Category Archives: *MUSIC

Warren Zevon

By Mark Arbuckle: Glasgow, April 2023


I first became aware of American singer songwriter Warren Zevon in 1979.

My mate Rikki and were discussing music and he was amazed nay disgusted that I’d never heard of this artist/band/??

‘Goan get an album’ he commanded! 

However as Rikki talked, and still talks, very fast, what I heard was 


Thinking it was a middle east, political protest thingy, I went into the HMV shop next door to our Top Man shop in Union Street and asked for the ‘WAR ON ZION’ album. 

The assistant looked very puzzled then laughed and said ‘Oh ye mean Warren Zevon!’ and went to the vinyl bay marked ‘Z’ He returned, to a suitably embarrassed ME, with ‘Excitable Boy’ 

I thought he looked like an adult version of The Milky Bar Kid and I certainly didn’t recognise any of the songs. 

However I did note that it was produced by Jackson Browne and Linda Ronstadt was listed on backing vocals! 

As soon as I listened to his deep baritone voice and amazing lyrics, I was hooked. 

I liked the macabre lyrics of “WEREWOLVES OF LONDON
(featuring a rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie)

How’s this for alliteration?!

‘Little ol’ lady got mutilated late last night’
Werewolves of London Again!

But I much preferred


‘I went home with a waitress the way I always do’
How was I to know she was with the Russians too!’

The lyrics of the title track completely shocked me!


‘He took little Suzie to the Junior Prom

Excitable boy, they all said

And he raped her and killed her, then he took her home.

Excitable boy, they all said

Well, he’s just an excitable boy

After ten long years they let him out of the home.

Excitable boy, they all said

And he dug up her grave and built a cage with her bones

Excitable boy, they all said

Well, he’s just an excitable boy

This most definitely wasn’t your standard rock & roll lyric about girls, cars and the high school prom!….
I was intrigued and immediately read everything I could on Warren and bought his back catalogue.

I think the quote below from biographer – Mark Deming, captures Zevon’s appeal. 

Few of rock & roll’s great misanthropes were as talented, as charming, or as committed to their cynicism as Warren Zevon. A singer and songwriter whose music often dealt with outlaws, mercenaries, sociopaths, and villains of all stripes, Zevon’s lyrics displayed a keen and ready wit despite their often uncomfortable narrative, and while he could write of love and gentler emotions, he did so with the firm conviction that such stories rarely end happily.’ 

Warren William Zevon was born in Chicago on January 24, 1947. In his early teens his family moved to California where he developed his interest in music,  learning to play the guitar and piano. Zevon also had a fascination with classical music.

In the early 70’s he joined the Everly Brothers’ touring band as pianist, and following the duo’s acrimonious split in 1973, he would work with both Don and Phil as solo artists. 

In 1974 he left the USA for Spain and spent a summer playing in a small tavern and writing songs. He returned to Los Angeles, and shared an apartment with two aspiring performers, Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. 

He’d already struck up a friendship with Jackson Browne, who was on the brink of stardom and one of the most respected songwriters on the West Coast.

Browne greatly admired Warren’s talent, helped him to get a deal with Asylum Records and produced his first album for the label. 

Simply titled Warren Zevon, it featured his former roommates Buckingham and Nicks, (who had gone on to find stardom with Fleetwood Mac), Bonnie Raitt and several members of the Eagles.

It didn’t sell well but won rave reviews. Linda Ronstadt gave her seal of approval by covering three songs from the album.

Any excuse to have a pic of Linda

Browne took Zevon on tour to support the album, and in 1978, they returned to the studio to record ‘Excitable Boy’ It was a huge success and remains his best selling album.

The financial rewards however, rekindled Warren’s addiction to alcohol and drugs and he checked into rehab for treatment. 

Jackson Browne named him…

The first and foremost proponent of song noir” 

‘A supreme collision of acerbic wit, dark irreverent humour, bittersweet romance, and uncomfortable truths.’

Zevon was clean and sober for the tour and one of the shows was recorded and released as ‘Stand in the Fire’ 

It is superb and in my humble opinion, one of the greatest live rock albums ever 

Subsequent albums had contributions from Peter Buck, Mike Mills, and Bill Berry of R.E.M. and guest spots from Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Jerry Garcia and David Gilmour but sadly the records never matched the commercial and chart success of Excitable Boy

Throughout his career many wonderful musicians and songwriters contributed to his various musical projects.

A veritable Who’s Who of American Music.

Neil Young, David Lindley, Waddy Wachtel, Bonnie Raitt, Bobby Keys, J.D. Souther, Joe Walsh, Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Carl Wilson, Leland Sklar, Jeff Porcaro, Gary Mallaber, Bob Glaub, Rick Marotta, Danny Kortchmar, Russ Kunkel and longtime collaborator Jorge Calderón.

He also had long friendships with authors Hunter S Thompson and Stephen King

King said that it was a deep personal regret that he and Warren ‘hadn’t got around to creating something together’

In 2013 King dedicated his novel ‘Doctor Sleep” to Warren.

David Letterman was a huge fan of Warren’s music and made him a frequent guest on his show. 

This television exposure reminded audiences of his biting wit and musical talents.

In a famous quote Letterman said Warren must be the only writer in history to have the word ‘Brucellosis’ in a song.


‘Daddy’s doing Sister Sally

Grandma’s dying of cancer now.

The cattle all have brucellosis

We’ll get through somehow.

Sweet home Alabama

Play that dead band’s song

Turn those speakers up full blast.

Play it all night long.’

Zevon never enjoyed the massive commercial success and vast riches that his peers, Springsteen, Browne, Ronstadt, Eagles all did in their careers, but in some ways, to me at least, this fact make his music even more endearing and enjoyable.

In August 2002 Zevon began experiencing dizziness and shortness of breath. He was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, an inoperable form of lung cancer, and was told he had a few months to live.

He went public with his condition on September 12, 2002 and  began recording his final album. 

His friends, including Jackson Browne, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Dwight Yoakam, Ry Cooder, and Don Henley all rallied to help.

He lived long enough to see the release of this final album, THE WIND, on August 26, 2003

He died on September 7, 2003. 

THE WIND earned him two posthumous Grammy Awards, for Best Contemporary Folk Album and Best Rock Duo Performance for “Disorder in the House” with Bruce Springsteen.

Rikki, myself and four other friends were very fortunate to see Warren perform live in a smallish Glasgow venue in 2000. 

Just him, piano and acoustic guitar. (A drummer joined him for his rockier songs) 

I admit that I would’ve dearly loved to have seen him with his full band in their prime in the 1980’s but he really excelled in this intimate environment too. 

He sang and played his heart out, bantering, as only he could with lots of industrial language, back and forth with the adoring crowd who sang every word and danced and cheered throughout the entire gig.

He told stories of his life, friends, family and his own addictions and the events that had inspired his wonderful songs.

One of the guys I was with at the gig knew one of the security men. There was even a brief excited chat about being invited back stage to meet the great man!

Aaaand even go out for a drink with him after the gig!!

But alas, when considering the prospect of painting the town red with six already Excitable Glaswegian Boys…..Warren (the recovering alcoholic and addict) very wisely demurred.

I had taken along the booklet from Warren’s Greatest Hits Album ‘I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead’ 

I was initially ridiculed by my fellow concert goers but they soon realised that THEY also should’ve brought something to be signed!! I asked our friendly security man to take it to Warren to have it autographed. 

Warren wrote:

To Mark – 


Warren Zevon. 

Glasgow 100

The security guy explained that Warren had been so blown away by the reaction of the crowd and had never dreamt that he even HAD 100 fans in Glasgow!

It remains one of my most treasured possessions!

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)

Now That’s What I Call 1975

Paul Fitzpatrick: April 2023

1975 is a year that I always look back on with fondness.

I’d love to be highfalutin and say it’s because it marked the end of the Vietnam War or that it was the year that CAT scans were introduced.
But sadly no, my reasons are a bit more mundane and personal than that.

Fundamentally, 1975 for me was a year of transition, from kidulthood to adulthood.
No more dark sarcasm in the classroom, or for that matter, school dinners in the dining hall – it was time to step-up and earn your own bread and make your own pieces.

Looking back, the transition from school life to the workplace was pretty seamless, one minute you’re sitting at the back of the school bus, observing the worker bees, the next you’re part of their colony, although to be fair, there wasn’t a lot of buzzing going on.

You’ll be familiar with the well coined phrase – “the more things change the more they stay the same” – well I can attest to that.
Hail, rain or shine, you still had to get up in the morning, and just like in double-maths, at certain points of the day, you’d be keeping an eye on the clock.

The big difference of course was that wee bundle of cash you received every Friday.

That weekly windfall was life changing….

For a 16 year old it defined adulthood and represented freedom.

Freedom to go out at the weekend.
Freedom to go on holiday with your mates.
Freedom to buy
nice things.
Freedom to go to the ice-cream-van to buy as many Hobos, Blackjacks and Bazooka Joe’s as you liked!

Of course freedom comes at a price and at a certain point you realised the £10 you were handing over to your mum for your keep, probably wasn’t stretching as far as you thought.

Still, those post-school-years spent living at home offered a gentle pathway into the harsh realities of life, although one of the better realities was having a bit of money in your pocket for the first time.

Our parents weren’t daft, they encouraged us to save, to put money away for a rainy day, to start thinking about our futures but there were too many temptations, too many things we wanted, too many things we needed.

Who’s going up the dancing in a pair of hipster flares when all the cool dudes are wearing high-waist baggies?
Who’s sporting last years Harrington jacket when the dapper Dan’s are wearing satin bomber jackets?

I had good mates who would stay indoors every other weekend in order to invest in the right gear but I never saw the point in working hard all week just to mope about the house and watch the Generation Game on a Saturday night.

Compromises had to be made, which is why a handful of us ended up frequenting ‘Paddy’s Market’ on a regular basis.

Wearing my marketing hat, I’d describe Paddy’s Market today as….
A sustainable, alfresco, one-stop-shop for pre-loved fashion‘.

In reality it was an outdoor market selling second hand clothes down one of Glasgow’s more colourful back streets.
Selfridges it wasn’t, but if you knew what you were looking for and could endure the musty bouquet for long enough, then most visits would end successfully with a couple of additions to your wardrobe for the price of a pint.

It was a period of adjustment alright, however I’m sure most of us remember that first year in the workplace favourably – a time when there were no (formal) 360 degree reviews and ‘team-building’ was a Friday afternoon in the pub.

Usually with a jukebox playing some cracking music in the background.

In terms of music, 1975 is a year that tends to slip through the cracks when critics reflect on the decade.
Mirroring my own circumstances perhaps it’s because 1975 was a transitional year, with the established order of things undergoing change.

The Classic Rock bands who had led the way in the first half of the decade were coming to the end of their cycle – although 75 would see Zeppelin release their last noteworthy studio album, Physical Graffiti, ditto Pink Floyd with Wish You Were Here.

Prog-rock giants like Yes and Genesis were undergoing key personnel changes and a lot of the Melody Maker big-hitters like ELP, Jethro Tull, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple were not shifting albums in the same numbers they used to.

Glam rock had come to the end of its yellow brick road with Bowie moving to the US in search of Fame and his close friend Marc Bolan’s best days were sadly behind him.

Disco was bubbling under but the halcyon days of Studio 54 were still a couple of years off and Disco in 75 was confined primarily to the New York underground gay scene.

Punk, in the meantime, was still a twinkle in Malcolm McLaren’s eye with the first incarnation of the Sex Pistols playing Monkees and Small Faces covers whilst learning to play (or in some cases, hold) their instruments.

One new sound that did come to the fore in 75 was Blue Eyed Soul, a term given to white artists producing a credible R&B sound.

Hall & Oates, the Bee Gees and British acts like the the Average White Band, Robert Palmer and Kokomo were at the fore whilst established artists like Bowie with “Young Americans” and Elton, with his Billy Jean King tribute – “Philadelphia Freedom”, were dipping their toes into the blue-eye lagoon.

Smooth waters that would later be navigated as ‘Yacht Rock’.

Kokomo perform Bobby Womack’s “I Can Understand it” on the OGWT

Another category destined to connect with Yacht Rock, was Soft Rock, a West Coast sound typified by bands like Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles and Jefferson Starship.
1975 proved pivotal for Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles who both recalibrated to a sound which would propel them to mega success soon after, with Rumours and Hotel California.

1975 was also the year of Funk, with Earth Wind & Fire, The Ohio Players, The Isley Brothers, Hamilton Bohannon, The Fatback Band and George Clinton’s Parliament all finding their groove whilst maintaining the James Brown tradition of playing ‘on the one‘.

Shining Star – Earth, Wind & Fire

So was 1975 a classic year culturally, or just a memorable year for this school leaver?

When critics talk about the great years in music, 1975 rarely warrants a mention with 1971 in particular receiving most of the accolades, but in hindsight I think 75 has a lot going for it.

Pre-punk and post-prog, it was a year of evolution with new sounds and genres coming to the fore and when I was looking through my albums of the year I was struck by how much diversity and quality there was from a year that no one talks about much.

My top 10 albums from 1975

  • That’s The Way of The World: Earth, Wind & Fire
  • Katy Lied: Steely Dan
  • Kokomo: Kokomo
  • Physical Graffiti: Led Zeppelin
  • The Last Record Album – Little Feat
  • The Hissing of Summer Lawns – Joni Mitchell
  • Pressure Drop – Robert Palmer
  • Fleetwood Mac – Fleetwood Mac
  • Mothership Connection – Parliament
  • Live! – Bob Marley & the Wailers

Honourable Mentions:
Still Crazy After All These Years – Paul Simon
Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd
Cate Bros: – The Cate Brothers
Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen

Trenchtown Rock – Bob Marley & the Wailers

Since we’re digging into the culture it turns out 1975 was a pretty special year for Movies too.

Whilst Jaws ensured that everyone from Girvan to Dunoon was counting their toes after heading ‘doon the watter’, the rest of us were perfecting our best French accents in homage to Peter Sellars’ latest escapade as Inspector Clouseau.

Both good films but only one made my top ten.

My top 10 movies from 1975

  • The Godfather Part II
  • One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest
  • Young Frankenstein
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • Dog Day Afternoon
  • Race With the Devil
  • Rollerball
  • Shampoo
  • Jaws
  • Hard Times
Young Frankenstein – one highlight of many

I know, I know, any excuse to include a playlist, so here you go, a selection of 1975 highlights….

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)

Muscle Shoals Has Got The Swampers

Paul Fitzpatrick: March 2022

Fresh from exiting The Faces and the UK with its 83% income tax rate in 1975, Rod Stewart made a pilgrimage to a sleepy little town in Alabama with producer Tom Dowd to record his new Album, Atlantic Crossing.

A legendary engineer and producer for Atlantic records, Dowd had worked with Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin and Rod wanted to capture the same gritty, authentic sound by recording at Muscle Shoals studios utilising the same rhythm section as the queen of soul.

On arrival, soul-fan Rod was keen to be introduced to the musicians who had played on all the big hits by Aretha, Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge and The Staple Singers, but he got a shock.
Instead of high-fiving a crew of super cool, soul-brothers, he was introduced instead to four pale dudes with short hair who looked like they worked in the local supermarket.

Roger Hawkins, Barry Beckett, Jimmy Johnson, David Hood -The Swampers

According to bassist David Hood, Stewart was so thrown by this that he took Dowd to one side and said “Really? Is this a joke Tom?” but Dowd confirmed that the four men affectionately known as the Swampers, were the real deal.

The Swampers were originally recruited to be part of Rick Hall’s FAME studio in 1964 learning their craft on countless sessions, but in 1969 they took the decision to set up their own studio across town when Hall refused to give them a stake in the business.

Encouraged by Jerry Wexler of Atlantic records, the Swampers had eventually come to realise their worth, why else would iconic artists be shunning fancy studios in New York and Los Angeles to travel south to record their platinum albums in a sleepy one-horse town.

One of the first bands to visit the Swampers new studio was the Rolling Stones who flew in for three days, just prior to the infamous Altamont concert.
The sessions produced “Brown Sugar”, “Wild Horses” and “You Gotta Move”.

Swamper guitarist Jimmy Johnson on the decks for Brown Sugar

Keith Richard would later say that it was the Stones most productive recording session and that it’s likely they would have recorded Exile on Main Street at Muscle Shoals if he’d been allowed to enter the US at the time.

One of the unique things about the Swampers was their ability to shape-shift seamlessly between any genre; they’re aim was always to blend with the artists sound whether it be soul, country, bubblegum pop or rock.

This way the Stones still sounded like the Stones, Etta James still sounded like Etta James and Paul Simon still sounded like Paul Simon, but to the trained ear there was always a Muscle Shoals feel.

As an example within weeks of the Stones recording “Brown Sugar” the Osmonds rolled up to Muscle Shoals with a bubblegum pop song called “One Bad Apple”. Looking for a Motown sound they requested a Jackson Five vibe, and that’s exactly what they got.
If you listen to the song you’ll see what I mean…

Once Rod got over his initial shock he would record some of his biggest hits with the Swampers, including “Sailing”, Tonight’s The Night”, “I Don’t Want To Talk About It” and “The Killing of Georgie”.
Perhaps the best example of the sound Rod was after is on his version of the Isley Brothers “This Old Heart of Mine”, where you can hear the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section laying down the type of authentic southern-soul groove that you’d hear on any Staple Singers album.

This Old Heart of Mine

Paul Simon who had his pick of session musicians and state of the art studios in the 70s also cut some memorable tracks with the Swampers at Muscle Shoals, including – “Loves Me Like a Rock”, “Take Me to The Mardi Gras” and “Still Crazy After All These Years”. The latter showcasing Swamper Barry Beckett’s keyboard skills on the Fender Rhodes.

The kings of Southern Rock, Lynyrd Skynyrd who made their early recordings at Muscle Shoals, would go on to immortalise The Swampers by name-checking them in their 1974 hit, “Sweet Home Alabama”

Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers
And they’ve been known to pick a song or two (yes, they do)
Lord, they get me off so much
They pick me up when I’m feelin’ blue
Now how about you?

Sadly only one of the original Swampers is with us today, the bassist David Hood. However, before Hawkins & Johnson left us they took part in a great documentary about the Muscles Shoals scene made by film maker Greg Camalie in 2013.
It is well worth a watch, last time I looked it was available to rent on Amazon Prime for £3.99.

Over the years everyone from Bob Dylan to James Brown and Doctor Hook to Dire Straits has travelled to Alabama to capture the magic of Muscle Shoals and it’s amazing to think that it is the same studio, mixing desk and in a lot of cases, musicians, that have created such a diverse catalogue of music.

To help illustrate the point here’s a playlist with a few of the artists that graced the old studio….

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)

‘Whatever,’ as they say in Brazil.

Brazil flag.

Regular readers of this blog will already know that I am a great lover of Brazilian music, but how far that goes back is hard to gauge. I do remember as an eight or nine year old dancing around the living room to Mas Que Nada by Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66.

I knew I should be following my big brothers’ lead and listening to the Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Fleetwood Mac and the myriad of other rock ‘n roll acts of our generation but I was moved by the groove of this exotic music.

Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66

The sound may be a bit ‘easy listening’ or even cheesy to some but I would rigorously defend it as the first introduction of a Bossa Nova/Jazz/Samba song in the mainstream market of it’s time.

In 1962 trumpeter Herb Alpert had a bit of an itch (possibly a Spanish Flea from one of those pesky Tijuana Brass) and decided to start a record label with businessman Jerry Moss. One of the first acts A & M signed was Brazilian pianist Sergio and his Brasil ’66 cohorts. The band was put together in California and was only 50% Brazilian with it’s lead singer Lani Hall (later Mrs. Alpert) hailing from Chicago.

A&M Record label

Mas Que Nada was written by George Best – sorry that should read Jorge Ben in 1962. Easy mistake. The title translates as a sarcastic ‘Yeah, right’, ‘no way !’ or in today’s teenage parlance ‘whatever !’

Oari rai
Oba oba boa
Get out of my way
That I wanna pass
Because samba is really exciting
And I wanna dance [samba]

This samba
That is mixed with maracatu*
It’s an old black man’s samba
Black man’s samba
A samba like this is so nice
You won’t want me to come to the end

(*a regional rhythm from the Brazilian northeast.)

Yes, well! I guess some things just shouldn’t be translated !

Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66

The song got a makeover in 2006 with the Black Eyed Peas making it a rap hit. Dreadful in my opinion though if it gets people interested in hearing the ‘original’ version that’s all good and well. Personally I prefer Al Jarreau’s 1994 version from his Tenderness album.

So excuse me as I grab my caxixis (!) and samba about the living room !



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

“Woodstock” by Matthews Southern Comfort

Paul Fitzpatrick: January 2023

Every now and then we get invited to write articles for other blogs.

Recently we were asked to submit a piece on our ‘favourite number one single’, at which point I realised that very few good songs actually made it to the top of the UK charts in the 70s.

There were a few exceptions of course – “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, “Maggie May” and a few others, but in truth there wasn’t a lot to work with.

I think it’s true that most beloved songs are beloved because they evoke memories and there’s one particular number one from 1970 which takes me back, as a 12 year old, to the first social event of my own choosing, the youth club disco – a rites of passage if ever there was one.

At 12 you have to handle that unsettling transition from primary to high-school – in status terms you go from being a big fish to a teeny tadpole.
At the same time hormones are kicking-in and some of your friends have baritone’s and fuzzy facial hair whilst others squeak like Barry Gibb.

It is a trigger for change though and one of the big changes for me was getting interested in music, which was recognised by my lovely mum who came home one day with the *Top of the Pops volume 12 album, featuring hits from – Free, The Kinks, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Cat Stevens.

Captivated by the cover, (remember the hormones were kicking in) I proceeded to take control of the family gramophone, but after a few tracks my enthusiasm for this treasure-trove of hits began to wain.

Free’s Paul Rodgers’, or should I say the imposter who was trying to emulate him, sounded like a pub singer with laryngitis, John Fogarty’s Rickenbacker definitely needed re-tuning, and “Lady D’Arbanville” was more cats chorus than Cat Stevens.

The Pickwick Paul Rodgers murdering “All Right Now”

Of course, I had no idea at the time that the reason Pickwick could compile all the hits of the day for such good value, AND position a diversionary-tactic glamour puss on the cover, was because the original artists were nowhere to be seen.

It was a genius concept, aimed at two types of consumer – those who were quite happy to hear covers and those who wanted to peer at the COVERS.

Anyway, back to the youth club disco, it may have been 52 years ago but there are a couple of things that have always stuck with me….

First of all, despite the relatively small age-gap, the gulf between us young uns and the youth club veterans who were all of 14 or 15, was seismic. They were so much more mature and sophisticated – particularly the girls with their make-up, mini-skirts and tank-tops who looked like they’d jumped off the cover of the aforementioned Top of the Pops albums.

Secondly, the music….. apart from the Kelvin Hall carnival I’d never been anywhere where the music was so good… or played so ear-splittingly loud.
Every song the DJ played was a classic and to be fair we handled the volume pretty well until Sabbath’s “Paranoid” scattered us from our perch beside the speakers.

It was an all-out attack to the senses but we were quite happy sitting in the peripheries, drinking our fizzy-pop, taking everything in, and letting the epic soundtrack wash over us.

This was way more fun than watching Val Doonican with the family on a Saturday night.

Coming back to the music, it was a bit of a golden-age for singles and if you look down the list of 70s number one’s, you’ll struggle to see a hot streak of number one’s to match the following in 1970.

The sequence kicked off with two soul classics, compulsory picks on any decent jukebox – Smokey Robinson’s “Tears of a Clown” and Freda Payne’s “Band of Gold”.

“Woodstock” by Matthews Southern Comfort was next off the rank, followed by Jimi Hendrix’s posthumous “Voodoo Chile”.

The year was closed out by Dave Edmund’s “I hear You Knocking” which stayed at number one for 6 weeks before being replaced with Clive Dunn’s “Grandad”
The quirkiness of the UK record buying public, was never too far away.

I remember hearing all of those songs that night, along with Purple’s “Black Night”, McGuinness Flint’s “When I’m Dead and Gone” and T-Rex’s “Ride a White Swan”, but the track that takes me back to that church-hall every time I hear it is “Woodstock”, penned by Joni Mitchell and performed by Matthews Southern Comfort.

Joni’s an icon, but in 1970 I had no idea who she was, or who Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young were. The fact that Matthews Southern Comfort’s rendition of “Woodstock” was the third version of the song to be released that year, was news to me.

All I knew was that it had a great melody and a very trippy vibe…..
“we are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get ourselves, back to the garden”.

I had zero awareness at the time that it was a hippy anthem about the Woodstock Festival, or that it had been composed by a pissed-off Joni Mitchell, confined to watching live coverage of the festival in her hotel room – coerced by her then manager to appear on the Dick Cavett show instead of performing at Woodstock.

Mitchell’s version had been released as the B side to “Big Yellow Taxi” and whilst CSN&Y’s version was mega in America and Canada, the version by Matthews Southern Comfort, fronted by former Fairport Convention vocalist Ian Matthews was the most successful internationally, giving them their one and only big hit.
A life-changing moment, which as it turns out, was a happy accident.

It all started when Matthews’ newly put together band were invited to record four live songs for a BBC session but with only three prepared they hurriedly put together an arrangement of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” on the spot.

As it turned out their ad hoc rendition of “Woodstock” was so well received that they were encouraged to put it out as a single, something their record company weren’t keen on and only agreed to if CSN&Y’s version didn’t chart in the UK, which fortunately proved to be the case for Matthews.

With the song recorded, released and struggling to sell due to zero record company promotion or support, the third piece of luck kicked in when Tony Blackburn made “Woodstock” his record of the week, duly catapulting the single up the charts to the number one spot, where it stayed for 3 weeks.

Alas, this was Matthews Southern Comfort’s only chart success and the song has predictably fallen into the category aptly titled – ‘One Hit Wonder’.

I grew to love the Joni Mitchell original, and I’ve listened to most versions of the song including an interesting up-tempo interpretation by Stephen Stills, featuring Jimi Hendrix on bass & Buddy Miles on drums, however, the Matthews Southern Comfort version is still the best – well to this 12-year-old anyway!

(*If you want to read more on the Top of The Pops catalogue of albums, Colin posted a great article. Click here for more)

turntable talk: they’re a poet, don’t you know it.

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, Dave, for again asking Once Upon a Time in The ‘70s to join the Turntable Talk discussion.


This time around, the topic was They’re a Poet Don’t You Know It... Dave asked us ‘to pick one song that you think has fantastic lyrics, or one you like because of the lyrics, and say a bit about why you love it.

As I’ve said before on this and other blogs, I’m not so much a ‘lyrics man.’  I’m a bit of a philistine in that regard, I guess. What hooks me into a song is the music; the beat and harmonies; the pace.

When I read the remit, though, one artist immediately sprung to mind. Then two. Three.

All three are poets. Simple. That’s it – poets in their own right. Not musicians with a clever turn of phrase; not an artist that had some weird LSD trip resulting in a profound, life affirming psychedelic vision that inspired them to write in romantic, flowery terms.

Nope. Just poets.

So, ever the rebel, I’m going ignore Dave’s instruction.

OK what I’ll do then, in an effort to keep this concise as possible (that’s a laugh!) is concentrate on the two artists who were around in The ‘70s. That makes sense, right?

I’m going to pass on the wonderful Kae Tempest, simply because I live in the past and Kae is very much ‘present.’ I don’t actually know any songs particularly well, but every one I’ve heard just drips lyrical genius. Not so much in the words that are used, but more the manner in which they are delivered.

Right, here we go, proper: Linton Kwesi Johnson was born in Jamaica but came to UK (Brixton, London) in 1963 at the age of eleven. The late Sixties, Seventies and early Eighties saw considerable racial tension in England, and Linton grew up facing prejudice and persecution from all angles – especially so, the police.

Linton Kwesi Johnson

I grew up in Scotland. We didn’t witness anything like the discrimination that was so prevalent down south. So when Linton’s work began to gain airplay on the John Peel radio show, I was engrossed- shocked at the content and that such injustices could be happening only a couple hundred miles away, but also entranced by the delivery of such powerful  patois poetry.

Linton Kwesi Johnson’s recitals had me listening hard. They made me focus; concentrate on what he was saying in this ‘foreign tongue’ and so his message became even more stronger.

An added attraction for me is Linton’s use of Dub / reggae music for backing. On many recordings, he would hire Denis Bovell for the mixing desk, percussion, keys.  (Dennis is one of my favourite Dub artists , with several of his albums in my collection.)

This particular track, ‘Sonny’s Lettah,’ released in 1978 encapsulates pathos, indignation, retribution, regret and pride in under four minutes. Musically, it combines traditional blues with reggae / dub.

(The song relates a letter being sent to a mother back home in Jamaica, explaining why her son – the writer- and his brother are locked up in jail, having been arrested under the ‘Sus Law.’ This was a ‘stop & search’ law that allowed police to stop, search and potentially arrest people on suspicion of them being in breach of section 4 of the Vagrancy Act 1824.  The police, it was established, unfairly targeted black and ethnic minority groups and led in part to the riots in Bristol, London, Liverpool and Birmingham in 1980 & 1981. The law was eventually repealed in August ’81)

Altogether, it’s pretty damned powerful, I’d say – as indeed are all the works of LKJ. I could have picked any number of tracks, but this one conveniently displays the lyrics.

John Cooper Clarke

John Cooper Clarke is a spoken word performer from Salford, by Manchester. He’s often referred to as The People’s Poet, and more simply as a Punk Poet. As does Linton Kwesi Johnson, John deals with social issues but though he can be downbeat and hard-hitting, like with ‘Beasley Street’ below he more often resorts to humour to make his point – as in the second example, ‘Kung Fu International.’ (I know the latter is not technically a ‘song’ in that it has no accompanying music, but I think Cooper Clarke’s voice ‘sings,’ in a deadpan, Mancunian way.)

Though he now performs solo, and purely in spoken word format, his initial work in the ‘70s was put to music by producer Martin Hannett and a band of Manchester ‘all stars’ including Pete Shelly from The Buzzcocks and Vini Reilly of The Durutti Column, playing under the name The Invisible Girls.

And in keeping with his ‘punk poet’ tag, John Cooper Clarke has been special guest of such luminaries as Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Buzzcocks, while up and coming young whippersnappers like Joy Division, Duran Duran and New Order snapped up the chance to open for him.

People would say in 1981 that The Specials portrayed an image of desolate, urban decay here in UK. From the year previous, try this for size … my favourite verse comes in @ 2’ 40”:

Hot beneath the collar
An inspector calls
Where the perishing stink of squalor
Impregnates the walls
The rats have all got rickets
They spit through broken teeth
The name of the game is not cricket
Caught out on Beasley Street

And finally, if there’s anyone can make being beaten up and having their head kicked in sound funny, Johnny’s yer man!

Linton Kwesi Johnson & John Cooper Clarke

Linton Kwesi Johnson and John Cooper Clarke. Two socially conscious men with more in common  than just triple-barrel names and a fascination for unprovoked attacks.

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