The Undisco Kidds & The Citadel Youths


Posted by in July's Magazine

It was 1980 and the Citadel Youth Centre had just opened its doors to local youth. Two young men called Dave Carson and Mike Barclay supplemented the sole employee for the Summer Programme. The experience gave both a good insight into crowd management, “There were 8 year olds high from sniffing glue fighting with local policemen.” What the Centre needed was not a manager rather a bouncer, but he would come later. The programme was a success and ended with the youngsters being taken in a furniture van – no health and safety back then – to a bonfire treat on Cramond Island.

The experience gained from this work was invaluable to both men who were also musicians in a newly formed group called Boots for Dancing. Working a crowd was easy after their stint at Citadel and they had a stellar live reputation throughout their short career. Their first gig took place at Leith Community Centre with a bunch of young tyro’s from Clerrie called Fire Engines. ‘Bootleg Al’ has a recording of this momentous event, cassette of course, and is still known to frequent gigs wearing his capacious raincoat – not, as might be supposed, in honour of Echo and the Bunnymen but in order to hide his ‘recording apparatus’.

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Boots signed to Pop Aural records and their trajectory was a swift one, supporting Public Image at the Futurama Festival and sharing a bill with U2 and Talking Heads at the Lyceum in London before self-imploding in 1982. Their brief career saw an ever-evolving line up that almost rivalled The Fall in the number of musicians who went through its ranks. Although unlike The Fall they could make John Peel dance.

However, their Punk Disco Funk proved too dissonant for the confected pop music of the era and Dave and Mike took different paths, Mike to Art College and Dave to Moray House where a placement in 1984 saw him back at the Citadel. He liked it so much that he came back to do a stint on the management committee – a path taken by a number of people who come for a short tenure and stay, having been won over by the ethos.

Euan Fryer, impresario and archivist who runs the Athens of the North record label, heard a bit of the Boots story and a piece of their music. Intrigued and liking what he found he resolved to track them down to see if the label could put out some music by them. After a lot of detective work and gaining of access to the Peel archive there was enough material to put out an album, Undisco Kidds, released to good reviews in 2015. Whilst differing from the usual soul output of AOTN, Euan thought their place on its roster justified.

Emboldened by the reaction to Undisco Kidds Boots for Dancing reformed for a couple of gigs, this time Dave and Mike were supplemented by Russell Burn and Coco Whitson who are in danger of becoming known as the Sly and Robbie of Punk. For Coco it’ s a nice way of paying Dave back for sneaking him in to a Boots gig under his raincoat, as the over 18 policy meant a 13 year old was not allowed entry. This act of solidarity made him a fan from that day forth.

Further interest at this time centred on the documentary Big Gold Dream in which both Pop Aural and Dave Carson feature, meaning their gigs attracted new fans that weren’t even born when the band first split up. Irvine Welsh turned up to see their set at the last Leith Gala day and there is talk of them making a re-appearance this year.

Back to the Citadel then: Cramond Island Discs (also known as Choons, Chips & Chatter) is an invite only evening where assorted local worthies and some not so worthy (the editor of this rag) cook good food, play good tunes (Freebird?! – Editor) and shoot the breeze. Out of one these evenings came the kernel of an idea – ‘Friends of Citadel’.

This ended up in Tom Kitchin agreeing to work with 6 local youths and 3 adult volunteers on a Kitchin created menu for a group of influential people invited to become the first ‘Friends of Citadel’. Of course it was to raise funds as well and the band donated a prize to the raffle, namely, a gig by Boots for Dancing.

A fierce bidding war between a Lady and a Dame saw the Lady win out, going over the £300 mark and by the time you read this the concert will have taken place at the Voodoo Rooms. (We’ll have a review and mention of monies raised in the next Leither.) Local resident Ewan McNaught very kindly donated the Voodoo Rooms’ ballroom for free (a venue that Adrian Sherwood, no less, has described as having “the best sound in Scotland”). Which means all the ‘gate money’ goes straight to the Citadel…a damn fine gesture.

Boots for Dancing continue to gig and have fun (you will too if you are lucky enough to catch them). If you didn’t make it to the benefit at Voodoo, rumour has it ‘Bootleg Al’ was there in his voluminous raincoat, so there will be a recording of events ‘floating about”. Pop in to the Citadel with a crisp tenner and I’m sure head honcho William Barr will ‘see you right’.

Info: You can donate and/or join the Friends of Citadel here: friendsofcitadel.org.uk and Boots for Dancing are at, Athens of the North records: aotns.bandcamp.com

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