When I moved to London in 84, I worked beside a guy who had just made the same move but from Manchester rather than Glasgow. We hit it off straight away, moved to a different company together and then after a few years we decided that we wanted to start up our own business, which we did in 1990.
This meant that for nigh-on 20 years I probably spent more time with Laurence than I did with my own wife and young family. We were constantly travelling, going to see customers all over the UK, Factories in Hong Kong, Cape Town and Morocco. Fabric Suppliers in Italy & France and trade fairs in Europe and the US.
We were different people, but we got on really well, he was a graduate that spoke 3 languages, whilst I was still trying to master English; he loved rugby, I loved football; he drank real ale and red wine, I drank lager & lime.
Still Buddies 37 years on
The one thing we always bonded on apart from work was music, we were a similar age and had grown up listening to the same radio stations and buying the same albums, but Laurence had a unique talent that was even more impressive to me than speaking 3 languages…. he knew the lyrics to any 70s song (and most 60’s songs) that came on the radio!
In the late 80s we worked for a Chinese company and spent a lot of time in Hong Kong just as Karaoke was starting to break through, and before it hit the UK. We used to travel out to HK to meet customers who were visiting our factory… buyers from UK retailers like Top Shop, River Island and Next, and in the evening we’d take them to one of the first Karaoke Bars to open in Kowloon called The Bali Lounge.
Whilst I’d be scrambling to read the words on the monitor to ‘You’re So Vain’ or ‘New Kid in Town’, Laurence would be face-on to the crowd belting out the song without glancing once at the lyrics.
I asked him once if when he was younger he used to study and memorise lyrics from album sleeves or from those pop mags that were around in the 70s, like Disco 45, but he didn’t need to, he just heard songs on the radio and the lyrics stayed with him.
I would test him with obscure songs, and he rarely failed, it didn’t matter if he liked the song or not, if he’d heard it a couple of times the lyrics always stuck.
I thought about his unique talent the other day as I was listening to one of the songs from our 70s playlist and remembered that I’d been singing the wrong lyrics for nigh on 40 years to a song I love.
The song was Tumbling Dice by The Rolling Stones it was released in 1971 and up until a few years ago I always thought Jagger was singing ‘Tommy the tumblin’ dice’. I now know of course that it should be…. ‘Call me the tumblin’ dice’.
I love that song and had belted out “Tommy the tumblin dice” at Stones gigs, any die-hard Stones fans within earshot at Glastonbury in 2013 must have cringed. For nearly half a century I thought the song was about a gambler called Tommy, when in fact it’s a ditty penned by Jagger (riffs by Richards) about love, money and loose women… using gambling metaphors. There was no Tommy in sight!
I also didn’t realise that there’s an official term for this sort of thing.
Mondegreen: a mondegreen is a mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase in a way that gives it a new meaning.
It made me think of other classic mondegreens…. like my friend who will go unnamed, who on hearing the track Ziggy Stardust for the umpteenth time finally cracked and asked why Bowie would be ‘Making love with his Eagle’? When we all know that in fact he was “Making love with his ego’!
Or a girl I knew who genuinely thought Crystal Gale was singing…. ‘Donuts make my brown eyes blue’
I was always big on melodies and never that strong on lyrics when I was younger, so I’ve had a lot of catching up to do with lyrics over the years.
Some lyrics as I knew them didn’t even make sense, but I never stopped to wonder why, for instance why would Kenny Rogers have 400 children, as in…. ‘You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille, with 400 children and a crop in the field’? Of course, on closer inspection I now know that it was only ‘4 hungry children’ the bold Kenny was left with… he may have been a lothario and a favourite of Dolly’s but he wasn’t that prolific!
There are sites and forums dedicated to mis-heard lyrics now and the three mondegreens below seem to be the ones that pop up the most…
Song – Lucy in the sky with diamonds: Lyric – ‘The girl with colitis goes by‘ (should be – The girl with kaleidoscope eyes)
Song – Bad Moon Rising: Lyric – ‘There’s a bathroom on the right‘ (should be – There’s a bad moon on the rise)
Song – Purple Haze: Lyric – ‘Scuse me whilst I kiss this guy‘ (should be – Scuse me whilst I kiss the sky)
Peter Kay did an excellent stand-up routine based on misheard lyrics that you can find the link for below and if you’ve ever been caught out lyrically, then please share and let us know what your mis-heard lyrics were on the comments or the Facebook page….
Every generation tends to think there era was best.
And why wouldn’t they… typically, every era has access to more ‘stuff’ and better lifestyle choices than the previous one.
For our generation (late Baby-Boomers born between 1954-1964), I think we hit the sweet spot culturally…. particularly when it comes to music.
My musical awareness began around 1968, just in time to catch the Beatles, and all the brilliant 70s artists that followed. I look back now and realise that the 70s wouldn’t have been so prolific without the 60s…. with The Beatles, Dylan, Hendrix, Motown, Stax and the Laurel Canyon scene inspiring what was to follow.
And what was to follow was pretty special…….
The Rolling Stones, The Who, Steely Dan, David Bowie, Marvin Gaye, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, The Eagles, Earth Wind & Fire, James Brown, The Doobie Brothers, Roxy Music, T-Rex, Little Feat, Fleetwood Mac, James Taylor, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklyn, Carole King, Carly Simon, Bob Marley, Parliament/Funkadelic, Bobby Womack, Pink Floyd, Al Green, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Queen, McCartney, Lennon, Harrison , Yes, Genesis, AWB, The Bee Gees, Deep Purple, Linda Ronstadt, Curtis Mayfield, George Benson, Rory Gallagher, John Martyn, Todd Rundgren…. and many more
Whether you were a fan of some of these acts or not, the one thing they all shared was a prolificacy of output…. amazingly they all managed to release multiple albums of exceptional quality, whilst still finding time to compose, record, tour, collaborate and live a 70s rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, with all the excesses that entailed.
Indeed, there was so much quality being produced in the 70s that for the first five or six years of the decade it seemed like there was a landmark release every other week.
Take 1971 as an example.
The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers
Carole King – Tapestry
Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV
David Bowie – Hunky Dory
Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
Rod Stewart – Every Picture Tells a Story
John Lennon – Imagine
Joni Mitchell – Blue
The Who – Who’s Next
T Rex – Electric Warrior
Cat Stevens – Teaser and the Firecat
The Doors – LA Woman
Sly and the Family Stone – There’s a Riot Goin’ On
The Faces – A Nods as Good as a Wink to a Blind Horse
James Brown – Sex Machine
Don McLean – American Pie
Gil Scott Heron – Pieces of a Man
Jethro Tull – Aqualung
Pink Floyd – Meddle
James Taylor – Mud Slide Slim
Isaac Hayes – Shaft
Yes – Fragile
Paul McCartney – Ram
Included in this list from 71 are two of the top three albums of all time, according to Rolling Stone magazine…. Marvin Gaye’s – What’s Going On and Joni Mitchell’s – Blue. Both seminal and often cited as landmark recordings by other artists and critics, but in truth just two excellent albums from a catalogue of exquisite releases. There is a neat book about the quality of the music released in 1971 by David Hepworth who describes the year as ‘the most creative in popular music’
Anther remarkable thing about the 70s was the diversity of the music.
Rock, pop, soul, reggae, jazz, punk, folk, glam, funk….. it was one big melting pot where you could find Benny Hill rubbing shoulders at the top of the charts with Jimi Hendrix, Abba with Pink Floyd, and The Wombles with Stevie Wonder.
The 70s record buying public represented a ‘broad church’ of musical styles and tastes and they were all represented in the weekly top 30.
There was also a constant flow of talent breaking through in the 70s. Take the chart below from July 1972 and you will see the emergence of a few acts making their chart debuts that month, who went on to do pretty well…. Roxy Music, Mott the Hoople, Alice Cooper, ELO
Another barometer of how good an era is, can be measured I think, by the interest in it from future generations.
Based on my own anecdotal evidence, I have a daughter who loves Gladys Knight and Marvin Gaye as much as she loves Beyonce or John Mayer and I have sons who dig Steely Dan, The Rolling Stones and Stevie Wonder as much as they dig Kings of Leon, Foo Fighters or Kanye West.
That only happens when the music is timeless…..
Talking of timeless music, the updated 70s Jukebox links are below. There are 250 songs on the master playlist now, with the common thread being that they are all singles that would almost certainly have been playing on a jukebox somewhere in the 70s.
Thanks to everyone who contributed, it’s a playlist that’s been curated by you and not surprisingly our choices have proved to be a microcosm of the record buying public with a wide range of tastes and musical styles covered.
It was clear from the song choices coming through at the start that there were two distinctive threads – Soul/Disco Classic Pop/Rock
Therefore I’ve prepared two playlists….
1) The Ultimate Playlist which is the master playlist and features all 250 songs, tracks 1-150 are classic pop/rock songs and tracks 151-250 are soul/disco tracks…. select shuffle and it will churn out 17 hours of hit after hit, just like a great jukebox should.
2) The Boogie Nights Playlist features the 100 soul/disco tracks taken from the master playlist which you can boogie or smooch to….. just like a night up Joannas or your favourite 70s nightclub of choice!
Within each playlist I have tried to group the songs in a running order that makes sense but if you’re like me you’ll probably just hit ‘shuffle’, pour out your beverage of choice and boogie round the kitchen like it’s 1975…
To save the playlist to your Spotify library….. press the Spotify icon in the top right hand corner of the playlists above and when you’ve been transferred to the playlist on your own Spotify account, click the Heart icon to save the playlist to your library.
(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – May 2021)
Who remembers the ‘listening booth?’
In the early 1970s, other than borrowing a record from a friend, or perhaps thieving one, there were very few means of listening to new music. The choice of radio stations was also limited, and their playlists were generally ‘mainstream,’ catering for the masses.
With an L.P. costing around £2/ 5s (£2.25 a year later when decimalisation came into effect) you really wanted to know what you were shelling out for.
It was all very well enjoying a single (‘45’) released by a band or artist, but this was no guarantee they could produce ten or twelve tracks of similar quality – three if ‘Progressive Rock’ bands were your bag.
Misjudgements were costly.
The old ‘try before you buy’ mantra was never more pertinent. Most credible music stores provided some means or other for prospective buyers to skip through the tracks of an album before deciding whether or not to buy.
Of course, this facility was open to abuse. Some shoppers would spend a whole Saturday afternoon on a constant loop of listening to an L.P. re-joining the queue of punters, then listen to another album. This would continue until such time as the store-assistant caught on, and asked the evident time-waster to splash the cash … or leave.
(Guilty as charged m’lud.)
As I mentioned in an earlier post, my very first vinyl L.P. purchase was made initially on the strength of two singles, but backed by the safety net of listening to the remaining tracks on the eponymous John Kongos album.
Whether it were pressure on floor space, the ease of home-taping, or the advent of more specialised radio stations, by the mid-70s though, these booths started to disappear from the high street. And with all the streaming services at our finger tips now, they are not likely to make a comeback in any meaningful sense.
Resultantly, from that time, until the latter became more freely available, I reckon there must have been millions of pounds spent by music fans ‘on spec’ – paid in the simple hope and belief that they were purchasing forty minutes or so of wonderful music.
I also reckon there must be millions of music fans who rue the vanishing listening booth; who have at least one album in their collection that they regret buying; who would rather have spent their equivalent of nowadays, £20 plus on a kebab and a few beers.
So, it’s time to ‘fess up – what album from The Seventies, still in your collection, really disappoints you? What ‘70s album do you flick past without so much as a cursory glance?
What album do you bewail, and why? What disappoints you about this record, and why did you buy it in the first place?
Me? The one and only of my Seventies LPs that I no longer play, and indeed really only bought for one track, is ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ by Meatloaf
(I can almost hear that communal, sharp intake of breath!)
This album was released in 1977. The year of Punk; the year I was wearing ripped jeans and cap sleeve T-shirts. It was everything Punk rebelled against and in truth it troubled me to be seen buying it. But what the heck – I was working. I had money to burn …. and I may as well have done just that.
I was sucked in by the general hype and, it has to be said, a blistering performance on The Old Grey Whistle Test of ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Light,’ featuring Karla Devito. I still love that song.
Inspired by the recent Apollo posts I’ve decided to share some of my own gig memories.
On 12th of May 1976 myself and my friend Peter attended The Rolling Stones concert at The Glasgow Apollo.
I don’t remember too much about the gig but apparently it wasn’t their best as it was beset by sound problems all night.
It’s what happened after the gig that is etched on my mind however.
As we were leaving there was an altercation on the street right outside the main doors. Peter and I decided to cut along Renfield Lane to avoid whatever was happening. Just as we got to the side door it burst open and a figure hurtled out, slipped on the cobbles and crashed to the ground. I reached down to help him to his feet.
‘Scrag-dab Groog Slubdabahoo!’ spluttered the man and I suddenly realised that the skinny figure I was propping up was a totally wasted Keith Richards! Almost immediately a black limo screeched to a halt in front of us and a very large man jumped out, removed KR from my arms, opened the back door and threw him onto the back seat! He grunted ‘Thanks man’ jumped into the car and sped off! The entire incident lasted about 40 seconds!
Peter and I just stared open mouthed at each other and then burst out laughing!
A few weeks later, on 5th June 1976 I was very fortunate to be asked to be part of the security team at ‘The Who Put The Boot In’ all day gig at Celtic Park.
My brother was friendly with a guy (MR) who booked all the bands for Glasgow Tech and he was asked to provide some bodies for the day. MR was very well known in the UK music industry and even had Pans People at his 22nd birthday party at the old Albany Hotel, where I danced with my long time crush, the gorgeous Cherry Gillespie……but I digress.
My brother and I and 4 other friends duly turned up at Celtic Park at 8.00am and along with 60 other ‘security’ guards were given a briefing on our duties for the day. We were issued with our yellow ‘Harvey Goldsmith’ security jackets and split up into teams of six. We were then taken on a tour of the ground’s fire exits, toilets, catering and first aid points. We were also shown the No Access areas and told that in no uncertain terms that the large, bulky figures sporting the blue ‘Rock Steady’ jackets were the REAL security and we were to assist them whenever asked to!
Our team of six was then told to report to the front of the stadium where the crowds had been gathering for the last few hours. We were to assist the Police confiscating the fans’ alcohol before they entered the stadium! ‘Either drink it where you stand or give it to us!’ We had to open and empty the beer cans and smash the glass bottles into large brick bins. The smell of alcohol was eye watering! People were attempting to consume their entire kerryoot there and then! Especially the ones at the back of the huge queues as the word quickly spread.
I watched a skinny wee guy down a bottle of vodka in the five minutes it took him to get to the turnstile! I doubt if he saw much of the day’s entertainment!
Though I imagine quite a lot (hunners) of half and quarter bottles of alcohol were missed by our untrained searches and smuggled into the stadium. (I’m also sure quite a few made it into Yella Jaikets’ zipped pokits!) After about 2 hours confiscating booze, I was partnered with an older guy and sent to guard the pylon on the right side of the stage.
We were there to prevent anybody trying to climb up it, but as you couldn’t see the stage from there, nobody did! After a boring half hour my partner announced that he was ‘Offski’ ‘F#€K This’ were his exact words. I later found out that he was ejected for drinking. I lasted another 15 minutes then abandoned my post and decided to have a wander back stage. Little Feat were on stage and I was enjoying Lowell George’s superb slide guitar work.
I was talking to a long haired denim clad guy next to me who turned out to be the bass player (Frank O’Keefe… I had to google him) of The Outlaws who had already played their set.
A man approached us and said to Frank ‘Excuse me, this is Alan Longmuir of The Bay City Rollers….’Alan also plays bass’ Frank stared right through him, shrugged a ‘So what?’ and returned to talking to me! I felt really sorry for Alan Longmuir.
A Rock Steady Security Guy shouted ‘Right you! Follow me!’ So I did.
I followed him down a back staircase and emerged outside in a courtyard.
A few weeks before the gig a Sunday newspaper ran a competition to win a gig ticket and the chance to meet Keith Moon and help him smash up a replica of the organ used in Rock Opera, Tommy!
There stood Keith Moon dressed in a leather bikers jacket with tasseled sleeves and brandishing a sledgehammer!
After posing for press photographs, cackling Keith dealt the first mighty blow to the poor keyboard sending black and white keys flying in all directions! Then he handed his sledgehammer to me and said ‘Your turn’ The competition winner and I then set about the helpless instrument with glee! After 15 minutes our ‘Appetite for Destruction’ waned and we put down our weapons. Keith reappeared and invited us onto The Who’s tour bus for a drink. We were greeted by a stunning 6′ 2″ woman dressed in a black leather basque, fishnet stockings and thigh length leather boots with 4″ stiletto heels! Oh and she was carrying a whip! The bus had been converted into a fully functioning bar with beer pumps, spirit optics and high stools! We took our seats and Miss Whiplash served our drinks. I had an ice cold beer (very welcome after our exertions) and a Jack & Coke. I did feel a pang of guilt for all the poor sods that had had their carry outs destroyed earlier…but not for long.
Keith was laughing and talking nonstop and it was obvious that he was already quite drunk and had probably partaken of other various substances. It was around 4pm and The Who weren’t due on stage for at least another 5 hours!
Keith offered us a second round but I declined and said I’d better, very reluctantly, get back to work. The competition winner (we never did introduce ourselves) left the bus with me. We were both still on a high after this amazing encounter with one of the legends of rock!
I returned backstage and watched SAHB’s amazing set. Nobody questioned why I was there and I had a brilliant view! The crowd went wild at Alex Harvey’s mad antics and Zal and the rest of the band pounded out song after song!
SAHB’s elaborate Vambo set then had to be dismantled and The Who’s much heralded outdoor laser light show (the first in Scotland) was set up.
The crowd were getting a bit restless by the time The Who took the stage about 9.30pm but they played a magnificent set.
However the laser show didn’t really work as intended as it was still pretty light until around 10.30pm. Then the show was over and I met up again with my brother and his pals as we queued up to be paid. The deal was ‘Hand in your Yellow Jacket and get paid £1 per hour cash or keep the jacket and get zero. Now if I’d known then that eBay would exist in the future then I would’ve kept the jacket and sold it now for £500!
However I took my £14.00 handed out by Harvey Goldsmith himself sitting in a little wooden booth.
HG was beaming as he handed over the little bundles of cash obviously calculating the tens of thousands that he’d personally made from the tour!
I can’t even remember how we all got home from that exhausting but exhilarating day!
Now this last story may not be true…..It was told to me by an older guy who regularly attended gigs throughout 70’s
Fun and substance loving band Dr. Hook were partying hard with their crew and local security at The Central Hotel after their gig at The Apollo.
One of the band overheard a local guy mentioning ‘Hocken-Shoe-Gal! and in their spaced out, inebriated state the sound of this, strange, mystical place must’ve appealed to them and they decided they must visit, so they enquired how to get there. The local guy suggested a taxi but the band insisted on travelling ‘like the other pilgrims do’ ‘Then get the No. 64 bus from under the bridge’ They were told, so off they went to Argyle St. and got on the No. 64 bus….
Unfortunately they boarded it on the wrong side of the road so instead of travelling east to the magical, mystical Auchenshuggle, they headed west through Finnieston, Partick, Whiteinch, Yoker, Clyebank and arrived at the large concrete terminus of Dalmuir West!
The band were very confused and didn’t appreciate these surroundings at all! They clambered back on the bus for the return journey back to the city centre to continue their par-tay! Hahaha
My show and tell is my silver plated alto saxophone. The Selmer Paris Balanced Action model from 1935-36. I realise that 99.99% of the population don’t know or care about this icon of the woodwind world but to us anorak train spotters of vintage saxes, a little bit of wee just came out at the mere mentioning of it’s name.
I bought it in around 1976 from a friend of a friend of my brothers called ‘Pete Tchaikovsky’ for ₤50. Considering big bro hung around with guys called Bev, Mod, Grimy and Fred Lawnmower, I’m guessing PT was a nickname or nom de plume. He could feasibly be related to Pyotr Ilyich but his accent was more east end Glasgow than central European. The Russian composer was also not known as a family man. I could say he was more Sugar Plum Fairy but that would be crass.
In it’s case, when I bought it, was a torn fragment of a football pools coupon from 1946 which I have unfortunately misplaced.
I’ve had the instrument serviced twice since owning it. Once in 1979 by my McCormacks’ colleague woodwind repairman and tenor sax legend Bobby Thomson who valued it at around ₤400 and more recently by a chap in Perth WA who put a price tag of about $4,000 about 15 years ago.
I was in a 6 piece jazz band then but became disheartened by being the acoustic wallpaper for the blue rinse set. Maybe, one day, it will rise again Phoenix like from the mausoleum (former music room).
Hi everyone – I’ve brought along some of my old record collection for Show & Tell today; pretty cool, huh?
I kept most of my old 45’s from the ’70s as well as a few of my brother’s singles from the late ’60s: an eclectic hoard including everything from ‘In the Year 2525’ by Zager and Evans to ‘Wide Eyed and Legless’ by Andy Fairweather Low.
For my ninth birthday in 1969, my parents bought me a white clock radio, which I covered in ‘Peace’ and ‘Love’ stickers; well, America was in the grip of Flower Power! I put it on my bedside table, where I drifted off to sleep to some of the best music ever written – Motown!
It was the moment of my musical awakening. This is where I first heard ‘Love Child’ by The Supremes. I went around the house glibly singing it – not understanding the lyrics, of course – causing my mother to shoot me one of her looks and say, “Honey, I don’t think you outta be listenin’ to that.”
It was here that I heard Freda Payne’s ‘Band of Gold’, Bobbi Gentry‘s version of ‘I’ll Never Fall in Love Again’, ‘Aquarius’ by The 5th Dimension, ”I heard it Through the Grapevine’ by Marvin Gaye and the first single I ever bought – ‘Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head’ by B.J. Thomas for the giddy price of 50 cents.
My big brother David came home one Saturday afternoon with ‘Sugar, Sugar’, by TheArchies tucked under his arm, but he soon tired of it and decided to sell it. My middle brother Dale and I both wanted it but David refused, saying he would “still have to listen to it!” He sold it to a friend. I bought an equally annoying single called ‘Dizzy’ by Tommy Roe and would jump up and down on the sofa until I felt sick while listening to it: life imitating art.
My parents had a 1950s stereogram in the living room on which we could drop stack 45’s. As my brother’s record collection grew, we could listen to four or five singles at a time. A typical selection might include ‘The Snake’ by Al Wilson, ‘Hawaii Five-O’ by The Ventures, Simon and Garfunkel‘s ‘Cecilia’, ‘Classical Gas’ by Mason Williams and the comic record ‘Gitarzan’ by Ray Stevens – which still makes me howl with laughter! Mom and Dad played their own small selection of LPs which favoured Andy Williams, Frank Sinatra and The Sound Of Music soundtrack.
Mom got so carried away with this ‘hip’ new music, she made Dale a blue corduroy shirt with a gold braid Nehru collar and paid a dance instructor to come to the house and teach us all to do the Twist, the Hitch-hiker and the Watusi.
As we moved to the UK and throughout the 1970s, my musical tastes grew and changed – as any teenager’s do. I ran the gamut of chart singles, getting ‘lost in music’ with my friend Denise; spending countless weekends sprawled across the dining room floor swooning to David Cassidy, Marc Bolan and The Carpenters – even Morris Albert! But Motown, Philly and disco stole my heart and still have it.
So please take a moment to enjoy my little collection of 45s – I hope they make you want to get dancin’!
If you’re a Bowie fan you probably have a selection of his albums, tapes, cd’s and downloads in your music collection…. hit-after-hit stretching across six decades from 1969’s Space Oddity to 2016’s Blackstar.
For a few years though, until his WOW moment on TOTP in 1972, as implausible as it sounds, Bowie was on course to be a one-hit-wonder…. just like Thunderclap Newman with ‘Something in the Air’ or Norman Greenbaum with ‘Spirit in the Sky’
Then along came Ziggy Stardust and the rest as they say is history. Bowie went on to become arguably the most influential artist of the 70s…..continually reinventing his sound and persona and influencing the tastes of a generation along the way.
As an example of the latter, on October 1974 David Live was released, it was a decent album showcasing Bowie’s transition from Glam to Soul with a great version of Eddie Floyd’s ‘Knock on Wood‘, but what captured my attention as much as the music was the DB suit DB wore on the cover.
Up until this point Bowie’s wardrobe had consisted of elaborate Japanese jumpsuits, kimonos and leotards.
Distinctive, perhaps, but not the kind of thing you could buy in Krazy House and wear to Shuffles on a dreich Saturday night in Glasgow!
A cool, smart suit on the other hand was something we could relate to, so on our next pay-day, a few of us went up to Glasgow to Jackson the tailors on Union St to order our own made to measure* version of the double-breasted tin-flute Bowie sported on the record sleeve. *Mark Arbuckle covered the made to measure process brilliantly in this piece. https://onceuponatimeinthe70s.com/2021/04/21/customers-incontinence-and-conga-lines/
After a few weeks the suits were ready and when we went up the town that Saturday night we all felt pretty ‘gallus’ in our high-waisted, loose-fitting trousers, and shorter-length, double breasted jackets, as did half the male population of Glasgow, who all had the same idea!
I was pretty much hooked from the minute I saw Bowie perform Starman on TOTP in 72 and stayed a fan all the way through his career. I loved his 70s personas and in particular the Thin White Duke period which frustratingly he never talked about much… owing to the fact that he had absolutely no recall of recording the Station to Station album!
In fact he was so bonkers and strung out during this period (75-76) that he reportedly kept his own urine in a fridge. This in part was due to a falling out with Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page….. Bowie became paranoid that Page (well known for dabbling in the occult) would engage some form of black-magic against him if he got hold of his bodily fluids.
Based in LA and weighing in at a meagre 7 stone, his diet at the time consisted of milk, peppers and heaps of Colombian marching powder. It’s well documented that Bowie fled this life of excess to regain health and sanity in Europe, specifically Berlin, and by the release of Heroes in 1977 he was in a much better place, both physically and mentally
I actually came into The Starman’s orbit very briefly in 1983.
I was working at Levis and we were developing a campaign to promote our 501 Jeans, which at the time, we couldn’t give away in the UK, in fact the only European country who sold them in any volume was Sweden.
UK retailers didn’t want to stock them as they were more expensive than our regular jeans and they reasoned that consumers didn’t like the American fit (low waist, straight leg).
Nonetheless, our chiefs in San Francisco had planned a global strategy around the 501, it was the original jean, which was the main point of difference for the brand in the US, where Levis was coming under threat from designer brands like Calvin Klein…. so we had no choice but to try and make it work.
I was part of a team tasked with coming up with innovative ideas to support the 501 campaign in Europe and as a first step we came up with the simple, but not so innovative idea of getting contemporary icons to wear 501’s the way James Dean & Brando used to, back in the day.
It was a classic ‘seeding’ strategy which more or less consisted of giving product away…. to opinion leaders (musicians, actors, sportsmen, models, etc), in order to get the product seen on the right people.
It’s a concept that can work pretty well if all the planets align. As an example…
In early 1983 we sent some Levis denim jackets to an up and coming band coming out of Dublin called U2, Bono cut the sleeves off his jacket and wore it relentlessly. The band released the albums War and Under a Blood Red Sky in 83 and it became U2’s big breakout year, Bono was everywhere… wearing his self-customised, sleeveless Levis jacket
To show how this filters down… I met Charlie Nicholas in the Holiday Inn Glasgow around this time as we had a mutual friend, as soon as Charlie heard I worked for Levis he asked me if I could get him a Levis denim jacket “to cut the sleeves off… just like Bono”.
Within months, retailers started selling out of our denim jackets, sales tripled and we eventually had to increase our jacket production and develop our own sleeveless version.
The other avenue we explored was official sponsorship… ‘let’s get the coolest rock stars and bands to wear and promote Levis by sponsoring their tours’. Everyone does this now but it was a new concept back then.
This was trickier than you’d think… some people in the room actually thought it would be a good idea to approach the gods of double-denim, Status Quo and there were a couple of Gary Numan fans in there as well… however to most of us it was clear we needed someone with gravitas, credibility and a wide appeal.
After some debate and research we discovered that Bowie was scheduled to tour (Serious Moonlighttour) in support of his new album – Let’s Dance, so he became the prime candidate.
To be honest we weren’t very optimistic that he’d go for it but he liked the brand and a few zero’s on a cheque later… the mighty DB was on board.
The concept worked so well that we repeated it over the next few years with tours and one-off events, but the tipping point for the brand in Europe came when we launched the famous 501 Laundrette ad with Nick Kamen in 1985, which also propelled ‘I Heard it Through the Grapevine’ to number one in the charts.
Ironically, the same retailers who claimed they couldn’t sell 501’s in 1983 were now begging for as much stock as they could get their hands on….
Bruce Springsteen and the E street band – Wembley 4th July 1985
Sting’s first solo tour 1985
Ultravox’s Lament tour 1984
Of course, guys like Bowie and The Boss were never going to do meet and greets no matter how much money they were paid, but Sting and the Ultravox guys were contracted to come and meet customers and prize winners after the gigs, which they mostly did although Sting’s face was usually tripping him, unlike Midge Ure who was always accommodating.
My brief Bowie moment came when he popped into our London office, he looked incredibly healthy and was extremely friendly and charming, he happily signed a few bits and pieces for some of us including a tour programme and the Let’s Dance album sleeve (pics of both below ) and before we knew it he was whisked away.
In truth, I struggled a bit with the 90’s Bowie, particularly the Tin Machine period but I got back on board in the noughties…. a return to form, spring-boarded by his stellar Glastonbury performance in 2000 when he decided to give the people what they wanted…. a set-list made up of his best songs.
Although I’d been a big fan in the 70s I had never seen Bowie live and the first time I saw him perform was when we took some customers to see his Serious Moonlight gig at Murrayfield in Edinburgh in June 83.
The next time I saw him perform live was the most memorable. It was at the Hammersmith Odeon in October 2002, his first return to that venue since the shock July 1974 retirement announcement when he ‘broke up the band’ live on stage…. to their complete bemusement.
“Not only is it the last show of the tour, but it’s the last show that we’ll ever do. Thank you.”
It helped that we had fantastic tickets for that show, centre stage, six rows from the front. I’ve no idea how long Bowie performed for but it must have been close to 3 hours… he played 33 songs starting with Life on Mars, finishing with Ziggy Stardust and included a song he’d only ever played live once before… the majestic Bewlay Brothers from Hunky Dory.
I also saw Bowie the following year at Wembley arena on his last live date in London. He seemed so fit and healthy at 56 but six months later whilst still on the same gruelling ‘Reality’ tour he had a heart attack on stage in Hamburg and that proved to be his last ever gig.
He released an album in 2013, The Last Day, which raised hopes that he was fit and well but it all went quiet again, and then out of nowhere a new album – Blackstar dropped 3 years later on his 69th birthday, this was the encouraging news we’d all been waiting for… maybe we would even see him play live again?
He died two days after its release on the 10th of January.
There was much outpouring of grief when the news broke, he meant so much to so many people and it’s probably the only celebrity that I’ve ever felt sustained grief over. I had grown up with Bowie from age 13, my kids had grown up listening to him, he’d been a fixture in my life for 45 years, and suddenly he wasn’t there any more.
But even in the end Bowie did the most Bowie thing ever, bowing out on his own terms with an innovative, out-of-the-blue, jazz-based album that nobody knew anything about until the day of its release.
If you listen to the lyrics it’s an album made by a man who wasn’t ready to leave us but knew he wasn’t going to be with us for long. To this day I still find it hard to listen to that album…….
‘Something happened on the day he died Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried’ “I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar”
All hail the Starman…..
My top 12 Bowie songs change all the time, this weeks selection is….
My tastes were changing. I was thirteen years old and all ‘growed up’.
However, the 1971 kid in me still found it tough being weaned off the bubblegum and sugary Pop hits of the day.
The previous year, we’d been on our first overseas family holiday. Spain, it was, and wherever we went, whenever we went, bloody ’Candida‘ by Tony Orlando and Dawn, was being given big licks.
Breakfast in the hotel dining room: “Oh, Candida, We could make it together.” Lunchtime by the pool: “The further from here, girl, the better, Where the air is fresh and clean.” Evening by the beach-side bratwurst bar: ” Hmm, Candida, Just take my hand and I’ll lead ya. I promise life will be sweeter, And it said so in my dreams.“
Back home in UK, The Mixtures and ‘The Pushbike Song’ had been popular enough to reach number two in the January charts of 1971.
Probably more so in those days before digital photos, when you returned from holiday, you craved anything that gave that instant hit of warm, glowing memories.
Scent and music best serve this purpose, I find. In the absence, though, of Yankee Candles emitting the heady, mixed aroma of sun-cream, paella and bleeding Watney’s Red Barrel, my parents opted for an LP that contained both these songs,
Chuffed to bits, they proudly told me I could play it (carefully) on the new radioogram.
My excitement, however, didn’t last long when it very quickly became apparent that the songs were not performed by the original artists Still, money was tight, and it was better than nothing at all.
A few months later, and buoyed by their ‘new cool,’ my folks bought another of those trendy compilations, principally for the T. Rex track ‘Get it On.’ Of course there was no fooling me this time. Once bitten and all that. Also, the song ‘Coco,’ was on the LP, and I had the proper, 7″ single by The Sweet. I could spot the difference.
The rest of 1971 music passed me by without leaving much of an impression. I do still have ‘Bannerman‘ by Blue Mink in my collection, but that’s about it.
The following year though, shaped my music of choice – pretty much for life.
On a family weekend trip to Blackpool, I remember buying what would be only my third album. (The second was ‘Slade Alive‘ by Slade.)
That album was ‘Love It To Death,’ by Alice Cooper. I have no idea as to how I knew of the band. I think perhaps I was flicking through the record box and the rebellious, now fourteen-year-old in me had decided to exact retribution for my mother’s uncomplimentary remarks about T. Rex.
You think Marc Bolan is ‘dirty’ and ‘weird,’ do you? Get a load of this dude and his cronies!
(I unfortunately now own only a CD copy. I sold the vinyl to a second hand record store in Stirling not long after being married when we had no cash.)
A few months later, Alice Cooper arrived in the UK for a series of shows. His reputation preceded him and of course the very conservative press of the time were all over it. I was desperate to go to the Glasgow show. It would be my first gig. But there was zero chance of that happening.
Determined my mind would not be corrupted by some deviant from the other side of the Atlantic, my folks properly ‘grounded’ me on the evening of 10th November 1972, to prevent me sneaking off to the show with a couple of pals who did have tickets. It was for my own good, of course.
One of my mates though, somehow managed to smuggle a tape recorder into the venue and so I was at least able to hear a very muffled version of the show.
My first gig would have to wait.
Part #4: HEAVY ROTATION
It wouldn’t be too long a wait before my first gig – only another four months or so, in March 1973. But in the meantime, my Alice Cooper LP ‘Love it to Death‘ was being played to death in my bedroom.
It whetted my appetite for more ‘heavy rock.’ In late 1972, however, gaining access to such music was not easy. You either had to know somebody who had bought an album and lent it you, or you took a punt and bought blind (or perhaps that should be ‘deaf.’)
Some shops though, like Lewis’s in Glasgow had ‘listening booths,’ where you’d be allowed to listen to one or two tracks from an album in the hope that you’d eventually buy.
(Latterly, the dingy wee Virgin Records shop at the end of Argyle Street, then Listen, in Cambridge Street, Glasgow offered the use of headphones to listen to music. The down side though, was that only one person at a time could listen – we used to pile about six mates into the listening booth along the road in Lewis’s.)
Some rock bands, however, like Free, Deep Purple and the excellent Atomic Rooster had been given airtime on the UK’s prime time popular music show, Top of the Pops in late 1971 / early 1972 and although a bit late to the party (again) I started to search out music from such artists .
1972 also saw the blossoming of Glam Rock in the UK. Arguably started by Marc Bolan in mid 1971, the Glam movement was well and truly on the march through 1972.
At school, though as a thirteen / fourteen year old lad, it was not de rigueur, to show your true Glam self. Stars like Bolan and Bay City Rollers were for the girls. Boys had to be into what was perceived to be ‘harder’ rock. As mentioned in an earlier post, I got terrible stick for admitting I liked The Sweet. Little did those ‘macho’ pals of mine appreciate that most Glam bands could rock-out some pretty heavy riffs too.
My first rock album however, was one of those blind / deaf purchases I referred to earlier. I had read of this band Uriah Heep in Sounds paper / magazine, and around mid-1972, sent away for their debut album, ‘…very ‘eavy… very ‘umble.’ This immediately took over from the Alice Cooper LP that had hogged the turntable for so many months.
I still play this album a lot, and for me, the late David Byron was one of the best vocalists in rock music.
From a kid who was totally unaware of The Beatles just a few years earlier, I was now completely immersed in music. I couldn’t play a note, of course – I was far too lazy to learn despite my parents’ best efforts. And singing? There was more chance of me holding the World Heavyweight Boxing title than me holding a note.
1972 had been a year of musical enlightenment for me. It had started with me pestering my folks to buy me a shirt similar to one I’d seen Kenney Jones wear while playing drums for Rod Stewart on Top of the Pops. I wanted to look ‘cool’ at my school disco.
We never found one, of course, and I had to settle for a turquoise, paisley pattern shirt and matching kipper tie, with lilac needle-cord trousers.
It ended with me wearing that very same outfit to a disco in London (I was part of a representative Glasgow Boy Scouts group visiting the city) where I ‘got off’ a girl from a local Guides troop.
I made her laugh, apparently.
I now know why.
Isn’t Life strange, though? The song that kicked off 1972 for me, and remains possibly my all-time favourite single, is ‘Stay With Me,’ by The Faces.
… and the song that brought the year to a close, reminding me of that disco in London, is – ‘Angel‘ by Rod Stewart and The Faces.
John & Pauline Allan from Bridgetown, Western Australia
John I really wish that I had paid more attention in physics class in the early 70s.
All those letters and equations did my head in. I only took an interest when the experiments came out. Your hair sticking up and zapping your class mates while holding the Van Der Graaf generator was one of my favourites. As was watching your voice make wavy patterns on the cathode ray oscilloscope. That’s as deep as I got into the science of it all.
In the 70s as an aspiring musician, I bought my first recording device. It was a Sony TC-630 reel to reel about the size of a beer crate. Hardly portable but one feature really sold it for me. Sound on Sound. You could play with yourself (in a wholesome musical way) or multi track as it became known. If it worked for Mike Oldfield it could work for me – although I think Mr T. Bells’ setup was probably a tad more sophisticated than mine. And he had a modicum of talent.
I’d put down the first track (got the lingo already !) with acoustic guitar. Tuned down the bottom strings for the bass or changed the tape speed up and played the low guitar strings twice as fast (trickier). Drums were a series of cardboard boxes covered with towels and a child’s tambourine. An early Casio keyboard provided reedy organ sounds. Vocals on the top and it may have been acceptable but I insisted on adding a large horn section and a choir. With all the inevitable tape hiss it sounded like a sinking transistor radio lost at sea in a hail storm. I might need some technical help here.
At seventeen I was playing sax in a band with my big brother and a bunch of 20 something year olds. We decided to make a demo tape and booked a 12 hour session in a studio in Kilmarnock (the Abbey Road of it’s day!
The first 6 hours seemed to be taken up tuning and miking up the drum set and another couple of hours getting the bass sound right. The rhythm tracks (all 3 of them) had taken the best part of 10 hours to ‘put down’ leaving just 2 for vocals, sax parts and solos. Eventually after all that waiting around it was my turn. The sound engineer gave me my cue and I launched into what I felt was a pretty raunchy, straight from the heart tenor sax solo. “OK great. Shall we go for a take ?” Aaaagh ! I couldn’t replicate the original solo. Each take was decidedly inferior. I think the sound boffins eventually spliced together the best bits of numerous samples which still sounded lame to me. Any subsequent sessions I was going to be ‘Johnny One Take’.
I did get to partake in more sessions with a lovely chap called Brian in his West End basement with egg cartons stapled to the wall and heavy velvet curtains. That was the first time that I’d come upon a real live synthesizer (ARP Odyssey for the anoraks among you)
I also did some work when the studio moved into the city and finally to an old church next to Kelvingrove Park.
Ca Va studios was a great education in my life and I loved the (albeit limited) experience I had there as did others like Belle and Sebastian, John Martyn, Paolo Nutini, Westlife, Texas, Robbie Williams, Ed Sheeran, Rage Against The Machine, The Proclaimers and many more who (unlike me) recorded albums there.
The bigger studio meant a greater number of sound engineers and technicians. These were usually the swots that paid attention in physics who talk about EQs, compressors and band pass filters. While the musos are discussing about taking a song from the bridge, they’re asking if you want a gate on it. Where are we ? Tolkien’s shire, Frodo ? Just make me sound gooder! Honestly, they don’t even understand plain English. Let them know you’re taking it up a crochet and watch them scurry back to their burrows.
Pauline too, is no stranger to the recording studio.
“How was the red light experience for you Pauline ? And I don’t mean the fishnets and stilettos one either !”
Very funny John…… and when exactly are you planning to get those clothes back to me??
Look, I’m not exactly sure how this whole thing came about but… once upon a time in the 70s, Marion, Gillean and myself were asked to audition as backing vocalists at the BBC in Queen Margaret Drive, Glasgow. A rather random request you may think but we were music students at the time and could sing a bit.
The Royal Scottish Academy of Music & Drama had put us through our paces studying classical repertoire but venturing into the world of light entertainment would certainly be a first for us. A bit like Three Little Maids from (music) School meets The Three Degrees. Or the -3 degrees if you lived in Glasgow.
We arranged the Perry Como classic And I Love You So penned by Don McLean for three voices, practised our individual parts, put it together as a trio and rocked up (well, sidled up… ) to the Beeb for our audition. It was only then we realised we needed a name. We quickly jumbled up our own names, Papillon emerged and we flew.
We were regularly called upon to add backing vocals to various artists who made live recordings with the BBC Radio Orchestra, among them Mr Vince Hill.
He recorded his first set and we broke for lunch. As the girls and I headed for the canteen, Vince ( we were on first name terms by now) called us over and insisted we join him for lunch at La Lanterna in Kelvinbridge on Gt Western Rd. The music producer Phil was also in attendance but had a face like fizz throughout the meal. We discovered later that the BBC hospitality budget was intended for Vinny and a select few, that didn’t include us.
It was a lovely lunch enjoyed all the more in the knowledge that somebody else was paying for it.
As we finished our recording session Vinky gave us some pointers.
We of course listened to all his valuable Edelweiss. (ed: Scottish rhyming slang!)
During the next couple of years the opportunity arose for us to record as a trio for the insomniacs favourite, Radio 2’s You And The Night And The Music. We were given unlimited access to what music was available in the extensive BBC library and we also commissioned arrangements. What a privilege for us teenagers. To think we worked on assignments like that at college. Missed a trick there. We should just have submitted our homework!!
With the ink dry on the manuscript, off we went to sing with the boys in the ‘band’. One was the legendary saxophone player, Frank Pantrini. He would sit with the Radio Times crossword during his ‘bars rest’, then without missing a beat (pun intended) would pick up the sax, play his solo to perfection then return to his crossword. On another occasion, he appeared in front of the recording booth doing some interpretive dance as we were singing Autumn Leaves. Not only a brilliant musician but a real character.
I really admired and respected all the musicians and technicians that effortlessly made the magic happen back in the late 70s and wondered how they fared after the radical BBC cuts of the early 80s, which unfortunately included the disbanding of the SRO.
And then, there was just me, a microphone, and a Steinway grand piano dwarfed in the vast studio space.
At least producer Phil was happy…. he only had one companion at La Lanterna to expense now.
John There are always the classic control room tales…. like the engineers puzzled by a constant clicking sound during an orchestral recording. After checking all the connections on the numerous microphones they eventually spied the harpist behind her music stand… knitting!
Then there was the drummer who was catching up with the cricket on his transistor radio. Every ‘take’ he would pop the ear piece out and it would swing down next to his bass drum mike. The engineers were left scratching their heads. “I swear I can hear John Arlott !”
Of course this was in the halcyon days of analogue, decades before the dumbing down ‘D’ word. Any spotty faced oik with opposable thumbs can scrape up a ‘doof doof’ cat vomiting beat and a repetitive 5 note anthem on their mobile these days. Add a tik-tok video and a few product endorsements before even leaving the bedroom as well.
I now pity all these down and out former sound engineers living on the street.
“Any old tapes you’d like me to splice, gov ? I can fix cassettes. I’ve got my own pencil !”
John Allan from Bridgetown, Western Australia, April 2021
Two open air musical experiences, two different decades on two opposing hemispheres 34 years apart.
Firstly, the Reading Festival, 22nd to 25th of August, 1975 and secondly, the Five Peace Band, Kings Park, Perth, Western Australia, 5th February 2009.
Reading : Too many to mention (see image). Yes, Hawkwind and Wisbone Ash were the headline acts.
Perth : The Five Peace Band featuring 70s jazz fusion pioneers John McLaughlin and Chick Corea with jazz and rock heavyweights Christian McBride, Vinnie Colaiuti and Kenny Garrett.
In attendance :
R : Teenage me with school chum Ken.
P : 50 plus me with my wife, Pauline.
R : Either overnight bus or train from Glasgow to London (can’t really remember). Morning train from London to Reading. Hike from station to venue.
P : Private car from accommodation 1 km away. Pauline driving as I can’t handle city traffic anymore. Arriving a good 2 hours early to find a suitable parking spot – not too close so we can make a swift departure but not too far as we have things to carry.
R : Newly acquired Woolworth’s nylon one person tent.
P : Friends Swan River waterfront apartment.
R : Rucksack containing tent, sleeping bag, change of T-shirts, jocks and socks.
P : Cool bag containing nibblies, wine and beer. Travel rug and 2 low foldable chairs.
Weather & Conditions :
R : Sunny at times over weekend. Some heavy downpours. Cold nights.
P : Clear skies. Warm balmy evening in the mid 20°s Celsius.
R : Farmer’s field. Spread out and sit down where you like. At the end of the gig you’ll have someone’s knees in your back just like yours with the guy in front. You’ll also be 10 yards closer to the stage.
P : Manicured lawn. Chalk lined like a kids road safety floor mat with designated areas for low deck chairs and travel rugs.
R : Must be somewhere about but I can’t see them.
P : A myriad of matching T-shirt clad uni students with attitude. “Your foot is over the line, sir. Please move back and don’t block the thoroughfare !”
Food & Drink :
R : Don’t remember eating. We must have had some greasy takeaway from one of the many overpriced food trucks at some point. A 2 litre bottle of ‘bitter’ was always to hand though.
P : Goats cheese, tapanade, sundried tomatoes, ciabatta and marinated artichoke hearts washed down with Peroni and Prosecco.
R : I was looking forward to Kokomo, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Alan Stivell who did not disappoint. Some hidden gems were Thin Lizzy and Dr Feelgood. Over all, it was a good mix of artists of the time. I don’t know if it was travel fatigue, disturbed nights sleep or even the copious alcohol consumption but my memory of all 3 main acts is a bit hazy. All I remember was “Ladies and gentleman, Let’s welcome to the stage…………’ and then an explosions of sound and light, “Thank you Reading and goodnight”.
I have vague memories of my ₤2 tent resembling a tea bag and queuing up for the bog with fear of what I might encounter in the cubicle, but these have not remained to haunt me. An unforgettable weekend away.
P : I was quite excited about seeing such a super group of jazz legends in such a beautiful setting in the capital city but was sorely disappointed. The first 20 to 30 minutes was enjoyable enough until I realised that was only the first number of the set. Each song grew longer as did all the individual solos. I had forgotten how self indulgent this form of music can be. As for the chalk line Nazis, I was ready to swing for one of those smug faced millennials. The highlight was leaving before the encore and getting back to our digs before midnight.