20 of the Top Famous Scottish Bands of All Time

Updated on July 17, 2019
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I've been writing about foreign travel and European rock music online for over eight years.

(photo courtesy of Spiro2004 at Flickr: Creative Commons)
(photo courtesy of Spiro2004 at Flickr: Creative Commons)

When I mention some of these bands, I often get the response, "I never knew they were Scottish." So it's time to set the record straight.

Many Scottish artists have been among the greatest U.K. bands of all time. They have all contributed immensely to the history of contemporary music over the past 40 years, so it is difficult to choose the best.

Here is a list of the top 20 Scottish bands of all time. Their ranking is based on many factors, such as quality, influence, popularity, and success (but not necessarily all of the above). As this list focuses only on groups, solo artists are not included.

Top Scottish Bands of All Time

  1. The Average White Band
  2. Bay City Rollers
  3. Belle and Sebastian
  4. Biffy Clyro
  5. Big Country
  6. Deacon Blue
  7. Del Amitri
  8. The Incredible String Band
  9. Marmalade
  10. Mogwai
  11. Nazareth
  12. Primal Scream
  13. The Proclaimers
  14. The Sensational Alex Harvey Band
  15. Simple Minds
  16. The Skids
  17. Texas
  18. Travis
  19. The Waterboys
  20. Wet Wet Wet

1. The Average White Band

Band Members: Alan Gorrie, Onnie McIntyre, Fred Vigdor, Rocky Bryant, Brent Carter, Rob Aries

Years Active: 1972–1983, 1989–present

Label: Atlantic, RCA, MCA, Rhino, Arista

The Average White Band is a funk and R&B band, who were hugely popular in the 1970s. Their soulful disco tunes influenced many bands. The band members come from Dundee, Glasgow, and Perth.

Alan Gorrie and Hamish Stuart were on lead vocals. They were backed up by the voice and guitar of Owen "Onnie" McIntyre. Along with Malcolm Duncan, Robbie McIntosh, and Roger Ball they made up the original band members. Their breakthrough came after signing to Atlantic Records and basing themselves in New York.

The resultant album AWB was No.1 in the USA in 1974, establishing them as a top act. Their biggest hits were "Let’s Go Round Again", "Cut the Cake", "Queen of My Soul", and the largely instrumental brass of "Pick Up the Pieces". Many gold albums and Grammy nominations followed, and their work has been sampled by many other artists ever since.

The group broke up in 1982, before reforming in 1989. Despite various line-up changes, they are still working today and are very popular in America, where their music has crossed over the supposed colour lines of R&B.

Best song: "Pick Up the Pieces"

Pick up the pieces, uh, huh

Pick up the pieces, alright

Pick up the pieces, uh, huh

Pick up the pieces, whoo!

— The Average White Band ("Pick Up the Pieces")

2. Bay City Rollers

Band Members: Les McKeown, Eric Faulkner, Derek Longmuir, Alan Longmuir and Stuart Wood.

Years Active: 1966–1987, 1990, 1998–2000, 2015–present

Label: Bell, Arista, Epic

The Rollers were a 1970s pop phenomenon that were not only popular in the U.K., but also had success in America. Their style of dress was ubiquitous, especially at their height in 1975. Their popularity made tartan fashionable among the teeny-boppers of Great Britain.

The band had the country in their grip. Not since The Beatles had such teenage hysteria been seen in the U.K. Their most famous hit was the No.1 song, "Bye Bye Baby". In the same year "Give a Little Love" was another No.1 in 1975.

They also went high on the charts with '"Shang-a-Lang", "Love Me Like I love You", and "Summerlove Sensation", songs which still stand up today for their sing-a-long style.

By the late 70s, their short-lived popularity had faded and they effectively ceased to exist by 1979. They were not the most accomplished artists and musicians, but they deserve their place in the history of Scottish music simply for the brief and dramatic impact they had. Unfortunately, there have been disputes, recriminations, and legal actions between band members and management over royalties.

Best song: "Bye, Bye Baby"

You're the one girl in town I'd marry

Girl, I'd marry you now if I were free

I wish it could be

I could love you but why begin it

'Cause there ain't any future in it

She's got me but I'm not free so

Bye bye baby, baby goodbye (bye baby, baby bye bye)

— Bay City Rollers ("Bye, Bye, Baby")

3. Belle and Sebastian

Band Members: Stuart Murdoch, Stevie Jackson, Chris Geddes, Richard Colburn, Sarah Martin, Mick Cooke (Bobby Kildea)

Years Active: 1996–present

Label: Rough Trade, Jeepster, Matador, Arts & Crafts México

Belle and Sebastian are a much-vaunted group from Glasgow. They formed as a college project in 1996. Their first album, Tigermilk, was the resulting album. While it was a great album, it was their follow-up album that made them famous.

Their sophomore album, If You're Feeling Sinister, is one of the best records of the '90s. They then went from strength to strength with the next album, The Boy With the Arab Strap, hitting No.12 on the UK charts and winning a "Best Newcomer" prize at the prestigious Brit Awards in 1999.

The highlights in their career include: shows at the Glastonbury Festival, studio work with producer Trevor Horn (of Yes fame), and an appearance at the Hollywood Bowl in 2006 backed up by the L.A. Philharmonic. On top of all of these successes, in an extensive public opinion poll conducted by The List magazine in 2005, they were actually voted the best ever Scottish band.

Best song: "I Want the World to Stop"

Let me step out of my shell

That's wrapped in sheets of milky winter disorder

Let me feel the air again, the talk of friends

The mind of someone my equal

— Belle and Sebastian ("I Want the World to Stop")

4. Biffy Clyro

Band Members: Simon Neil, James Johnston, Ben Johnston

Years Active: 1995–present

Label: Beggars Banquet, 14th Floor, Roadrunner

Biffy Clyro is a band from Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, formed in 1995. They first existed under the name Skewfish. They are a trio consisting of Simon Neil and the brothers Ben and James Johnston.

Like many great bands, they were a slow-burner. An appearance at the Scottish festival, T-in-the-Park Festival, in 2000 brought a contract with Beggars Banquet. The first three albums, which began with the 2002 release of Blackened Sky, performed respectably on the U.K. charts.

It was their fourth album called Puzzle that made them popular. It was released in 2007 by a Warner Brothers company called 14th Floor. It went platinum in the U.K. Since then all of their resulting albums have been huge hits both in the U.K. and Europe. Top tunes include "Folding Stars", "Mountain", and "Many of Horror".

They also have crossover appeal between indie rock and heavy metal and have headlined at the Download Festival, Glastonbury, and T in the Park.

Best song: "Folding Stars"

Take a long hard look at yourself

How did you end up here

The blood drips like red inverted balloons

Tomorrow is a promise to no-one

If you want, follow me and I'll lead you inside

You don't have to run and hide

— Biffy Clyro ("Folding Stars")

5. Big Country

Band Members: Stuart Adamson, Bruce Watson, Mark Brzezicki, Jamie Watson, Simon Hough, Scott Whitley

Years Active: 1981–2000, 2007, 2010–present

Label: Mercury, Track-BCR, Transatlantic, Giant/Reprise/Warner Bros.

Stuart Adamson built on his success with The Skids with a distinctively Scottish style of Rock in which the guitar was synthesised to resemble the sound of bagpipes or fiddles.

This worked to great effect, and they became even more popular than The Skids enjoying some brief success in the USA with their album "The Crossing" in 1983.

Ironically none of the members of Big Country were actually born in Scotland. Even Adamson was born in Manchester but to Scottish parents and he was raised in Dunfermline from the age of 4 years old.

Their most famous tunes were "Fields of Fire," "Look Away," "Chance," "In A Big Country," "One Great Thing," and "King of Emotion" throughout a sparkling career in the 1980’s. Tragically Adamson struggled with alcoholism and was found dead by hanging in a Honolulu hotel in 2001 at the young age of 43 years.

However, remaining members of the band reformed in 2010 with Mike Peters of The Alarm on vocals on their 2013 album The Journey. Although he left soon after, the band has continued to make music with a different lineup.

Best song: "In a Big Country"

I've never seen you look like this without a reason

Another promise fallen through

Another season passes by you

I never took the smile away from anybody's face

And that's a desperate way to look

For someone who is still a child

— Big Country ("In a Big Country")

6. Deacon Blue

Band Members: Ricky Ross, James Prime, Lorraine McIntosh
Dougie Vipond, Gregor Philp, Lewis Gordon

Years Active: 1985–1994, 1999–present

Label: Columbia, Sony, Chrysalis, Demon, earMusic, Sheer Sound

Deacon Blue named themselves after a Steely Dan song. They fused '80s pop-rock with '60s style soul music. This made Deacon Blue one of the most stylish and classy bands around. Ricky Ross's superb songwriting on "Dignity", "Loaded", "Real Gone Kid", and "Fergus Sings the Blues" gave them massive success throughout the U.K. and Europe.

Fellow singer, Lorraine McIntosh, became a successful actress in Scotland. She appeared as a regular in the TV soap River City. The band's drummer, Dougie Vipond, became a BBC sports presenter.

The band split in 1994 and reformed in 1999. They remain a popular headline act, albeit in sporadic phases, as they also continue to work on individual projects. Their 1987 debut album, Raintown, went platinum in the U.K. and remains a classic album. Its iconic cover picture depicts a rainy cityscape of Glasgow. They are one Scottish band that are held in great esteem in their homeland.

Best song: "Dignity"

And I'll sail her up the west coast

Through villages and towns

I'll be on my holidays

They'll be doing their rounds

They'll ask me how I got her I'll say "I saved my money"

They'll say isn't she pretty that ship called dignity

— Deacon Blue ("Dignity")

7. Del Amitri

Band Members: Justin Currie, Iain Harvie, Andy Alston, Ashley Soan
Kris Dollimore

Years Active: 1983–2002, 2013–present

Label: Chrysalis, A&M, Mercury

Del Amitri's songs stand out among other Glasgow bands because of their excellent songwriters. Among their best songs were "Nothing Ever Happens", "Kiss This Thing Goodbye", "Always the Last to Know", "Right Time", "Move Away Jimmy Blue", and "Roll to Me", which was a Top 10 hit in America.

Strangely, they never hit the Top 10 in the U.K. (despite their catchy and well-written songs). However, in the late '80s and early '90s they were still a major force in the Scottish music scene, winning many fans in the U.K.

They were even awarded the accolade of recording the Scottish football team's official song for the 1998 World Cup. The song, "Don't Come Home Too Soon" (a prophetic title, given the team's fortunes in the tournament), was a major hit with fans throughout Scotland.

Although they never officially split-up, Del Amitri has not released an album since 2002. Soon after that they were dropped by their record company. Singer Justin Currie remained active in recording and performing before the band got back together again in 2013 and released a live album the following year.

Best song: "Kiss This Thing Goodbye"

I sometimes feel when we're together baby,

Everything has turned out wrong

And I know you feel exactly the same way

But still we carry on.

I've been waiting up by the window

Watching these cars go by

And I tell myself that I'll go through the motions

For the last time tonight.

— Del Amitri ("Kiss This Thing Goodbye")

8. The Incredible String Band

Band Members: Mike Heron, Robin Williamson, Clive Palmer, Licorice McKechnie, Rose Simpson, Malcolm Le Maistre, Stan Schnier, Jack Ingram
Gerard Dott, Graham Forbes, John Gilston, Lawson Dando, Bina Williamson
Claire Smith

Years Active: 1966–1974, 1999–2006

Label: Elektra, Island

The Incredible String Band (originally a trio) is a psychedelic folk band from Edinburgh that was formed in 1966 by Robin Williamson, Clive Palmer, and Mike Heron. Their eponymous first album came out almost immediately after forming and ended up winning Melody Maker's "Folk Album of the Year" award.

They garnered praise from such illustrious contemporaries as Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, and Robert Plant. They firmly established their reputation as exponents of experimental music, blending elements of folk, rock, and pop. They actually split up and reformed in 1966. Unfortunately, when they reformed, Palmer did not return to the fold.

They remained busy, releasing two albums in 1968 called The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter and Wee Tam and the Big Huge. After the success of these albums, they began playing big venues. They graced the stages of London's Festival Hall and even the Royal Albert Hall as well as an appearance at Woodstock in 1969.

All in all, they put out twelve prolific albums in only nine years before they broke up in earnest in 1974. However, there was a reunion in 1999 which lasted until 2006. Unfortunately, their reunion did not result in any studio releases.

Best song: "October Song"

When hunger calls my footsteps home,

The morning follows after,

I swim the seas within my mind,

And the pine-trees laugh green laughter.

— The Incredible String Band ("October Song")

9. Marmalade

Band Members: Patrick Fairley, William Junior Campbell, Dean Ford, Raymond Duffy, Graham Knight

Years Active: 1966–present

Label: CBS, Decca, London, Target Records, Castle, Sanctuary, Union Square Music, BMG Rights Management

Being forever associated with their cover version of The Beatles song, "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da", could be a blessing or a curse for this Glasgow band. Certainly, their re-working of the song hit No.1 in the U.K. and sold around a million copies worldwide. Unfortunately, this song has obscured many of their other great songs.

Originally called The Gaylords, they changed their name to The Marmalade before dropping the definite article. They went on to fantastic domestic success and fairly high success on the U.S. charts. After they rejected the offer to record "Everlasting Love" (which became a massive hit for Love Affair), they struggled to make waves. But success did indeed come through top tunes such as "Lovin Things", "Wait For Me Mary-Anne", "Baby Make it Soon", and perhaps their best song, the beautiful "Reflections of My Life". While Tony McAuley had previously penned hits for them, this song was co-written by Junior Campbell and Dean Ford. The charts started to elude them in the mid-'70s. However, the band has kept going in one iteration or another for the past 40 years.

Best song: "Reflection of my Life"

The greetings of people in trouble

Reflections of my life

Oh, how they fill my eyes

Oh, my sorrows

Sad tomorrows

Take me back to my own home

— Marmalade ("Reflections of My Life")

10. Mogwai

Band Members: Stuart Braithwaite, Dominic Aitchison, Martin Bulloch, Barry Burns

Years Active: 1995–present

Label: Rock Action, Sub Pop, Chemikal Underground, Matador Records, PIAS Recordings, Rocket Girl

Mogwai is a Glasgow band that formed in 1995 and is named after the creature from the Gremlins movies. It was meant to be just a working title, but, eventually, the name stuck. Described as post-rock, their music uses distortion effects and lengthy guitar interludes to build their grandiose, sweeping instrumental songs.

Their first album called Mogwai Young Team appeared in 1997, and since then they have enjoyed consistent commercial success for many years without actually hitting the mainstream on the charts. Their biggest album to date was their 2014 disc called Rave Tapes which reached No.10 in the U.K. charts.

Although they were never considered to be a "singles band," they first entered the U.K. Top 40 charts in 2006 with their song "Friend of the Night" which rose to a respectable position of No.38.

Having appeared on scores of movies and TV programmes, the music of Mogwai has become more recognisable through soundtracks. They even provided the complete background music for the football documentary, Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, and the documentary, Atomic.

Best song: "Take Me Somewhere Nice"

A false memory

Would be everything

A denial my eliminent

What was that for?

What was that for?

— Mogwai ("Take Me Somewhere Nice")

11. Nazareth

Band Members: Dan McCafferty, Manny Charlton, Pete Agnew, Jimmy Murrison, Lee Agnew, Carl Sentance

Years Active: 1968–present

Label: Mooncrest, NEMS Enterprises, Vertigo, Eagle

Nazareth are legends of the Scottish rock scene. While they hail from Dunfermline, they are admired internationally by artists such as Guns n’ Roses, who included "Hair of the Dog" on their 1993 album, The Spaghetti Incident.

Their most famous hit was a rocking version of Joni Mitchell’s "This Flight Tonight" which crops up on countless rock compilation albums. They also had a huge hit with their cover of "Love Hurts" in 1975, which was their only Top 10 hit in the USA and went platinum.

Their singer, Dan McCafferty, was invited to perform the song at Axl Rose’s wedding in 1990, but turned it down. However, they had many fine songs in their own right including "Razamanaz", "Broken Down Angel", "May the Sunshine", and "Bad, Bad Boy".

Although they've undergone line-up changes, the band has never broken up (despite their original lead-guitarist, Manny Charlton, leaving in 1990). They have maintained an honoured presence in the scene for over 40 years. They are appreciated by lovers of raw and honest hard rock music. They are possibly the greatest Scottish rock band ever.

Best song: "Broken Down Angel"

And morning brings another empty day

Now she's only a broken down angel

She's only a bird that's broke her wing

She's only someone, someone who's gone wrong

She's only a child that's lost her way

— Nazareth ("Broken Down Angel")

12. Primal Scream

Band Members: Bobby Gillespie, Andrew Innes, Martin Duffy, Darrin Mooney, Simone Butler

Years Active: 1982–present

Label: Elevation, WEA, Sire, Creation, Columbia, Intercord, SME, Reprise, Astralwerks, Epic, B-Unique, First International

Hailing from Glasgow, their love of traditional classic rock shines through their songs, which were heavily influenced by The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. With a mixture of styles borne from garage rock, indie, and even dance they have never stood still, preferring to experiment in different genres. This was exemplified by their seminal album, Screamadelica, released in 1991 to critical and popular acclaim.

Fronted by the enigmatic, but brilliant, Bobby Gillespie, they are a fantastic live band with a back catalogue of instantly recognisable tunes. Their most recognisable are the catchy party-stomper "Rocks", "Movin’ On Up", "Kowalski", "Country Girl", and the psychedelic dance classic "Loaded".

A highly prolific band by modern standards, they released nine albums on a regular basis between 1987 and 2008. The last of those, Beautiful Future, was a Top 10 hit in 2008. They've eased up since then, but More Light (released in 2013) and Chaosmosis (released in 2016) both went Top 20 in the U.K. proving they've never lost their popularity.

Best song: "Rocks"

Creeps keep crawlin'

Drunks keep fallin'

Teasers keep teasin'

Holy joes are preachin'

Cops keep bustin'

Hustlers keep hustlin'

Death keeps a-knockin'

Souls are up for auction

— Primal Scream ("Rocks")

13. The Proclaimers

Band Members: Charlie Reid, Craig Reid, Steven Christie, Clive Jenner.

Years Active: 1983–present

Label: Chrysalis, Nettwerk

Charlie and Craig Reid are two identical twin brothers from Fife who broke with tradition by eschewing the natural inclination to sing with mid-Atlantic style accents (as many U.K. bands do).

They sing with their distinctive Scottish brogue and, surprisingly, became an international success. Politically committed, they released "Letter from America", which about the social decline of industrial Scotland during the recession years of the 1980s.

The song was popular enough in the rest of the U.K. to reach No.3 in the charts in 1987. Another song, "I’m Gonna Be (500 miles)", has become their roof-raising signature tune. It is loved by music fans and football supporters throughout the country. At the request of actress Mary Stuart Masterton, the song was used as the theme song in the opening titles of the 1993 Hollywood movie Benny and Joon, which propelled it to No.3 in the Billboard Hot 100. They are still a major attraction today on the live scene, inspiring patriotic gatherings of party-going fans.

Best song: "I’m Gonna Be (500 miles)"

When I wake up, well I know I'm gonna be,

I'm gonna be the man who wakes up next you

When I go out, yeah I know I'm gonna be

I'm gonna be the man who goes along with you

If I get drunk, well I know I'm gonna be

I'm gonna be the man who gets drunk next to you

And if I haver up, yeah I know I'm gonna be

I'm gonna be the man who's havering to you

— The Proclaimers ("I’m Gonna Be (500 miles)")

14. The Sensational Alex Harvey Band

Band Members: Alex Harvey, Zal Cleminson, Chris Glen, Hugh McKenna, Ted McKenna

Years Active: 1972–1978

Label: Vertigo, Universal International

Alex Harvey passed after suffering from heart attack in Belgium in 1982 (only a day before his 47th birthday). He is still fondly remembered as a unique, larger-than-life character, with a charismatic stage persona. He was backed by superb musicians.

He was expertly assisted by the colourful Zal Cleminson on guitar sporting his "Pierrot" image of white-painted clown make-up. There was also Chris Glen on bass and Ted McKenna on drums, both of whom later joined the Michael Schenker Group. Ted's cousin Hugh played keyboards.

Only The Sensational Alex Harvey Band can fully compete with Nazareth for the crown of the greatest Scottish rock band of all time. They weren’t a huge chart band by any means, but with their memorable live rendition of Tom Jones' "Delilah", which was a huge hit in 1975, and "Boston Tea Party", a hit in 1976, they gained a period of national fame.

Many of their songs stand out today for their high quality musicianship and great humour. Top tunes were the dubiously entitled "Gang Bang", the epic "Faith Healer", a hilarious version of Jacques Brel’s "Next", and the raunchy blues of "Framed". Alex Harvey had actually left the band before his death, and, today, former members still tour (although Zal Cleminson decided to leave in 2008 and retire from the music business).

Best song: "Faith Healer"

All ya got to do is feel

Your body's going to start to heal

The fingertips of holy fire

Everlasting sweet desire

It don't matter what the doctor said

The healer man will sail away

Immortality for two

The miracles, they will come to you

— The Sensational Alex Harvey Band ("Faith Healer")

15. Simple Minds

Band Members: Jim Kerr, Charlie Burchill, Mel Gaynor, Ged Grimes, Sarah Brown, Gordy Goudie, Cherisse Osei, Catherine AD

Years Active: 1977–present

Label: Virgin, Zoom, Arista, Sire, Chrysalis, Eagle, A&M

Simple Minds are a hugely popular international band from Glasgow who were truly originals of electronic rock. Fronted by charismatic singer, Jim Kerr, with Charlie Burchill on guitar, this band soared to stardom rapidly. In the early '80s, they released memorable tunes like "‘Love Song" and "The American" before having hits with "Promised You a Miracle" and "Glittering Prize" in the U.K.

However, they really established themselves with the epic song, "‘Waterfront", which featured an unforgettable bass line. In 1983, popularized by the director John Hughes in the movie The Breakfast Club, they conquered America with their classic song, "Don’t You Forget About Me", which was a No.1 hit. This success was followed by the anthemic "Alive and Kicking", which reached No.3 on the Billboard Hot 100.

In 1989, they gambled on the song "Belfast Child", when the troubles in Northern Ireland were still a problematic issue for musicians to address. However, they were rewarded with their first U.K. No.1, which balanced out the controversy and vindicated their decision. The band went into relative decline for several years before storming back with the single "She’s a River" in 1995. They continued to release records throughout the 2000s and still tour around the world.

Best song: "Waterfront"

Get in, get out of the rain

I'm goin' to move on up to the waterfront

Step in, step out of the rain

I'm gonna walk on up to the waterfront

Said, one million years from today

I'm gonna step on up to the waterfront

Get in, get out of the rain

Come in, come out of the rain

— Simple Minds ("Waterfront")

16. The Skids

Band Members: Richard Jobson, Stuart Adamson, William Simpson, Mike Baillie, Bruce Watson
Jamie Watson

Years Active: 1977–1982, 2007–2010, 2016–present

Label: No-Bad, Virgin

The Skids are a punk outfit hailing from Dunfermline led by the combined talents of singer, Richard Jobson, and the late Stuart Adamson on lead guitar. They were very successful in the U.K. with their albums Scared to Dance, Days in Europa, and The Absolute Game. They quickly developed a unique sound.

They combined the raw power of punk and the new sophistication of electronic music, but they always had Adamson’s fierce metal guitar sound in the forefront. Jobson’s lyrics were highly eloquent and forceful, although sometimes veering towards the pretentious.

Their biggest hits were the awesome "Into the Valley", "Masquerade", "Working for the Yankee Dollar", "Charade", and "Circus Games". These classics marked them as one of the best ever U.K. punk bands to come out of the late 1970s.

Unfortunately, they broke up in 1982. Jobson went on to present TV programmes and direct movies. In 2007 the band regrouped to preform at Dunfermline as a tribute to Adamson. They also played shows at T-in-the-Park and at the 2009 Homecoming celebrations. They have since played many other gigs and produced new studio material.

Best song: "Into the Valley"

Out of concealment

Blank and stark eyed

Why so uncertain

This culture deceives

— The Skids ("Into the Valley")

17. Texas

Band Members: Sharleen Spiteri, Ally McErlaine, Johnny McElhone, Eddie Campbell, Tony McGovern, Michael Bannister, Ross McFarlane

Years Active: 1986–present

Label: Mercury, Vertigo, PIAS, BMG

Although they hail from Glasgow, they took their name from the movie Paris, Texas, as they were heavily influenced by the bluesy slide guitar of Ry Cooder. This sound introduced them to the scene on their first album, Southside, which gave them an instant hit in 1989 with "I Don’t Want a Lover", which was sung by the beautiful and talented Sharleen Spiteri.

They went from strength to strength ever since especially with their classic White on Blonde album, which was released in 1996. With a combination of soulful dance and radio-friendly rock, the album spawned many hits, such as "Say What You Want", "Halo", and "Black Eyed Boy". It sold a million copies in the U.K. alone.

Also, their song, "So Called Friend", was adopted by Ellen DeGeneres for her hit U.S. sitcom Ellen in 1994. Their last album to date was Red Book, which was released in 2005. Since then, Sharleen Spiteri has recorded solo material and was also a guest singer on the song "Stirb Nicht Vor Mir" by the German industrial band Rammstein.

Best song: "I Don’t Want a Lover"

It's always a different story

When it's me who's in the wrong

But you can't have it all

Cause I'm the one who's strong

I've already been burnt before

Once but never again

I know the time will come

That's when you need me then

— Texas ("I Don’t Want a Lover")

18. Travis

Band Members: Fran Healy, Andy Dunlop, Dougie Payne, Neil Primrose

Years Active: 1990–present

Label: Red Telephone Box, Caroline International, Independiente, Epic Records, Kobalt

Travis is a very successful Indie band that was formed in1990. They were obviously inspired by bands like Teenage Fanclub. However, they enjoyed more national success than their idols ever did. They also took their name from the movie Paris, Texas. The name is based on the character played by Harry Dean Stanton in the movie.

They wrote melodic, catchy tunes such as "Why Does it Always Rain on Me", "Coming Around", "Sing", "Closer", "Re-Offender", and "Driftwood". Initially, they played rock influenced tunes, but they moved into more moody and reflective songs on their album, The Man Who, which rocketed them to stardom in 1999.

They also produced quirky and inspired videos, including "Writing to Reach You", which was sung by Fran Healey. In the video, Fran is fleeing a WW2 Messerschmitt across a desolate countryside as machine gun bullets spit up from the ground from behind him.

The turn of the new century saw them continue their great success. Three of their albums in a row went platinum. They even achieved some success in America. Travis are still prolific recording artists and a major attraction to see live.

Best song: "Turn"

I want to see what people saw

I want to feel like I felt before

I want to see the kingdom come

I want to feel forever young

I want to sing

To sing my song

— Travis ("Turn")

19. The Waterboys

Band Members: Mike Scott, Steve Wickham, Anthony Thistlethwaite, Karl Wallinger, Ralph Salmins, Brother Paul Brown, Kevin Wilkinson.

Years Active: 1983–present

Label: Island, Chrysalis

The Waterboys were formed in 1983 in Edinburgh by Mike Scott. Scott is a vastly underrated singer-songwriter, who deserves to be huge on the international scene. Initially, the group was Scott, Anthony Thistlethwaite, and Kevin Wilkinson.

However, in recent years, the band has been more of an open-house collective with scores of participants performing on their albums. They have provided listeners with an excellent and highly eclectic mix of folk, rock music, soulful ballads, and epic anthems.

The music of The Waterboys always resonates with fire and feeling, such as on the inspiring "This is the Sea", which was written in 1985. Mike Scott has been the songwriter behind such classic hits as "Whole of the Moon", "Fisherman's Blues", "Glastonbury Song", "A Man is in Love", and "The Return of Pan".

The band has had fewer singles succeed as the years have gone on, but they have continued to create quality recordings, such as Room to Roam, Dream Harder, Modern Blues, and Out of All This Blue.

Best song: "The Whole of the Moon"

I pictured a rainbow

You held it in your hands

I had flashes

But you saw the plan

I wandered out in the world for years

While you just stayed in your room

I saw the crescent

You saw the whole of the moon

The whole of the moon

— The Waterboys ("The Whole of the Moon")

Great Albums by These Scottish Bands

Essential Album
Years Active
The Average White Band
1972–1983, 1989–present
Belle and Sebastian
"If You're Feeling Sinister"
Wet Wet Wet
"Holding Back the River"
The Waterboys
"Room to Roam"
"White on Blonde"
Simple Minds
"Empires and Dance"
The Sensational Alex Harvey Band
Primal Scream
"Give Out But Don't Give Up"
The Skids
"Scared to Dance"
1977–1982, 2007–2010, 2016–present
Bay City Rollers
"Once Upon a Star"
1966–1987, 1990, 1998–2000, 2015–present

20. Wet Wet Wet

Band Members: Marti Pellow, Graeme Clark, Tommy Cunningham, Neil Mitchell

Years Active: 1982–present

Label: Uni, London, Phonogram, The Precious Organisation, Mercury

Clydebank's Wet Wet Wet were already long established when they struck gold with their massive hit "Love Is All Around", a cover of The Troggs classic re-vamped for the soundtrack to the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral.

This song stayed at No.1 in the U.K. charts for 15 weeks in 1994 and reaped a financial windfall for original writer Reg Presley, who reportedly earned £1million from the publishing rights. However, they had many other marvelous original songs, such as "Wishing I Was Lucky", "Hold Back the River", and the beautiful ballads "Goodnight Girl", "Julia Says", and "Angel Eyes". These songs were enhanced by the tremendous singing voice of Marti Pellow.

Unfortunately, Pellow experienced drug problems and the band split for a few years in the early 2000s. They reformed in 2004, but Pellow eventually quit the band in 2017. Nevertheless, their soulful ballads and dance tunes, backed with lavish production values, mark them as one of the classiest and most popular Scottish bands around.

Best song: "Love is all Around"

You know I love you, I always will

My mind's made up by the way that I feel

There's no beginning, there'll be no end

'Cause on my love you can depend

— Wet Wet Wet ("Love is all Around")

So there you have it, just my take on who are the greatest Scottish bands in popular music history. You may have your own ideas on entries or omissions, which is not surprising given the rich heritage of Scottish musicians, but these recommendations should satisfy even the most critical listener.

On the other hand, if you were not familiar with many of the bands, then I hope you enjoyed some of the videos and are interested in finding out more about the rock and pop music of Scotland.

More Famous Scottish Bands

Essential Album
Year Released
Franz Ferdinand
"Franz Ferdinand"
Friends Again
"Trapped and Unwrapped"
The Headboys
"The Lost Album"
Old Blind Dogs
"Close to the Bone"
"The Test"
"Stairs to Noise"
"The Human Tragedy"
KT Tunstall
"Tiger Suit"
Altered Images
"Pinky Blue"
"Mellow Yellow"
The Jesus and Mary Chain

Questions & Answers

  • The Bay City Rollers founders were as follows: Les McKeown, Eric Faulkner, Derek Longmuir, Alan Longmuir, and Stuart Wood. Why does this list include members of the Bay City Rollers who weren't original members?

    Of course, it should list the classic line-up. I wasn't responsible as Hubpages, the host site of this article, added that band list in an edit. I'll contact them to ask for more accuracy.


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    • profile image


      3 months ago

      you missed out Dundee's Danny Wilson band with Mary's Prayer

    • profile image


      5 months ago

      You missed: The Jesus and Mary Chain, Lloyd Come and the Commotions...

    • profile image


      5 months ago

      1 Cocteau twins

      2 jesus and Mary chain

      3 ultravox

    • profile image

      Alan Harrison 

      6 months ago

      What about Middle of the Road and Pilot. Along with the Pathfinders and the Beachcombers who laid down the foundations for Scottish Popular Music.

    • profile image

      John Lawrie 

      6 months ago

      You missed out Scotland’s biggest band - Runrig

    • profile image


      9 months ago

      Simple Minds are easily the most successful and famous band from Scotland globally. Ends.

    • profile image


      9 months ago

      No Teenage Fanclub, Delgados, Idlewild, or even Orange Juice?

    • profile image

      rob jamieson 

      11 months ago

      ACDC all the way......Crowd of philistines.

    • profile image

      Alex perez 

      12 months ago

      And THE BETA BAND?

    • profile image


      15 months ago

      Love it

    • profile image


      19 months ago

      What about Slik? No.1 single in the 70's. where together for several years though with a few line ups. MIdge Ure, Billy McIsaac and others for their No.1.

      Good informative hub.It could go on forever with the amount of talent that Scotland has given and still has. So many bands playing that, hopefully, someday will make your list. Maybe should start on your top 100 to help 'scratch the surface'

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Loved the list, good memories. I would add Writing on the Wall and Teargas both of whom didn’t last long. WOTW lead singer died and Teargas mainly went into SAHB, thought Poets were great to watch and Blue were in the same category

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Gerry Cinnomon

    • profile image


      2 years ago


    • profile image

      Polish bloke in France 

      2 years ago


      thank you for this anthology.

      But : Travis now is only bleak copy of the glory years,

      their vids are crap, no more great clips, music is third league in comparison to the past,

      they should stop... their will be no "Sing" anymore neither "Side" haha.

      Hoping to be wrong,


    • profile image


      2 years ago

      AC/DC ,the greatest rock band ever and will ever be,both Angus and Malcolm (RIP) and Bonn (RIP) were born in Scotland and statue to Bon in Kirriemuir where he spent childhood.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Biffs clyro!!!

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Can't make everyone happy but Jesus and the Mary Chain need to be on the list.

    • profile image

      Kim Roberts 

      2 years ago

      No mention of Runrig and they are huge in Scotland.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Mogwai !!

    • profile image

      David Hyde 

      2 years ago


    • profile image

      Colin Smith 

      3 years ago

      You cannot miss Runrig from any list of Scottish best bands.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Aztec Camera

    • profile image

      Rod Stewart 

      3 years ago

      Used to go to Burns Howff in West Regent Street Glasgow and listen to

      Maggie Bell and Stone the Crows

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Just a small correction. The two McKenna lads in The Sensational Alex Harvey Band are cousins, not brothers.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Hi, I am from Southamerica and the only Scotish bands known there are: Simple Minds, Cocteau Twins, and Travis. I do not understand how you forgot Cocteau Twins!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Cocteau Twins!

      Your Argument is Invalid!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      One of the best Scottish Bands of the late 50s, early 60s were The Corvettes. They played a concert in 1960 at the old Blantyre picture house, there were about four or five other bands from Scotland, and England playing. I had to stand in for The Corvettes singer Eric Carr, who had a throat infection, I sang Twist Again by Chubby Checker which was just out at the time. We came in second in the competition, a guy singing Gene Vincents Be-Bop-A-Lola won it.

    • Projectlazy profile image


      5 years ago

      I only new about half of these and I actually lived in Scotland for a while. Guess I wasn't paying attention.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      LOL, no Blue Nile. Ridiculous.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Stone the Crows, Bell and Sebastian, Waterboys, Cocteau twins, Delgados,

    • Maggie.L profile image


      5 years ago from UK

      This article brings back memories. I was a big fan of Bay City Rollers when I was about 7 years old and loved Simple Minds and Big Country in my teens. I guess I've given my age away now! Great hub!

    • profile image


      6 years ago from Zhuhai

      Good article Shinkicker. Some I agree with; some I don't but it's your opinion so fair do's.

      Question for you though. Why did you leave out The Blue Nile (and for that matter Paul Buchanan on the influential musicians article)? They certainly lasted long enough, even if they weren't exactly prolific, and have to be considered at least as famous as Del Amitri.

    • jantamaya profile image

      Maria Janta-Cooper 

      6 years ago from UK

      Hi Shinkicker. Great hub. Love it. However, you haven't mentioned the GREATEST Scottish band... It is ... ..... ..... WOLFSTONE! I love them. When you listen to their 'Unleashed' you would know why... :-) I know, almost nobody knows them, I can't imagine WHY. By the way, I'm not Scottish, but I love genuinely Scotland and Wolfstone. Really. (Do not mix them up with Wolf Tone or something like this, they aren't meant here.)

    • profile image

      Mark Neale 

      6 years ago

      Can't believe you dismiss Runrig so easily, as they are without a shadow of a doubt THE best band not only to have come out of Scotland, but the UK. Maybe not commercially, although they regularly sell out throughout the UK, and Europe but they have created some of the best music and retain key lyrics I have ever heard. They remain the band who sold out fr the biggest outdoor event in Scottish history when they played Loch Lomond in 1990 and still sell out Edinburgh Castle and other big outdoor concerts such as Scone, and Loch Ness. One of Scotland's best kept secrets, and in their 41st year, long may it continue.

    • profile image

      paddy murphy 

      6 years ago

      Runrig loch lomond scotlands greatest and fastest selling gig ever

    • profile image

      paddy murphy 

      6 years ago

      Deacon blue supported simple minds and blew em off stage

    • profile image

      Chris G 

      6 years ago

      No room for The Beta Band?

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hope you might consider Runrig, even though they weren't as 'commercially successful' as some on your list, they have a great following throughout the UK. Also, Fiction Factory were excellent but underrated.

      For me, Garbage's vocalist Shirley Manson would head any list of Scottish lead singers.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Texas hired their bands so they could pay them less so technically they were not a band per se. Franz Ferdinand deserve to be in it and if Teenage Fan Club are in it then the Supernaturals who used to out sell Travis should also be in it! lol

    • Shinkicker profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Scotland

      Thanks Rod but this article is for bands not solo artists

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Don't forget FISH, former Marillion's lead singer and the only Scottish in the band. He was also famous and he's a big act by himself. Greetings from Chile.

    • Shinkicker profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Scotland

      This article is for bands not solo artists Mobius Gildred

    • profile image

      Mobius Gildred 

      6 years ago

      Scottish singer and songwriter, Fish (former leadman of 80s band Marillion, whom had opened up shows for bands such as Rush) Fish has been a solo artist ever since leaving Marillion. Fish as a solo artist has included many talented musicians and artists in his line up band such as John Young, Frank Usher, Chris Brown just to name a small list. Sam Brown as well as Peter Gabriel have also collaborated together on album. Do you remember, "Kayleigh"? and how about "Lavender"? or how about, "Just For The Record"? And "Sugar Mice" These are just only a few songs and info. provided about Fish. There is also a not so well known artist name globally speaking, Jo McCafferty, a brilliant solo artist, and do I need to remention, one artist I already have mentioned, Sam Brown (also a Scottish artist)

    • Shinkicker profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Scotland

      Yes indeed VerminWatch the Top FAMOUS Scottish Bands of All Time would just have to include those bands that hardly anyone outside the UK has heard of.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I can't believe what I have just read... What about Belle and Sebastian, The Vaselines, The Pastels and so on? This list makes me sick... You make me sick. Tosser.

    • Shinkicker profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Scotland

      Thanks or the comment Aaron. Yes we should sing a song for Andy. A great day for Scottish sport.


    • Aaron Seitler profile image

      Aaron Seitler 

      7 years ago from Manchester, United Kingdom

      Awesome list.In the wake of Andy Murray's historic win,we should all indulge in the pride of Scottish Culture.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I saw the Silencers open up for Squeeze in Boston and Squeezed were the crowd favorites..but from the opinion of a veteran of rock, Dj and radio program director..the silencers were the far better band that night and their albums are classics..right up there with the Simple Minds...and I loved Endgames records...Edwyn Collins Orange Juice.........

    • Shinkicker profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Scotland

      Clouds, Maramalade, The Poets, Hue and Cry????

      Top famous Scottish bands in the past 40-odd years worldwide???

      I really don't think so! But thanks for stopping by anyway

    • profile image

      Jack Diamond 

      7 years ago

      Ridiculous that CLOUDS - "the Greatest Scottish Band and the most influential ever" (from Scotland on Sunday, April 2012) are not even mentioned here. This is a poll about fame and popularity, not artistic success.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Hi, Great Hubs, Great list but what about The Poets & Marmalade?

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      What about the Blue Nile?

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Hue and Cry

      They're fantastic!

    • Shinkicker profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Scotland

      The title says 'Famous'

      End of!!.........

      Yes, you might have your favourites but the title is 'FAMOUS'

    • profile image

      Wayne B 

      7 years ago

      One needs a longer list. The AWB was truly great. So was the Sensational Alex Harvey Band. Nice to see both here. Let me add Glasgow's Cado Belle and Edinburgh's Cafe Jacques. Both shone brightly for a short time in the late 70s, leaving behind music that 30+ years later reveals itself as being much better than we realized at the time - wonderful stuff. Both Cafe Jacques albums are on CD, and Cado Belle's LP and EP are on a single CD from Japan. You Tube them if you'd like to hear what those bands sounded like. BTW, I drummed in Mowgli & the Donuts, the leader of which (Wilf Smarties) recorded the first Wet Wet Wet LP, 'Popped In, Souled Out' and classic tracks including 'Wish I Was Lucky'. Scotland produces great musicians...like Cream's Jack Bruce. Like I said, you need a longer list... But thanks for this one.

    • Shinkicker profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Scotland

      Hi BigDavey

      Because they haven't been around long enough yet. Terrific band though. I love them

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      BIFFY CLYRO ... how could you leave them oot?

    • profile image

      Allen Wittert 

      8 years ago

      I'll add Camera Obscura.. Pity about the great name, it seems to have added to their hidden-ness!

    • Shinkicker profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Scotland

      Good band Trash Can Sinatras but wouldn't rate them any higher than many other bands. If Rock/Blues bands from Scotland are more famous than others that's they way it goes I suppose.

      Cheers for commenting Sam

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I find it odd you glossed over the one recommendation I saw for Trashcan Sinatras, of Kilmarnock. You seem to be hung up on both "hits" and blues-based rock bands. Trashcan Sinatras might not seem to have the commercial success needed to make your list, but for a relatively obscure band they probably touch more corners of the world than any other Scottish band. They also have a greater, staying cult following that transcends more generations and genres than ANY band, let alone Scottish bands. Without a doubt, no other band promotes Scotland more within their music, with songs about the highlands and Robert Burns. Despite a lack of "hits" since their 1st album in 1990, their songs have been quietly used in TV shows, movies, and commercials in both the US and Japan. Lead singer, Frank Reader, is brother of renowned singer-songwriter, Eddi Reader, ex-singer for another Scottish band, Fairground Attraction. Trashcan Sinatras are definitely worthy of at least a mention, if not top 15.

    • Shinkicker profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Scotland

      Hi Damo

      Nice band , another great example of Scottish Indie music. But alas no hits. There's a lot of competition for best Scottish bands :-)

      Thanks for reading and commenting

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Couldn't make it the top 16 and squeeze in Camera Obscura could you?

    • Shinkicker profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Scotland

      You have great taste Brian, the 80's and 90's were a really successful era for Scottish bands like Simple Minds, Big Country, Wet wet Wet and Texas :-) And I can just imagine rockin in the Highlands with a few beers. Brilliant!!

      Thanks for your comment

    • BRIAN SLATER profile image

      Brian Slater 

      8 years ago from England

      A great list of the best bands to come out of Scotland, my favorites, Simple Minds, Texas I could listen to Sharleen all night, Big Country and Wet Wet Wet, all were pretty awesome in their day, voted up. On a side note I've seen some pretty good small bands at Pitlochry at Killen and at Inverness. After a few beers, and a lock-in you can see the walls rockin. Great times!

    • Shinkicker profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Scotland

      Are you kiddin PK?

      'Middle of the Road' lasted less than a couple of years at the top and 'Slade' are English.

      Cheers for reading and commenting anyway :-)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I call BS! You can't have a list like this and not include Slade and Middle of the road.

    • Shinkicker profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Scotland

      Another vote for the Cocteau Twins David. Well said, great band

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Cocteau Twins !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Shinkicker profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Scotland

      Yep! Gilped, The Sutherland Brothers were definitely quality.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Missed the Sutherland Brothers as well. Not nearly as famous as they should be but wrote great songs, including 'Sailing' which Rod Stewart made into one of the most famous songs of all time.

    • Shinkicker profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Scotland

      The Silencers were very good but not musical greats and I haven't heard any El Presidente music. Never even heard of the Indian Givers mate.

      Cheers for commenting Stuckinthe70s80s

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Hoots min... whit aboot The Silencers, The Indian Givers ... and El Presedente!!!! min ..

    • susiequeue profile image


      9 years ago from Glasgow, UK

      Would also thoroughly recommend the Trashcan Sinatras if anyone hasn't heard them, my favourite..

    • Shinkicker profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Scotland

      Cheers Michael

      I like Aztec camera but they were kind of fleeting in the public eye. Great song-writing. The Fratellis and Franz Ferdinand are excellent too, just need more time to see if they last.

      I totally agree with your comment on Teenage Fanclub.

      All the best

    • michael ely profile image

      michael ely 

      9 years ago from Scotland

      Hi Shinkicker, I am Scottish as well, and i came across your interesting list. Some that didn't make it on here that i like are Aztec Camera, Franz Ferdinand, and the Fratellis, but of the bands on the list i have always liked Travis, and Teenage Fanclub who are probably one of the most under rated bands.

    • Shinkicker profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Scotland

      H Mo

      Thanks for the correction and for reading. I'll put that right. All the best

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      ... ouch, that could be misunderstood:

      of course Onnie McIntyre did play guitar (often lead guitar) with the band - but the other fellas sang lead.

      cheers again, Mo

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Nice posts. Only thing -

      The Average White Band:

      "They had a distinctive soft voice at the helm with singer and guitarist Owen 'Onnie' McIntyre"

      McIntyre was their backing singer only. The two guys at the helm taking turns on bass, guitar as well as on lead vocals where Hamish Stuart and Alan Gorrie.

      -> en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AWB_(album) - under "Personnel".

      cheers, Mo

    • Shinkicker profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Scotland

      Cheers epigramman

      The Las came from Liverpool, transformed into the band Cast after that.

      Thanks for commenting

    • epigramman profile image


      9 years ago

      ....just wondering - the Las - There shes goes again - one of the greatest pop songs of all time - are they not from Scotland?

      ...still, a hubtastic hub by you - and I should know - I am a master musicologist - and you are a blessing to your music fans - of all ages! Bravo!

    • Shinkicker profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Scotland

      Good shout Distillerdude, the Cocteau twins were a really imaginative band.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Cocteau Twins really should have been included!

    • Shinkicker profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Scotland

      Cheers Dgenr8

      You have excellent taste my good man. Thanks for stopping by. I'll need to check out The Exploited, much forgotten I think.

    • Dgenr8 profile image


      10 years ago

      Teenage Fanclub "thirteen" was really big back in the day. Sill have that disk and listen from time to time. Nazareth put out some really timeless Hard Rock, Hair of the Dog and Rampant My fave's. And of course, I forgot that Alex Harvey was Scottish. Ah, but Almighty, and Exploited (Till' "Let's Start A War") Really Rock! I get why they don't make the top 15 though. Great Job!

    • Shinkicker profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Scotland

      Yeah, great band Teenage Fanclub

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      great choices i didn't know primal scream were scottish even tho ive a few of their albums as for teenage fanclub my favourate band seen them loads at barrowland.love sparkys dream.

    • Shinkicker profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Scotland

      Glad you liked it habee, you've great taste. I played 'Alive and Kicking' the other night on the pub jukebox. Sounded brilliant blasting out loud.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 

      10 years ago from Georgia

      LOVE Big Country and Simple Minds!! Enjoyed the read and the music. Thanks!


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