I would like to nominate Led Zeppelin IV, The Runes Album, 4 Symbols, Zoso whatever you want to call it as the greatest rock album of all time!
Its 50 years old today and still sounds as fresh and exciting as it did in 1971!!
It also has the distinction of having the only guest vocalist that Zep ever used in the ethereal Sandy Denny on the wonderful ‘Battle of Evermore’.
Originally Plant was going to sing both parts of the call and answer vocals but it didn’t sound right so he invited Sandy. Thank God!
Obviously it includes the magical Stairway to Heaven, as well as Zep classics… Rock n Roll, and Black Dog, to be fair, every song on the record is an absolute gem, no wonder it has sold over 23 million copies to date and is the bands most successful album!
After the excitement of the grand opening and the hosting of Fiona Richmond we settled into our new store and were extremely busy over the summer of 79.
The shop’s basement had not been refurbished and left in a rundown state…. part sales-floor, part stock-room, part office, part staff-room. It also had one of those old-fashioned wooden parquet floors that made a clip-clop sound when anyone walked on it.
Davy our manager’s family home was still in Arbroath so he was staying in digs in Glasgow during the week, getting the train home on a Saturday evening and taking the Monday off to spend time at home.
One Saturday Davy had left to catch his usual train. I was still working, collating the monthly figures when I heard the clip-clop of footsteps on the parquet floor outside the office. Davy walked in cursing that he’d missed his train before heading off 20 minutes later to catch the next one. Ten minutes after Davy had gone I heard the clip-clop sound again and swung the door open ready to slag Davy for missing another train and….there was nobody there!
I shouted ‘Hello’, ‘Hello’ before realising I was on my own…. or was I? So I quickly packed up my stuff, set the alarm and got the hell out of there!
A week or so later, Rikki, Davy and I were leaving the basement when Rikki suddenly reared back in fright pushing Davy out of the way! WTF! An ashen faced Rikki swore that he’d just seen a black dog crouching beneath a plastic chair in front of an old fitting room before it started to leap up at him! He was very shaken and took quite a while to calm down!
Intrigued at the goings-on, I did a bit of research and discovered that our building had been built close to the site of an old chemical & pharmaceutical factory W&R. Hatrick & Co. on Renfield Street.
The building had gone up in flames, exploded and then collapsed killing 4 firemen on the 7th January 1898.
There was to be another ‘ghostly’ incident a few months later but this time it was a bit more explainable.
Ross (he of the wiry ginger hair) was passing the shop late one evening when he stopped to look in the front door. He gasped when he saw all the jackets begin to swing about on their rail next to the cash desk…. he thought he was seeing things! He saw the next rail of clothing start to swing about too before running off in a panic for his late-night bus!
The next day he related this incident to Davy and I. I was sceptical but, having already ‘witnessed’ two other ghostly ‘sightings’ that month, I had an open mind.
Davy on the other hand said “Dinny be daft son, ye must’ve been pished!”
Later that evening when we went for a pint in Sloan’s, Davy told me why he’d been so dismissive!
“Am stayin’ in the shoap instead a the digs” he confessed! “But am still gettin’ ma digs paid by tha cumpany and no tellin’ em! Last night I’d setma sleepin’ bag up at the back cash desk which can’t be seen from the front door. But I’d left ma watch at the front cash-till and had made my way behind the rails to get it and that’s what Ross saw! It wiz me pushing the jackets aside as I crawled back to ma sleepin’ bag!”
I nearly choked on my pint! We had such a laugh about it! We never told Ross and he probably still tells the story about the ghostly jackets!!
A couple of weeks later Davy experienced another form of incursion, but this one was a tad more sinister!
He had just returned from the pub late one night and was making his way to his hidey-hole at the back of the shop when he saw a ladder and a pair of boots disappearing up through the polystyrene tiles into the roof space! Above our roof was an empty building which burglars had gained entry to before entering via the shop’s unalarmed roof! It was obviously a very well-planned break-in with three rough looking guys in the process of emptying the leather and suede department!
As handy as he was Davy didn’t fancy taking all three of them on so he slipped quietly back out to a phone box to call the police. He made up a story that he’d left important paperwork in the shop and was returning to get it when he witnessed the break-in in progress! The burglars were never caught but poor Davie had to book into a B&B until the dust settled.
We had another police incident a few weeks later. Next door to Top Man was a very busy HMV store.
Rikki and I got very friendly with the staff and in particular big Duncan the security guard who was about 6’4″ and 20 stone! We gave them discount and they reciprocated.
However, despite big Duncan’s presence HMV had a major shoplifting problem which, considering it was all vinyl albums in those days, was quite a feat on the shoplifter’s part! One day Rikki spotted two young guys crouched down dividing up their stolen haul of albums around the entrance to our front door. (Not very bright then!?!?) While Rikki kept an eye on them, I slipped next door to inform big Duncan.
However, at the same time, unbeknown to us, two youngish looking plain clothes cops had also spotted the two thieves and were in the process of lifting them….. when big Duncan bounded up behind the cops, mistaking them for the shoplifters and smacked their heads together!!
It took a lot of fast talking and profuse apologies from myself and big Duncan to prevent him from being arrested for Police Assault!
The two thieves witnessing the event cowered in the corner terrified that they’d be next for a head cracking! When everything was sorted out, they looked positively relieved when they were actually arrested and led away!
Leading up to Christmas the shop continued to be busy, and for a laugh Rikki wrote a pantomime featuring all the staff as characters. It was near the knuckle stuff, but hilarious, with lots of in-jokes that had the staff in stitches.
Things worked out very well for Rikki in the long run as he became a professional comedy writer, working with Craig Ferguson, Rikki Fulton, Scotch & Wry, Only An Excuse, Chewin’ The Fat and Watson’s Windup amongst many other BBC Comedy Unit projects. Rikki also had his own weekly comedy page in The Scottish Sun for 17 years!
As the weather in Glasgow began to bite you’d find the majority of Top Man’s staff queuing up outside City Bakeries most mornings for that rare Glasgow delicacy… A Hot Roll and Mince! They were delicious and really warmed you up!
About a week before Christmas when the store was at its busiest Davy decided to complete the weekly paperwork.
I said ‘It’s ok Davy I’ll do it’ but he insisted. He had all the daily sheets so all he had to do was transfer them onto a new document and cross check them to make sure they all tallied up. I left him to it.
An hour later I checked to see how he was doing. There were a lot of crumpled scraps of paper lying on the desk and Davy’s face was getting redder by the second! I offered to help again but that just seemed to make things worse He was muttering away under his breath like Muttley from Wacky Races!
Exasperated, he suddenly leapt to his feet, threw his pen at the wall and shouted, ‘Ach F*ck The Pope!!’
Realising what he’d just said he looked at me and began to apologise profusely!
With a straight face I looked sternly at him and said, ‘Don’t worry about it Davy….I hope you have a F*cking Rotten Christmas too!‘
Then I turned around and (mock) stormed out the office!
I went back in 10 seconds later and the two of us burst out laughing!!
We met at a Fashion Industry Trade Show in London about 12 years later and Davy told this story in a crowded bar to everyone’s amusement!
Davy, Rikki and I would have many more laughs and experiences in and around the Rag Trade over the next two decades but unfortunately those stories belong in another blog….!!
Top Man would officially open its doors in Glasgow mid November 1978.
I was appointed Assistant Manager and another recruit from Burtons, Davy was the Manager.
I spoke to him on the phone and we got on well and looked forward to working together. However before all that I had a wedding to attend…my own!
I returned from honeymooning in Athens eager to meet Davy and the rest of the staff.
Evidently I had been with Burtons far too long and turned up wearing a navy pinstripe suit, (Max!) a crisp white shirt and a red tie! Talk about conservative!!
The first person I met was Rikki, he had on a modern cut baggy, beige suit with big shoulder pads, a fancy blue patterned shirt and NO tie! Think late 70’s Duran Duran and you won’t be far away!
He topped this ensemble off with long, bleached, shaggy hair and a fake tan!
We eyed each other up with the same thought…… ‘W**ker!!’
43 years later we are still great friends, we’ve been each other’s best man (my 2nd marriage where he actually recounted our first meeting in his speech!) I’m Godfather to his daughter and we co-owned and were partners in an upmarket fashion business together for 10 years with many great laughs and adventures!
It just shows you how first impressions can be sooo misleading!
Rikki had come from ‘Jackson The Tailors’ who were always ‘edgier’ than stuffy ol’ ‘(Full) Monty-Fifty- Bob-Tailors!’
Davy arrived from Arbroath the next day. He was a stocky ex Amateur Boxer who wore glasses with tinted lenses, which was quite unusual in 1978. As expected we got on really well and the shop was busy from the start. I even managed to shed my pinstripes and ties!
Obviously because of all the ‘knowledge’ I had gained from the students union bar during my one year studying accountancy I also became the shop’s bookkeeper!
Top Man had a brand new monthly book keeping system which must’ve been copied from an ancient greek abacus which had been translated from Persian!
It made no sense at all!
At the end of the first month I filled in what I could and duly sent it off. I got a call from our fledgling head office the following Tuesday saying I hadn’t completed it properly!
I pointed out the areas I was struggling with and they agreed that it was a bit vague. I said that it must’ve been an idiot that compiled the form. There was silence and a laugh and he said ‘Well I did have a hand in it but never actually filled one in.
Hi, I’m Andrew Leslie, Top Man’s MD!’ Whoops!! He was very good about it though and actually asked me to redesign the Monthly Accounts Form cutting out the confusing and unnecessary segments. Andrew would go on to have a great career in retail and is now a director at JD Sports
The next week Ross started as a salesman. He was a hard worker and very funny although not the sharpest knife in the box. A favourite trick of his was to go into a fitting room, pull the curtain across, muss up his wiry red hair, pull a deranged face and re-emerge 30 seconds later with what he called his Mad Heid!!
It was funny/scary the first time and never got old. Anytime it was quiet somebody would shout ‘Hey Ross dae yer Mad Heid!’
Occasionally a startled customer would witness his full ‘Mad Heid’ display and either burst out laughing or quickly head for the exit!
Now as I said Ross was entertaining but a bit on the daft side – he once got a taxi from the City Centre to his home in Kirkintilloch and realised he didn’t have enough cash to pay the fare! So he asked the driver to stop 50 yards from his destination and then did a runner straight to his own front door!! Hahaha
I learned that Davy had left Burtons in the middle of a feud with Ken, the area manager. One day during Ken’s visit to the Buchanan Street Burtons, I realised that we, in the basement, were unusually quiet. In fact we hadn’t seen a customer for over an hour! I went up stairs to investigate and found large boxes piled 3 high in front of our entrance! Ken had instructed Burtons’ staff to place their delivery there! I shouted down to Davy that there was a problem!
He came tearing up the stairs screaming with rage when he saw the boxes! We began pulling them out of the way.
Davy spotted Ken smirking in the corner, stormed over, grabbed him by his lapels and rammed him up against the wall. Ken was terrified and spluttered
‘You can’t do this!’
Davy replied ‘Do this? I’ll ram my fist down yer throat ‘n’ pull yer f**kin’ guts out ya wee pr*ck!’ (Ken was about 4″ taller than Davy but at that moment he looked 4′ tall). George pleaded with Davy to let him go and eventually he let Ken slide down the wall.
Freed from Davy’s grip, Ken became brave again, a big mistake! “I’ll get you done for assault” he squeaked to Davy! “Go ahead” said Davy, “But I hope you like hospital food!” Ken didn’t call the police and would in future, time his visits to coincide with Davy’s day off or holiday!
As I said Davy was a tough, good amateur boxer from Arbroath. He and his fellow drinking buddies’ favourite past time was to goad the young marines that were stationed at the nearby Condor base into fights! The young marines were very fit and strong but lacked the street fighting prowess and experience of the crazy locals. Every weekend there was a major battle which would end up with several marines and locals ending up in hospital or jail!
It got so bad that the base commander had to ban the soldiers from entering the town for their own safety!
Around May 1979 we were told that we were at last moving out of Burtons’ basement to our own Top Man store.
The old Jackson’s shop in Union St. was being completely refurbed and we were to open in June!
This was all very exciting. A larger staff, a wider stock range and most importantly total autonomy from Burtons. (Mad Max, the John Cleese lookalike had recently been promoted to Area Manager!?!? Nepotism at it’s best!)
Firstly we had to pack up all our existing stock and a van was being sent to transport it around the corner to Union Street.
I delegated each member of staff to be responsible for an area of stock.
I showed them how to group 30 shirts, 20 pairs jeans or 15 jackets while still on their rail, to tie the hanger hooks together to make it easy to lift off and straight onto the van. However I soon regretted not checking Ross’ bundles! The van arrived and we quickly started emptying the shop. Everything was going smoothly until we came to Ross’ area…..he hadn’t ensured that the hangers were all facing in the same direction before tying them together! Therefore all 20 of his bundles were effectively locked onto the rails!! Davy was going to kill him! The van driver was getting very agitated as a traffic warden was on his case to move! I advised Ross to quickly hide somewhere.
Davy sent the van driver away and told him to come back in an hour and Rikki and I cut the ties on the bundles, straightened the hangers and retied them!
We worked hard for a week getting our new branch ready for the Grand Opening with an incentive that a mystery ‘celebrity’ would be turning up for the big occasion to do the honours.
Rikki and I were dispatched on the big day by taxi to The Albany Hotel to collect the celebrity who turned out to be the infamous Porn Star Fiona Richmond!
It was a well known ‘secret’ that my bosses, bosses, bosses, boss, the Burton Group CEO Ralph Halpern, was, ahem, a bit of a boy and was allegedly very close to Ms. Richmond in a non business capacity, so maybe Fiona’s presence wasn’t such a surprise after all!
On arrival at the swanky Albany Hotel we were shown up to Miss Richmond’s room, where she was very charming, regaling us with vivid tales from her colourful career and her current projects!
Unbelievably, Ms Richmond was currently treading the boards in the West End, starring in a stage adaptation of The Incredible Hulk.
In her saucy version of the Marvel classic however, when The Hulk, became angry and turned green it wasn’t his shirt that he broke out of and it wasn’t his massive biceps that were exposed!…..