Tag Archives: alan fairley

UK One-Hit-Wonders: One Day at a Time (Lena Martell)

Alan Fairley: Edinburgh, April 2022

Living on a Prayer

It’s probably fair to suggest that a significant number of people who subscribe to this blog are familiar in some way with Maryhill, often referred to as the sparkling jewel in Glasgow’s crown, a tight knit working class community to the north west of the city.

You may have lived there, worked there (like me), visited your Granny there, fought there or, again like me, had the misfortune to support the under achieving football team which plays there.

Whatever your connection, you’re almost certain to be aware that the area is renowned for its contribution to Scottish culture, particularly within the realms of sport, music and acting via the not insignificant number of its alumni who have achieved recognition in these spheres.

Maryhill has, for example, produced high profile international footballers like Bertie Auld, Charlie Nicholas and current Scotland captain Andy Robertson. 

Famous actors from the area include Robert Carlyle (Trainspotting, The Full Monty), David McCallum (The Man from UNCLE, Colditz) and Sean Biggerstaff (whatever Harry Potter movie he was in).

Turning to music, Maryhill has spawned the world renowned Donovan who had a number of chart successes in the 60s and 70s with hits like Mellow Yellow and Sunshine Superman and the acclaimed blues singer Maggie Bell (claim to fame – many years ago I worked in the bank in Maryhill while the young Maggie worked in the wool shop across the road and she would often waltz into the bank with her war cry of ‘gies some change for the till, pal’.)

Maggie Bell

The musical dynamic took a significant twist in 1979 however when a 37 year old local singer, Lena Martell, released a single, One Day at a Time, which rose rapidly to Number 1 in the UK charts.

Martell had been singing professionally since the early 1960s and had shared stages with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis jr but of the 26 singles (not to mention nine albums) she had previously released, not one had  come close to entering the British top 40.

Her achievement with One Day… was all the more significant as she became part of an elite group of one hit wonders whose solitary hit had also topped the charts.

Why then, after all these years, all these singles/albums, all these tours, did this lassie from Maryhill finally enjoy some recording success?

The answer probably lies in the nature of the song.

Written by Kris Kristofferson, the song took the form of a prayer, asking for help and spiritual guidance from ‘sweet Jesus’ in the daily life of the singer and it no doubt resonated with the Christian record buying community.

Gospel music had been largely absent from the higher echelons of the hit parade in modern times although Judy Collins did reach the top ten in 1970 with her passionate rendering of Amazing Grace while the band of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards mirrored her achievement two years later with an instrumental version of the hymn.

In summary, it’s realistic to assume that Martell’s hit was largely down to members of the Christian community rushing en masse to their local record shops to purchase the record and to give their faith the unique level of profile and exposure which only a chart topping single can generate.

Kristofferson may have penned the song but, in reaching the number one position, this Maryhill songstress achieved something that the country music legend had failed to achieve during his own stellar recording career.

It’s So Nice To Be Insane – No One Asks You To Explain

By Alan Fairley: Edinburgh, March 2022

Latest in the line of One Hit Wonders from the 1970s is the mystical, thought provoking Angie Baby by Australian songstress Helen Reddy which reached Number 5 in the UK charts back in early 1975.

Hold on, I hear you say.

Helen Reddy, a one hit wonder?

What about Delta Dawn? What about I Am Woman? 

Then there’s – Ain’t no Way to Treat a Lady, Leave me Alone (Ruby Red Dress), not to mention You and Me Against the World.

One hit wonder? you’re winding me up, pal.

Well, It’s true that Delta Dawn and I Am Woman were number one hits in the USA while the others mentioned reached the top ten both across the pond and, unsurprisingly, in Reddy’s native Oz but the British charts? – not a sniff, leaving Angie Baby as her sole intrusion into our country’s musical psyche.

And what a spectacular intrusion it was.

Angie Baby was written by Alan O’Day who, despite sounding like he was one of Robin Hood’s merry men, was a successful American musician/songwriter and it centred around the unfulfilled life of a teenage girl who was clearly suffering some form of mental illness, as evidenced by the use of the words ‘touched’ and ‘crazy’ within the lyrics.

Throughout  the song, O’Day touches on subjects like mental health, sexual deviation and female empowerment, all of which were relatively taboo subjects back then, often swept under the carpet  but which are nowadays very much mainstream societal issues.

Angie spends all her spare time shut away in her bedroom, listening to the radio and fantasising about mysterious lovers who come into her room every night and dance with her until her father tells her to switch the music off.

The story takes a sinister twist when a local boy, who had been spying on Angie through her window, takes advantage of the fact that her parents are away by making his way into her room.

Fuelled up with testosterone, its clear that the dirty bugger’s not planning to have a chat with her about the newsworthy events of the day such as the Watergate scandal and the imminent cessation of the Vietnam War.

Nope, Laddo just wants to get his leg over a vulnerable girl but Angie soon cuts him down to size, quite literally as it happens, as she uses the supernatural power of the volume control on the radio to slowly reduce him to virtually nothing before he gets swallowed up by the speaker as Reddy finishes this part of the song with the haunting words ‘never to be found’.

At this stage, the boy’s probably wishing he’d been guided by his head as opposed to any other body part, and whilst everyone else (Angie apart) thinks he’s dead, he’s actually trapped inside her radio and brought out whenever his services are required…. as described in one of the closing lines -‘a crazy girl with a secret lover who keeps her satisfied.’

Maybe it worked out ok for the lad after all.

Surfin’, Soda Pop and Sibelius

Alan Fairley: Edinburgh, March 2022

The Strange Tale of Beach Baby

I’m loving the articles on this site documenting the one hit wonders of the 1970s and would suggest that no such list would be complete without the inclusion of the upbeat, feel good recording of Beach Baby by The First Class which reached number 13 in the UK charts in the summer of 1974.

It was a bouncy little song reflecting various aspects of teenage life in California during that time period, encompassing west coast beach culture, school/college activities and, of course love.

The subject matter demanded a mandatory reference to surfing and it duly obliged with the memorable line ‘surfing was fun, we were out in the sun every day’ – a nice little nod to the Beach Boys whose harmonic vocals the short-lived band tried hard to mimic.

The clumsiness of teenage romance was glorified with ‘remember dancing at the high school hop, the dress I ruined with the soda pop’ and the eventual sadness at the inevitability of having to grow up was illustrated by the melancholy ‘long hot days, blue sea haze, juke box plays but now its fading away….’

With lines such as this, the song must have been written by some cool dude who had spent his adolescence living that particular dream in some exotic Californian location like San Jose, Carmel or Santa Monica, right?

No, actually.

The song was, in fact, penned by unheralded English musician John Carter and his memorably named wife Gillian Shakespeare within the house they shared in the extremely un-Californian south London suburb of East Sheen.

Carter engaged a session singer by the name of Tony Burrows to record the song and, after a lively appearance by a hastily put together band of pretty boys on Top of the Pops, the song hit the charts and became one of 1974’s memorable summer anthems.

The First Class disappeared from the radar never to be seen again but the song helped Burrows establish himself as very much the poster boy of 1970s one hit wonders, having also sung lead vocals on the iconic Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes under the name of Edison Lighthouse as well as the comical Gimme Dat Ding by the Pipkins and another Californian epic Let’s go to San Francisco by the Flowerpot Men.

The story, however, doesn’t end there. One of the early recordings of Beach Baby featured an instrumental coda at the end of the song  from a classical piece written by legendary Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. 

The administrators of the late Sibelius‘ estate filed a lawsuit for copyright infringement and it was eventually agreed that 50% of the song’s profits would be handed over.

Not too many one hit wonders can boast a claim to fame like that.

American Pie – A Single by Don McLean: Hall of Fame Induction

Alan Fairley: Edinburgh, November 2021

No song in history has ever managed to re-create the effect on me than that which was generated by American Pie, Don McLean’s anthemic eight minute chronology of the 1960s.
It was the first song that made me want to study its lyrics, to find out the hidden meanings behind the words and to interpret the message which this hitherto unknown musician, with a distinctly Scottish name, was trying to project.
I’d only started taking an interest in music a couple of years earlier and my tastes revolved largely around the mainstream rock bands of the time, ie Cream, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath etc and I was aware that such behemoths of the musical world paid scant attention to the lyrical content of their offerings which were based mainly on instrumental virtuosity.
Jack Bruce, in a Cream documentary, made it clear that the message behind the songs he played along with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker was largely irrelevant in comparison with the actual music while Ian Gillan of Deep Purple acknowledged that the lyrics to the band’s flagship single Black Night were merely a collection of random words to supplement the main feature of the song, ie Ritchie Blackmore’s blistering  and unforgettable guitar riff.

When I first heard American Pie on the radio in early 1972, I was mildly intrigued by the lyrical content but the radio version was merely a heavily edited three minute sampler of the 8 min 33 sec album track, a teaser with a catchy chorus about chevies and levees designed to catch the listener’s attention but it was sufficient to have me jumping on the no 13 bus to Cambridge Street and hand over my hard earned two pounds 25p (sorry no pound sign on this Korean keyboard) before walking away with the actual album tucked into an iconic Listen Records ‘Cheap’n Nasty’ carrier bag.

When I finally got home and listened to the title track, it was night and day in comparison with the radio taster. A beautifully constructed song… four verses and choruses bookended by a passionate and emotional prologue and epilogue, telling the story of the 1960s from the tragic plane crash death of Buddy Holly in 1959 to the horrific killing of a black man at the hands of a gang of Hell’s Angels during a Rolling Stones concert in Altamont, California ten years later.

The theme of death reverberates throughout the song as McLean ends each stanza with the line ‘The Day the Music Died.’

I’m not going to offer my interpretation of the song here – plenty others have done so before me but, other than those already mentioned, there are reasonably clear references to The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Byrds, Janis Joplin, James Dean and other more cryptic nods to religion, politics, teenage romance and the American youth culture of the time.

Fifty years on, I never get tired of listening to the song and I still pore over the lyrics, searching for some hidden meaning that no-one else has yet found. When I’m performing at open mic sessions, if I feel the mood is too quiet, I’ll play it and inevitably get the crowd singing along.

Irrespective of age or any other social demographic, its a song, or at least a chorus, which everybody knows word for word. One man who refuses to offer his interpretation of the song is McLean himself. 

When asked “What does American Pie mean?” His standard response is “It means I never have to work again.”

Poster Boy

Alan Fairley: Edinburgh, November 2021

April 1967. Just another day spent in the drudgery of the Primary 7 class in Westerton School.
My eyes drifted to the classroom window as I gazed longingly towards the football pitch at the bottom of the hill, wishing I was out there instead of listening to Mrs Smith’s dreary drone and then…bang!

The headmaster, J. Jeffrey Thomson as he liked to present himself, Tommy Gun as he was known to the pupils, came barging through the classroom door.

Tommy Gun never walked. He just barged like a thundering elephant everywhere he went and after a brief consultation with Mrs Smith he announced to the class that one of the school’s pupils, Alan Fairley (i.e., me), had come third in the National ‘Learn to Swim’ poster competition.

A few weeks earlier, I and the other six members of the school’s special art group had been informed that the Scottish Health Authority were promoting a Learn to Swim campaign and that all schools in the country were to submit entries for the poster design. We were each handed poster sized sheets of paper, given access to all sorts of artistic materials, and told to get drawing.

My design featured a girl standing at a zebra crossing (remember them) with the swimming baths at the other side of the road.  My caption was ‘Don’t just stand there, go over and Learn to Swim.’

Mr Lovely Biscuits himselfJimmy Logan

The announcement that I had come third in the whole of Scotland made me something a of a mini celebrity among my classmates, especially when it was revealed that the prize would be presented by Jimmy Logan, a renowned comedian, actor, and impresario (whatever that is).

Logan’s main claim to fame was that he appeared in a couple of the legendary, if politically questionable, Carry-On films and any child of that era who had ever attended a pantomime at Glasgow’s Pavilion Theatre would have encountered him in some capacity.

The admiration of my classmates paled into insignificance however when the prettiest girl in the class (if the not the entire school), Alison McDougall, gave me her autograph book and asked me to get Jimmy Logan to sign it for her. Even at that pre-pubescent stage of my life, I was acutely aware of the brownie points which could be gained with a girl like Alison by acceding to her request.

The prize for third place was a ten-pound record token (sorry, this Taiwanese keyboard doesn’t have a pound sign) which doesn’t sound like much but back then it would have bought you 30 singles or 6 albums. Interestingly that ten pound is valued at 154 quid in today’s money so it was a tidy sum for a 12 year old.

The prize giving was to be held in the function room on the top floor of Lewis’s department store in Argyle Street, so off I trotted with my proud parents in tow and as we stood in the assembled gathering the announcement was made that Jimmy Logan had been called away and wouldn’t be attending. But not to worry folks, we’ve lined up a replacement -international singing star Eve Boswell – at which stage virtually everyone in the hall turned to each other and said ‘Eve who?’

Lewis’s Argyle St
Alan & Eve, it’s got a ring to it…

Everyone except me that was. I was more concerned about having to break the news to the lovely Alison that I hadn’t been able to come up with the goods.

Anyway, I was called forward to receive my prize and the mysterious Ms Boswell shook my hand and said ‘well done’ in an east European accent as she handed me the envelope.

Gola Speedsters

The problem was, I just wasn’t into music at the time so giving me a record token was akin to giving a McDonalds voucher to a vegan. All I cared about at 12 was football and a pair of Gola Speedsters would have been a far more amenable reward for my creative efforts.

My music loving elder sister, Jean, had been uncharacteristically nice to me in the run up to the presentation as she eyed a share of the prize and I was happy enough to let her have her pick from the top twenty as the two of us later wandered about the record department in Woolworths, Drumchapel. 

Meanwhile I came away with one of my favourite novelty songs – Three Wheels on my Wagon by the New Christy Minstrels along with a couple of football related records I’d managed to excavate from the bulging album racks.

So what, I hear you say, became of Eve Boswell? To be honest, I never gave her a second thought after our brief encounter but amazingly, about eight years ago I was enjoying a relaxing pint on a Saturday afternoon in the Sheep’s Heid Pub in Edinburgh when, among the plethora of retro pop music memorabilia on the wall, I noticed a poster announcing the release of Eve Boswell’s new single ‘Pickin’ a Chicken.’

It was the first time I’d heard her name mentioned for 46 years and a quick glance at Wikipedia told me that, in 1955, she had reached number 9 in the UK charts with the said single.

I left the pub content in the knowledge that I had once shaken hands with a Top Ten artist.

I did get her autograph that day back in 67 but, perhaps predictably, Alison McDougall was suitably underwhelmed at the absence of Jimmy Logan’s signature in her book and, even more predictably, my brownie point score came in at a resounding zero. 

Teenage kicks – Alan Fairley

They call him the Midnight Rambler

Where were you brought up: Westerton

Secondary school: Bearsden Academy

Best mates at school: Gordon Brownlie, Bobby Williamson

Funniest memory from school: Watching an older pupil (who shall remain nameless) dousing a teacher’s car with paint stripper

First holiday with your mates in UK:  Blackpool 1975 with Colin Maxwell (Courthill), Kenny Groves (Killermont) and Rab Ballingall (Milngavie).

Holiday Memory: Rab punching a guy in the gents toilet at Papa Jenks then watching the towel dispenser fall from the wall onto the guys head as he lay on the deck….when you’re down you’re down

First holiday with your mates abroad: school trip to Rome in 1970.

Who With: The aforementioned Bobby Williamson, Hal Rollason, the late Nicky Mawbey, the delectable Maureen Gibson and many others.
Memory: Drinking Martini in the girls’ bedroom one night along with the aforementioned Bobby Williamson, Maureen Gibson and others then cramming into the shower cubicle with two of the guys when one of the teachers (Miss Fisher) burst in.

It was in one piece when we left it!!

First job:  Shipping Clerk with J S Nowery in Hope Street, Glasgow( the nearest I got to a life at sea). Spent 3 months there then worked at Bank of Scotland, Bearsden Cross. Gave 37 years of my life to that company… but don’t get me started.

Musical hero in 70s: Eric Clapton… loved the street cred you got when walking around the playground with a Cream album wedged under your arm

Favourite single: Won’t Get Fooled Again by The Who.
Classic songs like that and In My Own Time by Family offset the Thursday night banality of Top of the Pops

Favourite album:  Get Yer Ya Yas Out by the Rolling Stones.
Stunning guitar virtuosity by debutant Mick Taylor who took over from the late Brian Jones and helped the band quash the cries of ‘No Stones Without Jones’.

First gig: Mungo Jerry, Kilmardinny, Bearsden 1970
Memory- sitting behind a heavily inebriated Norman Clement who was repeatedly shouting ‘you’re shite’ at vocalist Ray Dorset throughout the gig

Favourite movie in 70s: That’ll Be The Day starring Ringo Starr and David Essex. Think it was the La Scala in Sauchiehall Street. 
This was my first (and last) date with Eleanor Soutar,  classy chick from Iain Road who went to one of the posh schools – Laurelbank maybe?

Who was your inspiration in 70s: Arthur Blessitt (American Evangelist)- I’ve always admired people who stand up for their beliefs and this guy was totally dedicated to his cause. Met him once in Balfron, he put his hand on my shoulder and it felt like an electric bolt was going through me.
Whatever he had, it was powerful.

Posters on your wall:  I bought  the Jenny Fabian Groupie poster in an outpouring of testosterone with my first wage from Nowery’s but she soon gave way to Clapton and Hendrix..and of course Mott The Hoople

Honky Tonk Woman

What do you miss most from the 70s:  Walking up to a turnstile at a football ground and paying cash at the gate. Nowadays it’s a logistical nightmare buying tickets in advance

What advice would you give your 14yr old self: I’ve always regretted not going to University straight from school. I was too keen to get out and earn a wage in order to buy records. Take your chance with further education. You can study with real purpose when you get to that level. (I finally got my degree when I was 27 so it’s never too late)

70s pub session, you’re allowed to invite 4 people from 70s:

Bob Dylan

Jimi Hendrix

Jimmy Bone

Pamela Fairley (my late wife)

Venue – Captains Bar, Edinburgh

Alan & Pamela