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AGOFR and the Guireans

 

The Only AGOFR Ad ever to appear in Sounds (1983) - Wattie. Note deliberate omission of any meaningful contact details.

The genre now internationally recognised as Avante Gaelic Obscurist Folk Rock (AGOFR) was originally named by the aforementioned (see Tapeography) Sinister Matheson Road Pop Svengali CJ Mitchell (63). Mitchell coined the term initially to describe the sound of his own proteges, early 80s Stornowegian Tolkein dilettantes Zing-Pop.

Like the majority of Mitchellís McLarenesque pronouncements, AGOFR as a cohesive movement was more hype and bandwagon than substance. The multitude of bands retrospectively tarred with the AGOFR brush exhibited a wide variety of styles and influences, the only obvious common threads being their complete musical ineptitude and the myopic scope of their lyrical subject matter.

Mitchell, if he could have been bothered, might have argued that these two qualities alone encapsulated the AGOFR manifesto.

Indeed, modren trendy lefty social science types - picking up on these attributes - have begun to argue that AGOFR is a consciously organised movement set on reversing the tide of globalisation and cultural assimilation engendered by the prevailing neoliberal economics. Some have argued that "Leodhasachisation" - the process of taking widely accessible popular songs and musical forms, and rendering them totally meaningless to all but a few amadans on a rock in the Atlantic - provides the template for an entirely new multipolar socioeconomic paradigm. But they're off their fleekeen trolleys, as can be confirmed by a squint at Prof Mackinnon of the University of Gress's recent paper on the subject ("Avante Gaelic Obscurist Folk Rock : A Death Blow to Globalisation, UGP, 2009. 1.5pp, £299.99) 

The Godfather of AGOFR - Sinister Matheson Road Pop Svengali CJ Mitchell (74) and henchmen make Radio Ranol Payola DJs an offer they can't refuse (but did).

Anyway, movement or not, it is fair to say that the seminal bands now labelled as AGOFR emerged in the late 70s and early 80s. It would be easy to imagine that this came about as a ripple effect of the DIY punk ethic but sadly the less than fashionable musical tastes of most of the people involved at the time (except Gordon "Mod" Macleod) fails to support that theory. Initially at least these bands weren't crap in order to be post-modern or ironic. They were just crap. But they were crap while trying to be as "good" as anything from Deep Purple to Darts, via Jethro Tull, Matchbox, Kraftwerk, The Stranglers or Elvis. 

Despite this musical diversity, reference to the "authoritative" History Of AGOFRock Vol II  shows that the member base from which the many AGOFR bands arose was indeed very small, so that many of the bands in the AGOFR genre were genuinely interrelated,  Many of them - though definitely not the Guireans- ed - also seem to have had some sort of dubious association with the Scouting movement when their members were far too old still to be doing that sort of thing.

The Guireans, it has to be said, arose independently from this ďsceneĒ, and were mostly non-townies. They also never ever ever had any members who were in the scouts. In fact, Ken "Reichsmarschal Goering" Livingstone was a long-time member of bitter scout rivals the Air Training Corps, rising after some 43 years to the rank of Cadet who Wears a Bit of Gold Braid.

Initially, then, the Guireans shared little with the majority of AGOFR bands other than the fact that they too were crap and sang about tractors, peats, sheep, fish and Cathy Dhall's . However, as this basically fulfilled the defining criteria for AGOFR-ness, it was enough to get them a free transfer of Roddy Huggan from Cyclefoot, and a slot at AGOFRís Woodstock, the Midges of Rock festival in 1983.

Nevertheless, that slight remove was reflected in the early editions of the otherwise excellent and highly informative History Of AGOFRock Vol II  produced by Iain "Wattie" Watson (AGOFRís Bernie Rhodes to CJís McLaren).  While coverage of the townie and scouty bands was comprehensive, there was very little mention of the band who were the undisputed masters of the genre. Not that the Guireans are bitter. Oh no. And it's been fixed now.

As can be seen from the History Of AGOFRock Vol II , the townie based AGOFR bands continued to produce material well after the Guireans had entered their dry spell in the 1990s. During this period, evidence began to emerge of so-called AGOFR bands beginning to employ distressing levels of musical eptitude(?), decent recording quality and almost sensible lyrical subjects. The use of "4-tracks", "8-tracks", "mastering", and the actual sale of multiple tapes & CDs - all this was the musical equivalent of the motor connected to the loom. And it begged the question - "....but is it AGOFR?". 

There were increasing calls in the early 21st century for an "AGOFR Standard", a trade mark which would allow the customer to identify genuinely poor quality rubbish produced, using only the worst technology, by the most incapable native craftspeople in the Outer Hebrides (or wherever they live now).

In 2003, Bord Stiureadh na h-AGOFR was established as a self-appointed quango funded by the Scottish Executive, and set out to establish clear guidelines as to what was AGOFR and what wasn't. Under the direction of professional chairperson S*ndy M*thes*n, the Bord developed a set of key indices based on how crap a band was and how little the scope of their subject matter extended beyond the daily concerns of Leodhasach life. These key measurements were developed by top C*mhairle statisticians, working through their lunchbreak in the Crit and using the latest available metrics analysis tools - a broken pencil and the back of a discarded and beer-drenched IACS form. 

A graph of key AGOFR-ness indicators from the Bord's model

The Bord's AGOFRness model can be used to measure any band against these key indices, and a series of graphs can be generated indicating how far they go to meet the criteria.

A more recent AGOFR trend, as the stars of yesteryear approach the twilight of their days and become too old to go out, was the adoption of the Internet and the subsequent proliferation of AGOFR websites, myspace pages, facebook things and stuff. These began in 2000/2001 when the Guireans and the Dun Ringles set up sites on Microsoft's old MSN host. These were rehosted on www.guireans.com when MSN Groups shut down in 2008.

Nowadays you can get to pretty much all of the AGOFR sites from www.guireans.com itself.

Since AGOFR went online it's had a new lease of life. The web is well known for enabling isolated saddoes and weirdoes to find each other and share their unusual vices, and for AGOFR it's no different. A vast number of daoine neonach from all over the globe (ok, 1 or 2) have become AGOFR fans as a result of its global accessibility. With a network of top markenting executives in every corner of the world (ok, 1 - but Lee Templeton in San Francisco works very hard) AGOFR artists are now able to not sell any records on a worldwide scale instead of just not selling any locally.

With the massive YouTube success of the AGOFR supergroup in 2009, it's now only a matter of time before AGOFR influences begin to seep into mainstream culture. There are rumours that M*d*nna is about to change her name to M*cdon*ld and abandon the Kabbalah for the Seceders. Iain "Froagy Beag" Mackinnon - with his well-known pop connections, reports that Br**n En* is steering U* and C*ld*p*y in an AGOFR direction, with future recordings to take place at Knock Studios and Dead Olac's garage in Sandwick. Sn**p D*gg* D*g has just bought himself an armour-plated gold 1955 Fordson Dexta and will be cutting his peats out the Grimshader road in 2010. O**y O*b**ne was recently observed onstage biting the head off some nice ceann cropaig, and G*rls Al**d - soon to be rebranded G*rls Macleod - are packing in the singing and are all going to play chanters instead, which is bound to be an improvement.