Tag Archives: Elvis

welcome to the unnatural history museum

(By George Cheyne – Glasgow, March 2021)

Traipsing round a stuffy museum on a school trip can’t be many people’s idea of fun – it certainly wasn’t mine.

I remember dragging my heels as we toured Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in the Seventies for some history project or other. Yawn!

In and out of airless rooms with an interminable amount of portraits, old stones, suits of armour, stuffed animals and some painting of Jesus on the cross from above. At least I think it was Jesus…you couldn’t even see the guy’s face!

The trouble was not so much about what was in Kelvingrove, but what WASN’T in it. A wee bit of pzazz and a helluva lot of imagination and it could have been far more interesting.

So here are some alternative exhibits for the museum – a shrine to the 60s and 70s, if you will – with some of my own historical notes to go alongside.

Loch Ness Monster

The centuries-old Nessie mystery was finally solved in 1971 when a perfectly-formed skeleton of a 27-metre-long Spinosaurus was discovered on the shores of Loch Ness.

The discovery was hushed up because of national security but the bones have now been released under the 50-year rule and will take pride of place in Kelvingrove.

To give context, the diplodocus dinosaur that was the main exhibit at the entrance to London’s Natural History Museum until 2017 was 26 metres long. It is understood the diplodocus was moved out because the London museum knew Nessie would be a bigger attraction – in every way.

Secret soft-drink formula

This was found in a disused store cupboard at AG Barr’s plant in Cumbernauld. Dating from 1968, it was stuck to an iron girder after some Irn Bru had been spilled on it.

Barr’s donated the secret recipe – for a soft-drink called “ginger” – to the museum because it would be illegal to make these days given the high amount of sugar required.

The alchemist who came up with the formula did so in an attempt to avoid confusion in shops when kids would ask for “ginger” without actually knowing what flavour they wanted.

Robert Burns poem

An original work of the Bard – authenticated by a host of Burns experts – was recently discovered behind a false wall in an 18th-century house in Alloway, Ayrshire.

Historians have long since argued about the “Seventies” mentioned in the poem and, while it was originally thought to be the Bard’s look ahead to the 1870s, it is now widely accepted he was referring to the 1970s. 

Ode to a Haggis Supper

Ah could fair stuff my sonsie face,

Wi’ a chieftain o’ the puddin-race,

Dripping in batter and plunged intae hot fat,

Now that wid mak ye a man for a’ that,

Lying on the coonter, O what a glorious sight,

Served up wi’ chips so fluffy and light,

In the Seventies every groaning trencher,

Is bound to be droont in salt ‘n vinegar

Elvis Presley song

An unpublished Elvis Presley song – written on the back of a fag packet – has been donated to Kelvingrove by the late Senga McGlumphey’s family.

Senga was working as a cleaner at Prestwick Airport when Elvis flew in for a stopover in 1960 and got chatting to the legendary singer.

After asking her name, the King started scribbling on a fag packet that Senga had picked up and began humming a tune. A few minutes later Elvis had to leave the building and handed over the Embassy Regal packet with the lyrics to Return To Senga on it.

The song was never published, but it bears an uncanny resemblance to an Elvis smash hit which came out two years later.

Bay City Rollers tartan

This was commissioned in the late 1970s as Les, Eric and the lads tried to unify the tartan clobber they wore to maximise merchandising potential.

Rollers manager Tam Paton came up with the plan to design a new tartan, copyright it and then rake in the big bucks from the new-look merch.

Unfortunately, the band couldn’t agree on a design and the tartan swatches dropped out of sight – until now.

The World Cup trophy

Awarded to Scotland after a series of bizarre FIFA rulings. First, Willie Johnston was granted a free pardon after FIFA admitted it was their doctor who had prescribed the winger the banned tablets at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina.

Then FIFA agreed to look at the results from the tournament retrospectively and considered Archie Gemmill’s goal against Holland so good that it was decided Scotland should go through to the next round in their place.

The bigwigs further ruled that if Holland could beat Austria, draw with Germany and beat Italy, then surely Scotland could have – so they were automatically put into a final against Argentina.

This match was to be played in 2021 using the original squads from 43 years ago, but Covid restrictions prevented it taking place.

Under pressure to come up with a solution, FIFA then decided the final would be determined by a shots-drinking competition which, unsurprisingly, Scotland won.

But it wouldn’t be Scotland without some sort of problem and Argentina appealed on the grounds that legendary hardman defender Kenny Burns threatened five of their players during the live Zoom event.

However, the SFA put forward a rigorous defence to FIFA, insisting the player had become something of a philosopher in his old age. And they contested that Burns, when asked where he thought the game should be played, had merely said: “Bright views…ergo outside” instead of the widely-quoted “Right yous…square go outside.”

Do you believe that? Nope, me neither. Kenny Burns only threatening five of them? No chance.

The SFA, rightly thinking they had probably got away with one, decided not to organise a lap of honour round Hampden with the trophy for fear of further antagonising the Argentinians.

“In any case,” a spokesman said, “We already did one of those back in 1978 before the tournament started!” 

elvis has left the school bus.

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

For those of us that lived a fair distance from school the School Bus/Coach was a daily ritual that we took for granted.

My bus journey to secondary school was just under 3 miles and took about 15 minutes but like any daily soap opera it was filled with melodrama.

The transition from primary school to secondary school was always going to be a bit of a culture shock, one minute you’re a big fish in a paddling pool the next you’re back to being a tiddler in the Clyde, akin to a sadistic game of human snakes and ladders.

We’d known all summer that before we got to the ‘big school’ we would have to navigate the first bus journey, albeit we didn’t realise we’d be in such an agitated state due to the terror of the impending first day rituals that lay in wait.

It was clear we weren’t thinking straight when a few of us dashed upstairs as soon as the bus doors opened and headed to the back of the bus.

We learned a harsh life lesson right there.

We discovered with a bit of not-so-gentle persuasion from our elder brethren’s who had ambled up behind us to take their rightful seats, that there was a hierarchy in place, a hierarchy that we had just disrespected.

We moped off, in our pristine uniforms, abuse ringing in our ears past the smug looks of previous offenders, to find seats wherever we could. Our little gang of four, traumatised, alone and licking our wounds, realising that the first ordeal of the day had come a wee bit earlier than anticipated.

The regression from shark to stickleback had well and truly begun.

And so, the learnings began, with the understanding that Age, Status, Gender, Friendship, Relationships, Family associations, and Accessories (radios, sweets, fags, magazines, etc) were all part of the seating-plan pecking order.

As rookies we would need to start at the bottom like everyone else and navigate our way through the various trials and tribulations of school bus protocol for at least three more years before we could reach the hallowed ground – the seats at the back of the bus.

Music was a big part of our journeys to and from school and there were always girls with transistor radios on the bus.

The other sure bet was the radio station, Radio 1, there was no other choice.

So, for 2 years we had the ‘perpetually delighted’ Tony Blackburn to look forward to every morning before a strutting Noel Edmunds exploded on the scene in 1973 with his phone-ins, roadshows and penchant for troubadours and minstrels like Harry Chapin, Gordon Lightfoot and the like. 

It’s weird but I don’t seem to have as clear a memory of the DJ’s on the bus home, however I seem to remember Diddy David Hamilton, a blonde version of Tony Blackburn being one of them, and Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman, an older version of Blackburn possibly being another.

If it was our misfortune back then to be limited to one radio station, then we were incredibly lucky to be around for what a lot of people consider to be the golden age of music, with iconic artists like Bowie, Roxy, Rod, Stevie, T-Rex and The Stones, prodigiously releasing new material on a loop.

In fact, it’s weird to reflect that we heard songs for the first time like – Jean Genie, Maggie May, Superstition, Jeepster & Tumbling Dice on a tranny radio on top of a double decker bus, taking it for granted that another great song would pop along in 3 minutes.

Of course, I’m painfully aware that I’m guilty of cherry-picking here because back then the reality was that for every Bowie there was a Little Jimmy Osmond, for every Rolling Stones there was a Wombles and for every Virginia Plain there was an Ernie (the fastest milkman in the west) – however we tend to have rose tinted glasses when it comes to our musical memories.

As the saying goes – you can’t please all of the people all of the time and there were a few guys, namely the prog-rockers, uniformly kitted out by their favourite Army & Navy store in parkas, with their statutory gasmask bags by their side bearing the logos of their heroes, the likes of – Groundhogs, King Crimson, ELP, Man and Yes.

You see these guys worshipped at the feet of the late-night DJ’s who played their ‘underground music’ and they were less than enthused about the Radio 1 playlist.

Therefore, it’s fair to say that the disgust was palpable every time a Donny Osmond or a Bay City Rollers song infected their ears, and the normal reaction was a communal burying of heads in that week’s edition of The Melody Maker.

A memory from the school bus that’s stayed with me down the years, is of one guy a couple of years older than us who had his own foible, he loved, no, it was stronger than that, he absolutely adored – Elvis Presley.

Now you’ve got to remember this was the hamburger-eating, jump-suit wearing Elvis with a paunch, who had become a bit of a joke, but to the big man, Elvis was a god, a hero to most (‘but he didn’t mean shit to me’, as Flavor Flav would later rap)

So, whenever an Elvis song came on the radio the big guy, who was a man amongst boys, would jump up in the aisle and croon along with the King.

The understandable temptation to snigger as Burning Love, or Suspicious Minds (2 great songs btw) were being annihilated was continually quashed by the memory of what had happened to one poor bloke on the bus, who like the Roman Guard in the memorable Life of Brian, ‘Biggus Dickus’ scene, couldn’t hold his laughter in any longer, and paid a terrible price for his impertinence.

You see, Elvis wasn’t the only one who had studied and practiced Karate, however just as our school-bus Elvis was just about to inflict damage on his tormentor that day, a wag from the back of the bus started singing in his best Elvis voice, ‘Don’t Be Cruel’, the solo soon became a choir, and as the top deck erupted into a cacophony of song and laughter the big guy saw the funny side and joined in.

The next day he was back on the bus as if nothing had happened, and we all sat there for the 15-minute journey praying to the gods that there would be no Elvis played on the radio that day, fortunately our prayers were rewarded and for once we were quite happy to listen to Donnie & Marie, Showaddywaddy and some of Noel’s condescending chat.

To this day whenever I hear Elvis, I always think of our very own school bus Elvis and why it’s not a good idea to mess with the King.