Keith Bruce reports on BBC Scotland's plans for a new series of rock


OUTSIDE the church in Glasgow's West End, which -- as Cottier's -- is

in the throes of being converted into a performance venue, in the midst

of a clutch of BBC trucks, was one belonging to Technovision


The firm has supplied BBC Scotland with the crane-mounted camera

system which is swooping above the heads of the audience inside. Somehow

you know that the images produced with it are going to be one of the

main features of Queen Margaret Drive's latest venture into making a

rock music show.

May Miller's No Stilettos, which was been filmed over five nights last

week, is BBC Scotland's first venture into the dangerous waters of the

rock series since Hamish Barbour's FSD five years ago.

Its use of available video technology (within the scope of a BBC

Scotland budget) has been much aped since, but the vexed question of how

best to put pop and rock on the telly has remained unanswered.

Television is always a compromise for rock music. It cannot convey the

excitement of being at a live event and if it tries it loses the

advantages of recording studio technology. At the same time there is an

understandable reluctance on the part of many in television (not to

mention the Musicians' Union) simply to accept the promotional video

output of the record industry -- though it is the unashamedly commercial

Chart Show on ITV that provides the best guide to what is actually

popular, as well as giving those videos their only guaranteed network


Top of the Pops, an institution that refuses to die decently, has

struggled with the live/pre-recorded/mimed/ filmed problem for longer

than most of the people who actually buy the records can remember.

Glasgow's own Bluebells put a rather cute post-modernist gloss on the

dilemma when they appeared on the show the week they got to No.1.

Electing -- perhaps foolishly -- to sing live, vocalist Ken McCluskey

turned to the camera near the end of the song and chanted ''techno,

techno, techno, techno'', in mock homage to dumb Belgian disco rave-beat

disc (and former No.1) No Limit.

If it is still funny to subvert the order of TOTP, it's deadly boring

to lark about on shows that are already chaos. In Channel Four's The

Word, started out as a music show but these days the music is so

incidental to the general thrust of chat show incompetence that a girl

has to drop her trousers to get noticed, so one of the Girls from L7 did

just that.

Things aren't much better in Scotland, where the latest independently

produced effort is Big Star in a Wee Picture's cosy but crap Talking


Quite how No Stilettos will fit into the picture is anybody's guess.

With only a nine-week turnaround to broadcast and a network slot

scheduled for the summer, a lot still has to be decided.

Encouragingly there are parallels with BBC Scotland's classical music

series Soundbites, which is currently half way through its network run,

and which has some of the highest production values ever seen on

non-drama output from Queen Margaret Drive. The designer of both is Ian

McDonald, who managed to soften Glasgow Royal Concert Hall into

something quite telegenic and he has made a very warm pseudo-Scottish

baronial use of the old Hyndland church with banners and, oddly,


Whether this proves a bit kilts-and-haggis when broadcast to the

nation remains to be seen.

The other obvious parallel with Soundbites is the presence of a

well-known female musician as MC. Here things start to come unstuck,

because singer Eddi Reader, a famously strange interviewee, is no Evelyn

Glennie, a personable chat-show regular.

The selection of bands and artists for the series (including The

Lemonheads, Trashcan Sinatras, and American Music Club) is, as David

Belcher has noted, very fine indeed and the process of recording has

seen many other artists added to the pre-publicised list. That should

give the BBC Scotland arts team plenty of footage to work with when it

comes to editing, but, on the strength of two visits to the recordings,

it seems most unlikely that Reader's vague mumblings have given them the

perfect linking material.

Even more worryingly, a crew member was to be seen roaming the

auditorium with a camcorder, catching celebrities in the crowd unawares.

This film is supposedly only for internal consumption, but the

temptation to put some of it in the programme might prove too strong.

Too much of that and the swooping Technocrane and No Stilettos could

prove to be just as irritating to watch as The Word's Terry Christian.