Tag Archives: Music

turntable talk – ‘Live’ albums.

Paul and I were, last week, again invited to join the TURNTABLE TALK chat on Dave Ruch’s blog, ‘A Sound Day.‘ This is an excellent site to visit and satisfy your musical curiosity on all genres of music, mainly focused on the 60s, 70s and 80s. Dave is a prolific writer and the articles are filled with fascinating facts and trivia.

The discussion surrounded ‘Live’ albums: how did we feel about them? Do the records live up to the experience of seeing an act play live? What were our favourites, and why?

I immediately volunteered for this one – I ‘bagged’ it as we’d have said in The Seventies, I knew where I was going with this … you probably do too, but please do read on!

ROARIN’ FOR RORY!

When Dave first suggested the discussion topic of ‘live’ albums, I knew instantly where I was going with this. There was no competition. However, it did prompt me to consider the reason this particular record is recipient of the unofficial ‘Once Upon a Time in The ‘70s’ Live Album of Eternity’ award.

Was it owing to the fact there literally was no competition within my collection?

Nope. A quick check revealed more ‘live’ albums than I thought I had: (in no particular order) Uriah Heep; Sweet; The Clash; Devo; Rolling Stones; AC/DC; Led Zeppelin; Slade; Lynyrd Skynyrd; Man; Guru Guru; Quicksilver Messenger Service; Cream, Dr Feelgood ….

And that’s just some from my ‘70s era vinyl. I now suspect there will be many more from more recent times hidden away in the CD racks.

This really surprised me. Confused me, too. I was primed to discuss how I was not a fan of ‘live’ recordings!

But here’s the thing ….. I’m NOT!

For me, there are only a few reasons as to why such albums work:

. I have myself seen that band / artist play live and can visualize / relive the performance, or;

. I haven’t previously enjoyed the sanitized, clean-cut versions of the songs on a studio album, and;

. The sound is well balanced and distinct, and finally;

. Any crowd noise is not overblown and intrusive.

Unfortunately, certainly so far as my collection is concerned, these criteria can often be a bit hit or miss.

There is one big exception, though – a ‘live’ album that is not only the best of that ilk, but my favourite album of all time, full stop:

RORY GALLAGHER: Live in Europe.

This is an album of seven tracks recorded on tour through Europe in February and March 1972 – later CD versions have two additional songs. At the time of recording, the band had retained the ‘power trio’ format of Rory’s earlier band, Taste, with Wilgar Campbell on drums and Gerry McAvoy on bass.

Live in Europe’ was the third release under Rory’s own name, and I bought it in late ‘72, via mail order, on the strength of having heard an early Taste album at a pal’s house.

(I was actually 25p short in my remittance to the record shop, but they still sent me the LP anyway, with a request I made up the difference in my next order. I didn’t order anything else, and some months later the store went out of business. I still feel the pangs of guilt to this day!)

The album opens with the sound of a rather polite, and not overly raucous crowd. After a few seconds the concert announcer simply utters the words, “Rory Gallagher,” and the crowd noise raises a notch.

Bump bump …. bump. Three final tune-up notes on Gerry’s bass, and that’s it. No nonsense, no fancy introductions; no frills; there’s absolutely no messing around – save on the opening song, a cover of the Junior Wells recording, ‘Messin’ With The Kid.’  This Blues standard sits perfectly in a set that combines covers such as this with Rory’s arrangements of ‘traditional’ Blues songs, and original compositions.

Laundromat’ from his debut solo album, follows. One of his own compositions, it’s an out and out rocker, before the pace is curtailed on the ‘traditional’ ‘I Could’ve Had A Religion’ – eight and a half minutes of slow burning, bass pounding, metronomic stomping, blues with added slide guitar solo.

Side One closes in lighter mood with a cover of Blind Boy Fuller’s ‘Pistol Slapper Blues,’ Rory, unaccompanied, picking away on an acoustic guitar this time.

Side Two features only three tracks, but still runs to just slightly under twenty-two minutes. First up is what was already, and forever remained a ‘live’ favourite with fans, Rory playing mandolin on another stomper – this time his self-written, Going To My Hometown. The erstwhile reserved crowd do come through on this number with their rhythmic handclapping when the instruments are pared back. ‘In Your Town’ is next up, though I don’t actually recall him ever playing these two back to back in a concert. This is another of Rory’s own songs, this time about a prison break and highlighting some incredible playing.

The album’s final track is a really powerful arrangement of ‘Bullfrog Blues’ during which Wilgar and Gerry have their own solo spots. I can still envisage Rory, on this one, racing around the stage one moment, duck walking across it the next.

And this goes back to my earlier point regarding personal experience. I attended my first Rory Gallagher concert within a few months of buying this album. He wore a similar check shirt on stage that night to the one he sports on the album cover; he played all the tracks featured on this LP, and he adopted the same ‘no nonsense’ approach to the delivery of his music as I anticipated from just listening to the record.

What really struck me, even as a fourteen year old kid, was there appeared to be another ‘presence’ on stage in addition to the band members. Rory’s Fender Stratocaster guitar seemed to take on a life-form of its own, in the same was as does a ventriloquist’s dummy. Rory sings to his instrument, which in turn answers back, almost mimicking its master.

And what a master virtuoso he is too. Rory’s playing throughout is sharp and clear. Concise too. There’s no over complicating or unnecessary posturing. This Rock ‘n’Roll; this is Blues. This is what music was invented for!

Not only is Rory on top form with this recording, but mention has to be made of Wilgar Campbell (and subsequent drummers) who take instant cues from their leader and provide such a solid rock on which to build the overall sound. Gerry McAvoy on bass too – I rate him ‘the best.’ He stayed with Rory for many years, and often I can sense myself humming along to the magnificent, spontaneous sounding, driving bass as much as to the melody from Rory’s Strat.

Over the years Rory released several ‘live’ recordings. Two were with Taste, from circa 1971, and then, following his passing in 1995, a few subsequent LPs were licenced by his brother Donal who curates Rory’s musical estate and legacy. Of these, ‘Check Shirt Wizard – Live in ‘77’ runs this ‘Live In Europe’ close.

Each of Rory Gallagher’s studio albums are of the highest merit, especially so the first three, ‘Rory Gallagher,’ ‘Deuce,’ and ‘Blueprint.’ But Rory was in his element performing before a crowd. On stage was where he was born to be, and it’s hardly surprising that his ‘live’ albums come across, in my opinion, as the best out there. (Also check out ‘Irish Tour ’74’ which some would argue even better than ‘Live in Europe.

He just seemed so natural up there on stage, not requiring of any gimmicks or fancy backdrops. He had an effortless manner with the crowd, and came across as such a genuinely nice guy.

Perhaps it’s because Rory Gallagher had that ability to keep everything simple and completely natural that, he was better equipped than most to replicate that unique concert experience, and present the listener with either a lasting memory, or at very least, an exciting and accurate slice of imagery to accompany his music.

Rory Gallagher – (pic by Barrie Wentzell,)

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson from Glasgow – May 2022)

almost top of the pops – john miles.

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

18th April 1976

John Miles

Right – we’re talking ‘classic’ here. None of your twee pop stuff performed by session musicians and presented by pretty boys with toothy smiles. I‘ll bet everyone reading this post has heard this song before. Which is perhaps a little strange, given that it spent marginally over two months in the UK charts, peaking at #3, where it remained this week in 1976.

I’m not saying it was a particular favourite of mine. Yet, though I wasn’t convinced by the overblown production and pomp, I enjoyed it as ‘something completely different’ when I first heard it on the radio.

However, being quite fickle as far as music is concerned, (Ok – I have the attention span of a fruit fly) I soon grew bored of it. One of my pals was already a confirmed John Miles fan and played this track to absolute death! In his house or in the changing room at athletics training or on the pub juke-box….
“Music of the future, Music of the past.” Aaaargh! Those words kept me awake at night!

Credit where it’s due though – John Miles was (he sadly passed away in December 2021, aged 72) a ‘proper’ musician, well respected in all circles of the music industry.

He came from Jarrow, not far from Newcastle Upon Tyne, and was initially in a band called Influence, though at that time still performing under his original name of John Herrrington. Paul Thomson who would later join Roxy Music, and Vic Malcolm who would become an original member of Geordie, were fellow members; as was Chris Warren, who would go on to join Pickettywitch. (See? These articles aren’t just thrown together you know!)

When the band broke up, John Miles formed his own outfit, not so imaginatively called John Miles Band. They built a decent following in their native North East, and cut a few singles on the Orange label.

However, still chasing the dream, John moved to London in 1975 with bass player Bob Marshall, added Barry Black and Gary Moberly to the band, secured a deal with Decca, released ‘High Fly’ – and spent six weeks in the charts, rising to #17. Simple – just like that.

However, John’s big moment came around five months later with the release of ‘Music.’ This track, like ‘High Fly’ before it, was lifted from the band’s debut album ‘Rebel.’

The follow-up single ‘Remember Yesterday’ a pleasant ballad came from the band’s second album to be released in 1976, but only scraped into the Top Forty at #32. This album, ‘Stranger In The City’ also spawned the last chart entry of The Seventies for John Miles – ‘Slow Down.’ Nothing could be much further from what was already being viewed as the classic ‘Music.
(‘High Fly‘and ‘Music’ did scrape the USA charts, but it was this, ‘Slow Down’ that was his best effort Stateside, reaching #34 in as well as #2 in the Disco charts.)

In fact the whole album is pretty diverse in the style of tracks it offers, incorporating elements of disco, metal and soul at various points.

And this was perhaps the school-boy error. As we’ve seen with other bands before and after, if an early reputation is built on such an iconic song, it’s difficult to further cultivate that almost tribal fanbase with different styles.

A few albums followed in the Eighties, but nothing could match the early success, though he did work on projects with Alan Parsons and Jimmy Page and toured with Tina Turner and Joe Cocker. Indeed, he played on several of Tina’s albums and was music director on some of her tours.

Tina Turner and John Miles
B-Side from JOHN MILES’ ’79 single, “You Cant Keep A Good Man Down”.

I do have to confess to being one of those who, perhaps unfairly, considered ‘Music’ to be on the pretentious side. It was a tag that John Miles struggled to shake off, but maybe if people like me had bothered to listen to the rest of his output, as I’ve only just done, some forty-six years later, then he may have found even greater success.

Still, there’s not many can say that for a short while in 1976, they were ALMOST Top of the Pops…. and in all honesty, deserved even better.

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

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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)

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guilty pleasures

(Post by Paul Fitzpatrick, of London – February 2021)
Reproduced – February 2022

We know them when we hear them: songs we like even though we know we shouldn’t, songs we know that we’ll be judged for liking.

According to psychologists, the term Guilty Pleasure tends to be associated with shame or embarrassment rather than guilt itself.

A Guilty Pleasure is something that we enjoy, but we know we’re not supposed to, because liking it says something negative about us.

Our musical tastes today are shared via playlists, but back in the day we judged musical tastes by people’s jukebox selections…. which is why we were very careful about the choices we made.

On reflection it was probably a self defence mechanism to avoid that long walk of shame back to our table whilst the prophetic lyrics to – ‘Alone Again Naturally’ by Gilbert O’Sullivan trickled out, leaving us in no man’s land, stuck to a chewing-gum ravaged carpet, exposed and humiliated and trying to avert the gazes of the pub regulars wearing their Quo and Hawkwind t-shirts as they looked on with contempt.

It’s why to this day, there are certain tracks we don’t include on shared playlists with friends but are happy to listen to in the safety of our own space.

Psychologists will reason we behave this way because guilt is adaptive, and it motivates people to follow social norms.

So, in other words selecting a Status Quo barnstormer would have enabled us to be part of the gang, but selecting Gilbert’s introspective ballad about suicide and the numbing pain of being jilted at the altar, was always going to alienate us and attract ridicule.

If only we’d known back then that the bold Gilbert was a fashion trendsetter, parading the Peaky Blinders look well before Cillian Murphy came onto the scene.
Unfortunately for Gilbert lovers, this was worthless ammunition in the line of fire circa 1973.

It makes sense that our need to conform and fit in is an understandable driving force behind why we classify something we actually like (but feel we can’t admit to liking), as a Guilty Pleasure.

However, it does beg the question – who is the judge and jury, and why should anyone feel guilty about their tastes in music?

Take David ‘Hutch’ Soul’s easy breezin’ 1977 chart topping hit, Silver Lady (one of my Guilty Pleasures).

This TV cop of Starsky & Hutch fame knocked the recently deceased King of rock and roll, Elvis, off the number 1 spot and in the course of its stay, Soul’s Silver Lady shared the top 30 with – David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, The Clash, The Commodores, Abba, The Bee Gees, Rod Stewart, Bob Marley, Queen, Thin Lizzy, Donna Summer, The Sex Pistols and Yes.

Superstars all, whose millions of fans must have been wondering why this flaxen-haired imposter, who spent most of his time needlessly jumping over cars with his cardigan-wearing sidekick, was outselling their idols.

I was a prodigious consumer of music at the time and probably owned most albums by the aforementioned artists (apart from Yes, as hard as I tried, I just couldn’t get into tracks that lasted 18 minutes long) and although I quite liked Silver Lady, I would never have admitted it, in fact this is the first time I ever have.

And I guess that’s the point, I would happily blast out Bowie’s Heroes or Stevie Wonder’s Another Star or Marley’s Waiting in Vain from my Mk 3 Cortina for the world to hear because whether you’re a fan or not these guys are simply above ridicule, but David Soul, well……

In researching this piece, I wanted to look into what actually constitutes a Guilty Pleasure in the eyes of the music industry. After all, they have commercially adopted the phrase, using it to curate and sell compilation albums by the digital barrowload.

In doing so, I found a few albums in iTunes and Spotify, amongst them the imaginatively titled – 100 Greatest Guilty Pleasures.

The track listing on this album was a bit of an eye opener to me.

I thought I understood the concept pretty well but some of the selections deemed to be ‘Guilty Pleasures’, took me by surprise.
Listed below are a few examples….

  • Young Hearts Run Free – Candi Staton
  • Le Freak – Chic
  • December 1963 (oh what a night) – Frankie Vali and the Four Seasons
  • Feel like makin love – Bad Company
  • Werewolves of London – Warren Zevon
  • Schools Out – Alice Cooper
  • I Saw the Light – Todd Rundgren

My first reaction was – “holy shit what kind of philistines do they employ to curate these albums”.
I really like most of these tracks, but to whoever curated this album, they obviously represent something entirely different.

I contemplated the selection process and wondered whether it was a case of ‘Machine replacing Man’, you know, haphazardly picking tracks using a random generator, and I was happy to give them the benefit of the doubt on this because the alternative was too depressing to consider.

But then I thought about it a bit more and I remembered that music is a moveable feast, tastes can change and mellow and become a bit more sentimental as time reconnects us with the past. So, it’s perfectly feasible that songs we had no love for can become today’s favourites.

As an example, take the songs played on Radio 2 in the 70’s that our parents listened to. The station we couldn’t wait to switch off so that we could listen to ‘our music’ on Radio 1, artists like, T-Rex, Bowie, Roxy, Rod, Elton, The Stones.

On reflection a lot of these mellow Radio 2 anthems, which were languidly introduced by Jimmy ‘Housewives Choice’ Young and the like, don’t sound so bad now, in fact as I look down the list of my most played songs on iTunes quite a few of them are on there!

I’m thinking of the likes of – The Carpenters, Neil Diamond, Glen Campbell, and Bread, all of whom were deemed to be too middle of the road for us back then but show me a jukebox today with Campbell’s Wichita Lineman, Bread’s Guitar Man or Diamonds Cracklin Rose on it and I won’t be able to get my money out fast enough.

As a keen curator from the days of mixtapes to playlists I challenged myself to put together my own 70’s Guilty Pleasure playlist, but there was a strict rule I wanted to adhere to – all the tracks needed to be genuine Guilty Pleasures, songs that I’ve never admitted to liking to anyone but myself.

What this means of course is that it’s a playlist like no other. No songs have been added to boost credibility which if we’re honest, is something we all do right?

I’m not saying any of these songs are classics, rather songs that have been left behind, ignored, (by me) and now it’s time to bring them back into the fold and give them their due, even if it’s in a ‘back-handed-compliment’ kind of way.

I found the process to be a very cathartic exercise and I would highly recommend trawling through your musical memories to discover your own Guilty Pleasures.

I realise now that these songs are a bit like old friends that you haven’t heard from for a long time, you wonder why you didn’t keep in touch and there’s a joy in rediscovering them.

By the way, if anyone’s interested the song that knocked Silver Lady off the number one spot in October 1977 was Scottish footballs current favourite anthem – ‘Yes Sir I Can Boogie’ by Baccara.

No doubt another Guilty Pleasure in some people’s eyes….

sing-a-long-a-jackie (volume #1)

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

I’ve never really been one for paying much attention to song lyrics. It’s all about the music and beats for me. And let’s be honest, in some cases, especially so in The Seventies, the words were pretty random; nonsensical sentences existing only to enhance the cadence and rhythm of the song – look no further than the brilliant Marc Bolan if you don’t believe me.

So, reflecting some of our life experiences from The ’70s, I thought I’d try my hand at lyric writing. I mean, how hard can it be?

(Pretty damned hard, actually. Maybe Marc had it sussed, right enough.)

I suggest hitting the ‘play’ button on the video and then following the alternative lyrics written below – that way you may just be able to get it all to scan. Maybe.

DRUNKEN NORMAN

(MARMALADE)

Original / Proper version: ‘Cousin Norman.’

Written by; Hughie Nicholson

Performed by: Marmalade

Released: September 1971

Highest UK Chart position: #6

In the village, by the bus stop,

There’s an Off-Sales selling fortified wine,

Carlsberg Special and Breaker Lager

Under eighteens getting served all the time.

So if you’re passin’ close by, please

Don’t tell our dads we’re buying secretly.

In the forest, by the oak tree,

Stash the bevvy in the bushes over there.

We’ll drink it later. Before the disco.

No-one will steal it, they’re not brave enough to dare.

So if you’re passin’ close by, please

Keep on walking, we’re just kicking leaves.

Oh Oh Oh Oh excited for the disco

Sinking cans of beer will stop me being so shy

Oh Oh Oh Oh excited for the disco

The girls are gonna fall for this cool and gallus guy!

Dooya doodn doo doo doo Dooya doodn doo doo doo

Doo doo doo doo doo doo.

Hold a deep breath, get past the teachers

I’m in the disco, ready for a dance.

I’ll be groovy, I’ll be funky,

Play it cool, I’ll be in with a chance.

So if you’re dancin’ close by, please

Watch in wonder as the wee man pulls with ease.

Oh Oh Oh Oh I’m feelin’ nauseous

The hall is spinning round and I think I might be sick 

Oh Oh Oh Oh I’m feelin’ nauseous

“Thank you for the dance.” I stagger to the toilets, quick!

Oh Oh Oh Oh sat in Head Teacher’s office

Puke stains on my shirt and splashes all over my shoes

Oh Oh Oh Oh sat in Head Teacher’s office,

The girls are all disgusted. I’ve no chance now – I lose.

__________________________

CAMPING UP THE HOOPLE

(MOTT THE HOOPLE)

Original / Proper version: ‘All The Young Dudes.’

Written by: David Bowie

Performed by: Mott the Hoople

Released: September 1972

Highest UK Chart position: #3

Billy crapped all night in the countryside,

Scout Camp enteritis in ‘Seventy-five

Latrine jive,

(Best avoid the dive, if you wanna stay alive.)

Henry’s bloody, gashed foot will leave a scar,

Freddy’s badly aimed knife, a throw too far. Or not far enough –

Freddy’s eyesight’s really duff.

Scout Leader man is crazy

Says we’re going on a long, long trek,

Oh Man, I need Imodium, or clean … kecks.

Oh brother, you guessed, I’m in a mood now!

All the young crew

Running into

The Portaloo queue

(What a To-Do.)

(REPEAT)

Jimmy looks a pratt dressed in fluorescent green

(“Mummy says on treks I should ‘stay safe, stay seen’”)

But we just laughed.

Oh yeah, we just laughed!

And our buddies back at home

Would rather die alone,

We’d not be seen dead in that bright luminous stuff.

Such a drag,

It’s not our bag.

 “OK Boy Scouts – form a line, and don’t dare whine!

The Crazy Scout Leader said,

“Oh! It’s only twelve miles all around.”

(Our guts filled with dread.)

Oh brother you guessed, I’ll be crude, now:

All the subdued,

Ignored the taboo

As they puked or they pooed

In the Portaloo queue.

(REPEAT TO FADE)

(I’ve wanted to do this for years.)

_____________________

show & tell – John Allan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

uncovering my tracks (Parts 3 & 4)

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

Part #3: ALICE BANNED

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My first gig would have to wait.

**********

Part #4: HEAVY ROTATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I made her laugh, apparently.

I now know why.

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

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

ROLL ON 1973!!!

(To be continued …)



novelty that never wore off

George Cheyne: Glasgow March 2021

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)

Celtic

European Cup finalists 1970 – Hoops Upside Your Head (The Gap Band)

Ken Buchanan

World lightweight boxing champion 1970 – Ken You Feel The Force (Real Thing)

Jackie Stewart

World Formula 1 champ 1971 and 1973 – Life In The Fast Lane (Eagles)

Rangers

European Cup Winners’ Cup winners 1972 – Barcelona (Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe)

David Wilkie

Two swimming gold medals at 1976 Montreal Olympics – Pool Up To The Bumper (Grace Jones)

Partick Thistle

League Cup winners in 1971 – Handbags and GladJags (Rod Stewart)

HANDBAGS and GLADJAGS

the HE-LP

(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.

(Wikipedia)

……………………….and it was the currency of cool in the 1970s.

What follows is a handy guide for the true devotee :-

Dos:

  • 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.

Don’ts:

  • 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 ?

all about that flute

(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.