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Desert Island Distractions (The Music)

Paul Fitzpatrick: June 2022, London.

You’re stranded on a desert island and you’ve found a washed up solar-chargeable iPod that contains 3 albums in the audio section.

As luck would have it, they’re your three favourite albums…
What are they?

(NB – no ‘Best Of’s, ‘Compilations’ or Box Sets allowed).

Three albums

My criteria was to choose albums that I rarely get tired of listening to, that include a selection of songs with thought provoking lyrics, mood enhancing melodies and good grooves.

On top of that they need to be ‘all killer and no filler’.
I ain’t got no time to be skipping songs, I’ve got fish to catch, stars to gaze at and a raft to construct….. which is gonna take a bit of time because I was crap at woodwork at school!

Album #1 – Songs in The Key Of Life: Stevie Wonder

For a start, it’s a double album (with a bonus EP) so I’m getting more bang for my buck, but if quantity rather than quality’s your thing, you can always choose ELP’s six-sided ‘Welcome Back My Friends’…. particularly if you’re partial to the excruciating sound of a wounded Moog synthesiser and you’re a fan of a drum solo or six.

Two years in the making, Stevie’s 1976 opus is the perfect union of quality & quantity and represents his finest moment, which is saying something when you consider his run of albums leading up to ‘Songs In The Key of Life’ –
‘Talking Book’, ‘Innervisions’ & ‘Fulfillingness First Finale’.

In the mid 70’s Wonder was awash with ideas and was producing material not only for himself but for artists like Rufus, Minnie Ripperton, Syreeta, The Supremes and Roberta Flack.
Due to his copious output ‘Songs In The Key of Life’ soon developed into a double album.

Including the bonus EP there are 21 tracks on ‘Songs In The Key of Life’ and apart from the saccharine sweet ‘Isn’t She Lovely’ I could happily play the album on a loop.
It helps that there are a host of musical styles on the record… from the big-band funk of ‘Sir Duke’ to the hypnotic orchestration on ‘Pastime Paradise’.

I’ve always been blown-away by the fact that Stevie played most of the instruments on his 70’s albums himself, (particularly the drums, check out Superstition), but he breaks with tradition here and it unquestionably works.

You’ll find Herbie Hancock displaying his ubiquitous keyboard talents on ‘As’, whilst George Benson exhibits his distinctive guitar and scat vocal style on ‘Another Star’….. memorable cameos that elevate the album to another level.  

Stevie never recaptured the magic of ‘Songs In The Key of Life’ which I’m not sure was humanly possible anyway. The album won four grammy’s, sold ten million copies in the US alone and was a number one album across the globe.



Album #2 – Aja: Steely Dan

When I listen to Steely Dan I often think of a quote credited to the late, great music journalist Ian McDonald who made the following introduction on reviewing the ‘Gaucho‘ album….

Crassness is contagious. Fortunately, so is intelligence – which is why listening to Steely Dan is good for you”.

In truth I could easily have picked three Steely Dan albums, therefore narrowing it down to one is something of a ‘Sophies choice’.

Sonically it doesn’t get much better than Aja and it’s no coincidence that the album is consistently favoured by audiophiles, who still use it to check out the latest audio equipment on the scene.

Despite their excellent canon of work it can be argued that this was the bands pinnacle…. an example of the final product being greater than the sum of its parts, and the sum of its parts in this case were pretty awesome.

Also, if you’re looking for thought provoking lyrics then Steely Dan’s cryptic, ironic themes are a big part of their schtick, having a bit of down-time on this island will enable me to work some of them out at last.

Aja consists of seven great tracks, including the immaculate ‘Deacon Blue’ and the pertinent ‘Home at Last’, a song about exile inspired by Homer’s Odyssey.

Well the danger on the rocks is surely past
Still I remain tied to the mast
Could it be that I have found my home at last
Home at last

Home at Last, featuring the famous Purdie Shuffle


Album #3 – AWB by The Average White Band

By autumn 1974 my record collection was starting to look a bit different- The album section was still dominated by white blokes with long hair like Zep, The Who, Bad Company, etc but the singles section was reflecting what I was hearing in nightclubs and bars – Barry White, Gil Scot-Heron, the Philly Sound, etc.

It’s somewhat ironic then that one of my favourite bands turned out to be a bunch of white blokes with long hair who just happened to be soul and funk masters from down the road.

Like most people, when I first heard ‘Pick Up the Pieces’ I assumed it was The JB’s or another American funk band, so it came as a shock to discover that there was a Hamish, a Molly and an Onnie in the group.

I bought the AWB ‘white album’ as much for the provocatively brilliant cover art as anything else…. then I got home put it on my trusty Sanyo music centre and played it so much that it had to be industrially removed from the turntable.

In truth it was like nothing I’d heard before, the music defied definition, white blokes from Scotland just weren’t supposed to sound as good as The Ohio Players or The Isley Brothers.

The sessions for the album were marshalled by Arif Mardin, the legendary Aretha Franklin producer whose deft touch was all over the record.

On reflection, it was a perfect storm…. a hungry band with great songs, immense talent and a master at the helm.

AWB would go on to make many more fine albums but the ‘white album’ is undoubtedly their masterpiece.


So that’s my three albums…. well today anyway!

Of course I could wake up tomorrow and add Court & Spark by Joni Mitchell or Dark Side of the Moon or Bowie’s Station to Station, depending on what mood I’m in, but I’m pretty happy with the three I chose… well today anyway!

Next time we’ll check out the video section of the iPod….

18 With A Bullet – Midnight At The Oasis by Maria Muldaur

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, April 2022

Some songs are ubiquitous… you’re not even sure where or when you first heard them. They seem to drop out of the ether and once heard you just can’t get them out of your head.

So it is with Maria Muldaur’s sublime ‘Midnight at the Oasis’

I didn’t know much about Muldaur in 1974 apart from the fact that she was a latin beauty, with a distinctive voice and had recorded one of the best singles of the year.

Born in New York as Maria D’Amato, Muldaur was part of the Greenwich Village scene alongside Dylan before her self-titled, debut album was released in 1973 featuring ‘Midnight at the Oasis’

Set in a desert trapping, the song centres on a romantic but playful encounter, where the female protagonist takes the lead….

I’ll be your belly dancer, prancer. And you can be my sheik

Sensual and evocative, Muldaur’s song, alongside those by Barry White, Donna Summer and Marvin Gaye, is (anecdotally) credited as being one of those songs that a lot of 70’s babies were ‘conceived to’.

Beautifully crafted, the musicianship on the track is superb as would be expected from some of the best session musicians of the day, with drummer Jim Gordon, who is credited by Muldaur with coming up with the songs groove, probably being the most heralded.

Gordon’s impressive canon of work includes, Layla with Derek & The Dominoes, My Sweet Lord with George Harrison and Steely Dan’s – Rikki Don’t Lose That Number.

Tragically, the drummer is currently in prison, sentenced in 1984 for killing his mother with a hammer and a butchers knife.
Unbeknown at the time, Gordon suffered with acute schizophrenia which wasn’t diagnosed until after his arrest.

Midnight At The Oasis was a top 10 hit in the US for Muldaur in 1974. It also did well in Canada and Australia but only scraped into the top 30 in the UK and would be her only UK hit.
It was one of those classic radio songs that was popular across all formats and crossed over all musical tastes.

Muldaur who went on to release nearly 40 albums also collaborated with The Doobie Brothers, Linda Ronstadt and Elvin Bishop whilst touring extensively with the Grateful Dead, as both a support act and a backing vocalist.
Her last album, released in 2021, was a jazz/ragtime album.

There have been several covers of Midnight At The Oasis over the years, the most prominent being the 1994 remake by acid-jazz aficionados Brand New Heavies, which became a bigger hit in the UK than the original.

Reflecting on her breakthrough hit, Muldaur reminisced that Midnight At The Oasis was a last minute addition to her debut album as the producer required ‘one more track’ to complete the session.
So in an ironic twist of fate a track that was basically an afterthought and an ‘album filler’ went on to become Muldaur’s signature tune.

Muldaur now 78, still performs the song live at every show and takes great pride in the fact that no two performances of the song are ever the same.

Blackpool (owes the charmer under me)

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, April 2021


There’s always been something about Blackpool…. a bit like the Kelvin Hall or The University Café, or more recently BJ’s Beach Bar in the Algarve… it’s been a ‘happy place’ of mine.

My earliest memories of the Lancashire Riviera are a mixture of great memories and trauma, however.

My first visit was in the summer of 1963, I was 5 years old and perhaps the only reason I remember anything about my inaugural trip is because of one incident that has stayed with me ever since.


Cliff Richard was mega then, even as a 5 year old I’d already seen one of his movies – Summer Holiday, dragged along to the La Scala in Sauchiehall St, to see it by my Mum & Dad.

What wasn’t there to like about Cliff – he was clean cut, he could sing, he seemed like a nice guy, he could reverse park a double decker bus and navigate it all the way to Athens, whilst singing and dancing, and not a single hair out of place!

We’d got tickets to see his summer show at the ABC in Blackpool during our stay in 1963.
I don’t remember too much about the performance, just a communal feeling of excitement, and a collective sense of awe that we were all in the presence of this matinee idol.

What I do remember is that at some point during the performance I needed to go to the loo and being a big boy, I was happy to do this on my own….. plus Mum was transfixed by the Bachelor Boy and Dad by the scantily clad dancers.

It was all going well until I made a wrong turn and exited a fire escape door into an enclosed courtyard rather than heading back into the auditorium.

The fire door slammed shut behind me and I was locked out of the theatre with no means of getting back in OR getting out of the enclosed courtyard, I remember shouting for my Dad in vain and it felt like I was there for hours but he was clearly oblivious to the empty seat beside him…. having too good a time.
My Mum I could forgive; it was Cliff for god sake, but my Dad was in big trouble…

HANGING OUT WITH MY MUM IN 1963

Indignation quickly turned to panic, and I remember thinking I would be stuck there on my own forever before a nice lady who lived in one of the flats overlooking the courtyard intervened. Telling me from her 3rd floor balcony, not to worry and that everything would be okay.

Eventually, my Dad tore himself away from the can-can girls, and by tracking my steps, figured out my rookie error.

He thought the whole episode was hilarious, I thought it was extremely poor parenting!

Cut forward a couple of years to our next visit and the big summer show was Morecambe & Wise; I can’t profess to being a fan as a 7-year-old, but I do remember the guy with the glasses was funny.

By age 7, I was dazzled by the bright lights and the goodies on display at Blackpool, there were toys and treats everywhere.
I had also discovered the Pleasure Beach and wanted to go on all the rides, particularly the Waltzers which remained a big favourite, but once again it was a traumatic experience that holds my memories.

On the last day of the holiday, we were due to go to the Pleasure Beach for a last hurrah before heading up the road and I was so excited to be going on all the rides again.

I can’t remember what I was doing (or thinking!) exactly, but at some point before breakfast I got one of my Dad’s lead fishing weights lodged up my nose and presumably swallowed it, as it disappeared when I sniffed, instead of blowing my nose as instructed.

This resulted in a quick exit from Blackpool and a dash back to Glasgow to visit our doctor in Stonedyke, who for those of you who remember, used to be on the corner of Spey Rd & Canniesburn Rd, opposite the shops.

Why we couldn’t have gone to a local hospital in Blackpool (via the Pleasure Beach!) I don’t know, but I do remember a long, tense, silent journey back to Glasgow, feeling both sheepish yet sorry for myself.

I’m guessing the lead content of the fishing weight is what would have caused the panic, but the Doc said there was nothing to worry about and the lead weight would pop out in my next poop, pretty promptly.

Two trips to Blackpool, two traumas.

I can’t remember how many times we returned to Blackpool before I went back there again in 1974 with my mates.

I do recall seeing the brilliant Tommy Cooper one summer c.1968 but there was no associated trauma to remember the trip by, hence the lack of any further recall about the visit.

Fast forward to July 1974 and my pals had just came back from a Glasgow Fair spent in Blackpool regaling tales of high jinks and romance.

One of the lads even had a penpal from Preston now, and he had a letter and present waiting for him at home on his return…..

The Three Degrees – When Will I See You Again, ahhhh.

I had been unable to go with them in July because of a family holiday but I couldn’t wait for the next 8 weeks to fly by so that I could get to this Mecca of fun for the fabled ‘September Weekend’ break.

We set off from Buchanan St bus station at midnight, which looking back seems strange as Blackpool is only 3 hours by car from Glasgow, but for whatever reason it took us 8 hours to get there.

The bus had been organised by Clouds Disco (later to become the Apollo) and there was a party atmosphere on the bus as most of us knew each other, or at least recognised the faces.

On arrival, we made the rookie mistake of hitting Jenks Bar as soon as it opened.

Day time drinking was a new concept to me, but alcohol was probably the last thing I needed, I was already as high as a kite on adrenaline and buzzing with anticipation for the weekend to come.

We were hammered by early afternoon and that first day became a bit of a blur if I’m honest, culminating in some very strange headwear choices and photographs.

Most of us had turned 16 in the summer of 74 so getting into pubs and clubs wasn’t something we took for granted but there seemed to be no barriers in Blackpool as well as a wealth of choice.

Our preferred venue as it was for a lot of Glaswegians was Mama & Papa Jenks, a big sprawling pub with waitress service…. so you didn’t even have to take the risk of going to the bar to get served.
Jenks had three levels, a bar at ground level, a nightclub above it, and a gay bar in the basement.
The set-up was marvellous but a bit of a shock to the system, particularly when you were used to sneaking into traditional working man’s pubs & saloons in Glasgow and hiding in the corner.

The nightclub at Jenks was pretty good if you wanted to spend the whole evening on-site but we found a great little Soul club nearby with a brilliant DJ that just nailed the music.

To be fair there were a lot of great soul artists/records in the charts at that time – George McCrae, Barry White, Don Covay, Johnny Bristol, The Tymes, The Commodores and The Hues Corporation, etc.
The DJ was playing all that stuff plus a load of imports and remixes we had never heard before.

Learning from our first day we paced ourselves over the rest of the trip, spending time on the Pleasure Beach and leaving the pubs till the evening.

I know Blackpool may not have the best image, but we were having a ball and when it came time to contemplate leaving, a few of the lads said they wanted to stay on… as it transpired some did through no choice of their own.

It seemed half of Glasgow was in Blackpool that weekend which contributed towards a great atmosphere, but the place wasn’t without its tensions.

Come the last night, we were in Jenks having a farewell drink and killing time before catching the bus home, and a massive fight broke out, between the Possil boys and the Calton boys…. and when I say massive, I mean chairs, tables, glasses, bottles, the lot.
The fight spilled outside onto the street like one of those bar room brawls you see in Westerns and it wasn’t long before the police weighed in.

A lad we knew, Hughie Kinnaird, was sharp enough to spot the trouble early-doors and encouraged a few of us to follow him and get out of Dodge before it escalated.
We managed to catch the bus back to Glasgow with minutes to spare but a few of our group got caught up in the rammy and ended up spending an extra couple of days in Blackpool… by necessity rather than design.
The return journey home was a bit more sombre than the party-bus we’d arrived on, but it still took 8 hours!

Another Blackpool trip another drama…

I’ve been back to Blackpool several times since 1974 for fleeting visits but mainly to watch my brother Barry compete in dancing competitions and represent Scotland at the Tower Ballroom in the late 70s and early 80s.

The last time I was there was about 20 years ago when I was up in the North West from London for a meeting in Manchester and persuaded a colleague to stay in Blackpool during the Blackpool Illuminations.

He’d never been or wanted to go to Blackpool, so I was excited to introduce him to the delights of my favourite English coastal town and to change his perception of the place, but it was a losing battle…. the place looked tired and run down and the bright lights didn’t seem so bright anymore.

I’ve not been back since then, and I’m not sure I ever will now.

I think I’d prefer to remember the old place the way it was….. bright, lively, invigorating and full of drama…..