Category Archives: *MUSIC

“Woodstock” by Matthews Southern Comfort

Paul Fitzpatrick: January 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pickwick Paul Rodgers murdering “All Right Now”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Paul and I were, last week, again invited to join the TURNTABLE TALK chat on Dave Ruch’s blog, ‘A Sound Day.‘ This is an excellent site to visit and satisfy your musical curiosity on all genres of music, mainly focused on the 60s, 70s and 80s. Dave is a prolific writer and the articles are filled with fascinating facts and trivia.

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

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

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

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

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

Nope. Just poets.

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

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

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

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

Linton Kwesi Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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


John Cooper Clarke

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

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

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

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

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


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

Linton Kwesi Johnson & John Cooper Clarke

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

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

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tilting at windmills

Earworm : a catchy song or tune that runs continuously through a person’s mind.

Has there ever been a song that you have equally cherished and chastised ? A song that sticks with you all day that you find yourself humming or whistling at the most inappropriate times ?

One such song for me is The Windmills Of My Mind sung by Noel Harrison back in 1968.

Mrs A  (A graduate of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama no less) describes it as a Baroque style melody similar to a Bach prelude with it’s numerous modulations. Personally I think it just sounds French.

Picture yourself supping your cafe au lait in a Parisian bistro with the strains of  accordion from the beret clad busker across the boulevard.

Hey Pepe Le Peu, gonna gie it a break. Yur doin’ ma heid in wi that tune goin’ roon and roon. A fair near gagged on my croissant !

Of course I would be right. The music was by renowned French pianist and composer Michel Legrand with the English lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman.

Actor and musician Noel Harrison is better known as the son of Rex of My Fair Lady and Doctor Doolittle fame. Although appearing in numerous musicals Rex Harrison never really sang but talked through his songs (listen to If I Could Talk To The Animals)

Fortunately his boy could hold a tune (almost) and found himself singing on the soundtrack of The Thomas Crown Affair beating Andy Williams to the gig. Who can forget that sexy chess scene when Steve McQueen was all hot under the collar at Faye Dunaway’s caressing of the Bishop piece.

The Windmills Of My Mind accompanied a glider scene as well as being used over the opening credits.

So, as the lyrics say :

Round like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning on an ever spinning reel

Enjoy……………….for the rest of the day !

Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me) by Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel.

Paul Fitzpatrick: January 2023

Cockney Rebel were one of those bands that I read about long before I actually heard any of their material.

Signed by EMI in 1973 after only five gigs, the band were hyped by the London-based music press who once counted band leader Steve Harley as one of their own before he pursued a career in music, initially by showcasing his early Cockney Rebel material as a busker in Leicester Square.

Based on the hype and Harley’s chutzpah I already had preconceived ideas about these poseurs, but then I heard the first single – Judy Teen, and much to my disappointment it was really rather good.


I then heard another couple of tracks from their debut album “The Human Menagerie”, which I also liked, but I still had reservations.
You see there were a glut of Bowie impersonators in the mid 70s and I suspected Harley could be one of them – slightly androgynous, plenty to say for himself and a sharp dresser.

Still, I was intrigued enough to buy the second Cockney Rebel album “The Psychomodo” on its release in the summer of 1974, featuring the catchy Mr Soft, and the cult of the Rebel was on the rise

Harley had got off to a pretty impressive start with two critically acclaimed albums in the space of six months but his magnum opus was just around the corner.

I first heard Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me) in my dads car in January 1975, we were making our way home from Harrogate, in the middle of a snow storm.
Just as the song was cooking my dad switched to another station in search of a traffic update, unbelievably he was more concerned about getting us home safely than savouring Jim Cregan’s incredible guitar solo.

Next thing I knew, Neil Diamond was on the 8-Track, and that was the day I learned about drivers privilege – whoever’s steering has control of the music.

Nonetheless, the song had made an impression and next payday I headed to the record shop, evidently I wasn’t the only one, as a couple of weeks later the song was top of the UK hit-parade, replacing Pilot’s aptly named January.

Forty eight years on, I still love the song, it’s a prime example of 70s pop at its best, and as a 4 minute pop song it’s up there with the best – Bowie, Rod, T-Rex, Roxy or 10cc.

GEETARRR….

Sonically, it’s a great sounding track which is no surprise as it was recorded, engineered and produced at Abbey Road by Alan Parsons – who’d worked on “Abbey Road” for the Beatles and was fresh from engineering Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of The Moon”.

Consumed by the catchy chorus, I misinterpreted the lyrics at the time, assuming they were an open invitation to a young lady, who Harley wanted to come up to see him – so she could make him smile!

As it turns out, I couldn’t have been wider from the mark – it was actually a bitchy ‘f*ck you’ to the original Cockney Rebel line up (drummer Stuart Elliot, apart) who had left Harley in the lurch by demanding more money and more involvement in the writing process just before 1974’s Reading Festival…. quitting the band when he refused.

You’ve done it all
You’ve broken every code
And pulled the rebel to the floor
You spoiled the game
No matter what you say
For only metal, what a bore

Far from being a siren song, the chorus was a taunt aimed at his former bandmates, beckoning them to come hither with their tails between their legs, so they could witness what they’d left behind….

“Come up and see me to make me smile
Oh, or do what you want, running wild”

With the next album already written, Harley recruited a new band featuring Jim Cregan on guitar who would play the fabulous flamenco guitar solo on Make Me Smile, before becoming Rod Stewart’s right hand man for many years.

Steve, Linda Lewis, Jim Cregan, Rod

Make Me Smile, is one of those songs that an artist can probably live off for the rest of their career, either through touring – in the knowledge that every evening, the majority of the audience have bought a ticket to hear that one iconic song so they can singalong.

Or, through royalties….. the song’s been used by brands as diverse as Viagra and Marks & Spencer for TV campaigns, and when you think of it “come up and see me, make me smile” is a pretty smart tagline for the treatment of erectile dysfunction!

PF – Any time I see this advert I keep wishing the cocky twat would fall down the stairs


It was a surprise to find that there are over 120 cover versions of the song, as I don’t recall hearing many.

Steve Harley’s favourite rendition?

This version….

As Harley says, it was written as a bitter, bitchy recrimination, so The Wedding Present’s raspy, indie delivery conveys the sentiment of the song perfectly.

getting the horn

Dear reader, please don’t turn away in disgust. This is not an entry from the Diary of a Smutty Adolescent but my love and appreciation for the amalgam of wind and brass players that gives your favourite pop or rock songs that extra bit of oomph.

Brass section, horns, call it what you want. It can be anything from a trumpet/saxophone duo to a big band of four or five trumpets, three or four trombones and a five piece saxophone section (two altos, two tenors and a baritone for all those fellow anoraks out there.)

My first experience of hearing a big band live was when I used to sneak out for my lunch break on a Saturday when I worked in a music shop and witness the George McGowan Big Band in a small Glasgow venue called Shadows. The band, all 15 or 16 of them took up about half of the bar and the punters the rest. When George and the lads were at full pelt the sound they made almost pinned you against the back wall. And that was with no amplification. It certainly stirred something in this novice sax wannabe.

I did get the opportunity to play in a ‘section’ with a trumpeter all through the late seventies in a funk/soul band and more recently with a trombonist in a jazz combo.

Havana Horns

My big band work has been sporadic and wrought with anxiety. I filled in on baritone sax at a school music camp that my wife ran and that was fun. A decade earlier I was asked if I could play 2nd tenor for the Strathclyde University Big Band for an up and coming gig. I agreed as long as they could get the sheet music to me so I could practice. My sight reading has always been a bit rusty. A week went by and no music was forthcoming. I was getting a bit nervous as the gig was a few days away. Eventually the music appeared – on the bus going to the gig ! Nauseous with both trying to read on a moving vehicle and from the blind panic I was in, it took every fibre of my being not to puke over my father’s borrowed dinner jacket !

I muddled through the gig, playing quietly and missing out certain sections in the hope the other 4 saxes could carry me through. The last number came and I relaxed a bit only to discover each member of the band was being pointed to by the conductor. Everyone was to be highlighted with an 8 bar solo ! I gave what was the musical equivalent of an incomprehensible mumble barely straying from the route note. I got through it though. Nobody pointed and laughed at me but I did have to return my dad’s DJ resembling a sponge !

I’ll leave it to the professionals. My flute teacher depped or deputised in bands for a living. He recalled one venue where the band were set up on tiered concrete steps. He had a quick change from baritone sax to piccolo. Unfortunately in his haste he hadn’t returned the bari to it’s stand properly and had to watch it unceremoniously bounce down the steps. Ouch !

Australian trumpeter James Morrison on greeting his fellow dozen horn players for a tour by the Philip Morris All Stars exclaimed  Do you realise you are putting two synthesizer players out of work ? Sadly ironic on several levels considering it took the sponsorship of the tobacco industry to put a big band on the road.

But what about the songs we remember from the seventies I hear you ask. Let’s go back a bit further to the sixties when the JB Horns were helping James Brown strut his stuff. They would later appear as the Horny Horns with Parliament. Then there’s Kool & The Gang and Earth,Wind & Fire with their catchy fanfares. Going down the more jazz/funk route were the Brecker Bros.

JB Horns

A song I really liked from an artist I’m a bit indifferent about is Honky Cat by Elton John. I love how the baritone sax scoops up from the bottom. I was convinced it was my old buddies Tower of Power providing the ballsy brass but it turns out they were French session players. Never forget the humble session player be it Muscle Shoals or the Funk Brothers of Motown.

Elton John: ‘Honky Cat.’

Power did provide some classics like What Is Hip? and Squib Cakes. They were certainly horns for hire and were the icing on the cake for that Little Feat classic Spanish Moon.

But the two all time classics must be must be Chicago’s 1970 hit 25 or 6 to 4. (Whatever that may mean. Gran’s favourite bingo numbers perhaps) Long before they churned out syrupy love songs Chicago could really rock. Power chords intro then BLAM full brass attack. And what’s with the crazy chords and the winding down at the end.

Chicago: ’25 or 6 to 4′

The second classic must be the 1968 Blood, Sweat & Tears locomotion Spinning Wheel coming right at ya ! We’ve got merry-go-rounds and folk songs amidst the grittiest of bare knuckle brass. It certainly put songwriter and lead vocalist David Clayton-Thomas on the map.

Blood Sweat & Tears: ‘Spinning Wheel.’

So don’t be hard on horns (!) It just might get you going !!

You’re a Lady

Peter Skellern: ‘You’re a Lady’

Was there ever a song from the seventies that you secretly liked but knew you could never ever tell anyone about ? I think after 50 years I can come clean.

It was August 1972 and I was on the verge of manhood at the age of fourteen.

The radio was on in the background and I heard the dulcet tones of a brass band playing a short intro. Hardly rock ‘n roll. Mum must have changed the channel to Radio 2 as I normally had it tuned to Radio 1.

Brass Band

A soft voice, more a husky whisper, and a sparse piano accompaniment talking about leaving a dance. More Hoagy Carmichael or a northern Noel Coward, than Bolan or Bowie. No wailing guitar or four on the floor back beat.

Now the chorus ‘You’re a lady, I’m a man’. You don’t say. That’s original. In come the brass band again. That mellifluous euphonium and cornet give me a bit of a flutter though.

Euphonium

Crescendo. Slowly getting louder. It’s only a soppy love song John.

Back to the pleading voice and the scant piano. I must admit it’s all a bit melancholy.

Now the bold brass and the coursing chorus – and a choir. No not a choir! Strap yourself to the mast John. Don’t be dashed on the rocks with this siren song.

Choir

Rallentando. Slowing down. A bit of a reprieve. No, here we go again. Bringing out the big brass. Cranking up the choir. My bottom lip’s beginning to quiver. Hold on, there can’t be much more of this.

Flourished octaves up and down the keyboard. It’s Liberace with a cloth cap and whippet. Watch t’ candelabra ! I wur oop aw’ night polishing that !

It’s too much. The floodgates have opened. Pass me the Handy Andys.

It’s the Hovis advert, wet cobblestones and Lowry pictures all rolled into one and I’m a sucker for it.

Hovis bread: TV advert

This must go no further Skellern you scallywag !

now that’s what I don’t call christmas.

IF there was any justice in the world, I’d be sitting in my plush 30-roomed mansion this Christmas surrounded by the trappings of untold wealth.

But there’s not…and I’m not. 

So where did it all go wrong? Well, I’m blaming several unscrupulous record company A&R types who snaffled five original Christmas songs I’d sent them, gave them a tweak and passed them off as their own.

I’ll be the first to admit my song-writing showed signs of immaturity, but I can put that down to, erm, being immature.

I penned my batch of Christmas tunes as a teenager back in the early 1970s and sent them off to all the big record companies in the hope of getting them recorded.

I never heard anything back, not so much as a rejection slip. Ever since then I’ve suffered in silence as, one by one, the songs have gone on to be huge festive hits worth squillions of pounds.

Not a penny has come my way in royalties down the years and those wounds run deep. Angry? Yep. Bitter? You betcha.

Now I’m not saying these hit songs are exact replicas of the ones I wrote, but there are more than enough similarities to suspect an element of plagiarism is involved.

Anyway, I’ll lay out the facts as I see them for my original songs and let you decide for yourselves.

Slept In To Christmas

Back story: This was my first ever attempt at writing a song and the inspiration was my paranoiac fear of missing out on my Christmas tips by sleeping in for my paper round. I’d knocked my pan in all year, hadn’t shirked a single shift and was relying on the gratuities to pay for Christmas pressies. The lyrics bounce between my thoughts and those of my customers, but I thought it worked well.

Favourite lyricWelcome to my Christmas song, I’d like to thank you for the year, So I’m leaving you this Christmas tip, To say it’s nice to have you deliver here.

Plagiarised?

Little Plumber Boy

Back story: A mate of mine had just landed a job as an apprentice plumber and told me how his time-served mentor would always hum away to songs on the radio without knowing the words. This is where the pa-rum-pum-pum-pum part of the song comes in. When I sent off the tune to the record companies I even suggested it should be a double act of an old crooner and a young rock legend.

Favourite lyric: Come they told me pa-rum-pum-pum-pum, A U-bend leak to see pa-rum-pum-pum-pum, Our finest tools we bring pa-rum-pum-pum-pum

Stolen?

Fast Christmas

Back story: This one came about after one particular Christmas Day when I somehow squeezed in two dinners – one with my family and the other at my girlfriend’s. I was so bloated when dessert came around for the second time that I handed over my serving to my girlfriend. It was intended to be some sort of love token, but it went down like a lead balloon. The whole experience made me think seriously about fasting at Christmas.

Favourite lyric: Fast Christmas I gave you lime tart, But the very next day you gave it away, This year, to save me from tears, I’ll give you some Tartan Special

Pinched?

All I Want For Christmas Is Yule (Log)

Back story: I had long since abandoned any thoughts of fasting by the following Christmas mainly thanks to my mum’s baking prowess. She knocked out a home-made chocolate Yule log to die for and I was smitten enough to write a song about it.

Favourite lyric: I just want you for my own, More than you could ever know, Make my chocolate wish come true, All I want for Christmas is Yule.

(Little Saint ) Nicked?

Sherry Xmas Everybody

Back story: This was inspired by my grandma who was tee-total all year round but would let her hair down on Christmas Day by having a wee sherry or two. The challenge for us grandkids was to prise her glass away – no mean feat, I can tell you – hold it up for all to see and say: “Whose sherry is this?” Then we’d all shout: “It’s grandmaaaaaa’s”. I even made this the intro to my song as a tribute.

Favourite lyric: Does your granny always tell ya, That Cockburn’s is the best, Then she’s up and drinking Rolling Rock with the rest.

Ripped off?

I can’t help feeling I’ve been stiffed and wish I’d known something – anything, in fact – about copyright laws back then. Who knows? It might have been kerchingle bells for me.

Mmm..I feel another song coming on.

(Post by George Cheyne from Glasgow – December 2022)

Free At Last

Paul Fitzpatrick: December 2022

It’s Paul Rodgers birthday, the Geordie legend is 73 today.

Which reminds me of the time that I was in a band – for five minutes – if it’s possible to call three people who never played a gig or had a name for said band – a band.
And my inspiration for joining the band that never was, was Mr Rodgers.

It was the spring of 1973, so I would have been in third year, a few months shy of my 15th birthday.

The band as it was, was an unconventional trio consisting of two guitarists (Dick & Bob) and a vocalist (me).

Bob Hamilton had approached me to join him and his friend Dick in this super-group, and invited me to come to his house for a chat and a rehearsal.
I knew Bob dabbled with the guitar from our playground conversations. Usually about who had been on the Old Grey Whistle Test the evening before.
We’d discuss the merits of yodelling in rock and compliment guitar heroes like Jan Akkerman and Paul Kossoff.

I assumed his cohort Dick who I didn’t know that well, would play bass…. or drums….. or keyboards, but no, Dick was set on being the next Steve Hackett or Steve Howe.

Bob, who unfortunately is no longer with us, was a lovely lad, affable and jolly, he was one of those rare beasts who was welcome in any friendship group.

Dick, was a bit more aloof, and cocksure and I assumed that he and Bob must have bonded over a common interest in musical tastes (how wrong I was)

That first get together and rehearsal turned out to be a bit of a shambles and truth be told, it didn’t really get much better.

Before a note was played we had a chat about what songs we should learn to cover.
I suggested a couple of Free songs, which I thought were realistic given the obvious limitations (musically and instrumentally), plus, my vocal inspiration at the time was Paul Rodgers.

I’d learned to sing Wishing Well, The Stealer and Fire & Water verbatim, every little Rodgers nuance included, and if Stars in Their Eyes had been around in 73, I’d have been given it “Tonight Matthew I’m…..”

For his part, Bob suggested a couple of Faces songs, on the basis that they were guitar driven and would sit alongside the Free songs.

Dick, on the other hand, had slightly loftier ambitions for the power-trio, no commercial shit for him, he wanted us to learn and play “Suppers Ready” a 23 minute, Genesis, keyboard-driven, prog anthem.

The debate on the bands musical direction proved to be a moot point however when we realised that the only available sheet music at Bob’s was The Beatles and Status Quo.

Also, both lads were at the start of their musical journeys and knew about 3 chords between them, plus ahem, we were missing the Hammond organ, the mellotron, the tubular bells and of course the rhythm section necessary to make a dent in this Genesis odyssey.

Tensions in the trio came to a head during a particular ropey rendition of a two-chord Quo classic which to be fair none of us had our hearts in anyway.

Dick had obviously had enough of “Down, Down, Deeper and Down” and “Here Comes The Sun” and announced that he didn’t want to play this shit anymore before storming out.

Utterly relieved, Bob and I got back to what we did best, listening to music and talking about it, and agreed that if anyone asked we’d announce that …. “the band split due to creative tensions”

See there I go again, calling it a band!

So, Happy Birthday Paul Rodgers, there were some great front men in the 70s – Jagger, Plant, Gillan, Stewart but I always thought you were the man with the golden voice…



Jeff “Skunk” Baxter

Paul Fitzpatrick: December 2022

In 1974 Jeff “Skunk” Baxter was at the Knebworth Festival playing with the Doobie Brothers, on a bill that featured the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Van Morrison and The Allman Bothers.

A founding member of Steely Dan, Baxter loved being on stage but due to Steely Dan’s reluctance to tour he found himself with enough free time to tour and record with the Doobies as well as Linda Ronstadt that year.

When he informed the Doobies at Knebworth that he was about to quit Steely Dan as they wanted to inhabit the studio rather than play live, they said “great you’re a Doobie now“.
Baxter accepted their offer and promptly introduced his mate Michael McDonald to the band to create Doobies 2.0.

Baxter’s playing on the first three Steely Dan albums is pretty special and there are multiple highlights, with his solos on the track “My Old School” being a big favourite of the ‘Dan Loyal’

Baxter would go on to play on six Doobie Brothers albums as well as various sessions for Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon and Todd Rundgren.

A keen collaborator, Baxter has also toured and played live with Jimi Hendrix, James Brown and Elton John and is renowned for his virtuoso plating as well as his pedal steel guitar, skills.

Baxter was a ‘studio rat’ for much of the 80s playing on numerous sessions including the guitar solo on Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff” before forming a short lived super-group called The Best, with Joe Walsh, John Entwhistle and Keith Emmerson.

The Best play “Reeling in The Years”

The talented Mr Baxter also carved out a second career as a military advisor working with the US Government’s Missile Defense Agency and in 2005 was invited to join NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration.

After dabbling with politics, Skunk has rediscovered his love for music and has released a new album supported by a US tour.

Some Skunk highlights on the playlist below…..

Love and Affection – Joan Armatrading

Forty-six years ago I tuned in to the Old Grey Whistle Test to catch a piece on Led Zeppelin and their long-awaited movie – The Song Remains the Same.

After his chat with Robert Plant, Bob Harris introduced Armatrading who played two songs – the ubiquitous “Love and Affection” and my favourite Armatrading track – “Down to Zero”.

As teenagers in the 70s we were prone to making assumptions based on our limited awareness, so when Bob introduced Armatrading and I saw a black female with an afro and an acoustic guitar I wasn’t sure what to expect.
The female troubadours of the day tended to look like Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt or Carly Simon.

As she played the opening chords to “Down to Zero” any preconceptions evaporated and were replaced with… ‘wow, where’s she been hiding?’

It was one of those eureka moments which had maximum impact as she was an artist that not many people knew anything about.
In fact it seemed like everyone who saw her OGWT performance that evening rushed out to buy the album, (which had already been on the record shop shelves for several months), so, overnight you had 100,000 people all claiming to have ‘discovered’ her.   

Of course, we would later learn that Armatrading had already done the hard yards, paying her musical dues for ten years before the OGWT ‘breakthrough’.
 
The album was beautifully produced with Armatrading’s vocals and guitar at the front of the mix, however at the time I don’t remember it registering with me that the man on production duties was the prolific Glyn Johns.

Johns’ resume includes production & engineering chores on landmark albums for The Who, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Faces, The Rolling Stones, The Eagles and Eric Clapton. So, it was quite a compliment when he said that the Joan Armatrading album is “the best he’s ever been associated with”.

Armatrading’s second song that evening would become her signature tune, the classic “Love and Affection”, with the killer opening line…

I’m not in love, but I’m open to persuasion”

The haunting saxophone solo on the track was provided by Gallagher & Lyle sideman Jimmy Jewell and the baritone backing vocal was provided by Clarke Peters, better known to some as Detective Lester Freamon from The Wire.

Lester ‘all the pieces matter’ Freamon

Grammy nominated, Armatrading, in her own quiet way has gone on to cultivate a long and fruitful career, doing things her way, still successfully touring and recording with a newly released live album and book of selected lyrics.