Posted : 24 January 2020

Dundee is known around the world for jute, jam and journalism. But it could as easily be known as the city of jute, jamming and journalism.

From the mayhem that greeted The Beatles Caird Hall shows in the early 1960s to the birth of Snow Patrol and the rise of The View, the city has a proud and varied musical heritage.

It wasn’t always like that. Back in 1953, Frank Sinatra graced the stage at the Caird Hall to complete apathy. Only 600 people turned up, and legend had it Ol’ Blue Eyes invited the folk at the back to “come down where I can see you.”

Fast forward 10 years, and the phrase Beatlemania was being coined as a crowd 10 times that size of screaming teenagers welcomed the Fab Four. The city’s music scene hasn’t looked back since.

The list of acts to perform at the Caird Hall reads like a who’s who of music royalty – including The Who of course! And The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Elton John, Deep Purple, Queen, The Arctic Monkeys and Radiohead, to name just a few.

Just yards from the Caird Hall, the recently-created open space at Slessor Gardens is also making a name for itself as a music venue for big-name acts. Little Mix, Tom Jones, Olly Murs and Simple Minds are among those to have played under the stars on Dundee’s fast-changing Waterfront, while the green space also hosted Primal Scream during the festivities for the opening of V&A Dundee.

Elsewhere in Dundee, Camperdown Park on the outskirts of the city hosted Radio One’s Big Weekend back in 2006, and more recently was home to the Carnival 56 music festival. On a smaller scale, there are lots of popular pubs and clubs around the city centre with proud musical histories. Like the then Lucifer’s Mill in Session Street, which once hosted a very early appearance by Oasis. Despite a small crowd turning out for the as-yet unheard of Gallagher brothers, EVERY music fan in Dundee will tell you they were there.

Of course, Dundee’s musical history is about more than just stop-offs for touring acts. Over the decades, some of the biggest names around have taken their first steps to stardom in the city.

Multi-platinum selling Snow Patrol emerged from the city, having met at the University of Dundee and played in local venues under names such as Shrug and Polar Bear. Popular groups like Average White Band, The Hazey Janes and Danny Wilson came from Dundee, while lead vocalist of Deacon Blue Ricky Ross and KT Tunstall (both alumni of the High School of Dundee) have had successful international careers in music. The late Michael Marra was an acclaimed singer-songwriter and one of Dundee's most revered musical sons. Known as "The Bard of Dundee,"  he also wrote plays and acted. 

Billy MacKenzie, who sadly also is no longer with us, was a founder member of The Associates, who found fame in the early 80s with the single Party Fears Two. The View, an indie-rock group from the Dryburgh estate in Dundee, later stormed the charts and frontman Kyle Falconer now performs as a solo artist.

Today the city is a melting pot of creativity, with live music of all genres being performed at venues such as Church, Beat Generator, Duck Slatterys, Clarks on Lindsay Street, DUSA the Union and many more.

Once a year the pubs and clubs open their doors to the Blues Bonanza. Hosted over a weekend in June every year, the city comes to life with blues and country music. The event is free to attend, which brings people in their throngs from Dundee and beyond to enjoy the weekend.

Every May the city hosts the Dundee Dance Event. It brings a surge of electronic, dance, house and techno music and, in similar fashion to the Blues weekend, opens venue doors all over Dundee, creating a street festival stretching citywide.

With all that going on, it’s not surprising that Dundee is a perfect launchpad for new talent. The city is experiencing a resurgence in local talent, with names like Be Charlotte, The Sinderins and Billy Mitchell taking stages here and further afield.

It’s not surprising that GQ Magazine called Dundee “the coolest little city in Britain.” Why not check it out for yourself?