune, I think, from the summer of 1976, a red hot summer. Elton John and Kiki Dee, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart. It was number one for weeks and weeks, that sticks with me. It’s a really good tune.