More From The Vinyl Graveyard
Oh Grandad, tell us about the good old days. Tell us about the legends of the past who actually managed to make a living from their music and yet still ended up in the bin around the back of the charity shop. Tell us about Fran & Anna.
Well, where does one start? There has always been something about Coatbridge that makes you want to leave it and yet Fran & Anna never did despite touring the world as The Prince Sisters and parodying the entire Scottish ethos with a late career reinvention as poster “girls” for the shortbread tins that the tourists love.
And their music? Once the dust was hoovered – God bless James Dyson for providing an effective way to get those old records clean again - off this well named album, the manic charm of this working man’s club cabaret nearly overwhelmed me as the Starsky and Hutch of Coatbridge dissected both Scottish standards like “Scotland Forever” and cruise ship favourites like “Hava Nagila” with the kind of gleeful irony that would surely have made them punk icons if the NME had ever came to Lanarkshire. Certainly, Captain Sensible would have realised the error of his “Happy Talk” ways if he had heard what Fran & Anna had released but a few years before his tawdry attack on the charts. Add in their habit – even in their later years – of doing unannounced guerrilla gigs in hospitals and retirement homes and you really do have the stuff of legend.
Since the album was released in 1978 when they were only in their fifties, both ladies are actually in fine voice with some fine sibling harmonies more than compensating for the rather leaden backing band. Curiously, the album was actually released on Neptune Records which was a budget subsidiary of the Lismor label that released a lot of rather more traditional Scottish music.
I suppose that I should be sneering at Fran & Anna but, after a few plays, their 33rpm legacy made me want to track down the masters and release a definitive compilation so that a whole new generation could appreciate their kitsch approach to taking a tune to the masses.