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Political Spin: Pete Wishart MP

Political Spin: Pete Wishart MP

What was the first record you ever bought?
Tiger Feet, by Mud. I was about ten and I loved that song. 

What music did you get into as a teenager?
I caught the tail end of prog and bands like Yes, Genesis and Emmerson, Lake & Palmer. When I heard Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, I thought, ‘that’s what I want to do’. It got me interested in albums, what you could do with music and how the keyboards could make such a difference on tracks like Welcome to the Machine. It changed my view of music; I wasn’t interested, I was fascinated.

What was your first gig?
My dad was a fantastic organ player and had a club band that played across working men’s clubs in west Fife. He played mainly trad stuff but he’d do a section called ‘the pops’ and he’d ask my brother and I what to play that week. He’d go from a polka to a cover of Space Oddity by Bowie. His talent for music rubbed off on us and we both learned instruments. When I discovered the Hammond organ, I wanted to be a celebrated player and lead the band. I wanted to be successful, I wanted to be famous, I wanted music to be my life. That was all down to my dad. 

You were also part of the punk scene in Dunfermline...
Punk was a revolution; I got it immediately. All the bands went to the Kinema Ballroom so I saw The Rezillos, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Elvis Costello, The Clash and of course The Skids. I was invited to support The Skids with my band The Subjects, which my brother Alan also played in, and we eventually became members of Big Country. There was a competition to sign us, then we went on tour with Alice Cooper and it went all badly wrong. They weren’t expecting guys with eyeliner and headscarves and the crowds didn’t take to us at all. We were asked to leave the tour after the second night.

Tell us about joining Runrig
I was headhunted. They were stalwarts of the folk scene and getting good audiences in those clubs, student unions and village halls. They wanted to go more into the mainstream and I brought something a bit more rock and pop. The first album I worked on was The Cutter and the Clan, and that defined our sound. I loved it. What we had that nobody else had was the Gaelic, tapping into 500 years of songs and culture. We offered a rock perspective from the north. Pride of the Summer encapsulates that.

And tell us about Top of the Pops
We were on five times, despite never having a hit song. We always said number 32 was reserved for Runrig, because most of our songs just about got there. The first time, when we were on with Wonderful, Diana Ross and Oasis were on too. We were also on with Blur, Ace of Base, and our biggest ever hit was An Ubhal as Àirde, which was used for a beer advert. That got to number 17 and is the only Gaelic song that’s made it into the UK top 20 ever.

Runrig are arguably best known for Loch Lomond...
It’s just something that sort of happened. In the early days when people didn’t know us and we could see total indifference, we’d play it and turn things round and now it’s used to close every wedding in Scotland. I don’t know how many I’ve been at where it’s been played, and someone always says, ‘there’s Pete Wishart, get him up to sing it’. I’m not a singer, but I usually oblige.

What’s your go-to karaoke track?
Don’t You Want Me? by The Human League. That’s also the song to get me on the dancefloor, it’s just great fun.

What was the last gig you went to?
The Psychedelic Furs, who we saw a few weeks ago in Glasgow. I love The Divine Comedy, but we missed them at the Usher Hall. 

What song is guaranteed to cheer you up?
Rock the Casbah by The Clash. You’ve got to get up and have a dance. 

You’re in a parliamentary band, MP4. What’s your best song?
There’s a track from our LP, Cross Party, called Foolish Game, which was our first original song. We’re the world’s only parliamentary rock band. In 2001 the music industry was quite interested that somebody who’d had a music career was now a member of parliament, and I formed the All-Party Parliamentary Music Group. I thought, ‘I wonder if I can get a band out of this’. We’ve now been going for 15 years and we’ve raised about £1m for different charities. 

Read the most recent article written by Kirsteen Paterson - Broken record: What do House of Lords defeats say about the UK Government?

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