Alternative music legend, Chris Connelly joins Life Elsewherehost Norman B for an in-depth conversation about his latest musical project, The Birthday Poems. An album created to celebrate the centenary of Orkney-born poet, George Mackay Brown. For this remarkable enterprise, Chris collaborated with the incomparable, Scottish chanteuse, Monica Queen. Together with a line-up of stellar musicians, they deftly interpret Chris’s music into a fictionalized account of the romance between celebrated Mackay Brown and his muse Stella Cartwright, as well as Stella’s friendship with Edinburgh born poet Stanley Roger Green, spanning three decades (from the mid-1950s until Stella’s tragic and untimely death in 1985). Known as the Muse of Rose Street, Stella had a unique upbringing, which contributed to her love of literature. As a young girl attending Mary Erskine School for Girls in Edinburgh, Stella would ravenously devour literature, art, and music. Her father would often take her to bars, parties, the theatre, and other social and cultural events, where she would meet and charm Scotland’s cultural elite. This album represents a sometimes overlooked but very important part of Scottish culture. Stella and Mackay Brown had an enduring friendship, although not always a joyous one – neither of the pair were particularly happy, and their love of whisky did not help. “While she had relationships with many of the poets who would haunt the bars of Edinburgh’s Rose Street during the ’50s and ‘early ’60s, her love of literature, art and culture was insatiable. She was never given credit or encouraged in her own art and expression. I hope that this album illuminates the beautiful treasure that she was, and how hugely significant she is to Scottish literature of a certain era,” says Connelly. He adds, “As a child and younger man in Edinburgh, I walked the same streets, drank in the same bars, and walked the same hills. I was also lucky enough to be close friends with Stanley Roger Green’s children, who, highly creative in their own ways, greatly informed and inspired my life”.
A follow-up conversation has been scheduled to reach back with Chris Connelly to his early days with Finitribe in his native Edinburgh and on through his many musical projects including Ministry, The Revolting Cocks, Pigface, and more.
The image above of Chris Connelly is from a video for Tae The Poets, filmed on location at Chicago’s GMan Tavern and created by photographers Derick Smith and Matt Walker.