Tag Archives: 60s 70s

The Band Who Wouldn’t Die

Paul Fitzpatrick: July 2022, London.

This is about a British band formed 60 years ago, who are still performing today and who aren’t The Stones or The Who.

It’s about musicians that have flown under the radar for most of their career but who have also produced moments of real quality and cultural significance along the way.

The Zombies came to life in 1961, five music-obsessed school chums who sang as choristers at the local abbey.

As it turns out, the Abbey in question is in Saint Albans which has been my home town for nearly 40 years, and to remind everyone of the bands cultural significance to the city there’s a blue plaque outside the Blacksmith Arms pub where the lads first got together over 60 years ago.

Saint Albans is proud of The Zombies and there are plenty of old hippies dotted around the pubs of the cathedral city who’ll tell you that they were there to see the band make its debut performance.

To showcase the bands feats I’ve chosen 4 tracks from 4 different points in their musical journey……

1) ‘She’s Not There’ by The Zombies and Santana.

The Zombies were a pretty big deal in the 60’s, their career bookended by two massive hits, the first of which ended up being a lifeline for another iconic 60’s band……

‘She’s Not There’ was the Zombie’s debut single and was a global hit topping the charts from America to Japan, the song also holds the distinction of being the second British number one in America after The Beatles ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’

Written by Rod Argent the bands keyboard player, his trademark  Hohner electric piano and Colin Blunstone’s wistful vocals were the key components that the Zombies signature sound would be built around.


‘She’s Not There’ was one of those songs I’d catch on the family transistor radio and make a mental note of liking when I was a kid, but it got tucked away in the recesses until I heard the Carlos Santana version in 1977.

I immediately liked the Santana rendition because it stayed true to the original even down to the melancholy vocals (of Greg Walker), however it wouldn’t have been Santana if it didn’t feature a bit of on-brand latin percussion and Les Paul shredding, which of course it did, and this is what transformed it from a 60’s analogue classic to a Santana anthem.

The song proved to be the catalyst for a welcome and much needed Santana revival after the band had seen their popularity diminish from the early 70’s, a decline even the bands exquisite album art couldn’t arrest.

The Moonflower album the track was lifted from would be Santanas biggest seller for 30 years and helped the band regain momentum.



2) ‘Hold Your Head Up’ by Argent.

I knew all about Argent the band before I realised Rod Argent was chief Zombie in crime.
I knew this because his band Argent and this song were smack bang in the middle of my musical sweet spot in 1972.

Rod Argent had formed his self-titled band as soon as the Zombies broke up in 1968 teaming up with another local lad, Russ Ballard, who would sing lead vocals on this track.

We all loved a guitar hero but a funny thing happened on the way to the Forum in the early 70s and guys like Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman and Jon Lord started to muscle their way into the rock-god scene with their elaborate banks of keyboards and dexterous solo’s that could take up the side of an album.

Rod Argent was one such keyboard virtuoso and with ‘Hold Your Head Up’ he unveiled the radio friendly version of prog-rock. A keyboard-heavy track that found it’s way onto TOTP and into the top 20.

Argent would go on to have three top 40 hits including the Ballard penned ‘God Gave Rock and Roll To You’ later adopted and made famous by KISS.



3) ‘I Don’t Believe in Miracles’ by Colin Blunstone

Like many 60’s bands The Zombies imploded over management and financial issues, and despite the commercial success of having two number one’s in America, Blunstone had to find work as an insurance clerk for a period before embarking on a solo career.

His old mucker Rod Argent came to Blunstone’s aid, encouraging him to record his 1971 debut album which spawned the hit single ‘Say You Don’t Mind’, a track written for him by Denny Laine who had just formed a band called Wings with some geezer by the name of Paul McCartney.

Blunstone’s second album, released in 1972 featured the song ‘I Don’t Believe In Miracles‘ written & produced by Argent’s new partner in crime – Russ Ballard.

Ballard would leave Argent in 1974 to pursue a solo career and to focus on writing hits like ‘Free Me, for Roger Daltrey,  ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ for Rainbow, and just to showcase his versatility, ‘So You Win Again‘ for Hot Chocolate.

Released in 1973 at the peak of Glam Rock, ‘I Don’t Believe In Miracles‘ was only a minor hit but it became Blunstone’s signature tune and kept his distinctive vocals on the airwaves.

It’s a song I remember well despite its lack of airplay, and I can proudly say that I contributed to its chart position by purchasing a copy from Woolworths as a gift for a girls birthday.
Unfortunately, the record she wanted, Python Lee Jackson’s ‘In a Broken Dream’ wasn’t in stock, so I plumped for something similarly melancholy!



4) ‘Time of the Season’ by The Zombies

In 1967, the summer of love, The Zombies recorded their last album, except there wasn’t a lot of love in the room and the band split before the album was formally released in April 1968.

Finances and record company control were at the centre of the disharmony and things came to a head when Blunstone snapped on the recording of a new Rod Argent song ‘Time of the Season’, which ironically would go on to give the band their biggest hit.

After they split, a fake Zombies touring band was put together in America by the record company to cash in on the bands chart success. Two of whose members, Frank Beard and Dusty Hill would go on to form ZZ Top.

After various band and solo activities in the 70s The Zombies eventually got together again for projects and reunions through the 80s and 90s and formally reunited in 2001.

They have been together ever since.

In 2019, The Zombies with four of the original five band-members still involved, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,  coincidentally, performing live at the event 50 years to the day that ‘Time of the Season‘ had been number one in America in 1969.

Time of the Season at The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

So there you have it…. let’s hear it for a band that no one talks about, that have been going for the best part of sixty years, who have been feted by the likes of Paul Weller and Kurt Cobain and who are likely to be appearing at a venue near you soon….

Uncovering The Beatles

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, April 2022

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Top 5 Beatles Covers + 1

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


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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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!

The Host of Christmas Past (Part Two)

George Ho Ho Ho Cheyne: Glasgow, Xmas 2021

As domestic goddesses go, my mum was up there with the best of them. No task too big, no task too small.

And like a lot of women of her generation, Christmas seemed to bring out her A game as she wrestled with a heavy workload, complicated logistics and four largely unhelpful sons.

Nothing could faze her.

So there are 16 people coming for Christmas dinner now? No problem, I’ll cook some more. Grandma won’t leave her house until after the Queen’s Speech? That’s okay, I can work round that. There’s no present for cousin Alan? Leave it with me, I’ll find something. We’ve run out of mixers for the drinks? Don’t worry, I’ve got a stash in the cupboard. There’s a worldwide shortage of Brussel sprouts? No sweat, I’ll traipse round the shops till I find some.

My stress levels would be sky-high if I’d to cook Christmas dinner for six people, never mind 16.

But there was always a sense of calmness and order in my mum’s kitchen – despite the crazy schedule of the big day and the equipment she was using.

Remember, this was 50 years ago…no fan-assisted ovens or giant fridge-freezers back then.

She was, in part, aided and abetted by my dad – hopeless romantic that he was – and his choice of Christmas presents.

I seem to remember a Kenwood Chef mixer, a Sodastream set, a hostess trolley and a microwave oven being handed over on Christmas mornings.

In fairness, there was a fair amount of collusion with my mum about the gifts she wanted – and these gadgets were game-changers in our house.

*******

Kenwood Chef:

As revealed in the Host of Christmas Past (Part One), my mum used to knock up a Christmas cake, home-made mince pies and a giant Christmas pudding in the build-up to the big day.

I always volunteered to help out with stirring the mixture because I had the ulterior motive of getting to scoop up any leftovers in the large ceramic bowl. The stirring was done with a wooden spoon and some proper elbow grease – until the Kenwood Chef mixer arrived.

What a difference. I may have lost the chance of a budding career as a power lifter as my biceps didn’t develop much after that, but at least I still got to lick the bowl.

Sodastream:

A selection of fizzy drinks at your fingertips. What’s not to like when you’re a kid?

Before the machine arrived in our kitchen, we had to rely on the Alpine lorry coming round on a Friday with our bottles of skoosh. But when they were gone, they were gone – usually within a day or two.

The Sodastream offered up a constant supply of cola, orange, lemonade, limeade and whatever other syrup concentrates we got in. It was a serious upgrade on the soda syphon which basically dispensed soda water and nothing else.

However, no matter how desperate my brothers and I were, we never went near the cherry flavour. That was  an acquired taste best left to the adults.

Hostess trolley:

This was a must-have in the Seventies for any family sitting down to a Christmas dinner for 16 people.

After scrambling about for more chairs and an extra table to stick on the end of ours, the attention swung round to how to cater for so many guests without the food going cold.

The answer, of course, was a hostess trolley. My mum was able to cook half the veg and keep it warm in the trolley’s Pyrex compartments and then do the other half just before dinner was served.

A cunning plan, no doubt, but it didn’t help me much. I was sat at the end of the bottom table and the roast parsnips ran out before they got to me because my aunt forgot to take the other batch out the trolley. Why couldn’t she have forgotten the sprouts instead?

Microwave:

This arrived in our house in time for the 1979 festive season and was one of the early models.

I do remember when it came out the box on Christmas Day that the last word I’d use to describe it was micro…this was a metal beast.

My mum had decided to christen the microwave by cooking the Christmas pudding in it and wandered off to read up on the instructions after we’d finished the main course.

After a while, she joined the rest of us at the table for the traditional quiz when…kaboom!

There had been some sort of explosion in the kitchen so we all rushed through to see a thick pall of smoke, the door of the microwave hanging open and the charred remains of the Christmas pudding smouldering inside.

Turns out my mum, being new to this microwave cooking lark, thought it must have been a mistake when the printed instructions for the pudding said: “Cook on high for 4 minutes.”

This, after all, was an era when you steamed a Christmas pud for anything up to eight hours so she decided it must be a misprint and put it on for 40 minutes.

Oops. But being a domestic goddess she recovered the situation in true Blue Peter style by producing another pudding she’d made earlier – just in case!

Mind you, there were still bits of burnt currants and candied peel finding their way down from the artex ceiling months later…

Bad Santa (The 4 Phases of Christmas)

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, December 2021

Phase One: I Wish it Could be Christmas Every Day

I couldn’t say for certain when I first became aware of the magic of Christmas, but when I did, it all seemed a bit too good to be true.

Toys, pantomimes, comic annuals and a treat called selection boxes – a seasonal novelty which offered more confection in a day than you were normally allowed to consume in a month….

Roy Wood & Wizzard weren’t wrong!

On reflection, the whole Santa concept was akin to some form of ‘cult-indoctrination’ – ‘If you believe in him you will be rewarded’.

So of course, we believed!

The big fella only popped down our lum once every twelve months but his presence was felt throughout the year, like the Sword of Damocles

“Santa won’t be receiving your letter, if you don’t go to bed”

“Your report card better be good if you’re expecting Santa to visit this year

It was all a bit Machiavellian but we were conditioned to go along with the narrative – to believe… even in the face of logic.

At some point we learned about the Nativity and were informed that Santa was a moniker for Saint Nicholas a fourth-century do-gooder, at this point I realised that Santa and God had a lot in common – they were both omnipresent, they had lots of helpers and they had the power to punish or reward, based on your behaviour or belief system.

This holy connection further endorsed the sentiment that there was absolutely no upside in being Santa-agnostic. Ours was not to reason why, it was simply to keep schtum, play along, and reap the rewards.


Phase Two: What A Fool Believes

But then it happened.

I can’t remember how it happened or exactly what age I was when it happened (probably older than I think, perhaps 9 or 10?), but sure enough the genie escaped from the bottle and all our suspicions were confirmed – The big fella was a hoax!

We kind of saw it coming, but it was still a blow and was exacerbated by the realisation that all the adults we’d trusted in our life had been playing us like fiddles.

For some kids it triggered an existential crisis –
“Is God real”?
“How about the Tooth Fairy? Am I still going to get recompensed by her for all the teeth I’m about to lose due to these damn selection boxes”?

Some folks reading this will think ‘how could you be so old and not know the truth about Santa’? but we’re talking about a much simpler, more sheltered time here – social media and satellite tv hadn’t even featured on ‘Tomorrow’s World’ yet!

On the plus side, once you got over the subterfuge you soon realised that all the upsides of Christmas were still in place and were shortly going to be supplemented with exciting new additions like… the Kelvin Hall Carnival & Circus and Xmas discos.

Also, now that you were in the loop, so to speak, you couldn’t help but feel a bit more grown up, which at the time felt like progress, but perhaps ignorance IS bliss…..


Phase 3: It’s not Christmas until Hans Gruber falls off the Nakatomi Plaza

With Santa out of the picture we faced a different kind of Christmas.

Gone were the cute letters to Santa, and the trips to his grotto… on the plus side we were introduced to the best social lubricant known to teenagers (until tequila came along!) – a miraculous white berried twig with mystical powers that gave us the confidence to snog the girl or boy we’d fancied from afar for the past 6 months but had never spoken to.

As we left school and moved into the workplace the festive season evolved into a malaise of parties, nights out, and social occasions, which for the most part was fun, although you can get too much of a good thing.

The down-side to phase-3, (hangovers apart), was that Xmas day itself changed from being the best day of the year to probably the dullest… as you found yourself stuck indoors with nowhere to go – this was lockdown 70s style, everywhere was closed on Xmas day!

By this point the essence of Xmas as you remembered it, had vanished. There were no surprises anymore – unless someone bought you something other than the customary soap-on-a-rope or Aramis, and the highlight of Xmas day was whatever blockbuster was being premiered on TV that year.

The ultimate phase-3 movie (and some say the ultimate Xmas movie)
Die Hard!


Phase 4: Step (Back) Into Christmas

And then just as you’re getting used to the idea that Xmas is nothing more than a capitalist racket, you have kids, nephews, nieces, god-children of your own, experience Christmas through their eyes, and before you can say Peter Pan, it becomes a magical time of the year again.

From my daughters Nurse Nancy outfit to my boys first pair of football boots or Stone Cold Steve Austin, WWF action figures, the joy in their little faces on Xmas morning was priceless and of course we wanted to make Christmas a special time for them…. everything it was for us, plus more.

Like most families, we have Xmas traditions which we still try to maintain to this day – Watching It’s A Wonderful Life on Xmas eve (which IS the best Xmas movie!); Playing Phil Spector’s Xmas album on Christmas morning; and being a bit too competitive in the annual Xmas-day post-lunch quiz.

Up until last years covid-hit-Christmas the five of us had managed to spend every Xmas day together…. hopefully we’ll be able to get back on track this Christmas, Omicron permitting.

I’m guessing the 4 phases of Christmas are still relevant in some form today, although I’m pretty sure that the digital age and the new licensing laws have progressed the landscape quite a bit from our experiences in the 60s/70s.

What’s always been around however, is Christmas Songs.
My favourite comes from Xmas 73, it’s not the coolest or the most meaningful lyrically, but it’s a great little Xmas pop song from someone who was at the peak of their powers.

Every time l hear it, it encapsulates the season of goodwill and takes me back to a happy place….

So merry Christmas one and all
There’s no place I’d rather be
Than asking you if you’d oblige
Stepping into Christmas with me



The Summer of 69

George Hunter: Glasgow, June 2021

I left school after sitting 5 o’levels, in fact I can even remember my last day at school it was 14th June 1969.

I had a job lined up in an office in Charing Cross after the Glasgow Fair so I was looking forward to the summer holidays with six weeks of long-lie-ins and footie in the park.
I was feeling quite pleased with myself at the family dinner table that day teasing my brothers David and Joe (below) about how they had to go back to school whilst I was finished with all that…. but I shouldn’t have spoken so soon.

Unbeknown to me my Dad had nipped out to the local phone box to make a quick call and when he came back he duly informed me that I was to report to the local farm owned by Jim Paul at 4am the following morning to start my summer job, no lazy summer lie-ins for me then, but at least I’d finish work in time to play a bit of footie in the afternoon!

My passion back then was football and it has been ever since.
I was obsessed, and if I wasn’t playing football for the school or the Boys Brigade or with my mates in the park, I was watching it or thinking about it, so in the summer of 69 when I read in the evening paper that the 3 main Glasgow teams were inviting players for trials for their youth teams for the 69-70 season, I couldn’t apply quick enough.

Celtic were first to respond with a trial date, it was to be held at St Anthony Junior’s ground in the south side of Glasgow near Ibrox.
On arrival I was filtered into a group of trialists for the Under 16 team along with 40 or 50 other lads, we were then told that we’d all get 30 minutes to make an impact and that it was up to us to impress the coaches.

I couldn’t wait to get started.
I played in my favoured midfield position but for the next 30 minutes I watched the ball sail over my head from our defence to the oppositions, I was lucky if I touched the ball 10 times and 6 of those were throw-ins!

I remember Brian Thistle (of this parish) was also there trying out for the under 14’s, he did well and unlike me he was invited back.
I couldn’t help but feel that I had let myself down but it was a tough environment, not knowing anyone and not really getting the chance to show what I could do.
The 30 minutes seemed to go by in a flash and I had a sore neck into the bargain, looking up at the sky trying to see where the bloody ball was!

Next up was Rangers and the local trials were being held in Drumchapel. At least there were a couple of familiar faces in my age group this time, lads who I had played against previously, good players who went on to become pro’s, like Gordon Smith  (St Johnstone  Aston villa & Spurs ) and Phil Bonnyman (Rangers, Hamilton, Chesterfield  & Dunfermline), unfortunately for me however the end result was the same as the Celtic trial. I just couldn’t impose myself in the limited time I had and I sloped off in the knowledge that I wouldn’t be getting a call-back.

The Teddy Bears in 1969

Last but certainly not least was a trial with the mighty Jags from Firhill.
The trial was being held at Sighthill Park and I was a bit more relaxed this time as I was accompanied by a couple of pals, Stuart Millan & Ian lamb who were also trying out. There were also a few ‘well-kent’ faces amongst the other trialists, again, lads I knew from School and Boys club football so I felt a lot more at ease.

Davie McParland

SEASON 1971/1972 Partick Thistle manager Davie McParland with the League Cup.

As I took to the pitch I noticed that the Thistle manager (and a hero of mine) Davie McParland was standing on the touchline.
I was more determined than ever to make the most of this opportunity.
I lined up in midfield and told the guys taking the centre to knock the ball back to me from the kick off so I could get an early touch, however the ball hit a massive divot, ricocheted off my shin and deflected to my midfield opponent,  who I missed with a lunging tackle, and watched from the deck as he went on to score the opening goal.

I could see the coaches scribbling away in their notepads from the corner of my eye and I knew I’d blown it. I actually went on to play pretty well but the damage was already done and unsurprisingly I was not asked to come back unlike my two mates Ian and Stuart.

To make matters worse that day I had arranged to go to the park when I got home to let my mates know how I had got on, most of the boys were sympathetic but I remember one lad called Davie Jenkins who called me a donkey and said I was wasting my time.
We had a wee game of football after that (first to 15) and I made sure Davie was in the other team. I also made sure that he was on the end of my first tackle, and I definitely made sure he knew donkeys had some kick on them!

I also decided that it would be best for me to keep any future trials to myself!

My next trial was with a team from Knightswood – Everton Boys Club who were a top youth team. This time my big brother Brian took me and stayed to watch me play.
The manager and the lads were really welcoming and I had a great game. So good in fact that the team manager asked me to join the club as soon as I came off the park, which I gladly did and with Brian in attendance he was able to sign the forms as my guardian on the spot.

To round off a great day, heading back to my brothers car I bumped into Davie McParland who’d watched the game. He was kind enough to say that his coaches would have signed me based on todays performance and would I still like to come and train with them?
At this point the Everton manager saw what was happening and shouted over “Hey, hands off, he’s ours now Davie”.

I went on to have a great season with Everton, met some brilliant guys and made friends for life with guys like Frank Murphy who went on to become a football agent and John Cairns who’s son I went on to coach at Lennox (see pic below).

I may not have signed for any of the big Glasgow clubs but I had a fantastic time at Everton Boys Club and as the song so aptly says….
“These were the best days of my life”

Golden Years

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, May 2021

Every generation tends to think there era was best.

And why wouldn’t they… typically, every era has access to more ‘stuff’ and better lifestyle choices than the previous one.

For our generation (late Baby-Boomers born between 1954-1964), I think we hit the sweet spot culturally…. particularly when it comes to music.

My musical awareness began around 1968, just in time to catch the Beatles, and all the brilliant 70s artists that followed.
I look back now and realise that the 70s wouldn’t have been so prolific without the 60s…. with The Beatles, Dylan, Hendrix, Motown, Stax and the Laurel Canyon scene inspiring what was to follow.

And what was to follow was pretty special…….

The Rolling Stones, The Who, Steely Dan, David Bowie, Marvin Gaye, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, The Eagles, Earth Wind & Fire, James Brown, The Doobie Brothers, Roxy Music, T-Rex, Little Feat, Fleetwood Mac, James Taylor, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklyn, Carole King, Carly Simon, Bob Marley, Parliament/Funkadelic, Bobby Womack, Pink Floyd, Al Green, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Queen, McCartney, Lennon, Harrison , Yes, Genesis, AWB, The Bee Gees, Deep Purple, Linda Ronstadt, Curtis Mayfield, George Benson, Rory Gallagher, John Martyn, Todd Rundgren…. and many more

Whether you were a fan of some of these acts or not, the one thing they all shared was a prolificacy of output…. amazingly they all managed to release multiple albums of exceptional quality, whilst still finding time to compose, record, tour, collaborate and live a 70s rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, with all the excesses that entailed.

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I’m with the band – On the road with Zep

Indeed, there was so much quality being produced in the 70s that for the first five or six years of the decade it seemed like there was a landmark release every other week.

Take 1971 as an example.

  • The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers
  • Carole King – Tapestry
  • Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV
  • David Bowie – Hunky Dory
  • Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
  • Rod Stewart – Every Picture Tells a Story
  • John Lennon – Imagine
  • Joni Mitchell – Blue
  • The Who – Who’s Next
  • T Rex – Electric Warrior
  • Cat Stevens – Teaser and the Firecat
  • The Doors – LA Woman
  • Sly and the Family Stone – There’s a Riot Goin’ On
  • The Faces – A Nods as Good as a Wink to a Blind Horse
  • James Brown – Sex Machine
  • Don McLean – American Pie
  • Gil Scott Heron – Pieces of a Man
  • Jethro Tull – Aqualung
  • Pink Floyd – Meddle 
  • James Taylor – Mud Slide Slim 
  • Isaac Hayes – Shaft 
  • Yes – Fragile
  • Paul McCartney – Ram 
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71 A Classic Year

Included in this list from 71 are two of the top three albums of all time, according to Rolling Stone magazine….
Marvin Gaye’s – What’s Going On and Joni Mitchell’s – Blue.
Both seminal and often cited as landmark recordings by other artists and critics, but in truth just two excellent albums from a catalogue of exquisite releases.
There is a neat book about the quality of the music released in 1971 by David Hepworth who describes the year as ‘the most creative in popular music’

Anther remarkable thing about the 70s was the diversity of the music.

Rock, pop, soul, reggae, jazz, punk, folk, glam, funk….. it was one big melting pot where you could find Benny Hill rubbing shoulders at the top of the charts with Jimi Hendrix, Abba with Pink Floyd, and The Wombles with Stevie Wonder.

The 70s record buying public represented a ‘broad church’ of musical styles and tastes and they were all represented in the weekly top 30.

There was also a constant flow of talent breaking through in the 70s.
Take the chart below from July 1972 and you will see the emergence of a few acts making their chart debuts that month, who went on to do pretty well….
Roxy Music, Mott the Hoople, Alice Cooper, ELO

Another barometer of how good an era is, can be measured I think, by the interest in it from future generations.

Based on my own anecdotal evidence, I have a daughter who loves Gladys Knight and Marvin Gaye as much as she loves Beyonce or John Mayer and I have sons who dig Steely Dan, The Rolling Stones and Stevie Wonder as much as they dig Kings of Leon, Foo Fighters or Kanye West.

That only happens when the music is timeless…..

Talking of timeless music, the updated 70s Jukebox links are below.
There are 250 songs on the master playlist now, with the common thread being that they are all singles that would almost certainly have been playing on a jukebox somewhere in the 70s.

Thanks to everyone who contributed, it’s a playlist that’s been curated by you and not surprisingly our choices have proved to be a microcosm of the record buying public with a wide range of tastes and musical styles covered.

It was clear from the song choices coming through at the start that there were two distinctive threads –
Soul/Disco
Classic Pop/Rock

Therefore I’ve prepared two playlists….

1) The Ultimate Playlist which is the master playlist and features all 250 songs, tracks 1-150 are classic pop/rock songs and tracks 151-250 are soul/disco tracks…. select shuffle and it will churn out 17 hours of hit after hit, just like a great jukebox should.

2) The Boogie Nights Playlist features the 100 soul/disco tracks taken from the master playlist which you can boogie or smooch to….. just like a night up Joannas or your favourite 70s nightclub of choice!

Within each playlist I have tried to group the songs in a running order that makes sense but if you’re like me you’ll probably just hit ‘shuffle’, pour out your beverage of choice and boogie round the kitchen like it’s 1975…

To save the playlist to your Spotify library….. press the Spotify icon in the top right hand corner of the playlists above and when you’ve been transferred to the playlist on your own Spotify account, click the Heart icon to save the playlist to your library.

A Little Knowledge Is A Dangerous Fang

Paul Fitzpatrick: Transylvania, May 1897

I remember the evening like it was 50 years ago…. an evening that would change my life….

My Dad had just brought home a film projector….
A slice of Hollywood was coming to our humble suburban abode and life, surely, would never be the same again.

I had visions of Mum serving up choc ices and Kia-ora as I sat on the family sofa with my chums watching all the new releases… Planet of the Apes, The Graduate, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid…. there would be a blockbuster every week.

Deveron Road was about to turn into Hollywood Boulevard… all we needed was a red carpet and a popcorn machine.

Setting the contraption up, my Dad explained that he’d got it from a friend who had kindly included a couple of reels of film to get us started.

The first reel was a home movie featuring the family who’d previously owned the projector, frolicking in the Clyde at Wemyss Bay where they lived.
Not exactly The Poseiden Adventure but we had to start somewhere and at least it helped us to get all the settings aligned.

We sat in eager anticipation as he set up the next reel and to give us a clue he mentioned that the upcoming feature was a ‘classic black & white movie’.

“Laurel & Hardy?” I suggested…. “It’s a Wonderful Life?” my Mum volunteered….

I’m sure I spotted a wee smirk on his face as he turned the lights off and pressed start.

The room and the screen were in complete darkness before the title appeared, accompanied by the eeriest church organ music known to man……

The opening title

WTF….

I repeat….

WTAF!!

There were to be no kind-hearted Angels earning their wings in this horrendous feature….
Nosferatu, was a terrifying German-Expressionist horror movie, made in 1922….. the first film ever in fact, to be based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel.

Nosferatu – Count Orlok

The protagonist, Count Orlok wasn’t your run of the mill, tall-dark & handsome gigolo of a vampire with slicked back hair either…. ala Christopher Lee or Vincent Price… he was the spookiest, creepiest, most chilling looking dude I’d ever laid eyes on in my young life.

I was transfixed with fear…. I didn’t want to watch it, but I wasn’t going upstairs to bed on my own either… lying there in the dark, listening to that horrific organ music, allowing my vivid imagination to run amok!

I always thought of myself as a pretty robust kid….
True, the Singing Ringing Tree (SRT) had given me a few sleepless nights when I was 7 or 8 but this was a whole new ball game…. the SRT was like Andy Pandy compared to this carnage!

I don’t recall getting much sleep that night.

In fact for what seemed like the next couple of years, I had a pathological and (admittedly) illogical fear of vampires.

Vampires were supposed to be a myth, but not to me… and I went to extreme lengths to protect myself from them… I wasn’t taking any chances.

I kept a bible on my bedside table.
I ‘borrowed’ a silver Cross from my Mum’s jewellery box, that I wore at night.
I ‘borrowed’ a little vassal of holy water from an Aunt which I kept under my pillow.
And the piece d’resistance…….
A wooden stake (carved then ‘borrowed’ from the school woodwork lab) kept under my bed, in case I had to go full Van Helsing on the Count’s ass.

I should also add that I tried my best to acquire some garlic but every time I added it to the weekly shopping list, I got the strangest looks.

I know it sounds ridiculous, but I dreaded night time… daybreak just couldn’t come fast enough.

Looking back, I fully related to George Clooney’s character in the excellent From Dusk till Dawn when he said….

And I don’t want to hear anything about not believing in vampires.
Because I don’t f***ing believe in vampires!
But I believe in my own two eyes!
And what I saw is f***ing vampires!

(it’s funnier when he says it, watch clip below)

George Clooney Scene

If there was a Hammer House of Horror movie on, (and there seemed to be one every Friday night) I’d creep downstairs and covertly sit on the bottom step of the landing, to listen to it.
I knew I was tormenting myself, but at least I wasn’t upstairs on my own, thinking the worst.

My Dad, (a non-believer!) thought this was all a big joke so one Friday night when I’d been chased from the bottom step back up to my room, he thought that it would be a jolly jape to throw pebbles up at my bedroom window from the back garden.

Thinking, quite reasonably, that it was a Vampire (in the form of a bat) trying to get into my room I jumped out of bed, ran downstairs quicker than you could say “I have crossed oceans of time to find you“, only to find my Dad pissing himself laughing and my Mum chastising him…
you’ll give the poor lad a heart attack Joe!

Reflecting on my ‘wimpish past’… apart from the Singing Ringing Tree the only other thing that had given me the heebie- jeebies prior to this monstrosity of a movie was an episode of the ‘Alfred Hitchcock Hour’ called Final Escape, about John, a convicted bank robber.

Determined to escape his sentence, John befriends an inmate named Doc, who’s in charge of the prison infirmary.

They hatch a plan to hide John inside the coffin of the next inmate who dies.

The coffin will then be buried and dug up by Doc after the gravediggers and guards leave.

It all goes according to plan, until Doc fails to dig John up.
A terrified John learns why, when the shroud slips off the face of the corpse sharing the coffin with him: It’s Doc, who died of a heart attack the night before….Ahhhh!

I’m not sure when I ‘grew out’ of my Vampire phobia, I think it probably just got ‘trumped’ by The Exorcist which was much scarier and even more realistic.

I remember at the time you couldn’t pick up a newspaper without reading about some poor sod being possessed…. ‘an exorcism being performed in a town near you’…. or some other form of paranormal activity.

Fast forward a couple of years when the movie Jaws was breaking box office records and guess what? From nowhere, shark attacks started to be tabloid front page news with shocking regularity.
Great White seen at Helensburgh pier

Life imitating art or just a way to sell more papers?

Of course Vampires are uber cool now so no one’s stocking up on bibles, or wooden stakes anymore… instead, windows are left wide open and saucer’s of blood are left on the ledge to beckon the undead….

Yesterdays persona non grata has become today’s big poster boy.

Anyway, give me the old-school ghouls any day of the week, at least Count Orlok was a scary looking mo-fo… not like these pretty boys below!

Dedicated Follower of Fashion

John Allan: Bridgetown, Western Australia, April 2021

It must be over 20 years since I came to the realisation that it’s function over fashion, comfort over couture.

There are basically two seasons in this part of the world.
Summer… where I adorn fabulous floral Hawaiian shirts and shorts.
Winter…. when I rug up in sweatshirts and trackie dacks (tracksuit trousers).

My major dilemma is whether to have the elasticated waist below or above the beer gut.
Shitty nappy look versus camel toe look.

Thong (flip flop),
Croc,
Ugg,
Blundies (Blundstone or it’s competitor Rossi elastic sided boot)
and you’ve covered all known Australian footwear.

I haven’t laced up a shoe for over 5 years.

Our early ‘look’ was of course solely in the hands of our parents.

Any baby photos I’ve seen of myself, I seem to be wearing a dress.
More than that, there are layers upon layers of petticoats underneath.
Now there could be various reasons for this….

It could have been a christening or some other type of formal ceremony.
Or, perhaps after two boys, my Mum had prepared for a daughter.

Or lastly…. my parents were just taking the piss.

If I breathe in, I can just about squeeze into them today!

I can’t ever remember my parents holidaying in the Black Forest or being visited by any Tyrolean travellers but for some reason at an early and vulnerable age I was presented with a pair of lederhosen.

I was paraded in front of many a coffee morning to the oohs and aahs of neighbouring mothers.
Certainly they were hard wearing and tough and with the bib removed and a long t-shirt, nearly inconspicuous until one of your mates clocked them.
“What are you wearing ?”

Was this a continuation of the parental piss take ?

Ahead of their time, my parents would bundle 3 boys and assorted camping equipment into the family Cortina and head abroad.
The check list must have read like :- tent, ground sheet, sleeping bags, lilos, calor gas stove, 3 kilts and brylcreem.

National Lampoons European Vacation – Allan style…

There are numerous photographs of my two brothers and I standing in front of the famous buildings and monuments of Copenhagen with shirt, tie, matching v-neck jerseys, slicked back hair and kilts.

Even complete strangers queued up to take pictures of us.

We were pimped out like Caledonian Kardashians.
In fact as I write this there may be some demented Dane ogling at us on his mantelpiece as we pose in front of the Little Mermaid….

Photo opportunity or piss take ?

It wasn’t until the 70s that you were allowed to take charge of your own wardrobe…..No more man at C & A’s for  me!

The groovy mauve (rounded collared) shirt, with the red, yellow and black tank top.
Think Fair Isle Partick Thistle.

Loon pants so tight around the crutch that it lowered your sperm count. Indeed, most of the material was utilised around your ankles billowing atop of baseball boots.

For a jacket I had my Dad’s old RAF tunic sans original buttons (disrespectful otherwise).

Mum would give me a good look up and down.

“Are you taking the piss ?”

Most of my working life I was spared the noose of shirt and tie and wore uniform.
As a student nurse I had to endure the itchy starchy collars of the dentist shirt…. a straitjacket like garment that buttoned up over you right shoulder.

One day I had to accompany a District Nurse into the community, so adorned jumper and jacket. I noticed one client being very reverential to me and calling me Father.
I of course absolved her of her sins, told her to recite five Hail Marys and promised to christen her grandchild.

As a ‘Nurse Educator’ I had to supervise male medical students on several ‘work experience’ days.
First lesson was to secure their ties, although it was always amusing to watch some gormless would be Doctor with his tie traipsing in a full bedpan like a thirsty puppy.
A literal piss take.

Thankfully, common sense prevailed and nurses went about their business in scrubs.
Like wearing pyjamas in the daytime………………….which I’m doing now.

Call the fashion police. It’s an emergency !

Fashion! Turn to the left
Fashion! Turn to the right
Oooh, fashion!
We are the goon squad
And we’re coming to town
Beep-beep
Beep-beep

Done To A Turn

Pauline Allan: Bridgetown, Western Australia, April 2021

Nana O’Rourke was a formidable wee woman.

Tiny, tenacious and terrifying.
Mother of Joe, Jean, Charlie, Sheila, my dad Vincent and Francis.

A seamstress by trade, the house was adorned with evidence of her skills on the old treadle Singer sewing machine.


The 3 piece suite in the lounge with it’s floral printed covers and covers over the covers to protect the covers, particularly the arm rests and the backs of the furniture where there were antimacassars to guard against the mens Brylcreem. 

The area around the “big” light switch on the papered wall also had it’s protection, some sort of industrial heavy duty plastic to ward off sticky fingers. 

There were display cabinets for the good china and glasses and ornaments adorned the open fireplace, ivory elephant bookends among them.

The convex porthole mirror with brass trim made the whole room look twice as big as it was. 

I was only 6 and a half when Nana died but my grandfather Michael and family gathered for Christmas dinner every year, a tradition that was carried on into the early 1970’s by my equally formidable Aunt Jean.

Everyone has an Aunt Jean.
My Aunt Jean was a spinster who looked after Papa, bachelor Uncle Charlie and Uncle Francis, a priest, when he came to visit.

“No one ever dances in this house” she would say…..Hardly surprising.

She would pounce on my dad, leading in a waltz whenever we dropped in.


But she was an incredible cook, baker and more than ably took on the challenge of catering for the Christmas collective.

Nana’s décor in the living room had hardly changed.

The open fire may have been replaced by an even less efficient two bar electric one, complete with false coal.

There was the mirror and a sunburst clock but everything else remained the same, with that familiar aroma of freshly baked bread, jam, cakes and “infusing” tea.

With no formal dining room in the house, the living room was the venue for the sumptuous Christmas banquet.


Trestle tables, card tables and picnic tables were quickly disguised with Nana’s embroidered cloths and napkins and somehow miraculously places were set for 20.

From the small kitchen with it’s original Formica cabinet and clothes pulley came platters of turkey with stuffing, glazed ham dotted with cloves, Ruskoline crumbed potato croquettes, roast potatoes and gravy with brussel sprouts, none of which could be served without Sharwoods Green Mango Chutney. 

Home made trifle and cakes to finish.
The flies’ graveyard (a currant slice) and buttercream sponge were my favourites.
Warninks Advocaat and Harveys Bristol Cream sherry for the adults and non alcoholic ginger wine for us teenagers.
This was made weeks in advance by members of the family who had dutifully bought the essence from the local Co-Op turning it into a sweet concoction with sugar and water.
Potcheen without the punch! 

Advocaat, Eggnog, Snowball – a Xmas favourite

After our meal we retired to uncle Uncle Charlie’s bedroom waiting to do our turn.
Sounds pretty ominous I admit but it was a completely innocent get-together where everyone had to perform.
That also sounds rather risqué!

What followed was a well kent tradition, where various musical renditions were performed by family members.

Uncle Charlie’s room was chosen because that was where the piano was.
Uncle Francis ( Father Frank or uncle Father Frank when I was young then uncle Father Frank-in-law from John’s speech at our wedding reception) played Fur Elise and accompanied anyone who wanted to play Chopsticks, he was also the reel to reel tape recorder operator.

Uncle Charlie sang The Ink Spots Whispering Grass (later made famous by the dynamic Don Estelle & Windsor Davies) and uncle John, aunt Shelia’s husband recited his version of De Profundis.
“Out of the Depths – of my bronchial tubes” … and so it went on.

Mum had a beautiful singing voice which could have lent itself to any of the classics but she was never comfortable in front of the critcal family audience. Instead she chose to sing “Halfway Up A Wall”.

As I was Minstrelling one night, 

Upon a castle drear

Halfway up a wall, a plaque I saw

“Duke Frederick was born here”

I’ve travelled far, I’ve travelled wide

But never can recall

That I have heard about a Duke

Born halfway up a wall 

Tra la la la la la

Tra la la fiddle dee

Halfway up a wall.

And of course everyone joined in with the last Halfway up a wall.

As the Advocatt flowed, so did the confidence of others.

Cousin Barbara took centre carpet and before we had time to rush into the kitchen to help Aunt Jean with the washing up, were surrounded by a cacophony of cringeworthy crescendos.
Matchmaker, Matchmaker make me a match. Find me a fi……Too late, she was off.

We managed to gather up precious crystal glasses from the floor as Cousin Barbara spun like a tipsy Whirling Dervish, changing key with every line.
Would she sing Sunrise Sunset from Fiddler on the Roof as well?
I hope not. 

To our great relief Aunt Jean announced coffee was being served back in the living room and we all made a swift exit. 

Christmas is a far simpler affair these days. Most of the assembled are sadly no longer with us, cousins are spread to all corners of the globe and a “turn” is more likely to be a Netflix, YouTube or Spotify selection.

But perhaps locked down in a small flat in the outskirts of Glasgow, two cats and a budgie are being entertained with a selection of show tunes by a 70+ spinster.

Wan singer, wan song.

Don’t worry Babs, the sun will come out tomorrow.