Category Archives: GENERAL ’70s MUSIC ARTICLES

Turntable Talk: Two Distinct Trains of Thought.

Paul and I were, last week, again invited to join the TURNTABLE TALK chat on Dave Ruch’s blog, ‘A Sound Day.‘ This is an excellent site to visit and satisfy your musical curiosity on all genres of music, mainly focused on the 60s, 70s and 80s. Dave is a prolific writer and the articles are filled with fascinating facts and trivia.


Thanks again to Dave for inviting Once Upon a Time in The ‘70s to join in this month’s topic, ‘This Song’s Going Places – a song we like that’s ‘going somewhere.’

When I saw the prompt, one song came immediately to mind. I first heard it on the John Peel Radio show in the late-Seventies and suddenly, like an epiphany, I discovered a whole new world of sound to explore.

I’d been interested in reggae music since being invited to an impromptu basement party in London a year or so earlier. There was by now, though, a fresh new sound dancing across the airwaves – a vibrant, happy and buoyant music that called upon Reggae’s pre-cursor for inspiration.

Suddenly, bands like Madness, The Specials, The Selecter, Bodysnatchers etc were en vogue. They were the new ‘punk,’ and opened a whole new rabbit hole down which I’d travel – and have yet to re-emerge!

The rise to prominence of bands on the new ‘2 Tone’ label shone a spotlight on those who had gone before. Suddenly, radio stations decided it was ‘cool’ to play Jamaican bands from the late Fifties and early to mid-Sixties, citing them as the creative influence for those commanding the UK Charts at that time.

Ska music had been re-born! As a music form, it has never really left us since, but its popularity further surged again in the early 21st century when punk bands melded frantic back-beats into their style.

And the track that signalled the start of a new musical journey for me ….? (God, I hate that expression!)

‘Train to Skaville’ by The Ethiopians

It’s mainly instrumental – I counted only twenty-four different words being used in its two minutes and fifty-three seconds – and spent 6 weeks in the lower reaches of the UK charts in 1967, peaking at #40. (In the late ‘60s, Ska morphed into Rocksteady with a slower beat, and ultimately into Reggae. ‘Train to Skaville’ could therefore be termed by some as more Rocksteady. But they’d be wrong! It’s still Ska … to me anyway.)

A stonemason by trade, Leonard Dillon moved from Port Antionio, Jamaica, to Trench Town in search of work. There, he lodged with the aunt of an old school friend, King Sporty, who was by then a popular sound system deejay. Through Sporty (who co-wrote ‘Buffalo Soldier’ with Bob Marley) he was introduced to Peter Tosh who in turn introduced Leonard to Bob and the other Wailers.

With their help in backing vocals, Dillon recorded some mento songs (Jamaican folk / calypso sounding music that pre-dated ska and reggae) under the name, ‘Jack Sparrow.’  However, despite the quality assistance, none of the three releases made any impact and Dillon left the famous Studio 1 stable to form a harmony group with Stephen Taylor and Aston Morrison.

Still unnamed, they returned to Studio 1 to cut some tracks, and at that point, studio boss, Clement ‘Sir Coxone’ Dodd insisted they adopt the name, The Ethiopians, in light of Dillon’s recent conversion to the Rastafari religion.

Fourteen singles were released throughout 1966 and 1967, several of which proved ‘popular,’ but with finances proving unpredictable, Aston Morrison left, leaving the band as a duo. Fortunately, a private backer came forward to fund the recording of another three singles, the final of which was ‘Train To Skaville.’

The Ethiopians

It wasn’t exactly a massive ‘smash hit,’ but it did gain some attention for the band and a couple of UK tours came on the back of the song gaining airplay and breaking into the Top 75 during 1967.

Over the following years, The Ethiopians continued to record, sometimes with the addition of temporary members, until sadly, Taylor was knocked down and killed in a traffic accident.

After a long period coming to terms with the loss of his singing partner, Leonard Dillon got back to recording as a solo artist, The Ethiopian.

Leonard passed away, aged sixty-nine, in 2011.


Running a ‘70s themed blog with my old pal, Paul, it would be remiss of me not to make even a passing reference to song from back then that not only fits Dave’s remit for this post, but remains one of my Top Ten album tracks of all time.

I’m not sure – have I mentioned previously that my greatest (at least, ‘greatest equal’) musical ‘hero’ is Rory Gallagher?

Rory Gallagher

(Oh – I have? What’s that? ‘Many’ a time. Ok, sorry – I’ll keep this brief.)

‘Blueprint’ was Rory’s third studio album as a solo artist; it was the first with the classic McAvoy (bass); Martin (keyboards) and De’Ath (drums) backing line-up. It was released in February 1973 just a month before I saw him play live for the first time at The Apollo, Glasgow.

‘Blueprint’ LP cover

That night, Rory incorporated four tracks from the new album into his set list. Of course, all the new material went down a storm, but one track stood out for me:
‘Race The Breeze.

This is another ‘train’ song, but unlike The Ethiopians, Rory doesn’t seem to have any particular destination in mind. Also of contrast, are the lyrics – there are some, for a start! Proper lyrics that is.

Like many blues artists before him, Rory had a fascination of old trains (the old Iron Horse types that criss-crossed USA) and backed by a rhythm section that evokes images of a steam train hurtling down the track, Rory celebrates the joyous feelings of speed and freedom. Total freedom – no ties whatsoever.

The guitar work on this track is outstanding. Crisp, clean and uncluttered.

Of all the music I have in my collection, of all the albums, all the singles, this is the one track that best transports me somewhere else when I close my eyes and listen.

It is indeed a song that takes me to another place altogether. A song of going somewhere – I just don’t know where.

Neither do I care.


(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson from Glasgow – April 2023)

Watch Me Now!

Growing up in The ‘70s, the lives of us blokes, to a great extent, were defined by likes of: friends; school; sport; fashion; hair-styles; music, girlfriends and dancing – the latter two often being inter-related.

From the day in First Year of Secondary school when we learned our PE class had been cancelled but we still had to report to the gym for ‘Social Dancing Practice,’ to the day we strutted our Funky Stuff at the city centre disco seven years later, dancing formed an integral part of our lives and impressing the opposite sex.

In our early teens, when it came to ‘popular’ dancing as our teachers called it, it was the girls who undoubtably displayed a more natural sense of rhythm. Most of us lads had only a very conservative and reluctant shuffle in our locker. Fearing ridicule from our pals should we display anything considered even slightly flamboyant, it’s fair to say the handbags of our suitably unimpressed partners probably moved more on the dancefloor than we did .

Help was at hand though.

1974: the year my peers and I turned sixteen. We were still self-conscious and awkward (oh … so just me then?) but the raging hormones that now coursed through our bodies over-rode the fear factor, and, supplemented by two or three cans of Carlsberg Special Brew, we were ready to dazzle!

Thumbs in belt loops ? Ready with those high kicks? All right fellas, let’s go!

Check this out, girls!

Yeah – Glam Rock was our, okay – my dancing saviour. No longer need I worry about creating some spectacular, personalised choreography. The pressure was off – Mud had given me a routine, which would /was / still is adapted for pretty much every chart record played at any future disco. Later, towards the end of that year, Kenny would kindly gave us (me) a second ‘add alcohol and serve’ instant, no-thought-required dance with which to woo my intended.

‘Hashtag fail,’ I believe is the expression used these days! Oh well.

Of course, set dance moves to popular music were nothing new. Throughout the Sixties, there had been a plethora, The Twist; The Madison and The Locomotion amongst them. And then in 1972, just in time for my first family holiday abroad, came the ‘Mums’ Favourite’ that was played to death across the Costa Dorada and latterly the UK.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only fourteen-year-old boy to be dragged up onto the dancefloor at every wedding / party / holiday disco attended with their parents over the next few years.

I realised very quickly though, this was definitely not the route to attracting a girl of my age, and so ‘Tiger Feet,’ (which could easily be adapted for any Status Quo song) became my go-to routine, pretty much until the time I left school in August 1976.

I was by then eighteen years of age– old enough to gain entry to the discotheques of Glasgow. The White Elephant was the preferred choice of my pals and I.

Sadly, the music on offer in the latter half of 1976, was pretty dire. I mean, you go to a disco and are expected to dance to Chicago’s ‘If You Leave Me Now.’ Or ‘Love and Affection,’ by Joan Armatrading?  Even Mud had slowed things down by December, their hit then being a cover of Bill Withers’Lean on Me.

Who has ‘moves’ for those type of songs, I ask you?

Thank goodness for Showaddywaddy and ‘Under The Moon Of Love.’ I could just about get away with an adaptation of the ‘thumb in belt loop’ and circular walk routine. Just about …

In December of that year though, I found my dancing niche. Punk had arrived; pogo dancing was the future! Even I couldn’t go wrong. I may have looked more stupid than awkward now, but I didn’t caaaaaare.

Damn, I was good! But ultimately unimpressive – seems Glasgow girls are less won over by a wee short-arse jumping high in the air than are the Kenyan women from the Maasai tribe.

Buoyed by my new found proficiency,  I would spend many a Sunday afternoon over the next few years at my pal’s house, blasting some old Rockabilly tunes on his huge Pioneer sound system and perfecting my Bopping moves.

Wow! Were the girls gonna love this?!

Errr … no was the answer. Again. I guess there’s a reason why blokes always dance The Bop alone.

Not to worry. As with trends in music, so another dance fad would be along shortly. And just before the turn of the decade, the 2Tone and Stiff Record labels introduced me to the sounds of Madness, The Specials, The Selecter and The Beat. There were new dances to learn; dances that would have the girls falling at my happy feet.

I taught myself to skank; I taught myself The Nutty Boys Dance.

Nope – that didn’t work either. Sheesh! This was hard work.

In 1980 though, on the lekking display ground of a French disco, I met Diane, my wife of now over forty years. I’d definitely had a good few too many bottles of Kronenbourg, my inhibitions still trying unsuccessfully to find their way home.

Diane too had undoubtedly partaken of several Cointreau and lemonades, because she was apparently taken with my dancing to this – a French hit of the time, now used by Apple to help advertise the latest iPhone 14.  

Somewhat ironically, our relationship was further strengthened over the next twelve months by my obvious prowess at ‘sit on yer arse dancing’ to The Gap Band (abs of steel, me) and the inane Birdie Song.

I’d cracked it! – which just proves you don’t have to be cool to be cool!

Sometimes a boy can try too hard, you know.

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson from Glasgow – April 2023)

Apollo Mission

Apollo, Glasgow

Did I ever tell you about the time I was on stage at the legendary Apollo Theatre in Glasgow, the Mecca for all serious touring bands ? The Second City’s leading live music venue from the early seventies until the mid eighties as reviewed by our own Colin Jackson in his No Apologies – Apollo’s The Best article.

It was the 16th of February, 1979 on a quiet afternoon in McCormack’s Music Store where I worked. My boss Freddy was looking for a volunteer to help deliver a Fender Rhodes to the theatre. I was certainly up for it because I knew The Jacksons were coming to town. Not the Jackson Five or Michael Jackson, The Jacksons ! It’s easy as 1,2,3 !

The Jacksons

A Fender Rhodes is an electric piano popular in the seventies. Unlike a standard piano it has tines instead of strings which resonate next to a pickup where the sonic goblins carry it to the ample flyer who ……………………look, I’m a saxophone player. I don’t know all that technical stuff ! All I know is, it has a warm pleasing bell like tone and it takes two people to carry it.

Fender Rhodes

These days you don’t have to sell your car or your grandmother to get a decent electronic keyboard with hundreds upon hundreds of sounds and samples, bells and whistles that you can easily carry under your arm. You can bet that the first presets people search for are the vintage sounds of the seventies – grand and honky tonk pianos, Rhodes and Wurlitzer electric pianos, Hammond organ, clavinet, moog and mellotron.

I digress.

Freddy and I carried the piano, gingerly stepping over electric cables trying to avoid knocking cymbal stands over on one of the most hallowed stages in the world. There was a rabble of roadies frantically moving stuff about, plugging things in. One two, one two. Some scampering up lighting rigs like frightened baboons. There were a couple of guys on bass and drums laying down a killer funky groove. I don’t know if they were backing band members or some frustrated technicians but it sounded sweet to me.

The din around me started to fade as I looked into the empty auditorium from my elevated spot on that stage. Yes, it was high up there.

Johnny, Johnny.

The chants were getting louder.

We love you Johnny.

As I bent down to pick up the scattered flowers and discarded panties an enormous explosion shook me out of my reverie. Some unfortunate stagehand had unwittingly stepped on the trigger that detonated a firework display. It would have been mightily impressive in a dimly lit packed theatre at the end of a noisy gig but in an empty auditorium in the afternoon it was like a sonic boom. I don’t think I was the only one adjusting my underpants fearing the worst.

It turned out the gig was cancelled as the band were apparently snowed in in Geneva. At least they didn’t blame it on the boogie !

So I can’t even say I was testing out the stage for Michael and his brothers Jesse, Action, Glenda and…………………Colin.

Apollo, Glasgow

(Post by John Allan from Bridgetown, Western Australia – March 2023)

All In The Family

An old church steeple backlit by a low setting sun.

It is 1971 and I’m going tell you a story about two God fearing musical families. The first were the children of Mormons George and Olive from Ogden, Utah. The second, offspring of Church of God in Christ followers KC and Alpha from Dallas, Texas.

The four eldest boys of the first family sang barbershop harmony and appeared on the Andy Williams Show before being joined by their thirteen year old younger brother.

The second family released a single in 1952 as The Stewart Four , “On The Battlefield Of The Lord/ Walking in Jesus’ Name”.

They both had successful singles in 1971. One Bad Apple and It’s A Family Affair.

Of course I’m referring to The Osmonds and Sly And The Family Stone.

The Osmonds, Alan, Wayne, Merril, Jay and Donny were portrayed as wholesome and righteous young white men in a time of negativity around the Vietnam war and an increasing national drug abuse problem. They dressed similarly in either all white suits or fringe jackets and danced carefully choreographed steps. Their collective smile was like being hit by a full sweep of a Utah lighthouse if such a thing exists in a land locked state.

The Osmonds

Sly And The Family Stone (changed from Stewart) were the complete antithesis. Multi racial, outlandish fashion and hair styles, moving and grooving and doing their own thang, y’all ! And fuelled by hard core drugs. They sang about civil rights, freedom and of course drugs. Their album that year was There’s A Riot Going On. The band were notorious for being late or a member not even turning up because they were too high. Witness Sly Stone being interviewed on the Dick Cavett Show where he almost passes out mid sentence.

Sly was joined by brother Freddie and sister Rose with baby sister Vaetta sometimes appearing with The Little Sister backing singers. Add to that slap bass king Larry Graham, trumpeter Cynthia Robertson (who features in my not to be missed, up and coming three part blog “African American Female Trumpet Players of the Seventies”) and a couple of white dudes, Jerry Martini and Gregg Errico and the family is complete.

Sly & The Family Stone

Both families got to No.1 in the US charts that year. One Bad Apple (a song I always thought would be more suited to the Jackson Five) stayed for five weeks in February and was the theme tune to their cartoon series.

The Osmonds: ‘One Bad Apple’

It’s A Family Affair (featuring only multi instrumentalist Sly with Rose, Bobby Womack on guitar, Billy Preston on Hohner Pianet and a rhythm machine) was No 1 for three weeks later that year in November.

Some may argue that the song titles apply to the opposing groups depending on your outlook I suppose.

I’m not telling you which one I prefer – but I might…………..on the Sly ! (wink, wink)

(Post by John Allan from Bridgetown, Western Australia – March 2023)

now that’s what I don’t call christmas.

IF there was any justice in the world, I’d be sitting in my plush 30-roomed mansion this Christmas surrounded by the trappings of untold wealth.

But there’s not…and I’m not. 

So where did it all go wrong? Well, I’m blaming several unscrupulous record company A&R types who snaffled five original Christmas songs I’d sent them, gave them a tweak and passed them off as their own.

I’ll be the first to admit my song-writing showed signs of immaturity, but I can put that down to, erm, being immature.

I penned my batch of Christmas tunes as a teenager back in the early 1970s and sent them off to all the big record companies in the hope of getting them recorded.

I never heard anything back, not so much as a rejection slip. Ever since then I’ve suffered in silence as, one by one, the songs have gone on to be huge festive hits worth squillions of pounds.

Not a penny has come my way in royalties down the years and those wounds run deep. Angry? Yep. Bitter? You betcha.

Now I’m not saying these hit songs are exact replicas of the ones I wrote, but there are more than enough similarities to suspect an element of plagiarism is involved.

Anyway, I’ll lay out the facts as I see them for my original songs and let you decide for yourselves.

Slept In To Christmas

Back story: This was my first ever attempt at writing a song and the inspiration was my paranoiac fear of missing out on my Christmas tips by sleeping in for my paper round. I’d knocked my pan in all year, hadn’t shirked a single shift and was relying on the gratuities to pay for Christmas pressies. The lyrics bounce between my thoughts and those of my customers, but I thought it worked well.

Favourite lyricWelcome to my Christmas song, I’d like to thank you for the year, So I’m leaving you this Christmas tip, To say it’s nice to have you deliver here.


Little Plumber Boy

Back story: A mate of mine had just landed a job as an apprentice plumber and told me how his time-served mentor would always hum away to songs on the radio without knowing the words. This is where the pa-rum-pum-pum-pum part of the song comes in. When I sent off the tune to the record companies I even suggested it should be a double act of an old crooner and a young rock legend.

Favourite lyric: Come they told me pa-rum-pum-pum-pum, A U-bend leak to see pa-rum-pum-pum-pum, Our finest tools we bring pa-rum-pum-pum-pum


Fast Christmas

Back story: This one came about after one particular Christmas Day when I somehow squeezed in two dinners – one with my family and the other at my girlfriend’s. I was so bloated when dessert came around for the second time that I handed over my serving to my girlfriend. It was intended to be some sort of love token, but it went down like a lead balloon. The whole experience made me think seriously about fasting at Christmas.

Favourite lyric: Fast Christmas I gave you lime tart, But the very next day you gave it away, This year, to save me from tears, I’ll give you some Tartan Special


All I Want For Christmas Is Yule (Log)

Back story: I had long since abandoned any thoughts of fasting by the following Christmas mainly thanks to my mum’s baking prowess. She knocked out a home-made chocolate Yule log to die for and I was smitten enough to write a song about it.

Favourite lyric: I just want you for my own, More than you could ever know, Make my chocolate wish come true, All I want for Christmas is Yule.

(Little Saint ) Nicked?

Sherry Xmas Everybody

Back story: This was inspired by my grandma who was tee-total all year round but would let her hair down on Christmas Day by having a wee sherry or two. The challenge for us grandkids was to prise her glass away – no mean feat, I can tell you – hold it up for all to see and say: “Whose sherry is this?” Then we’d all shout: “It’s grandmaaaaaa’s”. I even made this the intro to my song as a tribute.

Favourite lyric: Does your granny always tell ya, That Cockburn’s is the best, Then she’s up and drinking Rolling Rock with the rest.

Ripped off?

I can’t help feeling I’ve been stiffed and wish I’d known something – anything, in fact – about copyright laws back then. Who knows? It might have been kerchingle bells for me.

Mmm..I feel another song coming on.

(Post by George Cheyne from Glasgow – December 2022)