By Tam Dean Burn

MY relationship with Robert Burns has been a rich and rewarding one, spanning many years, and I am delighted that our Burns tribute band, The Bum Clocks, is once more paying homage to the great man this week, performing at Unique Events’ Burns & Beyond Festival in Edinburgh on Friday and Saturday.

I was invited to perform at Unique’s Burns an’ a’ That festival in Ayr in 2003 and recruited Nicolas Bloomfield on piano as our drag double act Binge and Racket (a homage to the 1970s TV drag-aunts Hinge and Bracket) with actress Samantha Dodds. We were on in the town square Spiegeltent at the very same moment that my all-time heroine Patti Smith was performing Sweet Afton with Michael Marra at Culzean Castle. I was gutted to miss that gig but jolly beggars can’t be choosers, and we did have a rare auld time, particularly with Burns’s very dirty ditty Nine Inch Will Please a Lady.

That large number also featured in the set I performed with my brother Russell there in 2005 and can be seen, in suitably punky fashion, on YouTube, posted by Rusty Pie. The OMGs heard from the audience in Ayr Town Hall at my stripped-to-the-waist, full-length-kilted, appendaged and ginger-wigged persona were perhaps induced by some trying to square my performance with the hard nut gangster McCabe that I’d recently started playing in River City. Or they had just come to see headliner Pete Doherty and didn’t know what to make of us. I’d got to know Pete at the Foundry Bar in Shoreditch in the late 90s and he was yet another inspired poetic choice to bring to a Burns festival.

By the following year, we had enlisted guitarist Malcolm Ross, becoming Burn Bros & Ross to support Julian Cope back in Ayr Town Hall. I found a new Burns focus by imagining his first published poem The Twa Dugs to be about his relationship with Iggy Pop (poets are immortal and transcend time after all). The first dog in the poem is named Caesar – obviously after Iggy’s album American Caesar I thought – and the poem says he “whalpit some place far abroad” and by shifting from what was clearly Newfoundland to “far away” I rhymed “from Detroit City A.A” to match Iggy’s origins.

That then led us to mash Rabbie and Iggy lyrics into new mongrel songs such as Green Grow the Belles o’ Mauchline and the Lassie o’ New York City-O and Dirt and Despondency: An Ode which still feature in our set. We also got our name from The Twa Dugs. In the last verse Burns says “The bum-clock humm’d wi lazy drone” and it’s apparently a flying summer beetle, so I’ll often introduce us as the Scottish Beetles. Aye, we are still going strong, fortified by our 50 gigs across Scotland during Burns’s 250th birthday year celebrations in 2007.

Stevie Christie, keyboards player with the Proclaimers, has now joined us too and we are part of Joseph Malik’s Easter Road Northern Soul collective Out of the Ordinary. Our song Climb the Lion on the Ramrock Records album Stranger Things Have Happened released last summer is the first where we mash Rab’s rhymes with my own lyrics.

So our gig on Saturday at the Liquid Rooms in Edinburgh, preceded by a short set at the alternative Burns Supper the night before, is the culmination of the past 20 years and maist o’ a’ gies me the chance tae sing in my ane accent again!

Tam Dean Burns is an actor and performer. He will be appearing with the Bum Clocks and Out of the Ordinary as part of the Burns&Beyond Culture Trail on January 25. Full details and tickets from