(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson, of Glasgow – February 2021)
Every city in the UK, every city in the world for that matter, will lay claim to having had the best, the most iconic ‘live’ venue of The Seventies.
Every city in the world, except one, however, will be wrong. And that’s because the most revered, the most venerated theatre to play was right here in Glasgow – The Apollo. End of.
Opened in 1927 as the equally famous, Green’s Playhouse it could initially accommodate ten thousand people between the cinema complex and the dancehall which was situated above. From the ‘40s through to the ‘60s the biggest dance / jazz bands around, such as The Joe Loss Orchestra and Ronnie Scott’s Big Band sought bookings there.
As the music scene took on a more rebellious nature with the advent of rock ‘n’ roll, subsequently spawning The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, there was no shortage of controversy. Kids who had been jitterbugging and lindyhopping to their hearts’ content some years ago, were now parents of their own teenagers, and absolutely disapproving of the long haired, dope-smoking, dishevelled looking ‘stars’ of the day.
The Green’s had played host to most of them by 1972, of course – even Jimi Hendrix had appeared there five years earlier. But the polemic of decency was raised yet another notch in November 1972 when the already notorious Alice Cooper, rocked up for a one-off show.
I was not longed turned fourteen but was already a big fan of the band – ‘Love it to Death’ was the second album I’d ever bought, money being no object now I had a paper round.
This would be my first ever gig. Or rather ‘concert’ as they were quaintly called back then.
Unfortunately, the band’s reputation had made national news in UK and my parents got wind of this ‘perverted, twisted, sick drunkard.’ (I always think Vince Furnier would have been quite chuffed at that description.) Not only was I banned from going to the show, I was put on lockdown for the evening of 10th November.
It was so unfair!
My friend Callum however, had somehow managed to smuggle a small tape recorder into the concert and a couple days later let me borrow the recording. The sound quality was totally pants, but at least I felt in some small way, that I’d experienced the show.
It would be another four months before I was allowed to my first gig. Rory Gallagher. He seemed like a nice Irish lad and didn’t chop off dolls heads and dance with pythons, so my folks were ok with that.
I just had to hope my ticket allocation was successful. Having seen the concert advertised in in Sounds music paper, I hand wrote my letter to the Box Office of Green’s, asked my Dad to write a cheque for£3.30, the cost of three tickets (additional ones for pals) and bought two first class stamps – one for the required S.A.E. (stamped addressed envelope) which would ultimately spill forth the requested tickets or my Dad’s uncashed cheque.
(Ya dancer! I was successful as it happens.)
Of course there was always an alternative to the hassle of a postal application – you could turn up in person at the theatre and pay cash. Dependent on the band you wanted to see, this could be quite straightforward. But for the likes of The Faces, Status Quo and The Stones, the queue would start at least the day before the Box Office opened and wind its way down Renfield Street and through the lane.
There was no shelter either. If it rained, you got soaked. And I can tell you, there’s nothing more uncomfortable than walking around in loons that have initially become wet at the bottom hem, but the damp patches permeate the denim material, working its way up to your knees, and beyond.
Queuing though was an experience you really had to, erm, experience. Nobody had smart phones to occupy them of course, and so many friendships were formed and dates arranged. Most folk brought a wee ‘kerry-oot,’ and the beers and fortified wine were liberally shared around; which then inevitably led to the question of toilets, or lack of, and ultimately the occasional fight.
Yup – a microcosm of Glasgow life, right there. In one street.
So why do I steadfastly maintain the Apollo (it changed hands from the Green’s in September 1973) was THE best venue of the decade? Well, the glowing feedback from the bands and artists themselves cannot be ignored – if you were liked, you were LOVED. If you sucked, you’d best keep the tour bus engine running. You knew where you stood with a Glasgow audience!
(I only saw one band get real pelters from the crowd. Rather surprisingly, it was Badfinger. I still like the band’s music to this day, but the night of The Apollo, I think the gods were against them as well as the crowd. The sound was poor; their voices decidedly ropey and just the ‘feel’ of their set was sub standard. They took a good deal of abuse, it has to be said and I truly felt for them.)
Other aspects to relish of this incredible venue were the distinctive aroma (!!) the battered seats; the bouncers, who by their reputation alone generally kept everyone safe – though I think they met their match the night The Clash played in July 1978 …. and apparently when an army of teenybop David Soul fans got hold of them!
There was the famous bouncy balcony (actually built that way intentionally, I believe) which I witnessed first hand, being in the front row for a legendary Christmas show in 1975 by The Sensational Alex Harvey Band. If I was scared witless in the balcony, I wonder how the poor souls in the stalls below felt?
And then there was the incredibly high stage area. This was terrific for wee short-arses like myself in the Stalls. For although the bouncers were quick to enforce the ‘no standing’ rule on those by the aisles, they couldn’t reach those in the centre so easily. They escaped a battering and felt empowered to stand on the seats as they pleased. But due to the stage height, my view was not much impaired.
However, the experienced Apollo gig goer soon realised that it was best NOT to get seats in the first few rows if you wanted to see not only the band frontman, but the band itself, who were set further back and consequently out of sight.
Artists such as, Status Quo; AC/DC; Rush; Roxy Music and King Crimson are amongst the many that recorded ‘live’ albums at The Apollo They were quick to realise that such enthusiastic crowds on their records could only further enhance their reputation as live acts. They could have chosen any theatre in any country, but they chose Glasgow.
Why? Because our mantra is ‘People Make Glasgow.’
People made The Apollo, too.
And my top three Apollo shows? I’d be tempted to say three of the five Rory Gallagher gigs I attended. But I’ll go for:
1) Rory Gallagher – March 1973 – my first gig.
2) SAHB – December 1975 – widely acknowledged as one of the band’s
best ever shows.
3) I should say Queen – but Lynyrd Skynyrd tips it just for the incredible
atmosphere and the fact they had Steve Gibbons Band supporting.
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