THIS is the story of two record labels. This is the story of two record labels and, to be blatantly reductive about it, the story of the two men behind them. Two ambitious, driven, quixotic and sometimes contrary men. This is also the story of two Scottish cities and a moment in time which changed everything.

Maybe we can start it this way. At the end of the 1970s Douglas MacIntyre was a music-loving teenager living in Lanarkshire. He listened to John Peel every night and read the NME every week. When he could, he would get a bus from his home town Strathaven into Hamilton and then a train to Glasgow just so he could walk around the record shops. If he had the money he’d buy a single. If not he’d read the fanzines. And if he was lucky he might see someone in the record shop - someone like Steven Daley from the band Orange Juice, say - that he’d just read about in the fanzine or in the NME. “And you’d start,” MacIntyre says, “putting it all together.”

The “all” was pop culture. And it was happening in front of him. In Glasgow. In Edinburgh. It was beginning to be packaged by local record labels. In Edinburgh Fast Product, set up by Bob Last in the capital, made the running. And then, as the new decade began, Postcard Records, the self-acclaimed “sound of young Scotland'', emerged from Alan Horne’s flat in West Princes Street in Glasgow’s West End.

In short, at the start of the 1980s post-punk had a Scottish accent. “It felt like at last there was something tangible on your doorstep,” MacIntyre recalls all these years later. It was listening to the records that these two labels released, and going to see the bands they signed, bands like Orange Juice and Fire Engines that inspired him to start a band himself, Article 58.

Now MacIntyre is repaying the debt. In a new book entitled Hungry Beat, MacIntyre gives us an oral history of both Fast Product (and its various iterations) and Postcard Records, and of Last and Horne and those around them who made it possible. Drawing on interviews carried out by Grant McPhee for his 2015 film Big Gold Dream and supplemented with new interviews (some carried out by Herald contributor Neil Cooper), the result is a very readable rewind to all our yesterdays and a restatement of why the “all” of that moment still matters.

Because it does, MacIntyre thinks. “It felt like there was something in the air. Suddenly, people were realising, ‘Wait a minute. We shouldn’t be doffing our cap, feeling insecure and inferior about our own culture. And I think that’s when a confidence started to come through in Scottish culture.”

In short, 1978, the year of the first Fast Product release was a cultural year zero for Scotland. In the years that followed it began to assert itself in the arts.

There were other reasons for that, of course. Alasdair Gray published his novel Lanark in 1981. James Kelman’s first novel The Busconductor Hines followed in 1984, the same year that Aberdonian Michael Clark, the enfant terrible of modern dance, set up his own company. Meanwhile, in the world of art, the New Glasgow Boys were making a name for themselves too.

But at the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s music was the most potent cultural language. And this was Scotland’s moment. Admittedly, it needed a push from a guy who had spent most of his childhood in Sussex to start it.

Inspired by punk, Edinburgh university dropout and tour manager for the Rezillos, Bob Last was both an entrepreneur and a provocateur who read leftist intellectual texts, was interested in Chairman Mao’s military strategy and loved Buzzcocks’ Spiral Scratch EP. Last and his partner Hilary Morrison - who was just as important a figure in the story as he was - set up Fast Product in 1977 as a scene developed around their Keir Street flat. In 1978 Fast Product released its first single, Never Been in a Riot, by The Mekons, a group of art students from Leeds. Singles from Human League and Gang of Four would follow before Scars became the first Edinburgh band on the label. In short order, Last launched Pop:Aural which became home to such Scottish bands as The Flowers (with Hilary Morrison on vocals) and Fire Engines.

Meanwhile, in Glasgow, Alan Horne was brewing his own quixotic assault on the charts with Postcard Records and the label’s defining band Orange Juice (others, including Josef K and Aztec Camera, would follow).

Two very different musics emerged. Fast Product and Pop:Aural favoured wired, skittering post-punk noise. Postcard, coming along a little later, tended to aim for a more melodic pop perfection but at the beginning at least, sometimes fell short. But that gap between ambition and realisation was both thrilling and amusing. (“We’ll laugh at our reflections in the window,” as Edwyn Collins once sang.)

Soon the music press was rushing north and Scottish pop was suddenly a thing.

There was a danger in standing out, of course. Collins did not shy away from appearing camp at times and it didn’t go unnoticed.

“You’ve got to remember Edwyn used to get beat up for the way he looked. It was a very daring - challenging almost - confrontational thing that Orange Juice were doing,” MacIntyre points out.

But along with the films of Bill Forsyth, Orange Juice and Postcard helped kill off Glasgow’s tedious “No mean city” image and help reinvent the city in the public imagination.

“You can't underestimate what the label did,” MacIntyre argues. “It ingrained an absolute confidence in Glasgow. People looked different in Glasgow. It created a fashion or an aesthetic sensibility in the way people looked and behaved.”

One of the strengths of Hungry Beat is it never reduces the story down to just Last and Horne. Fast Product would not have existed without the efforts of Morrison. And Horne needed Orange Juice at least as much as they needed him.

But, McIntyre asks, without Last and Horne would things have taken off in the same way? “I think they both had a fierce energy to make things happen.”

Inevitably there was an element of competition between the two labels and two cities. Horne badmouthed Fast Product, while Last called Horne “a stroppy little bugger.”

Some have seen class differences as one of the causes of the tribalism onshow back then. MacIntyre doesn’t really buy that, however.

“Some people from Edinburgh have a take on the Glasgow music that came through in that period as being very middle class. Now you could argue that maybe in the case of Orange Juice.” But, he adds, not all Postcard bands were the same. Aztec Camera? “They’re working-class lads,” MacIntyre agrees.

Anyway, he adds, quoting John Lydon, “it’s not where you’re from it’s where you are at.”

And where is that? What was the legacy of that moment in pop? Well, you could argue that the very idea of independent music in the UK starts somewhere in the confluence of Postcard and Fast Product.

“I think both of those labels imbued a feeling of independence and excitement. They were dynamic, they were forward-thinking while they were in motion,” MacIntyre suggests.

They also, as previously mentioned, led to the end of any sense of an inferiority complex in Scottish music.

“You could argue that it was the end of an inferiority complex and the beginning of a superiority complex,” MacIntyre says, laughing, “because there was a disdain cast upon everything else.

“But if you’re involved in a movement and you’re young, part of that’s a defence mechanism, a wee shield you put around yourself to give you the energy to keep moving forward.”

Eventually Last moved on to work in films while Horne could never quite translate his vision into lasting pop success. But it was fun while it lasted.

“I think there was a genuine belief that what they were doing was genuinely important. I suppose you’ve got youthful speed and energy. Because these people were all really young when they were doing incredibly sophisticated things.”

This is the story. This is not the end.

Hungry Beat: The Scottish Independent Pop Underground Movement (1977-1984), by Douglas MacIntyre and Grant McPhee, with Neil Cooper, is published by White Rabbit, priced £20. A book launch will take place at Mono, Glasgow on Tuesday with Nicola Meighan interviewing the authors.

Douglas MacIntyre

After Article 58, Douglas MacIntyre continued a career in music. He set up the legendary Creeping Bent label in 1994 which has released records by the lkes of Vic Godard, Monica Queen and Suicide’s Alan Vega. He also plays in the band Port Sulphur who, in the week he talked to The Herald, had a number one in the Scottish album charts with their album Speed of Life.

“It’s surreal for me to see that at number one, above Paolo Nutini and Neil Young,” MacIntyre admits. “And it’s fairly experimental. It’s an instrumental album.”

And in a way, MacIntyre has come full circle with his other musical venture, Frets, staging acoustic gigs for small audiences in his home town of Strathaven. Lloyd Cole, Clare Grogan, Tim Burgess and Arab Strap have all played Frets gigs.

“It’s just trying to do something at a localised community level in Strathaven and people are responding to it.”