Category Archives: Social life

saturday night special

“‘Cause Saturday night’s the night I like

Saturday night’s alright, alright, alright, ooh”

Saturday nights, are the best of the week; always have been – always will be. But although still special, as grumpy, cynical old grown-ups, we know what to expect. What we do in 2030 will be much the same as we did in 2020 albeit probably a lot slower and involving more aches, pains, groans and complaining.

Growing up in the ‘70s, though, it was all that bit more exciting:

1970 (aged 12):
Saturday nights would be special for parents too. My sister and I would often be dropped off at grandparents for the night while mum and dad went to some fancy-dan Dinner Dance at the Albany Hotel. Suited us: a Beano comic; a Lucky Bag; Dr Who and Dixon of Dock Green on TV; home-made (powdered) ice cream and a glass of Lucozade – even if we weren’t feeling poorly.

Beano – 7th February 1970

1971 (aged 13):
Dad would treat us all to his tea-time speciality – spam and beetroot fritters! Mmmmnn! Yummy!

The ice-cream van would pass down our street and we’d get a copy of the Pink Times which carried all that day’s football results. I’d then spend ages meticulously updating my Shoot! League Ladders, copying the positions from the evening paper. It was a pretty pointless exercise, I’ll grant you, but that’s just what we did for entertainment back then. With hindsight though, it’s perhaps easy to see why I struggled to find a girlfriend!

SHOOT! League Ladders 1971 / 1972

1972 (aged 14):
At 5pm, my dad and I would gather round the radio, waiting for the tune that still excites me to this day.

James Alexander Gordon would read the Classified Football Results and we’d always try to guess the away team’s score from the intonation in his voice.

(I’d then get my bloody Shoot! League ladders ready, in anticipation of the ice-cream van’s chimes.)

Really though, not a lot changed from 1971. Still too young for even under-aged drinking in the tunnel under the railway at the back of our house, I’d settle for dad’s new Saturday tea-time treat – mashed corned beef and beetroot toasties. Mmmmnn! Yummy!

(Beetroot to our family were as turnips would be to Baldrick in Blackadder, some eleven years later.)

1973 (aged 15):
I enjoyed going to watch football with my pals – not so much for the sport, as my team had been a bit sporadic in their success those past eight years, but because I had an excuse to pass on the ‘something and beetroot,’ Saturday Special! My pals and I would stop off at the chippy outside the Underground station and I’d have just the best black pudding supper and a couple of pickled onions the size of golf balls.

“Oh Dad – I’d love to try one, but really, honestly … I’m stuffed.”

And that’s about as exciting as it got. Saturday nights for fifteen year olds in Boresville, Suburbia could be a bit on the mundane side.

Black pudding supper.

1974 (aged 16):
Now Saturdays became a bit more exciting. We’d somehow blag copious amounts of beer and fortified wine from unscrupulous Off Sales proprietors and stash it in the local woods. Later that evening, we’d retrieve it, neck it, and quickly head off to the local disco.

It now all became a bit of a race against time. We’d have to time our arrival (often at the town’s Ski Club) before the alcohol got the better of us and we’d be refused entry – which did happen from time to time, I’m afraid to say.

Add another of these and a couple bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale.

1975 (aged 17):
1975 called for a bit of consolidation before we turned 18. We were however, sufficiently confident to blag a beer or two at the local hostelry – The Burnbrae.

We had become bored with the stale local disco scene though, and would instead venture into Glasgow’s fashionable West End to crash the disco nights held by some of the city’s private schools.

The all-girl schools were pretty discerning about who they let in, so we generally stuck to the all-boys schools. These events were hosted by the schools’ rugby clubs and so there were plenty of burly bouncers to evade / deceive before entry.

And the students of these schools didn’t take too kindly to us usurpers from Comprehensive schools chatting up their girlfriends. Frequently the evening would end in fights – and a girl’s false phone number scribbled onto your arm.

(Oh – just me, then?)

1976 (aged 18):
By August ’76, I may still have been a daft wee boy, but I’d left school, turned eighteen and started my first job. I dared bar staff in town to question my age. Which they did, of course – for the next five years or so. See, that’s the trouble with being a daft wee boy!

Naturally, Saturday nights became pub centric. Generally they’d be spent with old school pals at Macintosh’s Bar in Glasgow, followed by a few hours at The White Elephant discotheque.

Macintosh’s Bar.
Flyer for The White Elephant

1977 (aged 19):
I was now dating a girl I’d met at The White Elephant, so most Saturdays were still being spent in there – maybe with a pre-disco Stakis Steakhouse meal thrown in. Boy, I knew how to show the ladies a real good time!

Some Saturdays though, my mate, Derek, would sign me in to the Strathclyde University Students’ Union Bar. The beer was so much cheaper in there than the standard 38p pub pint, and bands were booked every week. One of the best, and one I had to pester him to get me in to, was The Ramones. Yeah, The Ramones! 21st May 1977 it was, and they co-headlined with another little known band of the time, Talking Heads.

Not a bad night for, I reckon, about a fiver all in!

The Ramones – 1977

1978 (aged 20):
I had met another girl in the autumn of the previous year – we’d be together two years – and her best pal was going out with my best mate. (They had introduced us on a blind date.) We would still head uptown from time to time, but the girls weren’t that keen. Looking back, we had almost instantly morphed into two boring ‘married’ couples, sitting around one of our homes listening to records and watching crap television with a Chinese takeaway meal on our laps.

Yawn.

Chinese Takeaway Meal.

1979 (aged 21):
This was much the same as the previous year until after our second holiday away together, my girlfriend and I decided enough was enough. Come September, Saturday nights were then mainly spent in the company of my athletics club pals, either in the bars or Indian / Greek restaurants of Glasgow’s Kelvinbridge area, or at The Peel pub in Drumchapel, playing darts, Space Invaders, Galaxian and Asteroids.

We would also enjoy playing ‘the puggy’ – until it was stolen! Yes, really!

Galaxian arcade game.

Six months into the next decade and I’d go on holiday to the South of France with some of those athletics pals. There, I’d meet our Diane, a Geordie lass. Saturday evenings for the next couple of years would be spent at her local Social Club, playing bingo, watching some really ropey ‘turn’ and drinking warm, flat lager (Hansa?)

Social Club

Either that, or with pals and their partners, we’d revisit some of those old, Glasgow haunts from the late ‘70s.

And so the excitement of Saturday nights continue into my sixty-fifth year – at the beginning of June, Diane and I have organised a big party to celebrate our 40th Anniversary! (But not before I’ve updated my end-of-season Shoot! League Ladders.)

“Gonna keep on dancing
To the rock and roll
On Saturday night, Saturday night.”

(Post by Coin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – May 2022)

che longing

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

Last February fellow regular collaborator George Cheyne wrote the splendid article Wall Of Fame for this excellent blog. He explored the numerous posters we had back in the 70s (disguising the embarrassing Winnie The Pooh wallpaper in my case). A great article but I fear he missed one important iconic image.

The Che Guevara poster.

Che Guevara poster

Mine, if I remember correctly, was handed down to me by my eldest brother when he flew the nest. To me it was some Cuban revolutionary guy in a cool beret. That was the extent of my knowledge and the lack of interest for further research as a pubescent adolescent.

With the advent of time and the emergence of easy use internet search engines, I now know differently.

ErnestoCheGuevara (14 June 1928– 9 October 1967) was from a wealthy Argentinian family. He was a Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, guerilla leader, diplomat, and military theorist.

His nickname che is a common filler or interjection used in Argentine Spanish a bit like eh in Canadian English or ken in some Scots dialects.

Whether he was on the side of good or evil, I’ll let his biographer, Dr Peter McLaren have his say.

The current court of opinion places Che on a continuum that teeters between viewing him as a misguided rebel, a coruscatingly brilliant guerrilla philosopher, a poet-warrior jousting at windmills, a brazen warrior who threw down the gauntlet to the bourgeoisie, the object of fervent paeans to his sainthood, or a mass murderer clothed in the guise of an avenging angel whose every action is imbricated in violence—the archetypal Fanatical Terrorist.

As a quasi rebellious teenager, I may have had slight left leaning world views not like the watermelon I have now become in old age – green on the outside and red in the middle ! – but since this is an apolitical platform I’ll leave it at that !

It’s the iconic poster I want to concentrate on.

Guerrillero Heroico was the original photograph taken by Alberto Korda in Havana, Cuba on the 5 March 1960 at a memorial service. Another figure and a palm tree were cropped out to give the image an ageless quality.

Che’s image remained in Cuba for the next 7 years used in newspapers occasionally advertising conferences he was to speak at. In 1967 wealthy Italian newspaper publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli while trying to negotiate the release of a French journalist captured as a part of Guevara’s guerilla operations in Bolivia, asked the Cuban government for a suitable image of Che. Because he was a friend of the revolution, Korda gave him 2 prints for free. Feltrinelli then distributed thousands of images to bring awareness to Guevara’s precarious situation and ultimate demise.

In 1967 Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick printed the image in it’s now familiar black and red adding a subtle ‘F’ on the shoulder. It was used as a symbol in the May 1968 Paris student riots. In 2008 Fitzpatrick signed over copyright to a paediatric cardiology hospital in Havana.

One of the great icons of the 20th century evolved into a popular and heavily commercialised icon that often strayed far from Che’s hard-line Marxist message.

So, a bit more than some Cuban revolutionary guy in a cool beret.

For the record, I did also have a beret that was commandeered by my girlfriend (now wife) in the 80s. I blame Bananarama – a different kind of revolution perhaps !

I wonder if in years to come teenagers will have a stylised poster of Volodymyr Zelenskyy on their bedroom walls – Some cool Ukrainian war hero dude.

I hope so. Viva la Revolución !

diary of a pimply kid: memories of the late 60s & 70s – Focus on the Trees.

(*a little bit fact; a bit more fiction; much exaggerated.*)

Diary

Wednesday 31st May 1972 – (aged 13, end of 2nd year)

Everyone today is talking about a band from Holland called Focus. They were on the Old Grey Whistle Test last night. Most in the Smokers Union shelter say how amazing that yodeling guy was. Some though, those I see wearing the ex-RAF great coats with an LP by the band stuck under their armpit, have a smug ‘told you’ smile and ignore our conversation.

Focus on The Old Grey Whistle Test.

It was very wet at PE time. Old Boot (gym teacher) decided it was too wet to play football. What?! This is Glasgow. Rangers, Celtic, Thistle, Clyde and Queens Park all manage to play ok.

Anyway – PE was switched indoors to the gym. Everyone has football boots – only a few also brought gym shoes. Those of us who hadn’t were lined up to get two of the belt! Old Boot got more exercise than any of us.

The tawse / belt / Lochgelly

Buses were late to pick us up at 4 o’clock. Had to stand out in the rain till they arrived. Trip home was a bit smelly.

Woods clearing ‘football pitch.’

Rain stops but did some studying for exams till teatime then out to the clearing in the woods for a game of football. Get chased by Mr McIlwham who says we shouldn’t be using trees as goalposts because they can feel the ball hitting against them. (Cuckoo!)  

Lucky we weren’t using a Mitre Mouldmaster, then is all I can say.

Mitre Mouldmaster

Well, that’s it – game’s a bogey! We tell Mr McIlwham that we’re off now to break some windows and scrawl graffiti.

See us kids, eh?!

Broken window
Graffiti

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – March 2022)

______________________

diary of a pimply kid: memories of the late 60s & 70s – ‘Big’ School.

(*a little bit fact; a bit more fiction; much exaggerated.*)

Diary

Monday 10th August 1970 (aged 12 – only just.)

Didn’t finish my Ready Brek this morning – first day at big school, so tummy churning a bit. Been told all sorts of stories of what the 2nd Years would do to welcome us.

Excited about getting a bus to school. (You can read Paul’s wonderful account of this, here.)
Met pals at The Cooperative Shop in the village. Lots of the older boys from the village gang were there. I know several of them so it was ok even though they were a bit boisterous.

Bus – Alexander Midland

Tried to get on the top deck of the bus but seems there is some kind of hyer highera order about where you are meant to sit. Got bundled down to the lower deck. The conductress seemed a bit stressed.
“Sit down! No standing upstairs! Keep away from the open platform! Have you tickets and bus passes ready! I SAID NO STANDING UPSTAIRS!”

Stood around the main entrance with my pals until we were put into our classes. A few from my primary school are also in 1A. Boys and girls from four other schools are in my class. They look OK.

Bearsden Academy

In class, we have to copy down our timetable. When did I sign up for Latin?! Mum! Dad! What?!

It could be worse, I suppose – double English to start the week on a Monday morning. And double PE on Wednesday afternoon to finish – that’s good.

I am in Endrick House – I have to go to the annex for registration each morning before class.

Break-time and many pals are welcomed into Bearsden Academy by having their heads stuck down the toilet pan which is then flushed. There are some fights. Most just give in. I escape attention until afternoon break for some reason. The suspense is terrible.

School toilet

Eventually, I’m picked out, but my captors don’t drag me to the toilets. Instead, I’m carried to a drinking fountain and held over it by my arms and legs. I then had my trousers soaked, front and back, before a teacher chased the boys away.

First Latin lesson next – infectum bum I think is the translation.

Trousers still damp when I get home, so place them over the clothes horse in front of the fire.

Electric fire
Clothes horse.
Pilchards

Pilchards on toast for tea. Blech!  Out to play and swap footy cards with pals and tales of first day at big school.

It’ll be alright. I think.  

________________

roller skating and music. (A guest post by max gower of the ‘powerpop’ blog.)

PowerPop blog – an Eclectic Collection of Pop Culture.

Max Gower is from Nashville, Tennessee and is the man behind the successful PowerPop blog – an Eclectic Collection of Pop Culture -including roller skating as we’ll see from post that follows.

The blog is extensive with hundreds of articles covering music; tv shows; cartoons; books; movies, and being USA based, baseball.

Max explains a little of his background and what led him into creating the blog:

My name is Max, and I was raised in middle Tennessee just outside of Nashville and I still live there. When I was 8 years old in 1975, I bought my first Beatles album and became a huge fan. I read everything I could get my hands on about them and British culture.

The Seventies in general were special…besides being a kid I loved the styles and attitude. That period was about individualism for me. I loved the earth colors and even the avocado green refrigerators and appliances. Nowadays houses, cars, and clothes all look alike…but not then.

I also have a huge love for baseball (love the LA Dodgers), silent movies, and playing music. I’ve played in rock bands since I was 16 and I still get together with the guys to play in the garage. I spent the 80s and 90s playing in bars, clubs, and parties.

I went to college to become a graphic artist and I got a job as one. I then found out that troubleshooting computer network problems was more what I liked to do. I’m now Director of IT in a corporate office of a restaurant chain.

I started a blog in 2017 to find more people that liked 70’s culture, movies, and tv shows, along with The Beatles, Badfinger, and unknown power pop bands like Big Star. I’m not a real writer, my posts are personal memories/views mixed with facts.

The PowerPop blog provides an excellent read for anyone interested in pop culture in general, especially so The Seventies. and is well worth checking out.

Once Upon a Time in The ’70s are delighted to reproduce below an article from the PowerPop blog of June 11th 2018, which we’re sure will resonate with many.

ROLLER SKATING AND MUSIC.

In the mid-seventies, my big sister would take me to the skating rink. I would go in as a little kid and trade my shoes for skates. I never understood why my sister went there and hardly ever skated. She would be in the corner with her girlfriends talking to guys while I was out there falling down. There was not a lot to do in a small town so this was a lot of fun.

I remember being exposed to a lot of music while skating. Someone would say over the intercom “All Skate” and they would blast a song at ear-splitting volume. Songs like “Juniors Farm”, “Sally G”, “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love”, “Rocky Mountain Way” and Free’s “All Right Now” would play while I learned how to skate decent soaking up the atmosphere.

They would play the 4 corners. You would skate until the music stopped. You would then go to a corner and they would call a corner number and those people in that corner were eliminated. This would go on till there was only one person left.  I won one time. The song that was playing and then stopped as I went to my corner on that night was Frankenstein. What I won was a single by Wings called ‘Silly Love Songs.’ It was the first thing I ever won…I earned that single and still have it today and also bugged my Mom till she bought me the Wings at the Speed of Sound album…not Paul’s best to say the least but it brings back too many good memories to be that bad.

In the Seventies skating and going to rinks was huge. It was a place to gather and have fun with your friends. No texting or emails or blogs…Some were great at skating backward, doing tricks, and sabotaging other skaters…I was just a simple skater…As time went by I would find my own way down to the rink…as I got older I was the one that hung with friends and wanted to talk to girls instead of skating. I kept going to the rink until I was around 15 and then all of my friends and me just stopped at once. We had moved on to other things by then.

I did go again after my son was born in 2000…we had fun but the music sucked…no loud guitar music at all…just programmed electronic dance music… I guess you really can’t go back home.

I’ll never forget my friends and the music in that period of my life…That is why music is so important…it can transport you back through time and you are at that place again.

_______________

Thanks for allowing us to reproduce this, Max. This is just for you!

The Edgar Winter Group – ‘Frankenstein‘ live in session for the Old Grey Whistle Test in 1973. (The best music video to feature on Once Upon a Time in The ’70s in my humble, if slightly biased opinion.)

girl scout

(Post by Andrea Grace Burn of East Yorkshire – February 2022 )

Girls Scouts parade.

I  joined the Junior Girl Scouts in the summer of ’69  mainly to eat their cookies and wear their uniform.  I had seen the Girl Scouts in parades: they looked so neat with badges and patches worn with pride on their sashes; their white gloves echoing their Southern mothers who still wore white gloves to formal events.  But it was those cookies that finally tempted me to join. They came in different varieties: Shortbread, Peanut Butter Sandwich and, my favourite, Chocolate Mint (like Viscount Creams). 

Girl Scouts – Cookie Sale.

I took three dozen cookies home to sell, “Sure – no problem!” I grew up on a college campus in Virginia where I could sell them to the students and earn a Girl Scout badge.  Trouble was, I liked them so much I ate all of the cookies; all sixty. My poor mother had to pay for them, so in a bid to help teach me the rules of the Girl Scout Law:

“I will do my best to be honest an fair,
friendly and helpful,
considerate and caring,
courageous and strong,
and responsible for what I say and do,
and to respect myself and others, respect authority,
use resources wisely,
make the world a better place,
and be a sister to every Girl Scout.”

..she  packed me off to Girl Scout camp.

The campsite was only about fifteen miles away in the back woods of the fabled Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia (near the trail of that lonesome pine) but remote enough for a group of  ten-year-olds to feel like we were really out in the wild! 

Scout camp – USA

Mom drove me and my good  friend Suzy to the camp and left us there with our small suitcases and sleeping bags. A hale and hearty woman greeted us and took us to our hut, where we would sleep with six other girls. But no time now for resting; all the girls met together beneath the open-sided barn, where we we shared hot dog duty to feed the troop, which involved standing in a line of girls as we each helped dole out hot dogs, coleslaw and potato salad. I decided that camp life wasn’t too bad after all. 

Later that evening after a couple of rounds of  camp fire songs and toasting marshmallows, we settled into our cabins and so to sleep; well, that’s what the hale and hearty scout leader assumed. 

Our camp beds were laid out around the perimeter of the wooden hut and amidst shrieks of giggles we all tried each bed until we had ‘claimed’ our own. I unrolled my new sleeping bag which my parents had given me recently for my ninth birthday. It was so cool: covered in ‘Love and Peace’ signs and slogans like ‘Make Love Not War’. I noticed with glee that none of the other girls had such an outstanding sleeping bag.

Sleeping bags. Andrea’s had a hippy-look pattern, similar to that below.

After dark, once we had begun to settle down, I needed to visit the ladies room, which was a hole in the ground inside a small wooden outhouse back in the woods.  Our counsellor insisted we always visit the outhouse in twos  for safety and to remember the girl scout motto: ‘Be Prepared.’ Prepared for what? There were rumours of grizzly bears in the woods – and snakes. As Suzy and I traipsed out into the night in our pyjamas and bathrobes with a flash-light, we twitched at the sound of our own footsteps.

 “Shh! What was that? Oh Jeepers Creepers and Jiminy Cricket!” 

 We took it in turns to tackle the outhouse while the other one propped the rickety door shut with a foot.  I hardly dared crouch in the shed for fear of snakes, black widow spiders and ants.

Suddenly Suzy screamed! “There – over there – a shadow!” I screamed too and soon our little troop of girl scouts tumbled out of the hut as they came to investigate. Head mischief-maker, Patsy, sneaked around behind the outhouse and gave it a shove; causing it to wobble and Suzy to lose her foothold. The outhouse door swung open and I scrambled out pulling up my pyjama bottoms.  Up ahead came the hale and hearty scout leader, who escorted us  back to our hut and told us firmly to go to sleep! Not so hale and  hearty now.

Back in the hut as we pushed our camp beds together to form a circle, I decided that we should hold a séance. Not that I knew much about them other than watching B movies on TV. Huddled together with only our flash-lights shining upwards into our faces (very ghostly), I asked the question: 

Girl with face lit by torchlight.

 “Is there anybody there?”   

 “Noooo,” came a muffled voice from beneath a sleeping bag. 

“Someone tell Tanya to shut up!”  I threw my pillow at Tanya.

 “You tell her!” 

 A pillow fight ensued with lots of shouting, more shrieks of laughter and feathers flying. The scout leader suddenly poked her head through the hut door.

  “Girls! Get to sleep!” 

 “Wait! Lets levitate Suzy!” I whispered. (My scant knowledge of levitation was gleaned from a pyjama party at a friend’s house, where her big sister got us all to try and levitate each other.) When each girl (except for Darlene) had placed two fingers underneath Suzy, who lay stretched out on the floor, we counted “one, two, three” and tried to levitate her. Nothing happened.

 Darlene, in a tremulous tone,  said we “shouldn’t be messin’ with such thangs” and that “we was goin’ against the Good Lord – AND the Girl Scout Promise.” She stood and proceeded to recite the promise to the rest of us:

 “On my honour, I will try:
To serve God and my country.
To help people at all times,
and to live by the Girl Scout law.”

We ignored her. “One, two three…” Suzy was a dead weight.  As we collapsed into a heap: snorting and trying to stifle our giggles, Darlene suddenly took it upon herself to bring us to heel right there in the middle of the hut to somehow make amends for this blasphemous prank.

 “Awl right girls; I’m gonna’ ask you to tell me when you first found Our Lord Jesus.” She shot me a look. “Andrea – you go first. When ‘zaclty did you become a Christian?”

I looked blankly at Darlene. What on earth?  I couldn’t think; when did I become a Christian? Jeeze, I don’t know. I was beginning to sweat now: although I had been baptised as a baby I had only ever helped in the crèche at church on Sunday mornings while my parents attended the service.  I liked to look after the babies because the sweet lady who ran the crèche was our babysitter, Mrs. Johnson, and would give me candy.  What if God knew this?

 “Well,” I stammered, “ I was baptised as a baby. Does that count?”

 “Yes, Praise Be!   Your soul has been saved by the Awl-mighty! Hallelujah!”

 Without warning, the Scout Leader stuck her head into the hut again. 

 “What is going on in here?” She eyed us suspiciously.

Darlene spoke up: “Andrea was holdin’ a séance and tryin’ to git us to levitate Suzy!” Darlene looked smug. “ I was tryin’ to save her soul.”

“Levitate Suzy? A seance? Oh my!”  The scout leader ordered me and Suzy out of the hut, told us we were a disgrace to our troop and not fit to be Girl Scouts. We were  EXPELLED forthwith (well, after that night) from the Girl Scouts for immoral behaviour! She would be informing our mothers at first light! (How, without mobile phones, I’m not sure.)   Before I left, I put a daddy long-legs in Darlene’s sleeping bag. 

As Suzy and I sat in the back of her mother’s station wagon on the drive home through the mountains, we had ample opportunity to “consider our behaviour”.  Although we were sad that we wouldn’t have the opportunity to go sailing, swimming and horse riding and earn all those badges, we were  relieved that we would never have to tackle the outhouse again. 

Andrea, age 9, at Scout Camp.
Girls Scouts USA – badges.

When I got home  Mom and I had the ‘talk’ in the kitchen as I enjoyed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a glass of milk. 

 “And what are you sorry for honey?” Mom was always gentle.

 I was sorry that I would never now be able to wear my sash and white gloves.

Mom sent me to my room. What she didn’t know was that I had hidden a secret small stash of those delicious, Chocolate Mint, Girl Scout cookies…

( Copyright: Andrea Burn -21st February 2022)

_________________________________________________________________________________

You’re Having A Laugh…

George Cheyne: Glasgow, February 2022

Getting a laugh out of TV audiences has always been a serious business for comedians.

But some of them were taking the Mick in the Seventies with their stereotypical gags about the brainless Irish, the tight-wad Scots and the sheep-loving Welsh.

Back then, a comic could even throw in a close-to-the-bone racist joke if they were looking for a cheap laugh.

Sometimes they got one. But more often than not the stand-up routines on TV shows like The Comedians and The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club were rank.

We’re talking comedy mould here rather than comedy gold.

I say this without the benefit of hindsight or nigh-on 50 years of enlightenment because I remember not finding these shows funny at the time.

God knows I wanted to. I’d suffered through sitcoms like Till Death Us Do Part, On The Buses, Love Thy Neighbour and Bless This House and could have done with some cheering up.

But The Comedians and Wheeltappers didn’t do it for me.

Maybe it was the crushed velvet suits, frilly shirts and big ties of the former and the annoying fire bell used for announcements by host Colin Crompton in the fake social club of the latter.

Whatever it was, there was no danger of me forming any laughter lines on my face.

There seemed to be a pool of comedians who put in a stint on both shows including such, ahem, luminaries as Bernard Manning, Frank Carson, Mike Reid, Russ Abbot, Charlie Williams, Jim Bowen, Duggie Brown, Ken Goodwin and Crompton himself.

The format was to stand up there in front of the TV cameras, rattle off as many quickfire gags as possible and then giggle inanely in case the audience didn’t get the punchline.

The jokes leaned heavily towards the sexist, racist and downright offensive variety – and if you were a black, Irish mother-in-law you’d have been well advised to duck behind the sofa.

I came across a trailer for The Best of the Comedians on You Tube recently which goes a long way to proving my point about the programme being well short of quality humour.

It lasts just one minute 19 seconds yet manages to squeeze in four Irish jokes along with a Red Indian reference.

Now before I give you some examples from the trailer for the “Best Of” – their words, not mine – I think it’s only fair to warn you to hang on tight to your sides in case they split. 

Bernard Manning:

“The Irish have just invented a new parachute…opens on impact!” 
…. Badum tish!

Jimmy Marshall:

“This fella goes to a palmist in Blackpool and says, ‘I want my hands read’…so she hit him with a hammer!” 
…. Badum tish!

George Roper:

“Two Irish fellas walking along and Mick says, ‘Me feet are killing me, I just bought a new pair of wellies’…so leave them off till you get used to them!” 
…. Badum tish!

Duggie Brown:

“Kids are funny, aren’t they? My little girl said to me, ‘Dad, what would you get if you crossed Larry Grayson with a Red Indian and Tommy Cooper?’ and I said I don’t know. She said, ‘You get somebody who says Shut that door…How?…Just like that!’ ” 
…. Badum tish!

Colin Crompton:

“There’s this Irish fella goes into a hospital A&E department with blisters all over his feet and his legs and the doctor asked, ‘How did you do that?’ and he says it was opening a tin of soup…it says stand in boiling water for 10 minutes!” 
…. Badum tish!

Now, I totally get that this sort of guff was of its time, a reminder of a bygone era.

But to get some perspective, you only need to recall what else was happening on the comedy scene back then.

At the same time The Comedians and Wheeltappers were churning out their dodgy gags, there was a certain Mr Billy Connolly making a name for himself.

He’d brought out his Live album in 1972 – a mixture of songs and funny stories – and followed it up two years later with the hilarious Cop Yer Whack For This.

Here was a comedian who could give you a proper belly-laugh with observational and physical comedy – and no need to bang out questionable gags one after the other.

Timing, they say, is everything in comedy and the Big Yin proved to be a master of his craft by taking his time to get it right.

While the established Seventies TV comics were firing out their 15-second jokes, he would happily take 15 minutes to showcase his talent with something like the legendary Crucifixion sketch.

You can just imagine that work of genius in the hands of someone like Bernard Manning…

“This Jewish fella walks into a bar in the Gallowgate and tells the barman to get everyone a drink. Two old guys sitting in the corner turn to each other and Jimmy says, ‘That’s amazing, I’ve never bought a drink for anyone in my life because I’m Scottish, yet that Jesus guy’s getting a round in. What do you make of that?’…It’s a miracle!” 
…. Badum tish!

Some of the establishment comics had the temerity to have a go at Connolly’s routine but he had the last laugh as he left them eating dust on his way to the top.

He was propelled on that journey, of course, after his ground-breaking 1975 appearance on the Michael Parkinson show…and that joke. You know the one…

“How’s the wife?
Oh, she’s deid..oot the game. I murdered her. I’ll show you if you want.
So he went away up to his tenement building, through the close – that’s the entrance to the tenement. And sure enough there’s a big mound of earth…but there’s a bum sticking out of it.
He says, ‘Is that her?’
Aye, I says.
‘Why did you leave her bum sticking out?’
Well, I needed somewhere tae park my bike!”

Irreverent? Probably.
Risky? Undoubtedly.
Funny? You bet your ass!

lady gaggia.

(Post by Andrea Grace Burn of East Yorkshire )

Hawkins Wine Bar.

Having spent a good deal of my teens frequenting pubs around West Birmingham during the mid 1970s, it seemed perfectly natural to progress to working in them. My ambitions were to go on the stage but a girl has to make a living, right?

As soon as I left school in 1978, and with no particular place to go, I headed for an interview with a new wine bar that had just opened in the city centre – very upmarket!   Harpers occupied a large corner site near the police station and Accident and Emergency Hospital, so I figured I’d be safe walking late at night to catch the bus from outside the ‘Back of Rackham’s’.

(Rackham’s was an elegant department store occupying a whole city block on Corporation Street in Birmingham. Rumours abounded that ladies of a certain type frequented the pavements outside the back door and Mom always warned me against hanging around there.   I walked many times around the ‘Back of Rackham’s’ as I grew up and never once saw anything improper going on, much to my dismay.)

With Mom’s advice to ‘look smart and mind my manners’ ringing in my ears, I borrowed her fashionable black and white dog-tooth checked suit (shortening the skirt, obviously); teaming it with my white leather cowgirl boots, white cotton lace gloves and an antique parasol.

With the audacity of youth, I strutted into Harpers one sunny October afternoon and stopped in my tracks to gaze in wonder at the fabulous fixtures and fittings. The long mahogany bar was backed by a reclaimed church façade and bevelled mirrors, which reflected the light from the enormous curved, windows. I felt very grown up.

(Opposite: Harpers interior – now Sound Bar.)

Assistant Manager Tristan must have noticed me gawping and bounded over, shook my hand and ushered me to a table. He had a big Zapata moustache and an equally big, bright smile. 

“Hello Darling, you must be Andrea?” 

“Yes thanks, I am.” (Going well so far) 

“So, you’ve come about the position as bar maid and waitress?” 

“Yes thanks, I have.” 

“Have you had any previous experience?” 

“No, but I learn fast!” 

Tristan flashed his brilliant smile at me, touching my arm lightly: 

“I love your outfit darling – especially the parasol! Wonderful!” 

“Thanks!” 

“So, when can you start?” 

“Right now.” (Mom had said I should appear ‘keen’.) 

“OK darling, I’ll just have to introduce you to the manager.

Tristan trotted away to find said manager; a tall man with a weak handshake which worried me slightly as Dad had always warned me of men with a “limp” hand shake.  (“Honey, you know where you stand with a firm grip.”)

“This is Andrea –  isn’t she gorgeous? She can start right away and she’s a fast learner.” 

“I bet she is,” said the manager as he looked me up and down.  My interview was apparently over and I was asked to start work the next morning at 7:30 am  to   serve continental style breakfast and coffee from eight. I was put to work on the food counter, serving cold meats and cheese, croissants and pastries and the infamous Gaggia espresso machine. This great red and chrome beast occupied the whole length of the food bar, with its hot water spouts, coffee grinders and stacks of white cups and saucers. 

Getting to grips with the Beast, as it became known, wasn’t easy – it was all in the wrist action. Customers would stand behind the counter and watch as the other girls and I twisted and twirled the mighty coffee grinders and polished the spouts in time to the music; steam hissing into the steel milk jugs. We could pull quite a crowd. 

Having to start work so early meant I was often the first person there with the cleaners, one of whom was spooked by rumours that Harpers was haunted. There were stories that the bar stools had been found one morning stacked on top of each other – just like the kitchen chairs in Poltergeist! The lamps behind the bar moved and footsteps could be heard running up from the basement kitchen, where people had died during WW2 as they sheltered from the bombing.  I hoped against hope to see a ghost but never did – but the old building certainly had an odd atmosphere.

Andrea in 1978 … and in standard issue Hawkins beige cords.

Reports of hauntings didn’t put punters off, as solicitors from the Law Courts next door poured into Harpers for their ‘working lunches’.  I worked the mighty Beast in beige cord jeans so tight I had to lie down and zip them up using a coat hanger.  I was voted ‘Gaggia Girl 1979’ – my claim to fame!

As I worked the bar one evening, Andy Gray, – the Villa footballer – came in and asked the other girls and me if we would like to come over to his new night club? I had to think about that for, oh, maybe two seconds. Imagine, the girl from Virginia who didn’t know what the Villa was, now being asked to come check out a night club owned by a Villa player!  Ha – what would the lads at the God Awful school think now? 

The nightclub was the most fantastic, exotic place I had ever been! Like a dark cave, it went back and back through a series of rooms beneath the railway arches at Snow Hill station. It became a new romantic club in the early ’80s with live bands such as Roxy Music and Duran Duran, but when it opened in ’79 it pumped out disco. TheHarpers staff became regulars after our shift ended; strutting our stuff fired up on Pernod and coke, great music and youth. I crawled home at 2am to sleep it off, get up at five and do it all over again.

Back at Harpers the buzz was always at fever pitch as we worked to the heady disco beat on a Bose Sound System:  ‘Le Freak’’, ‘Ladies Night’, ‘Instant Replay’, ‘You Make Me Feel, Mighty Real’ beneath the huge mirror balls and innovative laser shows. I loved every minute. 

It was in this heady atmosphere, that I first met George Melly when he was booked to play a gig at Harpers with John Chiltern and his Feet Warmers. I was asked to go down into the staff room to serve drinks to the band and was introduced to Mr. Melly, who was sitting with his large frame overextending the rather small chair; resplendent in a snappy pinstriped suit with wide lapels and a large snap brimmed fedora hat.  He smiled his languid smile and said something like:   

“So, my dear, how kind of you to bring old George a drink.” 

As the lights in the bar dimmed to a spotlight, Mr. Melly sashed onto the floor with a wicked gleam in his eye and a whisky in his hand as he belted out Bessie Smith’s ‘Kitchen Man,’ which was rich with lewd innuendo.

I became a big fan, following his gigs from London’s Ronnie Scotts to the Malvern Theatre, where he had to stop the show and tell the be-jewelled, staid audience to clap on the off-beat: “This is Jazz!” he growled.

 I saw George Melly several more times, including an appearance he made on BBC Pebble Mill’s ‘Six Fifty-five Special’ – a surreal experience.  I was invited to meet him in the Green Room, where he sat in his trade mark Zoot suit and snap brim Fedora before he went on air. Whether he remembered me or not is doubtful, but he spoke to me as though I was his best friend:

“Hello my dear, how kind of you to come to see old George.” He still twinkled.

With him was Kenneth Williams, who was staring up the nostrils of  70s actor and singer David Soul, giving him an impromptu lesson on how to speak with an English accent:

“Enunciate, dear boy, e-nun-ciate.”

I had just witnessed a Master Class.

Before I left Harpers, we had a New Year’s Eve fancy dress party with a ‘Glamorous Hollywood’ theme. All staff were expected to do a ‘turn’ and having recently had my permed hair cut into a short crop, I went along dressed as Liza Minnelli as ‘Sally Bowles’ from “Cabaret” in bowler hat, black waistcoat, fishnets and towering stiletto’s.  Grabbing a bar stool, I did my best, although I couldn’t for the life of me bend backwards over that stool! My brother Dale tagged along wearing a full suit of armour. Unable to sit down, he stood all evening with cigarette smoke curling through the grid on his visor. 

Liza Minnelli as Andrea … no, wait …??

The drag acts were outstanding that evening, including ‘Fred and Ginger’ who thrilled us with their rendition of ‘Cheek to Cheek’ and ‘Rita Hayworth’ slinking across the floor to ‘Put the Blame on Mame’. We danced until dawn, seeing in 1979 in considerable style and with heavy hangovers!

Oh to be eighteen again!

(Copyright: Andrea Burn May 1st 2021)

the big yin and me.

(Post by Paul Fitzpatrick, of London – February 2021)

I’ve always had a strange relationship with Billy Connolly.

Not that we’ve ever met.

I call it Christopher Columbus syndrome – You find an artist, hear a song or read a book that hardly anyone else knows about, you become an early adopter and spread the word, and before you know it everyone loves them – with people even asking you if you’ve heard of them!

It drives you mad because you feel like you’re the one that DISCOVERED THEM, and if it wasn’t for you unearthing their great talent and spreading the word, they’d be nowhere.

You even begin to resent their newfound fame – they’re being greedy or they’re overreaching or they’re forgetting where they come from, or some other daft notion.

Welcome to my relationship with Billy Connolly.

I’m pretty sure the first time I heard Connolly utter a word was on the Pavilion stage in February 1974.

There was a buzz as the relative unknown had sold out several nights at the Pavilion Theatre in Glasgow, something only Sydney Devine (Scotland’s answer to Elvis) could do back then.

Billy promoting his stint at The Pavilion.

My pal Barry suggested we get tickets to see him on a Friday night as we had no school the next day, we were both 15 at the time and part of the plan was to find a pub and go for the full Friday night Glasgow experience.

We duly found a wee working mans pub round the corner from the venue, and foraged for a seat out of view, it was tea-time on a Friday, so the pub was busy with artisans in their work clothes finishing their shifts for the weekend.

We must have stood out like sore thumbs.

I think Barry braved the first approach to the bar and I was amazed but delighted when he came back with 2 halves of lager and 2 vodka and oranges’ (non-diluted orange squash of course).

A half and a half back then was the working mans preferred tipple, so who were we to challenge the established order of things.

The drinks were downed pretty quickly, and we enjoyed a few more bevvy’s before floating off down the road to the Pavilion in good spirits.

Stand-up comedy in the 70’s was dominated by middle aged men who wore suits and bow ties and told corny jokes about their mother in laws or minorities or Germans bombing their chip shops.

This guy Connolly was different though he was younger, he looked like a welder on acid and he spoke our language.

A bit like listening to the opening 4 tracks of Led Zeppelin IV for the first time, Connolly literally took our breath away. I had never laughed so long or so hard before, and I’m pretty sure I haven’t since, although Jerry Sadowitz has come close a couple of times.

He was loud, gallus, hilarious and the audience loved him, his stories were relatable, and he was one of us.

I remember hearing the Crucifixion sketch for the first time that night, it was the funniest thing I’d ever heard, he was irreverent and didn’t give two hoots about poking fun at religion or sectarian taboos or bodily functions or the establishment, no topic was off limits to the Big Yin.

It was a memorable evening; from the nervous bus-journey into town wondering if we’d get served or huckled for being underage, to the journey home, fish supper in hand, trying to recount all the jokes and patter and remembering we had football for the school the following morning.

We were so smitten by Connolly that we spent the next couple of weeks spreading the gospel, telling everyone we knew how great he was, mostly to blank faces however, as no one had heard of him.

Billy takes over The Apollo.

His career really took off after a live album of the Pavilion material was released in May 1974, and the following year he finally came into the general public’s consciousness.

In 1975 Connolly sold out an unprecedented 12 nights at the Glasgow Apollo, as well as appearing on Parkinson for the first of his record breaking 15 appearances.

That year he also showed off his acting chops by appearing in a powerful Peter McDougall TV play called ‘Just Another Saturday’ which was about West of Scotland culture, beliefs, innocence and sectarianism.

If that wasn’t enough, he also headlined a London gig for the first time and even had a number one single, appearing on TOTP with a parody of Tammy Wynette’s Divorce. It was the archetypal rags to riches story; the guy had gone from zero to hero in the space of 18 months.

There’s a picture that was taken in 1975 by Ronnie Anderson, a newspaper colleague of one of our contributors George Cheyne, that is my favourite Connolly portrait.

The occasion was an after-party in The Dorchester for the first of Billy’s sell out shows at the London Palladium in 1975, and it features – Billy, Alex Harvey, Jimmy Reid the shop steward, Hamish Stuart from AWB, Frankie Miller and Jimmy Dewar (a musician from Stone the Crows and Robin Trower Band).

A motley crew of 6 Glaswegians toasting their mate’s success in a foreign land.

The Glasgow Mafia – 1975

If I’m being completely honest, the parody single was the point when I started to think the Big Yin was overreaching.

A parody single? That was for Benny Hill and Rolf Harris but not for the Big Yin!

I’d also noticed that his accent had started to soften a bit and he was definitely losing some of his tough Glasgow brogue.

Of course, I look back now and understand he was just reaching out to a wider audience, the guy was a welder turned folk singer turned comedian, he had no idea how long this gravy train was going to run for.

He was simply making the most of his opportunities

As Connolly got bigger so did his global reach, hanging out with Hollywood celebs and Royalty and appearing in big budget movies and hosting TV specials.

Billy, Robin Wlliams & Dudley Moore.

There was a point where he seemed to be everyone’s favourite comedian, but he probably wasn’t mine anymore.

I had discovered American stand-up, guys like Richard Pryor, Steve Martin and Bill Hicks, and I liked the cut of their jib.

Richard Pryor doing his thing.

I still liked Billy and I would go the odd gig, but for me comparing his newer, more mainstream material to his earlier stuff was like comparing Stevie Wonder’s I Just Called to Say I Love You to Superstition or Living for the City.

And I guess I’ve just addressed some of my issues right there!

If Stevie can’t maintain unrealistic artistic excellence, who can??

On a subconscious level I also think that for some absurd reason I thought he’d forsaken his Scottish roots, which is illogical, particularly as I moved away from Scotland myself in 1984.

There’s no doubt that Connolly has had a fantastic career, he’s adored by millions and he is and always has been a wonderful ambassador for Scotland.

As he’s got older, I think he’s got back to being a bit more irreverent and a bit more outspoken, and that’s the Billy I adore.

I’ve loved stand-up comedy since I was 15 thanks to the Big Yin, he was my first and he was one of the best.

When all’s said and done, I’m glad I got to discover the Big Yin in February 1974 and share him with the rest of the world.

You’re welcome!

What Made Milwaukee Famous

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, January 2022

Hands up if you can remember your first trip to the pub?
And by pub, I mean a proper public bar, not the Beachcomber at Butlins in Ayr with your Mum & Dad.

I’m pretty sure mine’s was the Burnbrae bar in Bearsden in 1973. I went with a few pals, one of them, Jay, was a year older than the rest of us, and as he strolled nonchalantly up to the bar, the rest of us hid round the corner near the dartboard and tried not to squeak.

I’m not even sure I liked the taste of beer back then or knew what type of beer to order so when Jay said he was having a pint of ‘heavy’ we all followed suit, lowered our voices by several octaves and growled – “yeah pint of heavy for me too mate”.
What came back was warm brown liquid (probably slops reserved for undiscerning intruders like ourselves), and I realised heavy wasn’t for me, settling instead for lager and lime which lacked a bit of credibility but suited an unrefined palette, more used to Garvies fizzy pop at the time.

It’s interesting to reflect on our hierarchy of needs in those early days; the main priority of course was access – can we get into the damn place without suffering the ignominy of a knock-back, and the subsequent walk of shame .
This also encouraged a Darwinist, law of the jungle approach to proceedings, where some of your best mates got left behind because they had a baby-face or looked too young…. they weren’t too happy at the time but they’re probably laughing now!

Being an underage pub-goer took meticulous planning, for instance the ETA was critical – the pub had to be busy enough so as not to stand out but quiet enough that you could get a seat.

What entrance you used was important – if possible, a side entrance that didn’t face the bar.

Where you sat was also critical– out of sight of the bar if possible, and always with your back to the bar.
Close to an exit was preferable in case it got raided by the police and you had to get out pronto

So much thought and energy just to rush down a couple of watery Norseman lagers all the while sitting in fear of being chucked out.

Once we got a bit more confident (and older) then we started looking at other variables – pubs that offered better value, pubs that had a jukebox or played live music and then ultimately livelier disco-pubs like The Rooster or City Limits at weekends where you could mingle to your hearts content
Of course, the landscape has changed a tad from 1973 particularly the breadth of choices on offer.

Back in the day there would probably only be one draught lager on offer whereas now you can take your pick of multiple lagers and craft beers from around the globe (plus numerous bottled options).

Similarly, if you asked for a gin, it was probably Gordons (or a cheap supermarket version in a Gordons bottle) whereas today it can take 10 minutes just to present the various options.

Vodka? the same, – Smirnoff used to be the only game in town but now you can have any flavour you want – toffee, watermelon, passion fruit, the list goes on.

I don’t even remember if you could buy a glass of wine in a pub back then, but if you were lucky there was a house white and a house red.

One thing my friend Tabby reminded me of recently is that cordials used to be a big part of the offer – lime, orange, blackcurrant and his favourite, peppermint, all essential mixers and often laid out on the bar with lemonade and water, totally free of charge, nowadays it’ll cost you £2.50 for a bottle of Fever Tree to mix with your Gin and juniper berries.

Talking about prices, on my first sojourn to the pub a pint was 15p which is equivalent to roughly £1.55 in today’s money. A shot of vodka, rum, gin or whisky was 16p which is equivalent to £1.65 today.

To put it in perspective the average annual salary in 1973 was £2,000 or 13,300 pints of beer.
Jump forward to 2022 where the average salary is £32,000 and the average cost of a pint is £3.80… equivalent to 8,420 pints of beer.

Which means that we’re 4,880 pints worse off people!!

It’s true that our money used to go a lot further in those days, and when you tell youngsters today that you used to be able to have a great night out for the cost of a bottle of Fever Tree, they look at you the same way we looked at our parents when they spoke about collecting jam-jars in order to get into the cinema!

Public Bar price list 1971

It’s easy to get nostalgic about some of our old haunts and there’s a great Facebook group called Old Glasgow Pubs, which features some terrific images and memories about pubs from the 60’s, 70s & 80s in Glasgow.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/oldglasgowpubs

It’s mostly made up of punters reminiscing about their favourite pubs & bars in Glasgow, with people commenting on how they used to frequent said establishment, or in some cases how they worked there, or met their wife/husband there or in the case of the Bell Geordie in Bell St, a previous owner joined the thread to say he used to own the gaff.

As you go through the posts you realise just how many pubs there are or used to be in Glasgow, for instance according to the site below there are 579, yes, 579 pubs within 10 miles of Partick train station, sounds bizarre but you can check them all out on the link and start the biggest pub-crawl of your life.
I’ll see you in The Curlers!

https://www.beerintheevening.com/pubs/results.shtml/tr/1663/