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Writing on the Wall: The Power of the Picts (1969)

Writing on the Wall, from Edinburgh, Scotland is the epitome of an underground rock band. Their one and only album was entitled The Power of the Picts, released in 1969 on a label called Middle Earth (the band also happened to perform at the Middle Earth Club as well). The label only had something like five albums released between 1969 and 1970 before disappearing. The band consisted of vocalist Linnie Paterson, guitarist Willy Finlayson, bassist Jake Scott, drummer Jimmy Hush, and keyboardist Bill Scott. Anyway, since this album came out in 1969, it should come as no surprise that Writing on the Wall sounds like how many other prog rock bands sound like at the time: not having yet abandoning their roots, in this case, hard rock, blues, and psychedelia. You can tell these influences right away from songs like “It Came On Sunday” or the ever heavy “Ladybird”. The real gems on this include “Mrs. Cooper’s Pie”, “Aries”, and “Bogeyman”. “Mrs. Cooper’s Pie” is amazing, because with a title like that you might think it should sound some shitty song your mother sung to you in bed as a kid, but that’s hardly the case at all! Basically, this is simply a wonderful, ingenious psych and prog number, with great Hammond organ work. “Aries” is the epic on this album, at over eight minutes, it really lets the band stretch out. You’ll hear some spoken dialog with a uniquely Scottish accent, some unbelievably heavy guitar riffs, and parts of it sounding like The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. Plus there’s a way cool jazzy solo as well. “Bogeyman” is a rather short number, and it starts off the most stupid way: a polka version of the famous Scottish song played on concertina (a song that everyone associates with bagpipes), but it’s only 30 seconds, and the real song come in, and it’s a totally amazing heavy bluesy piece that’s the total epitome of underground. “Shadow of Man” starts off borrowing from Holst’s The Planets, then it kicks in with Hammond organ and spoken dialog not unlike “Aries”. “Ladybird” is another song, like “Bogeyman” that shows the band at its heavier side. Most of the rest don’t stick out for me, a couple songs seem to drag on too long (particulary the last song, “Virginia Water”), but none of them are bad. “Hill of Dreams” is a rather mellow number, and also least bluesy, so it ends up sounding like many countless early ’70s British prog rock bands. The CD reissue also contains two bonus cuts, “Child on a Crossing” and “Lucifer’s Corpus”, both were originally released as a single in 1969 on the same label The Power of the Picts was released on (Middle Earth). Unsurprisingly, these two songs are in the very same vein and could easily fit on the album. Oddly, the band won’t be heard from again until 1973, when they released a single called “Man of Renown” and “Buffalo”, but no followup LP materialized. After that the band broke up, with Linnie Paterson joining Beggars Opera for their 1973 album Get Your Dog Off Me (Beggars Opera being a prog rock band also from Scotland, although you should apparently only worry about their first three albums, 1970’s Act One, 1971’s Waters of Change, and 1972’s Pathfinder). Willy Finlayson was later a member of the final verson of Bees Make Honey, and made a guest on Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s Chance (1980) and was a member of Meal Ticket. The rest of Writing on the Wall, unsurprisingly, hadn’t been heard since that band broke up. The Power of the Picts is recommended if you like the bluesy and heavy end of the early prog rock spectrum, although it falls short of being the long lost gem I hoped it was, it’s still worth having.
– Linnie Paterson: vocals
– Willy Finlayson: guitar
– Jake Scott: bass
– Jimmy Hush: drums
– Bill Scott: Hammond organ, piano, clavinet

42 Responses to Writing on the Wall: The Power of the Picts (1969)

  • I heard the single first then the album in 1970 when my older brother bought it.At the time i was listening to The Nice etc…(get the picture.)

    When i heard Child on Crossing i thought shit these guys are really good and when i found out they only lived about twenty miles away in Edinburgh this really got me interested and then in a flash they vanished.

    I met one of their roadies a couple of years later (1972)his girl friend Liz was a horse ridding instructress and our local ridding school. Shit i can’t for the life of me remember his name.

    Anyway if you get the chance to buy Power of the Picts buy it,it was releasded in 1992 on Repertorie records GTR 001.

    It comes with the first single and the b side Lucifer’s Corpus.

    Linnie Pterson Past away i think about 1997/98 I think he died of Assbestoses if i am speeling it right

  • I heard the single first then the album in 1970 when my older brother bought it.At the time i was listening to The Nice etc…(get the picture.)

    When i heard Child on Crossing i thought shit these guys are really good and when i found out they only lived about twenty miles away in Edinburgh this really got me interested and then in a flash they vanished.

    I met one of their roadies a couple of years later (1972)his girl friend Liz was a Ridding School Instructress at the local ridding school. Shit i can’t for the life of me remember his name.

    Anyway if you get the chance to buy Power of the Picts buy it,it was releasded in 1992 on Repertorie records GTR 001.

    It comes with the first single and the b side Lucifer’s Corpus.

    Linnie Paterson Past away i think about 1997/98 I think he died of Asbestoses if i am spelling it right

  • I am Linnie Paterson great niece (he was my grans brother) he passed away in 1989 when I was just one so I never got the chance to know him although I wish I had as the stories I have heard are so interesting. or If you get the chance buy any of his music he’s brilliant! (im not biased) his son, leon is also singing I’m not sure what band he is singing for at the moment but if you live in edinburgh watch out for him!

  • I’m Jimmy Hush’s son. I just noticed this today , it’s pretty cool.
    I don’t think the sound quality on Power Of The Picts did the band justice. I’ve heard a few live tracks that my dad has and their much better.
    They had another two albums released about 10 years ago , i can’t remember the label. Me and my bro are in a band , it’s not psychadelic but it’s still heavy , check it out https://www.manofthehour.co.uk

  • Saw them live many times in the Edinburgh area, both as the Jury and Writing On The Wall I have to agree with Lewis………….far better live than on record…now if only his Dad would do something with those live tapes…………….by the way Lewis does the mythical U.S. live album exist ?

  • Can anyone state how many minutes long Writing on the Wall’s “Power of the Picts” is?

    I’m hoping, with the bonus tracks, that it is a lengthy one……

    Many Thanks.

  • Hi, i must say that i consider “The Power of the Picts” one of the absolute top-notch pieces of UK Underground-Rock, since i first stepped over it around 1987. It´s still thrilling me totally every time i hear it! I would be absolutely happy if i could ever hear some live material of the band.

  • great review, thanks for confirming i am not going mad
    “mrs coopers pie” poped into my head a week or so ago and i couldn’t remember the group
    saw them in concert in selkirk a long long time ago, they were brill lots of jumping on amps etc
    we smashed the car on the way home from the gig – memories are made of this

  • Hey Bob Lloyd !
    I was with you on many occasions at the Writing on the wall gigs.
    That is if you are Bob Lloyd from “Nitten”.

  • bill scott is my uncle and now lives in australia. the album is amazing.

  • There are four Writing On The Wall albums in circulation. Power Of The Picts is the moet obvious, but then there is “Burleigh Road” (album recorded in a large house in a street of that name, while the band were fighting a contract). “Cracks In The Illusion Of Life” is a compilation album released (100 copies) in about 1990. “Rarities From The Middle Earth” is again a bit of a compilation but one side has what are described as “live sessions” – even Jimmy H didn’t know about that one until I gave him a CD copy recently!

    For me, WOTW posters that I saw around the place as a kid in the late 60’s were one of the reasons I got into playing music, even although I didn’t hear anything by the band until last year (after a chance meeting with J Hush).

    Also try https://www.willyfinlayson.com , he’s still musically active.

  • I saw WOTW a few times at the marquee club in london as a young highland laddie in the big smoke

    me and jock gilbert fae Glenrothes

    they were simply awesome live

    are there any vids of them..?

  • Remember talking to Linnie in The Place just as Power of the Picts was coming out and he said there had been some trouble with the mixing on LP. The Accordian music is actually Jimmy Shand which had been put onto the WOTW album by mistake. Fabulous live band who I saw many many times live.

  • Hello Jock Potts

    Tis indeed the same Bob Lloyd, good to hear you remember some of the great nights we had…….Nitten was really a great place to be in those days…….don’t know what it’s like now though.

  • hi everyone!!! this is jimmy hush’s daughter. i’m very proud to hav a daddy like mine. writing on the wall is an amazin band! i listen to the cd everyday and never get tired of it. my dads still talented and musical. watch this space……mwahxxx

  • Is it true that TWEKE LEWIS (Man, Wild Turkey, Tyla Gang) was once with the band..my friend swears blind he saw him play at the Marquee in Wardour st. sometime bout ’75…anybody got any more info on this please?

  • As delicious as the notion is, sadly Jimmy Shand didn’t play on the album – I’m told thatBill Scott the keyboards player did (he also played accordian).
    HOWEVER – main reason for this comment is that Power Of The Picts has just been re-released (Feb 2007), but with a second CD of material included and with an excellent booklet included giving a brief history of the band. R P M Records or eBay is the place to find it. Recommended buy.

  • I saw ‘Writing on the Wall’ round about ’74 and yes Tweke Lewis was playing lead guitar, and Willy Finlayson was singing lead….so (Marshalman) your friend can rest assured he was’nt seeing things and can now sleep easy.

  • I HAVE A TREASURED OIGINAL LP. SAW THE BAND MANY TIMES UP IN ABERDEEN. THEY BLEW BOTH DEEP PURPLE AND FREE OF THE STAGE.
    IF THERE ARE ANY EXISTING TRACKS STILL AVAILABLE THEY SHOULD BE MADE AVAILABLE AND RELEASED ! PLEASE

  • More news – Jimmy Hush has just released an 8 track CD of his own current music, it’s great – it’s called Writing On The Walls. Will let you know where to get it ASAP. He’s also got various T-shirts for sale.

    He’ll also be selling copies of the other WOTW albums including Rarities, one side of which is supposed to be live sessions.

    Tweke Lewis never played with WOTW.

    The fabled USA tapes (of a live gig at The Place) have never come to light – the American company that recorded them went bust in the 70’s and all their stuff reputedly ended up in a skip…..but we’re still trying to find out if they survived.

    None of the Grampian TV footage has survived. Still trying to find out if the OGWT stuff was kept. Rumour has it that there was footage of the band on Sky in the mid-90’s….if anyone has any further info on that please post it. There may be footage in Brazil….we’ll try to find it.

    Am a Nitten man myself – it’s a changed place, lot’s of new housing and deathly quiet since the pit closed! The Dean hasnae changed much though.

  • I write you from the city of Lausanne to Switzerland – I had the chance to see playing the group ” Writing on the Wall ” in about 1970 here in Lausanne and I had the chance to speak with them – in this epoch it was Robert Smith (Smiggy) who played the guitar. I also left for vacation to London where I lived with them in in 28 Burghley Road Town. I have LP The Power of the Picts – Middle Earth UK whom I listened to tremendously. Marvellous memories.

  • This posting is ref: To the posting I made back in 2005,I am down the listings…The name of the roadie that I coudn’t remember is JOSH.

    Sorry folks thats it.

    By the way Ricky Gardner and Virginia Scott of Beggars Opera fame have web site,forum for posting and old photos and the bold Linnie is there in all his glory…
    https://www.beggarsopera.co.uk
    This is the offical site….
    Posted by Doug https://www.s1nlp.co.uk

  • Hi Eck, was speaking with Willy just recently, he’s still in fine fettle. I’ve got his 2 solo CD’s – recommend a listen.
    Jimmy is on myspace now, search “music” for Writing On The Wall, the WOTW page is not offical and has not been sanctioned by the remaining members of the band. Jimmy is further down the search under WOTW Jimmy Hush.

    Eck – email me at Farfisa68@blueyonder.co.uk if you don’t mind

  • re – farfisa68

    Sorry, not me. Looks like there’s more than one Eck !! I was a mate of Willy Finlayson & knew Jake Scott pretty well but don’t recall drinking in the Joust. I’ll be happy to let you have a copy of the recording if you let me know how. Look forward to hearing any more WOTW stuff that’s available.

  • Jimmy Hush is standing with me as I type this – he confirms that there was no mixing mistake and that the accordian was indeed played by Bill Scott. Deep Purple were recording in a studio nearby and the “wheechs” and “heuchs” that you hear over the accordian playing were WOTW and members of Deep Purple who they’d invited into the studio for that very purpose. Happy daze.

    Farf 68

  • Farfisa68

    Last time I was in the Dean was over 15 years ago, I thought they had shut the wee lounge at the side ? What part of Nitten are you from ? We had some great bands that used to play in the hall at the Miners Institute…….is the top club still open ?

  • I’ve managed to find a recording of Sha La La La Lee from the repeated first John Peel session. Anybody know if the full sessions are available anywhere?

  • re. Eck Wilson

    Are you the Eck that used to drink in the Joust and now in the BB with JS aka Sticky? If so we had a few pints together – anyway, am interested in the recording you have, as is Jimmy. Will be in touch.

    Bob Lloyd – frae the Streets. Haven’t been in the Dean since my bass player threw a punch at the then landlord – you know who I mean – in 1982. Top club still open but stuggling I believe. Side lounge became a restaurant I understand. As a polis of my acquaintance who’d once had a pint in the Dean remarked “it’s not the sort of place your supposed to enjoy yourself in”. Know what he means..but then he wisnae a Nitten man.
    There’s more WOTW stuff to come – watch this space.

  • Jimmy says WOTW finished in 1973 so no gigs after then – anything in 74 or 75 wasn’t WOTW.

    A peviously unknown single by WOTW has just been uncovered, released in Argentina in the early 1970’s – the a-side has never been released before on any WOTW compilations – watch this space.

  • Spoke to Linnie just before Power of the Picts came out and he told me there had been a problem during mixing of album and that was how Jimmy Shand was heard playing accordion on start of side 2.

  • Alex (aka Eck)

    Thanking you for Sha La La La Lee recording, it is tremendously powerful compared with the “popular” version, and demonstrates what a revelation Writing On The Wall must have been at the time.
    I don’t think WOTW are finished yet…. there’s stuff going on around the world that may yet bring them back in to the recognition that they so very much deserve.
    I’ve been privileged to hear some stuff by the Jury and WOTW that has been heard by very few people…..how the hell this band did not get the recognition they undoubtedly deserved is beyond me, and an indictment of the whole UK music scene at that time…..maybe even now

    Every dog has it’s day though…..

    Farf68

  • Hi all, there have been further developments in the ongoing history of WOTW, and the web site is getting closer. Just had an email from Bill Scott who says…” “Jimmy Shand played accordion on the album”…or “it was a mistake in the mixing” etc. No!. What Jimmy told you was correct! I played the accordion on the album and he was spot on in saying that ‘Deep Purple’ who were in the next studio came in and helped with the heuchs and wheechs! The accordion was not recorded as an intro to the track, rather it was an intro to the album and then edited to sound like it was joined on.” – that’ll do for me.

    Just bought an album of you know where, called “Earthed”, a compilation of Middle Earth Records artists at the time, and featuring a track by WOTW (Bogeyman, nothing new).

    Trying to get BBC radio Scotland to do a programe on this band, email ‘getiton@bbc.co.uk’ to lend support for the idea if you will.

  • I saw WOTW in 1971 at Reykavik. They opened for Badfinger and blew them away. I can still feel the music lifting me off my feet. You had to be there. No album, cd, etc can make it happen like it did LIVE!

  • Anyone have any information about robert smith, smiggie. contact k.livitt@btinternet.com

  • Would love as much information as possible and any photos of “Smiggy” from Writing on the Wall.

    Thanks Debbie Spain

  • Remember hearing Writing on the Wall in the Olympia Ballroom, East Kilbride in the late 60s – Great Band!

  • Saw them headlining at Churchill Theatre with Bay City Rollers supporting – strange line-up!

  • First saw The Jury at The Place in 68/69 before they changed their name to WOTW. Nobody danced when they played. The audience just crowded round the stage to watch Linnie dance. Was at the live recording of what was to be their 1st album (at The Place) but unfortunately the sound quality wasn’t good enough to release as an LP. Took my future wife on our 1st date to see the WOTW at The Place. Bought the POTP as soon as it was released. Still have it along with CD now.
    Happy days!

  • I met the band at Newtongrange Miners 1969. I was a driend of Linnie Paterson and Joe Harrison their roadie. I was given a job by their manager Brian Waldron as a dancer and thank Linnie for that as he introduced me to Brian. I loved the band they were very exciting to watch and their music was brilliant a legacy of the times. I will always remember them happy memories of my youth.I did however bump into Jimmy Hush a few years back when he had a shop on the High Street in Dalkeith. If you are still out there Jimmy I would still like a copy of Power of the Picts mine got lost when I moved to England in 1970 although like all true Scots I returned to my roots in 1995

  • Hello! cdbagdg interesting cdbagdg site!

  • Best guy I ever worked with
    Best frontman made all the more exciting by sticking Alan Pratt’s cymbals in the wall at McGoos and starting tunes a fourth out
    THAT’S why he was GREAT

  • I spent his last year having lunch with Linnie down from his shop. He never felt sorry for himself and when we did his last recording; If I Knew Then What I Know Now –He had to sing it line by line –een word by word at times -but i you heard the final it was perfect. Dave Valentine recorded that one and tere are a few more lurking about– so get the old tapes out Tino.

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