Music lovers make Glasgow

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Tony Gaughan, owner of Blitzkrieg music shop. Source: @blitzkriegshopglasgow on Instagram

Glasgow has always been known as a great city for music. With festivals, a plethora of grassroots and larger venues to showcase talent not only from Scotland but around the world. What makes Glasgow though, as the saying goes, is that People Make Glasgow.

Through the pandemic and lock down, it’s been noticeably hard for the music industry to thrive the way it usually does in the city. With no shows and work drying up for those in the industry, those involved have had to find different ways to survive. There has been a call for people to look out for each other – an ethos that one Glasgow shop owner feels very strongly about.

To say that Tony Gaughan is a passionate man would be an understatement. The owner of the Blitzkrieg music shop in the heart of the East End of Glasgow shows this very well, not only with his day-to-day running of the shop but his commitment to local music in the Scottish scene. He tells me that he managed to see TRex when he was 9 years old, and that he was around 15 when the punk explosion took off, which he says is what got him into playing in bands and ultimately into the music scene as a whole.

The 58-year-old originally opened Blitzkrieg in the Savoy Centre at the top of Glasgow’s city centre on Sauchiehall Street, but he says it is something he quickly outgrew as it was a narrow space and looked like ‘a junk shop.’ After also being priced out by a landlord, Gaughan decided to move to a premise on London Road – an empty space that he had had his eye on.

He says “I see Blitzkrieg shop really as a hub for musicians, for artists, for tattoo artists, and I hope to be able to spread the ethos of being able to work together and how art and music can mix. These days you have to have a few different hats on, really, to get by. I help artists to make money, using their artwork in fine art.

I help tattoo artists to make a living if they find themselves in a situation where they can’t ink people – they can sell prints. The whole music and art thing seems to really tie together well.”

Poster in Barrowlands Ballroom promoting Blitzkrieg. Source: blitzkriegshopglasgow on Instagram

Luckily, due to the shop being a retail premises, the Scottish Government was very good to Gaughan during the pandemic, he was able to qualify for grants and remain open. The spot couldn’t be better for Gaughan, who says “I know that Blitzkrieg is in the heart of the music world of the Barrowland Ballroom, of TRNSMT festival, of St Lukes, and various other cool smaller venues like McChuills.”

The name Blitzkrieg came from Gaughan’s involvement in a Ramones revivialist band. The band performs at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut every year, on the anniversary of Joe Strummer’s death on the 22nd of December, 2002. Alongside occasional performing, Gaughan has involvement with the record label called Neon Tetra music which began in 2004. 

Gaughan isn’t the only person who’s had a long and engaging relationship to Scottish music, he is one of many people who are helping to keep the music industry ticking and the magic alive. 

Starting in 2015, the Glasgow City Music Tours has been a great way to inform people both local and tourists about the rich musical history of Glasgow. There are three different tours on offer – the Central City music tour, the Merchant City music tour, and the Scottish Trad tour which includes a two course meal and live music section of local folk musicians.

Fiona Shepherd. Credit: Colin Templeton

Fiona Shepherd, music journalist and one of the co-founders and co-directors of Glasgow City Music Tours, spoke about the impact that the pandemic has had. In 2020, they had plans to expand and go more international, but sadly the pandemic put a stop to that. The music tours will begin again in April of this year as per their season which runs from April until September.

Last year, they were able to run half a season from August to October, due to the fact that they don’t exclusively rely on international travel for their tourism. The local economy, as per people being tourists in their own city, has helped the music tours. Shepherd says that her favourite thing about the tours is the customers, as they, if they are from here, might have their own anecdotal stories about the venues as they travel around.

If they’re entertaining enough, they might make their way into the commentary of the tour itself. They were, like Gaughan, lucky enough to get a grant at the end of last year which did help – however some aspects of the pandemic are still impacting the company. This year, with the current restrictions, they were not able to run their popular Celtic Connections tour – a festival that usually runs in Glasgow during the month of January to showcase folk, roots and world music, celebrating its connections to cultures across the globe.

While it’s been hard for musicians and the like to make a living, these two individuals have been championing the Scottish music scene from before the pandemic until now, in these strange times. 

As Gaughan puts it: “People need to stay safe and people need to behave at shows. Don’t crowd each other, don’t over do it. We don’t want to be in a lock down situation ever again.” 

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