All posts by onceuponatime70s

shop ’til you drop

(Post by John Allan, from Bridgetown, Western Australia – March 2021)

Every Friday evening between 5 and 6 pm for the last year a small truck emblazoned with the name of one of Australia’s fresh food duopolies trundles past our door to neighbours Simon and Kylie a quarter of a mile down to the cul-de-sac. Presumably that’s the weekly shop ordered on some phone app as they are a young busy couple with a toddler. As well as a time saver it means they are also not in contact with others in these times of pandemic.

I hear after a year of lock down, the UK is going to slowly lift it’s restrictions and hopefully get back to some degree of normality, i.e. shopping.

In the late 60s and early 70s, shopping was the domain of my mother and I.

Hilton Park Golf Club.

On Saturday mornings my father would thanklessly take the family car to Hilton Park Golf Club to spend the best part of the day begrudgingly traipsing over 18 holes in pursuit of an elusive small white ball, then forced to down two large gin and tonics with fellow weekend warriors in a warm club house. His afternoon would be spent snoozing to the soporific TV murmurings of Grandstand’s Frank Bough. We never really thanked him enough for his sacrifice.

This meant a bus trip into the big smoke for Mama et moi. My brothers, being teenagers, had outgrown their roles as bag carriers and sounding posts so that honour was bestowed on the third born.

When I say shopping, it wasn’t like a leisurely stroll around a vast and impersonal shopping centre, it was proper walking up and down streets dodging traffic and other pedestrians and proletariat.

There were good shiny tiled butchers with chatty, plump red faced men. One didn’t flinch at the sight of carcasses of dead cow, sheep or pig hanging in full view or poultry and game still with heads and feathers. It wasn’t a good butcher if it didn’t have such a macabre display.

“A pound of best mince ? No trouble love.”

A hand like a scarred bunch of bananas would scoop up the required amount and slam it down on a piece of greaseproof paper on the scales. Hands would be wiped on the front of the blooded apron. Mother would receive the perfectly folded paper parcel with elastic band snapped in position and I would then be given the coin change along with a small globule of gristle. This might have been some sort of test of my approaching manhood which I probably failed as I flicked my finger trying to remove the foreign object like a soggy nose pick.

Ironmonger’s shop

On to the ironmongers – does the word ‘monger’ even exist these days? And don’t get me started on haberdashery ! The ironmongers or hardware store always had a creaky wooden floor usually with duct tape holding down various electrical cables to make your route that little bit more perilous. It was staffed by obsequious people with neatly buttoned up brown coats. Human sat navs who could pinpoint half a dozen ‘1 Inch Hot Dipped Galvanised Cup Head Bolt And Nuts’ without even scratching their chin and looking skyward. Then expertly wrap said article in brown paper and string and fashioning a macrame carrying handle.

On some days the shops came to us. I have vague memories of a fruit and veg van but I certainly can remember the fish van probably for it’s Zen minimalism decor. Sloping shelves of trays of white filleted fish nestled on astro turf, a plastic lemon and a box of Ruskoline. Not a mollusc, crustacean or cephalopod to be seen. Not even a fish head or obvious bones just anaemic strips of fish flesh.

Then there were the ‘Onion Johnnies’, supposedly French men on bikes festooned with plaids of onions draped across their handlebars. They might have had berets and striped shirts, been smoking Gauloise and singing ‘Thank Heaven For Little Girls’ but the memory is a bit hazy on that.

To get that ‘Ye Olde Shoppe’ experience you have to visit theme parks or living museums these days – or do you. In a certain heritage listed West Australian rural town (see main image of Bridgetown, W.A.) the high street boasts many a shop from yesteryear.  It is rumoured in one boutique, ladies come from miles around to be accosted by a certain assistant (my dear wife) who in her best Kelvinside accent tells customers.

“Yes, you’re arse does look big in that !”

You just can’t get customer service like that these days.

joe jordan ate my rice pudding

Alan Fairley: Edinburgh, March 2021

Black tie dinners – doncha just love them?

From the gilt edged invite to the expense of hiring an outfit from Moss Bros and the humiliation of having your inside leg measurement taken by an over eager tailor followed by the uncomfortable fitting of the winged collar and the black bow tie….. all in the interest of appearing ‘dapper’ (whatever that is) – to the event itself where you sit alongside similarly dressed individuals, all of whom would no doubt have been happier to have come along in their trackies rather than being dressed like penguins.
It’s a ritual in the business world which has been in force for centuries and which, gladly for Moss Bros and their competitors, shows no signs of abating.

During my years in the financial services industry, I attended such an event, and followed the aforementioned ritual, every twelve months.

The occurrence took place when one of my clients hosted its annual charity dinner and auction to raise funds for a Leeds based charity which endeavoured to fulfil the last wishes of Yorkshire children with terminal illnesses.

Such wishes, which were almost always fulfilled, ranged from trips to Disneyland, personal meetings with sports/TV stars or even something less spectacular such as an X-Box which the stricken child’s parents could not afford.

A kind of Jim’ll fix it without the Jim – although we’ll leave that subject untouched for now.

So, off I would head to the banqueting suite at Elland Road, home of Leeds United, every year, bow tie at the ready, to host a table of corporate guests (including at least one B-list celebrity), listen to some equally B-List speakers then watch as the auction would raise, quite literally, thousands of pounds for this very worthy cause.

As such I was in the fortunate position of meeting a number of celebs a few samples of whom are as follows.

Jimmy Greaves and Denis Law
Greavsie, with his TV experience, was a real funny character. Some great stories including the famous one about the Scottish football radio commentator who asked a colleague to confirm the name of a scorer for Italy in a game at Hampden then announced over the airwaves that Fucktivano had opened the scoring. (think about it!)

I’ve no recollection of Denis Law’s speech. I was too much in awe of him and just to be in the same room as him was a privilege for me.
I got them to pose for a Polaroid afterwards – although as you can see Greavsie was getting a bit too friendly with my missus who was working at the event as a table hostess.

Denis was staying at the same hotel as me so we shared a taxi back – he hails from Aberdeen, so needless to say, I paid!

Bobby Collins
Another Scottish football legend, Bobby played for Morton, Celtic and Leeds and was capped 31 times for Scotland
During the dinner there was a game of stand up, sit down bingo where all guests were asked to donate £20 pounds to the charity. Bobby leaned over to me and said ‘you couldnae lend me 20 pounds could ye pal, I’m skint.’
As they say, you can take the boy out of Glasgow….. you know the rest.

Neil & Christine Hamilton
The Hamiltons were high profile in the late 1990s/early 2000s initially when Neil Hamilton, a conservative MP, was embroiled in the well publicised  ‘cash for questions’ affair.
This was followed by some lurid allegations regarding the couple of sexual misconduct which were subsequently disproved.

They agreed to take part in a question and answer session at the dinner one year and the tone was set when the first question came from an elderly Yorkshireman who stood up and hilariously asked-
“I’ve been a bit lonely since my wife passed away, any chance of a threesome tonight?”
Above the ensuing laughter, Mrs Hamilton replied with a definite ‘No, next question please.


Paul Daniels
I was staying at the same hotel as the magician and his wife, Debbie, and was asked by the organisers of the dinner to organise a taxi to take them to the venue. Ive never been a huge fan of his, a feeling which was magnified when I introduced myself in the hotel lobby and received a snarled response of ‘so what?’
He did however redeem himself to some extent in my eyes with a rather amusing one-liner when he invited a rather portly gentleman on to the stage during his magic show. ‘What line of work are you in?’ he asked of him ‘Waste management’ was the reply Staring at the man’s expansive midriff he quipped ‘you’re not making a very good job of it, are you?

Debbie, by contrast was a lovely lady – polite, courteous and overwhelmingly grateful when I arranged their transport to the dinner. As has often been said – ‘what could possibly have attracted her to multi millionaire Paul Daniels?’

Jack Charlton
Without sounding sanctimoniously self-righteous I always tried to do my bit personally for the charity at these events. I have collected football programmes all my life and had (and still have) a vast collection going back almost 70 years.
Every year that I attended the dinner I would choose a programme relating to one of the guests, get them to sign it and place it in the auction. The results were greater than I could have imagined. I got Denis Law and Leeds legend Peter Lorimer (rest in peace, Peter) to sign the programmes from their international debuts and they were auctioned for 350 and 700 pounds respectively.

When I heard one year that Jack Charlton was going to be in attendance I dug out the programme from his England debut  (v Scotland 1965), approached him at the top table and asked if he would sign it and place it in the auction.
“No problem’ he said and I returned to my table confident that a programme signed by a former Leeds captain and England World Cup winner would raise a significant sum for the charity.
The auction came and went and there was no mention of the programme.

When the dinner finished I watched Charlton pick up the programme, stick it in his pocket and head off home.
To say I was greatly disappointed in Charlton’s behaviour that particular night is an understatement.

Other than those mentioned Ive met many interesting people at this event including Sir Ranulph Fiennes who ran seven marathons in seven days for charity and who narrowly lost out to Roger Moore in the casting for the part of James Bond, the Cheeky Girls, who let me in on their intimate secret as to how anyone could tell them apart, Nick Leeson who infamously brought Barings Bank crashing to the ground and Roger de Courcey with Nookie bear who brought the house down with some very adult, post-watershed, humour.

Gabriela & Monica or is it Monica & Gabriela??

But now, ladies and gentlemen, to the main event of the evening.

Joe Jordan
With the event being held at Elland Road, there was always a healthy attendance of great Leeds United figures, past and present.
As well as the aforementioned Lorimer, Collins and Charlton, I was privileged to rub shoulders with the likes of John Charles, Allan Clarke, Terry Yorath and Arthur Graham but my anticipation levels rose significantly when I found out that my table guest one year was to be none other than Joe Jordan, a true Scottish legend.

We sat beside each other during the dinner, exchanging memories throughout the starter and the main course and when the dessert was served, the waitress planked down two large plates of rice pudding in front of us.
I’ve always hated rice pudding. I don’t know why. Maybe I had a bad experience at school dinners with one but its almost been like a gastronomic phobia for me.

Joe, clearly harboured no such fears and demolished his portion the way he used to demolish opposing defences. He then saw my untouched plate and uttered the immortal words “are you no wanting that, pal?”
I shook my head and watched as he hauled my plate in front of him and scoffed every last morsel.

To summarise my black tie dinner experiences, I’ve shared a taxi with one of my personal heroes Denis Law, I’ve been tapped for twenty quid by another Scottish international footballer, I’ve been snarled at by Paul Daniels, I (and the charity) have been shafted by Jack Charlton and I’ve learned how to differentiate between the Cheeky Girls but the highlight of them all, and my claim to fame is, without doubt…..


carry on campus (part 1)

(Post by George Cheyne of Glasgow – March 2021)

Almost three years after leaving school to learn how to be a journalist in a local newspaper some bright spark thought it would be a good idea if I went to college to learn how to be…a journalist.

We were the generation that had slipped through the net, the ones who had gone straight into the job from school, and they wanted to teach us a lesson.

Well, lots of lessons as it turned out. The zealots at the National Council for the Training of Journalists clearly thought our minds had wandered off after two to three years of doing the job, rounded us all up and sent us to the concentration campus at Edinburgh’s Napier College.

It was an eight-week block-release course designed to make sure we attained the, ahem, high standards set by the full-time course.

But we all knew what it was…a jolly. Word had been passed down the line that the block-release course was a box-ticking exercise which served only to teach us the journalistic basics we’d already mastered.

It meant our college experience was always going to be more public house than Animal House but, hey, there’s worse ways to spend two months away from home – and work.

We were paid our full wages – plus a few extra quid in expenses – to be taught how to do what we already did every day. No wonder we went to the boozer.

Yep, you couldn’t make it up – except that’s exactly what we did. In our newspaper practice class we made up stories, lots of them.

And if you ever wondered where the majority of life’s dramas happened in the spring of 1978, I can exclusively reveal it was the Edinburgh suburb of Oxgangs.

The make-believe bank robberies, gun sieges, train crashes, high-rise fires, bomb-squad call-outs, hostage-taking and car smashes we wrote about all took place in EH13.

That was the “where” of our stories to go alongside the “who, what, why, how and when” you always need for any news tale.

Mind you, I often wondered what the good residents of Oxgangs would make of all these dramas on their doorstep. Those house prices would take a right dunt, that’s for sure.

The sleepy suburb was turned into something of a war zone as we wrote up our dramatic stories after being fed the imaginary information.

There was a siege at Oxgangs library after a gunman walked in and threatened to kill the staff. Presumably he wasn’t happy with having to pay charges on his overdue book A Beginner’s Guide On How To Be A Gun Nut.

Then we had a blaze at the high-rise flats in Oxgangs which would have given the Towering Inferno movie a run for its money considering all the dramatic goings-on. There were brave firemen, brave neighbours and brave policemen all around.

Oxgangs Primary School was the setting for a full-scale evacuation after the janny discovered an explosive device in the boiler room. The bomb squad were called in as the kids were moved to a nearby football pitch to carry on their singing lessons. Another Hollywood influence there, methinks

We also had a train crash in Oxgangs which made the movie Runaway Train look like an episode of Thomas the Tank Engine. In our fictitious story the train – with dangerous chemicals on board – derails just before the station and ploughs into the school playground. That train story caused a bit of a stushie for three of us in the class after we took advantage of our lecturer Bill’s easy-going nature

Bill, who made his name covering the murder trial of serial killer Peter Manuel for the Daily Express in 1958, was a free spirit who insisted on treating his classroom like a newsroom.

This meant you could come and go as you please so long as you did the work. And it also meant a large window of opportunity opened up for the Three Amigos.

Our newspaper practice class lasted four hours from 1pm and the assignment for the train crash scenario was two-fold. Firstly, we had to hand in a 150-word story by 2pm and, secondly, a 250-word story by close of play.

We were given the information at the start of class to write up the first part – for an evening paper story – and were told we would be drip-fed other details for the second one.

It didn’t take a genius to work out we would have the best part of two hours after handing in the first story before we would even have to think about writing the second one.

What to do? A few surreptitious looks and nods between the three of us led us to the nearest pub which happened to be beside a Ladbroke’s bookies.

We had a wee racing syndicate going where I was the silent partner, entrusting the other two to make some wise investments on my behalf in the 2.30 at Plumpton and a few others to boot.

A good few pints and punts later, we headed back to college – richer for the experience in every way.

Our classmates were looking a bit frazzled and, judging by the amount of info slips on their desks, the drip-feed had become a torrent.

As we took our seats at 4pm, right on cue another slip was handed out telling us the train driver had died. A quick flick through the red-herring slips that had dropped while we were in the boozer didn’t change anything. Driver dies after train plunges into school playground kind of writes itself.

Anyway, the next day Bill takes the three of us aside before class to tell us we have the top marks for the train story.

Only thing is, he says, when I read them out in class you won’t be top three because it was pretty obvious you guys went to the pub and it’s not fair on the rest of them.

So much for Bill’s free spirit. But at least we got a free afternoon in the boozer thanks to our winnings.

children of the revolution

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, March 2021

As sub-genre’s go ‘Glam Rock’ has got to be one of the most influential, but for the most part people are usually pretty sniffy about it and it rarely gets the respect it’s due.

Ask people what their favourite 70s music was and they’ll probably say Rock, Disco, Punk, or Reggae but they’ll very rarely say Glam Rock, preferring to say Bowie or Roxy or T-Rex.

Maybe Glam Rock gets a bad rep because for every Roxy Music or T-Rex there was a Chicory Tip or a Kenny.

Maybe it’s because six-inch platform boots, glittery capes, satin loons and feather boas don’t wear quite so well several decades later.

The genesis of Glam Rock is credited to Marc Bolan and his appearance on Top of the Pops (TOTP) in March 1971 with his new single – ‘Hot Love’.

Ex-hippy Marc, bopped along with teardrops of silver glitter under his eyes, gold satin pants, a catchy chorus, and kicked the whole thing off as the unofficial Prince of Glam Rock, with lyrics aimed at his target audience….

Ah she’s my woman of gold
And she’s not very old a Ha Ha

Girls loved him, guys accepted him and parents were a bit confused by him, which as we all know now is the perfect cocktail for pop stardom.

On the back of T-Rex’s impactful TOTP appearance Hot Love went straight to number one and stayed there for 6 weeks.

Get it on (Bang a gong), came hot on its heels, and also made the number one spot its own, ditto the album Electric Warrior and with a sell out tour playing to legions of adoring fans, there was no stopping T-Rex.

‘Jeepster’ was the next release, and the second single I ever bought after ‘Maggie May’.
I remember being particularly impressed with the B side, ‘Life’s a Gas’, and naively thinking that all B sides must be great as Rod’s ‘Reason to Believe’ wasn’t too shabby either.

Frustratingly for T-Rex fans Jeepster would remain at number 2 for six weeks – kept off the top spot firstly by new Glam sensations Slade, and then by of all people – Benny Hill, probably the antithesis of Glam Rock, who reached the coveted Xmas number one spot in 1971, ahead of T-Rex.  

Looking back now it’s quite funny to picture the Bolan devotees huddled around their radios on consecutive Sunday’s, counting down the top 20 and waiting to lip-synch Jeepster’s dreamy lyrics, as it reached the top spot….

You slide so good
With bones so fair
You’ve got the universe
Reclining in your hair

Only to find the slightly less dreamy lyrics of that weeks actual number one, the un-glamest song ever – ‘Ernie the Fastest Milkman in the West’ with the chirpy west country droll of Benny Hill, assaulting their eardrums.

Now Ernie loved a widow, a lady known as Sue,
She lived all alone in Liddley Lane at number 22.
They said she was too good for him, she was haughty, proud and chic,
But Ernie got his cocoa there three times every week


When Benny Hill was finally ousted from the number one spot it wasn’t by T-Rex it was by the New Seekers with, ‘I’d like to teach the world to sing’.

It was Glam Rocks first bloody nose – being beaten to the number one spot by upstarts like Slade was one thing but to be kept off the top spot by a roly-poly comedian with a comedy song and then by a TV jingle for coca-cola was an affront to the T Rex acolytes.

Despite this setback, in the space of 12 short months Marc Bolan had become the poster boy (quite literally) of Glam Rock, he was front and centre of every teen mag and plastered on the bedroom walls of most teenage girls, and quite a few boys as well.

Bolan’s success had been meteoric and he quickly became the Pied Piper of the Glam movement, inspiring others to follow with varying degrees of success

There were those artists who jumped on the bandwagon and did it well:

Slade were the perfect example, prior to donning top-hats, satin and glitter they were wearing doc martins and braces as a skinhead band, but Bolan had shown them there was another way, and the lads from Wolverhampton went on to carve out a great career using Glam Rock as their platform.

Similarly, The Sweet, changed lanes, initially a bubble-gum pop band covering Archies songs with aspirations to be the new Monkees, they updated their line-up, beefed up their sound and found a commercial niche within Glam Rock.

Other artists who carved out successful Glam Rock careers in this category include Suzi Quatro, Gary Glitter and Wizzard.

Then there were the hustlers – the bands/artists who flirted with Glam Rock to gain a foothold before using their talents to carve sustainable careers.

David Bowie
Roxy Music
Elton John
New York Dolls

Alice Cooper
Mott the Hoople
Lou Reed

And finally there were those artists who jumped on the bandwagon and had their 15 minutes of fame before disappearing off into the sunset.

Bands like – Kenny, Chicory Tip, Racey, Geordie and Hello

The Glam Rock movement probably peaked in 1973, but just as acts like Wizzard and The Sweet were topping the charts, T-Rex’s star was beginning to wane and their last big hit was 20th Century Boy.

The chart below offer a snapshot of the top 20 from May 1973 and as you’ll see, Glam Rock was riding high with 4 of the top 10 singles coming from Glam acts.

By 1973 Bowie was the one carrying the torch for Glam Rock as well as influencing others like Lou Reed and Mott the Hoople to follow in his footsteps. We were soon to find out however that Bowie was the master of reinvention and it wan’t long before he had moved on from Glam and was recording a soul album – Young Americans.


Glam Rock at it’s best was a series of well-crafted, well-produced, 3-4 minute pop songs with a bit of theatre, that didn’t pretend to be anything else. It was commercial, accessible and catchy.
(see Glam Rock playlist below)

In terms of Glam Rock’s legacy, we all know how far reaching Bowie’s influence has been and you only need to listen to the first two Oasis albums to hear T-Rex & Slade riffs aplenty.
Bands as diverse as The Sex Pistols and Chic have also credited Roxy Music’s influence on their careers and acts like Alice Cooper, Sparks and Elton John are still going strong today.

Bolan’s activity waned heading into the mid seventies which was understandable given his prolific output and he found domestic bliss to replace the mayhem.
He was on the comeback trail by 1977 and hosted a TV pop show called imaginatively – ‘Marc’, inviting his old buddy David Bowie to perform Heroes in the final episode.

With a successful TV show a newly released album and a planned tour, things were looking up for Marc when he was involved in a fatal car accident at the tender age of 29.

In terms of Glam Rock fashion, I need to declare that it wasn’t very accessible for the majority of us who didn’t have connections with avant garde designers like Bowie, Ferry or Glitter or who wanted to look like scarecrows on acid like Roy Wood.
Platform shoes and broken ankles were probably as Glam as it got for most of us guys.


When it came around, Punk was a lot easier all you needed was a pair of scissors and some safety pins.

I’m probably a tad defensive about Glam Rock because the period it represents, 1971-74 holds a lot of great memories and correlates with my peer groups formative years – a period when we started to have a bit of freedom and a social life.

‘Glam-Rock’ anthems like Get It On, Jean Genie, Virginia Plane and This Town Aint Big Enough for Both of Us, made up the soundtrack to much of that youth, and when I hear those songs today they bring back memories of Teen Discos, and gatherings at friends houses when T-Rex devotees like Elaine Neal (nee Currie) would turn up with her copy of Electric Warrior place the needle on the vinyl – first track, side one, Mambo Sun……

Beneath the bebop moon
I want to croon with you

Beneath the mambo sun
I got to be the one with you

now that’s what i call compilation music!

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson, of Glasgow – March 2021)

Volume #1 – June 1968

If proof were needed to illustrate just how much music influenced our younger years, you need look no further than this very blog: in less than five weeks, posts broadly centred around Mott the Hoople; Rory Gallagher; The Who; Ian Gillan (Deep Purple) and also The Apollo, Glasgow, have garnered over two thousand hits.

And that’s from only a small, sample representation of the music genres that blossomed throughout The Seventies.

Those of us at school during the decade will remember kids wandering round the playground with LPs under their oxters, proudly displaying their allegiance to Yes. Or Wishbone Ash. Tangerine Dream, maybe?

Those with less pretentious taste of course, would carry their favourite albums in plastic bags. They probably contained works by Mott the Hoople; Rory Gallagher; The Who or Deep Purple. But you could never really be sure. Equally, the secreted album could have been ‘Electric Warrior,’ or ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars.’ Maybe it was ‘Rollin’’ or ‘Cherish,’ ‘Crazy Horses’ or ‘Rock On.’ Who knows?

In all likelihood, though, it wouldn’t have been one of these – a Hallmark label, Top of the Pops compilation. To draw one of these babies from a Listen Records bag in front of your pals would have been the death of cool. Ominous sounding, single peals of a heavy bell would ring out; tumbleweed would roll. Children would run and hide beneath their mothers’ long flowing skirts.


Volume #25 – July 1972
Volume # 23 -April 1972
Volume #29 – Feb 1973

I often wondered who bought these albums. They were immensely popular, so a great many people obviously did. Then I realised it was actually people like me who bought them. And you.

Or at least our parents did. Whether they did that in some futile attempt at resurrecting their youth (you know – kind of like what we’re doing with this blog!) or genuinely trying to do the best by their kids, goodness only knows.

The rationale for buying these albums was obviously sound. Being classed as ‘budget’ releases, they were considerably cheaper than those of established ‘chart acts;’ they boasted between twelve and sixteen tracks, so, more bang for your buck; to buy all the tracks in 7” ‘single’ format would have been prohibitive for many people, and the compilation comprised current, very recent and predicted chart hits.


I still have the several of the Volumes that my parents bought – I remain steadfast in my assertion that I did not actually pay for any myself!

Volume # 15 – Jan 1971

Volume # 18 – July 1971

The observant reader will notice that the central image is not from the Top of the Pops series. Rather, it was released by Hallmark’s rivals, Music For Pleasure, who were first to exploit the compilation market. This particular one was the first such album into our household, closely followed by TotP Volumes #15 and #18, from January and July 1971 respectively.

The green covered Volume #18 is memorable for two reasons. It was the first of two in the series to reach Number 1 in the album charts, deposing The Moody Blues album, ‘Every Good Boy Deserves Favour,’ believe it or not! And, having watched the Top of the Pops TV episode on Thursday, my mother sought a refund from the shop she’d bought it from two days prior, because, she spat, “…that Marc Bolan ‘person’ looks dirty.”

The fact I still have that volume in my collection indicates the course that particular conversation took.

(For all you Pop Pickers out there, the other to reach Number 1 in the charts, was Volume #20 in November 1971. This one had covers of Maggie May, Sultana and Tweedle Dee, Twedle Dum, and ten others. The Chart company though, soon acceded to protests from other labels and artists, and disallowed budget priced albums from chart computations, reasoning they held an unfair selling advantage.)

The producers of these albums never pretended they were anything other than covers. But having grown up on a diet of yellow label food and imitation leather ankle boots, they had me fooled for a year or two. I didn’t know any better. And looking back, in those days before tape recorders, never mind CDs and this new-fangled streaming thing, the albums were a good lead into hearing new music.

In fact, were it not for my favourite, Volume #19 from September 1971, I may not have discovered bands like Curved Air, or appreciated George Harrison’s solo output.

When I did learn the terrible truth, though, I felt let down. Betrayed.

This could also have been in part to my now having earned money of my own. Paper rounds opened up a whole new world to me. The power of spending; the power of choice.

I learned what John Kongos and The Sweet actually sounded like. I wanted the real deal, and with cash to burn, I craved originality.

My interest in the Top of the Pops and other such compilations quickly waned. My last volume was #21 in December 1971, the Christmas chart edition, given to me by a now out-of-touch Santa Claus.

I immediately considered the performers on these albums to be amateurs; poor imitators of the originals – which I now know to be completely wrong. These folk were respected and hard-working, professional session musicians. Their number included a chap, Elton John, who went on to do rather well for himself. There was also a young woman named Tina Charles and a bloke called Trevor Horn who graduated via this process.

Actually, in the interest of research for this piece, I played through my copy of Volume #18 – and it really wasn’t so bad. Stop laughing, it wasn’t! (Oh, all right – cut me some literary slack here, please.)

In total the Top of the Pops albums series, which ran to ninety-one regular volumes between 1968 and 1982, was like most things ‘Seventies’ – revered at the time; dismissed through ensuing decades, but now regarded with some kitsch fondness. Costing between 75p and £1.25 back in the day, many volumes can now be found online at around eight pounds.

Love them, loathe them or simply leave them, these early to mid Seventies compilations were certainly iconic of the decade.

Hello. My name’s Jackie. I’m a Sweet fan ….. and I love early Seventies Top of the Pops albums.

Volume #16 – March 1971

the dating game

(Post by Andrea Grace Burn of East Yorkshire – February 2021)



As a kid in 1960s America, I grew up on a diet of  TV sitcoms and game shows that portrayed wholesome American family values: My Three Sons, Leave it to Beaver, Bewitched, The Dick Van Dyke Show, I love Lucy, The Dating Game and even the Addams Family,  My mother stayed at home to raise me and my brothers and  my teacher Dad would come through the front door at the end of the day in his trade mark trilby and trench coat with his pipe in hand:  “Hi Honey, I’m home!” Think ‘Pleasantville’.

 I never questioned that I would one day date a handsome, wholesome boy. We’d go for a soda-pop and a hot dog after a baseball game, get engaged and get married.  That’s how it worked, right? The first I heard of  Women’s Lib was in the summer of ’69 when my older cousin ventured outside her house without wearing a bra; causing our grandmother to have a conniption fit and haul her back inside for a lecture.  That was the end of THAT! Where we grew up, women weren’t decent unless they wore at very least a full Playtex Cross-Your-Heart bra, under-slip, pantihose and a girdle. I had a training bra at the age of ten, which amounted to no more than two triangles of cotton fabric on an elastic band. But I still had one. My best friend Catherine even had a training girdle but Mom put her foot down:

“That will squish your ovaries honey.”

I didn’t know what or where my ovaries were at ten years old!

A Match Made, not in Heaven…but in Edgbaston

After we had moved to Birmingham, West Midlands in 1970, my mother – being a Southern Belle of ‘good stock’ – wasted no time in seeking out the ‘right sort of people’ in her eagerness to make ‘good connections.’ Not easy on the border of the Black Country. After seeing the skulking lads from the church hall disco at my fifteenth birthday party, she took matters into her own hands to get me on the right track to finding a suitably wholesome date – preferably a rich one.

My parents met a couple called the Handcocks from Edgbaston (“good area honey”) at a dinner party. Dad was impressed:

“Mr. Handcock works in Engineering. He’s a ‘self-made’ man – yesiree-bob.” (Parents seems to put great store by this.) 

The Handcocks had a son called Douglas who was shorter than me. Great. Douglas was no oil painting either and I know, I know – beauty lies within – but when you have raging hormones and your bedroom walls are festooned with pull-out posters of your favourite heartthrobs from Jackie Magazine: David Cassidy, Marc Bolan and David Essex –  I hoped at least for a dazzling smile and dimple. Jeeze – even the lads at the church hall disco had an element of cheeky charm tucked up their Ben Sherman shirts sleeves. Worst still, Douglas wanted to become an accountant.  I mean, who actually wanted to be an accountant? I thought he was deadly dull. I hoped for a boyfriend with a tad of charisma.

Mrs. Handcock and my mother were in cahoots and arranged a date between me and Douglas. I  was apoplectic. He was awful – so B – O – RING! Mom came back swiftly at me with, 

“Just stick with him Honey; he might have nice friends.” 

That’s how her mind worked. Never mind that I couldn’t stand him; he was rich and lived in a detached house: STICK WITH HIM! 

I had three dates with Douglas – way beyond the line of duty. On our first date, he took me to a party  in a splendid, gothic house complete with sweeping staircase, stained glass windows  and grand, marble fireplaces.

Mom would have loved it and would have probably have tried to marry me off to the boy whose party we were attending. Mr. Handcock picked me up in his Bentley which went down well with my mother.

“Class will always out, honey.”

As soon as we stepped through the Minton tiled entrance hall, I ditched Douglas and made a bee- line for a tall, lanky, captivating boy who sported a navy capped-sleeve t-shirt, Levi’s and a fetching string of shell love beads around his Adam’s apple.  His floppy fringe hid brooding dark brown eyes. I hung around his neck as we slow danced to 10.C.C.’s ‘I’m Not in Love’. Poor Douglas didn’t stand a chance. In fact, I ignored him until his dad picked us up. We sat on the back seat of the Bentley in silence all the way to my front door.

“Goodnight, Mr. Handcock and thank you, Douglas – for a lovely evening!” 

God, I was cruel – but then, kids can be.

Despite my complete indifference towards Douglas he invited me – or rather, his mother invited me – to their house for dinner and to stay the night, so that she and Mr. Handcock could become better acquainted with me (in other words, ‘size me up’ as a suitable girlfriend for their only, darling son).My mother made me a new long flowery ‘frock’ like those in Laura Ashley, with a ruffle at the hem and big sleeves with a sash, which I hated. I looked like a Holly Hobby doll.

Impressing Mom with their obvious ‘good breeding’, Douglas and his father picked me up at seven-thirty sharp, one Saturday evening in 1975.  Douglas awkwardly thrust a bouquet of pink carnations in my hands.

“Here. These are for you.” I handed them to Mom who gushed like she was the schoolgirl:

 “Oh my, why Douglas you’re so thoughtful. Andrea  – what do you say? I’ll find a vase.”

I rolled my eyes and climbed into the back seat of the Bentley.

At dinner, I was seated between Douglas and his mother as I tackled the typical 1970s fare;  Honeydew melon with a cherry on top, Steak Diane followed by Black Forest Gateau and a cheese board.

The Handcocks enjoyed a bottle of Chianti in raffia.  Despite my acute embarrassment, I managed to mind my p’s and q’s and even to use the correct cutlery (well, I was born to be a Southern Belle) as I fielded questions from Mr and Mrs Handcock

 “Andrea , your mother tell us that you play the piano. You must play something for us after dinner.” (Oh shit! My hands would sweat and slide on the keys.)

“And where do you got to school Andrea? The God Awful School? I don’t believe we know that  one.”

As I flopped into bed in their luxurious guest room (Who had those? When my grandmother visited us from the States, she had to be farmed out to a family down the road because my brothers shared a room and I had the box room.) the thought fleetingly crossed my mind that if my mother’s hunch was right – I too could one day own a house with two bathrooms and four-ply towels.

For our third and final date, Douglas took me to see ‘Airport ’75’ at the movies, where I coughed throughout the entire film. A man seated behind me tapped my shoulder and offered me two Polo mints.

“Shur-up for fuck’s sake!”

 I gagged and coughed all the way up the gangway. Douglas did the decent thing and followed me, called his dad on a public payphone and never saw me again.

This didn’t stop our parents from meeting socially from time to time, but the penny had finally dropped.

My mother was right of course; I did meet some nice friends through Douglas… and I didn’t become an accountant’s wife!

(Copyright: Andrea Burn March 20th, 2021)


pure dead brazilliant

(Post by John Allan, from Bridgetown, Western Australia – March 2021)

**Disclaimer: no body hair was removed in the writing of this article.**

Mark, a friend on social media asked me to name my top ten sporting heroes in ten days. No ! I can do better than that. I can name 11 in one day !

Félix, Brito, Piazza, Carlos Alberto, Everaldo, Clodoaldo, Jairzinho, Gérson, Tostao, Pele, Rivelino. The 1970 football World Cup winners, Brazil played the beautiful game with an elegant style and swagger known as Ginga or sway, with agility and grace.

It is one among many reasons why I’m a Brasilófilo, a lover of all things Brazilian.

How cool to be known by just one name. Pelé’s real name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento (which, come to think of it, would look a bit busy on the back of his shirt, so I can see the point). My name would be  Alanso if a) I was Brazilian b) I could play football. Dream on.

I can’t really pinpoint my first love for the Terra do Brasil. Was it Maxwell House coffee telling me “They’ve got an awful lot of coffee…..” or more likely being seduced by “The Girl From Ipanema”.

Admittedly sometimes a bit cheesy and cruelly classed as elevator muzak by some, Bossa Nova still has a place in my heart. To me an Antônio Carlos Jobim song is like a warm embrace. “Corcovado”, “Wave”, “How Insensitive”, “Desafinado”, “One Note Samba”, “Dindi”. The list is endless.

I remember in the late 70s a dedicated band of us would congregate at a flat in Rio de Partick and work through the vast library of Bossa tunes by Jobim and his ilk, including guitarist Baden Powell – scouts honour ! John Muir aka Fred Lawnmower (something to do with his smokable hydroponics set up perhaps ?)  played a very fine acoustic guitar and had an array of latin percussion instruments, many hand made.   

One that took my eye was the cúica, named after the grey four eyed opossum (philander opossum). A drum with a rod up the middle which, when rubbed gave you a ‘laughing monkey’ effect used in Samba. Think the “Austin Powers” theme tune “Soul Bossa Nova”.

I later discovered that washing the food processor bowl in the sink made a similar sound. Add a clave beat on the wok with a spatula and you’d swear it was carnival time – apart from the soap suds splattered across every kitchen surface and the glare from Mrs. A !

Another Brazilian instrument that fascinates me is the berimbau. Get a big stick, a piece of wire (usually from a car tyre), a gourd, a stone and a wee stick. In Glasgow that would become a weapon of torture but the Brazilians make beautiful rhythm with it. It is used to accompany the capoiera, part martial arts part acrobatics where art meets sport. Quintessentially the Brazilian psyche.

Black, white, mestizo and mulatto seem to effortlessly blend in a great big melting pot producing a collective that just wants to PAR-TEE for the nation.

Look, I know Brazil is no utopia. Just look at the despot they’ve got running the country now, the poverty and the devastation happening in the Amazon rain forests.

I know for one, this up tight middle class white kid growing up in the 70s would gladly swap his safe and comfortable life in the suburbs for a fraction of fiesta time in the favelas.

Favela da Rocinha

And one last thing about Brazil. I love its nuts !

What !

Stop sniggering !!

Really ?

You didn’t read the disclaimer, did you ?


novelty that never wore off

George Cheyne: Glasgow March 2021

Right, class…we’re going to play a wee game of word association here.

If I say “World Cup qualification”, what’s the first thing that springs into those brilliant young minds?

Anyone? I know it’s been a long, long time, but may I remind you this is a history lesson and the subject is the 1970s.

What’s that, David? England, you say? Well, you can take that smug look off your face right now because that is wrong, wrong, wrong. Sure, England were at the 1970 World Cup – but they got a free pass, there was no qualification required.

Really, Torquil? The Scotland rugby team? Firstly, the Rugby World Cup didn’t start until 1987 and, secondly, if rugby is the first thing that springs into your mind, you should probably be in the advanced Higher class instead of being stuck in here with this lot.

Anyone else? What’s that, Johnny…Scotland? You’re on the right track but it’s only partially correct.

Okay, lesson over, the phrase I was looking for was novelty football songs.

The 70s charts were awash with teams belting out their tunes. You know the ones…terracing-style chanting backed up with some cheesy lyrics and fronted by a bunch of giggling players looking like they’d rather be anywhere else than in front of a mic.

It was big business. There were World Cup songs hogging the airwaves at the drop of a Mexican sombrero in 1970, a German tirolerhut in 1974 and an Argentinian gaucho hat in 1978.

Credit where credit’s due, the whole concept was kicked off by England’s 1970 squad singing Back Home.

It was just the nudge football needed to move into the marketing-savvy decade. Every player in Alf Ramsey’s squad was handed a Ford Cortina 1600E – quite the machine back then – and, of course, there was the Esso coin collection and other branded merchandise flying off the shelves everywhere.

That was the marker laid down for Scotland’s World Cup efforts in ’74 and ’78. There were Vauxhall Victors for Germany and Chryslers for Argentina.

From flashy suits to trashy tack, the merch and the money piled up. But it’s those anthems which stick in the mind from all those years ago.

Not that you’ll need any reminding, but here’s a guide to those novelty World Cup tunes of yesteryear.

Back Home – England’s 1970 squad.

Put together by Scot, Bill Martin and Irishman, Phil Coulter, the song somehow managed to avoid a jingoistic theme and settled for a more humble message and a strong connection with the fans who’d be watching the actions from their armchairs.

Cheesy lyric: “They’ll see as they’re watching and praying, that we put our hearts in our playing.”

Best lyric: “Back home, they’ll be thinking about us when we are far away.” 

Easy Easy – Scotland’s 1974 squad

Also penned by Bill Martin and Phil Coulter, the single abandoned any pretence of humility and instead dived head-first into the possibility that it was going to be easy for Scotland in Germany. Left some of the tub-thumping behind long enough in the middle of the song to personalise things by name-checking Willie Morgan and Denis Law.

Cheesy lyric: “Eanie meanie moe, get the ball and have a go and it’s easy..easy.”

Best lyric: “Ring a ding a ding, there goes Willie on the wing…ring a ding a ding, knock it over for the king.”

Ole Ola – Rod Stewart and Scotland’s 1978 squad

Not sure if Rod was influenced by samba or sambuca when this official single was put together, but it never really caught on. Lots of name-dropping within the tremendously-upbeat lyrics, the song also used Archie MacPherson’s TV commentary from the game Scotland qualified for the tournament.

Cheesy lyric: “Ole ola, ole ola…we’re gonna bring that World Cup back from over there.”

Best lyric: “There’s an overlap, good running by Buchan. Kenny Dalglish is in there. Oh what a goal! Oh, yes…that does it!”

Ally’s Tartan Army – Andy Cameron, 1978

This may not have been the official World Cup song, but it was the one that caught the imagination of the fans. All the talk of really shaking them up when we win the World Cup makes it a proper in-your-face tune and Andy Cameron even got to perform it on Top of the Pops.

Cheesy lyric: “We had to get a man who could make all Scotland proud, he’s our Muhammad Ali, he’s Alistair MacLeod.”

Best lyric: “We’re representing Britain, we’ve got to do our die – England cannae dae it ’cause they didnae qualify.”

It wasn’t only the World Cup which attracted this genre in the 1970s – booking a place in a cup final was closely followed by booking a place in a recording studio.

It meant all sorts of ditties were around in the decade and the novelty never seemed to wear off.

We had Good Old Arsenal (1971 double team), Blue Is The Colour (Chelsea’s 1972 League Cup final team), I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles (West Ham’s 1975 FA Cup final team) and We Can Do It (Liverpool’s 1977 side).

Scotland’s sporting heroes of the 1970s seem to have missed a trick here by not releasing novelty songs of their own when they were at their peak.

But it’s never too late to pay tribute to them, so – with a bit of a tweak here and there for the lyrics – here are the tunes which befit these stars.

Ian Stewart and Lachie Stewart

Gold medalists at the 1970 Commonwealth Games – Keep On Trackin’ (Eddie Kendricks)


European Cup finalists 1970 – Hoops Upside Your Head (The Gap Band)

Ken Buchanan

World lightweight boxing champion 1970 – Ken You Feel The Force (Real Thing)

Jackie Stewart

World Formula 1 champ 1971 and 1973 – Life In The Fast Lane (Eagles)


European Cup Winners’ Cup winners 1972 – Barcelona (Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe)

David Wilkie

Two swimming gold medals at 1976 Montreal Olympics – Pool Up To The Bumper (Grace Jones)

Partick Thistle

League Cup winners in 1971 – Handbags and GladJags (Rod Stewart)


Strange Kinda Friendship – Ian Gillan and …me?

By Alan Fairley: Edinburgh, March 2021

My co-contributor, Russ Stewart, offered advice in a previous article along the lines that you should never meet your heroes, a sentiment which no doubt many will relate to as the experience can often be something of a let down when you realise that the hero you’ve just met is flesh and blood like everyone else and not necessarily the mystical figure you’ve idolised, whether it be on stage, cinema screen, television or in some sporting arena.

During the years I spent in sports journalism I have been fortunate to have come face to face with a number of those that I would describe as heroes. Some have left me feeling disappointed (step forward, Chic Charnley) but, in the main, those that I have met have been pleasant, courteous individuals ie Denis Law, Joe Jordan,  Henry Cooper, Jim Watt, Alex Arthur and of course the legend that is Jimmy Bone (sorry Russ), all of whom who have left me feeling that it had been a pleasure to have enjoyed a few brief moments in their company.

Moving away from sport to the other great passion in my life, I feel privileged to have established a genuine friendship over a period of many years with one of rock music’s most influential exponents.

This being a 1970s website, I will rewind to where it all began – Green’s Playhouse, Glasgow, 24th September 1971. 

Deep Purple, arguably the highest profile band on the planet at the time (certainly the loudest as noted within the Guinness Book of Records) were riding high on the back of hit singles Black Night and Strange Kinda Woman and were playing in my home city, a gig which I attended along with my now departed schoolmate Nicky Mawbey.

It was our first ‘big’ concert (seeing Mungo Jerry at Kilmardinny Riding Stables a couple of months earlier was good but this was an altogether different ballpark) and my attention was drawn throughout to the charismatic stage presence of the band’s lead singer Ian Gillan.

I couldn’t take my eyes off him but, for the record, this was no man-crush.  I didn’t fancy him, I wanted to be him.  I wanted to be on that stage screaming into the mic and basking in the adulation of the fans below.

Long brown hair tumbling around his shoulders, his multi-range vocals alternating between screams and whispers, he had the audience, and a 16 year old me, in the palm of his hands throughout.

I no longer wanted to chase the unlikely dream of being a professional footballer. I wanted to be a rock star.
I was a wannabe years before the word was even invented.

(As it happened I did become a professional footballer of sorts, playing a couple of trials for semi-pro junior side Glasgow Perthshire and receiving a brown envelope with a crisp one pound note inside after each game before hearing the dreaded words, “don’t call us, we’ll call you”.)

Fast forward 20-odd years and the company I worked for at that time handed me a list of key clients, responsibility for whom had been assigned to myself. (For reasons of confidentiality I can’t disclose the nature of the work involved).

The list comprised roughly 50 names along with each individual’s profession and one particular entry jumped right off the page – Ian Gillan, Recording Artist.

I couldn’t believe my good fortune. After all these years of wanting to be him, I was actually going to be in direct contact with him….or so I thought. Key figures within the music industry tend to delegate their day to day personal affairs to a manager and, after working my way through the list and trying to make contact with  the singer I had idolised as a starry eyed teenager, I found myself dealing with his representative, a genial chap by the name of Phil Banfield, who also represented other members of the rock glitterati such as Tony Iommi and Sting.

Phil was delighted when I tentatively advised him of my long time admiration for Ian and before long he was sending me demo CDs and other items of memorabilia, the likes of which very few fans would ever have got their hands on.

One day I was preparing for a family holiday with the wife and kids to Orlando and made a quick courtesy call to advise Phil I would be away from the office for a couple of weeks. 

‘Where are you off to?’ he asked

‘Orlando’ I replied

‘Really?- Ian’s out there just now with the rest of the band recording the new Purple album. Tell me where you’re staying and I’ll get him to call you.’

So, off to the land of the free I went, and on arriving in my hotel room, noticed a light on the phone saying there was a voicemail.
I dialled in and heard the magic opening words ‘Hi Alan, this is Ian Gillan…..’

I was invited to the studio at Altamonte Springs in central Florida where the band were recording the Purpendicular Album and found myself in the company of legends Gillan, Morse, Glover, Lord and Paice while they were working on a track called The Aviator.


It was an eye opener.
I sat in for about two hours and all that was being recorded was Ian Paice’s 10 second drum break between two of the verses. 

‘He’s a real perfectionist’ whispered Roger Glover to me after about 12 takes, and only then did I realise how important a 10 second drum break could be (think of In the Air Tonight by Phil Collins with its iconic drum break which was immortalised by the Cadbury’s gorilla and you’ll get the gist.)


After two hours Paicey still wasn’t happy and left the studios frowning.

‘He’ll worry about that all night’ remarked Roger.

Afterwards I adjourned with Mr Gillan to a nearby bar along with some of the band members and road crew in the expectation of hearing lurid tour-related stories concerning naked groupies, outrageous imbibing of alcohol, excessive intake of Class A drugs  and the old rock’n’roll favourite, destruction of hotel rooms.


Nothing could have been further from the truth. All were respectable married men in their 50s with kids and grandkids and as such the bar room banter circled around families, schools, gardens, finances, football and the other staple conversation topics of middle aged men sharing a beer after work.

Since then, Ian’s always fixed me up with tickets and backstage passes whenever Deep Purple have ventured north of the border. After a gig at  the Armadillo he introduced me to his wife, a lovely lady called Bron to whom he’s been happily married for 37 years  and with whom he has a daughter named Grace.

He gave me a signed copy of his autobiography Child In Time and demo copies of both Purpendicular and his solo album Dreamcatcher.

Although I haven’t seen him for some time we remain on each other’s Christmas Card lists and he did send me a particularly comforting message after my wife passed away.

You should never meet your heroes? – I’m thankful that I did

doggin’ (no, not that kind!)

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, March 2021

Doggin’ (playing truant, bunking off, playing hooky)

There was a time when the term doggin’ had different connotations from what it has now.

Although, on further inspection, it could be argued that there are some similarities to both activities……

You don’t want to be recognised.

You spend time in the woods

It isn’t as much fun as you’d imagined
(and I’m not talking from experience here folks!)

When we were younger, ‘playing truant’ was romanticised in cartoons and comic books, and latterly in films like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, usually with a mean Truant Officer playing the pantomime villain.

By the time we got to secondary, bunkin’ off school had become one of those rites of passage, that everybody who was anybody had done, and if you believed them, they were having a ball.

It sounded exhilarating – better than sitting in Algebra wondering what language was being spoken, or in French – again, wondering what language was being spoken.

I have two vivid memories of doggin’ school, because I only bunked off twice.

The first one involved four of us and it had been meticulously planned right down to the last detail (well nearly)….

On the chosen day we all left the house as normal and met at a pre-arranged spot, craftily and covertly, we then double-backed to our pal Nuggets house, as his Mum and Dad were both out at work.

The plan was to spend the day living it up like young lords, whilst all the other saps were in class.

The first part of the plan went like clockwork and by 8:30am we were safely entrenched in Nuggets front room; my house was on the same street and another lad lived nearby as well so we had to take measures to ensure that we wouldn’t be seen. 

This was 1971 so there was no daytime TV, Nugget wasn’t particularly into music so he had no vinyl apart from one of those Top Of the Pops compilation albums, his radio had no batteries and he didn’t own a pack of cards or any board games.

Nugget didn’t need any of this stuff because his passion was his pets.
The cockatoo that he taught to say ‘f*ck off’ was a mainstay, the Alsatian that had teeth like a grizzly bear was now an old friend but he had a surprise for us – a brand new (untrained) Ferret that thought Xmas had come early.

Naive? Stupid? Mental?
Take your pick, we were oblivious to the dangers of this feral polecat as we all coo’ed over it like it was the fluffiest bunny from fluffy-bunny land….. until it started to draw blood.


It was a viscous little critter with teeth like razors, and worst of all, once it was out of its cage, it was damn near impossible to recapture it or fend it off.

A few years later I would go and see Monty Python and the Holy Grail at The Rio cinema in Bearsden, and the killer bunny in that movie reminded me a lot of Nugget’s savage weasel.

By the time it got to 9:30am we were bloodied, bored and ready for a mid-morning snack.

Mindful of our need to go unnoticed, we attempted to crawl on our tummy’s like commando snipers from the lounge to the kitchen, however by doing this we placed ourselves within chomping range of the ferret, who was having his own mid-morning snack.

On opening the fridge, we found 2 triangles of dairylea cheese a slice of spam and an egg. There was Nesquik but no milk and half a Tunnocks teacake with a mallow so hard that Michelangelo could sculpt David from it.
This was the point that Nugget remembered Friday was the family shopping day.
One of us suggested roast ferret as an alternative but Nugget, understandably, wasn’t too keen on that idea..

By 10:00am we were so fed-up, hungry, and intimidated by the beast of Stonedyke that we decided to walk to school and say we’d missed the bus, more than happy to take any punishment that was winging our way.

This doggin’ lark wasn’t all it was cracked up to be…….

Cut forward a term and we were ready to try again, however, the second episode proved to be a bit more spontaneous as we were actually in school when we decided that we’d bunk off for the afternoon.

There were 4 of us again and we decided we’d go to the bakery at Bearsden Cross for a leisurely sit-in lunch before meandering off to see what the day had in store for us.

We had no idea at the time, but what the day had in store for us was an afternoon that would bring more wrinkles to our teenage brows than a stressed Sid James!

In terms of doggin’ school, we’d done the stay-at-home bit and it hadn’t been much fun, so we thought we’d try the great outdoors this time.

This would have been fine – if we weren’t all in full school uniform.

This would have been fine – if we had genuinely looked like 5th or 6th years heading home for study leave instead of wet 2nd years bunking off, particularly my mate Geo who looked about 10 years old.

This would have been fine – if we had an actual plan for how we were going to fill these 3 hours.

Indeed, the only plan we had was to keep away from any main roads so we headed up towards Bearsden Golf Club.

None of us particularly knew this part of Bearsden and just as we got to the top of Thorn Rd, we saw a police car and panicked, scattering off in all directions, before meeting up in a wooded area which we later discovered was the Bluebell Wood, or, our very own ‘Pine Barrens’ – for any Sopranos fans out there.


I had never been there before, or even knew it existed, and I’ve never been back there since.

We weren’t sure if the police had actually seen us before we scattered, but we decided we needed to keep on the move.

On hearing a dog in the distance and to illustrate the paranoia, we convinced ourselves that there were sniffer dogs on our trail.
Indeed, we were in such a genuine panic that we actively looked for a stream to walk in, to ensure there would be no scent for the imaginary hounds to trail!

With no sense of direction we just drifted further and further into the darkness of the woods, doing all the things that daft boys do, like tripping each other up, using each other for pine-cone target practice, climbing trees and observing the wildlife, hoping we weren’t being tailed by that damn ferret, which coincidentally had recently escaped from Nuggets house never to be seen again (just like the Russian in Pine Barrens!)

On reflection, this would have been the perfect time, nay the only time in our young life’s to have benefited from those Wayfinder shoes we’d been obsessed with in Primary school.

The compass in the heel and the animal track sole, could finally have been put to some use.
(See Colin’s excellent post for more on Wayfinder’s!)

Instead, our unanimous footwear of choice that day was the very popular but unsuitable penny loafer, great for terra firma and for dancing to Hi Ho Silver Lining at ski-club discos but hopeless in a soggy, slippy woodland terrain.

We’d been wandering around the woods aimlessly for a couple of hours by now when one of the crew thought he heard traffic, this was a promising breakthrough so we marched off in said direction trying to work out what part of Bearsden we were going to end up in.
“Courthill”, “Baljaffray”, “Colquoun Park”, none of us had a clue.

We could see houses, cars and a road through a gap in the trees and the sense of relief was palpable, but we still had no idea where we were until we saw the road sign –

Peel Glen Rd…..

Aww noooo“, we were in the middle of deepest, darkest Drumchapel, plus the name Peel Glen struck terror into our young hearts, this was the heartland of the feared Peel Glen Boys (PGB).


The PGB had gone by reputation (and graffiti) alone until recently, when a few of them had cornered about 6 of us outside the Rio cinema in Bearsden and took all our money whilst we were queuing to see a movie.

Their talisman went by the name of Jim Finn and he had a menacing 6-inch scar on the side of his face.
His notoriety went before him but he wasn’t what I imagined, he was short and had a baby face that belied both his age and his reputation, he reminded me of a young Al Capone and we all gladly and politely handed all our money over to him in fear that our faces could end up looking like his.


Slightly bemused that there had been no resistance, despite the numerical advantage in our favour, Mr Finn seemed quite charmed by our genial generosity and wandered off into the night looking for meatier challenges, I’m sure.

I’ve been involved in branding & marketing for much of my career so I recognise great branding when I see it, and when I think about it now, Finn’s 6-inch scar was a genius trademark in terms of promoting his particular brand, much like Capone in 1920’s Chicago.

It was an open secret that Finn carried an open razor inside his Wrangler denim jacket, but in truth, he rarely had to brandish it to get what he wanted.


I knew Drumchapel reasonably well back then, I’d played football at most of the schools, my dentist was there, I got my haircut there (pre Fusco’s) I went to the swimming baths regularly and also to the compact shopping centre with a Woolworths where I’d very recently bought Run Run Run by JoJo Gunne, but I’d never been in this part of ‘the Drum’ before.

I knew however, that if I could find Kinfauns drive I could navigate my way home.
We asked the first wee wummin we saw, and I wanted to give her a big hug when she pointed to the next road, just 100 yards away.

Once we were on Kinfauns we just followed the yellow brick road, carrying out a series of jogs and sprints. Prophetically, in the words of the catchy Jo Jo Gunne song, we literally did ‘Run Run Run’ all the way home.

“You better ride home baby”
“He was born outside of the law”

When we got to Canniesburn Rd we looked at each other, clothes covered in mud, twigs & ferns poking out of our hair, drenched in sweat, ruddy-faced and up to high doh, and we all just burst out laughing.

We knew we’d shared an experience and would have a catalogue of stories from the day, which was kinda the whole point of the exercise, but we also knew in our heart of hearts that doggin’ school wasn’t something we’d be revisiting any time soon – however much we bummed it up to anyone else – it was just too damn stressful.

After the fiasco of ‘ferret-gate’ months earlier, at least we could now say that we had ‘been there , done that’ and (got the t-shirt), and at the end of the day, that was good enough for us, or at least for me anyway.

I decided then and there I would gladly take double Algebra over a Sid James forehead any day of the week!