Be Prepared. The motto that has stood The Scouting movement in good stead for more than 100 years.
And while Boy Scouts founder Baden Powell would have been impressed with the high level of preparation put in by me and two pals one summer camp, he would have been less than chuffed if he knew what we were planning.
This was 1974 and our Troop had headed to Keswick in the Lake District for a week-long adventure doing stuff like putting up tents, collecting firewood, building campfires, digging latrines and, er, under-age drinking.
That last activity was why three 15-year-olds were standing in a car park just off Keswick’s high street a few blocks away from the Dog and Duck pub, or whatever it was called.
And the rehearsals going on there were as intense as anything you’d see at a run-through for a Broadway blockbuster.
There had been a lot of plotting and scheming before we got to this point – this sort of stuff isn’t just thrown together, you know.
With all the precision of planning a military manoeuvre, we had used the hike into town from the campsite to discuss ‘Operation Getting Served’ over and over again.
The devil is in the details so we talked through who would go first when we walked in the pub, who would ask for the drinks and exactly what we’d order.
Now, just like George Peppard’s Colonel Hannibal Smith character in the A-Team, I love it when a plan comes together so a lot of preparation went into these three seemingly simple points.
In hindsight, maybe we over-thought it – but this was a big step-up from getting a few cans from an off-sales. Been there, done that…now it was time to play in the big leagues.
And as the in-form striker – well, I had been served in a dive of a pub back in Glasgow a few weeks before – the other two decided I was first name on the team-sheet.
This meant I was to be first in the door and the one who would be ordering the drinks.
Two down, one to go. What were we going to drink? We immediately ruled out three pints of lager and lime as being a dead giveaway for under-age drinkers and the same went for three snakebites.
So, and this is where the first bit of over-thinking came in, we plumped for a pint of heavy, a pint of light (well, we were in the Lake District) and a pint of lager with definitely no lime.
Three windswept and interesting young men with their own cultivated taste in beer. What could possibly go wrong?
To make sure the answer to that was nothing, we were holding our car park rehearsal.
One more time with feeling…
“Okay, we walk through the door as we agreed,” says I, “Then I order a pint of heavy and a pint of light and then what?”
“You ask me what I want,” says the baby-faced one of our trio.
If there was to be any suspicion about whether we were the right age, then surely it would fall upon the youngest-looking. That’s why he had a speaking part.
“And you say?”, I prodded.
“I’ll have a pint of lager this time,” says Baby Face.
This time…genius that. It gives the barman the assurance you’ve been served before.
Anyway, the first part of Operation Getting Served goes exactly as planned and I’m face to face with mine host across the beer taps ordering a pint of heavy and a pint of light.
So far, so good. I turn to a nervous-looking Baby Face and – just as we’d rehearsed loads of times – ask him: “What do you want?”
Silence, nothing but silence.
I try to keep cool with a prompt: “Erm, so that’s a heavy, a light and a…”
“Medium,” blurts Baby Face.
Game over. Don’t you just hate it when a plan comes to…nothing?
When I moved to London in 84, I worked beside a guy who had just made the same move but from Manchester rather than Glasgow. We hit it off straight away, moved to a different company together and then after a few years we decided that we wanted to start up our own business, which we did in 1990.
This meant that for nigh-on 20 years I probably spent more time with Laurence than I did with my own wife and young family. We were constantly travelling, going to see customers all over the UK, Factories in Hong Kong, Cape Town and Morocco. Fabric Suppliers in Italy & France and trade fairs in Europe and the US.
We were different people, but we got on really well, he was a graduate that spoke 3 languages, whilst I was still trying to master English; he loved rugby, I loved football; he drank real ale and red wine, I drank lager & lime.
Still Buddies 37 years on
The one thing we always bonded on apart from work was music, we were a similar age and had grown up listening to the same radio stations and buying the same albums, but Laurence had a unique talent that was even more impressive to me than speaking 3 languages…. he knew the lyrics to any 70s song (and most 60’s songs) that came on the radio!
In the late 80s we worked for a Chinese company and spent a lot of time in Hong Kong just as Karaoke was starting to break through, and before it hit the UK. We used to travel out to HK to meet customers who were visiting our factory… buyers from UK retailers like Top Shop, River Island and Next, and in the evening we’d take them to one of the first Karaoke Bars to open in Kowloon called The Bali Lounge.
Whilst I’d be scrambling to read the words on the monitor to ‘You’re So Vain’ or ‘New Kid in Town’, Laurence would be face-on to the crowd belting out the song without glancing once at the lyrics.
I asked him once if when he was younger he used to study and memorise lyrics from album sleeves or from those pop mags that were around in the 70s, like Disco 45, but he didn’t need to, he just heard songs on the radio and the lyrics stayed with him.
I would test him with obscure songs, and he rarely failed, it didn’t matter if he liked the song or not, if he’d heard it a couple of times the lyrics always stuck.
I thought about his unique talent the other day as I was listening to one of the songs from our 70s playlist and remembered that I’d been singing the wrong lyrics for nigh on 40 years to a song I love.
The song was Tumbling Dice by The Rolling Stones it was released in 1971 and up until a few years ago I always thought Jagger was singing ‘Tommy the tumblin’ dice’. I now know of course that it should be…. ‘Call me the tumblin’ dice’.
I love that song and had belted out “Tommy the tumblin dice” at Stones gigs, any die-hard Stones fans within earshot at Glastonbury in 2013 must have cringed. For nearly half a century I thought the song was about a gambler called Tommy, when in fact it’s a ditty penned by Jagger (riffs by Richards) about love, money and loose women… using gambling metaphors. There was no Tommy in sight!
I also didn’t realise that there’s an official term for this sort of thing.
Mondegreen: a mondegreen is a mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase in a way that gives it a new meaning.
It made me think of other classic mondegreens…. like my friend who will go unnamed, who on hearing the track Ziggy Stardust for the umpteenth time finally cracked and asked why Bowie would be ‘Making love with his Eagle’? When we all know that in fact he was “Making love with his ego’!
Or a girl I knew who genuinely thought Crystal Gale was singing…. ‘Donuts make my brown eyes blue’
I was always big on melodies and never that strong on lyrics when I was younger, so I’ve had a lot of catching up to do with lyrics over the years.
Some lyrics as I knew them didn’t even make sense, but I never stopped to wonder why, for instance why would Kenny Rogers have 400 children, as in…. ‘You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille, with 400 children and a crop in the field’? Of course, on closer inspection I now know that it was only ‘4 hungry children’ the bold Kenny was left with… he may have been a lothario and a favourite of Dolly’s but he wasn’t that prolific!
There are sites and forums dedicated to mis-heard lyrics now and the three mondegreens below seem to be the ones that pop up the most…
Song – Lucy in the sky with diamonds: Lyric – ‘The girl with colitis goes by‘ (should be – The girl with kaleidoscope eyes)
Song – Bad Moon Rising: Lyric – ‘There’s a bathroom on the right‘ (should be – There’s a bad moon on the rise)
Song – Purple Haze: Lyric – ‘Scuse me whilst I kiss this guy‘ (should be – Scuse me whilst I kiss the sky)
Peter Kay did an excellent stand-up routine based on misheard lyrics that you can find the link for below and if you’ve ever been caught out lyrically, then please share and let us know what your mis-heard lyrics were on the comments or the Facebook page….
(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – June 2021)
“Well done … how would you like to come and train with our athletics club?”
I looked over my shoulder to see who the tall, lean blonde haired and bespectacled gentleman was talking to. There was nobody close by. He was indeed talking to me and my three similarly aged, fourteen year old school friends.
We had just been beaten in the schools 4 x 100m relay race at the 1972 local Highland Games. Soundly beaten, as I recall. So why would anyone ask us to join their Club, I wondered?
This was actually the second invitation we’d had since the race ended ten minutes previous. I could only think the coach from Clydesdale Harriers and the gentleman before us now had missed out on signing the race winners and didn’t want to go back to their committees empty handed.
“I think you’re better than that. I’d like to see you lads come down and train with us at Garscube Harriers.”
As a ten / eleven year old, wearing the regulation, no-tech, basic, slip-on gym shoes, I’d enjoyed racing my pals ‘around the block.’ Like many kids my age in West of Scotland though, I was obsessed with football and never gave a second thought to taking up running as a hobby. Then again, never had two football coaches asked me to join their team. Ever.
Athletics it was, then.
I knew of Garscube Harriers. They were a long established club, well known for producing quality athletes … and had their headquarters in my village of Westerton, part of the leafy Glasgow suburb of Bearsden.
But I’ll come back to that!
I learned a lot in my early times with Garscube Harriers, much of which remains with me to this day.
My school relay pal, Ronnie, bailed out on that planned initial session, so I had to walk into a large group of kids, mainly older, definitely taller, and introduce myself. While I was made to feel welcome, it was at the cost of having the pure ‘proverbial’ ripped out of me.!
Perhaps some of what went on would be frowned upon these days, but it did me no harm at all that first night. I just had to knuckle down and prove myself to the existing members.
I remember finding the training hard, as I’d never done anything like it before. But I don’t recall struggling too badly.
And I loved it! Even the mickey taking. I was the butt of it all that night and the following few … until Ronnie eventually decided to show up one evening.
I was no longer ‘new boy.’
I was a Garscube Harrier.
Little did I know that evening, but most of these guys would be like a ‘band of brothers’ some forty-nine years later.
I would learn the value of friendship.
The Club’s summer base was not their clubhouse in my village. It was a red blaes (shale) track at Blairdardie. Taking the direct route via the canal underpass and following the towpath, it was a two mile cycle or run away. Of course, it being summer, those not given to sporting pursuit would congregate along the canal bank with cans of cider, lager and spray paint.
In the four summers of track training before I could drive, I had several eventful journeys to / from training, I can tell you.
I kind of looked upon it as a non-chargeable add-on to that evening’s training session.
I learned that a good turn of speed and stamina were useful physical attributes to nurture.
Although I knew next to nothing about athletics as such, I was aware that I was joining a ‘famous’ club – one of tradition and a reputation for producing not only international, but World Class athletes. And right on my doorstep.
I would discover that the coach who had initially invited me to the club, Donnie McDonald, was a former Scottish 880yds champion and international. My other coach when I first started, Gordon Dunn, had represented Scotland at the World Cross Country Championships.
Only a few years before I joined, ‘Ming’ Campbell (the Lib Dem politician) had been a member and represented Great Britain and Scotland in the sprint events. And over the summer I first trained with the club, another sprinter, Les Piggot, was representing Great Britain at his second Olympic Games, this time in Munich.
Garscube Harriers at that time also had a sprinkling of others who had attracted national attention at various age levels. Thinking back, none of us youngsters being were struck in the slightest. Everyone was completely grounded and subjected to the same mickey taking as the next person.
Ours was a humble club.
And I learned the value of humility.
Track training was hard. Very hard. Our coaches, I’d say, were even then and in the nicest sense, ‘old school.’ Their methods I’m reasonably sure, did not come from any text book. Rather, they passed on the benefits of their experiences. And because they had our utmost respect, we appreciated that.
The drove us hard. Ten x 200m in 26 seconds with a 200m jog recovery is one session I remember vividly. It would frequently result in me scraping a hole in the red blaes with my spikes, puking into it, covering it back up, and running to rejoin the pack.
Time and Garscube Harriers wait for no man.
I learned the mantra ‘no pain, no gain.’
My first race for the Club came at Westerlands, home track of Glasgow University. I hadn’t yet received my club vest, so checked in for my invitational 800m race wearing my favourite dog-chewed mustard coloured vest. I surveyed the opposition as we warmed up and decided the two taller lads who looked well sharp in their neat track suits and top range spikes, were the ones to tag on to. They’d pull me through to a good finish.
Did they heck, as like! I sat with them for the first lap. They had the style; they had the gear. What they didn’t have was either pace or stamina. I waited for them to make their move, but of course it never came.
It quickly dawned I’d made a bit of a schoolboy error and a fast last two hundred metres brought me home to a mid-field placing.
I learned never to judge a book by its cover. Don’t pre-judge people one way or another.
During the late Seventies, the Club suffered a dip in membership as the ‘old guard’ moved away from the area for various family, work or study reasons. I don’t know why, but we were unable to draft in replacements. There just didn’t seem to be any interest.
Those athletes that remained were still good, but we now lacked the depth in our squad. This meant several of us would run various distances at the National Track and Field League meetings. It wasn’t unknown for a middle distance runner to compete not only in the 1500m, but also the 110m hurdles and possibly the shot put.
Once at Meadowbank, I ran 200m, 400m and then very rashly, entered the 5000m. The distance itself was not the issue, as I’d train over 5 – 10 miles. But the concentration was. As was the quality of opposition, with some of Scotland’s best in the field. I was lapped twice by the leaders, and though I was mortified I persevered. In doing so, I managed to finish a few from the back.
I learned to never give in. One point is better than none. Something is better than nothing.
Throughout the ‘70s, athletics was strictly amateur. The rules were vigorously enforced. No cash or ‘cash exchangeable’ prizes could be awarded. Not even book / record tokens as I recall.
No, no, no. On a couple occasions I travelled all the way to London (representing Bank of Scotland) won my race, and returned home the proud owner of a butter dish or something equally crass.!
The Highland Games circuit was no better. We would win the likes of salt and pepper cruet sets; cake stands; crappy framed pictures and plastic ice buckets (one of which was donated to the Club raffle, only for the raffle winner to re-donate it the following year.)
I learned that success need not be measured in monetary value.
Ah yes … the ‘headquarters.’ How could I forget.
Our base up until the mid-Eighties was ‘The Hut.’ A corrugated iron construction that was unbearably hot in the summer months and unbelievably cold in winter.
It was used predominately during the road racing / cross country months of autumn and winter, when we’d meet twice / three times a week to go on pack runs varying from 1.5 to 10 miles.
Over the years it became more and more dilapidated, and a health and safety hazard.
To say it was spartan would be an understatement, but to many of us it was a second home.
And I learned that indeed, ‘home’ is where the heart is.
My active years in athletics spanned only ten years. I never took it too seriously. I trained hard, of course. And I competed hard. But I took very few photographs; I didn’t formally record my Personal Bests. It was an excuse to go for a beer!
At the time, I also played football – to an adequate-not-spectacular standard. This meant for a few years around age nineteen to twenty-one, I was unavailable for many races on the roads and over the country – the latter being my best and favoured.
Of the two, athletics would have been my stronger sport, but I was young and had plenty years of running ahead of me. Play football now when you can, concentrate on running later.
It didn’t work that way, did it?
Injury at age twenty-two put paid to both sports!
I learned to live for today and take nothing for granted.
Just before my injury, I went on holiday to the South of France with a couple of the Garscube team. It was there that I met our Diane, my wife of thirty-nine years. (Thirty-nine years tomorrow, 5th June, as it happens.)
I learned Fate dealt me a pretty good hand!
I sometimes wonder how my life would have been shaped, had my school relay team actually won that race all these years ago?
The value of friendship; speed and stamina are handy; humility; no pain, no gain; don’t pre-judge; never give in; success needn’t equate to monetary value; home is where the heart is; take nothing for granted and yeah, overall, I’ve done alright.
Joining Garscube Harriers has certainly taught me a lot over the years, possibly the most important being that sometimes you don’t actually have to be a winner to win.
Gang warfare was rife in Glasgow and its environs around the start of the 1970s, and due to its location, the village of Westerton, to the north west of the city, found itself, perhaps unwittingly, caught up in the whole Ya bass culture which was apparent at that time.
Westerton, a small working class enclave which clung on the skilfully embroidered coat-tails of leafy Bearsden to its north, was surrounded on its three other sides by some of the roughest areas of Glasgow and, by consequence some of the toughest gangs in the city.
If one assumed a vantage point looking down from the top of Maxwell Avenue, a glance to the right would capture the sprawling post war housing scheme of Drumchapel, an area famously described by comedian Billy Connolly as ‘a desert wi windaes’ and arguably one of the few places on the planet which, if photographed, would look the same in colour as it would in monochrome.
Drumchapel was home to the feared Drum Buck gang along with some of its wannabe offshoots like the Peel Glen Boys and, years before the Lion King hit the cinema screens, Westerton’s parents would often adopt the phrase later used by Musafa to Simba –‘son, you must never go there’.
Further along from the Drum, and just across the physical barrier of the Forth and Clyde canal, was the less terrifying area of Knightswood, whose principal group of warriors, the K-Wood would often be seen marauding through the canal tunnel towards Westerton with malice aforethought, their ranks often bolstered by stragglers from the infinitely more menacing Partick Cross gang.
Looking straight ahead from the top of the hill, one could just about pick out Temple, a small scheme right on the city frontier. I’ve no idea what gangs prowled these mean streets, I just know I got jumped by a group of neds after walking a girl home there after a date. Fortunately I was a lot lighter in these days and managed to break free and outrun them until I reached the welcoming sanctuary of the Fulton Street police station.
And finally, the main event, look left and if you look hard enough you’ll see Maryhill – home to the Fleet, without doubt the toughest, meanest and probably biggest gang in the north side of Glasgow.
All of these gangs and their associates, had one thing in common – they liked to cross their borders and terrorise the people of Westerton.
Solution – form our own gang, hence the birth of the WessyRats.
The invaders from the aforementioned areas may have regarded Westerton as something of a soft target but we had our share of guys who were not to be messed with and they formed the nucleus of the fledgling rats.
Step forward Campbell ‘Fagin’ Chaal, Iain ‘Big Stone’ Johnstone (aka the Drum Basher), George ‘Krug’ Craig and his younger brother titch, Christopher ‘Topper’ James, Billy ‘Hatchet’ Hogg and Gordon Kelly.
Gordon didn’t need a moniker. The very mention of his name was enough to strike fear into the hearts of anyone who dared cross his path, as one knife wielding Drum boy found out to his cost when he launched a daring raid on the Bearsden Academy playground only to be sent homeward tae think again after feeling the might of Gordon’s fist of fury. Gordon, a martial arts aficionado, did sustain a slash wound across his face in the skirmish, something he wore proudly as a badge of honour in the aftermath of the incident.
Me? I never really saw myself as a street fighter. I’d been involved in a few scraps during my schooldays. Won some, lost some but I always felt capable of looking after myself should the need arise.
I was on nodding terms with most of the boys in the Rats but never really aspired to reaching that particular level howeverall that changed on the bus home from school one day when a classmate, Ewan Miller, unwisely challenged me to a ‘square go’.
I’d seen Ewan fight before. He was useful but he was a one-trick pony. His tactic was to come at you like a windmill, arms flailing at high speed and delivering rapid fire punches to his opponent’s head.
With this in mind I let him come at me but, in the style of professional boxers I’d watched on television, held both arms in the regulation defensive position to protect my face and head.
Sure he was hitting me but only on my forearms so I soaked it up until he stopped and asked, rather hopefully, ‘had enough yet?’
My response was to deliver what was the sweetest punch I’d ever thrown in my life, a beautifully timed right hook which caught him square on the jaw and left him lying on the floor of the bus. It was a shot the then champion Ken Buchanan would have been proud of.
I looked up and saw some senior members of the Rats nodding their approval and the next morning when I went to catch the bus to school at the co-op, one of them shouted – ‘here he is, Fairley the hard man’.
I cringed at the comment, largely because when someone attaches a label like that on you, the one certainty is that someone else will be coming after you very soon.
However, my new found notoriety enabled me to become a fringe member of the Rats but, to be honest, I was more a rearguard member, shouting and posturing at the back of the group while those in the frontline battled against any ‘Drummies’ or ‘Knightsies’ who had made the mistake of encroaching upon our territory.
It all changed for me one day during the school holidays. We were relaxing on the school hill when the news was relayed that a gang from Drumchapel were heading in our direction.
One of the boys said ‘Ill get the pickies’ and within a few minutes I found myself holding a fearsome looking wooden pick axe handle which was to be the weapon of choice for this particular altercation.
Weapons. This was a whole new ball game for me. To quote Nena – ‘this is it boys, this is war’ and I wasn’t comfortable with it.
We charged down the hill and met the invading gang at the old nursery school playground and the battle raged until there were only two Drum boys left, the rest having scarpered at the sight of our weaponry. One of them then pulled what looked like a meat cleaver from his jacket and we all froze. All except one, who I will choose not to name, who raced forward and slammed his pickie across the top of the boys head. Even now, I can still hear the thud of timber crashing against bone.
As he lay on the ground someone shouted ‘here’s the polis’ and, as two squad cars came haring down Maxwell Avenue, sirens blaring, we all scampered back up the hill, the pickies being safely secreted in their hiding place before we all split up and disappeared amongst the labyrinthine network of lanes and alleyways throughout the village.
The cops came back the following night as we hung around the co-op trying to get statements but the law of omerta was adhered to and all they got was our names and addresses.
The next day the police paid a visit to my parents house and warned them about the company their son was keeping and the likely ramifications thereof.
My Dad was no soft touch. He grew up in Govanhill, the youngest of seven brothers and I’m pretty sure he’d been involved in a few rucks during his younger days, which was probably why he was dead against the idea of his son following in these particular footsteps.
The perfunctory father/son chat took place and I made up my mind that my short lived career as a Wessy Rat was over and that I would channel my energies towards my two main interests in life, football and music.
I always looked upon the Rats as more of a peace-keeping force than a violent gang. Their actions were largely defensive rather than aggressive and, perhaps subconsciously, they viewed their existence as a means of protecting the people of Westerton from invading forces and, to that extent, their mission was, in the main, accomplished.
I enjoyed my short spell running with the pack but I’m glad it ended when I did. If it hadn’t who know where I’d have ended up. I still feel I can look after myself but I’ve adopted the philosophy subscribed to by Bruce Lee in the movie Enter the Dragon of….. ‘Fighting without Fighting.’
If you’ve seen the film you’ll know what I mean. There are more ways to win a battle than knocking ten bells out of your opponent and I can say in all honesty, that in the 50 or so years since I decked Ewan Miller on the school bus, I’ve never once struck a single human being.
I do not have any tattoos…. Resisted peer pressure whilst drunk in parlours. Witnessed too many pallid limbs celebrating non-existent Maori heritage.
Rationale: a tattoo might compromise any future capability to go off grid and anonymise. Now in my 60s that scenario is unlikely, having led a blameless life.
However I have been subject to stop and subsequent questioning by the police, in the 70s in particular.
Typical scenario: Aged 14 to 16 or so walking back home to Hillfoot, from Ray Norris parents’ house in the Switchback area, at about 1am, usually carrying a guitar case. Sober, fizzing with caffeine, (we liked figuring out Humble Pie riffs whilst drinking coffee). Milngavie Road seemed to be awash with cops in those days….. obviously on the lookout for guitar rustlers.
No small talk. Non negotiable attitude. Did not bother me.
Glasgow in the 70s had a much higher crime rate, particularly in relation to violent crime than it has now. Bearsden was deemed safe. As Ken Dodd would say “you could have a reign of terror with a balloon on a stick”.
Well, almost, I was once mildly chibbed.
Not only was 70s policing more robust, the coppers were too. I recall being stopped a couple of times by a gigantic 6’ 6” sergeant who worked out of Milngavie nick.
70s doctrine example 1: Mr Mac managed the RIO cinema at Canniesburn Toll. He was a great guy who let all his late son’s pals in for free to see any film. One time the cops were called to deal with rowdy, rather simian of countenance, Maryhill neds in the foyer. Order restored… cops ask Mr Mac if he’s agreeable to the neds being taken to the rear of cinema for some moderate correction. Of course he declined.
70s doctrine example 2: The late Paul Murdoch was caught travelling on the blue train without a ticket. The cops were doing a planned sweep at Hillfoot station. Cop : “Have you anything to say?” Paul : “in future I’ll take the bus”. As a juvenile they let him off. Actually all cops hate arresting juveniles as the paperwork is arduous and the waiting for social workers, parents etc. takes up a whole shift.
The noughties: Police are very polite and approachable now.
A few years ago a pair visited to counsel me with respect to post burglary trauma. A daytime “express” burglary” had occurred, the intent being acquisition of cash and jewellery. None of either in my gaff.
The burglars did find my Katana (short Japanese sword), my antique (legal) Adams Revolver and my souvenir handcuffs from a previous career. They left these items on the floor.
I appreciated the officers cod psychology… however I would have preferred it if they had re-directed their efforts to the smiting of footpads with Taser and Baton.
(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson, of Glasgow – May 2021)
A look now at this week’s Smells of the Seventies Top Twelve.
Coming straight in at number 12, we have:
MILK MONITOR HANDS:
The primary school position of ‘milk monitor’ was one of honour. Only the trusted and well behaved were granted the privilege of carting the perpetually cold, heavy, milk bottle laden, metal crates around the numerous classrooms.
Being conferred this position of prestige effectively gave permission to skip class for a while each day. Result!
There was a downside though – there always is. When you returned to your classroom, milk round duties completed, and rested your weary head in your hands …..
Boak! Blech! Eeeuuuww!
The smell of sour milk is one that lingers. It would seep into the fabric of your clothing and you’d notice the kid in the next seat inching towards the edge of their desk. And retching.
Playtime couldn’t come fast enough and you’d rush to the toilets and wash your hands clean. But a state of freshness is only a state of utopia.
The combined scent of sour milk and carbolic soap is not the most attractive.
Jumping three places from last week’s number 14, is:
FRESHLY CUT GRASS:
Not only back in the day, but even now, this is the smell of freedom.
On hot summer days at primary school, we’d often be taken outside for lessons. No matter the subject, the grassy aroma would relax the mind and even a half hour discussion on Oliver Cromwell became bearable.
At secondary school, balmy summer breezes would waft the fragrant scent into the science labs through the opened fanlight windows. Accompanied by the muffled sound of a tractor pulling the grass cutter, it hinted towards the end of term.
It was a time of change: the football pitch was being shorn, soon to be lined as a six lane athletics track; national grade exams beckoned; summer holidays were around the corner.
The smell of freshly cut grass meant exciting times ahead.
Falling from a peak position of 8, this week’s number 10 is:
I still have no idea why these sweets were so popular. Perhaps because they were cheap?
From Swizzel, the makers of Fizzers (which were decent sweets) Parma violets were / are hard sweets based on some aniseed based confectionery in India which are used to freshen the mouth after a spicy meal.
The smell of violets may be a half decent base for perfume, or toilet cleaner, but surely not for human breath?
I mean, I love the smell of garlic, but I’m not so sure it should be used as a mouth-wash.
Making a bit splash this week we have a joint number 9:
CHARLIE / BRUT 33:
In 1973, Faberge launched their ‘33’ everyday cologne. In the same year, Revlon launched their ‘sharp flowery’ fragrance, ‘Charlie.’
I know both are now regarded with a little bit disdain; as ’cheap.’ And certainly the Brut 33 splash-on gave that impression, coming as it did in a plastic bottle no less.
However, for naïve young schoolkids, living on paper round and baby-sitting incomes, these fragrances met our budgets while making us feel sophisticated; classy.
I very much doubt there were any dates between school pupils that didn’t involve a dab or two of either these scents.
Henry Cooper / Barry Sheene and Shelley Hack can feel well pleased with their influence on the match-making process.
Coming from nowhere, at 8 with a bullet, we have:
No – not the little peaked efforts we sometimes wore to primary school – these caps.
Principally for using in toy guns, we would stamp on them to ignite the tiny dots of what we always believed to be gunpowder. However, I think I’m right in saying old fashioned gunpowder is not shock sensitive and has to be ignited. So it may be a mercury based compound that actually forms the black dot on the roll of paper. (Who says I didn’t pay attention in Chemistry class?) Anyway – who gives a tu’upenny one for the science? We’d place lines of these on the inner ledge of our school desk and brusquely bring down the lid to create an almighty (as we heard it) bang.
The residual smell of spent gunpowder or whatever, and burnt paper was just tops! It was also exciting as we felt we were doing something just that wee bit naughty.
Making its annual assault on the charts and debuting this week at number 7, it’s, erm, comic annuals.
ANNUALS AT CHRISTMAS:
Every Christmas night, I’d head to bed with several new ‘annuals’ as reading material. Excited as I was to read the exploits of Alf Tupper (Tough of the Track) or Desperate Dan, my abiding memory of childhood Christmases, is the smell of these books.
I have to confess, that even at the age of sixty-two, I attract some weird looks from shoppers in Asda through the month of December, as with the books close to my face, I fan through the pages of the Beano / Dandy annuals.
With a ‘tree-mendous’ jump of fourteen places to number 6 this week, we have:
Back in the day before plastic was invented (well, almost) we always had real Christmas trees.
There is nothing in this world, I’m quite certain, can evoke such sense of sheer excitement in a young kid than the smell that permeates home when a real Christmas tree is placed in the corner of the living room.
Falling two places to number 5 after an amazing thirty-three weeks in the charts, is:
‘WET’ SCHOOL LUNCHES:
Every day, by playtime, (or was it ‘break’ when we were at secondary school?) you could tell what would be on the menu for lunch.
My heart would sink when I could detect the putrid odour of a ‘wet’ lunch. Invariably, these would be ‘wet’ days weather wise as well; days when the dining room windows would run rivers of condensation.
A ‘wet’ lunch could be expected when the stench of stewed cabbage would mingle with the cheap, Bisto substitute gravy used to smother the rather odious looking beef olives.
There would be no silver lining either, as in general, the Head of Kitchen would dictate it be better to get all the crap out in one go, and subject us to pink custard (Devil’s Spew) and prunes for desert.
Where there’s a Ying, there’s a Yang, and making a comeback at this week’s number 4, is:
‘DRY’ SCHOOL LUNCHES:
Ah! Now you’re talking. There was something so comforting when from the sanctuary of the bike shed opposite the kitchen, you could smell the roast of breadcrumbs on chicken or fish fingers, and chips deep fried in blocks of melted lard.
You could also bet your treasured Lynyrd Skynyrd album on there being rhubarb crumble and custard on offer for second course.
Matching Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ album for continuous weeks on the chart and remaining this week at number 3, comes:
DOG POO ON YOUR SHOE:
Maybe, as a society, we are better educated these days. Or maybe dogs are genetically just constipated now. But there’s thankfully not as much dog dirt lying in the streets these days.
There was nothing worse than the smell that followed you home when you’d stepped in a pile of poo hidden in a tuft of grass. I’m sure we’ve all been there.
Or worse, if you’d perfected a slide tackle while playing football, only to ….. well, you know. Yeuch!
Having it ingrained in the tread of you bike tyre was no fun either. More so if it were the front one. Think.
Going around and around in the chart is this week’s number 2, climbing again after a steady fall in recent times:
GOLDFISH BOWL / TADPOLE JAR:
How many of us pestered our parents for a goldfish when we were young? Or ‘won’ a sad little specimen in a poly bag when the carnival came to town?
Our parents, realising how lucky they were we’d not asked for a pony, or even a dog, jumped right on their good fortune and readily agreed … on the condition you looked after it.
“It’ll teach junior about life and death and responsibility” they stupidly thought.
Yeah – that went well … for all of about a week, until the magnitude off the task took its toll. What? Clean out its bowl as well as feed it? Every four days? Why is that water cloudy/ Where is Goldie? What are these wee stringy bits of stuff suspended mid bowl? What’s that Goddamned smell for crying out loud?!
The same, though worse, would happen with the tadpole jar.
You’d plead to be allowed to keep the frog spawn you’d shovelled into an outsize and cleaned out malt jar.
“It’ll teach junior about life and evolution and transformation and responsibility” your parents stupidly thought.
Wow! Did that jar severely honk! Worse still – when the spawn had released tadpoles, and the tadpoles grew wee legs, they had to be transferred into a basin of sorts. With rocks, and weeds and stuff.
After that, you couldn’t really change the water. So while the little frogs developed, the water became stagnant. And stank to high heaven.
And nobody would come play with you unless their name combined the words David and Attenborough.
We have new Number One this week … and it’s getting personal, not ‘arf! PERNOD & LEMONADE:
Summer 1976. I’d just left school and had a job lined up in Banking. It was time to celebrate – time to get away and let my hair down. (I did have some, back then.)
It had been decided I wasn’t clever enough at Maths and Physics to go to University, so this would be my ‘gap week.’ Off I headed for a caravan in St Andrews with several pals.
You know, I casually say, ‘several pals,’ because in truth, the week is a total haze and I can recall only my mates Derek, Graham and Kenny being there. Jack may also have been. But I honestly can’t remember much at all, which is quite scary.
(I do recall coming back from the pub one night and throwing bits of bread onto the roof of a neighbouring caravan so the occupants would be awakened the following morning by hungry seagulls pecking the crusts above them.)
The only other recollection I have is of a night on Pernod and lemonade. Or rather, I recollect the next morning! And afternoon! And evening! And the next morning again!
I don’t think I’ve ever been so ill.
To this day, I cannot stand the smell of Pernod. If somebody close by drinks it, I have to move away.
*** It’s Smells of the Seventies … It’s Number One … It’s Pernod & Lemonade.
If you’re a Bowie fan you probably have a selection of his albums, tapes, cd’s and downloads in your music collection…. hit-after-hit stretching across six decades from 1969’s Space Oddity to 2016’s Blackstar.
For a few years though, until his WOW moment on TOTP in 1972, as implausible as it sounds, Bowie was on course to be a one-hit-wonder…. just like Thunderclap Newman with ‘Something in the Air’ or Norman Greenbaum with ‘Spirit in the Sky’
Then along came Ziggy Stardust and the rest as they say is history. Bowie went on to become arguably the most influential artist of the 70s…..continually reinventing his sound and persona and influencing the tastes of a generation along the way.
As an example of the latter, on October 1974 David Live was released, it was a decent album showcasing Bowie’s transition from Glam to Soul with a great version of Eddie Floyd’s ‘Knock on Wood‘, but what captured my attention as much as the music was the powder blue suit DB wore on the cover.
Up until this point Bowie’s wardrobe had consisted of elaborate Japanese jumpsuits, kimonos and leotards.
Distinctive, perhaps, but not the kind of thing you could buy in Top Man and wear to Shuffles night club on a dreich Saturday night in Glasgow!
Bowie’s cool new look was something we could relate to on the other hand, so on our next pay-day, a few of us travelled to Glasgow city centre to Jackson the tailors to order our own made to measure version of the tin-flute Bowie sported on the David Live record sleeve.
After a few weeks the suits were ready and when we hit the town that Saturday night we all felt ‘gallus’ in our high-waisted trousers, and double breasted jackets, as did half the male population of Glasgow, who seemingly all had the same idea!
I was pretty much hooked from the minute I saw Bowie perform Starman on TOTP in 72 and stayed a fan all the way through his career. I loved his 70s personas and of course the music, particular the Thin White Duke period which frustratingly he never talked much about… owing to the fact that he had absolutely no recall of making the Station to Station album!
In fact he was so bonkers and strung out during this period (75-76) that he reportedly kept his own urine in a fridge. This in part was due to a falling out with Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page….. Bowie became paranoid that Page (well known for dabbling in the occult) would engage some form of black-magic against him if he got hold of his bodily fluids.
Based in LA and weighing in at a meagre 7 stone, his diet at the time consisted of milk, peppers and heaps of Colombian marching powder. It’s well documented that Bowie fled this life of excess to regain health and sanity in Europe, specifically Berlin, and by the release of Heroes in 1977 he was in a much better place, both physically and mentally
I actually came into The Starman’s orbit very briefly in 1983.
I was working at Levis and we were developing a campaign to promote our 501 Jeans, which at the time, we couldn’t give away in the UK, in fact the only European country who sold them in any volume was Sweden.
UK retailers didn’t want to stock them as they were more expensive than regular Levis jeans and they reasoned that consumers didn’t like the American fit (low waist, straight leg).
Nonetheless, our chiefs in San Francisco had planned a global strategy around the 501. It was the original 5 pocket jean and the main point of difference for the brand in the US, where Levis was coming under threat from designer brands like Calvin Klein…. so we had no choice but to try and make it work in Europe.
A team was put together tasked with coming up with innovative ideas to support the 501 campaign in Europe and as a first step we came up with the simple idea of getting contemporary icons to wear 501’s by highlighting the fact that it had been the jean of choice for James Dean & Brando in the 50’s and guys like Springsteen were now wearing them.
It was a classic ‘seeding’ strategy which more or less consisted of gifting product to opinion leaders (musicians, actors, sportsmen, models, etc), in order to get the product seen on the right people.
It’s a concept that can work pretty well if all the planets align.
As an example…
In early 1983 we sent some Levis denim jackets to an up and coming band coming out of Dublin called U2. The lead singer Bono cut the sleeves off his jacket and wore it relentlessly. The band released the albums War and Under a Blood Red Sky and 83 became U2’s big breakout year hence Bono was everywhere… wearing his self-customised, sleeveless Levis jacket
As an example of seeding at work – around this time met I Charlie Nicholas in a Glasgow bar as we had a mutual friend, when Charlie heard I worked for Levis he asked me if I could get him a Levis denim jacket “to cut the sleeves off… same as Bono“.
Charlie wasn’t the only one with the same idea and within months, retailers started selling out of our denim jackets, sales tripled and we eventually had to increase our jacket production and develop our own sleeveless version.
The other avenue we explored was official sponsorship… ‘let’s get influential artists to wear and promote Levis by sponsoring their tours’. Everyone does this now but it was a new concept back then.
This was trickier than you’d think… some people in the room actually thought it would be a good idea to approach the gods of double-denim, Status Quo and there were a couple of Gary Numan fans in there as well… however to most it was clear we needed someone with gravitas, credibility and a wide appeal.
After some debate and research we discovered that Bowie was scheduled to launch his Serious Moonlighttour in support of his new album – Let’s Dance, so after some discussion he became the prime candidate.
To be honest we weren’t over optimistic that he’d go for it as he wasn’t big on commercial ventures but he liked the brand and the sponsorship helped to finance the tour… so the mighty DB came on board.
The concept worked so well that we repeated it over the next few years with tours and one-off events, but the tipping point for the brand in Europe came when we launched the famous 501 Laundrette ad with Nick Kamen in 1985, which also propelled ‘I Heard it Through the Grapevine’ to number one in the charts.
Ironically, the same retailers who claimed they couldn’t sell 501’s in 1983 were now begging for as much stock as they could get their hands on….
One of the conditions of most tour-sponsorship deals is for the acts to meet customers post-gig however we knew Bowie was never going to do meet and greets. Sting and Ultravox on the other hand were contracted to meet customers and prize winners briefly after their gigs, which they mostly did with good grace, particularly Midge Ure who was extremely affable.
My brief Bowie moment came when he popped into our London office to pick out some jeans and shirts, he looked incredibly healthy and was friendly and charming. He signed a few bits and pieces for some of us including a tour programme and the Let’s Dance album (pics below ) before making his exit.
In truth, I struggled a bit with the 90’s Bowie, particularly the Tin Machine period but I got back on board in the noughties…. a return to form, spring-boarded by his stellar Glastonbury performance in 2000 when he decided to give the people what they wanted…. a set-list made up of his best songs.
Although I’d been a big fan in the 70s I had never seen Bowie live and the first time I saw him perform was when we took some customers to see his Serious Moonlight gig at Murrayfield in Edinburgh in June 83.
The next time I saw him perform live was the most memorable. It was at the Hammersmith Odeon in October 2002, his first return to that venue since the shock July 1974 retirement announcement when he ‘broke up the band’ live on stage…. to their complete bemusement.
“Not only is it the last show of the tour, but it’s the last show that we’ll ever do. Thank you.”
It helped that we had fantastic tickets for that show, centre stage, six rows from the front. I’ve no idea how long Bowie was on stage for but it must have been close to 3 hours… he played 33 songs starting with Life on Mars, finishing with Ziggy Stardust and included a song he’d only ever played live once before… the majestic Bewlay Brothers from Hunky Dory.
I also saw Bowie the following year at Wembley arena on his last live date in London. He seemed so fit and healthy at 56 but six months later whilst still on the same gruelling ‘Reality’ tour he had a heart attack on stage in Hamburg and that proved to be his last ever gig.
He released an album in 2013, The Last Day, which raised hopes that he was fit and well but it all went quiet again, and then out of nowhere a new album – Blackstar dropped 3 years later on his 69th birthday, this was the encouraging news we’d all been waiting for… maybe we would even see him play live again?
He died two days after its release on the 10th of January.
There was much outpouring of grief when the news broke, he meant so much to so many people and it’s probably the only celebrity that I’ve ever felt sustained grief over. I had grown up with Bowie from age 13, my kids had grown up listening to him, he’d been a fixture in my life for 45 years, and suddenly he wasn’t there any more.
But even in the end Bowie did the most Bowie thing ever, bowing out on his own terms with an innovative, out-of-the-blue, jazz-infused album that we knew nothing about until the day of its release.
If you listen to the lyrics it’s an album made by a man who wasn’t ready to leave us but knew he wasn’t going to be with us for long. To this day I still find it hard to listen to that album…….
‘Something happened on the day he died Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried’ “I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar”
All hail the Starman, we’ll never see his like again…..
My Bowie top 20 changes all the time, but for anyone who’s interested here’s this weeks selection….
(Post by Andrea Grace Burn of East Yorkshire – May 2021)
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!”
“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.
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.
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!
If you’d told me 45 years ago that a DJ could be worth $300 million, I’d have said ‘away and boil your heid’.
But it stacks up when you learn that Calvin Harris can charge up to $400k per show… which will probably rule him out of spinning the discs at any 21st’s up The Muscular Arms this weekend.
Not bad for a former shelf-stacker from Dumfries.
Like most of us, my introduction to DJ’s was via TOTP. That first generation of Radio One DJ’s all looked like accountants trying a bit too hard to be trendy, apart from Jimmy Saville who always looked, well…. weird.
My favourite Radio One DJ in the early 70s was Johnnie Walker.
Walker famously got sacked by Radio One for calling The Bay City Rollers “Musical Garbage” at the height of their popularity (RIP – Les), he had a laid-back delivery and a great taste in music.
He was the guy who championed the 1975 Fleetwood Mac album when everyone else had written them off, and his show is where I first heard Rhiannon as well as nuggets from Steely Dan and Little Feat that no one else was playing at that time.
Moving into the mid 70s I started to get into Soul & Funk which you could only hear in clubs back then until a London DJ called Robbie Vincent came along with his weekly Soul show on Radio One. It was perfectly timed, early evening on a Saturday night as you were getting ready to go out, and would get you in the mood for the evening ahead.
The only other DJ’s we had contact with in our youth were the mobile variety at various youth club & school discos…. a bit like Ray Von and his ‘wheels of steel’ from Phoenix Nights…
When our crowd started going up to clubs in Glasgow we went to the aptly named Clouds, (atop The Apollo) later to become Satellite City.
Tiger Tim was the DJ most Friday nights and the whacky son-of-a-gun used to dress up as a teddy-boy… or a frog! It was 1974 and he had just started at Radio Clyde with his… ‘The Aff its Heid Show’…. (ok I get the frog suit now!) and was fast becoming a local celebrity.
Going to Clouds …. walking round that amphitheatre of a dance floor (always anti-clockwise for some reason), and then avoiding the turf-war, gang fights at George Square where we had to wait to catch the last bus home, was a Friday night ritual for a while.
Thinking about the music, Tiger Tim had a pretty eclectic taste, he would play a bit of disco, a bit of chart stuff and then throw in curveballs from the 50’s like Dion’s – The Wanderer or Clarence (Frogman) Henry’s – I don’t know why I Love You But I Do… probably to support his Teddy Boy persona..
A new city centre club opened in competition to Clouds in 1974, called Shuffles which we went to a few times for a change of scene.
The highlight was when the legendary Emperor Rosko of Radio Luxembourg fame, rocked up with his roadshow… resplendent in chest-wig, medallion and of course armed with his trusty catchphrase…. ‘Have Mercy’
Bizarrely, Clouds and Shuffles were both unlicensed despite the fact you had to be 18 to gain entry.
As we got a bit more sophisticated and progressed to licensed premises, Craig Davis was a name that cropped up a lot. ‘Craigy Baby’ was the flamboyant DJ at the Burnbrae Hotel on a Sunday night, he also had a residency at the Normandy Hotel in Renfrew on a Thursday night and he was a regular at Maestros in Glasgow.
Craig may have been a superfly DJ by night but by day he worked for film distributors, helping cinemas to schedule their movies for the coming weeks.
I got to know Craig through a friend of my Dad’s and he was always good enough to get me movie posters if I asked for them, I remember he turned up once with a poster for an obscure Peter Fonda movie called Futureworld that he knew I liked (the follow up to Westworld)…. I wish I’d kept a few of those posters now.
Craig famously got pulled over and breathalysed by the police one evening after a festive period gig and was staggered to learn that he was over the limit as he was completely tea-total, and never drank.
Despite his protestations he got huckled and the officers took him back to the station for another test, which was borderline…. whereupon a befuddled Craig remembered that he’d scoffed a box of chocolate liqueurs during the course of the evening that a fan had gifted him.
Fortunately for Craig the police bought his story and released him without charge.
The next day, the bold Craig was plastered all over the Evening Times telling his story… his big cheery smile pictured next to a box of cherry liqueurs.
There were some other great DJ’s back in the day like Gary Moore and his crew at The Rooster and City Limits, and that’s where you’d first hear the soul/funk imports from the US, long before they got into the UK charts.
DJ’s of course, always got a lot of attention, and maybe like musicians some of them got into it to improve their chances of meeting the opposite sex.
The Argentinian dudes Joe Hunter and I saw DJ’ing at a club in Calella, near Barcelona in 1975 were certainly a case in point….
There was 3 of them and to be fair they looked like Latin gods… all over six-foot, perfect physiques and long flowing hair straight out of a L’Oréal shampoo commercial.
In fact, when I saw Mario Kempes play for Argentina in the 78 World Cup a few years later, I was sure he was one of the DJ’s…
It didn’t take long for us to work out why there were 3 of them – they would each take turns on the decks so that the other two could be freed up to strut around and meet their adoring public…
Not only did these guys look the part, they were also brilliant dancers and to top it off they were great DJ’s as well… (I hated the b*stards!).
I remember one of them always played a killer 3-song sequence of…. Sex Machine by James Brown, Trampled Underfoot by Led Zeppelin and Disco Stomp by Hamilton Bohannon… which brought the house down every night….
I always liked DJ’s like Gerry Kennedy, brother of my good mate Joe Kennedy from Clydebank who knew his stuff and just played great music with no fuss. Gerry was the resident DJ at the Boulevard Hotel in Clydebank (the Bouli) on a Sunday night, a regular haunt for myself and buddies… Joe Hunter, Joe Kennedy, Billy Smith and Marty Roberts.
Gerry wasn’t interested in being the centre of attention he just wanted to keep everyone up on the dance floor, and his splendid finale of three great moonies was always the perfect way to finish the evening…
Well it worked for me anyway… that’s how I met my wife Margo, in July 1978!
Some 70s tunes on the playlist below that remind me of those days….
First crush, unrequited love, friendships, breaking-up, making-up, chicken in the brick, going to the flicks, grey tights, the disco, ponies, clogs, orchestra practice, sexism, a court case and Col’s wooden ‘Andie Block’…it was all going on in 1974!
In those far off pre-digital days of my youth – the 1970s – there were no bloggers, no tweeters, no Instagram or Facebook opportunities to express or comment on whatever thought popped into our heads. And wasn’t it great! The notion that other people might be remotely interested in our inner thoughts was alien; I grew up hearing that old chestnut, “you know what thought did,” even though I had no idea what it meant.
On my ninth birthday in 1969, my mother gave me a five year diary; encouraging me to “keep all my secrets” within this little blue leather book with a lock and key; as she had done in her youth. I kept it sporadically. It is only in the past two years that I have begun writing a journal once more and it is considerably less entertaining than my teenage diary!
June 2nd, 1974
“Saw a film called ‘300 Spartans.” Hollywood, violins, corny but quite good. For lunch, cooked chicken in brick with garlic, also potatoes, peas, fruit salad, milk, gravy & dry cake. Yum!
Went to Col’s to see rabbits. We just missed DARRYL SMITH! Col was in a towel as he was getting ready for a bath. Couldn’t see rabbits. Went for a walk round the block with Zoo.”
June 13th, 1974
“Didn’t go to orchestra practice. I’ll get Mom to write a note. I might (well, probably will) have to testify about accident which Julie and John had (fight). Help! I will tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God!
Went to piano lesson. Playing Fur Elise. NOT going to disco Saturday night as sold out of tickets. Going to TOP RANK Saturday morning.”
NB: I had witnessed a school fight between Julie and John, which had begun as a flirtatious game but ended with Julie falling down stairs and knocking out a tooth. Her mother reported it to the police and it ended up in the Juvenile Court. My testament prevented John from being sent to Borstal.
June 17th, 1974
“At school today Kim said that Pamela had told her that Darryl Smith had told her to tell Kim that he HATES ME! (Boo Hoo.) I don’t know why, except that he thinks I’m dependent on him, so at next disco I’m going to dance with other boys (not that I’ve ever danced with Darryl, though I’d love to!!). This might make him see that I don’t need him, so he might like me again. I HOPE SO!!
Still, as my pals say, “there are more fish in the sea,” though I still like Darryl as much as before.
Saw TV programme on SLEEP – very interesting.”
June 20th, 1974
“Nothing much went on today. Got pen friends, I will write to a few more. It is EXTREEMLY hot today & tonight!! So hot, I might not use sheets!!
I have just heard a cat scream. Zoo is in heat. Made fudge – turned out like caramel – very nice!
Julie’s mum doesn’t want her to come to m y house again. She said “you know who your pals are in these cases.” GOOD NIGHT!
June 22nd, 1974
“Went to Halesowen to Sainsbury’s with Mom and Dad. Dad got sick ’cause they went to a party night before. Gave Shaz a birthday present – Elton John, ‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me.” Went to disco tonight. Alright but a lot of kids there about 17 – some about 15. They stuck pins in you. Spent night at Shaz’s house.” (WTF – STUCK PINS IN YOU?)
July 16th, 1974
“Tonight went to Carnival (in the States, a Fun Fair is called a Carnival) in Shenley (near Bartley Green Reservoir). Went on ‘WALTZER JOY-BOUNCE’, ‘SCRAMBLER’, & ‘ROCKETS’. 2nd time on WALTZER man spun me, Shaz & Becky round so I was nearly sick, skirt went back, couldn’t move or lean forward. ROCKET handle moved up or down but ours didn’t work so we were up in the air all the time – I screamed & held on to Shaz. Scrambler man said to Shaz that I had white knickers on. When we went by him he patted Shaz’s knee. Went on stalls. Shaz won a furry toy on stick.”
July 17th, 1974
“Had Summer Fair at school tonight. Ii did Pony Rides with Georgina & Jean. Georgina brought their ponies, FELLA & JUPITER. I think we raised around £5.00. Georgina gave me 20p for my ‘hard work’ (cough cough!) I went in my jodhpurs & riding boots & several boys laughed at me. I got a coke & as I picked it up, I spilled Mr. Gupta’s (History teacher) coffee right in front of Mrs. Carter.” (Head Teacher) Oh well. Went to Georgina’s for an hour. Got home about 10.00pm.”
July 18th, 1974
“Last day of school this year! GREAT! I’ll be 4th Year next year! Help! Tonight I am at Becky’s. We have just had an omelette. (Yum!) Tomorrow we are going to town early then going skating. That should be funny! I’ll write about that tomorrow!
There are some Spanish girls at school. One of them did hand-stands at break on playground & 2 did piggy-backs. They are popular with the boys here. One boy said, “ Can I tickle your fancy?” She didn’t know what it meant.
Sang ‘School’s Out’ (Alice Cooper) as we walked home!”