Category Archives: Music

copy that!

I know … this is kinda ironic, isn’t it? (I did try to find a photo credit though, honest!)

The recent unfound case of plagiarism instigated by Grime artist Sami Chokri (Sami Switch) against Ed Sheeran, had me wondering how many times structures, harmonies, beats and particularly guitar riffs have been tweaked,  repeated and basically ripped off through time.

(It was only a cursory thought – I didn’t lose any sleep, it has to be said.)

Bowie / Mercury – pic: Gold radio
Vanilla Ice

One of the most high profile cases in recent times was that of Vanilla Ice –vs – Queen & David Bowie. Reportedly, the American rapper contested he had added a ‘dum’ to the bassline of ‘Under Pressure’ and that he was not complicit in copyright breach with his ‘Ice Ice Baby’ hit. Of course, he eventually acceded to the contest brought by the British acts and paid out a considerable sum (believed to be @ $4m) for the publishing rights so that he could avoid paying royalties.

There have been several more high profile cases in recent years, but this being a ‘70s blog, there’s one contentious case that stands above all else; one that would inevitably rear its head on this blog, what with co-host, Paul,  being a big David Bowie fan and me listing Sweet as one of my favourite bands:

the case of ‘Jean Genie’ –vs – ‘Blockbuster.

The debate has always been who copied who? Bowie, Sweet; or Sweet, Bowie.

Both were signed with RCA when they recorded their respective hits. They shared the same studios and with ‘Jean Genie’ being recorded on 6th October 1972, Sweet have been accused of nicking the riff for the recording of ‘Blockbuster’ a few weeks later, on 1st November.

A counter argument could be that Bowie overheard Sweet rehearsing and subconsciously picked up on the riff.

Plagiarism is everywhere in the music industry, even extending to blogs. At this point I must confess that after hitting on the idea of writing this piece, I found I had been beaten to it by over five years – by the excellent Darren’s Music Blog.

I discovered this when carrying out my own research into the subject. However, the band / riff that prompted me to look into this is not mentioned in Darren’s blog – so like Vanilla Ice, I contend this article is not plagiarised. But, unlike Vanilla Ice, I will not be buying the rights to Darren’s blog article for @ $4m!

Anyway, as it happens, I reckon neither Bowie nor Sweet have a case to answer. But before I present my case for the defence, a word or two on the band that prompted me to look at this whole issue:

HONEYBUS.

Honeybus.

Honeybus are your archetypal ‘one hit wonders.’ Formed in London in 1967, the four-piece were signed to Decca’s Deram label. Their first two singles bombed, though the second, a ballad, ‘(Do I Figure) In Your Life?’ was covered by Joe Cocker, Dave Berry and Dana.

It is for their third single though, that Honeybus are best known. I bet almost all readers (certainly those from UK) will remember this:

(Though this version of the advert is from the early ‘70s, the single, ‘I Can’t Maggie Go,’ which provides the musical accompaniment, was released in 1968. It entered the charts in March of that year, where it spent a total of twelve weeks, peaking at #8.)

Shortly after this though, founder member and co-songwriter Pete Dello quit the band. Ray Cane now assumed the mantle of principal songwriter. His first-penned single, ‘Girl of Independent Means,’ was the driver behind this article, and appears fourth in the timeline that follows.

Unbelievably, in my opinion, the music buying public were not impressed and it failed to capitalise on the success of ‘Maggie.’ When their next effort ‘She Sold Blackpool Rock,’ also tanked, the band folded. Though they would reform in 1971 with the original line-up, mainstream success still eluded them, and an album that had been prepared for Warner Brothers, was cancelled.

An interesting point of note is that drummer and original member, Peter Kircher, would go on to play with Status Quo from 1983 – 86.

Peter Kircher

Anyway – back to the debate.

I stated earlier I didn’t feel either David Bowie or Sweet were guilty of plagiarism with regards to the riff for ‘Jean Genie,’ and ‘Blockbuster.’ My reasoning is simple: unlike ‘samples’ of other artists’ work where short bursts of music are inserted into another song / track (blatant plagiarism in my book) riffs are able to breathe, mature and develop like a fine cheese. Which is maybe why neither Bowie nor Sweet decided to kick up a stink and join the controversy.

Don’t believe me?

THE MORPH OF A RIFF:

(Muddy Waters: ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ – recorded 1954)
(Bo Diddley:  ‘I’m a Man’ – recorded 1955)
(The Yarbirds: ‘Im a Man’ – recorded 1965)
(Honeybus: ‘Girl of Independent Means’ – recorded 1968)
(Iggy & The Stooges: ‘I’m A Man’ – recorded, but not used for the ‘Raw Power’ album of 1973.)
(David Bowie: ‘Jean Genie’ – recorded 1972)
(Sweet: ‘Blockbuster’ – recorded 1972 … but a few weeks after David Bowie’s ‘Jean Genie.’)

What I’m suggesting is a riff can take a natural progression.

I mean – just because a song may sound like one that’s gone before, it does not necessarily mean it is a plagiarised copy. Does ‘Blockbuster’ really sound like Muddy Waters’ ‘Hoochie Coochie Man?’ Does it?

That would be like saying the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is a rip-off of Wilbur and Orville’s ‘Wright Flyer.’

I rest my case, M’lud.

________________

(Darren Johnson is a prolific music blogger and writer. He is the author of ‘The Sweet Through the 1970s’ – which I have and can thoroughly recommend – and ‘Suzi Quatro in the 1970s’ – which I have still to get to.)

Keep Me From The Gallus Poll.

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, May 2022

In the analogue era, weekly music publications were a big deal.

My music-mag allegiances tended to reflect my musical tastes so along the way I was an avid, NME, Melody Maker, Sounds and Blues & Soul reader.

I’d get these publications the day they came out from my local newsagent, and devour every inch of copy from cover to cover.
Every column, every review, every chart, every letter and even the adverts… usually in a single sitting

Apart from attending gigs, being a devotee of a particular music-mag was as close as it got to being part of a musical community back then.

Whatever your publication of choice was, you’d have your favourite journalists, you’d trust their reviews and you’d have faith that the publication would feature and promote the right bands.

An edition I always looked forward to was the annual Poll Winners issue.

First of all who didn’t love a poll, plus it was a way to sense-check whether this was a community you wanted to be part of.

Looking back, I think the 72/73 NME poll (excerpt above) where Gilbert O’Sullivan’s vocal talents were rated ahead of Plant, Rodgers, Gillan and Daltrey in the ‘Best Male Vocalist’ category, may well have been the tipping point for me to move on to another publication at the time.

Back in the day, these music-mag polls were a huge deal, often supported by live events to anoint the winners.
Assembling ELP, Wishbone Ash, Focus, Genesis, Argent and ahem FUDD to share a stage for the Melody Maker poll concert in 1972 would have been quite an event.

Anyone remember FUDD??

If those were the halcyon days for polls then it’s all a bit different today. Nowadays we have polls for the Greatest Album Of All Time rather than ‘Disc Jockey of the year’.
The current bible is Rolling Stone magazine who update their Top 500 albums annually, supported by a glossy edition that tends to feature the usual suspects in the Top 10 – Marvin, Joni, Stevie, Bob, etc.

Given its wide scope the Rolling Stone poll is a decent reflection of critical and popular tastes, and despite differing opinions and musical leanings, most of us can still appreciate quality when we hear it, after all you don’t have to be a Beatles or Beach Boys fan to acknowledge that they produced classic albums that stand the test of time.

But of course polls can polarise…. they can offer affirmation or they can infuriate, based on individual opinions.

To focus on the latter, I spoke to a good pal recently who was incandescent with rage about a recent Scottish newspaper poll that invited its readers to vote for the best Scottish musical acts of all time.

Like me this guy is a big fan of the Average White Band (AWB) and after all they’ve achieved, he expected to see them in the top 10 alongside the usual suspects – Simple Minds, Sensational Alex Harvey Band (SAHB) and The Blue Nile.

Sure enough Simple Minds were placed at number 2 but as he started looking down the list for AWB he got to number 50 and thought he must have missed them, unfortunately he hadn’t, AWB were voted the 85th best Scottish band of all time.

AWB

AWB, a band with platinum albums, number one singles and global recognition were positioned behind acts like Arab Strap and Horse (no, me neither!), and to add salt to the wound, Rod Stewart (who’s not even Scottish) was ensconced at number 8.

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band didn’t fare much better at number 60, well behind Caledonian stalwarts, Gerry Cinnamon and Jim Diamond, and the sublime Blue Nile were stranded at 17.

SAHB

Apart from differing musical tastes a big driver of these ‘Best Of All Time’ polls is generational.
Whilst Gen Z’s want to listen to 21 year olds singing about heartbreak and Millennials understandably have different musical tastes to someone born in the 50’s, it doesn’t explain why the Bay City Rollers and Pilot were rated higher than SAHB & AWB, as they’re all from the same era.

A couple of my other favourite Scottish bands, Hipsway and Love & Money, were well down the pecking order at number 81 & 82 which I can accept on the basis that they had relatively short careers, and another, Cado Belle wasn’t even listed, for that matter neither were Nazareth, but AWB at number 85… come on!

The list of Scottish artists that have had number one singles in America is a relatively short one.
AWB with ‘Pick Up The Pieces’, a funky instrumental that confused the hell out of America in 1975 when the general public came to realise that they were grooving to six pasty white boys from Scotland rather than James Brown’s backing band, are one of the few Scottish bands who made it to the top of the US charts.

The success of the song catapulted the band to instant stardom and as Hamish Stuart put it, ‘we literally went from rehearsing in a house with blankets over the windows to sharing a studio with Aretha Franklyn and attending parties with Cher, and Jack Nicholson‘.

So Tabby, my good friend, I’m with you 100%…. polls aint what they used to be!

https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/scotland-now/poll-site-names-scotlands-top-26527498

turntable talk – ‘Live’ albums.

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.

The discussion surrounded ‘Live’ albums: how did we feel about them? Do the records live up to the experience of seeing an act play live? What were our favourites, and why?

I immediately volunteered for this one – I ‘bagged’ it as we’d have said in The Seventies, I knew where I was going with this … you probably do too, but please do read on!

ROARIN’ FOR RORY!

When Dave first suggested the discussion topic of ‘live’ albums, I knew instantly where I was going with this. There was no competition. However, it did prompt me to consider the reason this particular record is recipient of the unofficial ‘Once Upon a Time in The ‘70s’ Live Album of Eternity’ award.

Was it owing to the fact there literally was no competition within my collection?

Nope. A quick check revealed more ‘live’ albums than I thought I had: (in no particular order) Uriah Heep; Sweet; The Clash; Devo; Rolling Stones; AC/DC; Led Zeppelin; Slade; Lynyrd Skynyrd; Man; Guru Guru; Quicksilver Messenger Service; Cream, Dr Feelgood ….

And that’s just some from my ‘70s era vinyl. I now suspect there will be many more from more recent times hidden away in the CD racks.

This really surprised me. Confused me, too. I was primed to discuss how I was not a fan of ‘live’ recordings!

But here’s the thing ….. I’m NOT!

For me, there are only a few reasons as to why such albums work:

. I have myself seen that band / artist play live and can visualize / relive the performance, or;

. I haven’t previously enjoyed the sanitized, clean-cut versions of the songs on a studio album, and;

. The sound is well balanced and distinct, and finally;

. Any crowd noise is not overblown and intrusive.

Unfortunately, certainly so far as my collection is concerned, these criteria can often be a bit hit or miss.

There is one big exception, though – a ‘live’ album that is not only the best of that ilk, but my favourite album of all time, full stop:

RORY GALLAGHER: Live in Europe.

This is an album of seven tracks recorded on tour through Europe in February and March 1972 – later CD versions have two additional songs. At the time of recording, the band had retained the ‘power trio’ format of Rory’s earlier band, Taste, with Wilgar Campbell on drums and Gerry McAvoy on bass.

Live in Europe’ was the third release under Rory’s own name, and I bought it in late ‘72, via mail order, on the strength of having heard an early Taste album at a pal’s house.

(I was actually 25p short in my remittance to the record shop, but they still sent me the LP anyway, with a request I made up the difference in my next order. I didn’t order anything else, and some months later the store went out of business. I still feel the pangs of guilt to this day!)

The album opens with the sound of a rather polite, and not overly raucous crowd. After a few seconds the concert announcer simply utters the words, “Rory Gallagher,” and the crowd noise raises a notch.

Bump bump …. bump. Three final tune-up notes on Gerry’s bass, and that’s it. No nonsense, no fancy introductions; no frills; there’s absolutely no messing around – save on the opening song, a cover of the Junior Wells recording, ‘Messin’ With The Kid.’  This Blues standard sits perfectly in a set that combines covers such as this with Rory’s arrangements of ‘traditional’ Blues songs, and original compositions.

Laundromat’ from his debut solo album, follows. One of his own compositions, it’s an out and out rocker, before the pace is curtailed on the ‘traditional’ ‘I Could’ve Had A Religion’ – eight and a half minutes of slow burning, bass pounding, metronomic stomping, blues with added slide guitar solo.

Side One closes in lighter mood with a cover of Blind Boy Fuller’s ‘Pistol Slapper Blues,’ Rory, unaccompanied, picking away on an acoustic guitar this time.

Side Two features only three tracks, but still runs to just slightly under twenty-two minutes. First up is what was already, and forever remained a ‘live’ favourite with fans, Rory playing mandolin on another stomper – this time his self-written, Going To My Hometown. The erstwhile reserved crowd do come through on this number with their rhythmic handclapping when the instruments are pared back. ‘In Your Town’ is next up, though I don’t actually recall him ever playing these two back to back in a concert. This is another of Rory’s own songs, this time about a prison break and highlighting some incredible playing.

The album’s final track is a really powerful arrangement of ‘Bullfrog Blues’ during which Wilgar and Gerry have their own solo spots. I can still envisage Rory, on this one, racing around the stage one moment, duck walking across it the next.

And this goes back to my earlier point regarding personal experience. I attended my first Rory Gallagher concert within a few months of buying this album. He wore a similar check shirt on stage that night to the one he sports on the album cover; he played all the tracks featured on this LP, and he adopted the same ‘no nonsense’ approach to the delivery of his music as I anticipated from just listening to the record.

What really struck me, even as a fourteen year old kid, was there appeared to be another ‘presence’ on stage in addition to the band members. Rory’s Fender Stratocaster guitar seemed to take on a life-form of its own, in the same was as does a ventriloquist’s dummy. Rory sings to his instrument, which in turn answers back, almost mimicking its master.

And what a master virtuoso he is too. Rory’s playing throughout is sharp and clear. Concise too. There’s no over complicating or unnecessary posturing. This Rock ‘n’Roll; this is Blues. This is what music was invented for!

Not only is Rory on top form with this recording, but mention has to be made of Wilgar Campbell (and subsequent drummers) who take instant cues from their leader and provide such a solid rock on which to build the overall sound. Gerry McAvoy on bass too – I rate him ‘the best.’ He stayed with Rory for many years, and often I can sense myself humming along to the magnificent, spontaneous sounding, driving bass as much as to the melody from Rory’s Strat.

Over the years Rory released several ‘live’ recordings. Two were with Taste, from circa 1971, and then, following his passing in 1995, a few subsequent LPs were licenced by his brother Donal who curates Rory’s musical estate and legacy. Of these, ‘Check Shirt Wizard – Live in ‘77’ runs this ‘Live In Europe’ close.

Each of Rory Gallagher’s studio albums are of the highest merit, especially so the first three, ‘Rory Gallagher,’ ‘Deuce,’ and ‘Blueprint.’ But Rory was in his element performing before a crowd. On stage was where he was born to be, and it’s hardly surprising that his ‘live’ albums come across, in my opinion, as the best out there. (Also check out ‘Irish Tour ’74’ which some would argue even better than ‘Live in Europe.

He just seemed so natural up there on stage, not requiring of any gimmicks or fancy backdrops. He had an effortless manner with the crowd, and came across as such a genuinely nice guy.

Perhaps it’s because Rory Gallagher had that ability to keep everything simple and completely natural that, he was better equipped than most to replicate that unique concert experience, and present the listener with either a lasting memory, or at very least, an exciting and accurate slice of imagery to accompany his music.

Rory Gallagher – (pic by Barrie Wentzell,)

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson from Glasgow – May 2022)

18 With A Bullet: Horse With No Name by America

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, April 2022

Selected 70s hits from across the pond

If like me you thought ‘Horse With No Name’ must have been written under a star-kissed New Mexico sky by a young troubadour then you’d only be half right.

It was actually written in a London bedsit and recorded at the home of Arthur Brown (yes, him of “Fire, I’ll take you to burn“) by Dewey Bunnell who was one third of a trio who imaginatively called themselves America because they were the sons of American servicemen stationed in Britain.

By 1971, the band still in their teens, had already released their debut album without much success and were packed off to Arthur Browns home-studio in Dorset by Warner Brothers with the brief to come up with a hit single.

Inspired by Salvador Dali paintings of surrealist deserts and fuelled with memories of growing up as airforce brats on military bases in Arizona and New Mexico. Early versions of the track were titled ‘Desert Song’ with Bunnell realising that the desert symbolised the tranquility he was searching for whilst the horse represented the means to reach this tranquility.

Released in December 1971, the song dovetailed perfectly with the singer-songwriter vibe of the time, which no doubt helped it to race up the UK charts, early January 72.

On the back of the songs European success, the bands debut album was re-issued to include the single and by March of that year, both the single and the album had reached the respective number one spots in the US charts, catapulting them to instant fame.


So far so good, but this rookie band and their mellow ‘soft-rock’ anthem would hit a few speed bumps along the way to the top of the charts.

On initial hearing, a large majority of people thought they were actually listening to Neil Young and when they realised it was a bunch of rookies mimicking their idol it resulted in a backlash from Neil’s loyal army of fans.
As fate would have it when the song eventually did get to number one, the record it knocked off the top perch was, you’ve guessed it, Young’s ‘Heart of Gold’.
(get it up ye Neil!)

Neil and his followers were far from happy that he’d been trumped by these young imposters, but to be fair, Bunnell never hid his admiration for Young and admitted that he’d always been a big influence on the band.

Apart from the accusation of plagiarism, the band also had to fend off allegations that the song contained sinister undertones, namely that the ‘Horse’ in the song, was a (not so subtle) reference to heroin.
Accused of promoting narcotics, radio stations in Kansas banned the song due to this misplaced reasoning.

Then, if that wasn’t enough, at a time when Bob Dylan’s verbal dexterity was the benchmark for troubadours, the band came under fire from critics and fellow artists alike… (step forward Randy Newman), for the simplistic nature of the songs lyrics…..

There were plants and birds and rocks and things

In his defence Bunnell explained that he was a teenager when he wrote the song in a mates bedsit and it was completed in under two hours as the lyrics and melody just came to him, as if he’d awakened from a dream.

Before starting this piece I wasn’t aware of any cover versions of note until I discovered that Michael Jackson had sampled the main acoustic riff from the song for a track released posthumously, called ‘A Place With No Name’.

It’s actually worth a listen, the trademark MJ grunts and yelps combined with the original two-chord backing track shouldn’t really work, and maybe they don’t, but it’s an interesting coming together.

Michael Jackson
Janet Jackson

This of course wasn’t the first time a Jackson family member had sampled a track by the band.
Janet Jackson also sampled America and their song ‘Ventura Highway‘ several years earlier on her platinum hit – ‘Someone To Call My Lover

No wonder Dewey Bunnell is worth a few quid!

Like a lot of classic 70s songs the popularity of ‘Horse With No Name’ has endured and finds new audiences with every generation.

As a recent example, who can forget the viral video of the young Amsterdam couple interpreting the song in their own way during the recent lockdown….

Uncovering The Beatles

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, April 2022

Colin and I recently accepted a request from one of our American blog buddies, Dave at Sound Day, to write a piece about the Beatles.
Colin is fairly ambivalent about the fab 4, so I took on the task and focused on the topic of Beatles cover versions.


Dave’s excellent music blog, ‘Sound Day’ is worth checking out on….
https://soundday.wordpress.com/

I’ve no idea how many Beatle’s covers exist, but when you consider there are over 1,600 versions of the song ‘Yesterday’ then you’ve got to imagine there’s a fair few kicking around.

Everyone from Alvin & the Chipmunks to Wu-Tang Clan have had a go at covering a Beatles song, which is hardly surprising given how many standards they’ve written.

Growing up in the 60s I started getting into music just as the Beatles were heading towards their long and winding road. Truth be told I didn’t really appreciate their genius until I’d gone through my various Rock, Funk, and Fusion phases, but I got there eventually and learned to appreciate how talented and ground-breaking they truly were.

I have all the Beatles stuff and most of their solo stuff (sorry Ringo) but the fact that there’s a dearth of Fab Four covers in my music library is an anomaly to me.

For that reason, I decided to take a deep dive into the world of Beatles covers in the expectation that there must be a lot of overlooked gems that I’ve missed or ignored over the years.

That’s how I came to spend a tortuous afternoon recently, crunching through my personal music library as well as Apple Music & Spotify, searching for treasures…. truth be told it was a long day.

As an example, I love Aretha Franklin and the Beatles classic, ‘The Fool on The Hill’ is a favourite, so I had high expectations when I came across Aretha’s version. Similarly, I stumbled across a Santana version of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps‘, potentially another winning combination, but both versions left me underwhelmed, as did the vast majority of the Beatles covers I listened to that afternoon.

As mentioned previously, there are a zillion Beatles covers out there so I’m sure there will be a few notable omissions from my listings below, for which I apologise in advance…. but like they say, ‘beauty is in the ear of the beholder’

My Top 5 Beatles Covers + 1

1) Hey Jude by Wilson Pickett – Pickett makes the song his own with his rasping vocals, a great Muscle Shoals arrangement and the introduction of a young Duane Allman who marks his recording debut with a blistering guitar solo.


2) We Can Work It Out by Stevie Wonder – When I think of this song I immediately think of Stevie’s version, with the fuzzy clavinet intro and the trademark harmonica solo. Recorded in 1970 when Stevie was on the cusp of greatness and ably backed by the ubiquitous Funk Brothers.

3) With a Little Help from My Friends by Joe Cocker – Another rare case of a Beatles cover being better than the original, a fact endorsed by McCartney himself.
Cocker took this breezy Ringo Starr version from Sgt Pepper and turned it into a soul anthem featuring another cameo from a guitar great, the legendary Jimmy Page.

And of course, this song reminds me of the fabulous ‘The Wonder Years’


4) Got to Get You into My Life by Earth Wind & Fire – Recorded for the Robert Stigwood backed Sgt Pepper project in 1978. The movie bombed and the soundtrack was a flop, but this cover, given the full EW&F treatment with their potent horn section front and centre, was head and shoulders above any other Beatle’s cover on the soundtrack.


5) In My Life by Johnny Cash – The subject matter and the fact that this was one of Cash’s last recordings makes this Rick Rubin stripped-down version even more poignant.


Honourable mentions go to
Eleanor Rigby by Aretha Franklin
Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da by The Marmalade
Dear Prudence by Siouxsie and the Banshees
Strawberry Fields Forever by Todd Rundgren
Come and Get It by Badfinger (although technically Badfinger released this track before The Beatles)

All of the above are all great versions of Beatles standards but my favourite Beatles cover isn’t available on vinyl or even as an audio download… fortunately though it was captured on film.

The song isWhile My Guitar Gently Weeps and it was performed by an all star band as a tribute to George Harrison at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.
The band consists of Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, Steve Ferrone, Jeff Lynne and Dhani Harrison, George’s son, who looks on in bewilderment as Prince steals the show with a captivating performance and guitar solo that his father (and Clapton) would have been proud of.

orchestral manoeuvres in the …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Got one !!

18 With A Bullet – She’s Gone by Hall & Oates

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, April 2022

Selected 70s hits from across the pond

She’s Gone by Daryl Hall & John Oates

I can remember the first time I heard this song….

It was on an overnight coach journey from Glasgow to Blackpool for the September weekend in 1974. The lights on the coach were dimmed and the sax solo and wah-wah guitar seeped into my consciousness as I was entering that transitional stage from wakefulness to sleep

I went to buy the single as soon as I could but on the advice of the record store I ended up buying the album, ‘Abandoned Luncheonette,’ as it featured an unedited version of the song.

That turned out to be one of my smarter decision as it’s still a favourite to this day.

Despite high hopes the single and album sank without trace and Hall & Oates disappeared from the scene.
You can’t keep a good duo down however, and they came storming back in 76 with a stunning blue-eyed soul classic called ‘Sara Smile’ which would become a mega hit for them in the US.

On the back of this new found success, ‘She’s Gone’ was dusted down and re-released, and started to get the airplay and credit it deserved, becoming their next big hit.

The song, co-written by the duo was inspired by a New Years Eve date that never happened when John Oates got stood up and returned to his New York apartment alone and despondent, but with an idea for a song.


The resultant track and album was produced by the legendary Atlantic producer, Arif Mardin who’s credits include Aretha Franklyn, The Average White Band, George Benson, Chaka Khan, Carly Simon, Donny Hathaway and The Bee Gees.

If the song deserves high praise then it’s fair to say that the home-made promotional clip they made to support it in 1973 is not in the same league.

To put it in context the video was the duo’s two-finger response to their home town Philadelphia’s version of Top Of The Pops, and a request by them to lip-synch to the song during a live studio performance.

Aggrieved at the thought, Hall & Oates made their excuses, cut the home made video in an afternoon and sent the clip to the show.


On viewing the video the show refused to play it and were so offended by its content that they banned Philly natives, Hall & Oates from ever appearing on the show again, whilst also trying their damnedest to get the song banned from every radio station in Philly.

The video features Hall & Oates, their road manager and Sara Allen, Hall’s girlfriend at the time and the very same Sara from ‘Sara Smile’.

There are a few decent covers of ‘She’s Gone’, including a Lou Rawls version, but the best known is by the American soul/disco band, Tavares who’s version provided them with their big breakthrough hit in 1974.

In fact, when Hall & Oates re-released their original version of ‘She’s Gone’ two years later in 1976, most people complimented them on a great cover of a Tavares song!

Hall and Oates never looked back and would go on to become the most successful duo of all time with six number ones, eclipsing Simon and Garfunkel and the Carpenters.

almost top of the pops – john miles.

(A look at bands / artists, who this day in The ‘70s were ALMOST Top of the Pops.)

18th April 1976

John Miles

Right – we’re talking ‘classic’ here. None of your twee pop stuff performed by session musicians and presented by pretty boys with toothy smiles. I‘ll bet everyone reading this post has heard this song before. Which is perhaps a little strange, given that it spent marginally over two months in the UK charts, peaking at #3, where it remained this week in 1976.

I’m not saying it was a particular favourite of mine. Yet, though I wasn’t convinced by the overblown production and pomp, I enjoyed it as ‘something completely different’ when I first heard it on the radio.

However, being quite fickle as far as music is concerned, (Ok – I have the attention span of a fruit fly) I soon grew bored of it. One of my pals was already a confirmed John Miles fan and played this track to absolute death! In his house or in the changing room at athletics training or on the pub juke-box….
“Music of the future, Music of the past.” Aaaargh! Those words kept me awake at night!

Credit where it’s due though – John Miles was (he sadly passed away in December 2021, aged 72) a ‘proper’ musician, well respected in all circles of the music industry.

He came from Jarrow, not far from Newcastle Upon Tyne, and was initially in a band called Influence, though at that time still performing under his original name of John Herrrington. Paul Thomson who would later join Roxy Music, and Vic Malcolm who would become an original member of Geordie, were fellow members; as was Chris Warren, who would go on to join Pickettywitch. (See? These articles aren’t just thrown together you know!)

When the band broke up, John Miles formed his own outfit, not so imaginatively called John Miles Band. They built a decent following in their native North East, and cut a few singles on the Orange label.

However, still chasing the dream, John moved to London in 1975 with bass player Bob Marshall, added Barry Black and Gary Moberly to the band, secured a deal with Decca, released ‘High Fly’ – and spent six weeks in the charts, rising to #17. Simple – just like that.

However, John’s big moment came around five months later with the release of ‘Music.’ This track, like ‘High Fly’ before it, was lifted from the band’s debut album ‘Rebel.’

The follow-up single ‘Remember Yesterday’ a pleasant ballad came from the band’s second album to be released in 1976, but only scraped into the Top Forty at #32. This album, ‘Stranger In The City’ also spawned the last chart entry of The Seventies for John Miles – ‘Slow Down.’ Nothing could be much further from what was already being viewed as the classic ‘Music.
(‘High Fly‘and ‘Music’ did scrape the USA charts, but it was this, ‘Slow Down’ that was his best effort Stateside, reaching #34 in as well as #2 in the Disco charts.)

In fact the whole album is pretty diverse in the style of tracks it offers, incorporating elements of disco, metal and soul at various points.

And this was perhaps the school-boy error. As we’ve seen with other bands before and after, if an early reputation is built on such an iconic song, it’s difficult to further cultivate that almost tribal fanbase with different styles.

A few albums followed in the Eighties, but nothing could match the early success, though he did work on projects with Alan Parsons and Jimmy Page and toured with Tina Turner and Joe Cocker. Indeed, he played on several of Tina’s albums and was music director on some of her tours.

Tina Turner and John Miles
B-Side from JOHN MILES’ ’79 single, “You Cant Keep A Good Man Down”.

I do have to confess to being one of those who, perhaps unfairly, considered ‘Music’ to be on the pretentious side. It was a tag that John Miles struggled to shake off, but maybe if people like me had bothered to listen to the rest of his output, as I’ve only just done, some forty-six years later, then he may have found even greater success.

Still, there’s not many can say that for a short while in 1976, they were ALMOST Top of the Pops…. and in all honesty, deserved even better.

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson from Glasgow – April 2022)

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18 With A Bullet – Morning Has Broken by Cat Stevens

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, April 2022

Selected 70s hits from across the pond

I can’t claim to be religious but the odd times I do attend the Lord’s house for weddings, funerals or christenings, I generally struggle with the words to hymns, except for one.

Probably, like most people from my era, I’m not sure I even realised that ‘Morning Has Broken’ was a hymn before it became a pop song by Cat Stevens 40 years later.

The hymns lyrics written by English author and poet Eleanor Farjeon in 1931 were set to a traditional Scottish folk song called Bunessan, after a village of the same name on the isle of Mull.
The songs positive message was ‘to give thanks for each day’ and it was added to the updated hymnbook or ‘Songs of Praise’ of 1931.

Cat Stevens idea to include a version of the hymn on his 1971 ‘Teaser and the Firecat’ album was initially met with much resistance by his record label ‘Island’, who were busy trying to promote Stevens as the English James Taylor.
The albums producer Paul Samwell-Smith was also against the songs inclusion for more practical reasons as the hymn has no chorus and consists of only 4 verses which made it’s initial recording time a paltry 44 seconds long.

Undaunted, Stevens reached out to session musician Rick Wakeman to ask if he could help with a piano arrangement for the song.

On the day of recording, Wakeman, as part of his preparation, started playing some melodies he’d written for his ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ project.
Cat Stevens, impressed with what he’d just heard, said… “perfect Rick, let’s use that for ‘Morning Has Broken”!
Wakeman reluctantly agreed and basically came up with arrangements for the start, middle and end of the song, which extended the track to 3 minutes 20 seconds.


Delighted with his contribution, Wakeman was devastated to receive no credits on the album and for the meagre £10 he was offered for all his hard work.
Rick would have the last laugh though when Cat Stevens realised they had no idea how to play the song live on stage without Wakeman’s input.

Wakeman would perform his keyboard skills on some other classic tracks that year, including Life on Mars for Bowie and Get It On for T-Rex before joining the band Yes.
He did eventually forge a solo career and released ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ to critical acclaim in 73.

The ‘Teaser and the Firecat’ album would produce 3 hit singles – ‘Moonshadow’ and ‘Peace Train’ were both released with moderate success before ‘Morning Has Broken’, which became a massive global hit reaching number one in the US.

Stevens surfed a wave of success in the 70s with hit singles, hit albums, sell-out tours & great reviews…. and best of all, he even got to date Carly Simon & Joni Mitchell.
Maybe you can get too much of a good thing, and Stevens famously turned his back on his successful career after a near-death experience off the coast of Malibu when he feared he was drowning.
He allegedly cried out “God if you save me I will work for you” at which point a wave appeared and swept him to shore.

Auctioning off all his guitars and devoting his time to the Islamic faith, Stevens changed his name to Yusuf Islam but after two decades gradually returned to the public eye with new music and tours.

‘Morning Has Broken’, like ‘Amazing Grace’, is one of the few hymns that has crossed over from the church to the charts and Stevens deserves enormous credit but I can’t help but feel that the contribution of Wakeman with his beautiful piano arrangement, also deserves some songs of praise.

Below is a short but funny audio clip of Wakeman telling his side of the ‘Morning Has Broken’ story….

Rick Wakeman gives his side of the story

What We Used To Wear – Army Shirts

(A look back at some of the things we used to wear in the 70’s)

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, April 2022

I’ve no idea what possessed us to wear a lot of the stuff we used to wear, however, I’m very clear about the origins of one 70s fashion trend….. step forward Bryan Ferry who against all conceivable odds managed to make the GI-Joe-look, cool.

English singer Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music, pictured in military style costume with backing singer Jacqui Sullivan at the Montcalm Hotel, London during the Siren tour, October 1975. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

At the time, Roxy and Ferry were at the peak of their powers with a catalogue of critically acclaimed albums and a raft of memorable singles, all produced in the space of three productive years.

Like Bowie, Ferry was a bit of an image-chameleon, constantly updating his look and persona, for each album & tour.
A glam Space Cowboy one minute, a Hollywood Matinee Idol, the next.

Since his breakthrough in 72 with Virginia Plain, Ferry’s style had always been pretty distinctive, but not that accessible, and when he appeared on our screens in September 1975 to deliver ‘Love Is The Drug’ wearing a pair of khaki trousers (that we later found out were called chinos) a pristine khaki military shirt and an eye-patch (as he’d genuinely injured his eye), he finally introduced a look we could invest in…. kind of.

The TV clip showed the ladies in the audience swooning as Ferry swayed, hands in pocket, to the opening bass-line hook of ‘Love Is The Drug’.
A vision in khaki, before you knew it, a few of us were dashing off to our local Army & Navy stores in an attempt to emulate the suave Geordie.

Army & Navy stores were no strangers to teenagers in the 70s, shopping for parkas & gas mask bags and even the odd bit of camouflage but the staff couldn’t believe their luck when the army shirts that had been stuck in a corner gathering dust for years were suddenly selling like hot-cakes.

In a classic case of supply and demand, the prices for said items rose dramatically in the space of a few days.

We’d been influenced by Ferry, but we’d no idea what had influenced him to go for the US Military look, maybe it was at the behest of his latest muse, the Texan Jerry Hall who Ferry was dating and who had just featured as the latest ‘Roxy Girl’ on the cover of their new album – ‘Siren’.

According to Hall, her father had fought in the US military alongside General Patton so perhaps Bryan was dressing to impress.

Being a Roxy fan I went to see them on their Siren tour and was struck at how many wannabe Ferry’s there were in the crowd.

Sure, we had picked up on the army shirt look but others had gone the whole hog…. white dinner jackets, bow-ties, Ferry haircuts, the complete look even down to his trademark pencil-thin moustache (and that was just the girls!)…. there were even a few diehards brandishing eye-patches, not realising the poor guy had glaucoma.

As a trend the military look came and went pretty quickly, indeed, if you popped into your local Army & Navy store a few months later it’s likely you would have seen a rack full of discounted khaki army shirts gathering dust in the corner again.

That would be the last we’d see of Ferry’s changing personas for a while as he broke up the band, broke up with Hall and pursued the life of a dashing country squire…. leaving us poor buggers behind, looking like the cast of M*A*S*H