Tag Archives: Rock

turntable talk: out of the blue.

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

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.

This time around, we were looking at “out of the blue”… debuts that came out of nowhere and really took listeners by surprise. Albums, or singles, that made us turn our head and say “that’s great! Who is that!?”

What impact did this band or artist have on us, and how did their debut stack up against future work?

OUT OF THE BLUE

I’ll happily confess to being a bit of a grumpy old cynic. Not just when it comes to music, but to Life in general. Hey! I’m from the West of Scotland, that’s just how we’re built round these parts.

It means though, that as I grow older, very little actually surprises me now. If not exactly ‘wise’ I am at least an old man. I’ve seen it all. I’ve heard it all before. Give or take.

So my nomination for a song (and it is just a song – well, two if you count the B-side) comes from my youth.

I would have just turned thirteen when this song was released in the UK. My parents weren’t into the Beatles or Rolling Stones or anything like that – they listened to the soundtracks of ‘My Fair Lady’ and ‘South Pacific, or the military marching band sounds of The Royal Marines. I suppose it could be argued then that any ‘modern’ music came ‘out of the blue,’ to me.

At that age, I was becoming musically aware, though deprived the sounds of psychedelia and emerging heavy rock, my taste was, let’s say, a little on the innocent side. If I tell you the first three singles I bought were:

  1. The Sweet: ‘Coco.’ (June 1971)
  2. The New Seekers: ‘Never Ending Song of Love.’ (July 1971)
  3. Ken Dodd: ‘When Love Comes Around Again.’ (July 1971)

then perhaps you’ll understand how this particular track hit me like a bolt from the blue.

The fourth single I bought was ‘Sultana’ by Titanic.

Titanic were formed in 1969, and as I recall were billed as being from Norway. In fact, vocalist and main lyricist, Roy Robinson was from England. Not that there was much in the way of lyrics on this particular track.

They presented themselves, it appeared, as very ramshackle and espoused a laid back, hippie attitude. And I loved it!  This was a bit of a musical awakening for a fresh, new teenager. Here was an exotic sounding ‘foreign’ band, who didn’t conform to that clean-cut, wholesome image of the bands I was more familiar with. In fact, they looked downright skanky!

I was mesmerised by the tribal and rhythmic percussion. And that organ! It was all new to me back then, but I’d soon be searching out more music along these lines. Atomic Rooster would later become a firm favourite.

My copy of ‘Sultana’ shows it released as the ‘B-side’ to ‘Sing Fool Sing’ on the flip, though I think from reading other articles and books, the two tracks were effectively ‘Double A.’

Titanic: ‘Sultana.’

National radio chose ‘Sultana’ as being more favourable for daytime airplay, and it resultantly spent twelve weeks in UK charts, peaking at #5 on 24th October 1971.

There was nothing around as far I could hear, that was anything like this. It still passes the ‘originality’ test to this day. It was Titanic’s debut 7” release in UK, though curiously, both tracks were lifted from their second album ‘Sea Wolf,’ while the follow-up, ‘Santa Fé’ came from their eponymous debut LP of 1970.

Sadly, Titanicoh crap, I’m just gonna say it – sank without much trace after this early highlight in their career. In addition to those mentioned above, the band released a further four albums in the ‘70s and one in 1993 during a short-lived reunion.

These LPs don’t attract much attention by way of the second-hand market. They are not particularly sought after, which is great, because they are available to buy at vary reasonable rates. Personally, I love them – good, solid, early heavy rock with strong vocals, powerful drumming and of course that distinctive organ.

Several singles were lifted from those albums, none of which made any real impact either. So yes, Titanic were your archetypal ‘one hit wonders.’

The next 7” I bought as a thirteen year old was, ‘Tokoloshe Man’ by John Kongos, followed by releases from Slade / Alice Cooper / Free. My life-long journey into the love of Rock music had begun.

So yes, like the ocean liner Titanic had only one hit. But boy! What an impact!

Titanic

________________

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 – ashton, gardner & dyke

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

14th March 1971

ASHTON, GARDNER & DYKE.

Ashton, Gardner & Dyke.
Ashton, Gardner & Dyke on Top of the Pops

Hanging on to their Top Ten status, but only just, Ashton Gardner and Dyke were this week in 1971 heading back down the UK chart with ‘Resurrection Shuffle,’ never to darken the Top 40 again.

Forever since saddled with the ‘one hit wonder’ moniker, piano / keyboard player Tony Ashton, bassist Kim Gardner and drummer Roy Dyke had so much more to offer.

Formed in 1968 as what could be termed a ‘supergroup,’ they released six singles and four albums in their five years together, one of which was soundtrack to the 1971 film ‘The Last Rebel,’ about American football star, Joe Nemeth.

Formerly with The Remo Four (Ashton and Dyke) and The Birds**(Gardner) the band had pedigree, and covered various styles and genres from R&B, to soul , to blues rock and jazz rock. This however would ironically prove their eventual downfall.

Ashton, Gardner & Dyke – brilliant, but this perhaps illustrates why prospective fans were a bit bemused! (Almost Alex Harvey-esque, I think.)

The intention was to make their mark as an ‘album’ band, but the success of their fourth single, ‘Resurrection Shuffle’ actually backfired, with crowds turning up at their shows expecting much of the same, and leaving a tad bemused by the multi-genres played.

Ashton, Gardner & Dyke: ‘Mister Freako’ – the band’s third single and pre-cursor to ‘Resurrection Shuffle.’

Poor album sales forced the band to consider their future in 1973, the outcome being to call it a day.

Tony Ashton moved on to play with Medicine Head, then briefly also with Family before teaming up with Deep Purple’s Jon Lord to release a couple of singles. This would be a precursor to hooking up with another of Deep Purple’s number, Ian Paice in Paice, Ashton & Lord.

Ashton, Gardner & Dyke with the title track from their fourth and final album, 1972’s ‘What A Bloody Long Day It’s Been.’

Resurrection Shuffle’ peaked at #3 in the UK Charts, a position it maintained for two weeks, and for a while, back in February 1971, Ashton, Gardner and Dyke were ALMOST Top of the Pops.

Ashton, Gardner & Dyke: ‘Resurrection Shuffle.’

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

____________________

(** The Birds were a British R&B band, formerly known as The Thunderbirds and counted within their ranks, one Ronnie Wood who would go on to do alright for himself. Following a legal dispute with the American Byrds, they changed their name in 1966 to Birds Birds.)

badgers

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

A badger prepares to secret his stash of buttons, pins and patches.

Did you know that collectors of badges are called badgers?

Probably not – because they aren’t. I just made that up because it was a quick, rather obvious and, most likely, futile attempt at raising a smile.

No – collectors of patches or badges are actually called ‘scutelliphiles.’ This is distinct from those whose collections lean more to pin and button badges, and are referred to as ‘falerists.’

Who knew? Who cares?

I’ll bet I’m not the only one who, as kid in the mid to late Sixties was excited to wear badge that defined a love of something. It was a case of wearing your heart on your lapel.

Or perhaps the badges worn were a display of pride; acknowledgement of some achievement or other.

Whether we pinned them on, or peeled off the paper and stuck them on; whether our Mums sewed them on, or ironed them on, badges were a reflection of our personality.  

They were talking points – conversation starters. And as we grew older and bolder and into the mid-Seventies, they became funny. Cheeky. And ultimately with the Punk revolution, they became controversial, political and offensive.

Whether it proved you could ride a bike, had joined the Brownies or sought anarchy and chaos, a simple badge became a cheap, colourful fashion accessory that could possibly lead to a date … or get your head kicked in.

Oh how we loved our buttons, pins, patches and stickers.

*****

I think this would have been the first button badge I owned.

It was given to Primary One pupils, along with a toothbrush, by the local Health Authority, sponsored by a leading toothpaste brand . (I’m guessing Colgate judging by the colour scheme on the badge.)

Then again, perhaps this was first. I don’t know how I cam about the badge, but apparently the Tingha and Tucker Club at one point had over 750,000 members and ultimately had to close down because it was unable to cope with the demand!

The show ran from 1962 through the decade until 1970.

This Tufty Club badge, I’ll bet, will be the one most readers will have been awarded early on in their Primary education.

Watching the video below took me right back to the dining hall at Westerton Primary, with throw-down zebra crossings and little pedal cars.

Book-ending The Tufty Club, in our mid to late primary years, we were awarded this enamel badge of honour if we could ride our bike with no hands and while lighting a fag.

No?

Ah – maybe that’s why I never got one of these little beauties.

This one is the antithesis of the Happy Smile Club! Bazooka Joe Bubblegum – and wrapped in a waxed paper cartoon, that also advertised some amazing American toys … in dollars, even here in UK.

If you joined Club (I think you sent away so many wrappers in an SAE – stamped, addressed envelope) you were rewarded with the badge and some, on the face of it, extra special offers.

This was another popular one from my schooldays. I remember loads of kids wearing these.

These next two were most definitely among my childhood favourites:

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was one of my favourite TV series, without a doubt.

Though I was a fan of the Ilya Kuryakin character, I preferred this badge – the one that identified Napoleon Solo.

“Holy Button Badge, Batman!” I still watch the DVDs and buy the books to this day. I think there were variants of this badge, some featuring the characters from the TV series. I just wish I’d kept hold of them.

Between them, Brownies, Guides, Cubs and Scouts pretty much covered al bases when it came to ‘award badges.’ Collecting; dancing; cooking; painting; first aid; camping; performing; football; netball; map reading ….

I was hopeless. I think I must have had the least decorated arms in the pack / troop. I remember having the Fireman’s badge and …. yeah, the Fireman’s badge.

Television programmes aimed specifically at children became an increasingly influential part of our lives and these three badges, which need no introduction were very prominent on lapels and jumpers up and down the country:

ButtonMakers Pattern Template

By the time I arrived at secondary school, music was vying with sport for my time and attention, as it was for many others. In the early Seventies, I’d say from memory that girls sported more badges than boys, displaying their ‘teenybopper,’ devotion to heartthrob popstars, these badges, and hundreds of similar nature, being the most prominent:

At the other end of the musical spectrum, older rockers of both sexes opted for the sew-on / iron-on patches that adorned their denim jackets and jeans:

… and then it became very exciting indeed, as far as the fashion of badges was concerned. The advent of Punk spawned innovation in music and dress, and accessories.

Bands and fans alike embraced the whole DIY culture, and small button badges were produced in their thousands to show allegiance to groups big and small. Many focused on political views and others simply set out to annoy and agitate the older generation.

So there you have it. Our lives in the late Sixties and through the Seventies can be tracked by the badges we displayed and collected.

Badges these days don’t seem quite so exciting. Badgers still exist, of course, But perhaps they are more sett in their ways than back in my day.

The next badge I’m likely to display, will be a blue parking one.

*****

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 …)



Strange Kinda Friendship – Ian Gillan and …me?

By Alan Fairley: Edinburgh, March 2021

My co-contributor, Russ Stewart, offered advice in a previous article along the lines that you should never meet your heroes, a sentiment which no doubt many will relate to as the experience can often be something of a let down when you realise that the hero you’ve just met is flesh and blood like everyone else and not necessarily the mystical figure you’ve idolised, whether it be on stage, cinema screen, television or in some sporting arena.

During the years I spent in sports journalism I have been fortunate to have come face to face with a number of those that I would describe as heroes. Some have left me feeling disappointed (step forward, Chic Charnley) but, in the main, those that I have met have been pleasant, courteous individuals ie Denis Law, Joe Jordan,  Henry Cooper, Jim Watt, Alex Arthur and of course the legend that is Jimmy Bone (sorry Russ), all of whom who have left me feeling that it had been a pleasure to have enjoyed a few brief moments in their company.

Moving away from sport to the other great passion in my life, I feel privileged to have established a genuine friendship over a period of many years with one of rock music’s most influential exponents.

This being a 1970s website, I will rewind to where it all began – Green’s Playhouse, Glasgow, 24th September 1971. 

Deep Purple, arguably the highest profile band on the planet at the time (certainly the loudest as noted within the Guinness Book of Records) were riding high on the back of hit singles Black Night and Strange Kinda Woman and were playing in my home city, a gig which I attended along with my now departed schoolmate Nicky Mawbey.

It was our first ‘big’ concert (seeing Mungo Jerry at Kilmardinny Riding Stables a couple of months earlier was good but this was an altogether different ballpark) and my attention was drawn throughout to the charismatic stage presence of the band’s lead singer Ian Gillan.

I couldn’t take my eyes off him but, for the record, this was no man-crush.  I didn’t fancy him, I wanted to be him.  I wanted to be on that stage screaming into the mic and basking in the adulation of the fans below.

Long brown hair tumbling around his shoulders, his multi-range vocals alternating between screams and whispers, he had the audience, and a 16 year old me, in the palm of his hands throughout.

I no longer wanted to chase the unlikely dream of being a professional footballer. I wanted to be a rock star.
I was a wannabe years before the word was even invented.

(As it happened I did become a professional footballer of sorts, playing a couple of trials for semi-pro junior side Glasgow Perthshire and receiving a brown envelope with a crisp one pound note inside after each game before hearing the dreaded words, “don’t call us, we’ll call you”.)

Fast forward 20-odd years and the company I worked for at that time handed me a list of key clients, responsibility for whom had been assigned to myself. (For reasons of confidentiality I can’t disclose the nature of the work involved).

The list comprised roughly 50 names along with each individual’s profession and one particular entry jumped right off the page – Ian Gillan, Recording Artist.

I couldn’t believe my good fortune. After all these years of wanting to be him, I was actually going to be in direct contact with him….or so I thought. Key figures within the music industry tend to delegate their day to day personal affairs to a manager and, after working my way through the list and trying to make contact with  the singer I had idolised as a starry eyed teenager, I found myself dealing with his representative, a genial chap by the name of Phil Banfield, who also represented other members of the rock glitterati such as Tony Iommi and Sting.

Phil was delighted when I tentatively advised him of my long time admiration for Ian and before long he was sending me demo CDs and other items of memorabilia, the likes of which very few fans would ever have got their hands on.

One day I was preparing for a family holiday with the wife and kids to Orlando and made a quick courtesy call to advise Phil I would be away from the office for a couple of weeks. 

‘Where are you off to?’ he asked

‘Orlando’ I replied

‘Really?- Ian’s out there just now with the rest of the band recording the new Purple album. Tell me where you’re staying and I’ll get him to call you.’

So, off to the land of the free I went, and on arriving in my hotel room, noticed a light on the phone saying there was a voicemail.
I dialled in and heard the magic opening words ‘Hi Alan, this is Ian Gillan…..’

I was invited to the studio at Altamonte Springs in central Florida where the band were recording the Purpendicular Album and found myself in the company of legends Gillan, Morse, Glover, Lord and Paice while they were working on a track called The Aviator.

GRP STUDIOS FLORIDA

It was an eye opener.
I sat in for about two hours and all that was being recorded was Ian Paice’s 10 second drum break between two of the verses. 

‘He’s a real perfectionist’ whispered Roger Glover to me after about 12 takes, and only then did I realise how important a 10 second drum break could be (think of In the Air Tonight by Phil Collins with its iconic drum break which was immortalised by the Cadbury’s gorilla and you’ll get the gist.)

PAICEY’S FAMOUS ONE STICK SCHTICK

After two hours Paicey still wasn’t happy and left the studios frowning.

‘He’ll worry about that all night’ remarked Roger.

Afterwards I adjourned with Mr Gillan to a nearby bar along with some of the band members and road crew in the expectation of hearing lurid tour-related stories concerning naked groupies, outrageous imbibing of alcohol, excessive intake of Class A drugs  and the old rock’n’roll favourite, destruction of hotel rooms.

GILLAN & FAIRLEY – BEERS IN FLORIDA!

Nothing could have been further from the truth. All were respectable married men in their 50s with kids and grandkids and as such the bar room banter circled around families, schools, gardens, finances, football and the other staple conversation topics of middle aged men sharing a beer after work.

Since then, Ian’s always fixed me up with tickets and backstage passes whenever Deep Purple have ventured north of the border. After a gig at  the Armadillo he introduced me to his wife, a lovely lady called Bron to whom he’s been happily married for 37 years  and with whom he has a daughter named Grace.

He gave me a signed copy of his autobiography Child In Time and demo copies of both Purpendicular and his solo album Dreamcatcher.

Although I haven’t seen him for some time we remain on each other’s Christmas Card lists and he did send me a particularly comforting message after my wife passed away.

You should never meet your heroes? – I’m thankful that I did

a journey through life with mott the hoople.

(Post by Alan Fairley, of Edinburgh – February 2021)

There can’t be too many people who have set out planning to attend a T Rex concert only to have ended up at a Mott the Hoople gig but that particular quantum leap was one which I experienced as 1971 drew to a close, and one which, in musical terms, proved to be a seminal moment in my life.

Both myself and my long term school friend James Meldrum had recently scaled (metaphorically) the stifling walls of Bearsden Academy to embark on our respective career choices. James had headed off to Portsmouth to join the Royal Navy while I merely made the 15 minute walk over Pendicle Road to start my job in the less exotic environment of Bank of Scotland’s Bearsden Cross branch.

James and I had bonded over the years due to our communal interest in football and music and it was around this time that the latter was, within our respective psyches, beginning to vie for attention with the former. As James’ first shore leave approached, he called me and suggested getting tickets for the T Rex gig at Greens Playhouse which was coinciding with his period of leave. I dutifully hopped on to the No13 bus from Maxwell Avenue to Renfrew Street and legged it along Sauchiehall Street before heading to the oasis-like ticket desk which lurked in the dark corners of House of Clydesdale only to be told that T Rex was completely sold out. Deflated, but determined to avoid a wasted journey, I asked the salesgirl what other shows were on around that time. She handed me a list and three words jumped off the page –  Mott. The. Hoople.

I didn’t know much about them. I’d read in the Melody Maker that they did a great live show and I’d seen them once on Top of the Pops performing their spectacularly unsuccessful debut single Midnight Lady. I duly purchased the tickets and recall vividly the seat numbers -D7 and D8. Four rows from the front, the nearest I’d ever been to the gargantuan Playhouse stage.

The gig itself was amazing. We didn’t know any of the songs but they all sounded great, the fans rushed the stage toward the end and the cops were called in as the management clearly feared a riot. No Neanderthal Rock Steady stewards in these days as Glasgow’s finest restored order –  but only after the band had completed no less than three encores.

From then on, Mott became my favourite band and I saw them again a few months later at the Kelvin Hall. By this time I had acquired my first proper girlfriend, Marion, who I had met at the Christmas dance in Bearsden Burgh Hall (no disco thankfully, just a couple of great live bands one of which featured recently departed Marmalade guitarist Hughie Nicholson).

Pretty, intelligent, sensible and a lover of classical music, Marion, a former Hillhead H.S. pupil was the polar opposite of me and it was probably a serious error of judgement on my part by taking her along to the Kelvin Hall show.  Our contrasting reactions to the entertainment on offer merely accentuated the vast cultural chasm which existed between us and it was no real surprise when she gave me the Spanish Archer not long afterwards.

I addressed the disappointment of being issued with the Red Card from Marion by immersing myself further in music, forsaking the questionable delights of following Partick Thistle by spending my Saturday afternoons browsing through, and usually purchasing, albums from the city centre record shops such as Listen, Bruce’s and 23rd Precinct. I also became a regular patron of Greens Playhouse, checking out any acts I thought would be worth listening to and I scoured the music papers diligently every week to check when my favourite band would again be touring.

Thankfully their next visit to Glasgow coincided with James’ shore leave and this time we had front row tickets – a first for us both. The fourth Mott gig I attended occurred after Greens had morphed into the Apollo following a major aesthetic overhaul, something which had also happened to the band itself. Gone were the five working class lads from Hereford, a quintet to whom their fan base could easily identify. Instead  there was glitter, peroxide, suits and platform boots as the long waited Bowie-influenced chart success of All the Young Dudes had propelled the band into the Glam Rock genre.

(Speaking of genre propulsion, the support act on that occasion was a relatively unknown outfit called Queen who, at the end of the tour, released their debut single Seven Seas of Rye. To quote Charlie Nicholas, ‘the rest is geography.’)

Mott split up shortly after that gig, around the time that I moved to Edinburgh and met the girl of my dreams, rapidly finding myself struck by the triple whammy of marriage, mortgage and children  resulting in my  obsession with music soon giving way to the new responsibilities which altered my outlook on life.

Mott’s lead singer Ian Hunter toured extensively thereafter but I was in my 40s by the time I saw him on stage again. The venue was for the gig was…er…’The Venue’, an imaginatively named building tucked away in a cobbled street within the dark confines of Edinburgh’s Old Town. After the show I hung around, along with a few other ageing fans, at the stage door hoping for a glimpse of, or even a chat with, the man himself.

A burly roadie then appeared and announced that Ian wouldn’t be seeing anyone.

My subsequent anger, fuelled by the casual dismissiveness of my own loyalty, exploded as I responded with-

‘Tell him if it wasn’t for us, he’d be working in a f***ing factory’.

I only realised the misguided nature of my knee jerk reaction when this behemoth of a roadie advanced angrily in my direction but the situation was resolved when Hunter quickly appeared, shaking hands and signing autographs for his small band of admirers.

I saw him in concert maybe a dozen times, in three different countries, after that, the two most memorable being when I was reunited with my old pal James (after a gap of almost 40 years) at Londons’ Shepherds Bush Empire and another in the picturesque enclave of San Juan Capistrano, California, the last gig I attended with my wife Pamela, who passed away three months later.

The subsequent Mott the Hoople reunion shows came and went amidst much hype. I attended the London and Glasgow events but by then they had become akin to a tribute band and I realised that the magic of 1971 had gone forever.

The band, and its members, provided me with some great memories over a period of almost 50 years —-and all because T Rex had been sold out.

As they say in France, ‘je ne regret rien’