My name is George…and I’m not a Partick Thistle fan. There, I’ve said it, I’m coming clean after living with my guilt for 50 years.
It’s more of a guilty pleasure, actually, because going to Hampden with my dad to see Thistle win the League Cup in 1971 was one of the best days of my life.
It started off as a homage to my grandad – a lifelong Jags fan who had passed away a couple of years before – and ended up being an amazing shared bonding experience for my dad and I.
The build-up to the game was pretty low-key. That was mirrored in our house as my dad tried to keep a lid on any expectations.
“We’re up against a team that got to the European Cup Final last year,” he said, “I just hope we don’t get embarrassed.”
To be fair, he wasn’t alone in thinking that. I don’t remember many people giving Thistle an earthly ahead of the game.
I had just turned 13 a few weeks before, so it was a huge deal for me. My first final…I couldn’t wait.
The excitement of the big day got to me and I woke just after 6am, went downstairs and found my dad in the kitchen. He couldn’t sleep either.
He made me a huge bacon and melted cheese sandwich – it was too early for the roll delivery – and a mug of tea. The breakfast of champions, as it turned out.
We chatted away about my boys’ club football, school, my younger brothers, the weather…anything, really, apart from the game.
That was about to change. Not because we saw the BBC Grandstand programme where presenter Sam Leitch told everyone: “It’s League Cup final day at Hampden where Celtic meet Partick Thistle, who have no chance.”
No, we missed that as we were heading to my grandma’s house at that same time, having arranged to pop in before the game. She was quite chuffed we were going to honour my grandad’s memory and handed over his old Thistle scarf for me to wear.
“He’ll be looking out for you, so mind and keep it on,” she said as we waved goodbye.
So that’s how I found myself in the covered end at Hampden that day holding aloft a Thistle scarf as the goals rained in. One…two…three…four…the fans around us could hardly believe what was happening.
Maybe we all should have. The number one single at that time was Rod Stewart’s Reason To Believe, a double A-side with Maggie May. Surely that was an omen for one of the greatest upsets in Scottish football.
My abiding memory of the final was turning towards my dad at full-time amid the bedlam and seeing him with the biggest of big grins on his face. He looked at me silently and then raised his eyes to the skies above Hampden.
I knew what he meant…grandad had been looking out for us.
From the Beatles to Bowie every great artist has recorded a cover version of someone else’s songs.
In many cases you won’t even know it’s a cover, it usually depends on your musical knowledge and whether you’ve heard the original before.
For instance, until recently I had no idea that Adele’s ‘Make You Feel My Love’ was a Bob Dylan track and had previously been released by Billy Joel and Garth Brooks, well before Adele’s version attained over 200 million hits on streaming services.
Dylan’s song is now deemed to be a ‘Modern Standard’ and has been recorded by over 460 different artists, and all the while I thought it was an Adele original.
Nowadays of course I want to know every detail about the music I’m invested in, but when I was younger I couldn’t tell you if a song was a cover version or an original and to be honest it didn’t matter. I loved Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da by the Marmalade and cared not that it was a cover and the Beatles version had come before it.
In the early 70s, Bowie with Pinups and Bryan Ferry with Those Foolish Things brought credibility to the concept of ‘cover albums’, sharing their musical influences and displaying their penchant for covers like a badge of honour.
The topic of cover versions came into my mind recently when I was listening to ‘California Dreaming’ by Bobby Womack. I wondered how many people knew about this version and it got me thinking about my favourite ‘cover versions’ and how I categorise them.
So here’s a ‘not so deep-dive’ into the concept….
When you think the cover is the original:
I think the first time I was caught out like this was with Rod Stewart’s ‘Reason to Believe’, the B side to Maggie May.
It was one of those singles where the B side got almost as much needle-time as the A side (in fact as you can see from the image, it was the original A side, and Maggie May was the B side), but I had no idea that it was a cover version that had been released previously by Tim Hardin.
Rod went on to become quite the cover specialist…. Cat Steven’s ‘The First Cut is the Deepest’, Hendrix’s ‘Angel’ the Sutherland Bros ‘Sailing’ and Carole King’s ‘Oh No not my Baby’ were all big hits for Rod with most of his legion of fans unaware of the original versions.
Similarly, for several years I had no idea that ‘All Along the Watchtower’ by Hendrix was a Dylan song or that ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ was a traditional Irish folk song recorded by The Dubliners before Thin Lizzy made it their own. Ditto the Isley Bros ‘Summer Breeze’, a Seals & Croft recording and Nilsson’s ‘Without You’, a Badfinger track.
The common thread here is that from Hendrix to Adele there are always tracks that I’m shocked to discover are covers. I’m not suggesting the fact that they’re covers devalues them in any way, indeed, you can argue that there’s a great skill in identifying a ‘hit’ that nobody knows about and making it your own.
When the cover is better than the original:
This is a subjective point and totally in the ear of the beholder. There’s obviously lots of examples where a cover version is more popular than the original (see Adele above), but I wanted to shine a light on a select band of elite songwriters who are great performers in their own right but for some reason or another there’s a pattern of other artists consistently improving upon some their material….
Bob Dylan: All Along the Watchtower by Hendrix, A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall by Bryan Ferry, George Harrison’s version of ‘If Not For you’ and The Byrds classic, “Mr Tambourine Man’, just a small selection of tracks that other artists have borrowed and updated from Dylan.
Bruce Springsteen: Patti Smith’s ‘Because the Night’, Manfred Mann’s ‘Blinded by the Light’ and ‘Fire’ by the Pointer Sisters. Three tracks buried beneath Boss anthems that became defining tracks for the artists who covered them
Leon Russell: Donny Hathaway’s ‘A Song for You’, George Benson’s ‘This Masquerade’, Joe Cocker’s ‘Delta Lady’ and The Carpenter’s ‘Superstar’. Not one of these tracks charted for Leon but they were huge hits for the acts who covered them.
These are all great songs, written by iconic artists so it’s strange that the definitive versions of all of these classics are by other acts and not the original artist.
In some cases it seems that artists can come along, pick up a gem, give it a polish and make it shine even brighter.
Artists who make covers their own:
When Mick Jagger was asked about his favourite Stones cover he said it was Otis Redding’s version of ‘Satisfaction’, which is not a surprise as artists tend to compliment acts that reinterpret their music with a different take on the original… and this is what Otis Redding did, utilising Booker T and the MG’s and the Memphis Horns to give ‘Satisfaction’ the full Stax treatment.
Otherwise, it’s just karaoke….
It’s logical then to be able to love two divergent versions of the same song, particularly if the act covering does it in a manner that breathes new life into it.
Joe Cocker’s ‘With a Little Help from my Friends’ would be a prime example but to be fair there’s lots of candidates…
For instance, Elton John’s ‘Your Song’ is a classic but Billy Paul’s jazzy, Philly-infused rendition completely updates it and takes it to a different level. It’s well worth a listen if you haven’t heard it before….
Likewise in the early 70s Isaac Hayes went through a phase of taking middle of the road classics like ‘Walk on by’ and ‘Close to You’ transforming them into big orchestral masterpieces lasting up to 12 minutes long. His versions weren’t necessarily better than the originals, but they were just as good in their own way and they were unmistakably Isaac Hayes. Listen to them and you’ll see where Barry White got his schtick.
In a similar vein, Wilson Pickett’s version of Hey Jude, featuring Duane Allman’s first recording session on guitar, is also a bit special and worth checking out on the playlist.
Of course, you can also add Clapton’s version of Bob Marley’s ‘I Shot the Sheriff’ and the Hendrix versions of All Along the Watchtower and Hey Joe to this list.
Nowadays of course we’re awash with tribute albums and cover versions and songs with samples that sound like old songs, so it’s hard to sort the wheat from the chaff, but if you dig deep enough there are always some diamonds.
As is my wont, I have made up a playlist of some classic 70s based covers, many of them mentioned in this piece which you’re welcome to dip into.
It would also be good to hear about some of your favourite covers on the FB page….
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 Paul Fitzpatrick, of London – February 2021)
1972 in Scotland – The Eurovision Song contest is held in Edinburgh (New Seekers, Beg, Steal or Borrow comes 4th); The Average White Band are formed.
I can’t remember what I had for dinner last night, but I can remember watching Top of the Pops nearly 50 years ago in the summer of 1972.
The summer had already got off to a great start when it was announced that the summer school holidays had been extended by two weeks to align the school leaving age in Scotland to 16 with the rest of the UK.
On top of that I had been invited to go on a camping holiday to Ayr by a good mate Alan McGuire and his family, so five of us and a dog made our way down the old A77 to join the other happy campers at Ayr Racecourse in August 1972.
The next 10 days were among the best of my young life.
Ayr racecourse was closed for the summer and being utilised as a camping site that year.
We were a 20-minute walk from the beach & harbour, a 20-minute walk from the town centre and there were great facilities on site.
Every day was an adventure, and we’d literally collapse into our sleeping bags at night exhausted from the day’s events which included nightly footie matches between the Scottish and the English, all ages and abilities welcome. Matches that went on for ever with the cry of ‘next goal the winner’ never being adhered to.
The sun was shining, there were no midges, everybody was really friendly, and the days seemed to last forever, right up until it got dark at what seemed 10pm most nights.
And if that wasn’t enough, there was the most unbelievable soundtrack being played in the background on the radios and on TV.
I usually missed Top of the Pops (TOTP) because it clashed with football training on a Thursday, but I always made an effort to watch it during the holidays, and I was glad I did that summer, as there were so many memorable moments.
Leading up to our holiday, TOTP was getting interesting; first there was Bowie who had come from nowhere, I’d never heard of him, and the song he was playing (Starman) wasn’t one I’d heard before.
I wasn’t even sure what I was watching, he was strange but cool at the same time, the rest of the band were pretty weird as well, apart from the guitarist who looked reasonably normal, (in a ‘glam-rock normal’ sort of way), but there was no mistaking the quality of the music, it was incredible, and I rushed out to buy the single from Woolies the next day.
The following week Alice Cooper exploded onto our screens for the first time, all menacing in black with ghoulish eye makeup and a sword. It was all theatre of course but we didn’t know it at the time, and we were suitably shocked.
During his performance I remember a girl in a pink smock innocently dancing on stage beside him and thinking ‘you need to be careful hen; he could have your eye out with that sword’.
During his performance I remember a girl in a pink smock innocently dancing on stage beside him and thinking ‘you need to be careful darling; he could have your eye out with that sword’.
Once again Woolies duly received my hard-earned paper-round money.
So, the hits kept on coming and the following week another band I’d never heard of dropped into my orbit. They were called Mott the Hoople and they rocked up with the anthemic All The Young Dudes, another jaw dropper, which we discovered came from the pen of Bowie.
Woolies, here I come!
We arrived in Ayr on a Thursday, settled in and happily realised that watching TOTP was a communal, must-do activity, so a large group of teenagers including my pal’s older sister Elaine gathered round the TV in the racecourse clubhouse to see who would be appearing that week.
It would be fair to say that the majority of the assembled audience were female and were there in anticipation that their current crushes – David Cassidy or Donny Osmond would be making an appearance on screen.
Unfortunately for the girls there would be no Donny or David that week but they weren’t disappointed as it was the evening that You Wear it Well was performed by Rod Stewart with The Faces in tow. Everybody seemed to love Rod back then and he was back on form larking around, presumably bevvied, which was The Faces de-facto state in those days.
I found a record shop in Ayr the next day.
The following Thursday, our last in Ayr, would be no let down in form as we gathered round the TV to watch the unfortunate Jimmy Saville introduce another new band, called Roxy Music, who were like aliens from another planet.
This bunch of misfits had a vocalist who looked like an Elvis impersonator, and an androgynous silver glove wearing character with a Max Wall haircut playing some sort of box/keyboard, that made weird but wonderful sounds.
The rest of the band looked like extras from Star Trek, but like Bowie and Mott, they jumped out of the screen demanding your attention and the music was captivating. As soon as I got home, I was heading to Woolies for sure.
There were so many highlights on that holiday, I even went to my first gig, to see a band called Chicory Tip. Although we only knew one of their songs, their number one hit Son of my Father.
Little did we know at the time that this one hit wonder would be a precursor to Donna Summer’s I feel Love and all her 70’s disco hits, as it was written and produced by the legendary Giorgio Moroder. On reflection the little moog synthesiser hook is a giveaway.
Our days at Ayr Racecourse raced by and sadly the adventure came to a close, but the memories of that holiday didn’t end there.
My pal’s family dropped me off at my house on our return and I rang the doorbell to be met by a perfect stranger, we both stood there looking at each other for a minute, him wondering who the hell I was, me thinking the same, but with a look of panic etched on my face.
The man broke the deadlock by very reasonably asking what it was I wanted and looked confused when I blurted out, “where’s my Mum”?
He replied that he didn’t know where my Mum was, which was a bit disconcerting, and it was at this point that the penny must have dropped for the bemused chap, when he saw my holdall, sleeping bag and crushed look and said “Ah, we just moved in here a few days ago, you must be the son of the people we bought the house from”.
Yep, my family had moved and had forgotten to tell me.
Having moved myself a few times over the years now, I know it’s stressful and I know there’s a long to-do list, but we usually remember to take the kids with us.
I remembered there had been talk of moving as I had been told to keep my room tidy for people viewing the house, but the fine details and timelines had not been important to a 14-year-old who expected to be packed and transported with the Tupperware, plus like I said, I never got the memo!
The new house was only half a mile away and as I made my way there, I got excited about the prospect of my new home and all that that entailed and reflected on the great holiday I had just experienced.
I had spent time away from my loved ones for the first time but with people who had welcomed me into their family with open arms.
I had experienced much independence, went to my first gig, kissed a girl, had an amazing time and on top of all that, I had all these great songs washing around in my head.
Further grown-up adventures obviously lay in wait, but for my 14-year-old self, this was the perfect summer holiday.