Category Archives: Hall of Fame

A Wizard, A True Star

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, July 2022

I first came across Todd Rundgren in the early 70s via his blue-eyed-soul classic, ‘I Saw The Light‘.
I heard it late one night as a 14 year old, whilst I was listening to Radio Luxembourg and pretending to be asleep, it was one of those songs that grabbed my attention from the get-go but unfortunately faded into obscurity with no airplay or support from the BBC cartel of the time.

I later learned that Rundgren wrote the song in 20 minutes, always intending it to be a hit single and played every instrument on the track.

Cut forward a couple of years and Rundgren’s name would come to my attention again.

Listening to the new Isley Brothers album Live It Up I was taken by one of the tracks, ‘Hello It’s Me’.
Record sleeves were our Google in these days and as I combed through the credits to find out a bit more about the song, I spotted that the composer was a certain Todd Rundgren.

In fact it was the first song the 20 year old Rundgren ever wrote, for his psychedelic garage-band – The Nazz.

Interestingly, in 1968 ‘The Nazz’ was also being used by a bunch of musicians based in Phoenix, Arizona, with a charismatic lead singer called Vince Furnier.
Once the group realised they couldn’t use the same name as Rundgren’s band, they changed theirs to…. Alice Cooper.

Before & After
Cooper & Rundgren

Rundgren would go on to re-record ‘Hello It’s Me’ in 1972 for his album Something/Anything? prior to the Isley Brothers soulful version, although Todd’s version has plenty of soul too..

Todd – Hello It’s Me
The Isley Bros – Hello It’s Me

I came across another classic Rundgren track in 79 – ‘Can We still Be Friends‘.
Again, the first version I heard of the song wasn’t the original but a cover by Robert Palmer, featured on his Secrets album.

It was another great song, and deeply personal, written about his ex-partner Bebe Buell (more on Bebe below) and it was at this point I realised that this guy was worth investing in.

Todd – Can We Still Be Friends
Robert Palmer – Can We Still Be Friends

As I dug deeper into Rundgren’s back catalogue, I started to realise how prolific he was and what an eventful career he’d had to date.
I knew by now that he was a talented songwriter and musician but I had no idea about his wizardry in the recording studio or his reputation as an innovator.

As it turned out by 1978 this native of Philadelphia had already organised the first television interactive concert, produced the first Sparks album, the first New York Dolls album, (including ‘Jet Boy’), and drum roll please…. produced Meat Loaf’s magnum opus – Bat Out of Hell, as well as playing guitar on most the tracks.

That’s not to mention production credits on albums featuring Badfinger, The Band, Patti Smith, Alice Cooper, The Tubes, Hall & Oates, Grand Funk Railroad and many more.

New York Dolls – Jet Boy
Meatloaf – You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth
Badfinger – Day After Day

Even the guys personal life was colourful – in the 70s he was in a long-term relationship with former Playboy Playmate and renowned super-groupie/muse, Bebe Buell who was credited for inspiring the character Penny Lane, played by Kate Hudson in Cameron Crowe’s brilliant – Almost Famous.


Bebe Buell is also Liv Tyler’s Mother, and for several years, Rundgren assumed he was her father.

Unbeknown to Rundgren, Buell had an affair with Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, giving birth to Liv who Rundgren believed was his daughter.
Liv was initially given the name Rundgren, for obvious reasons, and because Bebe wanted to keep Steven Tyler out of the picture due to his addictions.

Liv would eventually learn who her biological father was when she was 11 and despite Rundgren and Buell’s break up, she has reportedly maintained a great relationship with Rundgren.

Todd, Bebe & Liv
Bebe, Tyler, Liv & Todd, one big happy family

A prolific musician despite his multiple production duties, since his 1970 debut album – Runt, Todd has recorded and released 36 studio albums and 10 live albums of his own or with his band Utopia.

Utopia – Love Is The Answer

Utopia was initially set up as a prog-rock concept however another track a lot of people will be familiar with is ‘Love Is The Answer’ written by Rundgren for Utopia’s 4th album and made into a Yacht Rock classic by England Dan & John Ford Coley.

In a testament to his song-writing skills, Rundgren is still appreciated by todays generation which is why songs like ‘I Saw The Light‘ and ‘Hello It’s Me’ are featured in current movies like Liquorice Pizza and TV shows like Ozark and And Just Like That.

Currently touring with close buddy and fellow Philadelphian Daryl Hall, Todd Rundgren, a wizard and a true star, is still going strong at 74.

Todd Rundgren with Daryl Hall

Desert Island Distractions (The Music)

Paul Fitzpatrick: June 2022, London.

You’re stranded on a desert island and you’ve found a washed up solar-chargeable iPod that contains 3 albums in the audio section.

As luck would have it, they’re your three favourite albums…
What are they?

(NB – no ‘Best Of’s, ‘Compilations’ or Box Sets allowed).

Three albums

My criteria was to choose albums that I rarely get tired of listening to, that include a selection of songs with thought provoking lyrics, mood enhancing melodies and good grooves.

On top of that they need to be ‘all killer and no filler’.
I ain’t got no time to be skipping songs, I’ve got fish to catch, stars to gaze at and a raft to construct….. which is gonna take a bit of time because I was crap at woodwork at school!

Album #1 – Songs in The Key Of Life: Stevie Wonder

For a start, it’s a double album (with a bonus EP) so I’m getting more bang for my buck, but if quantity rather than quality’s your thing, you can always choose ELP’s six-sided ‘Welcome Back My Friends’…. particularly if you’re partial to the excruciating sound of a wounded Moog synthesiser and you’re a fan of a drum solo or six.

Two years in the making, Stevie’s 1976 opus is the perfect union of quality & quantity and represents his finest moment, which is saying something when you consider his run of albums leading up to ‘Songs In The Key of Life’ –
‘Talking Book’, ‘Innervisions’ & ‘Fulfillingness First Finale’.

In the mid 70’s Wonder was awash with ideas and was producing material not only for himself but for artists like Rufus, Minnie Ripperton, Syreeta, The Supremes and Roberta Flack.
Due to his copious output ‘Songs In The Key of Life’ soon developed into a double album.

Including the bonus EP there are 21 tracks on ‘Songs In The Key of Life’ and apart from the saccharine sweet ‘Isn’t She Lovely’ I could happily play the album on a loop.
It helps that there are a host of musical styles on the record… from the big-band funk of ‘Sir Duke’ to the hypnotic orchestration on ‘Pastime Paradise’.

I’ve always been blown-away by the fact that Stevie played most of the instruments on his 70’s albums himself, (particularly the drums, check out Superstition), but he breaks with tradition here and it unquestionably works.

You’ll find Herbie Hancock displaying his ubiquitous keyboard talents on ‘As’, whilst George Benson exhibits his distinctive guitar and scat vocal style on ‘Another Star’….. memorable cameos that elevate the album to another level.  

Stevie never recaptured the magic of ‘Songs In The Key of Life’ which I’m not sure was humanly possible anyway. The album won four grammy’s, sold ten million copies in the US alone and was a number one album across the globe.



Album #2 – Aja: Steely Dan

When I listen to Steely Dan I often think of a quote credited to the late, great music journalist Ian McDonald who made the following introduction on reviewing the ‘Gaucho‘ album….

Crassness is contagious. Fortunately, so is intelligence – which is why listening to Steely Dan is good for you”.

In truth I could easily have picked three Steely Dan albums, therefore narrowing it down to one is something of a ‘Sophies choice’.

Sonically it doesn’t get much better than Aja and it’s no coincidence that the album is consistently favoured by audiophiles, who still use it to check out the latest audio equipment on the scene.

Despite their excellent canon of work it can be argued that this was the bands pinnacle…. an example of the final product being greater than the sum of its parts, and the sum of its parts in this case were pretty awesome.

Also, if you’re looking for thought provoking lyrics then Steely Dan’s cryptic, ironic themes are a big part of their schtick, having a bit of down-time on this island will enable me to work some of them out at last.

Aja consists of seven great tracks, including the immaculate ‘Deacon Blue’ and the pertinent ‘Home at Last’, a song about exile inspired by Homer’s Odyssey.

Well the danger on the rocks is surely past
Still I remain tied to the mast
Could it be that I have found my home at last
Home at last

Home at Last, featuring the famous Purdie Shuffle


Album #3 – AWB by The Average White Band

By autumn 1974 my record collection was starting to look a bit different- The album section was still dominated by white blokes with long hair like Zep, The Who, Bad Company, etc but the singles section was reflecting what I was hearing in nightclubs and bars – Barry White, Gil Scot-Heron, the Philly Sound, etc.

It’s somewhat ironic then that one of my favourite bands turned out to be a bunch of white blokes with long hair who just happened to be soul and funk masters from down the road.

Like most people, when I first heard ‘Pick Up the Pieces’ I assumed it was The JB’s or another American funk band, so it came as a shock to discover that there was a Hamish, a Molly and an Onnie in the group.

I bought the AWB ‘white album’ as much for the provocatively brilliant cover art as anything else…. then I got home put it on my trusty Sanyo music centre and played it so much that it had to be industrially removed from the turntable.

In truth it was like nothing I’d heard before, the music defied definition, white blokes from Scotland just weren’t supposed to sound as good as The Ohio Players or The Isley Brothers.

The sessions for the album were marshalled by Arif Mardin, the legendary Aretha Franklin producer whose deft touch was all over the record.

On reflection, it was a perfect storm…. a hungry band with great songs, immense talent and a master at the helm.

AWB would go on to make many more fine albums but the ‘white album’ is undoubtedly their masterpiece.


So that’s my three albums…. well today anyway!

Of course I could wake up tomorrow and add Court & Spark by Joni Mitchell or Dark Side of the Moon or Bowie’s Station to Station, depending on what mood I’m in, but I’m pretty happy with the three I chose… well today anyway!

Next time we’ll check out the video section of the iPod….

orchestral manoeuvres in the …

(Post by John Allan from Bridgetown, Western Australia – April 2022.)

I know on this 70s blog I’ve gone on and on about my musical ‘prowess’. How I was a legend in my own lunch time gigging around the west of Scotland in my late teens. I feel I must now fill you in on the early years.

My first roar of the paint, smell of the crowd moment was at an end of  term concert at Castlehill Primary School. There I was in front of the pupils and parents, first descant recorder in the Primary 7 ensemble belting out the theme tune to Dr Finlay’s Casebook. It’s a delicate little ditty ideally played at a steady pace and moderate volume. I call it the Flower of Scotland effect, in it’s original form a lilting ballad.

But when you start to feel the vibe of the audience the hair stands up on the back of your neck and things inevitably go up a notch. Before you know it there’s foot stomping and fists punching the air. I’m sure I even heard a and it’s hi ho silver lining. And these were the parents !

Bitten by the performing bug, I was soon brought down to earth when I went to orchestral practice at the Secondary school. By now I had moved on to flute, an instrument easily concealed in a duffel bag alongside your football kit so that you didn’t look like a real wally. Unfortunately in the rehearsal room you were fully exposed as it jutted out into the playing fields and had windows on all 3 sides. You were at the merciless gaze of the sporty knuckle draggers as they pressed their broken noses against the glass.

Undeterred, conductor Mrs. McIntosh and the orchestra carried on. I say orchestra but at best it was a dozen or more students of varying musical abilities.

The leader was a very accomplished young lass who was also a bit of a looker which in itself probably boosted numbers. She also attracted the attention of the Chemistry teacher who was dating her at the time. There’s a smutty pun in their somewhere with fiddles, elements, G strings or periodic but it’s not coming to me. Innuendos on a postcard to  ……………

There were a few more violins, a cello or two and a viola player who I brought to tears with my what’s the difference between a trampoline and a viola ? – It’s more fun to jump up and down on a viola ! joke.

I think the woodwind outnumbered the strings. I was one of 3 flutes one of whom was much better than me and one that was not. Spotty Di believed that integral to the flautist’s armoury was a constant supply of confectionery. She had squares of chocolate lined up on her music stand and would devour one or two at a bars rest. She once had to borrow the tutor’s instrument and stripped it bare of it’s silver plate with the ooze bubbling out of her pores. Takes Willy Wonka’s toot sweet to a whole new level (or was that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ?).

Clarinets seem to outnumber every one with their dry reed squeaks. The musical equivalent to nails on the blackboard.

The oboist did very good water bird impressions. I’m sure I spotted a few duck hunters and their spaniels hiding in the bushes.

The brass had 2 trumpets (or maybe one was the klaxon coming from the athletics field) and a kid who could barely stand up because of the weight of his trombone. He formed a triangle.

The most annoying individual was the percussionist. I called him ‘Tool’ partly because he was but mainly as he was always Too Loud and Too Late.

His miscued cymbal crashes were like an inebriated ironmongers’ stocktake and his timpani rolls were like Morse code and certainly less thrilling than Johnson’s at Firhill (Partick Thistle in-joke there !)

Come to think of it, I don’t ever remember the orchestra playing at a public concert. Maybe I was too mortified to turn up.

I do remember being in a flute trio and being pimped out by Mrs. Mac to various churches. The acoustics were always quite good as your final notes were still ringing out when you had packed up and were half way to the bus stop.

I was also in a flute quintet. That’s flute plus a string quartet not 5 flutes. That’s the Orange Walk !

I think I made sporadic appearances at orchestral rehearsals so I could get two weeks off, twice a year, to attend the County Schools Orchestra music courses at Pirniehall in the wilds of Croftamie. Now that band could really baroque !

And of course be with the lovely first violin leader away from Mr Bunsen Burner !

She was quite a specimen who hit all the high notes.

Got one !!

tiswas: tv hall of fame induction

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson from Glasgow – December 2021)

Saturdays were always special for us kids in the late ‘60s and through the ‘70s.

Before we were old enough or good enough to represent our school in the sporting arena, we’d possibly go swimming at the local ‘baths.’ Or maybe, with only the occasional Hanna- Barbera cartoon screened on television to entertain us, we’d be allowed to catch a train to the Saturday Club at the local pictures house. There, we’d join the throng of similarly aged kids getting high on what would later be recognised as the ‘e numbers’ hidden in cartons of Kia Ora and ice cream as we watched some swashbuckling, black and white movie produced by The Children’s Film Foundation.

That would all change mid-Seventies.

For a start, I would by then have been seventeen years old and regarded with some suspicion had I attempted admission to The Saturday Club. That aside, television companies recognised the audience potential and began to expand their model of importing cartoons and reruns of Gerry Anderson gems.

The ITV network initially trialled programmes by linking cartoons, sketches, pop music and mini-series into one long, ‘umbrella show.’

Several regionalised ITV stations ran with the idea from 1974 onwards. Over time though, they all succumbed to the show inaugurated by the Midlands station, ATV, and by 1976 children of the three TV-channel generation, benefitted from a heavyweight ratings war between the ITV network and the BBC equivalent.

As you were once ‘Stones’ or ‘Beatles;’ as you were once ‘Donny’ or ‘David,’ you were now either ‘TISWAS’ or ‘Swap Shop.’

OK, so I wasn’t a ‘kid’ anymore but there’s nothing says an eighteen year old can’t enjoy these type programmes, right? So the choice came down to watching someone on BBC have a serious discussion with David Bellamy about conservation …. or watch some Brummie lad dressed in outsize khaki shorts and sporting a ginger coloured stick-on, Bellamy-esque false beard, repeating the innuendo loaded phrase, “Well – gwapple me gwapenuts!”

It was a no-bwainer!

It wasn’t until 1977 though, that we in Scotland, served by STV, got to see the programme regularly and in its entirety. By then, Sally James had been enlisted as co-presenter with Chris Tarrant. With some sporadic appearances under his belt, comedian Lenny Henry became a regular presenter in the following year, as did former member of The Scaffold, John Gorman. It would a further year down the line before Bob Carolgees & Spit the Dog joined up, completing the team I remember most fondly.

Comedians Jasper Carrot, Frank ‘it’s the way I tell ‘em’ Carson and Jim Davidson would also pop in to the show now and then.

Reflecting the music of the time, TISWAS (This Is Saturday – Watch and Smile) was chaotic and anarchic. It was slapstick. It was infectious. Whether it be in the school playground or the office workspace, the show’s catchphrases were repeated incessantly:

“O-o-o-o-o-k-a-a-a-ay!” we’d gargle in the voice of Lenny Henry’s character, Algernon Razzmatazz.

“Com-post Cor-ner!” we’d shout in a Crackerjack style.

(Watch Chris Tarrant cringe at the even-for-Tiswas ‘non PC joke at 2’ 51″ )

“This is what they want!” we’d joyously proclaim when doing something fun.

Ccchhhhrrrrt  ….Spit!” we’d mimic when something met our disapproval.

“It’s Telly Selly Time,” we’d sing, annoying our parents any time there was an advert break in Coronation Street etc..

“Wuwal retweats, wuwal retweats, where wobin wedbweast goes tweet tweet,” we’d pwance and sing in the public pawk. (Oh –  just me, then …?)

Initially inspired by Jasper Carrot and encouraged by Sally James, we’d all roll on our backs ‘dancing’ the ‘Dying Fly;’ the Phantom Flan Flinger would push ‘custard pies’ into the faces of the children in the studio audience and big-name guests alike; kids, and in later series’, their parents, would happily be enclosed in a cage and have buckets of water / gunge / goo poured all over them.

Distinguished TV newsreader Trevor McDonald would laugh and laugh at the sketches featuring Lenny Henry’s hilarious send-up, Trevor McDoughnut.

TISWAS catered for all – boy or girl, even young-at-heart Mums …. and with Sally James as presenter, quite a few Dads too, I can imagine!

It was just genius!

What else would a youngster now want to do on a Saturday morning? Go ingest some wee-infused, heavily chlorinated water at the swimming pool where you got shouted at for ‘bombing’ your pals?

Or spend the afternoon feeling sick from eating too many sherbet dabs and Spangles as you once again watched Lassie successfully navigate her way home in those days before Google Maps?

Nope – for me and millions like me, it was a bacon roll; a plate piled high with toast and jam; several cups of coffee; turn on the telly, allowing it plenty time to ‘warm up,’ sit back in the comfy chair and completely switch off from the world of school, study and exams.

It was Saturday after all, and boy, did I indeed watch and smile!

________________

Old Grey Whistle Test (OGWT) 72-79: TV Hall of Fame Induction.

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, November 2021.

Back in the early seventies there was only one provider of contemporary music to the masses – The BBC.

Radio One ruled the airwaves unchallenged from 1967 until the commercial radio stations came along in the mid 70s, although to be fair if you could get a decent signal, Radio Luxembourg was a reasonable late night alternative… until you got fed up listening to adverts for Timotei Shampoo and Aqua Manda cologne.

In terms of TV, the Beeb had it all sewn up with its weekly chart show aimed at the teenage market – Top of the Pops, which launched in 1964.
Seven years later the OGWT came along and focused on the more discerning album buying audience.

TOTP had its moments of course, but epiphany’s like Starman or Virginia Plain were rare and for every ‘Jeepster” there was a ‘Long Haired Lover from Liverpool’

The OGWT on the other hand, was a voyage of discovery, it wasn’t always great but it was always watchable.
The truth is that we rarely knew who was going to be on the show, but it mattered not, we just tuned in and went along for the ride, building our musical knowledge and refining our tastes as we went along.

The OGWT became a weekly ‘event’ and a post-mortem of each episode was mandatory.
I can still remember an attempt to describe the debut performance of Focus to a mate at school who’d missed the show.


“They’re a Dutch quartet with an amazing drummer, an unbelievable guitarist and a guy who looks like Archie Gemmill on keyboards…. who yodels a lot”

I’m not sure he rushed out to buy the album based on my summary.

The show was famous for its live studio performances, but in the early days tracks that couldn’t be performed live were usually accompanied by old black & white film footage, compiled by film archivist Philip Jenkinson.
A couple of those home-made videos left a lasting impression.

The first time I heard Queen was on the OGWT in 1973.
A rendition of ‘Keep Yourself Alive’ soundtracked over a vintage black & white movie clip.

My favourite though was the footage that accompanied Led Zeppelin’s – Trampled Underfoot. I’ve no idea how they synch’d a 1920’s silent movie clip so seamlessly with Zep’s homage to Stevie Wonder’s Superstition, but they pulled it off.

I have too many great memories of the show to mention and have spent many an hour disappearing down OGWT, YouTube rabbit holes but when I reflect on what made the show special, there are a few elements that spring to mind….

1) The OGWT excelled at introducing us to new artists:
Putting aside the broadcasting monopoly that the Beeb enjoyed I still have to credit the show for introducing me to – Neil Young, Queen, Robin Trower, John Martyn, Bill Withers, Joan Armatrading, Talking Heads, Lynyrd Skynyrd, New York Dolls, The Wailers and many more.

2) The show wasn’t just electric, it was eclectic:
If you happened to tune in when – Dr Hook, Rick Wakeman, John Martyn and Mike Oldfield were all featured you could have been forgiven for thinking that the majority of the acts mirrored the presenter, i.e. white men with beards and long hair…. but the show was actually a lot more diverse than that.

Nice!

For instance, it was perfectly normal to have Bill Withers on the same show as Tangerine Dream or Curtis Mayfield with Captain Beefheart.
BB King would feature alongside Kris Kristofferson and Joni Mitchell could be on the same bill as Roxy Music.
It’s fair to say that every musical genre was given a fair crack of the whip on a show where the only criteria was quality.


3) The show produced seminal performances that live on forever:
At the end of the day it was the live studio performances that we all talked about and they remain the iconic moments of the show.
It’s difficult to cherry-pick as there were so many classic OGWT moments, but a few favourites that spring to mind are….

Bowie – Queen Bitch
Little Feat – Rock ‘n’ Roll Doctor
Sensational Alex Harvey Band – The Faith Healer
Roxy Music – In Every Dream Home a Heartache
Gil Scott-Heron – Johannesburg


The OGWT of course was synonymous with whispering Bob Harris and his reign as the main presenter from 1972-79 covered the golden-age of the show.
Nothing lasts forever though, and as the punk movement gained momentum Bob started getting a bit grouchy and wasn’t handling the change of the guard very well…..

Bob and his ‘mock rock’ quip at 4:42

Bob had ‘previous’ of course, labelling Roxy Music as a triumph of ‘style over substance‘. And goofily described The New York Dolls as “mock rock” at the conclusion of a blistering rendition of ‘Jet Boy’….

Harris, subsequently became a target for New Wavers and Punks and narrowly escaped serious injury when Sid Vicious tried to ‘glass’ him in a London nightclub.
Rescued ironically by a team of Procol Harum roadies, Bob escaped relatively unscathed, but suffered cuts, bruises and a damaged ego.

Worn down by the abuse and feeling that he was swimming against the cultural tide, Bob would step down from his OGWT duties soon-after.

The show ploughed on for another 9 years post Bob, with a revolving door of presenters but by then there was bona fide competition from other channels and shows, like C4’s The Tube.

Gone but certainly not forgotten…. Fortunately we can still relive some of the shows iconic moments via clips from the vaults, many of which have millions of views.

So it’s this prime-time OGWT – the ‘Bob Harris years 72-79’, that helped to shape my musical tastes as a teenager that I would propose for the TV Hall of Fame….

A pre-Ziggy Bowie on the cusp of greatness

Ripping Yarns: TV Hall of Fame Induction

Joe Hunter: Crieff, November 2021

Monty Python’s Flying Circus is of course a benchmark for comedy and an example of 70s television at its finest.
A collective that spawned countless TV and cinematic moments of gold and inspired endless playground retellings and re-enactments… from ‘The Ministry of Funny Walks’ to ‘No one expects the Spanish Inquisition’.

John Cleese and Fawlty Towers apart however, the rest of the Python’s solo work tends to fly under the radar.
In comparison, it’s similar in many ways to the Beatles solo projects, which rarely got the appreciation they deserved…. step forward ‘All Things Must Pass’ by George Harrison.

Take Eric Idle’s excellent Rutland Weekend Television, although it hatched the excellent Beatles parody – The Ruttles, it was cut short after two series and was never truly appreciated in the UK.
Likewise, Ripping Yarns by Michael Palin and Terry Jones was restricted to 8 episodes after the initial pilot… the hilarious ‘Tomkinson’s Schooldays’.

If you’ve never seen it, Ripping Yarns was a shameless parody of British culture. To be fair it could be a bit hit or miss, but when it hit the sweet-spot it was as funny as anything that’s ever been on TV.
There were nine 30 minute episodes  presented in the style of Boys Own adventure stories, set in an era when all a chap needed was a stiff upper lip and a healthy dash of derring-do.

The series was tucked away on BBC2 at 9pm on a Friday night but once discovered, it became an essential part of my weekend.

In 1977, Joanna’s Night Club in Glasgow was my Friday night destination of choice, so as part of my weekly ritual I’d get spruced up, go round to my partner in crime Paul Fitzpatrick’s house and we’d watch the latest episode of Ripping Yarns before heading into town, armed with quips from the show still in our head.
Quips I hasten to add that confused the hell out of anyone that hadn’t seen the show (about 99.9% of the population), but would amuse the hell out of us.

My brothers George and David were also big fans of the show and we used to have some very surreal conversations in front of our bemused parents about Spear & Jackson shovels and black pudding (in Yorkshire accents) – as an homage to our favourite episode, ‘The Testing of Eric Olthwaite“.
There are too many great comedy moments in this 28 minute masterpiece, to break down, but the opening 3 minute sequence (below), will give you a taste.

“Black pudding’s very black today Mother – even the white bits are black”.


A Yorkshire banker, Eric was sooo boring that his Father pretended to be French to avoid talking to him whilst his mother would feign bilious attacks or even death.
Heartbreakingly, Eric’s family run away from home to avoid further contact with him, he was just that tedious.

A confused and devastated Eric can’t understand why people find him so dull and you can feel his pain as he protests in his thick Yorkshire accent….
“It were hard to accept I were boring. Especially with my interest in rainfall”

Eric’s obsession with precipitation and shovels drive his family to distraction and ensure he’s friendless but like all good tales there’s a twist… if you’re interested to find out what it is, you can catch the full episode below and become like me… a fully paid-up member of the Ripping Yarns fan club.

The Testing of Eric Olthwaite

Led Zeppelin IV – An Album by Led Zeppelin: Hall of Fame Induction

Mark Arbuckle: Glasgow, November 8th.

I would like to nominate Led Zeppelin IV, The Runes Album, 4 Symbols, Zoso whatever you want to call it as the greatest rock album of all time! 

Its 50 years old today and still sounds as fresh and exciting as it did in 1971!! 

It also has the distinction of having the only guest vocalist that Zep ever used in the ethereal Sandy Denny on the wonderful ‘Battle of Evermore’.

Originally Plant was going to sing both parts of the call and answer vocals but it didn’t sound right so he invited Sandy.
Thank God!

Obviously it includes the magical Stairway to Heaven, as well as Zep classics… Rock n Roll, and Black Dog, to be fair, every song on the record is an absolute gem, no wonder it has sold over 23 million copies to date and is the bands most successful album!  

Happy Birthday Led Zeppelin IV🎸

tom scott (musician, producer, arranger) – hall of fame induction.

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

My nominee for the Once Upon a Time in the ’70s Hall of Fame is Tom Scott.

I can hear the collective ‘WHO ?’ like a stoner party of tripping owls. Take it from someone who is well aware of the illicit pharmacy in ornithology. In my quest to introduce recreational drugs to sea birds, I have left no tern un-stoned !

Thomas Wright Scott was born 19th May 1948, the son of film and television composer, Bernard Scott, who wrote and arranged the music for the TV show Lassie so you could say he has good pedigree. A musician of good standing – sitting, fetching and staying as well.

Oor Tam was equally proficient on all of the saxophone and woodwind families as well as much in demand as a composer and arranger. Look hard enough in your 70s collection and I’ll bet his name pops up more than once. His session work is vast.

These are a just a few of my favourites and a mere smidgen of Scott’s output.

“Gotcha” (Starsky & Hutch theme tune) Who hasn’t run down the drive way and tried to slide over the bonnet of your Dad’s Hillman Avenger when this funky theme started up. I think he plays this on the lyricon, one of the earliest electronic wind instruments.

“Listen To What The Man Said” by Wings from 1975. That was our Tommy boy playing some jaunty soprano sax on this Macca track.

The solo alto sax in “I Still Can’t Sleep” in Martin Scorcese’s film Taxi Driver – Tom ‘Are you looking at me ?’ Scott !

Tom was a Blues Brother and played with Jake and Elwood on most of their albums. He didn’t appear in any of the films though.

“Spindrift” is a beautiful tune I use to attempt to play from his time with the LA Express in the mid 70s.

(Album cover for Tom Scott an The L.A. Express eponymous album from 1974.)

Tom solos on tenor and arranges the horns on Steely Dan’sBlack Cow” from the seminal 1978 album “Aja”. And before you go all woke, black cow is a cocktail !

Although encroaching into the 80s, his work on Blondie’s “Rapture” takes this rap tune to new levels.

But my favourite collaboration of his is on Joni Mitchell’sCourt and Spark”. This 1974 release was Mitchell’s first foray away from folk and into rock and jazz. Scott’s subtle playing and sensitive arrangements greatly compliment Joni’s singing and songwriting.

Having his band the LA Express and the Crusaders to hand was none too shabby. Apparently drummer John Guerin and Joni had a wee thing going on. I guess they were courting and presumably sparking until they split up. Joni wrote about him in “Refuge of the Road” (Hejira)

Tom Scott went on to form house bands for two short lived US late talk shows (including Chevy Chase) and continued writing music for TV (Cybill) and film (Conquest of the Planet of The Apes). He remains much in demand as a session player and can now add educator and radio/pod presenter to his CV.

Good boy Scotty. Good boy.

American Pie – A Single by Don McLean: Hall of Fame Induction

Alan Fairley: Edinburgh, November 2021

No song in history has ever managed to re-create the effect on me than that which was generated by American Pie, Don McLean’s anthemic eight minute chronology of the 1960s.
It was the first song that made me want to study its lyrics, to find out the hidden meanings behind the words and to interpret the message which this hitherto unknown musician, with a distinctly Scottish name, was trying to project.
I’d only started taking an interest in music a couple of years earlier and my tastes revolved largely around the mainstream rock bands of the time, ie Cream, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath etc and I was aware that such behemoths of the musical world paid scant attention to the lyrical content of their offerings which were based mainly on instrumental virtuosity.
Jack Bruce, in a Cream documentary, made it clear that the message behind the songs he played along with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker was largely irrelevant in comparison with the actual music while Ian Gillan of Deep Purple acknowledged that the lyrics to the band’s flagship single Black Night were merely a collection of random words to supplement the main feature of the song, ie Ritchie Blackmore’s blistering  and unforgettable guitar riff.

When I first heard American Pie on the radio in early 1972, I was mildly intrigued by the lyrical content but the radio version was merely a heavily edited three minute sampler of the 8 min 33 sec album track, a teaser with a catchy chorus about chevies and levees designed to catch the listener’s attention but it was sufficient to have me jumping on the no 13 bus to Cambridge Street and hand over my hard earned two pounds 25p (sorry no pound sign on this Korean keyboard) before walking away with the actual album tucked into an iconic Listen Records ‘Cheap’n Nasty’ carrier bag.

When I finally got home and listened to the title track, it was night and day in comparison with the radio taster. A beautifully constructed song… four verses and choruses bookended by a passionate and emotional prologue and epilogue, telling the story of the 1960s from the tragic plane crash death of Buddy Holly in 1959 to the horrific killing of a black man at the hands of a gang of Hell’s Angels during a Rolling Stones concert in Altamont, California ten years later.

The theme of death reverberates throughout the song as McLean ends each stanza with the line ‘The Day the Music Died.’

I’m not going to offer my interpretation of the song here – plenty others have done so before me but, other than those already mentioned, there are reasonably clear references to The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Byrds, Janis Joplin, James Dean and other more cryptic nods to religion, politics, teenage romance and the American youth culture of the time.

Fifty years on, I never get tired of listening to the song and I still pore over the lyrics, searching for some hidden meaning that no-one else has yet found. When I’m performing at open mic sessions, if I feel the mood is too quiet, I’ll play it and inevitably get the crowd singing along.

Irrespective of age or any other social demographic, its a song, or at least a chorus, which everybody knows word for word. One man who refuses to offer his interpretation of the song is McLean himself. 

When asked “What does American Pie mean?” His standard response is “It means I never have to work again.”

‘You’re So Vain’ A Single By Carly Simon: Hall Of Fame Induction


Paul Fitzpatrick: London, October 2021

If I was to transport myself back to December 1972, and look around my bedroom wall I would be surrounded by posters of Led Zeppelin, The Faces, The Who, The Stones, Bowie, etc…. a sea of white men with long hair brandishing shiny Stratocaster’s or menacing Les Paul’s.

Ashamedly, women at this point just didn’t figure in my record collection and whilst I grew to love Tapestry by Carole King, No Secrets by Carly Simon and the glorious Court & Spark by Joni Mitchell, the first step to those feminine treasures was a 45 rpm Single – Carly Simon’s self penned classic, ‘You’re So Vain’.

I first heard this tour de force in December 1972 at a point when the airwaves were awash with Glam Rock, Xmas singles and Novelty songs, one of which, ‘My Ding-A-ling’ by Chuck Berry was the nations current number one single.

I fell in love with ‘You’re So Vain’ the first time I heard it… Carly’s voice, the lyrics, the playing, the production and of course the ringing endorsement that was Mick Jagger on backing vocals.
Mick didn’t do guest vocals for anyone, he was Mick bleedin’ Jagger, the guvnor, but here he was singing his little heart out as an uncredited backing vocalist for this unknown hippy chick with the luscious lips.

It was 4 mins 19 secs of perfection as far as I was concerned.


I remember going Xmas shopping that year and having just enough money left to buy myself a single… the contenders were Bowie’s ‘Jean Genie’, Free’s ‘Wishing Well’ or ‘You’re so Vain’… all great songs and all newly released.

I plumped for Carly that day, probably as I was on my own, if I’d been with my pals I’d almost certainly have bought one of the others for fear of being mocked.
Sad I know, but such was the way of the world back then – how do you think Status Quo sold more records than Aretha Franklin in the UK??

In a similar vein, I can remember subsequent shopping trips where ‘Midnight at the Oasis’ by Maria Muldaur and Roberta Flack’s ‘Killing me Softly’ were covertly purchased.

Aged 14 I was used to deciphering songs about Norse Gods and ‘Deaf, Dumb & Blind kids’ but I instantly ‘got’ Carly’s lyrics and how they were aimed at a self-absorbed partner who loved himself so much that he assumed that the song could only be about him.

What I didn’t quite appreciate at the time was just how autobiographical the song was, until years later when all the speculation surfaced about who the song was actually about.

You can take your pick from – Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, Cat Stevens, James Taylor, Kris Kristofferson, David Bowie, David Cassidy or Mick Jagger, to name but a few.
You see, our Carly was a bit of a free spirit before settling down with Sweet Baby James.

Jack or Warren, who was so vain?

Reflecting on her list of suitors I remember thinking… it would be bizarre for Jagger to perform on a song that’s basically highlighting a major character flaw… until I realised that it was such an on-brand thing for Mick to do – he probably is that vain and as such was just doubling-down on the sentiment!

The songs protagonist was always a big secret (bit weird, as the album was called No Secrets!). However, in 2015 Simon confessed that the song is actually about three men (told you she was a bit of a gadabout!) and admitted publicly for the first time, that the second verse is about the Hollywood lothario Warren Beatty… who’s no doubt a bit pissed off that he’s having to share the honour.

I worry sometimes, probably unnecessarily, that all the speculation and noise about the songs muse (or muses) detracts from what a brilliant piece of music it is, but perhaps it helps to keep it relevant and that’s why current artists like Taylor Swift have adopted it as an anthem.


Consistently featured in most ‘Greatest Songs of all Time’ lists ‘You’re so Vain’ catapulted Simon into the public eye in 1972 and she went on to have a fantastic career on the back of her first big hit.

Looking back, in 1972 as a 14 year old with raging hormones another great attraction about Carly Simon was exactly that… the attraction of Carly Simon.

She was an absolute stunner, so whilst 14 year old girls had Donny or David or Marc up on their walls, a few of us had the album sleeve of No Secrets above our bed… of course, that was until our mates came round – then we had to get the Zep & Stones posters back up sharpish!

Isolated vocals of Simon & Jagger