(Post by Paul Fitzpatrick, of London – February 2021)
1972 in Scotland – The Eurovision Song contest is held in Edinburgh (New Seekers, Beg, Steal or Borrow comes 4th); The Average White Band are formed.
I can’t remember what I had for dinner last night, but I can remember watching Top of the Pops nearly 50 years ago in the summer of 1972.
The summer had already got off to a great start when it was announced that the summer school holidays had been extended by two weeks to align the school leaving age in Scotland to 16 with the rest of the UK.
On top of that I had been invited to go on a camping holiday to Ayr by a good mate Alan McGuire and his family, so five of us and a dog made our way down the old A77 to join the other happy campers at Ayr Racecourse in August 1972.
The next 10 days were among the best of my young life.
Ayr racecourse was closed for the summer and being utilised as a camping site that year.
We were a 20-minute walk from the beach & harbour, a 20-minute walk from the town centre and there were great facilities on site.
Every day was an adventure, and we’d literally collapse into our sleeping bags at night exhausted from the day’s events which included nightly footie matches between the Scottish and the English, all ages and abilities welcome. Matches that went on for ever with the cry of ‘next goal the winner’ never being adhered to.
The sun was shining, there were no midges, everybody was really friendly, and the days seemed to last forever, right up until it got dark at what seemed 10pm most nights.
And if that wasn’t enough, there was the most unbelievable soundtrack being played in the background on the radios and on TV.
I usually missed Top of the Pops (TOTP) because it clashed with football training on a Thursday, but I always made an effort to watch it during the holidays, and I was glad I did that summer, as there were so many memorable moments.
Leading up to our holiday, TOTP was getting interesting; first there was Bowie who had come from nowhere, I’d never heard of him, and the song he was playing (Starman) wasn’t one I’d heard before.
I wasn’t even sure what I was watching, he was strange but cool at the same time, the rest of the band were pretty weird as well, apart from the guitarist who looked reasonably normal, (in a ‘glam-rock normal’ sort of way), but there was no mistaking the quality of the music, it was incredible, and I rushed out to buy the single from Woolies the next day.
The following week Alice Cooper exploded onto our screens for the first time, all menacing in black with ghoulish eye makeup and a sword. It was all theatre of course but we didn’t know it at the time, and we were suitably shocked.
During his performance I remember a girl in a pink smock innocently dancing on stage beside him and thinking ‘you need to be careful hen; he could have your eye out with that sword’.
During his performance I remember a girl in a pink smock innocently dancing on stage beside him and thinking ‘you need to be careful darling; he could have your eye out with that sword’.
Once again Woolies duly received my hard-earned paper-round money.
So, the hits kept on coming and the following week another band I’d never heard of dropped into my orbit. They were called Mott the Hoople and they rocked up with the anthemic All The Young Dudes, another jaw dropper, which we discovered came from the pen of Bowie.
Woolies, here I come!
We arrived in Ayr on a Thursday, settled in and happily realised that watching TOTP was a communal, must-do activity, so a large group of teenagers including my pal’s older sister Elaine gathered round the TV in the racecourse clubhouse to see who would be appearing that week.
It would be fair to say that the majority of the assembled audience were female and were there in anticipation that their current crushes – David Cassidy or Donny Osmond would be making an appearance on screen.
Unfortunately for the girls there would be no Donny or David that week but they weren’t disappointed as it was the evening that You Wear it Well was performed by Rod Stewart with The Faces in tow. Everybody seemed to love Rod back then and he was back on form larking around, presumably bevvied, which was The Faces de-facto state in those days.
I found a record shop in Ayr the next day.
The following Thursday, our last in Ayr, would be no let down in form as we gathered round the TV to watch the unfortunate Jimmy Saville introduce another new band, called Roxy Music, who were like aliens from another planet.
This bunch of misfits had a vocalist who looked like an Elvis impersonator, and an androgynous silver glove wearing character with a Max Wall haircut playing some sort of box/keyboard, that made weird but wonderful sounds.
The rest of the band looked like extras from Star Trek, but like Bowie and Mott, they jumped out of the screen demanding your attention and the music was captivating. As soon as I got home, I was heading to Woolies for sure.
There were so many highlights on that holiday, I even went to my first gig, to see a band called Chicory Tip. Although we only knew one of their songs, their number one hit Son of my Father.
Little did we know at the time that this one hit wonder would be a precursor to Donna Summer’s I feel Love and all her 70’s disco hits, as it was written and produced by the legendary Giorgio Moroder. On reflection the little moog synthesiser hook is a giveaway.
Our days at Ayr Racecourse raced by and sadly the adventure came to a close, but the memories of that holiday didn’t end there.
My pal’s family dropped me off at my house on our return and I rang the doorbell to be met by a perfect stranger, we both stood there looking at each other for a minute, him wondering who the hell I was, me thinking the same, but with a look of panic etched on my face.
The man broke the deadlock by very reasonably asking what it was I wanted and looked confused when I blurted out, “where’s my Mum”?
He replied that he didn’t know where my Mum was, which was a bit disconcerting, and it was at this point that the penny must have dropped for the bemused chap, when he saw my holdall, sleeping bag and crushed look and said “Ah, we just moved in here a few days ago, you must be the son of the people we bought the house from”.
Yep, my family had moved and had forgotten to tell me.
Having moved myself a few times over the years now, I know it’s stressful and I know there’s a long to-do list, but we usually remember to take the kids with us.
I remembered there had been talk of moving as I had been told to keep my room tidy for people viewing the house, but the fine details and timelines had not been important to a 14-year-old who expected to be packed and transported with the Tupperware, plus like I said, I never got the memo!
The new house was only half a mile away and as I made my way there, I got excited about the prospect of my new home and all that that entailed and reflected on the great holiday I had just experienced.
I had spent time away from my loved ones for the first time but with people who had welcomed me into their family with open arms.
I had experienced much independence, went to my first gig, kissed a girl, had an amazing time and on top of all that, I had all these great songs washing around in my head.
Further grown-up adventures obviously lay in wait, but for my 14-year-old self, this was the perfect summer holiday.