|Origin||Isle of Skye, Scotland|
|Genres||Celtic rock, Folk rock|
|Past members||Blair Douglas
Runrig are a Scottish Celtic rock group formed in Skye, in 1973 under the name 'The Run Rig Dance Band'. Since its inception, the band's line-up has included songwriters Rory Macdonald and Calum Macdonald. The current line-up also includes longtime members Malcolm Jones, Iain Bayne, and more recently, Bruce Guthro, and Brian Hurren. To date, the band has released thirteen studio albums, with a number of their songs sung in Scottish Gaelic.
Runrig's music is often described as a blend of folk and rock music, with the band's lyrics often focusing upon locations, history, politics and people that are unique to Scotland. Songs also make references to agriculture and land conservation.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Formation and early years (1973 to 1987)
- 1.2 Major label and mainstream success (1987 to 1997)
- 1.3 Transitional challenges (1997 to 2001)
- 1.4 Renewed popularity (2001 to 2009)
- 1.5 Health concerns (2009/2010)
- 1.6 Year off and Rewired (2011/2012)
- 1.7 40th Anniversary (2013-2014)
- 1.8 14th Studio Album (2014-Present)
- 2 Music
- 3 Membership
- 4 Discography
- 5 Further reading
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Formation and early years (1973 to 1987)
The band was formed in 1973 with brothers Calum and Rory Macdonald and their friend Blair Douglas. Donnie Munro joined the following year and they started to expand outside their native Skye. Douglas left the band in late 1974 and was replaced by Robert Macdonald. This line-up continued until 1978, when Douglas re-joined and Malcolm Jones became guitarist, both displacing Robert Macdonald. This lasted until the following year when Douglas left again to pursue a solo career. 1981 saw the arrival of drummer Iain Bayne (ex-New Celeste) and keyboard player Richard Cherns. Cherns left in February 1986 and was replaced by ex-Big Country member Peter Wishart.
Major label and mainstream success (1987 to 1997)
Following their fourth independent studio album, Heartland (1985), Runrig entered into a recording contract with Chrysalis. With major-label support, Runrig's fifth studio album, The Cutter And The Clan (1987), brought the band wider audiences in the United Kingdom, as well as in other parts of Europe. Note: The Cutter and The Clan was originally released on the independent Ridge Records label and subsequently on Chrysalis after signing the recording contract with the label.
From 1987 to 1995, Runrig released a total of five studio albums through Chrysalis Records. Along with The Cutter And The Clan, the other four albums were: Searchlight (1989), The Big Wheel (1991), Amazing Things (1993), and Mara (1995).
Following the release of Mara, lead singer Donnie Munro grew more involved in politics, and in 1997, he left Runrig in order to compete for a seat in the House of Commons for the Labour Party. However, he was not elected.
Transitional challenges (1997 to 2001)
Runrig's tenth album, In Search Of Angels (1999), was released amidst some uncertainty about the band's future.
Since their contract with Chrysalis had ended, Runrig chose to release In Search Of Angels on their own label, Ridge Records. As a result, the record received much less promotion than the previous five, and sales were considerably smaller. Runrig was also faced with the challenge of acclimatising their fans to a new lead vocalist. The band toured extensively in support of the record, and in 2000, they also released a live album called Live At Celtic Connections 2000, allowing fans to hear older Runrig songs sung by their new frontman.
The year 2000 concluded with the release of an authorised songbook, Flower Of The West - The Runrig Songbook. The book included lyrics, sheet music, photographs, and background information for 115 of Runrig's songs - nearly every album track and single from the band's first ten studio albums.
Renewed popularity (2001 to 2009)
Having emphatically proven that they could continue without Donnie Munro, Runrig set to work on their eleventh studio album.
Among their independently-released studio albums, The Stamping Ground (2001) was Runrig's most successful. Moreover, critics who had given mixed reviews to In Search Of Angels, praised The Stamping Ground as the quintessential Runrig album. The band continued to enjoy support in the UK, Germany, and Denmark. However, with a North American frontman, Runrig began finding new fans in Canada and the United States.
In 2001, Pete Wishart, the band's keyboard player, left after being elected Member of Parliament for the constituency of Tayside North for the Scottish National Party. In the 2005 election he was again elected, this time for the new constituency of Perth and North Perthshire again for the SNP. Brian Hurren stepped in to take Wishart's place in the band. Wishart was re-elected again in the 2010 General Election.
Although Runrig's popularity has waned somewhat since its peak in the mid-1990s, it remains an active band, touring regularly and releasing albums through its own label, Ridge Records.
In August 2003, Runrig played their 30th Anniversary concert on the esplanade at Stirling Castle, celebrating 30 years since the band's formation, and including visitors from previous line-ups, as well as guest artists including the Glasgow Islay Choir and Paul Mounsey.
Runrig played their first U.S. concert, a benefit for the charity "Glasgow the Caring City", on 4 April 2006 at the Nokia Theatre in New York City. Founding member Blair Douglas joined the band onstage, playing accordion on several numbers. In the audience were fans from as far away as Texas, Alabama, Florida, Colorado, Minnesota, Norwich (England) and Scotland.
While the bulk of their 2007 tour was scheduled for Denmark, Germany, and England, an outdoor show, titled "Beat The Drum", was held at Loch Ness on 18 August 2007. It was staged at Borlum Farm, Drumnadrochit and attended by 18,500 people in heavy rain. Because of the unusually large number of support acts, it had been likened to an all-day music festival, Runrig being the headline act. This was the first in what was to become a staple for Runrig - annually staging big outdoor shows in Scotland in summer.
Runrig re-recorded "Loch Lomond (Hampden Remix)" to raise funds for the BBC's annual Children In Need appeal. This was released on 12 November  and includes the 'Tartan Army' (Scotland's Hampden Football Supporters), including Rod Stewart, on backing vocals. It reached #9 in the UK Singles Chart.
"Loch Lomond (Hampden Remix)" was named "The Best Scottish Song Of All Time" in November 2008. The band were presented the award by Lulu. On 5 December 2008, during the penultimate tour date at The Barrowlands, Glasgow, the band was inducted into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall Of Fame, by the Scottish Traditional Music Awards Director.
On 29 August 2009, Runrig performed at Scone Palace for their third annual outdoor summer show (the second being at Edinburgh Castle in 2008). They were supported by acts such as the Peatbog Faeries, piper Fred Morrison, King Creosote, Kathleen Macinnes, and Blair Douglas (a former member of the group) and his band. Attendance numbered ~15,000.
The show was part of Scotland's Year of Homecoming 2009. In order to underline this, First Minister Alex Salmond made an appearance on stage (introduced by his SNP colleague and former band member Pete Wishart), and launched an initiative called 'SconeStone.' This aims to promote Scotland as a kind and compassionate nation through the "journey of kindness" made by the SconeStone across the world. Its keepers, each holding it for a week before passing it on, are expected to undertake a good deed. Its first keeper was the Reverend Neil Galbraith, who was presented the stone on the same day.
Health concerns (2009/2010)
In March 2009, guitarist Malcolm Jones suffered a heart attack in Edinburgh whilst running to catch a train. This forced the band to cancel a sizable tour of Austria, Switzerland, Denmark and Germany. After undergoing minor surgery, he took to the stage with Runrig again in May of the same year. During a routine check up with his doctors in June 2009, he was strongly advised to have heart bypass surgery, which forced the band to cancel a tour of Denmark. The operation was a success and, although the band were forced to cancel their show at the 35th Tønder Festival in Tønder, Denmark, Malcolm returned to the stage in late August 2009, at the band's big outdoor Scottish Homecoming show for 2009 at Scone Palace, Perthshire, Scotland. However, on 28 February 2010, just a week prior to an extensive German tour, it was announced that Malcolm would have to have yet another operation which in turn forced the band to cancel/postpone their Spring dates in Germany, due to start on 3 March 2010. In a statement released by the band on their official website they noted that Malcolm's health was "good" and that the problem was "purely a technical one". They also emphatically stated that "All other concerts planned for 2010 will go ahead." It was announced that the winter tour scheduled for winter 2010 would be the last tour for a year with the band planning no concerts in 2011 so that they can focus on other projects. The final date for 2010 was in the Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow which is traditionally where the band finishes their Scottish tours. In a statement released by the office, they promised it to be "quite a party".
On 1 November 2010, the band released a four-disc compilation, entitled 50 Great Songs. The release includes both studio and live performances, focusing primarily upon Bruce Guthro's time within the band.
Year off and Rewired (2011/2012)
After the end of the 2010 tour the band collectively made the decision to take a year off. Calum and Rory had been concentrating on a long gestating project outside of Runrig. The duo call themselves The Band from Rockall and released their debut album outside of Runrig at the end of April 2012. Keyboardist Brian Hurren also released his debut solo album, which he wrote, performed and produced himself, under the name A Hundred Thousand Welcomes, the inspiration for the name coming from Bruce Guthro shouting the Gaelic equivalent of the phrase during "Beat the Drum" at Loch Ness. The band's lead singer Bruce Guthro released another solo album, while drummer Iain Bayne was appointed manager of English folk-rock band Coast. The band re-united as a six-piece again in the summer of 2012 for the Rewired Tour, with the big Scottish outdoor show held in August at the Northern Meeting Park in Inverness.
40th Anniversary (2013-2014)
In November 2012, ahead of their planned Rewired Tour, the band announced a special 40th Anniversary Concert at the Black Isle Show Ground in Muir of Ord, near Inverness. The 40th Anniversary show was a weekend of live entertainment featuring 'special guests', entitled "Party On The Moor". Shortly after that they announced another "special" concert at Edinburgh Castle in July, entitled "Celebration In The City". On 28 April 2013 (to mark Runrig's first ever concert 40 years earlier) Runrig released their first single in 5 years entitled "And We'll Sing". At Party On The Moor former members Donnie Munro and Pete Wishart performed onstage alongside the current lineup and Blair Douglas made an appearance via a short video highlighting the changes in the band's lineup since 1973. This was the first time Munro had performed with Runrig since 1997, and for many it was a powerful statement seeing Guthro and Munro singing together as there had been heated debates about who should be the band's frontman, and who was the better frontman among many fans and critics. The gig was hailed as a success by fans and critics many calling it one of the best concerts Runrig have ever staged. Bassist, Rory Macdonald said that "in many ways, it was the perfect Runrig gig" whilst drummer, Iain Bayne called it "the culmination of a lifetime's work".
In late 2013 it was announced that Runrig would embark on a Spring 2014 tour of England to continue the 40th Anniversary celebrations. Entitled "Party on the Tour" it would "draw inspiration" from the Party on the Moor show. Alongside the English dates, several European music festivals were announced for 2014. In December 2013 it was officially confirmed that Party on the Moor would be released on DVD. In January further details for the DVD were released. On 31 March 2014 Runrig released the full, uncut concert on both DVD, CD and, for the first time ever for Runrig, Bluray.
14th Studio Album (2014-Present)
The band announced in issue 74 of The Wire magazine and on their official Twitter feed that they had begun work on their 14th studio album. It was also announced (informally) that to accommodate for the time it takes to write, record and produce an album they would not be playing any further live shows in 2014 after the Tonder festival, due to be held on the 28th and 29th of August 2014. Details of the new album remain unknown apart from the fact that there will be one (many had speculated that the band were going to retire after their 40th Anniversary celebrations before Bruce Guthro said at Party on the Moor "We're not done yet.").
Runrig's first album was released in 1978, called Play Gaelic, as all the songs were in that language. It was re-released in 1990 as Play Gaelic, the first legendary recording. The second album, The Highland Connection, was released a year later on the band's own label, Ridge Records. A somewhat transitional album, it features wailing electric guitars and ballads. Here to be found is the original version of "Loch Lomond". A later version was to become their signature song and closing song at concerts. Recovery in 1981 was a thematic record dealing with the rise and politics of Scotland's Gaelic community.
In 1982 they re-recorded "Loch Lomond" as their first single. They signed to a small label called Simple Records in 1984, and two singles were released. The first was "Dance Called America".
A longer version of the second single "Skye" appeared on the Alba Records compilation A Feast Of Scottish Folk Music, Volume One along with an early version of "Lifeline", both of which were previously unreleased on albums, and "Na H-Uain A's T-Earrach" which was the B-side to "Dance Called America".
The band engaged the services of producer Chris Harley who brought to their recordings the benefit of his experience as a solo artist and a singer with The Alan Parsons Project and Camel. Heartland in 1985 combined Gaelic sounds with anthemic rock music. The Cutter And The Clan (1987), was the band's first album on a major label, Chrysalis Records, though the album had previously been released by Ridge shortly before the band signed to Chrysalis.
At this time the band started to come to prominence in England, and the period from 1987–1997 marked Runrig's most successful run, during which they achieved placings in both the UK albums and singles charts, and toured extensively.
- Roderick "Rory" Macdonald (1973–present)
- Malcolm "Calum" Macdonald (1973–present)
- Malcolm Jones (1978–present)
- Iain Bayne (1980–present)
- Bruce Guthro (1998–present)
- Brian Hurren (2001–present)
- Blair Douglas (1973–1974, 1978–1979)
- Instruments: accordion, keyboards
- Donnie Munro (1974–1997)
- Robert Macdonald (1974–1978)
- Instruments: accordion
- Campbell Gunn (1976)
- Instruments: vocals
- Richard Cherns (1981–1986)
- Instruments: keyboards
- Peter Wishart (1986–2001)
- Date of birth: 09/03/1962
- Place of birth: Dunfermline, Scotland
- Instruments: keyboards
- Play Gaelic (1978)
- The Highland Connection (1979)
- Recovery (1981)
- Heartland (1985)
- The Cutter and the Clan (1987)
- Searchlight (1989)
- The Big Wheel (1991)
- Amazing Things (1993)
- Mara (1995)
- In Search of Angels (1999)
- The Stamping Ground (2001)
- Proterra (with Paul Mounsey) (2003)
- Everything You See (2007)
- Once in a Lifetime (1988)
- Transmitting Live (1994)
- Live at Celtic Connections 2000 (2000)
- Day of Days (2004)
- Year of the Flood (2008)
- Party on the Moor (3 CD Boxset) (31st March, 2014)
Recovery---The Best of Runrig (1989)
- The Best of Runrig: Long Distance (1996)
- The Gaelic Collection 1973-1998 (Double CD)(1998)
- The Best: Thirty Year Journey (2005)
- 50 Great Songs (2010)
Note: Only officially released compilations are listed here. More compilations are available but have been released without the band's consent.
Various Artists Compilations
- Keltica (1998)
- Keltica 2 (1999)
Live videos and DVDs
- City of Lights (1990)
- Wheel in Motion (1991)
- Air an Oir (1993)
- Live at Stirling Castle: Donnie Munro's Farewell (1997)
- Live in Bonn (1998)
- Day of Days - The 30th Anniversary Concert (2004)
- Mod for Rockers (2006)
- Year of the Flood (Beat The Drum) (2008)
- Party on the Moor - 2 DVD (31 March 2014)
- Party on the Moor (31st March, 2014)
- "Loch Lomond" (1983)
- "Dance Called America" (1984)
- "Skye" (1984)
- "The Work Song" (1986)
- "Worker for the Wind" (1987)
- "Protect and Survive" (1988)
- "News from Heaven" (1989)
- "Every River" (1989)
- "Capture the Heart EP" (1990, #49 UK)
- "Hearthammer EP" (1991, #25 UK)
- "Flower of the West" (1991, #43 UK)
- "Wonderful" (1993, #29 UK)
- "The Greatest Flame" (1993, #36 UK)
- "This Time of Year" (1994, #38 UK)
- "An Ubhal as Àirde" (1995, #18 UK)
- "Things That Are" (1995, #40 UK)
- "Rhythm of My Heart" (1996, #24 UK)
- "The Greatest Flame EP" (1996, #30 UK)
- "The Message" (1999)
- "Maymorning" (1999)
- "This Is Not a Love Song" (1999)
- "Book of Golden Stories" (2001)
- "Empty Glens" (2003)
- "Year of the Flood" (2007)
- "Clash of the Ash" (2007)
- "Loch Lomond" (2007, #9 UK) (with Tartan Army)
- "Year of the Flood" (2008)
- "Road Trip" (2008)
- "And We'll Sing" (2013)
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- Macdonald, Calum and Rory: Flower Of The West - The Runrig Songbook (Ridge Books). 2000. ISBN 0-9539452-0-0.
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