Tag Archives: 70s

“Woodstock” by Matthews Southern Comfort

Paul Fitzpatrick: January 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pickwick Paul Rodgers murdering “All Right Now”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nope. Just poets.

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

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

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

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

Linton Kwesi Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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


John Cooper Clarke

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

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

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

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

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


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

Linton Kwesi Johnson & John Cooper Clarke

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

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

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

Paul Fitzpatrick: January 2023

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GEETARRR….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve, Linda Lewis, Jim Cregan, Rod

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

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

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


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

Steve Harley’s favourite rendition?

This version….

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

getting the horn

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

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

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

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

Havana Horns

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

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

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

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

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

JB Horns

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

Elton John: ‘Honky Cat.’

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

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

Chicago: ’25 or 6 to 4′

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

Blood Sweat & Tears: ‘Spinning Wheel.’

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

The Ghosts of Christmas Past (and Present)

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, December 2022

I always thought there were three ghosts in Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, but there’s actually four – the ghost of Scrooge’s partner Jacob Marley and the ghosts of Xmas past, present & future.
This ties in neatly with my theory that as we move through the stages of life there are four phases of Christmas….


Stage 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 too good to be true.

Toys, pantomimes, comic annuals and selection boxes – a seasonal novelty which offered more sugar in a day than you normally consumed in a month….

The Wizzard of Xmas, Roy Wood, wasn’t wrong!

Looking back, you could be excused for thinking that the Santa concept is based on some form of cult indoctrination – ‘believe and you will be rewarded’.

So of course, we believed!

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

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

Machiavellian in the extreme, but it worked and we all went along for the ride… even in the face of logic.

Then, when we were old enough we took onboard the religious aspects, about the Nativity and the fact that Santa was a moniker for Saint Nicholas a fourth-century do-gooder.
It became obvious that Santa and God had a lot in common – both omnipresent with the power to punish or reward.

Any doubts we harboured were unspoken, there was simply no up-side to being Santa-agnostic…. better to keep schtum, play the long game, and reap the rewards.

Plus, this was our parents and grandparents we were talking about, if we couldn’t trust them, who could we trust??



Stage Two – Who Took The Merry Out Of Christmas

But then it happened.

I can’t remember how it happened or exactly what age I was when it happened, but sure enough the cat got out the bag, and any suspicions we had were confirmed – The big fella was a hoax!

In truth, we saw it coming, but it was still unsettling and was exacerbated by the realisation that all the adults we’d trusted in our life had been playing us like fiddles.

For some poor souls it definitely triggered an existential crisis….

“How about God, is he real then”?
“And the Tooth Fairy? Am I still going to get recompensed for all the teeth I’m about to lose due to these delectable selection boxes”?

On the plus side, once we got over the subterfuge, it sank in pretty quickly that not only were most of the seasonal benefits still in place, they were about to be super-charged with interesting new additions like… Xmas discos and the Kelvin Hall Carnival.



Stage Three: It’s not Christmas until Hans Gruber falls off the Nakatomi Plaza

Moving into the teenage years, we faced a different kind of Christmas with Santa out of the picture.

There were some benefits though.
Like discovering the best social lubricant known to (awkward) teenagers, since tequila – Mistletoe!

Mistletoe – a parasitic plant, with poisonous berries and mystical powers that empowered the shyest amongst us to (attempt to) snog someone we’d never spoken to in our life before.

The transformation was incredible.

Upon sight of the berried twigs timid boys transformed into Warren Beatty and demure girls, Mae West.

As we transferred into the workplace leaving our youth club discos behind, December became a malaise of social occasions and you learned pretty quickly that it’s possible to get too much of a good thing.
(btw, whatever happened to Andrews Liver Salts?)

It was also around this stage that you realised that the 25th of December had transformed from being the most exciting day of your young life to one of the dullest.
Stuck indoors with nowhere to go – this was lockdown 70s style, everywhere was closed on Xmas day in the 70s and there was no Scalextric or Ker-Plunk under the Xmas tree to wile away the hours any more.

By this point the essence of Xmas as you knew it, had vanished. There were no more surprises – unless someone thought outside the box and bought you something other than soap-on-a-rope.

Stuck in the house, the new highlight of Xmas day was whatever blockbuster was being premiered on TV that year.

In the mid 70s this would have been a Hollywood star vehicle like The Towering Inferno or The Poseiden Adventure.

In recent years, the Xmas movie of choice for the masses has been Die Hard…

Yippee-Ki-Yay mo-fo!


Stage Four: Step (Back) Into Christmas

Then, just as you’re getting used to the idea that Xmas is nothing more than a capitalist racket and the primary cause of ulcers, kids come along, and whether it be your own, or nephews or nieces, you start to experience Christmas through their eyes, witnessing the spontaneous joy in their innocent little faces as they embark their own Christmas journeys.

And before you know it, you’re getting jumpers and gloves for Xmas and you’ve stepped into your parents shoes, where establishing your own Xmas family traditions is part of the gig.
For us it’s the usual stuff – watching It’s A Wonderful Life, playing Phil Spector’s Xmas album, listening to the Queens speech and being a bit too competitive in the Xmas-day, family quiz.


I’m guessing the four phases of Christmas are still relevant in some form or another for millennials, although I’m pretty sure that the digital age and the new licensing laws have moved things on a bit from the 70s.

What’s always been around however is Christmas Songs, and the 70s produced a few decent tunes.

My go-to comes from Xmas 73, it’s not the deepest or the most meaningful, but it takes me back to a happy place and encapsulates the season of goodwill.

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



No Surprise then that Elton makes it onto my playlist of Xmas songs I listened to in the 70s.
In the words of Noddy Holder…. It’s CHRISTMAS!!

Obligatory 70s Xmas Playlist…

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

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

But there’s not…and I’m not. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slept In To Christmas

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

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

Plagiarised?

Little Plumber Boy

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

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

Stolen?

Fast Christmas

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

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

Pinched?

All I Want For Christmas Is Yule (Log)

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

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

(Little Saint ) Nicked?

Sherry Xmas Everybody

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

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

Ripped off?

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

Mmm..I feel another song coming on.

(Post by George Cheyne from Glasgow – December 2022)

What’s In a Nickname?

Image minimised for obvious reasons – read on!

I guess it’s fair to say I’ve been called many things over my time – probably more so behind my back than to my face.

Jackie; Beaky; Ceejay; Wee Man, A few people have also referred to me as ‘Jacko,’ but their bodies lie in shallow graves in my parents’ garden.

Jackie,’ is the easiest to justify, given my surname is Jackson. This is how I was known at school, from Primary right through Secondary. Some of my teachers would even refer to me as such.

At the age of fourteen, I joined my Athletics Club – Garscube Harriers. Here, for the first time, I was mixing with lads from outwith my school and immediate locale. Here, for the first time, I was ‘re-christened.’ Two slightly older lads, started referring to me as ‘Beaky.’ The reason is plain as the nose on my face.

A bit harsh, I thought, but boy’s will be boys, I suppose.

Perhaps surprisingly, Davie and Stevie remain amongst my closest friends, fifty years down the line.

By 1977, and still within the athletics community, I was representing Bank of Scotland on the track / cross country / roads in a small team comprising runners from different clubs across the country. As the new boy, when we first met up, nobody knew me as Colin, Jackie or even Beaky. Another ‘re-branding’ was required.

The TV series ‘The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin’ first aired the previous year and had become immensely popular. The boss of main character Reggie Perrin, Charles Jefferson, was known by his initials and so, rather predicably, I (Colin Jackson) was also given this ‘Ceejay’ moniker. No matter what I did, it invariably prompted cries of:

“I didn’t get where I am today by .. not training hard / not finishing my beer / eating my breakfast“ etc, etc..

C.J. from ‘The Fall & Rise of Reginald Perrin.’

Any wishful thoughts of ‘Beaky’ being completely replaced by ‘Ceejay’ were quickly dashed, however. Although it didn’t become a chart hit until January 1980 when it reached #5, THIS was initially released as a vinyl single in 1977, and as I recall, played most days by the Noel Edmonds Breakfast Show on Radio 1.

Captain Beaky.

This, of course, was manna from heaven to Davie and Stevie (the bastards!)

Ah well – as Primal Scream would sing many years later ‘Don’t Fight It – Feel It.’  I now answered to: Colin to my family; Jackie to my old, school friends; Beaky to my athletics club and Ceejay to most anybody else.

The latter two remain the most used today.

Anyway, all this got me thinking how generally DULL and lazy we were with regard to nicknames at school.

In most cases, a Christian or surname would simply be elongated by adding a ‘y.’ ‘Burnsy,’ for instance. ‘Smithy.’ ‘Jonesy.

Obviously, this method can’t be deployed in all instances, and there were occasions when a surname required shortening before the ‘dropped letters’ could be replaced with the ‘y.’

Cruickshank would become ‘Cruiky’; Gilmour, ‘Gilly.’ Your blog co-host Paul Fitzpatrick became ‘Fitzy,’ and of course I became known as ‘Jackie.’

(Yeah, I know … obstreperous and cantankerous little sod, I was. Punk before ‘Punk.’ I insisted in ‘ie’ being added rather than ‘y’ because I didn’t want to carry a girl’s name like the singer of the 1968 chart hit and theme tune to the children’s TV programme, ‘White Horses.’ It was only a few years ago that I learned ‘Jacky’ as she was known on that song, was actually named Jackie Lee. I wasn’t quite the smart-ass little punk I thought I was, as it turned out.)

(Any excuse … I still love this song, soppy old git that I am!)

Some nicknames were inevitably attributed to appearance. I can’t remember any being too unkind – and I’d have to say that in the vast majority of cases, a kid was given a nickname only because they were liked. That said, although we had a ‘Speedy’ who was a very fast and very good football player, we also had a ‘Tubby’ and ‘Jumbo,’ both of whom would play either as goalkeeper or formidable centre half.

There was also a ‘Teeny’ – slightly smaller than myself and, bordering on the cruel side, a ‘Lugsy.’ And a ‘Mouse.

Then there was another lad called Colin who was deemed to look like a Mexican and carried the name ‘Mex’ at least until the day he left school. It was all pretty much straight forward and sadly lacking invention.

When I was a kid I loved reading the ‘Jennings and Darbyshire’ series of books. These boarding school kids knew how to contrive a decent nickname. Sharing Dorm 4 with them was a boy named Charles A Temple. Using schoolboy logic, they took his initials to form CAT. This they changed by association, to DOG. That somehow became DOGSBODY which was then abbreviated to BOD.

And this was how he became known. Simple, really!

The only boy I recall having a manufactured nickname as such, was my pal Derek.

 When playing football in the Primary School playground in the late Sixties, we’d all pick teams we’d imagine playing for. While most kids would go for Rangers / Celtic / Partick Thistle etc, Derek and I opted for Blackpool! Not so much for the fact they’d had some world class players over the years (Matthews, Mortensen and Armfield to name a few) but because we believed Blackpool was a town associated with attractive, scantily clad showgirls … snigger, snigger! (Hey, we were nine / ten years old – cut us some slack, eh?)

I could see myself as the next Tony Green and Derek was Henry Mowbray.

Derek to Henry. In the mind of a child, it all made perfect sense For the remaining  seven years of his school life and beyond, he would be known as Henry. Which kind of puzzled and freaked-out his parents in equal measure.

BLACKPOOL FC – 1968 / 69
Henry Mowbray, far right, middle row

Now, maybe I’m wrong with this, and I’m happy to be corrected, but the giving of nicknames was mainly a boy thing. I’m aware of only one girl in our school being afforded one … and that wasn’t until Sixth Year, when we were all about seventeen / eighteen years old.

Marian joined our school from one we believed, a bit more exclusive than ours, when her parents moved into a very affluent area of the town. To preserve relative anonymity, I’ll not divulge too much. It’s sufficient to say she was of an ‘arty’ nature, very talented in that field, and also very attractive. She had a, let’s say, ‘zany’ demeanour. In the Sixties she’d have been described as a ‘free spirit.’ Nowadays, she’d be ‘extrovert.’

This was the Seventies though, and we just regarded her as a loveable hippie ‘loony!’ An amalgam of Seventies Kate Bush and Eighties Bjork, perhaps.

She was known as ‘Mad Marian.’ It was badge she accepted with pride, I think.

The only other girl I know to be given a nickname is Kate Pye. You may actually know her -she was, still is, in Class 2B – of Bash Street School. For some reason, she’s known as ‘Toots.’ Her twin Sidney is just plain old young Sidney.)

Toots from The Bash Street Kids

Of the seven kids featured as being in this ‘gang’ only Toots and two others were called by nicknames. And Toots is the only one to retain her moniker. It seems writers and publishers alike feared a backlash from the Woke Brigade (were they a rival school gang?) and in 2021 re-named ‘Fatty’ as Freddie, and ‘Spotty’ as Scotty.

(Plug, was given this name, not as I’d always considered, because of his unattractive, OK, ugly, looks. Apparently, when he was briefly awarded the recognition of a whole comic in his own name in 1977, it was revealed that his full name was Percival Proudfoot Plugsey.)

Believe that if you will … I sense some very early back-pedaling here.

Fatty
Spotty
Plug

Teachers, of course, were fair game.

We had two brothers who taught at our school. Both had prominent noses, so shared the endearing name of ‘Pin.’ And rather appropriately, as a means of distinguishing between them, the Art teacher was referred to as ‘Drawing Pin.’

We also had a ‘Pancho ‘(what was it with the Mexican look in our wee town?); a ‘Horsey’ (girls’ Sports teacher); ‘Boot’ (boys’ Sports teacher); Numph – I have no idea where that came from, but boy, could he dish out the belt! There was also an elderly English teacher called Mr Lyle, who was affectionately known as ‘Papa’ Lyle.

_____

It’s been a pleasant surprise to recall just how generally kind and inoffensive most nicknames have been, in my experience.

A nickname is fun, and while it may emanate from and focus upon a physical or personality trait, it’s often simply a kind and gentle representation of someone’s character. It changes nothing. Not normally.

Credit to Papa Lyle, in Sixth Year English class, for highlighting the following idea from that Shakespeare dude’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’:

“What’s in a (nick)name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.”

___________________

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie Beaky Ceejay’ Jackson from Glasgow – December 2022)

Free At Last

Paul Fitzpatrick: December 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See there I go again, calling it a band!

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



Career Expectations in 60s & 70s

Russ Stewart: London, December 2022

To date I have had four different careers, none of which featured in my childhood expectations. 

Aged about seven I was keen on being a bus conductor. 
The manual ticket machine, strapped to the conductor, looked like fun and would have kept me amused for at least forty years.  Who would guess that technology would crush that dream?

I quite liked the peaked cap look too.

Then, when I was about ten years old I was captivated by the Apollo space programme (and the preceding Mercury and Gemini programmes). 
I could recall the crews of every US space mission in the same manner that school pals recounted football line ups from Scottish Cup finals.

Astronaut was my next career aspiration. 

I was reasonably good at, and interested in, maths and science-oriented subjects and was confident that I would remember the names of my space crew.
However, the British Interplanetary Association was short on spacecraft (seemed limited to Patrick Moore and some other dodgy quiffed astronomers).  

Around fourteen I started playing guitar and taking double bass lessons at school. 
Thankfully “Skunk” Baxter quashed any idea of a musical career. 
Hearing him play on Steely Dan’s debut album, “Cant Buy a Thrill” brought me down to earth. 

However, I am getting 100 quid and free drinks playing a pub, with a band, in Twickenham this new year’s eve (7th year in a row).

Graduated in 1979. 

Missed my graduation ceremony as I skipped off to travel the summer, with John Allan, around western Canada and USA. 
To placate my parents I did some job hunting before travelling.   I got into the last four, from about one hundred applicants, for a trainee manager job with J&B Whisky. 

Did not get job.

November 1979, sitting in pub off Charing Cross in Glasgow, avoiding the rain, I read the appointment page in the Guardian. 
Colour newspaper printing was a recent innovation. 

Quarter page ad for recruitment of trainee police inspectors in Hong Kong. Featured an upright chap in khaki uniform and peaked cap (box ticked). However, it was the bright blue sky in the background that convinced me to apply.
Three months later I left 10 degree London for 5 degree Hong Kong.

POSTSCRIPT

Early 1982 I attend a briefing at Seung Kwai Cheung police station. 
It was just before night shift so just me and duty officer involved.  Scottish chap (lots of us were in RHKP). 

Turns out he got the job I failed to get at J&B Whisky.

He quit after six months and joined the Royal Hong Kong Police.

The rigours of the RHKP training….

Jeff “Skunk” Baxter

Paul Fitzpatrick: December 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Best play “Reeling in The Years”

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

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

Some Skunk highlights on the playlist below…..