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Political Spin: Prof Sir Gregor Smith

Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, Prof Sir Gregor Smith with a Jackson 'Flying V'

Political Spin: Prof Sir Gregor Smith

Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, Prof Sir Gregor Smith talks Iron Maiden, Sammy David Jr., and Mad-chester...


What was the first record that you ever bought?

I remember the excitement of buying my first record – that really stands out. It was Rainbow’s ‘Down To Earth’, and it would have been late-1979/early-1980, because I was still at primary school. They had a couple of singles out at the time that really took my attention. My best friend’s brother was really into Rainbow and Deep Purple, and the second record I bought was Deep Purple’s ’24 Carat Purple’, a compilation album. I can even remember paying £2.99 for it!


How did you get into playing music?

I started to play guitar in primary six, I was given an acoustic guitar as a present, a cheap thing from the Co-op but I was really grateful for it. I went to music lessons, and the first song I learned to play was ‘Mull of Kintyre’ by Wings.


How did you get into heavier stuff?

I think the thing that got me into heavier stuff was watching a Black Sabbath concert, I saw Ozzy Osbourne on stage, the way he captivated the audience really stuck with me. But it was Tony Iommi, watching him play, and the tightness of Bill Ward and Geezer Butler in the background, with Tony’s riffs, that was just amazing.


What record will always get you on the dance floor?

A couple of the songs that will always get me on the dancefloor come from a particular period of my life, such as The Charlatans’ ‘The Only One I Know’, and James’ ‘Sit Down’. Even to this day if they came on I think I’d be up, embarrassing everyone with my dance moves.

That was the early 1990s, a really interesting period for music, particularly the Manchester scene of Stone Roses, James, Charlatans, Happy Mondays, etc.


What is your go-to karaoke song?

You obviously haven’t heard me sing… The first one I would pick would be from a band called Cake, and they did a version of Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive’. The Cake version of the song is superb, they switch it to a minor key, and the lyrics are a bit more deadpan and sarcastic, and it’s a great song for karaoke. ‘Dignity’ by Deacon Blue is another one, because people always sing along and perhaps hide some of your frailties!



What songs do you want played at your funeral?

So, there’s two songs – first is Sammy Davis Jr’s ‘Mr Bojangles’, I just love the song, and the performer. It’s beautiful and I’d love to be able to sing it well. I’d also like something to be played that people would associate with me, so it would have to be Iron Maiden’s ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’, it’s my all-time favourite song – it’s so beautiful and it’s a story.


What songs/music is guaranteed to make you cry?

I don’t think I’ve ever cried to music, but it is wonderful for bringing up emotion in you. I think one song that is quite emotional on its content is Johnny Cash’s cover of Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Hurt’.

I still remember the first time I saw I saw the music video, it was absolutely stunning. If you've never seen it, it's a black and white video of an older Johnny Cash, really exposed with his vulnerability and there was something which I just found incredibly moving.


What music would you always associate with your childhood?

I was always around family, who played music. My mum and dad didn't listen to music a lot, but my uncle listened to music all the time, and again, it was rock music. So it was bands like Led Zeppelin, and UFO, and Deep Purple have already mentioned. As I became an adolescent I probably started to listen to different types of music at that point, listening to Prince, listening to things like Lenny Kravitz later on, and bands like that.


What record do you absolutely hate but can’t get out of your head?

I don't like pop songs. I just I don't get pop. Occasionally you pick something up on the radio that's pop that’s catchy and just gets in there. I think the catchy, throw-way nature of bubblegum pop I really don’t like, but I can’t think of anything in particular.


What record would you be embarrassed to owning up to having in your collection?

I have a few records in my collection that are probably a bit dodgy by other people’s standards, like Marillion that I wouldn’t necessarily go out and buy now but at the time I did enjoy.


What was the last band you went to see and who with?

The last band I went to see was fairly recently, it was [Charlatans singer] Tim Burgess doing a solo stint, and he was there with Dug Stewart from BMX Bandits, with my best mate Brian. It was a lovely little venue for an acoustic set, and it was the first time we’d been back seeing live music for a couple of years. I had the pleasure of meeting Tim afterwards, and spending a bit of time with him and the guys, he’s such a lovely guy.

Read the most recent article written by Joseph Anderson - Partygate: Davidson accuses Tory colleagues of 'sitting on their hands'

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