Tag Archives: disco

saturday night special

“‘Cause Saturday night’s the night I like

Saturday night’s alright, alright, alright, ooh”

Saturday nights, are the best of the week; always have been – always will be. But although still special, as grumpy, cynical old grown-ups, we know what to expect. What we do in 2030 will be much the same as we did in 2020 albeit probably a lot slower and involving more aches, pains, groans and complaining.

Growing up in the ‘70s, though, it was all that bit more exciting:

1970 (aged 12):
Saturday nights would be special for parents too. My sister and I would often be dropped off at grandparents for the night while mum and dad went to some fancy-dan Dinner Dance at the Albany Hotel. Suited us: a Beano comic; a Lucky Bag; Dr Who and Dixon of Dock Green on TV; home-made (powdered) ice cream and a glass of Lucozade – even if we weren’t feeling poorly.

Beano – 7th February 1970

1971 (aged 13):
Dad would treat us all to his tea-time speciality – spam and beetroot fritters! Mmmmnn! Yummy!

The ice-cream van would pass down our street and we’d get a copy of the Pink Times which carried all that day’s football results. I’d then spend ages meticulously updating my Shoot! League Ladders, copying the positions from the evening paper. It was a pretty pointless exercise, I’ll grant you, but that’s just what we did for entertainment back then. With hindsight though, it’s perhaps easy to see why I struggled to find a girlfriend!

SHOOT! League Ladders 1971 / 1972

1972 (aged 14):
At 5pm, my dad and I would gather round the radio, waiting for the tune that still excites me to this day.

James Alexander Gordon would read the Classified Football Results and we’d always try to guess the away team’s score from the intonation in his voice.

(I’d then get my bloody Shoot! League ladders ready, in anticipation of the ice-cream van’s chimes.)

Really though, not a lot changed from 1971. Still too young for even under-aged drinking in the tunnel under the railway at the back of our house, I’d settle for dad’s new Saturday tea-time treat – mashed corned beef and beetroot toasties. Mmmmnn! Yummy!

(Beetroot to our family were as turnips would be to Baldrick in Blackadder, some eleven years later.)

1973 (aged 15):
I enjoyed going to watch football with my pals – not so much for the sport, as my team had been a bit sporadic in their success those past eight years, but because I had an excuse to pass on the ‘something and beetroot,’ Saturday Special! My pals and I would stop off at the chippy outside the Underground station and I’d have just the best black pudding supper and a couple of pickled onions the size of golf balls.

“Oh Dad – I’d love to try one, but really, honestly … I’m stuffed.”

And that’s about as exciting as it got. Saturday nights for fifteen year olds in Boresville, Suburbia could be a bit on the mundane side.

Black pudding supper.

1974 (aged 16):
Now Saturdays became a bit more exciting. We’d somehow blag copious amounts of beer and fortified wine from unscrupulous Off Sales proprietors and stash it in the local woods. Later that evening, we’d retrieve it, neck it, and quickly head off to the local disco.

It now all became a bit of a race against time. We’d have to time our arrival (often at the town’s Ski Club) before the alcohol got the better of us and we’d be refused entry – which did happen from time to time, I’m afraid to say.

Add another of these and a couple bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale.

1975 (aged 17):
1975 called for a bit of consolidation before we turned 18. We were however, sufficiently confident to blag a beer or two at the local hostelry – The Burnbrae.

We had become bored with the stale local disco scene though, and would instead venture into Glasgow’s fashionable West End to crash the disco nights held by some of the city’s private schools.

The all-girl schools were pretty discerning about who they let in, so we generally stuck to the all-boys schools. These events were hosted by the schools’ rugby clubs and so there were plenty of burly bouncers to evade / deceive before entry.

And the students of these schools didn’t take too kindly to us usurpers from Comprehensive schools chatting up their girlfriends. Frequently the evening would end in fights – and a girl’s false phone number scribbled onto your arm.

(Oh – just me, then?)

1976 (aged 18):
By August ’76, I may still have been a daft wee boy, but I’d left school, turned eighteen and started my first job. I dared bar staff in town to question my age. Which they did, of course – for the next five years or so. See, that’s the trouble with being a daft wee boy!

Naturally, Saturday nights became pub centric. Generally they’d be spent with old school pals at Macintosh’s Bar in Glasgow, followed by a few hours at The White Elephant discotheque.

Macintosh’s Bar.
Flyer for The White Elephant

1977 (aged 19):
I was now dating a girl I’d met at The White Elephant, so most Saturdays were still being spent in there – maybe with a pre-disco Stakis Steakhouse meal thrown in. Boy, I knew how to show the ladies a real good time!

Some Saturdays though, my mate, Derek, would sign me in to the Strathclyde University Students’ Union Bar. The beer was so much cheaper in there than the standard 38p pub pint, and bands were booked every week. One of the best, and one I had to pester him to get me in to, was The Ramones. Yeah, The Ramones! 21st May 1977 it was, and they co-headlined with another little known band of the time, Talking Heads.

Not a bad night for, I reckon, about a fiver all in!

The Ramones – 1977

1978 (aged 20):
I had met another girl in the autumn of the previous year – we’d be together two years – and her best pal was going out with my best mate. (They had introduced us on a blind date.) We would still head uptown from time to time, but the girls weren’t that keen. Looking back, we had almost instantly morphed into two boring ‘married’ couples, sitting around one of our homes listening to records and watching crap television with a Chinese takeaway meal on our laps.

Yawn.

Chinese Takeaway Meal.

1979 (aged 21):
This was much the same as the previous year until after our second holiday away together, my girlfriend and I decided enough was enough. Come September, Saturday nights were then mainly spent in the company of my athletics club pals, either in the bars or Indian / Greek restaurants of Glasgow’s Kelvinbridge area, or at The Peel pub in Drumchapel, playing darts, Space Invaders, Galaxian and Asteroids.

We would also enjoy playing ‘the puggy’ – until it was stolen! Yes, really!

Galaxian arcade game.

Six months into the next decade and I’d go on holiday to the South of France with some of those athletics pals. There, I’d meet our Diane, a Geordie lass. Saturday evenings for the next couple of years would be spent at her local Social Club, playing bingo, watching some really ropey ‘turn’ and drinking warm, flat lager (Hansa?)

Social Club

Either that, or with pals and their partners, we’d revisit some of those old, Glasgow haunts from the late ‘70s.

And so the excitement of Saturday nights continue into my sixty-fifth year – at the beginning of June, Diane and I have organised a big party to celebrate our 40th Anniversary! (But not before I’ve updated my end-of-season Shoot! League Ladders.)

“Gonna keep on dancing
To the rock and roll
On Saturday night, Saturday night.”

(Post by Coin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – May 2022)

almost top of the pops – hot chocolate

(A look at bands / artists, who this day in The ‘70s were ALMOST Top of the Pops.)

3rd April 1974

Hot Chocolate
Hot Chocolate – ‘Emma.’

It started with a miss …

In 1969, friends Errol Brown and Tony Wilson decided to form a band. Based in Brixton, London, the singer and bass player initially brought in Franklin de Allie (guitar) Larry Ferguson (keyboards) Ian King (drums) and Patrice Olive (congas.)

Their first official release was quite fortuitous: the band prepared a demo to hawk around the record companies – a reggae tinged version of John Lennon’s ‘Give Peace A Chance.

Errol had changed some of the lyrics, only to be subsequently told he could not do so without Lennon’s express permission. And so it was more in hope than expectation that the, as yet unnamed, band submitted the demo to The Beatles‘ label, Apple

As it happened, Lennon loved the version and the track was released, under the band’s label-given name of The Hot Chocolate Band.

It bombed.

Here’s why.

The Hot Chocolate Band: ‘Give Peace A Chance.’

Towards the end of the year, Mickie Most of the RAK label, signed Errol and Tony as songwriters and they went from strength to strength, penning songs for likes of Mary Hopkins, Julie Felix and even Herman’s Hermits.

Come 1970, and it was Mickie who pushed Errol and Tony into writing material for their own band, whose name had by now been shortened to the more familiar, Hot Chocolate.

‘Love Is Life’ was a pretty good opening effort, reaching #6 in the UK charts that summer. Who could possibly have thought then that this song would herald a fifteen year period in which the band would score a hit in each consecutive year – the only group in the UK to have done so.

Their brand of pop /soul / disco with heavier beats and percussion was very unique and became hugely popular over the years.

Hot Chocolate

Including re-issues, Hot Chocolate amassed a staggering 35 hits prior to the turn of the century. In doing so, they became part of the nation’s musical fabric, permeating the subconscious and being admired by many who would normally listen to other styles of music.

They are not a band I myself would have considered a ‘favourite’ but looking through the list of hits, I realise just how much I did / do enjoy them – this one being the stand-out for me. From August 1971, I recollect it (well, a session musicians version) being on a Top of the Pops compilation that I played to death;

‘I Believe (In Love)’ – peaked at #8 in the summer of 1971
This one!

Amazingly, the band only recorded one #1 hit – ‘So You Win Again‘ in 1977, but as with so many others over the years, this week in 1974 saw Hot Chocolate ALMOST Top of the Pops.

Hot Chocolate – Emma.

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie” Jackson from Glasgow – April 2022)

almost top of the pops – pickettywitch

(A look at bands / artists, who this day in The ‘70s were ALMOST Top of the Pops.)

9th March 1970

PICKETTYWITCH

Pickettywitch
Pickettywitch on Top of the Pops.

This week in 1970 saw London based band Pickettywitch jump eleven places in the UK singles chart to #8, with their second release, ‘That Same Old Feeling.’ It would peak at #5, the highest position reached by any of their three singles to break into the Top Forty.

The band, fronted by Polly Browne, first came to the nation’s attention in 1969, when they appeared on television’s ‘Opportunity Knocks,’ playing ‘Soloman Grundy,’ a song composed and arranged by Tony Macauley and John McLeod. (The writing partners also wrote hits for The Foundations while Macauley on his own would write for Marmalade, Long John Baldry and David Soul amongst others.)

John McLeod had by this time signed the band to Pye Records and ‘Soloman Grundy’ was actually the B-side to their debut release, ‘You Got Me So I Don’t Know,’ which failed to chart.

Pickettywitch – ‘Soloman Grundy.’

It was the follow-up though that saw the band break through. ‘That Same Feeling’ is a classic of its time, and is a standard for any self-respecting ‘70s Compilation CD.

In addition to a UK high of #5, it also broke the USA Hot 100, stalling at #67.

Pickettywitch would chart on two more occasions in 1970, reaching #16 in July, with ‘(It’s Like A) Sad Old Kinda Movie’ and #27in November with ‘Baby I Won’t Let You Down.’

Pickettywitch – ‘(It’s Like) A Sad Old Kinda Movie’

Line-up changes followed, but the band’s sound had always been augmented by seasoned session musicians and so remained relatively constant. However, several subsequent, (mainly) Macauley / McLeod penned songs failed to impact the charts and the band drifted into the cabaret circuit.

Polly Browne had been pressured for a while by labels and management to pursue a solo career and when she eventually took that step in 1972, Pickettywitch staggered on for one more release before disbanding the following year.

Sweet Dreams – ‘Honey Honey.’

Actually, Polly’s first post-band success came as part of a duo with Tony Jackson, when in July 1974, as Sweet Dreams, they had a UK #10 hit with a cover of Abba’sHoney Honey.’

Two months later, this time in her own name alone, ‘Up In A Puff Of  Smoke,’ may have only breached the UK charts at #43, but in the USA it peaked at #16, and even at #3 in the US Disco Chart.

Polly Browne – ‘Up In A Puff Of Smoke.’

Polly remained popular and respected throughout the Disco era on both sides of the Atlantic.

It’s a while ago now, of course, but for a time Pickettywitch and Polly Browne were ALMOST Top of the Pops.

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – March 2022)

____________

Kiss On My List

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, January 2022

I reckon most people can remember who they shared their first romantic kiss with… although perhaps we’re reaching an age now where some of us are struggling to remember who we shared the last one with!

That first kiss can be a defining moment, a conclusion to months and in some cases years of anxiety…. they don’t call it teenage angst for nothing.

For our troop of wannabe Romeos, any thoughts of engaging with the opposite sex didn’t emerge until the lead up to the Qualifying (Quali) Dance in primary 7. Up until then we had more important things to focus our blossoming brains on, like Football, Subbuteo & Airfix models.

Whilst the Quali Dance appeared to be the tipping point for this seismic shift in interests, the real catalyst I think was the onset of puberty which was having its impact on the fairer sex as well…. why else would they show any interest in a monosyllabic boy sporting a matching shirt & tie abomination hand-picked by a mum who thought Peter Wyngarde was a style guru?

The Quali Dance of course was a school ritual and part of said ritual was to ‘escort someone to the dance’… except it never really worked out that way.
There were no limousines, corsages, bowls of punch or live bands like the feted American high-school proms…. just teuchter music, unbranded fizzy-pop, dollops of awkwardness and an evening that seemed to go by in a flash.

Despite all the talk and bravado I don’t remember anyone from our year popping their ‘kissing-cherry’ at the Westerton Primary School, Quali Dance of 1970.
Not even our resident man-boy…. a lad with a voice like Barry White and a full thicket of short & curlies at age 11, who’s hormones were obviously running amok whilst the rest of us were popping champagne corks if we located a single strand in the nether regions with a magnifying glass.

I didn’t think about it at the time but looking back I imagine the dynamics in the girls changing rooms were pretty similar.

Our transition to the ‘big school’ several months later presented fresh opportunities and challenges. There were lots of new people on the scene now and more social events…. however, this just seemed to ramp up the pressure as you sought to avoid being the last in your peer-group to land that first smooch.

There was also some anxiety around the question of technique – kissing wasn’t something you could practice by yourself (or with a mate!) like football, so how could you tell if you were doing it properly?

What if you banged her teeth or bit her lip or she swallowed your chewing gum? The word would surely get out and no one would ever want to kiss you again.

You’d be kiss-shamed and canceled!

There were one or two awkward near misses before the big event took place, notably a spin the bottle session with an older crowd, resulting in a couple of consolatory pecks to the cheek and forehead… which wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t been sitting eyes closed, lips pursed, in anticipation.

As it turned out, my first kiss was with a girl I’d known since primary 3 and although it wasn’t articulated, I think we were both motivated by a shared need to get this kissing monkey off our respective backs.
In that respect I suppose it was more a kiss of convenience than an explosion of passion.

Don’t get me wrong, it was nice, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t chip her teeth or block any airways with my Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit, but I don’t remember there being any fireworks…. just a joint sense of relief before we went our separate ways to share our news.

I think we appreciated we were in the same boat…. it was a rite of passage for both of us.

Fast forward a couple of years and the kissing floodgates were well and truly open now – I remember this bizarre ritual at local disco’s where revellers would just start snogging mid-song and I’m not talking about the slow songs at the end of the evening, as that was par for the course.
There was no verbal interaction, no please or thank you’s, no “you’re looking ravishing tonight”…. just a tap on the shoulder, two and a half minutes of shuffling around to 10cc or Cockney Rebel followed by a 30 second snog and then you’d be on your merry way before the DJ played the next song…. I’ve often wondered if it still happens today?

This was an era when you would go to the cinema ostensibly to ‘winch’ your way through whatever blockbuster was showing that week.
Bearing in mind that double bills were the norm in the 70s, that was a lot of smooching, particularly as you only came up for air when the lights came on for the obligatory half-time refreshments… Kia-ora and choc-ice.

I think it’s fair to say that the back rows of the local cinemas were always chock-a-block on a Friday and Saturday night and it wasn’t to get a panoramic view of the screen

This was also the period when ‘love-bites’ came into prominence (as did polo-necks, funnily enough) with girls applying makeup (and toothpaste?) to conceal their perceived marks of shame whilst boys strutted around like Mick Jagger, parading their vampiric contusions as a badge of honour.

There was plenty of anxiety around this practice too – what if I suck a bit too hard and draw blood, will I turn into a bat?

It was a curious phenomenon.

Some people even practised the art on themselves (well, I’m guessing the love bites on their arms didn’t get there any other way!) whilst others used the suction from a coke bottle or similar to make it look like they’d been party to an amorous encounter… when really they’d been in their bedrooms alone, listening to Gilbert O’Sullivan and waiting for the ice-cream van.

Looking back, love-bites were horrendous things but like tartan scarves, Gloverall duffel coats and first kisses, at a certain point, we all had to have one!

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!   Harpers occupied a large corner site near the police station and 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 Harpers 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: Harpers 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 Harpers 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 Harpers 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 nightclub 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. TheHarpers 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 Harpers 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 Harpers 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.  He smiled his languid smile and said something like:   

“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,’ which was rich with lewd innuendo.

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. Whether he remembered me or not is doubtful, but he spoke to me as though I was his best friend:

“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 Harpers, 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 dressed as Liza Minnelli as ‘Sally Bowles’ from “Cabaret” in bowler hat, black waistcoat, fishnets and towering stiletto’s.  Grabbing a bar stool, I did my best, 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)

carry on campus (part 3)

George (disco) Cheyne: Glasgow, April 2021

You can just imagine the dulcet Geordie tones of the voiceover: “Day one in the Big Brother campus…and the classmates meet each other for the first time.


“Tension fills the air as they sit in the student union sizing each other up.

“Their first task is to nominate a social convenor for the group without using the Diary Room – it must be done by a public show of hands…”

That’s kind of what happened in the spring of 1978 on our opening day of an eight-week block-release journalism course at Edinburgh’s Napier College.

We were all sitting around after our induction on the Monday and I was trying to organise our first night out. Well, you can take the boy out of Glasgow…

Of the 16 in the class, only two were from the capital city and so – the reasoning went – one of them should act as social convenor.

Made sense to me. Straight shootout between Stevie and Alistair and, when you consider Alistair was sitting there in a shirt and tie and a briefcase on his lap, it became a one-horse race.

Stevie was duly elected social convenor by a show of hands and was set his first task of arranging a night out on the Thursday.

Fast forward 48 hours and we’re all together again – except Stevie – sitting in the union listening to the tunes coming out the Wurlitzer jukebox.


Yeah, it was that long ago. The favourite selections at that time were Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street, Boney M’s Brown Girl In The Ring and the Bee Gees’ Night Fever.

Right on cue, Stevie came over to join us with a smile plastered across his coupon singing as he went:

Night fever, night fever

We know how to do it

Gimme that night fever, night fever

We know how to show it


Thankfully he spared us the flailing arm routine always associated with that tune and took his seat with all the confidence of Tony Manero hitting the under-lit dance floor in Saturday Night Fever.

All eyes were on Stevie and we let him milk the moment. In the background you could hear:

Here I am

Praying for this moment to last

Livin’ on the music so fine

Borne on the wind

Makin’ it mine

There was no stopping him now and this time we weren’t spared the flailing arm routine as he grinned: “We’ll be giving it a bit of this tomorrow night then.”

I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction, but someone else asked: How’s that, Stevie?”

“I’ve only got us all on the guest list for the new nightclub that’s opened up in Princes Street,” he replied. “Free champagne, the lot.”

Stevie..social convenor..campus legend.

So the next night there were 14 of us – one of the girls had a pre-arranged family thing and Alistair had presumably found something more interesting in his briefcase – stood outside the club.

I’m pretty sure the place was called Fire Island, which I’m reliably informed is a Waterstones now.


We went down to the front of the queue, flashed our press passes and were escorted into the club by the head bouncer.

This was all new to me. Up till then I had only been escorted out of a nightclub by bouncers.

Our group, with Stevie out in front, were led to a little roped-off area close to the bar where there were a couple of bottles of champagne on the tables….
Lovely.

The head bouncer told us a waitress would be over to take a drinks order which was to be on the house.

Free entry, free bubbly, a free round of drinks and a VIP area to ourselves. If Carlsberg did nights out for young journalists…

Everybody was buzzing and there could only be one toast to make when the drinks arrived: “To Stevie, social convenor extraordinaire.”

He feigned a bit of humility but we all knew, deep down, he was loving his new-found iconic status within the group.

Then, booming out the speakers, came the intro to Night Fever:

Listen to the ground

There is movement all around

There is something goin’ down

And I can feel it

Everybody piled on the dance floor, only too happy to do the flailing arm routine as we all got lost in the moment.

Once we’d returned from the dance floor our friendly head bouncer came over to tell us the owner would be along to meet us in 10 minutes or so.

More free drinks? VIP passes for life? Could this night get any better? Well, no, as it turned out – it was about to go downhill.

The owner arrived, made some small talk and then asked which one of us was Stevie. All eyes whirred round to his empty seat and one of the girls said he’d gone to the toilet, adding rather unnecessarily: “Mind you, that was about 10 minutes ago.”

A frown appeared on the owner’s face before he said: “Maybe one of you guys can help – when’s the photographer coming?”

I did a quick calculation in my head. One missing Stevie and one missing photographer makes two and one pissed-off owner and one mean-looking bouncer makes another two. Put two and two together and you get…trouble!

I explained, as nonchalantly as I could, that the photographer must have been called to another job and would be along soon.

“He’d better be,” said the owner as he turned away.

Operation Great Escape was hatched immediately and we agreed to leave in three groups to avoid as much suspicion as possible.

I was in the last group along with two girls – who thought their presence might stop the bouncers giving us a kicking – and two other guys.

A full minute’s worth of nerve-shredding speed-walking later and we were out the other side.

We saw the others standing 50 yards along from the club, did a quick head count and discovered we had 14.

Eh? Yep, Stevie had bolted from the club at the first mention of the owner – but he couldn’t bring himself to abandon us completely.

Sheepishly, he admitted he’d told the owner there would be spreads in the Evening News, Scotsman, Daily Mail and Daily Record on the angle that his club was Scotland’s answer to Studio 54 in New York. No wonder we got the red carpet treatment.

You won’t be surprised to learn Stevie was stripped of his social convenor duties – and that we never went near that club again.

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…..



teenage mating rituals in the ’70s.

(Post by Paul Fitzpatrick, of London – February 2021)

I’m not sure how younger people hook-up now but in the days before swiping left or right or Instagram profiles or tic-tac or WhatsApp or whatever the latest platform is, there was no alternative but face-to-face contact. (I’m discounting love letters here because the writing, spelling and grammar of most 70s schoolboys was not particularly good).

To get things in perspective though, this face-to-face caper was normally between your best mate/trusted messenger’s plooky kisser and your intended belle’s angelic coupon – with your pal uttering the immortal words “my mate fancies you” or if they were feeling particularly articulate – “hey, will you go out with my pal”.

This wasn’t one-way traffic of course, but as normal, girls were always a lot smarter & cuter. They’d build up a valuable database of information first and then devise a plan before any approaches were made:

“are you going to the party/disco?”

“is there anyone you fancy at the moment?”

“do you like girls with feather cuts”

“do you think Senga’s nice?”

… lots of insightful, savvy questions building up knowledge and acumen so that they could make smart, informed decisions.

In fact, leading barristers would do well to study this craftmanship.

As boys we were a monosyllabic bunch back then, particularly when taken out of our natural habitat, with grunts regularly replacing diction.

I often think that ‘the art of conversation & small talk’ would have been a better subject for many of us as opposed to Algebra and the like, and as Billy Connolly said, “why should I learn Algebra, I’m never going to go there!”

In hindsight I’ve realised that although I went to a co-ed school and would regularly exchange pleasantries, I never really spoke to girls there.

We’d play football at breaks and the girls would do their thing. We’d sit together as boys on the school bus and so would the girls, and the rest of the time we were in class, just trying to keep up with them.

The bizarre thing is – that at some point we started to go to local discos and parties to basically try and engage with the same people we were in effect ignoring every day.

Even at discos we’d stay in our little groups though. The girls socialising and dancing, the guys being fascinated for the umpteenth time by the ultra-violet lights making everything look whiter (apart from our teeth), trying to look cool whilst shouting to be heard over Silver Machine by Hawkwind.

Every now and then though a strange occurrence took place, and us boys would actually make an effort to dance and interact.

Well, I call it dancing and interacting, it was actually a strange ritual that consisted of tapping a girl on the shoulder, awkwardly wriggling about in front of her for 3 minutes, whilst trying to avoid stamping on her handbag, and then walking away, without a word being uttered.

I’m not even sure how this counts as human interaction, but it sort of did, back then.

There was always a critical point of the evening though, when decisions had to be made. At parties it was normally 15 minutes before you were due to get chucked out and someone would conveniently switch the lights off so lips could meet, and at discos, it was the slow dances at the end of the evening.

The Moonie.

The slow dances or moonies as we called them were a ritual in themselves and the best DJ’s would usually play three of them which gave everyone three opportunities to get a lumber (Glasgow colloquialism for a ‘partner for the evening’).

One moonie just wasn’t enough, there was too much pressure and besides it took some lads one, even two moonies to strike up the courage to ask a girl for a slow dance.

Also, someone might have zipped in ahead of you to get to your intended partner first, but if you knew there were still two moonies to come, you could bide your time to see how that all panned out.

This was a complex and sophisticated procedure crammed into 12 action-packed minutes, but it was usually the most important 12 minutes of the evening.

It was a strange procession indeed…

Guys who had been playing Joe Cool all night were suddenly flustered and flapping around.

Discerning music lovers who would only shake their tail feathers to certain ‘cool’ songs, or selected, favourite artists, were now happily swooning to David Cassidy’s latest schmaltzy ballad.

If you could take a snapshot, you would see all sorts of weird and wonderful images, everything from – snogging couples conjoined by the lips, in the early throes of passion to girls ducking and weaving like Mike Tyson in order to avoid the slobbery advances of the guy with WHT (wandering hand trouble) who up until that point had been ignoring them all night.

Severe case of WHT

Mostly what you’d see however is a lot of young people wanting to fit in and be accepted. The majority wearing the same clothes, sporting the same haircuts, doing the same dance moves, and going along with the crowd, as that was always the safest thing to do.

Getting a lumber at the end of the evening wasn’t that important in the grand scheme of things, but it sure felt like it at the time. A badge of honour or a box ticked.

After the event you’d invariably walk home with your buddies recounting the highlights of the evening, making your wee night in a church hall sound like a New Year’s Eve extravaganza at Studio 54.


Looking back, it was all one big ritual; preparing and looking forward to the event, deciding what you were going to wear, the pre-disco formalities (travel, refreshments), the event itself and of course the aftermath, where the evening’s events would be the topic of conversation for the next few days.

They were good days though, lots of fun, and all part of navigating your way through those awkward teenage years.

As always, I connect memories to music so here’s a link to my 70s Moonie playlist.

You can use this to slow-dance in the kitchen with the guy/gal you lumbered 40 odd years ago at the local disco, and haven’t been able to shake off yet 😁

p.s. and yes, even I know a tic-tac is a refreshing mint!