The 50 Best Scottish Bands of All Time

Scottish Flag

By now you and I have heard the arguments for and against Scottish independence from the UK but as someone who has naturally bristled like a thistle when diasporic people argue passionately and ill-informedly about another country’s political situations (which they are thankfully powerless to effect) I’ll keep my political opinions to myself. What I will do instead is far more frivolous purposes — that is list the best Scottish bands of all time.

Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's Map of Scotland

Given its small population, Scotland has produced a fairly shocking amount of great music. Sure, there have been occasional English bands of note — almost always from the north — but I’ve always taken Anglophiles‘ preference for all things (assumed to be) English over English language pop from anywhere else as proof of a terminal subcultural defect. It’s not really fair to blame England for Anglophiles any more than it is to blameNirvana for Puddle of Mudd but I suppose it’s because so many of the helmet-haired horde mistakenly think that I am one of them that they so vex me. How could I not be an Anglophile when I drink more tea than the average North African, enjoy curry in all of its Asian forms, and my favorite writer is Irish?

I wouldn’t describe myself as an Albaphile either — as I generally like things because they’re good and not because of where they’re from. Scottish bands are generally good, too. I’m not a fan of The Beta Band,Deacon Blue, Del Amitri, Eurythmics, The Exploited, Franz Ferdinand, IdlewildMogwaiPaolo NutiniThe Proclaimers, The Reindeer Section, The Rezillos, Snow PatrolStealers Wheel, Texas, and Wet Wet Wet although it’s possible that I just haven’t heard the right songs yet.


About a decade ago I noticed the sudden appearance of Bobby Gillespie clones and detected a concurrent rise in appreciation of Scottish pop I suggested to more than one Britpop DJ (Britpop in the American catchall sense referring to all post-Phil Collins British music not sung by Seal) that they give Parklife a rest for just one night in just do a set entirely comprised of Scottish pop… or Kiwi pop — or better yet, both together! It seemed that Scotland and their pop music might blow open the artificial dichotomy of Anglophila vs. Anglophobia and soon we’d all be enjoying music from beyond the Anglosphere altogether!
Scottish-New Zealand


Lo and behold, my wish is finally coming true — well, the wish to hear an all-Scottish set*** — and all it took was the possible dissolution of the United KingdomClub Underground, a Chinatown-based dance club named after England’s most famous rapid transit system, will be throwing (regardless of outcome) a Scottish Tribute Night (sorry, “Nite”) on Friday, 19 September at Grand Star Jazz Club.

Scottish Tribute Night - Club Underground


Since Underground is named after public transit and since Grand Star is right by our own overground rail system’s Chinatown Station (and what with trying to do right by the world) — you should take Metro to the event… or ride a bike, walk, or carpool if you’re sadly car-dependent.


LACMTA logo  London Underground logo Glasgow Underground

To warm you up (although I doubt very much whether attendees can expect to hear Alex Harvey at Underground on ANY occasion), here are — in no particular order but alphabetical — are the 50* best Scottish bands of all time.**






*50-ish… Click-bait favors round numbers and who’s counting, anyway?

**I’m not aware of having heard any of the following Scottish performers and so am not forming an opinion: Admiral Fallow, Aereogramme, Ainslie Henderson, Alan Frew, Alasdair Fraser, Alex Campbell, Alex Cornish, Ally Kerr, Alun Woodward, Alyth, Amy MacDonald, and Yasmin, Angela McCluskey, Article 58, Bachelor Pad, The Bathers, Beggars Opera, Biffy Clyro, Blank Canvas, Boards of Canada, The Boy Hairdressers, The Boys Of The Lough, Brian Joseph Friel, Brills, The Burns Unit, Calamateur, Calvin Harris, Catriona Macdonald, Chvrches, Citizen Cain, Clarita de Quiroz, The Clutha, Commercials, Contraband, The Corries, Darius Campbell, The Delgados, Dick Gaughan, The Dirty Reds, Django Django, Dogs Die in Hot Cars,  Dougie MacLean, Duglas T. Stewart, Eddi Reader, 8 Wheeler, El Presidente, Emeli Sandé, Emma Pollock, Eric Bogle, Errors, The Ettes, The Exile, Fakes, Fiction Factory, Findlay Napier, Finlay MacDonald, Fran Healy, Frankie Miller, The French Impressionists, French Wives, Friction, Fridge Mangets, Friends Again, Frightened Rabbit, Gary Clark, Glasvegas, Goodbye Mr. MacKenzie, Gordon Duthie, Gordon Waller, The Groovy Little Numbers, Hamish Imlach, Hamish MacCunn, The Happy Family, He’s Dead Jim, Ian Campbell Folk Group, International Spys, Ivan Drever, Jackie Leven, James Grant, The Jazzateers, Jean Redpath, Jeannie Robertson, Jill Jackson, Jimmy Somerville, Jock Tamson’s Bairns, Joe Egan, John Harley Weston, The Jolt, JSD Band, Julienne Taylor, Karine Polwart, Kat Flint, Katie Targett-Adams, Kevin J. Maclean, Kevin McDermott, Kevin Patterson, The Laynes, Life Without Buildings, Lightships, Looper, Love And Money, Maeve O’Boyle, Maggie Reilly, Malachy Tallack, Marti Pellow, The McCalmans, Metropak, Michael Marra, Mike Scott, Mull Historical Society, Nina Nesbitt, 1990s, Olympic Swimmers, Pallas, Paul Reekie, Paws, People-Places-Maps, Philip Clemo, The Pictish Trail, Pretty Flowers, Rab Noakes, Radio Ghosts, Rapid Dance, Restricted Code, Rhythm Method, Ricky Ross, Rico, Roddy Frame, Roddy Hart, Runrig, Sandi Thom, The Scars, Scott Fitzgerald, Scott Fitzgerald & Yvonne Keeley, The Scrotum Poles, Second Hand Marching Band, Simon Bell, The Skids, Spare Snare, Storm Lee, Strutz, Superstar, The Tannahill Weavers, 35mm Dreams, Three Blind Wolves, Tommy Reilly, Tony Pilley, The Twilight Sad, Twin Atlantic, Vertical Smiles, The View, Visitors, The Wake, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Weathered Hand, Wee Cherubs, The Whistlebinkies, William Marshall And Glen SmithYoung Fathers, or The Yummy Fur.

I’ve made a Spotify playlist of Scottish pop and folk which includes most of the bands mentioned above. As I become aware of them and form opinions, I’ll subtract and add.

***It might just be a mostly or largely Scottish set… make sure you make requests!


Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County StoreSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistEastsider LABoing Boing,Los Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

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