(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.
And one last thing about Brazil. I love its nuts !
(Post by Andrea Grace Burn of East Yorkshire – February 2021)
“What yow staring at, ponce?”
Denise was talking to a lanky boy with a feather cut and zits as we queued on the concrete slope that led from the back of Birmingham’s Bull Ring to the Top Rank Saturday morning disco.
“Piss off slag.”
“Piss off yourself.”
“Alroite – keep yer ‘air on. I wuz only was being noice.”
The lad turned his full charm on me.
“D’yow fancy a snog when we get in?”
Wearing American Tan tights, my feet sweated and slid on six-inch rubber wedges. I adjusted my black Wet Look belt; tightening it a notch or two to accentuate my positive assets; not that I had any yet, mind. My mum still made me wear a vest at night to insulate my washboard chest against the perils of life before central heating (perish the thought). At sixteen, I was on the cusp of something tangible that I didn’t yet understand; fired up with the frisson of youth and hormones (or ‘harmones’ as my Southern Belle mother called them) that stirred somewhere deep in my veins.
Edging forward in the queue, Denise and I were eager to dance the rub-up, which we had practiced in her through-lounge (and had at first confused with rubbing-in, during short-crust pastry lessons in cookery) to Judge Dread’s lewd reggae hit, ‘Big Six’. It was supposed to be a sexy bump and grind dance. We did our best – not easy on Bri-Nylon carpet with her mum looking on from the Draylon settee:
“Goo on Bab. That’s it. Yow’ll get the ‘ang of it.”
The queue finally began to shuffle forward and the smell of sweat and fags seeped and beckoned from the door. We finally disappeared into the murky, mirrored, cavernous pit – whereupon I slid off my platform shoes, landing spread-eagle on the dance floor which sparkled with its huge mirror ball and flashing, strobing coloured lights. No one bothered about epilepsy in the ‘70s.
“Yam alroite? Twat – come on, Oi’ll ‘elp yer.”
Denise pulled me back up onto my ankle-breakers to align our hips for the rub-up as Bob Marley wailed “Stir It Up”. The lad with zits drooled from a sweaty corner,
Suddenly, a spotlight threw its circle on us. We had won the Dance Competition! This was 1976 and we were the dog’s bollocks!
The Summer of ‘76 was the hottest summer anyone could remember (they obviously hadn’t tried a summer in Georgia where the humidity reaches 90+ F in the shade). I lay in the back garden with Denise on my mum’s best towels, in-between patches of fossilised dog shit – which nobody ever considered actually picking up in the ‘70s – and brown, scorched grass as we listened to Radio 1 while slathering on neat olive oil to sunbathe.
We were ostensibly revising for our ‘O’ Levels; books nonchalantly strewn on the ground to give the illusion of academia as we rotated like pigs on a spit. As the sun beat down, Andrea True Connection purred, ‘More, More, More’. The Industrial Revolution, Simultaneous Equations and French verbs didn’t get a look-in. When the brown envelope hit our vestibule door mat with my exam results, Dad looked at my three ‘O’ Levels and Grade 1 CSE:
“Well honey, you can always be a nurse.” (Ever the optimist.)
“No Dad, I can’t.”
“Why, sure you can Kid – why you’d be a great nurse!”
“I didn’t take any Science, Dad.”
“What the hell difference does that make?”
Dad was cool. I had been smoking Embassy No. 6 out of my bedroom window for some time; cramming mints and wafting through clouds of Coty ‘Wild Musk’ to disguise the smell of nicotine.
. Emboldened with the spirit of youth and a new push-up bra, I decided that I would light-up in the lounge to test the waters. At sixteen, I was feeling grown up and ready to take on the world!Sitting on the edge of my mother’s French antique love-seat, I struck a sophisticated pose and edgily lit a cigarette, blowing smoke rings purposefully into the room. Dad – padding around in his BVD’s – looked at me with a wry smile:
“How long you been doin’ that Kid?”
“Oh ages,” I replied; trying to keep my hand from shaking in this game of nerves.
“Well, just don’t overdo it Kid – everything in moderation.”
That was it! No BIG argument! With the skill of a seasoned diplomat, Dad had crushed my teenage rebellion in a single, calm stroke. I stubbed out my cigarette, sauntered back up to my room and took the padding out of my bra. Downstairs, Dad chuckled softly to himself as he lit his pipe. I forgot that Dad had been in the US Navy during WW2; it took a lot to shock him.
And then it happened: I woke up one morning to find that I had developed a chest. I wasn’t as well-endowed as Marion Priest who developed way ahead of the rest of us girls – but enough to eschew the padded bra. Marion would surge into the Form Room and declare, “Oi’m gunner be a mounted policewoman!” – amid much snickering and crude inuendo from the boys.
Driving me to Duncan Prat’s sixteenth birthday party, Dad noticed my cheesecloth blouse was unbuttoned a tad too far.
“Honey, one of your lungs is hangin’ out; better stick it back in before you get into trouble.”
Embarrassed but pleased to finally have ‘lungs’, I buttoned up and duly unbuttoned upon arrival at the party but Duncan didn’t notice – he was busy showing off his medallion. His name suited him well. As an aside – it was at this party where I met a boy named Virgil who was incontinent. I was once in the back seat of a car wedged between a stunning girl called Tiggs (“with her long blond hair and her eyes of blue”) and Virgil, when I became aware that my denim skirt was warm and wet. When we piled out of the car, Tiggs laughed casually: “Well, we all knew that Virgil is a piss artist!”
I was desperate to have a pair of denim hot pants like the girl on the cover of a K-tel LP my mother bought for one of my parents’ embarrassing ‘hip’ parties; you know the type – it had cover versions of ‘BIG HITS’. Mum put up quite a fight but I won this particular battle. Despite the 1970s making fashion victims of all the young dudes, denim remained the must-have item. It was even used to sell aftershave, “Denim – for the man, who doesn’t have to try, too hard.”
I obsessed over a denim dress in Miss Selfridge – or was it Chelsa Girl – that cost four quid and buttoned through the front with tie backs. I felt sure I would look like the Lamb’s Navy Rum girl in it. I bought it – and I didn’t.
I thought the Summer of ‘76 would never end but as with all good things it did. As September rolled around I finally left the God Awful School and headed to pastures new; a girl’s grammar school known locally as the Brothel on the Hill to enter the ‘Sick’ Form… now there’s a tale.
(Post by John Allan, from Bridgetown, Western Australia – March 2021)
The LP (from “long playing” or “long play”) is an analog sound storage medium, a phonograph record format characterised by: a speed of 33 and a third rpm, a 12 or 10-inch (30- or 25-cm) diameter; use of the “microgroove” groove specification; and a vinyl composition disk. Introduced by Columbia in 1948, it was soon adopted as a new standard by the entire record industry. Apart from a few relatively minor refinements and the important later addition of stereophonic sound, it remained the standard format for record albums until its gradual replacement from the 1980s to the early 2000s.
……………………….and it was the currency of cool in the 1970s.
What follows is a handy guide for the true devotee :-
Always store LPs in a cool dry place away from direct sunlight, preferably on display in alphabetical order on a dedicated shelving unit.
All LPs covers must be read on all sides including inner sleeves if applicable before or at least during first listening.
On removing LP from inner sleeve, album must be in the horizontal position. Gently tilt to no more than 30 degrees and allow vinyl to slowly slide towards dominant hand, thumb raised palm upward. Cradle with thumb on circumference, second and third finger on centre sticker arching the palm while bringing non dominant palm directly across the diameter. Manoeuvre dominant hand to mirror other hand. Carefully proceed to turntable in a stately manner, LP held at chest height between both palms.
WARNING: to not attempt to play disc unless an anti-static felt duster is within easy reach.
Place LP on spindle. Gently blow on stylus to: a) clear any dust or debris b) show respect.
When finished, reverse the steps of 3rd bullet point and return album to inner sleeve. Turn inner sleeve a full 90 degrees and return to album cover proper. Stand down.
Deny the existence of ‘The heLP’.
Kill all known DJs within your area.
No family or friends must be present during first listening.
Never let anyone else touch a) the LP b) the turntable c) you.
NEVER be tempted to lay an unsheathed record on the shag pile carpet even for one nanosecond.
Never lend an album to anyone else unless a member of ‘The heLP’ and you’ve personally visualised their initiation scars.
Never leave an LP on the back seat of your mate Gavin’s Cortina on a hot summers day unless requiring a cool looking ash tray, even if he is ‘Grand Wizard’ of ‘The heLP’.
So folks, keep those discs a spinning. – Are you a DJ ?
(Post by John Allan, from Bridgetown, Western Australia – March 2021)
I clearly remember the day my big brother brought home ‘the beast’. He was at ‘big’ school and had recently ditched the violin. And here it was. The double bass. Six mighty feet of curved sensuous shiny dark wood like the entrance to Narnia with strings. Bro would draw the bow across the lowest string and I would marvel at the deep sonorous rumble, the vibrations reaching down to the pit of my stomach. ‘Pluck’ like a stone in a well. I was mesmerised. This was the instrument for me.
Like anything in life there were drawbacks. It was 6 foot and I was barely 5. My brother strictly forbade me anywhere near it and I’d get a dead arm just for loitering outside his bedroom door.
Of course the problem’s in the name. Double. Twice as much. Double trouble. Try lugging that thing on and off a corporation bus ? In the mid 70s I would be standing at the bus stop with 2 saxophone cases in my hand. The skinny guy next to me had his guitar in a canvas bag. We were both going to our respective band practices. His was with Orange Juice. When the bus came, I would struggle on and deposit my cargo on the shelf at the front of the bus and sit in front of it only to be shooed away by some pensioner. The whole journey I’d be sitting at the back in a hot sweat staring at my cases thinking ‘some bastard’s going to half inch ma saxes!’
Try this. Put your left thumb in your left ear. Put your 2nd finger on the tip of your nose. Your 1st finger on your brow. 3rd on your lips and your pinky on your chin. That’s the basic first position of the bass. Has your hand cramped up yet?
I’d really have to think this through.
I played a descent descant recorder in primary, (which was compulsory in all non- denominational schools in the west of Scotland) well enough to get an audition for a ‘real’ instrument. Clarinet or flute was on offer. All I knew of the clarinet was ‘Strangler On The Shore’ by Aker Boke which I thought pretty lame. Did you know Mr Bilk took out his false teeth to play – a big no no for reed players apparently. It buggers up the embouchure – and that is not a euphemism !
Flute was OK. Hadn’t Canned Heat being ‘Going Down The Country’, The Moody Blues been lamenting about ‘Knights In White Satin’ and Jethro Tull ‘Living In The Past’ with the help of the flute ? Flute it was then.
I passed the audition and so began 5 years of weekly flute lessons with a wonderful and patient teacher.
Playing an instrument in primary had a certain credibility about. Secondary ? Nah, not so much. It was now I realised that I had made the wise decision.
The flute fitted neatly into my canvas duffel bag and I thought about the humiliation my fellow musos were about to endure. You might be able to pass off a trumpet case as a small suitcase or trombone case as containing a bazooka but string players were doomed from the off. Which was probably a sort of natural selection thing as a certain number would have had to be culled anyway !
I persevered. Sometimes trying to emulate Jethro standing on one leg swinging the flute like a baton only to scuff the axminster and maim the Capodimonte figurines.
I even got into the Dunbartonshire Schools County Senior Orchestra. From The Vale of Leven to Lenzie, musical teens from across the county were let loose in a large Scottish baronial mansion near Drymen once or twice a year and were expected to make beautiful music together (and that’s not a euphemism though there were some Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark!)
Playing the flute led me to play the soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones, piccolo and various whistles (if you can’t be good be versatile) in part-time bands touring Scotland from the mid 70s onwards. Occasionally, I will still try and attempt ‘Syrinx’ by Debussy. One of the most hauntingly beautiful solo flute pieces ever written.
Do I wait eagerly for the double bass solo in the late night jazz club or hanker for the slap of the rockabilly or bluegrass bass fiddle ? You bet I do.
(Post by Paul Fitzpatrick, London – February 2021)
A big part of growing up was having stuff, but it had to be the right stuff otherwise you wouldn’t be part of the gang.
It usually started off at junior Primary school with things like airfix models, stamps or miniature toy soldiers and I’m reliably informed, dolls and scraps (the picture scraps not the type you get from the chippy) for girls.
I’m sure it was the same for most generations – I remember my poor wife going from shop to shop to procure ‘The New‘ Beanie Baby to add to the collection for our daughter.
A collection that’s been gathering dust in the loft for 20 years now, but that can’t be thrown out because one of them might be rare and valuable!
I can also remember her jumping out of moving cars to acquire Pokémon Cards from shady street corner hustlers for our sons.
We had all been mentally scarred before, so come hell or high water those kids were gonna get their stuff…..
Typically the stuff we craved was nothing life-changing just stuff that other kids at school had, the only difference was timing – a favoured few would get their stuff at the start of the craze (they normally had older siblings), most of us followed and an unfortunate few would be at the tail end or miss out all together.
The first ‘craze’ I remember at school for us boys was The Man from U.N.C.L.E. badges
T.M.F. U. was a TV programme that hit our screens c.1965, about a two-man spy team consisting of an American and a Russian. Everybody at school watched it and before you knew it we were awash with merchandise, including badges with designated numbers. Badge #11 was Napoleon Solo and #2 was Illya Kuryakin, the mild mannered Russian.
A bit like football teams you had to choose a side and that choice defined you as you strutted around the playground pretending to be a secret agent.
The next cab off the rank was also inspired by another American TV show which exploded onto the scene with requisite merchandise in abundance.
However, despite the groovy merchandise available to us – the Monkees dolls, the toy guitars and the far-out 60s clothes, the must-have item in Glasgow’s leafy suburbs for the class of 1967 was a bobble hat!
The inspiration for this wooly headwear of choice turned out to be Michael Nesmith, the quiet, unassuming one in The Monkees.
The Monkees at the time was a tv show, featuring a 4-piece band that mimicked the Beatles in almost every way apart from talent and Scouse accents.
Inspired by the movie A Hard Days Night, Hollywood execs put together the first boy band comprising of actors (Dolenz), musicians (Tork), ex-jockeys (Jones), and the heir to the Tippex empire (Nesmith), and anointed them The Monkees.
To be fair, the show was entertaining, and at the time, with only three channels available to us poor waifs it was must-watch TV.
The Monkees also had some catchy tunes written by heavyweight composers like Neil Diamond plus the best session musicians money could buy, namely the legendary Wrecking Crew who were the house band for a lot of 60’s hits including Phil Spector’s wall of sound. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wrecking_Crew_(music)
Anyway, for some reason that I’ve never been able to fathom, the simple bobble hat, later sported by that fashion icon Benny from Crossroads, became the thing we all latched onto and we implored our bemused parents to get us one.
They were stuck to our heads for a while before they were surgically removed.
We even tried to play football in them, but trying to communicate with your team mates or take instructions from the coach with your ears covered or attempting to head the ball with a tea-cosy on your head wasn’t easy, so we soon saw sense.
As is the case in such things, the bobble hat makers and retailers of the world weren’t expecting such an uplift in demand, so being ever resourceful the majority of us turned to our dear old Grannies & Nana’s and there was a boom in wool sales instead.
Fast forward to 1970 and the de rigueur was the Esso coin collection for the 1970 Mexico World Cup.
The coins, containing no more than a passing likeness to England’s world cup stars, could only be collected at Esso petrol stations, so there were strict instructions for parents everywhere to exclusively purchase Esso fuel.
It must have been irritating for parents back then with kids constantly reminding them from the back seat that they needed to fill-up even when the tank was three quarters full.
Or badgering them when they came home from work, to ask whether they had got petrol that day.
Or making them trundle past the Shell or Texaco petrol station with an empty tank, in search of an Esso stronghold.
Or suggesting every weekend that we go for ‘a wee run in the car’ when normally you wouldn’t be seen dead in the family saloon if you could help it.
The coins quite aptly became currency in the school playground where a Bobby Charlton or a Colin Bell could bring instant credibility, but as always with these things, everyone had heaps of the unwanted coins to swap – in this case the Keith Newton’s and Tommy Wright’s (no not that one!).
It’s strange looking back in todays jingoistic times, to realise that the collection we were prepared to burn the ozone layer for, was restricted to England footballers only…. fast forward to today and I’m not sure anyone north of the border would be quite as bothered.
As we progressed through the years our tastes became more sophisticated of course and we progressed from woolly hats and trinkets to some serious hardware – SEGS
Again, I’ve no idea where the trend originated from but basically if you could walk round the playground like a Firestarter creating sparks by scuffing your feet whilst making a noise like Steptoe’s horse, then you were part of the in crowd.
Ironically what we failed to realise, was that instead of looking like the cool, flame heeled Jets from West Side Story we resembled a chorus-line of inebriated tap-dancers.
We all became amateur cobblers in 1972!
Also, and very inconveniently, it didn’t tell you in the small print but SEGS were really only meant to protect proper shoes or boots, the type hardy men wore to work. They weren’t meant for flimsy imitation leather numbers with plastic soles from Freeman Hardy & Willis.
Invariably the SEGS fell out of these poor excuses for footwear and within no time there was a mountains worth of scrap metal clogging up the playground, puncturing bicycle tyres.
Spare a thought for the kid in our year though who got very excited about the holy union of SEGS with his cherished oxblood Doc Martens, with their specialised ‘AirWair’ soles – a marriage that didn’t end well at all…
Other ‘must haves’ came and went through the school years, and inevitably we were hostage to the buying frenzy.
I swear at one point 75% of the pupils at our school were wearing airforce blue Gloverall style Duffle Coats and sporting Tartan scarves.
In retrospect maybe we should all have taken the advice of Graham Chapman’s Brian, in The Life of Brian –
“We are all individuals”, “We are all different”…….
(Post by John Allan, from Bridgetown, Western Australia – February 2021)
One of the many saddening vagaries of the ageing process is the changing condition of ones hair. What was once a silky bounce of flaxen tresses is now a flat listless nest of grey going on snowy pelt. Or not at all.
I can still remember skipping through the summer meadows in slow motion with my golden locks swirling like a murmuration of starlings, the zig zagging motion of my face as I remembered the past and the light bulb that pinged above my head as an idea came to mind (The young of today would never believe you – they need apps and filters for that sort of thing.)
I am blessed with a full head of hair. I’m not bragging, it’s just a statement of fact. I realise that some of you (the majority male I hope) may be follicly challenged but I’m just saying I still have hair – growing out my nose, growing out my ears. I reckon if I started at my shoulders, I can do a comb-over that could challenge Cousin It !
As a kid, hair was no big deal. You jumped out of bed with an exploded haystack on your head. You didn’t care. Mum would. She would attack you with a sodden comb, brylcream and spit to keep the fringe out of your eyes. The only inconvenience was the haircut, whether it be the bowl and the good kitchen scissors or done professionally. A packet of crisps with the twist of blue papered salt was the bribe to get me to sit on that small plank straddling the armrests of the Milngavie barber’s chair.
In the 70s in our teens, we were a bit more (self) conscious about what grew out of our noggins and were greatly influenced by the stars of the day.
The most popular style was the feather cut or mullet sported by such icons as Bowie’s Ziggy, Rod Stewart – who wore it well though I didn’t think him sexy – and every professional footballer. The mullet still exists in small towns in Australia. “Too bloody right mate !”
You got two for one with John Travolto with either the slicked back Elvis look of ‘Grease’ or the shoulder length coiffure of ‘Welcome Back Cotter’ – and I haven’t even touched on ‘Saturday Night Fever’
Then there was the tight curls of the man perm or if it was longer, the Robert Plant/Shirley Temple look. I’ll leave fellow contributors to discuss certain styles popular in the punk era ! As for the whole issue of Afros, dreadlocks and braids, Dudley Moore might have given Bo Derek a 10 but lets face it, she would get a 9 and a half with a paper poke on her head. I bumped into a redhead with an Afro once. Scared the living Bejesus out of me. A certain skin tone is required to pull that look off and it’s not peely-wally !
That leads me to shaving. When you convince yourself that those 4 tufts of bum fluff on your chinny chin chin are the start of your career as a Karl Marx look-a-like, it’s time to raid the bathroom cabinet.
Dad’s razor was something out of the 1920s. All stainless steel and fiddly screws. Just putting in the razor blade made the bathroom look like an abattoir. Then you reach for the shaving cream. There used to be a neat wee brush and soap thingy but Papa has gone all modern and got an aerosol. You give it a good long squirt then you realise it should have gone on your face so you clean the mirror and start again. Gentle strokes on the chin then lift up the nose and lower the upper lip like a posh lady smelling her own farts for the ‘tash. Towel off the excess cream and give it a few seconds and…………..oh ! That’s stingy, a bit of Old Spice should do the trick. I’ll leave the Blue Stratos ‘cos I know that’s for special occasions. No ! Stings even more. And don’t be lulled into thinking a splash on the scrotum will freshen things up in the love department…………….WE’VE ALL DONE THAT !…………….once !
I think my father had the same haircut for all of his 90 years. The only exception he had was his sideburns. They started to migrate south in the 60s and hung about most of the 70s. They had a long way to travel. Dad had big ears. Think John Greig holding the Scottish Cup. I think they retreated in the 80s only to join up altogether in the 90s for the pilgrim fathers look. It took another decade before the moustache caught up.
So don’t despair dear reader as you buff your shiny domes with an oily rag.