All posts by Kid Charlemagne

I can't remember where I put my car keys 10 Minutes ago but I can remember a heap of stuff from the 70s. I guess that's my super-power and I'm stuck with it. Is there gas in the car? Yes there's gas in the car.....

entry level anxiety

(Paul Fitzpatrick – London)

The first part of your life seems to be a never-ending procession of scary entry levels.

Day one at Primary school you feel abandoned and alone. Intimidated by all these desks and chairs and all these other little people, and some big people too.

Day one on the school bus to secondary school, where do you even sit?

Day one at secondary school – oh shit, I’m going to get ducked!

Day one at your first teenage disco/party – why has my Mum dressed me up to look like one of Lulu’s backing dancers?

Day one at your new job – oh God, now they’re going to realise I don’t have 10 O-levels after all.

Of course, the journey usually ends pretty well, with a roll call of honours along the way – Milk Monitor, Seats at the back of the bus, Lots of pals and to cap it all off a Mortgage.

In other words, most of the things we fret about never happen, the problem is, we just don’t know it at the time.

The local youth club was kind of daunting for a 12-year-old, it was mostly ‘older kids’ made up of cool guys or pretty girls who had no time for plebs.

Of course, these ‘older kids’ who were so intimidating were only 14 or 15, but back then 15 was mature, 18 was grown up and 40 was ancient – to a 12-year-old.

Luckily there was a group of 4 or 5 of us, all friends who were to embark on this scary venture together. One of our gang even had an older brother who was part of the cool guy crowd.

Family ties didn’t count for much in this hierarchy however, in this egalitarian bubble our pal was just another wee pleb like the rest of us  

Walking into my old primary one classroom that doubled as the youth club reception was surreal enough, and like a brood of baby ducklings walking into the middle of a gaggle of geese we immediately felt intimidated and out of place.

Not to worry there were lots of activities though……

There was table tennis – “that looked like fun” but all the older boys were playing with more waiting to play.

There was a mini snooker table – “that looked like fun” but all the older boys were playing with more waiting to play.

There was a table football game – “that looked like fun” but all the older boys were playing with more waiting to play.

There was badminton – “that looked like fun” but all the older boys were playing with more waiting to play, and there were even some girls waiting as well……

The other obstacle in these days of ‘winner stays on!’ was a guy, let’s call him Tabby, who was freakishly proficient at any activity that involved eye to hand coordination, Tennis, Badminton, Table Tennis you name it.

He was so good that he would play left-handed sometimes just to make it interesting. He was never cocky about it though and we all just accepted that he’d been blessed by the Greek god of racket sports.

Tabby was only a year older than us, but his skill sets gave him a unique position in the hierarchy that we could only dream about.

And then there was a record player with lots of 45’s and a few albums scattered around, but that was the girl’s stronghold, you had as much chance of infiltrating that little scene and choosing a record as the sun rising in the west.

This guy would have got lynched by the girls at our youth club!

If we were intimidated by the boys then the girls were even more intimidating, mainly because they all seemed so glamorous, and sophisticated and we were just, well, daft wee boys

We needn’t have worried though, they were a friendly bunch and couldn’t have been nicer – looking back they were a bit like The Pink Ladies in Grease but definitely more Frenchie than Rizzo!
They were also quick to help any of the new girls settle in and maybe that’s just the difference between boys and girls.

Things got easier for us after that awkward introduction, we learned not to be so timid, sometimes paying for it, but earning our spurs and becoming part of the order of things.

We eventually got to play some of the table games and realised that the older guys were just treating us the way they’d been treated. It was clear we wouldn’t be rookies for ever and we’d move up the youth club ranking order soon enough.

We could never get near the record player though and looking back I’m glad we couldn’t.

The girls had impeccable taste and curated the best pop-songs of the day. In most cases the girls brought in their own records otherwise as the heid DJ correctly said “you’d be listening to The Alexander brothers and Lena Martell, all night” .

They say that ‘music’s a part of everyone’s autobiography’ and I couldn’t agree more.

I still hear songs today that remind me of that youth club, songs integral to my memories of being a young teenager.

Songs that I heard for the first time on that wee record player in that tiny classroom, the classroom that had been my first entry level challenge.

I made up a playlist of some of those songs and listening to them took me back there.

I closed my eyes, and I was playing Tabby at table tennis again, it was nip and tuck but then I realised he was blindfolded, playing left-handed and standing on one leg, and I still lost!

teenage mating rituals in the ’70s.

(Post by Paul Fitzpatrick, of London – February 2021)

I’m not sure how younger people hook-up now but in the days before swiping left or right or Instagram profiles or tic-tac or WhatsApp or whatever the latest platform is, there was no alternative but face-to-face contact. (I’m discounting love letters here because the writing, spelling and grammar of most 70s schoolboys was not particularly good).

To get things in perspective though, this face-to-face caper was normally between your best mate/trusted messenger’s plooky kisser and your intended belle’s angelic coupon – with your pal uttering the immortal words “my mate fancies you” or if they were feeling particularly articulate – “hey, will you go out with my pal”.

This wasn’t one-way traffic of course, but as normal, girls were always a lot smarter & cuter. They’d build up a valuable database of information first and then devise a plan before any approaches were made:

“are you going to the party/disco?”

“is there anyone you fancy at the moment?”

“do you like girls with feather cuts”

“do you think Senga’s nice?”

… lots of insightful, savvy questions building up knowledge and acumen so that they could make smart, informed decisions.

In fact, leading barristers would do well to study this craftmanship.

As boys we were a monosyllabic bunch back then, particularly when taken out of our natural habitat, with grunts regularly replacing diction.

I often think that ‘the art of conversation & small talk’ would have been a better subject for many of us as opposed to Algebra and the like, and as Billy Connolly said, “why should I learn Algebra, I’m never going to go there!”

In hindsight I’ve realised that although I went to a co-ed school and would regularly exchange pleasantries, I never really spoke to girls there.

We’d play football at breaks and the girls would do their thing. We’d sit together as boys on the school bus and so would the girls, and the rest of the time we were in class, just trying to keep up with them.

The bizarre thing is – that at some point we started to go to local discos and parties to basically try and engage with the same people we were in effect ignoring every day.

Even at discos we’d stay in our little groups though. The girls socialising and dancing, the guys being fascinated for the umpteenth time by the ultra-violet lights making everything look whiter (apart from our teeth), trying to look cool whilst shouting to be heard over Silver Machine by Hawkwind.

Every now and then though a strange occurrence took place, and us boys would actually make an effort to dance and interact.

Well, I call it dancing and interacting, it was actually a strange ritual that consisted of tapping a girl on the shoulder, awkwardly wriggling about in front of her for 3 minutes, whilst trying to avoid stamping on her handbag, and then walking away, without a word being uttered.

I’m not even sure how this counts as human interaction, but it sort of did, back then.

There was always a critical point of the evening though, when decisions had to be made. At parties it was normally 15 minutes before you were due to get chucked out and someone would conveniently switch the lights off so lips could meet, and at discos, it was the slow dances at the end of the evening.

The Moonie.

The slow dances or moonies as we called them were a ritual in themselves and the best DJ’s would usually play three of them which gave everyone three opportunities to get a lumber (Glasgow colloquialism for a ‘partner for the evening’).

One moonie just wasn’t enough, there was too much pressure and besides it took some lads one, even two moonies to strike up the courage to ask a girl for a slow dance.

Also, someone might have zipped in ahead of you to get to your intended partner first, but if you knew there were still two moonies to come, you could bide your time to see how that all panned out.

This was a complex and sophisticated procedure crammed into 12 action-packed minutes, but it was usually the most important 12 minutes of the evening.

It was a strange procession indeed…

Guys who had been playing Joe Cool all night were suddenly flustered and flapping around.

Discerning music lovers who would only shake their tail feathers to certain ‘cool’ songs, or selected, favourite artists, were now happily swooning to David Cassidy’s latest schmaltzy ballad.

If you could take a snapshot, you would see all sorts of weird and wonderful images, everything from – snogging couples conjoined by the lips, in the early throes of passion to girls ducking and weaving like Mike Tyson in order to avoid the slobbery advances of the guy with WHT (wandering hand trouble) who up until that point had been ignoring them all night.

Severe case of WHT

Mostly what you’d see however is a lot of young people wanting to fit in and be accepted. The majority wearing the same clothes, sporting the same haircuts, doing the same dance moves, and going along with the crowd, as that was always the safest thing to do.

Getting a lumber at the end of the evening wasn’t that important in the grand scheme of things, but it sure felt like it at the time. A badge of honour or a box ticked.

After the event you’d invariably walk home with your buddies recounting the highlights of the evening, making your wee night in a church hall sound like a New Year’s Eve extravaganza at Studio 54.


Looking back, it was all one big ritual; preparing and looking forward to the event, deciding what you were going to wear, the pre-disco formalities (travel, refreshments), the event itself and of course the aftermath, where the evening’s events would be the topic of conversation for the next few days.

They were good days though, lots of fun, and all part of navigating your way through those awkward teenage years.

As always, I connect memories to music so here’s a link to my 70s Moonie playlist.

You can use this to slow-dance in the kitchen with the guy/gal you lumbered 40 odd years ago at the local disco, and haven’t been able to shake off yet 😁

p.s. and yes, even I know a tic-tac is a refreshing mint!

the big yin and me.

(Post by Paul Fitzpatrick, of London – February 2021)

I’ve always had a strange relationship with Billy Connolly.

Not that we’ve ever met.

I call it Christopher Columbus syndrome – You find an artist, hear a song or read a book that hardly anyone else knows about, you become an early adopter and spread the word, and before you know it everyone loves them – with people even asking you if you’ve heard of them!

It drives you mad because you feel like you’re the one that DISCOVERED THEM, and if it wasn’t for you unearthing their great talent and spreading the word, they’d be nowhere.

You even begin to resent their newfound fame – they’re being greedy or they’re overreaching or they’re forgetting where they come from, or some other daft notion.

Welcome to my relationship with Billy Connolly.

I’m pretty sure the first time I heard Connolly utter a word was on the Pavilion stage in February 1974.

There was a buzz as the relative unknown had sold out several nights at the Pavilion Theatre in Glasgow, something only Sydney Devine (Scotland’s answer to Elvis) could do back then.

Billy promoting his stint at The Pavilion.

My pal Barry suggested we get tickets to see him on a Friday night as we had no school the next day, we were both 15 at the time and part of the plan was to find a pub and go for the full Friday night Glasgow experience.

We duly found a wee working mans pub round the corner from the venue, and foraged for a seat out of view, it was tea-time on a Friday, so the pub was busy with artisans in their work clothes finishing their shifts for the weekend.

We must have stood out like sore thumbs.

I think Barry braved the first approach to the bar and I was amazed but delighted when he came back with 2 halves of lager and 2 vodka and oranges’ (non-diluted orange squash of course).

A half and a half back then was the working mans preferred tipple, so who were we to challenge the established order of things.

The drinks were downed pretty quickly, and we enjoyed a few more bevvy’s before floating off down the road to the Pavilion in good spirits.

Stand-up comedy in the 70’s was dominated by middle aged men who wore suits and bow ties and told corny jokes about their mother in laws or minorities or Germans bombing their chip shops.

This guy Connolly was different though he was younger, he looked like a welder on acid and he spoke our language.

A bit like listening to the opening 4 tracks of Led Zeppelin IV for the first time, Connolly literally took our breath away. I had never laughed so long or so hard before, and I’m pretty sure I haven’t since, although Jerry Sadowitz has come close a couple of times.

He was loud, gallus, hilarious and the audience loved him, his stories were relatable, and he was one of us.

I remember hearing the Crucifixion sketch for the first time that night, it was the funniest thing I’d ever heard, he was irreverent and didn’t give two hoots about poking fun at religion or sectarian taboos or bodily functions or the establishment, no topic was off limits to the Big Yin.

It was a memorable evening; from the nervous bus-journey into town wondering if we’d get served or huckled for being underage, to the journey home, fish supper in hand, trying to recount all the jokes and patter and remembering we had football for the school the following morning.

We were so smitten by Connolly that we spent the next couple of weeks spreading the gospel, telling everyone we knew how great he was, mostly to blank faces however, as no one had heard of him.

Billy takes over The Apollo.

His career really took off after a live album of the Pavilion material was released in May 1974, and the following year he finally came into the general public’s consciousness.

In 1975 Connolly sold out an unprecedented 12 nights at the Glasgow Apollo, as well as appearing on Parkinson for the first of his record breaking 15 appearances.

That year he also showed off his acting chops by appearing in a powerful Peter McDougall TV play called ‘Just Another Saturday’ which was about West of Scotland culture, beliefs, innocence and sectarianism.

If that wasn’t enough, he also headlined a London gig for the first time and even had a number one single, appearing on TOTP with a parody of Tammy Wynette’s Divorce. It was the archetypal rags to riches story; the guy had gone from zero to hero in the space of 18 months.

There’s a picture that was taken in 1975 by Ronnie Anderson, a newspaper colleague of one of our contributors George Cheyne, that is my favourite Connolly portrait.

The occasion was an after-party in The Dorchester for the first of Billy’s sell out shows at the London Palladium in 1975, and it features – Billy, Alex Harvey, Jimmy Reid the shop steward, Hamish Stuart from AWB, Frankie Miller and Jimmy Dewar (a musician from Stone the Crows and Robin Trower Band).

A motley crew of 6 Glaswegians toasting their mate’s success in a foreign land.

The Glasgow Mafia – 1975

If I’m being completely honest, the parody single was the point when I started to think the Big Yin was overreaching.

A parody single? That was for Benny Hill and Rolf Harris but not for the Big Yin!

I’d also noticed that his accent had started to soften a bit and he was definitely losing some of his tough Glasgow brogue.

Of course, I look back now and understand he was just reaching out to a wider audience, the guy was a welder turned folk singer turned comedian, he had no idea how long this gravy train was going to run for.

He was simply making the most of his opportunities

As Connolly got bigger so did his global reach, hanging out with Hollywood celebs and Royalty and appearing in big budget movies and hosting TV specials.

Billy, Robin Wlliams & Dudley Moore.

There was a point where he seemed to be everyone’s favourite comedian, but he probably wasn’t mine anymore.

I had discovered American stand-up, guys like Richard Pryor, Steve Martin and Bill Hicks, and I liked the cut of their jib.

Richard Pryor doing his thing.

I still liked Billy and I would go the odd gig, but for me comparing his newer, more mainstream material to his earlier stuff was like comparing Stevie Wonder’s I Just Called to Say I Love You to Superstition or Living for the City.

And I guess I’ve just addressed some of my issues right there!

If Stevie can’t maintain unrealistic artistic excellence, who can??

On a subconscious level I also think that for some absurd reason I thought he’d forsaken his Scottish roots, which is illogical, particularly as I moved away from Scotland myself in 1984.

There’s no doubt that Connolly has had a fantastic career, he’s adored by millions and he is and always has been a wonderful ambassador for Scotland.

As he’s got older, I think he’s got back to being a bit more irreverent and a bit more outspoken, and that’s the Billy I adore.

I’ve loved stand-up comedy since I was 15 thanks to the Big Yin, he was my first and he was one of the best.

When all’s said and done, I’m glad I got to discover the Big Yin in February 1974 and share him with the rest of the world.

You’re welcome!

the harsh realities of life – part 1: Christmas.

(Post by Paul Fitzpatrick, of London – February 2021)

I’m straying outside my ‘70s comfort zone here to Primary school in the sixties to recall two traumatic but interlinked episodes that for some reason have stayed with me for life.

I don’t recall Christmas in the ‘60s being as commercial as it is now, but the toy brands still found a way to ‘get to us’ even though there was only one commercial TV station back then.

Also, I don’t remember seeing adverts for toys in the UK comics of the day (although I may be wrong there) in the same way that the American comics advertised lots of cool stuff to buy on their inside covers. 

Anyway, the object of my desire in 1966 was a Johnny Seven (O.M.A) One Man Army Gun. It was the Rolls Royce of toy guns with count them Seven different actions, as follows…

  1. Grenade Launcher
  2. Anti-Tank Rocket
  3. Anti-Bunker Missile
  4. Armour Piercing Shell
  5. Repeating Rifle
  6. Tommy Gun
  7. Automatic Pistol
Johnny Seven gun in all its glory.

It was the coolest thing in my universe at the time and to ensure its safe delivery I was happy to forsake quantity for quality and made a list of only one item for Santa that year.

It was all I could think about and I couldn’t wait to wake up on Xmas morning and take delivery of this plastic weapon of mass destruction.

I actually don’t think I slept that Xmas eve, giddy with anticipation about the lashings of street cred that were about to come my way.

Imagine my distress and utter shock then, when I discovered upon ripping the Xmas wrapping off the box like a demented Tasmanian Devil, that no Johnny Seven Gun lay await, but instead, something called a ‘Gun That Shoots Around the Corner’ 

How could Santa have got it so wrong? Was he mocking me? Did he want me to be a laughingstock? Had I been such a bad boy that year???

My Mum, upon seeing the crushed look on my face tried to rally me round. “What a lovely gift from Santa”, “Ooh it can shoot round corners, that’s good”,

“I bet no one else has a gun like that!” blah, blah, blah.

She obviously didn’t get it. In the urban warzone, shooting around corners wasn’t a thing, whilst Grenade Launchers, Tommy Guns and Anti-Bunker Missiles definitely were.

The unfortunate gun that shoots around the corner.

Of course, I look back now and realise that my poor parents probably visited every toy shop and department store in Glasgow in search of this best-selling toy and were only trying their best with the back-up option.

To them it was just another novelty gun and to be fair shooting around a corner may be lame, but it is pretty novel.

They say you don’t know a man till you walk in his shoes and having been under similar pressure to buy my own kids the bestselling and rarely available ‘toys of the year’ I now understand the strain they were under and I forgive them.

I don’t remember any drama in 1967 but by 1968 I was a bit more worldly wise. I now knew all about the big Santa swindle and had decided to focus my attentions on my Mum for future Christmas gifts.

My Dad was a busy man, plus he’d had a pretty tough upbringing, so he was from the “you’ll get what you’re given and be happy with it” school of presents, so no point in wasting my efforts there.

I was Ten in 1968 and had just started getting into football so I desperately wanted a football kit for Christmas.

Strangely, and this may shock some people who know me, but I was quite happy to get either a Celtic strip or a Rangers strip in 1968.

The reason for this was that my biggest football influence at the time was my Grandpa, my Mum’s Dad.

He was a big football fan and Celtic were his team. He regaled me with stories about legendary Celtic, Scotland and Old Firm games/teams/players, and of course in 1968 the Lisbon Lions, were still at their peak.

On the flip side 80% of my friends were Rangers fans, my Dad’s family were all Rangers fans, and the blue half of Glasgow had a pretty good team at the time as well.

So, the honest truth is, that at the time I liked both teams and didn’t feel any pressure to choose one over another – cute, but strange, I know!

John Greig or Billy McNeill ? Made no difference to me.

So, I started the charm offensive early on my Mum that year to get a head start, but unfortunately my Dad was wary of a 10-year-old strutting about in a Celtic or Rangers jersey and vetoed the idea.

I countered with something I thought was perfectly reasonable, “how about a Scotland kit?” This was met pretty positively so I was content that by Xmas day I’d be the proud owner of my first football kit and I’d soon be out playing with my mates in the street or the park looking and performing like Denis Law

They say lightning doesn’t strike twice but it did in my house.

Two years to the day of Johnny Seven-Gate, came Scotland-Gate.

Once again, I ripped off the Xmas wrapping in eager anticipation and once again I was left aghast. There was no dark blue jersey with a big red lion emblem but instead a plain light blue long sleeved t-shirt.

I was incredulous or maybe more accurately I was as sick as a parrot.

My football knowledge was pretty good for a 10-year-old and I knew straight away I’d been duped. When I asked my Mum what team it was, she said “it’s some English team”, and also added that “I’d really suit the colour”.


In reality it was a t-shirt from DH Hoey’s, the well-known Glasgow school outfitter who to be fair did sell football kits, but this wasn’t one of them.

Joining my mates in their Rangers, Celtic, Scotland and Partick Thistle kits, I fielded the inevitable question, “what kit is that Paul?”

“Manchester City” I replied using my knowledge of the English first division.

This seemed to placate them till an older lad turned up and blew my cover by spotting that my top was plain, whereas the City jersey had white collars and cuffs.

Let the mockery begin….

The majestic Colin Bell in the light blue of Manchester City.

Now I realise in the grand scheme of things that I had a lot to be thankful for and that getting any present was a blessing, but I’d really had enough of the humiliation by this point.

Looking back, we tell ourselves that it’s cool to be a bit different, but it didn’t feel like it at the time. I wanted to be the kid in the Scotland kit with the Johnny Seven Gun not the outcast in the sky-blue t-shirt with a wonky gun.

I never did get a Rangers, Celtic or Scotland kit and my last attempt was in 1969 when for my Christmas I got a plain bright orange t-shirt instead of the conciliatory Dundee United kit I’d asked for.

I finally realised I was flogging a dead horse when my Mum once again uttered the immortal words “Oh, you’ll look lovely in that colour son” with obvious reference to my sallow skin courtesy of our Italian forefathers.

What she didn’t realise however, was that thanks to her and Dad, most of the time my face was bright red.

summer of 1973 – ship ahoy

(Post by Paul Fitzpatrick, of London – February 2021)

1973 in Scotland – Radio Clyde starts broadcasting; Queen support Mott the Hoople at the Apollo in Glasgow; Billy Connolly Live is released.

There are certain things in life that you realise are entirely out of your hands.

Small things – like the weather

Big things – like your genetic gene pool

Monumental things – like were you one of the fortunate few who was going to get picked out of the hat to go on the annual school cruise.

It’s at this point in your life that you comprehend whether you are one of life’s ‘winners’ or ‘losers’ or at least that’s what it felt like at the time.

Were you a Charlie Bucket with a golden ticket to the chocolate factory, or a Costas Mitsotakis, the only person out of 240 in the village of Sodeto not to contribute towards a winning lottery ticket with a pay-out of $950 million?

As we assembled in the school hall and the names were read out, the tension was palpable and at the end of the session the Charlie’s could not contain their joy whilst the Costas’s did their best to put a brave face on things.

Particularly Jackie, my partner in crime on this blog, who missed out and has been in FOMO therapy now for 48 years!

The school cruise was an annual lottery reserved mainly for third years on the SS Uganda, a steamship built on the Clyde and launched in 1952 as a luxury 300 berth cruise liner, sailing mainly from the UK to East Africa.

The SS Uganda’s original purpose was reviewed in 1967 after aviation took over as the prime means of intercontinental travel and she was subsequently transformed into a 1250 berth, educational cruise ship, sailing primarily in Mediterranean or Scandinavian waters, presumably powered by testosterone.

All aboard SS Uganda.

After the initial excitement the details of the cruise were duly released, and we were scheduled to set sail in May from the Clyde and berth at La Rochelle, Casablanca, Malaga, Vigo and Oporto.

I seem to remember we boarded on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Greenock and the first thing that struck me was the size of the thing. I’d been on many a Clyde steamer as my Grandpa worked on the boats, but this was a different proposition, it was humungous.

As we settled into our berths, we were gathered together by the Captain who told us all how privileged we were, what a great adventure we were embarking on and reassured us that there would be a very smooth start to our journey.

Fast forward 12 hours and two thirds of the ship were hanging over the railings hurling-up for Scotland.

Suffice to say breakfast that morning was very quiet.

Life onboard was generally fun, despite the obvious tribalism with so many schools involved, and there were lots of activities to keep us occupied like the  

prestigious tug of war competition which our school won, much to the delight of one of our teachers, but more on him later.

Our first stop was La Rochelle in France, there’s not much I can tell you about the place, but I do know that the takings in the little backstreet bars must have gone through the roof that day.

Everywhere you went you’d see peely-wally Scottish kids with rubber legs staggering along the cobbled paving, trying to work out why the rocket fuel they served as beer was scrambling their 14–15-year-old brains in a way that good old Harp, Skol or Tennent’s lager never did.

If I’m honest the cruise is all a bit of a blur which is remarkable considering some of the sights we visited. For instance, I’m reliably informed we visited the stunning Alhambra Palace in Andalusia, but I’m ashamed to say that I have no recollection of this whatsoever, which is ironic, as this is exactly the type of landmark that I will spend a fortune on, to go and visit now.

The Alhambra Palace.

There were a few teachers from our school acting as chaperones including a PE teacher who went every year and if truth be told, was getting on a bit. If I had to do an identikit picture of him, you’d swear it was Jack from Still Game, he was an ex-military guy and very old school, the type you didn’t mess with.

There was one difficult moment when I thought for sure I’d feel his wrath.

Me and a couple of lads had been invited into the girl’s dorm one night to listen to music and partake of some of their contraband, and we got caught.

We were going to get hammered for entering the girl’s dorms anyway which was strictly prohibited, so we took the rap for the contraband (Rum – aptly!).

The teacher who caught us was unknown to us and pretty irate and I distinctly remember her using the phrase ‘foxes in a hen house’ which despite the obvious symbolism went straight over my 14-year-old head, she also said we’d be flown home from the next port as this was the most serious of rule-breaks and that our respective teachers were on their way to deal with us.

I remember thinking that this was all a bit OTT and that surely mutiny is a more serious ‘rule-break’ aboard a sea-going vessel?  As opposed to listening to Rod Stewart (no not Sailing, that wasn’t released yet, thank god) and drinking Bacardi & Coke.

Knowing my guy was a strict disciplinarian, I feared the worst, but to my amazement he was very calm, told me to keep my head down and to be a wee bit smarter in future; before sauntering off, presumably to enjoy another wee dram and to crow further about his teams resounding tug of war victory, at the Captains Table.

He treated us like adults, and it was appreciated, it was also a bit of an eye-opener for me to realise that teachers weren’t one dimensional and had an off-duty persona as well, and it was all plain sailing for the rest of the trip.

As always, a lot of my memories are linked to music and I took a little tape recorder (the one where you had to hold down record and play to record the charts from the radio) with a couple of C60 mixtapes of my favourite songs.

I tried to recreate it from memory recently on Spotify; Bowie, Lou Reed Roxy Music were all on a loop back then and I had forgotten how many great songs were around that year, I’ve shared a playlist if you want to transport yourself back to the Spring of 1973.

Standard ’70s kit.

I often look back on the cruise now and wonder if I made the most of the opportunity….

Did I fully appreciate the souks of Casablanca, the aforementioned Alhambra Palace built by the Moors over a thousand years ago and the baroque architecture in Oporto where great explorers set sail to discover new lands?

The great port of Oporto, but we were looking for a different type of port.


All these great cities and sights, did I really make the most of the opportunity and did I pay them the respect they deserved, or was I just on a jolly?

Of course, I don’t have to think about it too hard, I already know the answer.

Just like some of the Golden Ticket winners who got eliminated on the tour of the chocolate factory, some of us didn’t quite see the ‘big picture’ back then.

Some of the ‘Pink Ladies’ on board SS Uganda.
Is there such a thing as fez hair?

dedicated follower of fashion: part 1 (1970 – 1974)

(Post by Paul Fitzpatrick, of London – February 2021)

I’m not sure when I started having a say in what I wore off field.

On field I knew what football kit I wanted (although I never got it), what football boots, what training kit, etc.

No surprise then that my first flirtation with fashion was football related.

I remember seeing a picture of the Liverpool footballer Steve Heighway in a football magazine wearing a nifty ensemble, cutting the page out and asking my parents if they could get it for me. They took this on board, quite pleased for once that I was taking an interest in clothes but of course came back with something quite different. This was 1970 and understated clothes like Steve’s were not de riguer of the day.

I learnt a valuable lesson at an early age, do your own shopping!

1970 was a seminal year, the transition from primary to secondary school, the start of going to youth clubs and school discos and parties with girls in attendance, so how you looked, suddenly became ‘a thing’.

In 1970 everything was BIG. The collars on shirts, the lapels on jackets, the width of trouser hems and especially the width of ties, the amount of fabric used in that period must have been colossal.

Also, the colours were mental; the gaudier the better, bright oranges, vibrant purples, lavish lilacs, shitty browns, nothing was off limits.

Great looks if you’re a pimp working your ‘ladies’ on Times Square but not so cool for a 12-year-old on the mean streets of Bearsden.

I had a big mop of curly hair when I was younger, in later years everyone thought it was a perm which was annoying, particularly c.1978 when everyone did have a perm (and a moustache) so I look back now and wonder if my parents had been influenced by watching too many Blaxploitation films when they were choosing my clothes. 

Thankfully mixing with older kids at secondary school and playing boys club football against teams from other parts of Glasgow gave me a wider perspective on fashion and fuelled my interest. Some of the trends that followed were national (you could always tell by watching TOTP), but some were very Glasgow centric.

First came the skinhead look which consisted of Doc Martens (or Monkey Boots), Oxford shirt or Fred Perry polos. Wrangler jeans and a denim jacket or a Harrington Jacket. We cut our hair short, but not that short and we never got into Ska or Reggae or any trouble come to think of it. We were the politest, softest skinheads you could meet, a complete discredit to the culture.

Next came our suede-head period, which was a favourite of mine and partly inspired by going to see the film A Clockwork Orange. The component parts consisted of Levis Sta-prest trousers, Ben Sherman gingham check shirts, Bass Weejun loafers (penny loafers) and a Crombie coat, with a full-length umbrella as an accessory.

This was a smarter look altogether and our parents seemed to be both pleased and befuddled, as we left the house in our formal attire, brandishing umbrellas on a perfectly sunny day.

Skin & Suede-head fashions were nation-wide but with regional twists, Levis Jeans rather than Wrangler in some parts of the country, etc.

However, there were a couple of really interesting Glasgow trends that followed, based on the principals of made to measure customisation, and the sheer gallus nature of the local punters.

I remember seeing my first Arthur Black shirt and being mesmerised, I hadn’t seen anything like it. It was the coolest thing I had ever laid eyes on; it also had the bloke’s initials embroidered on it, genius!

Arthur Blacks Shirts and Slacks was an establishment in St Enoch Square where handmade clothes were produced to your own specification. They specialised in western yoke shirts and at Arthur’s you could choose your own colour combinations as well as how many buttons, pleats, zips, epaulettes and pockets you wanted.

As you can imagine there were some weird and wonderful designs and it also reflected the wearers personality from plain and sensible to wacky and weird. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of images in circulation but there’s a couple below to give you an idea, although they’re from the wacky category.

Arthur Black shirts: I’m guessing the on on the right was inspired by a fan of Tennants Lager.

Following on from this, a wonderful shop called Argyle House in Buchanan St, offered a similar service specialising in knitwear. My pride and joy back then being a wool turquoise, full zip cardigan with a Royal Stewart tartan yoke and my initials PF embroidered on it, I wore it to school one day and a teacher pulled me up and said there were two O’s missing – quite funny for a teacher…

Of course, these artisan classics didn’t come cheap, and Mums & Nans from Clydebank to Rutherglen were busy trying to work out how to knit their own versions with varying degrees of success.

The shirts and jumpers would later be copied for mass production and sold in boutiques like Krazy House and City Cash Tailors in Glasgow and worn by the likes of Bay City Rollers, which of course was the sign for us to move on.

In 1974 we started going up the town to discos, with Clouds and Shuffles being the main ones for our age group back then.

At this point the influence of our pop idols had started to kick in and we were wearing platform shoes, patchwork jeans or high waist ‘oxford bag’ trousers, with Simon shirts and long woollen cardigans or satin bomber jackets. There were also a few ‘influencers’ I think they’re called now, guys like my pal Hughie Kinnaird who always had the right look back then.

Interestingly the cardigans, bomber jackets and trousers were often purchased in girls’ boutiques as they weren’t available elsewhere (Chelsea Girl or Miss Selfridge in Lewis’s department store, both on Argyle Street) we were bamboozled at first trying to work out the sizing, asking the assistants for an age 15 as they only had 8’s, 10’s, 12’s and 14’s available, we were soon schooled.

There’s a pic below of me in Blackpool, September weekend 1974 wearing part of this ensemble. I’ve no idea why I’m wearing a hat with the hat ribbon worn as a scarf/tie, but I can only think that the years of being dressed as a pimp by my parents had a lasting and damaging effect.

Blackpool – September Weekend, 1974.

guilty pleasures

(Post by Paul Fitzpatrick, of London – February 2021)

We know them when we hear them: songs we like even though we know we shouldn’t, songs that we’ll almost certainly be judged for liking.

According to psychologists, the term Guilty Pleasure tends to be associated with shame or embarrassment rather than guilt itself.
A Guilty Pleasure is something that we enjoy, but we know we’re not supposed to like, because liking it says something negative about us.

Today it’s about playlists, but back in the day we judged people’s music tastes by their jukebox selections, which is why we were all very careful about the choices we made.

On reflection it was probably a self defence mechanism to avoid that long walk of shame back to our table whilst the prophetic lyrics to our contentious selection – ‘Alone Again Naturally’ by Gilbert O’Sullivan trickled out, leaving us in no man’s land, stuck to a chewing-gum ravaged carpet, exposed and humiliated and trying to avert the gazes of the pub regulars wearing their Quo and Hawkwind t-shirts as they look on with contempt.

It’s why to this day, there are certain tracks we don’t include on shared playlists with friends but are happy to listen to in the safety zone of our own space.

Psychologists will reason we behave this way because guilt is adaptive, and it motivates people to follow social norms.

So, in other words selecting a Status Quo barnstormer would have enabled us to be part of the gang, (or Silver Machine by Hawkwind if we could find the customary strobe lighting in time). But selecting Gilbert’s introspective ballad about suicide and the numbing pain of being jilted at the altar by his bride, was always going to alienate us and attract ridicule.

If only we’d known back then that the bold Gilbert was a fashion trendsetter (as opposed to the fashion-joke he was accused of being), parading the Peaky Blinders look well before Cillian Murphy came onto the scene. Unfortunately for Gilbert lovers, this was worthless ammunition in the line of fire circa 1973.

So, it makes sense that looking to conform and fit in is an understandable driving force behind why we will classify something we actually like (but can’t admit to liking), as a Guilty Pleasure.

However, it does beg the question – who is this judge and jury when it comes to music? and why should anyone feel guilty about their tastes in music?

Take David ‘Hutch’ Soul’s easy breezin 1977 chart topping hit, Silver Lady (one of my Guilty Pleasures in fact).

This TV cop of Starsky & Hutch fame knocked the recently deceased King of rock and roll, Elvis, off the number 1 spot and in the course of its stay, Soul’s Silver Lady shared the top 30 with – David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, The Clash, The Commodores, Abba, The Bee Gees, Rod Stewart, Bob Marley, Queen, Thin Lizzy, Donna Summer, The Sex Pistols and Yes.

Superstars all, whose millions of fans must have been wondering why this flaxen-haired wannabe pop star, who spent most of his time needlessly jumping over cars with his cardigan-wearing sidekick, was outselling their idols.

I was a prodigious consumer of music at the time and probably owned most albums by the aforementioned artists (apart from Yes, as hard as I tried, I just couldn’t get into tracks that lasted 18 minutes long) and although I quite liked Silver Lady, I would never have admitted it, in fact this is the first time I ever have.

And I guess that’s the point, I would happily blast out Bowie’s Heroes or Stevie Wonder’s Another Star or Marley’s Waiting in Vain from my Mk 3 Cortina for the world to hear because whether you’re a fan or not these guys are simply above ridicule, but David Soul, well……

As I ponder the rationale of my teenage self, the phrase “one man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure’ springs instantly to mind.

Afterall, according to neuroscientists, at the most basic level, what sounds like music to one person may just sound like noise to another. In effect when it comes to the question ‘when does sound turn into music?’ there’s no scientific definition, but rather it’s in the ear of the beholder.

In researching this piece, I wanted to look into what constitutes a Guilty Pleasure in the eyes of the music industry. After all, they have commercially adopted the phrase, using it to curate and sell compilation albums by the digital barrowload.

In doing so, I found a few albums in iTunes and Spotify, amongst them the imaginatively titled – 100 Greatest Guilty Pleasures.

The track listing on this album was a bit of an eye opener to me. I thought I understood the concept pretty well but some of the selections deemed to be ‘Guilty Pleasures’, took me by surprise.

Listed below are a few of the 70’s related tracks….

  • Young Hearts Run Free – Candi Staton
  • Le Freak – Chic
  • December 1963 (oh what a night) – Frankie Vali and the Four Seasons
  • Feel like makin love – Bad Company
  • Werewolves of London – Warren Zevon
  • Schools Out – Alice Cooper
  • I Saw the Light – Todd Rundgren

My first reaction was – “holy shit what kind of philistines do they employ to curate these albums”, but of course that’s my perspective, because I really like most of these tracks, they’re part of my ‘treasure’ but to someone else they obviously represent something entirely different.

I contemplated the selection process and wondered whether it was a case of ‘Machine replacing Man’, you know, haphazardly picking tracks using a random generator, and I was happy to give them the benefit of the doubt on this because the alternative was too depressing to consider.

But then I thought about it a bit more and I remembered that music is a moveable feast, tastes can change and mellow and become a bit more sentimental as time reconnects us with the past. So, it’s perfectly feasible that songs we had no love for can become today’s favourites.

As an example, take the songs played on Radio 2 in the 70’s that our parents listened to. The station we couldn’t wait to switch off so that we could listen to ‘our music’ on Radio 1, artists like, T-Rex, Bowie, Roxy, Rod, Elton, The Stones.

On reflection a lot of these mellow Radio 2 anthems, which were languidly introduced by Jimmy ‘Housewives Choice’ Young and the like, don’t sound so bad now, in fact as I look down the list of my most played songs on iTunes quite a few of them are on there!

I’m thinking of the likes of – The Carpenters, Neil Diamond, Glen Campbell, and Bread, all of whom were deemed to be too middle of the road for us back then but show me a jukebox today with Campbell’s Wichita Lineman, Bread’s Guitar Man or Diamonds Cracklin Rose on it and I won’t be able to get my money out fast enough.

As a keen curator from the days of mixtapes to playlists I challenged myself to put together my own 70’s Guilty Pleasure playlist, but there was a strict rule I wanted to adhere to – all the tracks needed to be genuine Guilty Pleasures, songs that I’ve never admitted to liking to anyone but myself.

What this means of course is that it’s a playlist like no other. No songs have been added to boost credibility which admit it, is something we all do right?

So beware, there are a few “Really!! Are you serious?” tracks on here, from Cliff Richards, Daryl Hall impression on We Don’t Talk Anymore to the sickly- sentimental Me and You and a Dog named Boo, by Lobo.

I’m not saying any of these songs are classics, rather songs that have been left behind, ignored, (by me) and now it’s time to bring them back into the fold and give them their due, even if it’s in a ‘back-handed-compliment’ kind of way.

I found the process to be a very cathartic exercise and I would highly recommend trawling through your musical memories to discover your own Guilty Pleasures.

I realise now that these songs are a bit like old friends that you haven’t heard from for a long time, you wonder why you didn’t keep in touch and there’s a joy in rediscovering them.

By the way, if anyone’s interested the song that knocked Silver Lady off the number one spot in October 1977 was Scottish footballs current favourite anthem – ‘Yes Sir I Can Boogie’ by Baccara.

No doubt another Guilty Pleasure in some people’s eyes….