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.
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).
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.
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.
Right, class…we’re going to play a wee game of word association here.
If I say “World Cup qualification”, what’s the first thing that springs into those brilliant young minds?
Anyone? I know it’s been a long, long time, but may I remind you this is a history lesson and the subject is the 1970s.
What’s that, David? England, you say? Well, you can take that smug look off your face right now because that is wrong, wrong, wrong. Sure, England were at the 1970 World Cup – but they got a free pass, there was no qualification required.
Really, Torquil? The Scotland rugby team? Firstly, the Rugby World Cup didn’t start until 1987 and, secondly, if rugby is the first thing that springs into your mind, you should probably be in the advanced Higher class instead of being stuck in here with this lot.
Anyone else? What’s that, Johnny…Scotland? You’re on the right track but it’s only partially correct.
Okay, lesson over, the phrase I was looking for was novelty football songs.
The 70s charts were awash with teams belting out their tunes. You know the ones…terracing-style chanting backed up with some cheesy lyrics and fronted by a bunch of giggling players looking like they’d rather be anywhere else than in front of a mic.
It was big business. There were World Cup songs hogging the airwaves at the drop of a Mexican sombrero in 1970, a German tirolerhut in 1974 and an Argentinian gaucho hat in 1978.
Credit where credit’s due, the whole concept was kicked off by England’s 1970 squad singing Back Home.
It was just the nudge football needed to move into the marketing-savvy decade. Every player in Alf Ramsey’s squad was handed a Ford Cortina 1600E – quite the machine back then – and, of course, there was the Esso coin collection and other branded merchandise flying off the shelves everywhere.
That was the marker laid down for Scotland’s World Cup efforts in ’74 and ’78. There were Vauxhall Victors for Germany and Chryslers for Argentina.
From flashy suits to trashy tack, the merch and the money piled up. But it’s those anthems which stick in the mind from all those years ago.
Not that you’ll need any reminding, but here’s a guide to those novelty World Cup tunes of yesteryear.
Back Home – England’s 1970 squad.
Put together by Scot, Bill Martin and Irishman, Phil Coulter, the song somehow managed to avoid a jingoistic theme and settled for a more humble message and a strong connection with the fans who’d be watching the actions from their armchairs.
Cheesy lyric: “They’ll see as they’re watching and praying, that we put our hearts in our playing.”
Best lyric: “Back home, they’ll be thinking about us when we are far away.”
Easy Easy – Scotland’s 1974 squad
Also penned by Bill Martin and Phil Coulter, the single abandoned any pretence of humility and instead dived head-first into the possibility that it was going to be easy for Scotland in Germany. Left some of the tub-thumping behind long enough in the middle of the song to personalise things by name-checking Willie Morgan and Denis Law.
Cheesy lyric: “Eanie meanie moe, get the ball and have a go and it’s easy..easy.”
Best lyric: “Ring a ding a ding, there goes Willie on the wing…ring a ding a ding, knock it over for the king.”
Ole Ola – Rod Stewart and Scotland’s 1978 squad
Not sure if Rod was influenced by samba or sambuca when this official single was put together, but it never really caught on. Lots of name-dropping within the tremendously-upbeat lyrics, the song also used Archie MacPherson’s TV commentary from the game Scotland qualified for the tournament.
Cheesy lyric: “Ole ola, ole ola…we’re gonna bring that World Cup back from over there.”
Best lyric: “There’s an overlap, good running by Buchan. Kenny Dalglish is in there. Oh what a goal! Oh, yes…that does it!”
Ally’s Tartan Army – Andy Cameron, 1978
This may not have been the official World Cup song, but it was the one that caught the imagination of the fans. All the talk of really shaking them up when we win the World Cup makes it a proper in-your-face tune and Andy Cameron even got to perform it on Top of the Pops.
Cheesy lyric: “We had to get a man who could make all Scotland proud, he’s our Muhammad Ali, he’s Alistair MacLeod.”
Best lyric: “We’re representing Britain, we’ve got to do our die – England cannae dae it ’cause they didnae qualify.”
It wasn’t only the World Cup which attracted this genre in the 1970s – booking a place in a cup final was closely followed by booking a place in a recording studio.
It meant all sorts of ditties were around in the decade and the novelty never seemed to wear off.
We had Good Old Arsenal (1971 double team), Blue Is The Colour (Chelsea’s 1972 League Cup final team), I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles (West Ham’s 1975 FA Cup final team) and We Can Do It (Liverpool’s 1977 side).
Scotland’s sporting heroes of the 1970s seem to have missed a trick here by not releasing novelty songs of their own when they were at their peak.
But it’s never too late to pay tribute to them, so – with a bit of a tweak here and there for the lyrics – here are the tunes which befit these stars.
Ian Stewart and Lachie Stewart
Gold medalists at the 1970 Commonwealth Games – Keep On Trackin’ (Eddie Kendricks)
European Cup finalists 1970 – Hoops Upside Your Head (The Gap Band)
World lightweight boxing champion 1970 – Ken You Feel The Force (Real Thing)
World Formula 1 champ 1971 and 1973 – Life In The Fast Lane (Eagles)
European Cup Winners’ Cup winners 1972 – Barcelona (Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe)
Two swimming gold medals at 1976 Montreal Olympics – Pool Up To The Bumper (Grace Jones)
League Cup winners in 1971 – Handbags and GladJags (Rod Stewart)
(Post by John Allan, from Bridgetown, Western Australia – March 2021)
The LP (from “long playing” or “long play”) is an analog sound storage medium, a phonograph record format characterised by: a speed of 33 and a third rpm, a 12 or 10-inch (30- or 25-cm) diameter; use of the “microgroove” groove specification; and a vinyl composition disk. Introduced by Columbia in 1948, it was soon adopted as a new standard by the entire record industry. Apart from a few relatively minor refinements and the important later addition of stereophonic sound, it remained the standard format for record albums until its gradual replacement from the 1980s to the early 2000s.
……………………….and it was the currency of cool in the 1970s.
What follows is a handy guide for the true devotee :-
Always store LPs in a cool dry place away from direct sunlight, preferably on display in alphabetical order on a dedicated shelving unit.
All LPs covers must be read on all sides including inner sleeves if applicable before or at least during first listening.
On removing LP from inner sleeve, album must be in the horizontal position. Gently tilt to no more than 30 degrees and allow vinyl to slowly slide towards dominant hand, thumb raised palm upward. Cradle with thumb on circumference, second and third finger on centre sticker arching the palm while bringing non dominant palm directly across the diameter. Manoeuvre dominant hand to mirror other hand. Carefully proceed to turntable in a stately manner, LP held at chest height between both palms.
WARNING: to not attempt to play disc unless an anti-static felt duster is within easy reach.
Place LP on spindle. Gently blow on stylus to: a) clear any dust or debris b) show respect.
When finished, reverse the steps of 3rd bullet point and return album to inner sleeve. Turn inner sleeve a full 90 degrees and return to album cover proper. Stand down.
Deny the existence of ‘The heLP’.
Kill all known DJs within your area.
No family or friends must be present during first listening.
Never let anyone else touch a) the LP b) the turntable c) you.
NEVER be tempted to lay an unsheathed record on the shag pile carpet even for one nanosecond.
Never lend an album to anyone else unless a member of ‘The heLP’ and you’ve personally visualised their initiation scars.
Never leave an LP on the back seat of your mate Gavin’s Cortina on a hot summers day unless requiring a cool looking ash tray, even if he is ‘Grand Wizard’ of ‘The heLP’.
So folks, keep those discs a spinning. – Are you a DJ ?
(Post by John Allan, from Bridgetown, Western Australia – March 2021)
I clearly remember the day my big brother brought home ‘the beast’. He was at ‘big’ school and had recently ditched the violin. And here it was. The double bass. Six mighty feet of curved sensuous shiny dark wood like the entrance to Narnia with strings. Bro would draw the bow across the lowest string and I would marvel at the deep sonorous rumble, the vibrations reaching down to the pit of my stomach. ‘Pluck’ like a stone in a well. I was mesmerised. This was the instrument for me.
Like anything in life there were drawbacks. It was 6 foot and I was barely 5. My brother strictly forbade me anywhere near it and I’d get a dead arm just for loitering outside his bedroom door.
Of course the problem’s in the name. Double. Twice as much. Double trouble. Try lugging that thing on and off a corporation bus ? In the mid 70s I would be standing at the bus stop with 2 saxophone cases in my hand. The skinny guy next to me had his guitar in a canvas bag. We were both going to our respective band practices. His was with Orange Juice. When the bus came, I would struggle on and deposit my cargo on the shelf at the front of the bus and sit in front of it only to be shooed away by some pensioner. The whole journey I’d be sitting at the back in a hot sweat staring at my cases thinking ‘some bastard’s going to half inch ma saxes!’
Try this. Put your left thumb in your left ear. Put your 2nd finger on the tip of your nose. Your 1st finger on your brow. 3rd on your lips and your pinky on your chin. That’s the basic first position of the bass. Has your hand cramped up yet?
I’d really have to think this through.
I played a descent descant recorder in primary, (which was compulsory in all non- denominational schools in the west of Scotland) well enough to get an audition for a ‘real’ instrument. Clarinet or flute was on offer. All I knew of the clarinet was ‘Strangler On The Shore’ by Aker Boke which I thought pretty lame. Did you know Mr Bilk took out his false teeth to play – a big no no for reed players apparently. It buggers up the embouchure – and that is not a euphemism !
Flute was OK. Hadn’t Canned Heat being ‘Going Down The Country’, The Moody Blues been lamenting about ‘Knights In White Satin’ and Jethro Tull ‘Living In The Past’ with the help of the flute ? Flute it was then.
I passed the audition and so began 5 years of weekly flute lessons with a wonderful and patient teacher.
Playing an instrument in primary had a certain credibility about. Secondary ? Nah, not so much. It was now I realised that I had made the wise decision.
The flute fitted neatly into my canvas duffel bag and I thought about the humiliation my fellow musos were about to endure. You might be able to pass off a trumpet case as a small suitcase or trombone case as containing a bazooka but string players were doomed from the off. Which was probably a sort of natural selection thing as a certain number would have had to be culled anyway !
I persevered. Sometimes trying to emulate Jethro standing on one leg swinging the flute like a baton only to scuff the axminster and maim the Capodimonte figurines.
I even got into the Dunbartonshire Schools County Senior Orchestra. From The Vale of Leven to Lenzie, musical teens from across the county were let loose in a large Scottish baronial mansion near Drymen once or twice a year and were expected to make beautiful music together (and that’s not a euphemism though there were some Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark!)
Playing the flute led me to play the soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones, piccolo and various whistles (if you can’t be good be versatile) in part-time bands touring Scotland from the mid 70s onwards. Occasionally, I will still try and attempt ‘Syrinx’ by Debussy. One of the most hauntingly beautiful solo flute pieces ever written.
Do I wait eagerly for the double bass solo in the late night jazz club or hanker for the slap of the rockabilly or bluegrass bass fiddle ? You bet I do.
(Post by John Allan, from Bridgetown, Western Australia – February 2021)
Previously, I regaled you with tales and musical memories of the characters that accompanied me at J.D. Cuthbertson & Sons Ltd. musical instrument department from the winters of 1975 to 1978. Winters were always coming in Cowcaddens. But there are more bit players and stories to tell.
Across from instruments was ‘electrical’. Radios, TVs, hi-fi and the like, led by the very dapper SNP Man and his trusty man servant Hopalong George (he had a false leg – PC was the polis back then !)
The Scottish National Party were very fringe in the mid 70s and not always taken that seriously, but SNP Man was on a crusade.
Resplendent in his dark pin stripe suit, he always seemed to be campaigning for something – local government perhaps – and be shaking hands with customers engaging in small talk and kissing babies (which Mums must have found a bit disconcerting when you’ve only come in to look at the range of blenders).
Above the cacophony of our department, the strains of “Flower of Scotland” by the Corries could always be heard and SNiPpy and George could be seen staring soulfully at the Hacker radios bottom lips a quiver.
Around the dog leg were ‘records and cassettes’ and ‘bookings’. Margaret the Mole lived in a glass box and sold theatre tickets to tacky variety shows from her booth. That stunted troglodyte was the prototype to many of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ characters I’m sure.
‘Records and cassettes’ divided generationally between the young Bohemians and the menopausal. Old Mrs Cassette especially seemed to constantly have the troubles of the world thrusted down open her shoulders requiring numerous Askit powders within the working day. Who knew cassettes sales could be so stressful ?
The younger crowd were good fun and an after work drinky poo often ended up in a late night rage (could you rage in the 70s ? ) at some flat in the West End. Van Morrison’s “Warm Love” for you girls, know what I’m saying ?
Up one floor and you were in ‘piano and organs’ and ‘sheet music’ (I realise, dear reader, if you are reading this to your grandchildren – or even children – you have probably spent the last half hour trying to explain to them what a cassette is and now I hit you with sheet music. I feel your pain)
This was the lair of Clipboard Ken and Sleazy Organ Guy. ‘Slog’, as we’ll call him, is a fellow gigger although he trolled the working man’s social clubs of central Scotland.
He had a totally unique sense of rhythm were he could stop mid verse to adjust various stops on his organ reassured in the knowledge that the rhythm machine would plough through regardless.
“Tie a yellow rib – chicka boom chicka boom – bon round the ole oak – chicka boom – tree. It’s been three lo – chicka boom – ng years, do you sti – chicka boom chicka boom – ll want me ?”
Fortunately he worked solo. There he would be,four nights a week, working the room of old dearies dribbling their advocaat and Babycham, stinking of Lilly of the Valley and stale urine, raking in the spondilux !
Clipboard Ken (Assistant Manager – or so we thought) would bounce about between departments, clipboard clutched to his breast always looking preoccupied. If at any time you tried to engage in conversation with him he would give you that ‘sorry, but it’s out of my hands’ grimace, point to the clipboard and bounce off like a startled fawn. It wasn’t until he suddenly and unexpectedly passed away and we were discussing the tragic loss of such a dedicated and loyal assistant manager that the manager piped up.
“He wasn’t an assistant manager, he was a sheet music salesman !”
Then there was Old Jim the blind piano tuner. I spent my lunch hours with him making sure he took all his plates off his tray before casting it aside. Many a time Old Jim’s increasing tunnel vision let him down and bowls of scotch broth or eve’s pudding and custard would fly through the air of the Littlewoods staff canteen.
In his younger days, Jim had been a top notch trumpeter and arranger in Glasgow’s big band scene of the 40s. Legend would have it that at one gig, the brass section had a 32 bar break. Jim put his trumpet down, picked up pen and paper and jotted down a whole new brass arrangement for another song while the band played on. Then picked up the trumpet again exactly on cue. (I hope more than the musical among you can really appreciate the total respect I had for this wonderful man)
I saw him shuffling past the hi-fi ‘lounge’ one day and he stopped, changed direction and went into the demo area for the top end gear. I was going to go over because I thought he had become disorientated but then I saw his head nodding, imperceptible at first, but rhythmically moving. This 70 plus year old man was getting into the groove of George Benson’s “ This Masquerade .” Legend.
Finally the Manager. The Littlewoods plant. (Littlewoods had bought out Cuthbertsons in the early 1970s with the intention of running it down which it did but never admitted to).
We had little to do with the man other than keep an eye open for him on the few occasions he came down to the shop floor.
Out of boredom, one of us had rolled up some end of sellotape and cast it aside. Someone else came along and added more tape to it. After a few days we had something the size of a football and many of it’s qualities (the stationery budget must have been huge that month)
In quieter moments games of ‘keepy uppy’ ensued until one day someone (probably me) lost control and the ball rolled over to the foot of the stairs leading up to the offices. Before it could be retrieved, Manager came bounding down the stairs and stopped, staring at the offending object littering the thoroughfare. We all thought ‘that’s it, that’ll be our cards for sure’ but manager looked up, gave a half smile and blootered the ‘ball’ skimming our heads and crashing into the expensive Gibson guitars hanging on the wall.
He then came over, chatted casually about football and Liverpool, where he was from. He was just a regular guy sent to do a job away from his family.
The store closed soon after.
And what about the punters ? Where do I start.
“ Do you have a flute for an 8 year old girl ? ”
“ We have a flute for a 7 year old boy ”
“ OK, thanks anyway “
Customer walks away.
“ Got any mulk ?” Cuthbertsons Dairies are in Ibrox. Stares at numpty for 30 seconds. Does a slow 360 degree turn taking in views of various guitars, amplifiers, drum kits etc. etc. Fixes stare on annoying urchin.
We had our fair share of stars and celebrities. Billy Connolly signed many a cheque for me. Midge Ure was a regular. Turned up with the rest of Slik one day in baseball strips straight from a photo shoot.
Frank Ifield wandered in when the shop was near deserted and all the staff quietly hummed or whistled “I Remember You”.
Q. Did Devo purchase a Firebird copy guitar and proceed to saw bits off it ?
A. Yes. I got the saw from the workshop for them.
Charlie Burchill from Simple Minds, Brian Robertson from Thin Lizzy, Quo’s Alan Lancaster – lovely fellows all. No egos, no divas – except….
There was a certain Scottish entertainer – let’s just call her Lena Martell – who would come in silk scarf around her head and sunglasses askew and stop at the top of the stairs, hands out stretched, as if waiting for her “da daah” moment. Leaning heavily on the banister she would descend. Obviously she had been at the cooking sherry all morning. One step at a time sweet Lena. She would stride purposely to the cassette department. Looking for an Askit no doubt.
You couldn’t make this stuff up……………………………………………and I haven’t !
Would I have liked to have been one of the first Bachelor of Arts graduates of the jazz course of the Leeds College of Music ? (assuming I passed the audition and stayed the course).
Would I give up the life experiences and friendships gained as a teenager in the late 1970s on the shop floor of one Glasgow’s iconic music shops ?
The first part of your life seems to be a never-ending procession of scary entry levels.
Day one at Primary school you feel abandoned and alone. Intimidated by all these desks and chairs and all these other little people, and some big people too.
Day one on the school bus to secondary school, where do you even sit?
Day one at secondary school – oh shit, I’m going to get ducked!
Day one at your first teenage disco/party – why has my Mum dressed me up to look like one of Lulu’s backing dancers?
Day one at your new job – oh God, now they’re going to realise I don’t have 10 O-levels after all.
Of course, the journey usually ends pretty well, with a roll call of honours along the way – Milk Monitor, Seats at the back of the bus, Lots of pals and to cap it all off a Mortgage.
In other words, most of the things we fret about never happen, the problem is, we just don’t know it at the time.
The local youth club was kind of daunting for a 12-year-old, it was mostly ‘older kids’ made up of cool guys or pretty girls who had no time for plebs.
Of course, these ‘older kids’ who were so intimidating were only 14 or 15, but back then 15 was mature, 18 was grown up and 40 was ancient – to a 12-year-old.
Luckily there was a group of 4 or 5 of us, all friends who were to embark on this scary venture together. One of our gang even had an older brother who was part of the cool guy crowd.
Family ties didn’t count for much in this hierarchy however, in this egalitarian bubble our pal was just another wee pleb like the rest of us
Walking into my old primary one classroom that doubled as the youth club reception was surreal enough, and like a brood of baby ducklings walking into the middle of a gaggle of geese we immediately felt intimidated and out of place.
Not to worry there were lots of activities though……
There was table tennis – “that looked like fun” but all the older boys were playing with more waiting to play.
There was a mini snooker table – “that looked like fun” but all the older boys were playing with more waiting to play.
There was a table football game – “that looked like fun” but all the older boys were playing with more waiting to play.
There was badminton – “that looked like fun” but all the older boys were playing with more waiting to play, and there were even some girls waiting as well……
The other obstacle in these days of ‘winner stays on!’ was a guy, let’s call him Tabby, who was freakishly proficient at any activity that involved eye to hand coordination, Tennis, Badminton, Table Tennis you name it.
He was so good that he would play left-handed sometimes just to make it interesting. He was never cocky about it though and we all just accepted that he’d been blessed by the Greek god of racket sports.
Tabby was only a year older than us, but his skill sets gave him a unique position in the hierarchy that we could only dream about.
And then there was a record player with lots of 45’s and a few albums scattered around, but that was the girl’s stronghold, you had as much chance of infiltrating that little scene and choosing a record as the sun rising in the west.
If we were intimidated by the boys then the girls were even more intimidating, mainly because they all seemed so glamorous, and sophisticated and we were just, well, daft wee boys
We needn’t have worried though, they were a friendly bunch and couldn’t have been nicer – looking back they were a bit like The Pink Ladies in Grease but definitely more Frenchie than Rizzo! They were also quick to help any of the new girls settle in and maybe that’s just the difference between boys and girls.
Things got easier for us after that awkward introduction, we learned not to be so timid, sometimes paying for it, but earning our spurs and becoming part of the order of things.
We eventually got to play some of the table games and realised that the older guys were just treating us the way they’d been treated. It was clear we wouldn’t be rookies for ever and we’d move up the youth club ranking order soon enough.
We could never get near the record player though and looking back I’m glad we couldn’t.
The girls had impeccable taste and curated the best pop-songs of the day. In most cases the girls brought in their own records otherwise as the heid DJ correctly said “you’d be listening to The Alexander brothers and Lena Martell, all night” .
They say that ‘music’s a part of everyone’s autobiography’ and I couldn’t agree more.
I still hear songs today that remind me of that youth club, songs integral to my memories of being a young teenager.
Songs that I heard for the first time on that wee record player in that tiny classroom, the classroom that had been my first entry level challenge.
I made up a playlist of some of those songs and listening to them took me back there.
I closed my eyes, and I was playing Tabby at table tennis again, it was nip and tuck but then I realised he was blindfolded, playing left-handed and standing on one leg, and I still lost!