WEEK THIRTY-TWO – Jimmy Shand/Jack Bruce

>> Jimmy Shand

Jack Bruce <<

JimmyShand              Photo of WEST BRUCE &amp; LAING

Is music somehow close to the “soul of Scotland”? For a small country we have certainly produced a large share of superb musicians, in a wide variety of genres. Two of those grace our site this week. Think accordion dance music and the first name to spring to mind must be Jimmy Shand; think electric bass and who else would be amongst the foremost than Jack Bruce. Shand was born in East Wemyss in Fife, the son of a miner but spent most of his life living in Auchtermuchty where there is now a life-sized sculpture of the maestro. During his long life – 1908-2000 – Sir Jimmy recorded more tracks than the Beatles and Elvis Presley combined. The shorter life of Jack Bruce – only 1943-2014 – was nonetheless full of riches. Always best known as the bassist – and some would say, basis – for the “supergroup” Cream, he trained as a classical cellist but always considered himself a jazz musician. Ironically, it was his playing of jazz that saw him forced out of music college and led to a career which also took in rock and blues and led to his association with numerous stars in all genres. From The Bluebell Polka to White Room is not such a big step when sheer virtuosity is taken into account.


Jimmy Shand
by Andrew Greig

(The Albert Halls, Stirling 1960)

Yon was music making Scottish style,
a serious business and damn hard work.
The accordion bulged like a chest expander
across the hidden muscle of his heart.
His Polkas were gales trapped in a box.
Kilted to the gills, horn specs black as coal
from the mines he went down at fourteen,
Shand gave it laldy, staring straight ahead,
unsmiling, fingers blurred, only other movement
his left heel tamping, aye on the button.
There’s nothing free about expression.
He kenned that fine from earliest days.
Whatever joy there was in it for him
laboured as his father had, deep underground.


Tales of Brave Ulysses
by Ian Stephen

The cellist came out of the academy
to lay down his melodies
when rhythm was on the line,
only one of his crimes
delivered at a pace
on the upright bass
not all that tender
on the six string fender.

The baker walked out of the jam
till the cake was cut with Cream
How many rope-ladders
over the bearded rainbow
would it take
to touch the moon
sure as Armstrong?
Only one –
if it was long enough
and it was.

The lyrics of fate
over four strings
sounding like eight
the pounding heat
from the baker back on the job,
so no-one was robbed.
A guitarist just in the lead
by a narrow neck.

The three-piece
gone off the rails
but in the groove
of spinning vinyl –
in technicolour.
Shipwrecks of
wailing bluesmen.
A stumble ashore
rolling and tumbling
casting out chords
like shining barley
on a slick of honey.
A parley with the shadows
of bottle-neck heroes
and music-hall maestros.

The set of wheels
went on fire
but your covered wagon
stitched its way
across its prairie
to elegy.
A fabric
picked and unpicked
by the pricking apostrophes
of Penelope
and the tailor
you had to sing to
so his paraffin
in the hurricane.

Many’s the riff went
over the cliff.
Jack, one hell of a lad,
a banshee mourner,
tall-story teller
but a master-mariner
when all the breezes
were out
of the ministry of bag.


Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton formed the band, Cream. Tales of Brave Ulysses was written by Clapton and Martin Sharp and sung by Bruce.





andrew greigAndrew Greig has published twenty one books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction. A full-time writer, he lives in Edinburgh and Orkney. He recommends checking out Richard Thompson’s wonderful ‘Don’t Sit On My Jimmy Shands’.


Ian Stephen (crt Christine Morrison)Ian Stephen is a writer and sailor from Lewis. His selected poems on sea themes maritime was published by Saraband in the spring of 2016. Waypoints –  a cross-genre work of non-fiction, with poetry playing a central role, is due from Adlard Coles Nautical (Bloomsbury) in spring 2017.

Images courtesy of;
Ian Stephen photo by Christine Morrison

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