Dundee live music fans were heartbroken when one of the city’s favourite venues, Clarks on Lindsay Street, announced last September that it wouldn’t open its doors again following the pandemic.
For one musician, Gary Clark, it hurt more than most as Clarks was owned by his twin brother Scott, who had carefully built the bar’s reputation for live music along with music programmer and third Clark brother Kit, a bandmate of Gary’s in Danny Wilson.
It’s a story repeated across the country, as small venues looking to offer music fans an up close and personal experience have closed or are threatened.
Fundraising for grassroots venues
To support the Music Venue Trust, which has launched a £40,000 Go Fund Me appeal to sustain grassroots music venues, Gary has stepped behind the vocal mic for Let There Be Music, a song written by Paddy McAloon of Prefab Sprout.
The track – featuring Paddy’s bandmate drummer Neil Conti along with Dedi Madden, Luca Manning, Mari Vold-Lexander, Karlos Edwards, Jess Bailey and Clare Kenny – has been named Rehab Sprout.
The video for Let There Be Music is a taste of what we could have enjoyed much more of, if the timing had been right.
“About 18 months ago Martin McAloon and Karlos Edwards approached me with a view of doing gigs as Rehab Sprout.
“Paddy can’t tour now so the idea was that it was the original band but I would be doing Prefab Sprout sings along with some other people who are on the track.
“I was up for it, absolutely, but then I got the call to go and work on Sing Street in New York so I had to call and say I couldn’t do it.
“Then of course lockdown happened and I came back.
‘That whole ecosystem is under threat’
“Like all live projects it went on the back burner but Neil had the idea of doing something for the Music Venues Trust appeal. Of course it was close to my heart.
“Not only with Scott’s place closing and Kit losing work from that too, but so many other musicians I know have lost practically all their income.
“Obviously it’s too late for Clarks but that whole ecosystem is under threat.
“They sent me a track, I yodelled over it, did a bit of a mobile selfie video and sent it back to him to put the pieces together.”
Gary recalls how his own path to success was helped by those who opened music venues in Dundee.
“Scott and I were out the other day and we went passed where Stuart Clumpas use to live. Of course Stuart was responsible for bringing Dance Factory to Fat Sams and then that became DF Concerts.
“People who have the bravery to do these things. The thought is ‘if you build it they will come’ but sometimes Clarks would bring in brilliant people and there was just a handful of people.
“It’s a risky business without Covid.”
Discovering Danny Wilson
He recalls the important of the Tayside Bar, a legendary music venue with a backroom of sticky floors and eclectic line-ups.
Brian Sinclair gave over the back of the bar to up and coming bands of all types and it was there that a music journalist called Bob Flynn heard about a band called Spencer Tracy, as Danny Wilson were known then.
“He came to a gig of ours in Edinburgh and then wrote the NME review that had a direct effect on us being signed.”
Gary’s personal lockdown hasn’t been too different from normal working life.
After Broadway closed down he worked on the Sing Street online project, moved straight into writing songs for Nanny McPhee, the West End show he’s working on with Emma Thompson, then it was into season two of Modern Love for Amazon Prime.
Following his years of performing in Danny Wilson, as a solo artist, King L and Transister, it’s rare that Gary ventures out of his Broughty Ferry studio but he has welcomed bands such as Model Aeroplanes and HYYTS to him.
Gary has gained something of a Garbo-esque reputation with every social media post followed by comments hollering at him that he should sing more.
“I do sing,” he laughs. “I sing every single day in my studio when I’m doing demos.”
The prayers (Mary’s or otherwise) were answered when Gary performed at the 3D Festival on Slessor Gardens during the opening weekend of the V&A, an emotional performance where the band was joined by the Sistema Choir for the show’s climax.
So far there has only been one Danny Wilson full reunion at the Ryder Cup concert in 2014.
He doesn’t rule out performing again.
Should Rehab Sprout all be available in the same place at the sane time, the project could well come to fruition.
“I definitely would like to do it if it’s possible.
“They are such great songs and even though I haven’t met most of the people on the track, I think it could work so well.”