Tag Archives: 70s

For ever and ever

Roger Brown: Bedford, November 2021

I blame John Reid actually, if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be standing here on a miserable, wet, Sunday morning.

I’m out walking the dog but find myself staring at a group of guys playing football.
I’ve no idea who they are, or who they represent, but it’s entertaining none the less.
Like most amateur players the ability levels are as wide as the bulk of some of them, but you get drawn in all the same.

So why do I blame John ?
Well, it was John who took me to my first proper football match on 4th September, 1971, and what an introduction it was.

Aged 14 I had never been to a proper game or for that matter, even followed a specific team.
Sure, I had played football down the local park with pals, but I’d never had a real interest in the sport.

So on this fateful day and on John’s insistence off we ventured, catching the No.11 bus into town via Maryhill road, exiting at Queens cross (with just about everyone else on the bus) and then taking the short walk to Firhill, home of Partick Thistle Football Club

As we approached the stadium it was an attack on the senses from all directions…
The smells – wafting from various vendors serving up burgers with onions and vinegar and chips.
The noise – of merchants touting team merchandise, rattling in yer ears… scarves and hats and badges and programmes.
The sights – thousands of people wearing their teams colours in the form of team shirts, scarfs and hats, young and old, male and female.

It was a veritable pre match opera with a drama unfolding on every step.

I had never seen so many people queuing in my life, or seen so many police congregated in one place at one time. Those on horseback marshalled enormous queues of segregated fans sporting their team colours, waiting to pay at (or to be lifted over) the gate.

Beyond that, coaches and mini buses parked up, hailing from towns and places near and far.
It soon became my turn to enter, I approached the turnstile, listening for the heavy duty sound of the ratchet clicking as the person ahead gained entry.
My heart was thumping !!
I was just not prepared for any of this.

Having paid (the princely sum of 15p) I climbed up the Firhill steps and reached the top to look down on a green oasis with goal posts at either end.

Surrounding the pitch there were blue three wheeled invalid cars parked behind the far goal, a covered terrace to the right and the main stand opposite.

My jaw dropped.
I had never been amongst so much commotion.

The noise grew even louder as we moved around the terrace to join the throng under the covered area.
It was a mass of humanity of all ages, some dressed smartly, some casually attired, and a great number standing astride brown paper carrier bags resting on the ground…. “The Cairy-oot “

The sound was immense as thousands of Thistle fans sung their team’s praises, whilst the opposition fans chanted to show adoration to their team too.
In amongst this cacophony though, a lone voice could be heard between the chants….
“Here you are now, here ‘s the Offeeeshall chewing gum, the macaroon bars”.
A lone man was standing astride a brown cardboard box with the aforementioned goods, flogging his wares to all comers.

As 3.00pm approached the density of the crowd increased on the steeply stepped terrace. The noise which was already deafening at that point hit a new level as the teams ran out. The crowd converging in a giant mass, only resting when everyone finally found their feet again.
Checking my immediate surroundings, I was at least 6ft away from where I had stood before.

The ref blew his whistle and we were off.
Rangers were the opposition that day, a team full of Internationals and they took the lead after 5 minutes. There was silence in the Thistle end until the game restarted, with the fans soon trading chants again, and then ten minutes later…. GOALLL for Thistle!!!

The terrace erupted…. people were going mental, embracing each other… moving across the terrace, up and down, left and right.
Some had fallen over, cairy-oots had tumbled, pies had disintegrated, but nobody cared.
My ears were ringing but the smile couldn’t be wiped off my face or that of my fellow fans, at that moment we were all one.

As the celebrations ended and I literally came back down to earth, I realised that everyone around me was a stranger, the surroundings had changed, and I was about 20ft away from where I had been beforehand…. the “mass” had moved again.

The noise from the Thistle fans was in contrast to the silence of the away support who remained silently static, before hurling abuse at the opposition ( and the odd missile too).
Chants and songs soon recommenced, both supports fortifying the support for their team.

The game restarted and normal service was resumed.

On three more occasions that afternoon, fans of each side would experience moments of joy or pain during the game’s 90 minutes.

At full time the Jags had won 3-2, a crowd of 24,500 had witnessed Thistle’s first game back in the top division having gained promotion the previous season.

That was it. I was hooked, I had never experienced anything like this before…. the noise, the smells, the joy, the pain, the camaraderie and most importantly, the belonging.

I was hooked on the match-day experience, this was how I wanted to spend my Saturday afternoons, but now I had to make a decision, who was going to be ‘My Team’?

Half a century on, my love has never faltered, I continue to follow the Jags from afar.
As for John, we kind of parted ways as we grew older but then our paths crossed again in the early eighties. He was married and living in Milngavie.

I live down south now so if anyone sees John, please pass on my regards and thank him for gifting me this love of football.

Right, I better get a move on and walk the dog.
There ‘s rugby training further down the park, a good excuse to let him off the lead.

My First Gig – King Crimson

Russ Stewart: London, November 2021

Fifty years ago, October 11th 1971, I attended my first proper gig, at Glasgow’s Green’s Playhouse. 
Oddly, as I am not really a prog rock fan, it was in the court of prog royalty – King Crimson.

Half a century on, I still retain a soft spot for the band, though not soft enough to have paid 100 quid to see them play live in London a couple of years ago.

Featured below is the actual ticket for the gig courtesy of Roger Brown who found it attached to a King Crimson album he purchased from me many moons ago….

King Crimson’s support act that evening was a solo acoustic guitar/singer called Keith Christmas.
Due to alliteration, I was suspicious as to whether this was his real name.
Still gigging today Christmas played guitar on Bowie’s Space Oddity album.

My erstwhile near neighbour, Alan Doig was the one who introduced me to King Crimson and he was part of the group who attended this gig.

Alan’s father had been a provost of Bearsden and had a symbolic single blue provost street light outside his house indicating the holding of such past office.  I believe that this entitled him to kill a swan with a crossbow on Kilmardinny Loch each eve of Michaelmas.

Alan had a great sound system which did help influence the appeal of the new Crimson album at that time, ‘Lizard’. In particular it projected the fantastic, bombastic synth riff in the middle of the track Cirkus

Aged 14 I was impressed with Peter Sinfield’s lyrics on the Lizard album, particularly as I strove to find the deeper meanings embedded in his ditties. 
I now realise they are incoherent nonsense.

The gig: after Mr Christmas’ plaintive noodling the lights dimmed and a mellotron chord rang out.  C sharp minor 7th flattened 5th, though I could be mistaken ( ……or bullshitting).   


The band: Robert Fripp sitting down playing guitar and mellotron.  Boz Burrelll on bass and vocals, Mel Collins on sax and a drummer dude. 

Most of that line up later deserted the prog camp.  Boz Burrell left to form Bad Company, Mel Collins played with the Average White Band and Kokomo whilst Lyricist Sinfield went on to write for the likes of Buck’s Fizz and Leo Sayer.

Fripp now makes YouTube videos of himself accompanying the terpsichorean insanity of his fruity little wife, Toyah.

Beware, once you see it you can’t unsee it

I have continued to dabble in prog listening and I’m grateful for the school friends who dragged me along to selected prog gigs in those early days. The likes of Graeme Butler, Simon Brader and Ralph Jessop helped me to open my ears somewhat, to Genesis, Greenslade and Magma.  

Glasgow City Halls usually accommodated the lesser known prog bands in those days and one could easily wander backstage to chat with the musicians post gig. 
I recall a schoolboy French conversation with the blue chinned caveman, Christian Vander, who led Magma. 

Magna’s bassist played a Fender bass covered in  baby oil ( …. the bass that is).  They talked about the philosophic works of Ouspensky, which meant as much to me as King Crimson’s lyrics.   

As I write I notice that Van Der Graaf Generator are touring the UK soon… maybe worth a punt. 

Talking about gigs, my own band is playing the Three Kings Pub in Twickenham on New Years Eve. 
There will be no prog rock, or baby oil… though there will be some Steely Dan, Todd Rundgren, Michael McDonald and Doors covers in the set.

fairground attraction – it’s got to be-ee-ee perfect!

(Post by Mark Arbuckle of Glasgow – November 2021)

Like most people I have a rather complicated relationship with Fairgrounds, The Shows, Amusement Parks, whatever you like to call them.

Excited, scared and bravado in equal measures.

My earliest memory is being taken to the Kelvin Hall Circus and Carnival in the early 60’s where the smell of the  elephants left an olfactory impression on me for many, many years!

Clydebank had it’s own annual fairground on the waste ground where St. Andrew’s HS would be built in the 80’s and then  demolished 20 years later.

I was taken to there in 1967 at age of nine by my grandparents. I thought I’d start with something gentle and build up to the more fearsome looking rides.

I chose a sedate looking motorcycle merry go round. Off it went with myself and a few other kids grinning at their family members.

After a few laps the leather clad, carny thought he’d have a bit of fun and cranked up the speed! The motorcycle had a purple velvet seat and I started to slide off it.

No seatbelts or H&S in those days!

The carny continued to increase the speed until my torso was now at right angles to the bike!I was holding on grimly to the handlebars.

The other kids were screaming and so was my Gran as she saw me whizzing round with my head barely 6″ from the ground! A man rushed up to the carny and grabbed him, shouting ‘Stop the Bloody Machine!’
It began to slow down and another man helped me to regain my seat!

My Gran was crying and very, very angry as she accosted the now sheepish looking carny with a few expletive deletives!!

I did return the following year but avoided THAT ride!

In the late 60’s my family’s annual holiday was two weeks in a small hotel in Whitley Bay.

Four kids, my parents and stacks of luggage all packed into a car for what seemed like an eight hour journey!
Are we there yet?…

The main attraction of Whitley Bay was The Spanish City!

An amusement park which at the time boasted Europe’s Biggest & Fastest Rollercoaster.

I LOVED IT!

I went every day with my siblings. There was a machine with a manical laughing clown just inside the main entrance.

Maybe that’s where Stephen King got his idea for IT!

I was initially a bit scared of the ‘Biggest Rollercoaster in Europe’ but once I’d experienced it for the first time I excitedly jumped off and rejoined the queue to go again!

There was also a Ghost Train which I thought was very tame until  somebody in the dark shadows, dressed all in black touched my face as the train slowed down at a corner! I nearly jumped out of my seat!
Again no seatbelts!

Local lad Mark Knopfler wrote a song about this magical place in 1980.

Tunnel of Love‘ by Dire Straits

Yeah, now I am searchin’ through these carousels and the carnival arcade
Searching everywhere, from steeplechase to balustrades
In any shooting galleries where promises are made
To rockaway, rockaway
Rockaway, rockaway
From Cullercoats to Whitley Bay. And to Rockaway

‘And girl it looks so pretty to me like it always did
Like the Spanish city to me when we were kids
Girl it looks so pretty to me like it always did
Like the Spanish city to me when we were kids.’

Sadly, after 93 years as an amusement Park, The Spanish City closed in 1999.

However it reopened in 2018 as a spectacular wedding and conference venue! Both Mark Knopfler and Sting attended the Grand Reopening!
I will visit it very soon!

Our last family holiday was in 1972 in Blackpool.

The obvious attraction was The Pleasure Beach and yes I visited it a couple of times over the fortnight. To be honest I was more attracted to a much smaller showground in the north of the town.

I was nearly 15 and was captivated by everything about it! 
My every sense was on overload!

The smell of grease, both from the rides and burger stands.
The sweet scents of Candy Floss and Popcorn.
The intoxicating aromas of perfume, perspiration and peanuts!

The sounds of laughter, squeals of delight and tantrums….and that was just me!

And the sights!

OH MY THE SIGHTS!

Pulsating lights, brightly painted rides, the strutting exotic carnys and, most memorable of all, the pretty girls in denim jackets and short skirts! Giggling in packs!

And of course the music of the early 1970’s pounding out from huge speakers on every stall and ride!

‘Lola,’ ‘Layla,’ ‘Let’s Work Together’ (and other songs’ names that begin with L!)

Three Dog Night‘s ‘Mama Told Me Not To Come
Whenever I hear this song I’m instantly transported back to that show ground!

Black Night‘ by Deep Purple, ‘All Right Now ‘by Free.’ In The Summer Time‘ by Mungo Jerry ‘Son of My Father ‘by Chicory Tip, ‘Blockbuster’ by Sweet and the glorious anthem of 1972, ‘Schools Out’ by the inimitable Alice Cooper!

I was totally in my element!

Every day I endured walks along the promenade,  shopping or a bit of sunbathing, (where I actually got burned!… Yes in Blackpool!?!) but the whole time I was anticipating the delicious excitement of the evening to come! 

By December 1974 I was going steady. My great friend Rab was going on a first date with a girl and I suggested we go as a foursome to The Kelvin Hall Carnival.

In preparation for his date, Rab bought new jeans and shoes and a trendy short beige raincoat. The kind that is back in fashion now!

I have to confess that I can’t remember his date’s name….
(I don’t think I ever knew it) only that everyone knew her as Duck!?!…..

We excitedly browsed the stalls and bought hot dogs slathered in onions and mustard. Then we had Candy Floss, Cola and Chocolate.

Rab’s date was going very well.

We’d already gone on the obligatory (for courting couples) Ghost Train and Dodgems where you were allowed, nay encouraged, to smash into each other’s cars!

And we’d all tried to win a prize at the clearly rigged shooting gallery and throw the ring over the jam jar to win a goldfish.

Rab then said that we should have a go on The Waltzer.

He went on first followed by Duck, then myself and my girlfriend.
We settled in, pulled the safety bar up to our laps and off we went.

It immediately accelerated and a carny (maybe a relative of my torturor in 1967) jumped onto the back of our car and started to violently spin it, to our initial delight.
After about two minutes I glanced to my right and saw that Duck’s face had totally drained of colour and she was rocking forward over the safety bar. She suddenly sat back upright and started to retch, turning towards me…..

At the last second I gently but firmly guided her head in the other direction.

She then vomited spectacularly all over Rab!

And remember our waltzer carriage was still spinning at top speed!

Rab was covered in undigested hot dog, candy floss and a brownish bile from his head to his knees! So too was poor Duck and she was still vomiting but now into the carriage at our feet!

Mercifully the ride finally slowed down and came to a stop. Unbelievably the carny was shouting at us that we owed him money to clean the carriage.
Big Rab with vomit still dripping from his hair told him to go forth and multiply!

We all headed to the toilets.
I helped Rab to clean up and my girlfriend attempted to perform a miracle on Duck!

Rab used hot water to clean his hair, face, coat and jeans and then used every toilet roll and paper towel in a vain attempt to dry off.

The girls finally emerged from the Ladies about 45 minutes later. Duck was still very pale,  disheveled looking and, to be honest, still a bit smelly.

We unanimously decided to call it a night. So we headed out on to a chilly Argyle Street to catch the bus home to Clydebank.

Nobody spoke much on the journey home.

Sadly we never ever saw Duck again! (Maybe for the best…)

Hopefully she is now a loving grandmother and entertains her grandchildren with stories of her past….

But maybe NOT this particular one!!

those days are past now …

…and in the past they must remain.

Of course they must. Where else are they going?

Technically, I suppose, if you had the brains of Dr Emmett Brown and a spare DeLorean, you could perhaps revisit them. Sadly though, we can’t re-live prior experiences – albeit I do vaguely recall making numerous drunken, such attempts in the early Noughties.

Yet, we shouldn’t forget those days of yesteryear. Even the painful and crap ones teach us valuable lessons, the idea being we learn from our bad decisions and mistakes. And without a certain amount of these Bad Times, we wouldn’t recognise the Good ones, would we?

Good Times though are possible to revisit without the requirement of jumping into a sports car fitted with a flux capacitor and accelerating to the magical speed of eighty-eight mph.

For ‘De-Lorean,’ read, ‘Re-Union.’

After leaving school, I moved around the UK with work. Consequently, I lost touch, at least regular contact, with most friends from my six years at Bearsden Academy. So I was pretty excited, when in 1999, a reunion was organised for ‘The Class of ’70.’

(My Class of ’70 – ok , yeah, that’s me, cross legged, front row, far right.)

We all wore badges displaying our names so there would be no need for embarrassing re-introductions, but in the vast majority of cases, they were superfluous. Back together for the first time in twenty-five years, it was like we’d never left the classroom.

The four or five hours we had was over in a flash, with very little time for reflection on our schooldays. Most conversations revolved around what everyone was doing at present.

It was a ‘formal’ get-together, and the organisers had worked hard to make sure everything passed off without hitch: food; drinks; badges; photos; teachers.

Yes, teachers. Several were present, including the Head / Rector. And credit to them, they actually remembered most of us. For one reason or another! (I did notice however, that it took a good hour before a few of us felt it safe to nervously remove our hands from our pockets.)

These past few years have seen semi-regular meet-ups of training buddies / team mates from my athletics club, Garscube Harriers. In fact, the last social night I had before Covid Lockdown, was with these guys … as was the first after restrictions were eased.  A few are still competing (one has just completed the Marathon des Sables – running a marathon a day, for a week, through the Sahara desert!) but in the main everyone now just runs for fun.

(Garscube Harriers old gits’ reunion, October 2021.)

These evenings do differ from the school reunion, in that we have had more regular contact over the past fifty years, and are generally up to speed with what everyone is doing these days. Invariably, conversation then reverts at some point to childish micky-taking and reliving some of the scrapes we got into when competing around the country!

Tonight (20th November) a bunch of us from school are meeting up again for an informal night in a bar in the West End of Glasgow. This time, pupils from a couple years either side of the Class of ’70 will be attending. In some cases it will be forty-five years since we last saw each other.

It being an informal evening, it’s uncertain how many people will turn up – especially with that Covid lurgy still hanging about. Regular readers of this blog will though recognise a couple of those attending: Paul Fitzpatrick and George Cheyne.

Paul, of course, is co-founder of ‘Once Upon a Time in The ‘70s’. He’s travelling up from London for the evening. Despite us working on this blog for these past eight months or so, we haven’t actually met since 1974!

Even then at sixteen years old, he stood head and shoulders over me. Any photos of us tonight had better be in ‘portrait’ rather than ‘landscape’ format. And as you can no doubt tell from his blog posts, he had more fashion sense than I had sense, and was arguably the best dressed kid in school.

George has been a regular contributor to the blog since the start. I’ve actually bumped into him a few times in recent years when we’ve competed against each other for our respective tennis clubs. Still fit as a butcher’s dog, he not only thrashed me regularly at Subbuteo as a kid, but he’s now two –one up in our head-to-head tennis matches.

They make me sick, the both of them!

So here’s a photo of them in our Primary Two class @ 1964, I think – rather conveniently, I’m not in this one for some reason!

(George is third from left, back row with Paul immediately to his left.)

Yeah – maybe these days are indeed in the past, but there’s no harm in borrowing them for an evening. It should be fun; I’m looking forward to it, but one thing’s for certain – we can’t afford to wait another forty-five years for the next reunion … you do the maths.

(Actually, I just have – The Class of ’70 would all be eighty –eight. Coincidence, or a sign? Perhaps only Dr Emmett Brown can answer that. Whatever, it’s true what they say – time sure does McFly.)

__________

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Old Grey Whistle Test (OGWT) 72-79: TV Hall of Fame Induction.

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, November 2021.

Back in the early seventies there was only one provider of contemporary music to the masses – The BBC.

Radio One ruled the airwaves unchallenged from 1967 until the commercial radio stations came along in the mid 70s, although to be fair if you could get a decent signal, Radio Luxembourg was a reasonable late night alternative… until you got fed up listening to adverts for Timotei Shampoo and Aqua Manda cologne.

In terms of TV, the Beeb had it all sewn up with its weekly chart show aimed at the teenage market – Top of the Pops, which launched in 1964.
Seven years later the OGWT came along and focused on the more discerning album buying audience.

TOTP had its moments of course, but epiphany’s like Starman or Virginia Plain were rare and for every ‘Jeepster” there was a ‘Long Haired Lover from Liverpool’

The OGWT on the other hand, was a voyage of discovery, it wasn’t always great but it was always watchable.
The truth is that we rarely knew who was going to be on the show, but it mattered not, we just tuned in and went along for the ride, building our musical knowledge and refining our tastes as we went along.

The OGWT became a weekly ‘event’ and a post-mortem of each episode was mandatory.
I can still remember an attempt to describe the debut performance of Focus to a mate at school who’d missed the show.


“They’re a Dutch quartet with an amazing drummer, an unbelievable guitarist and a guy who looks like Archie Gemmill on keyboards…. who yodels a lot”

I’m not sure he rushed out to buy the album based on my summary.

The show was famous for its live studio performances, but in the early days tracks that couldn’t be performed live were usually accompanied by old black & white film footage, compiled by film archivist Philip Jenkinson.
A couple of those home-made videos left a lasting impression.

The first time I heard Queen was on the OGWT in 1973.
A rendition of ‘Keep Yourself Alive’ soundtracked over a vintage black & white movie clip.

My favourite though was the footage that accompanied Led Zeppelin’s – Trampled Underfoot. I’ve no idea how they synch’d a 1920’s silent movie clip so seamlessly with Zep’s homage to Stevie Wonder’s Superstition, but they pulled it off.

I have too many great memories of the show to mention and have spent many an hour disappearing down OGWT, YouTube rabbit holes but when I reflect on what made the show special, there are a few elements that spring to mind….

1) The OGWT excelled at introducing us to new artists:
Putting aside the broadcasting monopoly that the Beeb enjoyed I still have to credit the show for introducing me to – Neil Young, Queen, Robin Trower, John Martyn, Bill Withers, Joan Armatrading, Talking Heads, Lynyrd Skynyrd, New York Dolls, The Wailers and many more.

2) The show wasn’t just electric, it was eclectic:
If you happened to tune in when – Dr Hook, Rick Wakeman, John Martyn and Mike Oldfield were all featured you could have been forgiven for thinking that the majority of the acts mirrored the presenter, i.e. white men with beards and long hair…. but the show was actually a lot more diverse than that.

Nice!

For instance, it was perfectly normal to have Bill Withers on the same show as Tangerine Dream or Curtis Mayfield with Captain Beefheart.
BB King would feature alongside Kris Kristofferson and Joni Mitchell could be on the same bill as Roxy Music.
It’s fair to say that every musical genre was given a fair crack of the whip on a show where the only criteria was quality.


3) The show produced seminal performances that live on forever:
At the end of the day it was the live studio performances that we all talked about and they remain the iconic moments of the show.
It’s difficult to cherry-pick as there were so many classic OGWT moments, but a few favourites that spring to mind are….

Bowie – Queen Bitch
Little Feat – Rock ‘n’ Roll Doctor
Sensational Alex Harvey Band – The Faith Healer
Roxy Music – In Every Dream Home a Heartache
Gil Scott-Heron – Johannesburg


The OGWT of course was synonymous with whispering Bob Harris and his reign as the main presenter from 1972-79 covered the golden-age of the show.
Nothing lasts forever though, and as the punk movement gained momentum Bob started getting a bit grouchy and wasn’t handling the change of the guard very well…..

Bob and his ‘mock rock’ quip at 4:42

Bob had ‘previous’ of course, labelling Roxy Music as a triumph of ‘style over substance‘. And goofily described The New York Dolls as “mock rock” at the conclusion of a blistering rendition of ‘Jet Boy’….

Harris, subsequently became a target for New Wavers and Punks and narrowly escaped serious injury when Sid Vicious tried to ‘glass’ him in a London nightclub.
Rescued ironically by a team of Procol Harum roadies, Bob escaped relatively unscathed, but suffered cuts, bruises and a damaged ego.

Worn down by the abuse and feeling that he was swimming against the cultural tide, Bob would step down from his OGWT duties soon-after.

The show ploughed on for another 9 years post Bob, with a revolving door of presenters but by then there was bona fide competition from other channels and shows, like C4’s The Tube.

Gone but certainly not forgotten…. Fortunately we can still relive some of the shows iconic moments via clips from the vaults, many of which have millions of views.

So it’s this prime-time OGWT – the ‘Bob Harris years 72-79’, that helped to shape my musical tastes as a teenager that I would propose for the TV Hall of Fame….

A pre-Ziggy Bowie on the cusp of greatness

that abhorrent ‘c’ word.

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – November 2021)

It’s a disgusting word; so many find it quite noisome, and let’s be honest, there’s just no need for its use in a modern and civilised society.

In the Seventies though, everyone was less well educated in acceptable behaviour. What is distinctly frowned upon these days, was regarded the ‘norm,’ back then.

People would openly use the word ‘caravan’ without the slightest consideration of the offence it could cause.

There – I’ve said it. Those of a sensitive disposition should perhaps go read a nice, wholesome book for the next few minutes, as ‘the word’ is likely to crop up quite frequently in the course of this post.

******

I’d have been new to the ranks of teenager in 1971 when my parents came up with this whizz-bang idea:

“… we’ll now be able to take weekend breaks throughout the year, whenever we fancy.”

This would be in addition to the first foreign holiday we’d enjoyed the previous summer and planned to make an annual event.

“We’re going to buy a caravan – won’t this be splendid?”

‘Splendid?!’ Are you mental? Weekends? What happens to my athletics / cross country races? What about my football? My school parties? Saturday morning cartoons on the telly? What possesses people to forsake their nice spacious homes to go live in a claustrophobic, formica lined box on wheels?

I was already counting the days till I could be legally left at home to fend for myself. I’d even willingly do household / garden chores while the family were away. Maybe we could broker some kind of deal? Creosote the fence or something?

Resistance was futile though, at least for a couple of years.

“Do you fancy going for a golfing trip to Pittenweem this weekend?”

If I’m going to stay in a five, or even four / three star hotel, then maybe.

“It’ll be fun,” they lied.

And so it was … frequent weekends were spent collecting the caravan from the storage facility in the neighbouring town; bringing it to the house; uncoupling it overnight and loading it with clothes and provisions for the weekend; reconnecting the car and driving to Fife, usually arriving just in time for lunch.

Reverse that procedure on the Sunday afternoon, ensuring we arrived back before the storage facility closed, and we had just enough time to squeeze in a round of golf and fish supper on the Saturday, and a walk along the windswept and bitingly cold beach on the Sunday morning.

Oh yeah – this was fun, alright!

Then, horror of horrors! Emboldened by admittance into the Caravan Club of Great Britain, my excited parents announced we’d now be taking an additional summer holiday. An additional week. In Dornoch.  In the caravan!

Heavens above! Dornoch, even in 2021, is a good four and a half hours drive away. Fifty years ago, and towing a bleedin’ caravan …. a letter with a second class stamp would get there quicker.

“It’s a lovely caravan site – right by the golf course. And there’s a toilet and shower block too.”

And that’s the best selling point you can come up with?

I suppose having a site toilet block is better than the family sharing the chemical filled potty that stank out the wee cubby-hole that passed as a toilet in most caravans. Oh, perish the thought! (We actually used that space for storing the golf clubs.) But really, is it such a privileged luxury to waken in the dead of night, scratch around for a torch, pull on a pair of wellies / sandals  / golf spikes, and trudge a hundred and fifty yards to a damp, smelly and cold toilet? I think not.

We’d play golf in the morning and weather permitting, another round in late afternoon / early evening. This was summer in Scotland, though. Weather has a habit of messing with your plans. So we’d then be dragged off on some Godforsaken sight-seeing trip.

John o’ Groats? Nothing to see. Still wet there. Dunnet Head? Naff all there either. And just as wet. Thurso did have a chip shop, though.

Back at the caravan, my mum, not renowned for her culinary skills, bless her, would prepare a hearty evening meal. Something along the lines of tinned Heinz macaroni on toast, followed by Birds Eye instant custard and jam. Yes. Jam.

Mmmmnn! Yummy!

Meals would be served up in instalments because the ineffectual cooker, fired by a suspicious and sinister looking gas canister, had the power of a Christmas candle. While we waited in not-so-eager anticipation, the combination of body-heat times four, damp clothing and smoke from the burnt toast (told you, didn’t I?) would cause the windows to steam up. A decision then had to be made: open the windows to clear them and die from hypothermia, or risk asphyxiation from the steam, smoke and ever-present hint of leaking calor gas.

Thankfully, I managed eventually to extricate myself from these tortuous events, playing the ‘I best stay behind to study for my exams,” card.

A couple of years later, freed from the shackles of holidaying with parents, a few pals who like me were leaving school in the summer of 1976, decided to go away together. Benidorm? Majorca? Blackpool?

Nope. We had all recently bought our first motorbikes – one had a car, a Morris 1100, I think.

(My first / only motor bike – I kept it through one winter before deciding a car was by far a better option.)

Why don’t we drive over to St Andrews and rent (no! please, no! I can sense what’s coming ….) a caravan for the week? It’ll be a right laugh.

Noooooooooo!!!!

I’d love to tell you it was a right laugh. I’d love to tell you it was a right nightmare. I’d love to tell you it was a right anything. Truth is, I can tell you next to nothing! It’s all a bit of a haze.

I do recall we upset someone in a neighbouring caravan who was always on our case. So we did what any self-respecting gallus teenagers would do, and threw a pan-loaf worth of bread chunks onto the roof of his caravan in the dead of night.

Yeah, you’re there – come first light, his caravan was besieged by a flock of noisy, ravenous seagulls pecking the bread and stomping around on the roof.

Have some of that!

Other than that, my only other recollection is suffering my worst ever hangover after a night on Pernod and lemonade. That took care of one of the seven days.

The hangover from Hell – and in a caravan.

I’d said it before, but this time I meant it. To this day, I’ve never even sipped a Pernod.

And to this day, I’ve never again set foot in a caravan.

I’d rather wash my mouth out with soap.

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Up The Toon

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, November 2021

There was a point in our mid teens when we felt it was time to cast the net a bit wider.
We’d progressed from playing in the street, to going up the local park, then a bit further afield, but generally within a two mile radius of our base…. but a bit like tiger cubs there came a point when we were ready to explore and roam new territories.

Invariably all roads led to….. Glasgow

Looking back, going ‘up the toon’ to Glasgow city centre was a rite of passage, it’s what the older kids did and like raiding Vikings they usually returned laden with treasure….

A Wrangler denim jacket or a pair of Levis from Jean Shack

The new Bowie/Rod/Zep/T-Rex album from Listen/23rd Precinct/Virgin

A feather cut or suede-head from Cut n’ Dried or Fuscos

An Arthur Black shirt from well… Arthur Black’s Shirts & Slacks.

The desire to start making our own choices typically came at at a point when parents were still picking some of our clothes and ushering us to old-school barbers, where glossy headshots of Peter Marinello covered the cracks on the walls, and where condoms rather than coriander conditioners were on display – ‘something for the weekend sir?’

Poster boy – Peter Marinello (the Lothian George Best)

Even if you had the temerity to ask for a Peter Maranello they’d respond, “aye no problem”, pull out the electric razor (the big old clunky ones with the cord) and execute the only haircut they knew how to administer…. the one that invariably left you with a big red rash on the back of your neck for a week.

Seeing the older kids with their goodies and cool haircuts inspired some of us young uns’ to follow their trail, however, it was a pursuit that needed funding, which is why a couple of us started up a paper round when we were 14 whilst others took up delivering morning rolls.
The disposable income we duly acquired was set aside for regular sojourns to Glasgow where we would aspire to emulate our elders.
Swanning around town before a triumphant homecoming – brandishing our 23rd Precinct & Krazy House bags with pride.

Going up the town per se was nothing new, after all we’d had years of being chaperoned to DM Hoey’s and Freeman, Hardie & Willis for winter coats and sensible shoes.
However, heading into town with your chums, with your own money burning a hole in your pocket, was a different proposition altogether, a proper adventure.

Paddy’s Market

Once you’d been up a couple of times and knew your way around, part of the fun was going off-piste… exploring and navigating Glasgow’s grid system via lanes and backstreets and witnessing sites you’d rarely see in the Bearsden bubble – sites like adults blootered on Carlsberg Special Brew before lunchtime or witnessing the colourful characters that worked and hung around Paddy’s Market.

We could spend hours roaming around the town…..

Loitering in record shops – rummaging through the racks of vinyl and requesting to hear albums in the listening booths or the available headphones (Dark Side of the Moon with its stereophonic effects was always a good one).

Roving around department stores, from the sports dept, to the electrical dept, before bashfully taking in the sights and scents of the perfumery dept.

Visiting the legendary Tam Shepherds Trick Shop in Queen St, where the sickly scent of stink bombs was never far from the front door….. before heading to the rag-trade end of Argyle St, up towards the Trongate, where all the ‘on-trend’ clothes shops were housed.

Welcome to the house of fun

A big part of the adventure of course was the journey…. for us it was the train from Westerton to Queen St or the ‘105’ double-decker (blue) bus that shuttled between Drumchapel and Buchanan St.

Our parents would always warn us about being careful, “keep an eye out for any trouble” but they probably didn’t realise that the biggest danger came from within and involved daft stunts like crossing live railway tracks to get from one platform to another or jumping off moving buses before our bus-stop… for a dare.

On reflection it showed that we probably, (no, definitely!) weren’t as ‘grown up’ as we thought we were.
Fortunately though, despite a few scrapes and close calls, we all lived to tell the tale, and would subsequently watch on like a David Attenborough documentary as the generation below us took up the mantle and followed our lead.

In the meantime…. we of course, now veterans of stepping outside our comfort zone were preparing to take the next big step in our personal development…. getting served in pubs ‘up the toon’!

The Burns Howff

Ripping Yarns: TV Hall of Fame Induction

Joe Hunter: Crieff, November 2021

Monty Python’s Flying Circus is of course a benchmark for comedy and an example of 70s television at its finest.
A collective that spawned countless TV and cinematic moments of gold and inspired endless playground retellings and re-enactments… from ‘The Ministry of Funny Walks’ to ‘No one expects the Spanish Inquisition’.

John Cleese and Fawlty Towers apart however, the rest of the Python’s solo work tends to fly under the radar.
In comparison, it’s similar in many ways to the Beatles solo projects, which rarely got the appreciation they deserved…. step forward ‘All Things Must Pass’ by George Harrison.

Take Eric Idle’s excellent Rutland Weekend Television, although it hatched the excellent Beatles parody – The Ruttles, it was cut short after two series and was never truly appreciated in the UK.
Likewise, Ripping Yarns by Michael Palin and Terry Jones was restricted to 8 episodes after the initial pilot… the hilarious ‘Tomkinson’s Schooldays’.

If you’ve never seen it, Ripping Yarns was a shameless parody of British culture. To be fair it could be a bit hit or miss, but when it hit the sweet-spot it was as funny as anything that’s ever been on TV.
There were nine 30 minute episodes  presented in the style of Boys Own adventure stories, set in an era when all a chap needed was a stiff upper lip and a healthy dash of derring-do.

The series was tucked away on BBC2 at 9pm on a Friday night but once discovered, it became an essential part of my weekend.

In 1977, Joanna’s Night Club in Glasgow was my Friday night destination of choice, so as part of my weekly ritual I’d get spruced up, go round to my partner in crime Paul Fitzpatrick’s house and we’d watch the latest episode of Ripping Yarns before heading into town, armed with quips from the show still in our head.
Quips I hasten to add that confused the hell out of anyone that hadn’t seen the show (about 99.9% of the population), but would amuse the hell out of us.

My brothers George and David were also big fans of the show and we used to have some very surreal conversations in front of our bemused parents about Spear & Jackson shovels and black pudding (in Yorkshire accents) – as an homage to our favourite episode, ‘The Testing of Eric Olthwaite“.
There are too many great comedy moments in this 28 minute masterpiece, to break down, but the opening 3 minute sequence (below), will give you a taste.

“Black pudding’s very black today Mother – even the white bits are black”.


A Yorkshire banker, Eric was sooo boring that his Father pretended to be French to avoid talking to him whilst his mother would feign bilious attacks or even death.
Heartbreakingly, Eric’s family run away from home to avoid further contact with him, he was just that tedious.

A confused and devastated Eric can’t understand why people find him so dull and you can feel his pain as he protests in his thick Yorkshire accent….
“It were hard to accept I were boring. Especially with my interest in rainfall”

Eric’s obsession with precipitation and shovels drive his family to distraction and ensure he’s friendless but like all good tales there’s a twist… if you’re interested to find out what it is, you can catch the full episode below and become like me… a fully paid-up member of the Ripping Yarns fan club.

The Testing of Eric Olthwaite

Led Zeppelin IV – An Album by Led Zeppelin: Hall of Fame Induction

Mark Arbuckle: Glasgow, November 8th.

I would like to nominate Led Zeppelin IV, The Runes Album, 4 Symbols, Zoso whatever you want to call it as the greatest rock album of all time! 

Its 50 years old today and still sounds as fresh and exciting as it did in 1971!! 

It also has the distinction of having the only guest vocalist that Zep ever used in the ethereal Sandy Denny on the wonderful ‘Battle of Evermore’.

Originally Plant was going to sing both parts of the call and answer vocals but it didn’t sound right so he invited Sandy.
Thank God!

Obviously it includes the magical Stairway to Heaven, as well as Zep classics… Rock n Roll, and Black Dog, to be fair, every song on the record is an absolute gem, no wonder it has sold over 23 million copies to date and is the bands most successful album!  

Happy Birthday Led Zeppelin IV🎸

tom scott (musician, producer, arranger) – hall of fame induction.

(Post by John Allan, Bridgetown Western Australia – November 2021)

My nominee for the Once Upon a Time in the ’70s Hall of Fame is Tom Scott.

I can hear the collective ‘WHO ?’ like a stoner party of tripping owls. Take it from someone who is well aware of the illicit pharmacy in ornithology. In my quest to introduce recreational drugs to sea birds, I have left no tern un-stoned !

Thomas Wright Scott was born 19th May 1948, the son of film and television composer, Bernard Scott, who wrote and arranged the music for the TV show Lassie so you could say he has good pedigree. A musician of good standing – sitting, fetching and staying as well.

Oor Tam was equally proficient on all of the saxophone and woodwind families as well as much in demand as a composer and arranger. Look hard enough in your 70s collection and I’ll bet his name pops up more than once. His session work is vast.

These are a just a few of my favourites and a mere smidgen of Scott’s output.

“Gotcha” (Starsky & Hutch theme tune) Who hasn’t run down the drive way and tried to slide over the bonnet of your Dad’s Hillman Avenger when this funky theme started up. I think he plays this on the lyricon, one of the earliest electronic wind instruments.

“Listen To What The Man Said” by Wings from 1975. That was our Tommy boy playing some jaunty soprano sax on this Macca track.

The solo alto sax in “I Still Can’t Sleep” in Martin Scorcese’s film Taxi Driver – Tom ‘Are you looking at me ?’ Scott !

Tom was a Blues Brother and played with Jake and Elwood on most of their albums. He didn’t appear in any of the films though.

“Spindrift” is a beautiful tune I use to attempt to play from his time with the LA Express in the mid 70s.

(Album cover for Tom Scott an The L.A. Express eponymous album from 1974.)

Tom solos on tenor and arranges the horns on Steely Dan’sBlack Cow” from the seminal 1978 album “Aja”. And before you go all woke, black cow is a cocktail !

Although encroaching into the 80s, his work on Blondie’s “Rapture” takes this rap tune to new levels.

But my favourite collaboration of his is on Joni Mitchell’sCourt and Spark”. This 1974 release was Mitchell’s first foray away from folk and into rock and jazz. Scott’s subtle playing and sensitive arrangements greatly compliment Joni’s singing and songwriting.

Having his band the LA Express and the Crusaders to hand was none too shabby. Apparently drummer John Guerin and Joni had a wee thing going on. I guess they were courting and presumably sparking until they split up. Joni wrote about him in “Refuge of the Road” (Hejira)

Tom Scott went on to form house bands for two short lived US late talk shows (including Chevy Chase) and continued writing music for TV (Cybill) and film (Conquest of the Planet of The Apes). He remains much in demand as a session player and can now add educator and radio/pod presenter to his CV.

Good boy Scotty. Good boy.