Tag Archives: classic

show & tell – John Allan

My show and tell is my silver plated alto saxophone. The Selmer Paris Balanced Action model from 1935-36. I realise that 99.99% of the population don’t know or care about this icon of the woodwind world but to us anorak train spotters of vintage saxes, a little bit of wee just came out at the mere mentioning of it’s name.

I bought it in around 1976 from a friend of a friend of my brothers called ‘Pete Tchaikovsky’ for ₤50. Considering big bro hung around with guys called Bev, Mod, Grimy and Fred Lawnmower, I’m guessing PT was a nickname or nom de plume. He could feasibly be related to Pyotr Ilyich but his accent was more east end Glasgow than central European. The Russian composer was also not known as a family man. I could say he was more Sugar Plum Fairy but that would be crass.

In it’s case, when I bought it, was a torn fragment of a football pools coupon from 1946 which I have unfortunately misplaced.

I’ve had the instrument serviced twice since owning it. Once in 1979 by my McCormacks’ colleague woodwind repairman and tenor sax legend Bobby Thomson who valued it at around ₤400 and more recently by a chap in Perth WA who put a price tag of about $4,000 about 15 years ago.

Sadly, the last time I played it live was about 15 years ago at various venues around the area including the annual Blues at Bridgetown festival

I was in a 6 piece jazz band then but became disheartened by being the acoustic wallpaper for the blue rinse set. Maybe, one day, it will rise again Phoenix like from the mausoleum (former music room).

There you have it. My 85 year old alto saxophone.

show & tell – andrea grace burn

Hi everyone – I’ve brought along some of my old record
collection for Show & Tell today; pretty cool, huh?

I kept most of my old 45’s from the ’70s as well as a few of my brother’s singles from the late ’60s: an eclectic hoard including everything from ‘In the Year 2525’ by Zager and Evans to ‘Wide Eyed and Legless’ by Andy Fairweather Low.

‘In The Year 2525’ –
Zager & Evans
‘Wide Eyed & Legless’ –
Andy Fairweather Low

 For my ninth birthday in 1969, my parents bought me a white clock radio, which I covered in ‘Peace’ and ‘Love’ stickers; well, America was in the grip of Flower Power!  I put it on my bedside table, where I drifted off to sleep to some of the best music ever written – Motown!

It was the moment of my musical awakening. This is where I first heard ‘Love Child’ by The Supremes. I went around the house glibly singing it – not understanding the lyrics, of course – causing my mother to shoot me one of her looks and say, “Honey, I don’t think you outta be listenin’ to that.”

It was here that I heard Freda Payne’s ‘Band of Gold’, Bobbi Gentry‘s version of ‘I’ll Never Fall in Love Again’, ‘Aquarius’ by The 5th Dimension, ”I heard it Through the Grapevine’ by Marvin Gaye and the first single I ever bought – ‘Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head’ by B.J. Thomas for the giddy price of 50 cents.

My first single!

My big brother David came home one Saturday afternoon with ‘Sugar, Sugar’, by The Archies tucked under his arm, but he soon tired of it and decided to sell it. My middle brother Dale and I both wanted it but David refused, saying he would “still have to listen to it!” He sold it to a friend. I bought an equally annoying single called ‘Dizzy’ by Tommy Roe and would jump up and down on the sofa until I felt sick while listening to it: life imitating art.

My parents had a 1950s stereogram in the living room on which we could drop stack 45’s.  As my brother’s record collection grew, we could listen to four or five singles at a time. A typical selection might include ‘The Snake’ by Al Wilson, ‘Hawaii Five-O’ by The Ventures, Simon and Garfunkel‘s ‘Cecilia’, ‘Classical Gas’ by Mason Williams and the comic record ‘Gitarzan’ by Ray Stevens – which still makes me howl with laughter! Mom and Dad played their own small selection of LPs which favoured Andy Williams, Frank Sinatra and The Sound Of Music soundtrack.

Mom got so carried away with this ‘hip’ new music, she made Dale a blue corduroy shirt with a gold braid Nehru collar and paid a dance instructor to come to the house and teach us all to do the Twist, the Hitch-hiker and the Watusi.

‘How Can I Be Sure’ –
David Cassidy

As we moved to the UK and throughout the 1970s, my musical tastes grew and changed – as any teenager’s do. I ran the gamut of chart singles, getting ‘lost in music’  with  my friend Denise; spending countless weekends sprawled across the dining room floor swooning to David Cassidy, Marc Bolan and The Carpenters – even Morris Albert! But Motown, Philly and disco stole my heart and still have it.

So please take a moment to enjoy my little collection of 45s – I hope they make you want to get dancin’!

(Copyright: Andrea Burn 13th May, 2021)

uncovering my tracks (Parts 3 & 4)

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

Part #3: ALICE BANNED

(Catch up with Parts 1 & 2 of UNCOVERING MY TRACKS, here.)

My tastes were changing. I was thirteen years old and all ‘growed up’.

However, the 1971 kid in me still found it tough being weaned off the bubblegum and sugary Pop hits of the day.

The previous year, we’d been on our first overseas family holiday. Spain, it was, and wherever we went, whenever we went, bloody ’Candida‘ by Tony Orlando and Dawn, was being given big licks.


Breakfast in the hotel dining room: “Oh, Candida, We could make it together.” Lunchtime by the pool: “The further from here, girl, the better, Where the air is fresh and clean.” Evening by the beach-side bratwurst bar: ” Hmm, Candida, Just take my hand and I’ll lead ya. I promise life will be sweeter, And it said so in my dreams.


Back home in UK, The Mixtures and ‘The Pushbike Song’ had been popular enough to reach number two in the January charts of 1971.

Probably more so in those days before digital photos, when you returned from holiday, you craved anything that gave that instant hit of warm, glowing memories.

Scent and music best serve this purpose, I find. In the absence, though, of Yankee Candles emitting the heady, mixed aroma of sun-cream, paella and bleeding Watney’s Red Barrel, my parents opted for an LP that contained both these songs,

Chuffed to bits, they proudly told me I could play it (carefully) on the new radioogram.

My excitement, however, didn’t last long when it very quickly became apparent that the songs were not performed by the original artists Still, money was tight, and it was better than nothing at all.

A few months later, and buoyed by their ‘new cool,’ my folks bought another of those trendy compilations, principally for the T. Rex track ‘Get it On.’ Of course there was no fooling me this time. Once bitten and all that. Also, the song ‘Coco,’ was on the LP, and I had the proper, 7″ single by The Sweet. I could spot the difference.

The rest of 1971 music passed me by without leaving much of an impression. I do still have ‘Bannerman‘ by Blue Mink in my collection, but that’s about it.

The following year though, shaped my music of choice – pretty much for life.

On a family weekend trip to Blackpool, I remember buying what would be only my third album. (The second was ‘Slade Alive‘ by Slade.)

That album was ‘Love It To Death,’ by Alice Cooper. I have no idea as to how I knew of the band. I think perhaps I was flicking through the record box and the rebellious, now fourteen-year-old in me had decided to exact retribution for my mother’s uncomplimentary remarks about T. Rex.

You think Marc Bolan is ‘dirty’ and ‘weird,’ do you? Get a load of this dude and his cronies!

(I unfortunately now own only a CD copy. I sold the vinyl to a second hand record store in Stirling not long after being married when we had no cash.)

A few months later, Alice Cooper arrived in the UK for a series of shows. His reputation preceded him and of course the very conservative press of the time were all over it. I was desperate to go to the Glasgow show. It would be my first gig. But there was zero chance of that happening.

Determined my mind would not be corrupted by some deviant from the other side of the Atlantic, my folks properly ‘grounded’ me on the evening of 10th November 1972, to prevent me sneaking off to the show with a couple of pals who did have tickets. It was for my own good, of course.

One of my mates though, somehow managed to smuggle a tape recorder into the venue and so I was at least able to hear a very muffled version of the show.

My first gig would have to wait.

**********

Part #4: HEAVY ROTATION

It wouldn’t be too long a wait before my first gig – only another four months or so, in March 1973. But in the meantime, my Alice Cooper LP ‘Love it to Death‘ was being played to death in my bedroom.

It whetted my appetite for more ‘heavy rock.’ In late 1972, however, gaining access to such music was not easy. You either had to know somebody who had bought an album and lent it you, or you took a punt and bought blind (or perhaps that should be ‘deaf.’)

Some shops though, like Lewis’s in Glasgow had ‘listening booths,’ where you’d be allowed to listen to one or two tracks from an album in the hope that you’d eventually buy.

(Latterly, the dingy wee Virgin Records shop at the end of Argyle Street, then Listen, in Cambridge Street, Glasgow offered the use of headphones to listen to music. The down side though, was that only one person at a time could listen – we used to pile about six mates into the listening booth along the road in Lewis’s.)

Some rock bands, however, like Free, Deep Purple and the excellent Atomic Rooster had been given airtime on the UK’s prime time popular music show, Top of the Pops in late 1971 / early 1972 and although a bit late to the party (again) I started to search out music from such artists .

1972 also saw the blossoming of Glam Rock in the UK. Arguably started by Marc Bolan in mid 1971, the Glam movement was well and truly on the march through 1972.

(Paul has already written an excellent post on Glam Rock, focusing on Marc Bolan in particular. Uncovering My Tracks will run a more general feature as one of several ‘specials’ at a later date.)

At school, though as a thirteen / fourteen year old lad, it was not de rigueur, to show your true Glam self. Stars like Bolan and Bay City Rollers were for the girls. Boys had to be into what was perceived to be ‘harder’ rock. As mentioned in an earlier post, I got terrible stick for admitting I liked The Sweet. Little did those ‘macho’ pals of mine appreciate that most Glam bands could rock-out some pretty heavy riffs too.

My first rock album however, was one of those blind / deaf purchases I referred to earlier. I had read of this band Uriah Heep in Sounds paper / magazine, and around mid-1972, sent away for their debut album, ‘…very ‘eavy… very ‘umble.’ This immediately took over from the Alice Cooper LP that had hogged the turntable for so many months.

I still play this album a lot, and for me, the late David Byron was one of the best vocalists in rock music.

From a kid who was totally unaware of The Beatles just a few years earlier, I was now completely immersed in music. I couldn’t play a note, of course – I was far too lazy to learn despite my parents’ best efforts. And singing? There was more chance of me holding the World Heavyweight Boxing title than me holding a note.

1972 had been a year of musical enlightenment for me. It had started with me pestering my folks to buy me a shirt similar to one I’d seen Kenney Jones wear while playing drums for Rod Stewart on Top of the Pops. I wanted to look ‘cool’ at my school disco.

We never found one, of course, and I had to settle for a turquoise, paisley pattern shirt and matching kipper tie, with lilac needle-cord trousers.

It ended with me wearing that very same outfit to a disco in London (I was part of a representative Glasgow Boy Scouts group visiting the city) where I ‘got off’ a girl from a local Guides troop.

I made her laugh, apparently.

I now know why.

Isn’t Life strange, though? The song that kicked off 1972 for me, and remains possibly my all-time favourite single, is ‘Stay With Me,’ by The Faces.

… and the song that brought the year to a close, reminding me of that disco in London, is – ‘Angel‘ by Rod Stewart and The Faces.

ROLL ON 1973!!!

(To be continued …)



the games people play

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

There was a time Angry Birds was the squabble for peanuts in the feeder hanging from the washing line and Super Mario was the compliment you gave the waiter as he waltzed from table to table with his oversized pepper grinder at your favourite Italian restaurant.

Every camping holiday the Allan family had in the late 60s and early 70s was accompanied by that Scottish summer dependable – rain and lots of it. As the constant drumming of water on canvas lulled you into a near stupor, Mum would bring out the entertainment.

A pack of cards.

Rummy, Vingt-et-un, Trump (long before any insurrectionist US president) and if no-one would play with you Patience. I don’t know if these names were genuine or if we made them up but Solitaire, the game lurking behind the main screen of many an office worker’s computer, is the same deal (pun intended).

Another family outing to a cottage on the bleak east coast, where the rain off the sea was horizontal, the only saving grace was a copy of The Beatles white album and a well thumbed box of Scrabble. While George’s guitar was gently weeping we were holding back tears of desperation as my Dad, openly scoffing at our 3 and 4 word attempts, would place his 7 letter blockbuster utilising both J and X on a triple word score. He always won. He was a former English teacher, we had no dictionary and he was the self appointed adjudicator. I didn’t know there was a specific word for a Moroccan goat herder’s assistant.

Joint holidays with my cousins brought out the more mathematical puzzles like  Yahtzee. 5 dice and a scorecard basically. The more cerebral Mastermind tested the code breaking skills of the potential Turing’s among us (Enigma at Bletchley Park where my Mum worked during the war and couldn’t talk about until the 90s !)

Various school chums had convoluted puzzles like Mousetrap where you built up the contraption as you went along or Operation where removing tiny objects from an electrically charged cadaver with tiny tweezers was the macabre objective.

My brother, who was in his school’s chess team, tried to introduce me to the noble game. I figured out how all the pieces moved but struggled beyond that. Bro, much to my annoyance, could stare at the board for minutes on end before making a move. A skill he perfected a decade later playing Trivial Pursuit. As fellow participants we sighed and shuffled in our seats at big brother’s slowness. He eventually picked up a card and proclaimed, 

“Just to be different I’m going to tell you the answer and you have to give me the question. OK, the answer is ‘cock robin’ ”

We of course were stumped. After another lengthy delay,

“What’s that up my arse Batman ?” You had to be there !

My uncle claimed that when he took the bus to work he sat next to a gentleman and they would exchange instructions like ‘bishop to queen 4’ to which my uncle would reply ‘knight to kings 3’. On arriving at his office, he would set up a small chess set and periodically phone up his opponent, who presumably had a similar arrangement, with his next move. This was how he spent his day as a professor at one of Scotland’s most prestigious universities. That’s were your hard earned taxes went if you are to believe him !

There were always dominoes to hand in their custom made wooden box courtesy of No.2 brother’s woodwork project. In later years I never plucked up the courage to gate crash the old regulars playing at my local with all their secretive masonic tapping of tables going on.

I obtained travelling sets of both cribbage and backgammon in my later teens. One late evening in a Parisian hotel room I was playing backgammon with my girlfriend (well, what else would you be doing at that time in the city of love ?) who in her excitement mistook her rum and coke glass for the dice tumbler. Luckily she stopped herself casting the contents over the board.

Then there was the game that launched a thousand capitalists Monopoly. My game plan was to get the motor car or the Scottie dog and not suffer the indignity of the iron or the thimble before passing go and collecting ₤200.

A sailing weekend in Lochgilphead turned into a game of  Risk  in the boat shed as conditions outside were not navigable. This is a game of world domination which brings out the megalomaniac in anyone. I’m sure Hitler gave this the thumbs up before invading Poland.

The only domination now is from the onslaught of mindless adverts while flicking through the myriad of games apps on your mobile.

Anyone for a game of cards ?

*****************************************************

corr!! look-in, readers! sounds like jackie has got a beezer, here.

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

As we grow older, it can be all too easy to dismiss or forget the excitement of youth.

Actually, it’s easy enough to forget just why you went upstairs, never mind how you felt as a kid some fifty-plus years back.

Knowing what I’m about to write about, however, has rekindled that feeling of anticipation; of expectation and fulfilment.

Comics.

Comics nowadays are big business. Huge. The proliferation of Comic-con exhibitions around the world is quite staggering, attended by millions of devotees not only of traditional comics, but of movies that then spawned hand-drawn story versions. And vice versa.

We now also have the massive popularity of anime / manga.

Back in the late Sixties and early Seventies, it was a different story

‘Oh, can it be that it was all so simple then?’

Well – probably not, for by that time, thirty years on from popularisation of comics, there were new worlds and universes being created and populated by heroes and villains from both Detective Comics (D.C.) and Marvel.

Those comics and characters though, were generally outwith easy access by us here in UK, unless we had kindly relatives living across the Atlantic who would post the occasional Batman or Superman issue.

No, within the restricted world that small boys and girls inhabit until they turn into teenage monsters, the magazine section of the local newsagent was universe enough.

I’d have been seven years old when my dad brought me my first comic. It was issue #1 of TV21. Published in the style of a newspaper from the future, it was the creation of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and featured stories from all my favourite television programmes: Fireball XL5; Stingray; Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet.

Issue #1 – TV21

I built up quite a collection, but parents do that ‘clear-out’ thing, don’t they, and unfortunately I now have no copies to reflect upon.

However, I did recently manage to buy a hardback covered collection of stories that featured in the original comic, so, happy days!

The excitement of youth I mentioned is no better highlighted than the year I was given a shilling (that’s 5p for any young whipper-snappers reading this) as a birthday treat. I dare say I was also given some other kind of presents, but it’s the monetary treat that remains foremost in my memory.

With this grand sum clasped firmly in my hand, I recall running up Monreith Avenue to Jamieson’s the Newsagent, various budget permutations filling my head.

Spent wisely, I’d be able to buy a Beano AND a Dandy for 4d each (1969 prices) and still have 4d left for sweets. That’d be sixteen Blackjacks / Fruit salad chews …. or maybe I’d buy a couple huge gobstoppers.

My parents weren’t fans of either these two comics and did their best to discourage me.

(That went well, I don’t think! To this day, I treat myself each Christmas with that year’s annual.)

We did though come to a compromise in that I was allowed to read such ‘rubbish’ comics if I also read Look and Learn, which they would buy for me. It was actually a very enjoyable read, and the predictions of life in the future (2001) as detailed in this edition from August 1971, weren’t too far from the truth …. apart from nuclear reactors in the basements of houses and the envisaged postal system!

I think on this occasion, Dennis the Menace and Desperate Dan were more credible.

The importance of this deal, however, was not that I’d be more educationally equipped for secondary school, but that it gave a green light to both sets of grandparents to treat my sister and myself with comics whenever we visited.

For me, it was the Beezer from one and Hotspur or Victor from the other. These covered all bases; humour and mischief, to action-packed deeds of heroism and killing Johnny Foreigner. For a while around 1971, I’d be given copies of Tiger, which combined all of the above and threw in some football related strips. (Comic strips – not football strips. The free gifts were often pretty impressive, but didn’t extend to that level of generosity.)

 My young sister would look forward to her copies of Twinkle and when a little older, Bunty and Judy. I can remember her faithfully cutting out the image of the young girl on the back page, and then ‘dressing’ her in the similarly cut-out items of clothing.

We were easy amused in those days.

Another favourite for me, though I didn’t actually buy many copies, was Scorcher. This was very football-centric with a combination of comic strips and magazine type articles on the sport. It was a bit more ‘grown up’ in its presentation than the more conventional comics.  

Scorcher first hit the newsstands in January 1970, four months after I started spending my pocket money on Shoot! the first issue of which was in August the previous year. Choices had to be made. Shoot! won.

SHOOT! Issue #1

I still have a box with seventy- six copies stacked away in the loft. I just counted them.

In the early to mid-Seventies, as a stepping stone towards the more credible music magazines, I’d occasionally shell out a whole 5p on Disco 45, just so I could learn the words of ‘Run Run Run’ by Jo Jo Gunne. (Duh!)

My sister, Rona, was by now besotted with Donny Osmond and David Cassidy, so naturally Jackie magazine was delivered to our house each week.  (I’ll bet I’m not the only bloke who sneaked a read of the photo stories!)

It wasn’t all about Donny and David and Bay City Rollers, though. I can remember articles and posters of Roxy Music, Sparks and Bowie.

I mean … Rona told me about there being articles and posters of Roxy Music, Sparks and Bowie.

I wouldn’t admit it then, but almost fifty years later, the Jackie inspired CD collections are never far away from my player.

And then it was the big-hitting music papers. Everyone had their favourite. Some would swear by Melody Maker, others would go with NME (New Musical Express.) For me though, it was Sounds. Perhaps because of the colour poster that would be the centrespread of each issue, but just as much for the bands and genres it covered.

At the same time, I was heavily into my running, so Athletics Weekly became a regular. I still love the look and feel of that magazine. Much of it consisted of results from meetings throughout the UK, but there were always a few really interesting interviews and features.

In the early / mid Seventies, athletics was still considered a bit of a minority sport. I well remember, then, feeling well chuffed to see the Crossroads character (Stan Harvey?) frequently having a copy of the magazine protruding from the breast pocket of his work overalls.

I haven’t counted the number of copies, but I still have two boxfuls in the loft!

In the four decades that have followed The Seventies, my love / obsession with magazines has not diminished. Thankfully, for the sake of preserving the eaves of the house, much of my reading is now online. Only Record Collector arrives via the letterbox these days.  

This may be practical, but I also find it sad. Perhaps I’m slightly odd, but I miss the feel of the paper; the attraction of the vivid colour, and the sexiness of the artwork. I miss the physical side of reading magazines and comics as I missed playing vinyl records.

I also miss the smell. Surely you must also hanker after that dusty, mixed aroma of newsprint and ink in a paper shop?

OK – so just me, then.

More than anything though, I miss the excitement I felt as a kid on new issue day.

I can see another rummage in the loft looming.

An ‘L’ Of A Journey (part 2)

George Cheyne: Glasgow, May 2021

There were a couple of urban myths knocking about in the mid-Seventies involving our local driving test centre.

The first was a widespread belief that Friday afternoons should be avoided if you wanted to lose those L plates and the second was you were doomed to fail if you came up against an examiner known as “No-pass Cass”.

There was a fair bit of anecdotal evidence to support both theories, of course, but the Fridays thing was backed up by cold, hard analytical data.

All right, it came via somebody’s second cousin who worked beside a wee woman whose son delivered milk to a driving examiner in the west end and he’d heard it from the horse’s mouth.

But it arrived with more than a whiff of truth about it.

Legend had it that the test centre at Anniesland in Glasgow – like a lot of others, presumably – had a set number of passes they were allowed to put through every week.

So if the quota was reached by Friday morning, then it was curtains for anyone sitting their test that afternoon.

No-pass Cass, on the other hand, was a fearsome zealot who could find fault with even the best of drivers…no matter what day it was.

Armed with this knowledge, it was a bitter-sweet moment when the date for my driving test dropped through the letter box and I found out it was a Friday at high noon.

That sinking feeling would have plummeted as low as the earth’s core if the letter had informed me the test examiner was to be Mr Cassidy, aka No-pass Cass.

But I was spared a double whammy because you were appointed an examiner on the day of the test. Still in the game, then.

And on the morning of the test my dad put me ahead of the game with a clever piece of reverse psychology.

“This Friday thing can work both ways,” he told me, “If they haven’t got enough passes in the book by this morning, then it’s got to be good for those sitting the test in the afternoon, right?”

With my glass-half-empty approach, I hadn’t even considered this possibility – but it helped me feel slightly more confident as I hit the road with my instructor Graham for the hour before the test.

By now I was driving a red Classic Mini 1000 after my parents put me on their insurance for a few months to help get me over the line.

I made the decision to sit the test in the Mini because I’d racked up more miles in it than I had in Graham’s Morris Marina.

Using the intel he’d gathered from his debriefs with clients, Graham plotted the route he thought I’d be taking.

“Mirror, signal, manoeuvre”, he’d say at every opportunity until the mantra was locked firmly inside my head.

His other favourite was: “You seem to have lost track of the time” – which was a gentle hint if your hands ever slipped down from the 10 to 2 position on the steering wheel.

The practice run went well except when I got carried away doing a three-point turn and, because it was a small Mini on a big road, managed to do it in one go.

A quick reminder from Graham that the object of the exercise is to use forward and reverse gears and I was back on track.

We went through all the drills until I was as ready as I was ever going to be.

Graham’s final pep talk was pretty straight-forward: “Remember…mirror, signal, manoeuvre.” And with that, I walked in to the test centre with as much self-belief as I could muster.

Which wasn’t hellish much, that’s for sure. I reckon my knees would have buckled if the examiner who called out my name had introduced himself as Mr Cassidy.

As it turned out, I never caught his name. I just knew he hadn’t said Cassidy and that was good enough for me.

After the obligatory eyesight test we were off and running…well, off and driving anyway.

Fair play to Graham’s intel, the route we took was almost identical to the one he and I had been on an hour earlier.

And that helped big time as we went through the drills – emergency stop, making an exit from a roundabout and parking at the kerb.

I was even asked to do the three-point turn at exactly the same spot as I’d done before and this time remembered to put the Mini into reverse.

Next up was reversing round a corner. I’d always been fairly good at this but nerves got the better of me as I lined up the car all wrong and was clearly going to clip the kerb if I carried on.

I stopped, asked the examiner if it was okay to move forward again to straighten up and was told: “I can only repeat the instruction…reverse round the corner on the left-hand side.”

“Yeah, but can I move forward again after starting the manoeuvre,” I pleaded.

“I can only repeat the instruction…”

I took the unilateral decision to slam the car into first, move forward a few feet to straighten up –  and then executed the most perfect reverse I’d ever done.

If I thought I’d blown it with my impetuosity, then there was even worse to come at the hill start.

The examiner directed me to a fairly steep incline opposite a secondary school and I prepared to find the bite point, release the hand-brake and move off.

 “Mirror, signal…man overboard”. Suddenly a sea of faces were flowing down the hill towards us as a swarm of school kids filled the road.

It’s lunchtime, the school bell had just rung and nothing was going to stand between them and the chip van parked down the hill behind us – not even a poor sod sitting his driving test.

What to do? There didn’t seem much point in asking my examiner after the last fiasco so I did precisely nothing.

Not an option, apparently. He leaned over towards the steering wheel, sounded the horn and uttered the words: “Let’s go.”

Mr Play-it-by-the-book had just gone rogue. And while he didn’t go full-on David Carradine in the movie Death Race 2000, there was a definite glint in his eye.

I somehow managed to steer unerringly through the throng without hitting anyone and circled back towards the test centre for the Highway Code questions.

By this point I was frazzled.
I’m pretty sure I failed to identify at least one of the road signs and definitely got a stopping-distance question wrong.

And when you add the reversing and hill start indiscretions into the mix, there was no reason to think I’d passed.

Yet Mr Play-it-by-the-book congratulated me, handed over a certificate, wished me good luck and headed off into the sunset…presumably looking for some pesky schoolkids to mow down.

Had No-pass Cass failed all his candidates and given us a free hit that Friday afternoon or had the examiner seen enough to figure I was at least an all-round competent driver?

Don’t know the answer to that one…and I don’t really care.

lady gaggia

(Post by Andrea Grace Burn of East Yorkshire – May 2021)

Hawkins Wine Bar.

Having spent a good deal of my teens frequenting pubs around West Birmingham during the mid 1970s, it seemed perfectly natural to progress to working in them. My ambitions were to go on the stage but a girl has to make a living, right?

As soon as I left school in 1978, and with no particular place to go, I headed for an interview with a new wine bar that had just opened in the city centre – very upmarket!  Hawkins’s occupied a large corner site opposite Aston University and was near the police station and the Accident and Emergency Hospital, so I figured I’d be safe walking late at night to catch the bus from outside the ‘Back of Rackham’s’.

(Rackham’s was an elegant department store occupying a whole city block on Corporation Street in Birmingham. Rumours abounded that ladies of a certain type frequented the pavements outside the back door and Mom always warned me against hanging around there.   I walked many times around the ‘Back of Rackham’s’ as I grew up and never once saw anything improper going on, much to my dismay.)

With Mom’s advice to ‘look smart and mind my manners’ ringing in my ears, I borrowed her fashionable black and white dog-tooth checked suit (shortening the skirt, obviously); teaming it with my white leather cowgirl boots, white cotton lace gloves and an antique parasol.

With the audacity of youth, I strutted into Hawkins one sunny October afternoon and stopped in my tracks to gaze in wonder at the fabulous fixtures and fittings. The long mahogany bar was backed by a reclaimed church façade and bevelled mirrors, which reflected the light from the enormous curved, windows. I felt very grown up.

(Opposite: Hawkins interior – now Sound Bar.)

Assistant Manager Tristan must have noticed me gawping and bounded over, shook my hand and ushered me to a table. He had a big Zapata moustache and an equally big, bright smile. 

“Hello Darling, you must be Andrea?” 

“Yes thanks, I am.” (Going well so far) 

“So, you’ve come about the position as bar maid and waitress?” 

“Yes thanks, I have.” 

“Have you had any previous experience?” 

“No, but I learn fast!” 

Tristan flashed his brilliant smile at me, touching my arm lightly: 

“I love your outfit darling – especially the parasol! Wonderful!” 

“Thanks!” 

“So, when can you start?” 

“Right now.” (Mom had said I should appear ‘keen’.) 

“OK darling, I’ll just have to introduce you to the manager.

Tristan trotted away to find said manager; a tall man with a weak handshake which worried me slightly as Dad had always warned me of men with a “limp” hand shake.  (“Honey, you know where you stand with a firm grip.”)

“This is Andrea –  isn’t she gorgeous? She can start right away and she’s a fast learner.” 

“I bet she is,” said the manager as he looked me up and down.  My interview was apparently over and I was asked to start work the next morning at 7:30 am  to   serve continental style breakfast and coffee from eight. I was put to work on the food counter, serving cold meats and cheese, croissants and pastries and the infamous Gaggia espresso machine. This great red and chrome beast occupied the whole length of the food bar, with its hot water spouts, coffee grinders and stacks of white cups and saucers. 

Getting to grips with the Beast, as it became known, wasn’t easy – it was all in the wrist action. Customers would stand behind the counter and watch as the other girls and I twisted and twirled the mighty coffee grinders and polished the spouts in time to the music; steam hissing into the steel milk jugs. We could pull quite a crowd. 

Having to start work so early meant I was often the first person there with the cleaners, one of whom was spooked by rumours that Hawkins was haunted. There were stories that the bar stools had been found one morning stacked on top of each other – just like the kitchen chairs in Poltergeist! The lamps behind the bar moved and footsteps could be heard running up from the basement kitchen, where people had died during WW2 as they sheltered from the bombing.  I hoped against hope to see a ghost but never did – but the old building certainly had an odd atmosphere.

Andrea in 1978 … and in standard issue Hawkins beige cords.

Reports of hauntings didn’t put punters off, as solicitors from the Law Courts next door poured into Hawkins for their ‘working lunches’.  I worked the mighty Beast in beige cord jeans so tight I had to lie down and zip them up using a coat hanger.  I was voted ‘Gaggia Girl 1979’ – my claim to fame!

As I worked the bar one evening, Andy Gray, – the Villa footballer – came in and asked the other girls and me if we would like to come over to his new night club? I had to think about that for, oh, maybe two seconds. Imagine, the girl from Virginia who didn’t know what the Villa was, now being asked to come check out a night club owned by a Villa player!  Ha – what would the lads at the God Awful school think now? 

The Holy City Zoo was the most fantastic, exotic place I had ever been! Like a dark cave, it went back and back through a series of rooms beneath the railway arches at Snow Hill station. It became a new romantic club in the early ’80s with live bands such as Roxy Music and Duran Duran, but when it opened in ’79 it pumped out disco. The Hawkins staff became regulars after our shift ended; strutting our stuff fired up on Pernod and coke, great music and youth. I crawled home at 2am to sleep it off, get up at five and do it all over again

Back at Hawkins the buzz was always at fever pitch as we worked to the heady disco beat on a Bose Sound System:  ‘Le Freak’’, ‘Ladies Night’, ‘Instant Replay’, ‘You Make Me Feel, Mighty Real’ beneath the huge mirror balls and innovative laser shows. I loved every minute. 

It was in this heady atmosphere, that I first met George Melly when he was booked to play a gig at Hawkins with John Chiltern and his Feet Warmers. I was asked to go down into the staff room to serve drinks to the band and was introduced to Mr. Melly, who was sitting with his large frame overextending the rather small chair; resplendent in a snappy pinstriped suit with wide lapels and a large snap brimmed fedora hat.     

“So, my dear, how kind of you to bring old George a drink.” 

As the lights in the bar dimmed to a spotlight, Mr. Melly sashed onto the floor with a wicked gleam in his eye and a whisky in his hand as he belted out Bessie Smith’s ‘Kitchen Man’: 

‘I love his cabbage gravy, his hash, 

Crazy ’bout his succotash, 

I can’t do without my kitchen man! 

Wild about his turnip top, 

Like the way he warms my chop, 

I can’t do without my kitchen man!’ 

I became a big fan, following his gigs from London’s Ronnie Scotts to the Malvern Theatre, where he had to stop the show and tell the be-jewelled, staid audience to clap on the off-beat: “This is Jazz!” he growled.

 I saw George Melly several more times, including an appearance he made on BBC Pebble Mill’s ‘Six Fifty-five Special’ – a surreal experience.  I was invited to meet him in the Green Room, where he sat in his trade mark Zoot suit and snap brim Fedora before he went on air.

“Hello my dear, how kind of you to come to see old George.” He still twinkled.

With him was Kenneth Williams, who was staring up the nostrils of  70s actor and singer David Soul, giving him an impromptu lesson on how to speak with an English accent:

“Enunciate, dear boy, e-nun-ciate.”

I had just witnessed a Master Class.

Before I left Hawkins, we had a New Year’s Eve fancy dress party with a ‘Glamorous Hollywood’ theme. All staff were expected to do a ‘turn’ and having recently had my permed hair cut into a short crop, I went along as Liza Minnelli in bowler hat, black waistcoat, fishnets and towering stiletto’s.  Grabbing a bar stool, I did my best to impersonate Liza in Cabaret – although I couldn’t for the life of me bend backwards over that stool! My brother Dale tagged along wearing a full suit of armour. Unable to sit down, he stood all evening with cigarette smoke curling through the grid on his visor. 

Liza Minnelli as Andrea … no, wait …??

The drag acts were outstanding that evening, including ‘Fred and Ginger’ who thrilled us with their rendition of ‘Cheek to Cheek’ and ‘Rita Hayworth’ slinking across the floor to ‘Put the Blame on Mame’. We danced until dawn, seeing in 1979 in considerable style and with heavy hangovers!

Oh to be eighteen again!

(Copyright: Andrea Burn May 1st 2021)

ye canny shove yer grannie …

Colin Jackson: Glasgow, April 2021

Ye canny shove yer grannie aff a bus

Naw ye canny shove yer grannie aff a bus

Naw ye canny shove yer grannie

Cause she’s yer mammie’s mammie

Ye canny shove yer grannie aff a bus

Ye can shove yer other grannie aff a bus PUSH PUSH

Ye can shove yer other grannie aff a bus PUSH PUSH

Ye can shove yer other grannie

Cause she’s just yer daddie’s mammie

Shove yer other grannie aff a bus PUSH PUSH

**********

CLAP! CLAP!

Can I have your attention, boys and girls!

Ok – so who remembers singing this little ditty when they were young?

Scandalous, isn’t it?

We can certainly do without that kind of criminal incitement in today’s society. 😉

Yeah, ok, so it’s kind of catchy – but even so, in these post music hall and woke days, I’m surprised The Singing Kettle and nursery schools all over the land are allowed to get away with it.

I suppose the first question to be asked, is did anyone actually take the lyrics literally, and second, did your Granny ever again share her Werthers Originals with you?

On the basis that the answer to question number one was a resounding ‘no,’ then my next question would be: who would even consider such a thing? Not me, for sure – I knew when I was onto a good thing, me.

I do wonder though, what effect this song may have had on one side of the Granny equation.

My two Grans were Gran Mary (my mum’s mother) and Gran Jackson (my dad’s mother.) They were both pretty similar characters, although being more sporty and having married a champion professional boxer, the former had more of an active and competitive nature.

My sister and I genuinely had no favourite and loved going to visit both as each would each spoil us with the decadent treats not on offer at home. I’m talking Creamola Foam, Tunnocks Tea Cakes and Oddfellows sweets. (Did you like me, break off the chocolate from the mallow dome before devouring the biscuit, flattening the foil wrapper and then folding it into as small a square as possible?)

As I grew older though, I did begin to notice one difference between the two Grans: Gran Mary would take me places. It was her and my Grandpa that took me to my first ever football match. The number fifteen Corporation bus took us directly from their home in Knightswood, Glasgow to Ibrox Stadium, for a League match between Rangers and Hibs.

They took me to many more matches before my Dad managed to get out of working on Saturdays and could take me himself. Each time, we travelled by bus.

My Gran was always so happy on the way across town. I had thought it was excitement at going to the match. On reflection though, there was a certain smugness about her contentment.

She was my ‘mammie’s mammie’ after all.

“In your face, Mrs J! Travelling with my darling grandson … on a bus! I’m even sitting on the seat that looks out onto the open platform. Look! I’m going to stand up. No hands! Woo hoo! Yep – still here!

My Gran Jackson, on the other hand …. well.

Occasionally, my parents would go to one of those ‘classy’ dinner dances at The Albany Hotel. Rather than ask a babysitter wait into the wee small hours for their return, we would be dropped at Gran Jackson’s for the bulk of the weekend.

We went through the same ritual each time:

“What shall we do this afternoon?” Gran Jackson would ask.
“Can we get the bus to go watch the football, please?”

My Gran was like:

Casanrdra on being awakened by young Damien, in ‘Only Fools & Horses

Wiping beads of sweat from her forehead with a shaking hand, she would suggest:

“Why don’t we stay home and watch the Wrestling on TV. I’ve got you some Creamola Foam and a Tunnocks tea Cake? And a packet of Oddfellows.”

Five miles away, in Knightswood and from behind a satisfied smile, the hushed words ‘one nil to the Mammie’s Mammie’ escaped into the ether.

Oh yeah – and so who was it taught me this song as a nipper? Why, of course, it was Gran Mary!

Aye – as those darned kids said, ‘There’s No One Quite Like Grandma.’

Especially a competitive one.

(Don’t fret, I’ve subjected you to enough – anyway St Winifred’s School Choir’s big hit was in 1980 and therefore disqualified from this blog.)