A Wee Homage to a Longstanding Member of the Celtic Family and Glasgow Legend
Never heard of Frankie Miller? Never heard of his music or watched his performances as a gallous as f**k Glesga hardman in Peter McDougall’s ‘Just A Boys Game’, a performance so true it would send Peter Mullen or David Hayman back to the actors studio?
Or perhaps you know of him as a result of an early ‘90s Tennents Lager advert where his classic rendition of ‘Caledonia‘ blared in the background.
Fear not if none of the above rings a familiar bell – you’re in a sizeable, albeit slightly unenlightened, majority.
Frankie Miller is, amongst much else, one of those rare things: ‘a Mad Tim fae Brigton’ The ‘Mad Tim’ element being evidenced by a famous anecdote where, allegedly, upon heading back to Glasgow during his heyday of transatlantic tours and studio albums, he once famously quipped to a reporter,
‘Ah’m here tae see the Celic and ma maw…and in that order!’
Additionally, Frankie was also a man who could also count the Lord of the Wing himself, Wee Jinky, as a personal friend and boozing buddy. The latter of which was captured wistfully in one of Frankie’s most played tunes, ‘Drunken Nights in the City’ (1975) a perfect homage to their time together in the waterin’ holes of Glesga, our dear Green place.
For these facts alone Frankie Miller ought to be more well known to members of the Celtic family, but as a man of natural humility, he never was one to shout out about himself from the rooftops.
Frankie the Artist – Frankie the Thinker
Some of the other fine tunes that I feel show Frankie in his finest light include the critically acclaimed, ‘After All I Live My Life’ (1972) which featured as the soundtrack from Johnny Depp’s 2011 movie, The Rum Diary.
In turn, this exposure sparked a renewed commercial interest in Frankie to the extent that his back catalogue of albums with Chrysalis records, 4 in total, were re-released.
If we’re talking movie soundtracks however, then Millers chilling and dark delivery on the Jimmy Boyle biopic ‘A Sense of Freedom’ (1979) is an even sharper symbol to the musical talents of this man’s voice and soul, captured in gritty Glaswegian harmony befitting of the movie and it’s protagonist.
Miller, who is a cousin of the one time notorious Gorbals villain Jimmy Boyle (now a successful artist, playwright and sculptor in his own right), also sung a song entitled, ‘The Rock’, which is about the very fine and blurred lines of those men who ended up criminalised in Alcatraz.
Some of the lyrics show us that Miller has empathy and a deep understanding for those whom society would have you crudely believe are mere ‘bad guys’ who are always to blame for their own deviance.
As if it is ever that simple when variables such as class, masculinity and social exclusion are almost always involved.
I feel that Miller, like many men and women who have hailed from an oppressed people, whether it be through ethnic or socio-economic discrimination associated with class or postcode, goes beyond such easy, and frankly stupid, but widely believed narratives.
He is a critical thinker, pure and simple.
For example, he doesn’t refer to them as inmates, criminals, thugs or any other dehumanising denominator which mainstream belief lazily repeats after ignorant headline after headline is churned out in relation to those who are incarcerated.
Instead he sings,
‘I thought of all the Men that couldn’t conform to society…’
‘I thought of all the Men who couldn’t take a tellin’ what to do…’
Significantly, he humanises and delivers context to these most excluded of folk.
Lastly, as a wee nod to his own character, which was certainly one of assertiveness, one of leader as opposed to follower and perhaps, like many working class men, one of built-in defiance to misplaced authority, when he sings:
‘And I saw myself, standing on the Rock…’
Essentially arguing that if not for some fairly thin margins and differences, he, like any man given the circumstances of misfortune, can quite easily end up playing society’s ‘bad guy’.
Simply put, Millers lyrics and narrative, much like those of Johnny Cash, make us think beyond the simple and seek a more enlightening truth, whether comfortable or not.
Frankie Miller – True Spirit That Kept the Faith
Frankie was rightfully officially recognised by Glasgow City Council in 2014 for his services to the music scene and the arts. He received the Lord Provost medal and a Gala dinner to boot which received moderate coverage in the Scottish mainstream press.
This moderate press coverage being annoyingly symbolic of Frankie’s music at its peak in the sense that it was frustratingly undervalued by the mainstream despite its flawless talent and message.
After all, it’s not for nothing that the late John Peel, a man who knew a thing or two about a good toe tapper, stated words to the effect of; not only could Frankie sing any song and make you feel it, he could take a rubbish song from an average singer and turn it into a great one.
Tragically, the game of life that we all take far too much for granted, dealt an almost unplayable hand to Frankie in the shape of a massive cerebral hemorrhage in 1994. An affliction which, according to the operating surgeons at the time, should have killed him.
But, like many working class Glaswegians – men, women and children alike – Frankie’s spirit rampaged on nonetheless and kept it’s faith to the point where he beat the odds, defeated Goliath and, in keeping with one of his tunes, validated his position as a ‘Stubborn Kind of Fellow’.
Although occasionally wheelchair bound and permanently afflicted with difficulties of speech, rendering him unable to reignite his powerful career which, in 1994, was about to see him taking pride of place in a ‘Supergroup’ with Joe Walsh of the Eagles, Frankie continues to be relevant in the music scene through charity and disability awareness gigs as well as being involved in album creation and collaborations to this day.
It was only two years ago that ‘Frankie Miller’s Double Take’ was released which digitally synced some of Frankie’s musical peers and friends like Rod Stewart, Paul Carrack, Huey Lewis and Willie Nelson, with his own pre recorded vocals to help create new, refreshing and excellent material.
The fact that he beat the odds and is still successfully busy within the contemporary music scene is an absolute testament to the indefatigable and inspirational spirit that he clearly possesses.
As well as being a celebration of Frankie Miller, this article is about shining a much deserved light on one of the Celtic family’s most talented sons, a son who many would perhaps neglect to mention if we were to rundown a list of famous Celtic fans.
Sure, we’ll always remember Rod Stewart, some will say Gerard Butler, thousands more would mention Billy Connolly (a long time friend of Frankie’s) but only a few would be able to name Frankie Miller.
Lets change this – let’s take thirty odd minutes, at least, to check Spotify or YouTube and discover the unspoiled fruits of this artists labour.
And if nothing else, click the following YouTube link and watch an excellent documentary regarding the life and times of Frankie Miller with input from Billy Connolly, Joe Walsh and countless others, most poignantly, his wife Annette.
Hail, Hail Frankie Bhoy.
(Header image courtesy of Daily Record)