Tag Archives: Sixties

Radio Times

1945 Ekco A22 Radio

“Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin …”

My introduction to Radio, like many reading this I’m sure, was the iconic weekday show, ‘Listen With Mother.’ Broadcast immediately prior to ‘Woman’s Hour’ it was simply fifteen minutes of nursery rhymes, songs and short stories. (I don’t think my attention span has developed much in the ensuing years.)

This would be early Sixties, but already my interest in Radio had been piqued. As the years passed, my interests would widen, and with televisions in those days taking so damned long to ‘warm up,’ Radio seemed a natural and convenient alternative.

As I matured (?) from a sweet little four-year-old into a still little and also, no doubt, still sweet eight-year-old, I discovered a new catchphrase – one I could use to great effect in annoying my parents on a weekend morning after they’d enjoyed a night out at some fancy-dan Dinner Dance in the town.

“Wakey Wakaaaaay!”

In the same manner a peal of church bells draws many to worship, so this clarion call was the prompt to draw closer by my Dad’s stereogram on a Sunday lunchtime.

Billy Cotton

It’s perhaps strange to now reflect that a lame TV programme such as The Billy Cotton Band Show is at least in part responsible for my love of Radio to this day. Yet, living in a house where the sound of music consisted mainly of, erm, ‘The Sound of Music,’ ‘South Pacific’ or ‘The King and I,’ this was regarded as quite rebellious.

(See me? Punk as f***! Ten years ahead of Rotten, Vicious et al, I was.)

As the Sixties drew on, it wasn’t just Big Band music that grabbed my attention. There were some classic comedy shows to be had too. The one I remember listening to most was, ‘The Clitheroe Kid.’

This was a show centred around schoolboy Jimmy Clitheroe and his family. Jimmy, a diminutive comedian from the Lancashire town that provided his surname, was actually thirty-five years old when his long running radio show started. However, standing only four feet, two inches tall, he often passed for the eleven-year-old character he portrayed.

Jimmy Clitheroe

Listen to an episode entitled: ‘Thinking About A Holiday’ – courtesy of Radio Echoes. (First aired on 27th June 1971)

It would also be around this time I discovered the delights (and horrors) of Junior Choice.… and of course, another often to be repeated catchphrase:

Would it be deemed ‘sad’ to openly admit I still listen to the show each Christmas morning as I prepare the family meal? Songs like these made such a lasting impression!

Then of course, with football playing such a large part in the life of the young (and old) me, it was a regular Saturday ritual, with my Dad, to gather round the radio at 5pm and ‘conduct’ the orchestra playing this gem of an iconic tune:

Honestly, my stomach knots with excitement, when I hear this, even now. I’m right back to a cozy living room on a dark, dreich, late autumnal evening, next door the kitchen windows all steamed up, and our ‘special’ Saturday night meal of spam and beetroot sandwiches toasting under the grill.

(I also still wave my arms around like a loon in time with the music – as I suspect my sadly indoctrinated sons do too.)

Now, as the decade turned, I discovered to the ‘Happy Sound of Radio1.’ I should say that at the age of twelve, going on thirteen, I was myself, ‘fab’; ‘groovy’; ‘happening.’.

In truth, I probably found this modern pop music by accident, catching the handover from Stewpot’s Junior Choice to follow-on DJ Stuart Henry, who would become my favourite DJ of the time.

The more I became aware of what Radio could offer, the more I searched out new sounds and fresh presentations. My little plastic transistor had a very sensitive wheel dial, but with gentle, precise turns, and holding the radio to my ear as I turned through all points in the compass, I could sometimes pick up ‘pirate’ stations like Radio Luxembourg or Radio Caroline.

I thought at the time they offered a greater selection of music than Radio 1 – but then in the mid-Seventies, I stumbled upon John Peel! He’d actually been at Radio 1 since its inception, one of the original DJs, but his shows must have been after my bedtime!

Anyway, better late than never.

(You know that question about who, alive or dead, you’d invite over for a Dinner Party at your house? Peely would definitely be one of my guests. He introduced me to so much new music; new bands; new genres. His shows were an eclectic mix of styles. If there was one track didn’t take your fancy, chances were the next one would be on your wish-list of next purchases.)

The best DJ; the best voice; the best taste in music on the radio … ever!

Though my musical journey was by no means complete, having travelled from Billy Cotton to Teenage Jesus and The Jerks within six or seven years, I at least knew in which direction I was headed.

Without the more specialist stations available nowadays, Radio 1 was required to cater for all musical tastes. One of my favourite shows aired on a Saturday evening, at 5:30pm, as I was getting ready to meet up with pals for a night uptown at The White Elephant Disco.

At this time, I’d generally be laid in a bath tentatively scraping bits of red ash out of a knee wound sustained in that afternoon’s football match. If not, then I’d be showering caked mud off my legs – you don’t want to be lying in a bath of manky water after running a cross country race in the rain!

This was the Stuart Coleman hosted, ‘It’s Rock ‘n’ Roll’ show. It ran for three years from 1976 and was just the job for getting me bopping round the bathroom and in the mood for going ‘up the dancing.’

By the late ‘70s though, it wasn’t just music that had me tuning in to Radio. As a keen fan of baseball, I found that the 1945 Ekco A22 radio I’d picked up at a Scout Jumble Sale (still have it – similar model to that at top of this post) could pick up the American Forces Network (AFN). The time difference meant it was more late-night listening, but I was transfixed by the atmosphere and imagery evoked while listening to commentary of game from Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park.

Baseball on the radio

It was Radio that also introduced me to ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’ in 1978. It aired on Radio 4, so I have no idea how I found it, but that then led me to become a huge fan and reader all of Douglas Adams’ books.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy

Even today, with the advent of BBC Sounds app, I listen to re-runs of Hancock’s Half Hour (pre-Seventies, I know) and Dad’s Army, of which three series were adapted for radio, and broadcast in 1974 / 75 / 76.

It’s a sad fact and by-product of ‘progress’ that the ‘old’ is usurped by the ‘new’, only to be granted a passing word in history books.

Not Radio, though!

Radio has seen off records; reel-to-reel recordings; cassette tapes; VHS; Betamax; CD; CD-R; MP3. It is now easily holding its own with HD TV; Smart TV; streaming services and podcasts.

Long live Radio, I say!

Wonderful radio
Marvellous radio
Wonderful radio
Radio, radio
Radio, radio
Radio, radio

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

18 With A Bullet – Suspicious Minds by Elvis

Paul Fitzpatrick: July 2022, London

I went to see Baz Luhman’s ‘ELVIS’ recently, Austin Butler, the guy who plays Elvis is incredible in the role.
Tom Hanks hammy portrayal of Colonel Tom Parker aside, it’s a pretty spectacular piece of cinema.

Growing up in the 60s and 70s, big Gordon Ross, a one-man Elvis fan-club who would turn the volume up to the max whenever an Elvis song came on the radio, was the only Elvis fan I knew – to the majority of us The King just wasn’t relevant.

It was understandable really, in the early 70s we still saw Presley through the lens of his lame 60s movies, whilst the ensuing Vegas circus-act of the seventies wasn’t too appealing either.

He may have been The King to some but poor Elvis didn’t stand a chance with our generation against the Jagger’s, Plant’s or Bowie’s.

On reflection, we were too young to appreciate what a pioneer Elvis had once been, and we weren’t to know that with no Elvis, or for that matter no Chuck Berry (pre ‘My Ding-A-Ling’ of course) there would probably have been no Jagger, Plant or Bowie anyway.

Our lack of awareness also blind-sided us to the fact that there was a moment in time when Elvis re-invented himself musically and made some quality recordings that deserved our respect.

By the late 60s Elvis had become sick of the cheesy formulaic movies he was contracted to churn out, his ambition to be the new James Dean thwarted early on by Manager/Svengali – Colonel Tom Parker, who always went for the quick buck.

Elvis & The Colonel

The contract that Parker had seduced a teenage Presley into signing ensured he would pocket 50% of Elvis’s earnings.
Parker also had a colossal gambling habit to support so long-term planning was never part of his strategy.

The turning-point came in 1968 when Elvis decided to return to making the music he loved which was R&B, Gospel & Country.

The Trojan-Horse for this musical comeback would be a corny Xmas NBC Special promoted by Parker.

Parker had envisaged Elvis singing a medley of seasonal ditties around a Xmas tree, surrounded by kids whilst promoting a range of Xmas sweaters, but a reinvigorated Elvis had other ideas.

Clad head to toe in black leather and assisted musically by his original Memphis band of brothers, the ‘68 Special‘ as it became known, showcased Elvis as a contemporary artist and told his life story in music.

Instead of singing a Christmas carol at the finale as initiated by Parker, Elvis debuted a new song, a tribute to his friend, the recently assassinated Martin Luther King called ‘If I Can Dream’, a peach of a song showcasing Presley’s vocal powers, that would go on to give Presley his first top 10 hit in years.

Energised by the positive reaction to the ‘68 Special‘ and motivated to pursue the music he loved, Elvis headed off to Memphis’s own American Sound Studios to work with renowned producer Chip Moman on his next project – From Elvis In Memphis, an album that would include his first number one for many years Suspicious Minds‘.

‘Suspicious Minds’, my all time favourite Elvis track, was written by Mark James who also wrote ‘Always On My Mind‘.
James had initially recorded ‘Suspicious Minds’ for himself, but it tanked, so when Elvis came to town Chips Moman played him the track which Elvis loved, and it became the last track they recorded for the session.

There was a problem though, Colonel Tom Parker only permitted tracks to be released that Elvis (and he) got a percentage of publishing royalties on – even though Elvis had no input in the writing process.

Elvis & Chips Moman

When Parker’s team approached Moman with the ‘offer he supposedly couldn’t refuse’ his response was….
“You can take your f…ing tapes, and you and your whole group can get the hell out of my studio. Don’t ask me for something that belongs to me. I’m not going to give it to you.”

In the end, Elvis had to intervene to tell Parker that he loved the song and wanted it released regardless of any publishing issues.

Suspicious Minds was a platinum selling single which garnered critical acclaim but that made no difference to Parker who never forgot the publishing rights dispute and put the kibosh on Elvis ever working with Chips Moman again – despite the fact Elvis had just made his best and most successful album for many a year.

Now that Elvis had turned his back on movies The Colonel had to find other ways to milk his cash cow and focused instead on Presley’s return to music and touring.
After the critical and commercial success of From Elvis In Memphis, RCA and Parker would cash in by releasing 23 Elvis albums in the next 4 years, including a Christmas album – The Colonel always got his way.

With such prolific output, quality control as you can imagine, was lacking, but there were still a few classic Elvis moments in there – ‘Burning Love’, ‘It’s Only Love’, ‘In The Ghetto’ and ‘I Just Can’t Help Believing’ – a few of the diamonds that could still be found amongst the rough.

Elvis who’d wanted to take his live show overseas, instead got tied into an exhaustive Vegas residency at the International hotel on the Las Vegas strip.

He would later learn that Colonel Tom Parker was actually an illegal (Dutch) immigrant with no passport. Therefore, if Parker ever left the US he wouldn’t be allowed to return and he wasn’t about to let Presley, his prized asset, out of his sight.

The ‘68 Special‘ and From Elvis In Memphis should have been a creative springboard for Elvis, it was a period where he wanted to get back to making the kind of music he loved, tour overseas and take back control of his career, but he never could free himself from The Colonel’s iron grip and the contract he’d signed as a teenager.

By 1970, Elvis had already been pimped out to Vegas by The Colonel and in December 1976, an exhausted Elvis played his 837th and final show at the International Hotel.

Elvis Aaron Presley would die aged 42 in 1977, in poor health, strung out on a cocktail of tranquillisers, barbiturates and amphetamines, however his legacy lives on and new generations are finding out that there are quite a few gems in The King’s back catalogue…. however, none shine quite as bright as Suspicious Minds

The Band Who Wouldn’t Die

Paul Fitzpatrick: July 2022, London.

This is about a British band formed 60 years ago, who are still performing today and who aren’t The Stones or The Who.

It’s about musicians that have flown under the radar for most of their career but who have also produced moments of real quality and cultural significance along the way.

The Zombies came to life in 1961, five music-obsessed school chums who sang as choristers at the local abbey.

As it turns out, the Abbey in question is in Saint Albans which has been my home town for nearly 40 years, and to remind everyone of the bands cultural significance to the city there’s a blue plaque outside the Blacksmith Arms pub where the lads first got together over 60 years ago.

Saint Albans is proud of The Zombies and there are plenty of old hippies dotted around the pubs of the cathedral city who’ll tell you that they were there to see the band make its debut performance.

To showcase the bands feats I’ve chosen 4 tracks from 4 different points in their musical journey……

1) ‘She’s Not There’ by The Zombies and Santana.

The Zombies were a pretty big deal in the 60’s, their career bookended by two massive hits, the first of which ended up being a lifeline for another iconic 60’s band……

‘She’s Not There’ was the Zombie’s debut single and was a global hit topping the charts from America to Japan, the song also holds the distinction of being the second British number one in America after The Beatles ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’

Written by Rod Argent the bands keyboard player, his trademark  Hohner electric piano and Colin Blunstone’s wistful vocals were the key components that the Zombies signature sound would be built around.


‘She’s Not There’ was one of those songs I’d catch on the family transistor radio and make a mental note of liking when I was a kid, but it got tucked away in the recesses until I heard the Carlos Santana version in 1977.

I immediately liked the Santana rendition because it stayed true to the original even down to the melancholy vocals (of Greg Walker), however it wouldn’t have been Santana if it didn’t feature a bit of on-brand latin percussion and Les Paul shredding, which of course it did, and this is what transformed it from a 60’s analogue classic to a Santana anthem.

The song proved to be the catalyst for a welcome and much needed Santana revival after the band had seen their popularity diminish from the early 70’s, a decline even the bands exquisite album art couldn’t arrest.

The Moonflower album the track was lifted from would be Santanas biggest seller for 30 years and helped the band regain momentum.



2) ‘Hold Your Head Up’ by Argent.

I knew all about Argent the band before I realised Rod Argent was chief Zombie in crime.
I knew this because his band Argent and this song were smack bang in the middle of my musical sweet spot in 1972.

Rod Argent had formed his self-titled band as soon as the Zombies broke up in 1968 teaming up with another local lad, Russ Ballard, who would sing lead vocals on this track.

We all loved a guitar hero but a funny thing happened on the way to the Forum in the early 70s and guys like Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman and Jon Lord started to muscle their way into the rock-god scene with their elaborate banks of keyboards and dexterous solo’s that could take up the side of an album.

Rod Argent was one such keyboard virtuoso and with ‘Hold Your Head Up’ he unveiled the radio friendly version of prog-rock. A keyboard-heavy track that found it’s way onto TOTP and into the top 20.

Argent would go on to have three top 40 hits including the Ballard penned ‘God Gave Rock and Roll To You’ later adopted and made famous by KISS.



3) ‘I Don’t Believe in Miracles’ by Colin Blunstone

Like many 60’s bands The Zombies imploded over management and financial issues, and despite the commercial success of having two number one’s in America, Blunstone had to find work as an insurance clerk for a period before embarking on a solo career.

His old mucker Rod Argent came to Blunstone’s aid, encouraging him to record his 1971 debut album which spawned the hit single ‘Say You Don’t Mind’, a track written for him by Denny Laine who had just formed a band called Wings with some geezer by the name of Paul McCartney.

Blunstone’s second album, released in 1972 featured the song ‘I Don’t Believe In Miracles‘ written & produced by Argent’s new partner in crime – Russ Ballard.

Ballard would leave Argent in 1974 to pursue a solo career and to focus on writing hits like ‘Free Me, for Roger Daltrey,  ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ for Rainbow, and just to showcase his versatility, ‘So You Win Again‘ for Hot Chocolate.

Released in 1973 at the peak of Glam Rock, ‘I Don’t Believe In Miracles‘ was only a minor hit but it became Blunstone’s signature tune and kept his distinctive vocals on the airwaves.

It’s a song I remember well despite its lack of airplay, and I can proudly say that I contributed to its chart position by purchasing a copy from Woolworths as a gift for a girls birthday.
Unfortunately, the record she wanted, Python Lee Jackson’s ‘In a Broken Dream’ wasn’t in stock, so I plumped for something similarly melancholy!



4) ‘Time of the Season’ by The Zombies

In 1967, the summer of love, The Zombies recorded their last album, except there wasn’t a lot of love in the room and the band split before the album was formally released in April 1968.

Finances and record company control were at the centre of the disharmony and things came to a head when Blunstone snapped on the recording of a new Rod Argent song ‘Time of the Season’, which ironically would go on to give the band their biggest hit.

After they split, a fake Zombies touring band was put together in America by the record company to cash in on the bands chart success. Two of whose members, Frank Beard and Dusty Hill would go on to form ZZ Top.

After various band and solo activities in the 70s The Zombies eventually got together again for projects and reunions through the 80s and 90s and formally reunited in 2001.

They have been together ever since.

In 2019, The Zombies with four of the original five band-members still involved, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,  coincidentally, performing live at the event 50 years to the day that ‘Time of the Season‘ had been number one in America in 1969.

Time of the Season at The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

So there you have it…. let’s hear it for a band that no one talks about, that have been going for the best part of sixty years, who have been feted by the likes of Paul Weller and Kurt Cobain and who are likely to be appearing at a venue near you soon….

playground slide.

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

(Playground slide)

Arguably the most popular attraction in the park playground, the slide (or chute as it was more often referred to in Glasgow) would at peak times have queues of the following waiting their ‘shot:’

THE GALLUS EXTROVERT:  sliding on their knees or even backwards was their forté. Their propensity to show off was often curtailed when they hit a sticky patch on the slide, the sudden stop at best grazing their knees, at worst hurtling them over the side.

THE MENTALIST: no fear from this one – head first, arms by the side. Those who had previously slid right off the end could be distinguished by their chipped teeth and black eyes. Experience would eventually lead to them at least extend their arms above their head on future descents.

THE HOGGER: this selfish little git would slide to the bottom and instead of joining the end of the queue back up the steps, would try to clamber back up the slide itself, thus preventing the next in line taking their turn.

THE TANDEM SLIDERS: it would seem like a wizard weez at the time, but invariably the kid at the back, legs placed either side of their pal in front, would receive painful friction burns from the narrow sides of the slide.

THE EVIL EXPERIMENTALIST: consumed by the quest for speed, this nutter would smear Fairy Liquid on the chute, resulting in some poor, unsuspecting child ending up in the sand pit, some ten yards away.

THE DOG: there was always a dog! Usually a collie. They even had the audacity to skip the queue. No manners, these canines.

(Queue for children’s slide)

_________

the big yin and me.

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

I’ve always had a strange relationship with Billy Connolly.

Not that we’ve ever met.

I call it Christopher Columbus syndrome – You find an artist, hear a song or read a book that hardly anyone else knows about, you become an early adopter and spread the word, and before you know it everyone loves them – with people even asking you if you’ve heard of them!

It drives you mad because you feel like you’re the one that DISCOVERED THEM, and if it wasn’t for you unearthing their great talent and spreading the word, they’d be nowhere.

You even begin to resent their newfound fame – they’re being greedy or they’re overreaching or they’re forgetting where they come from, or some other daft notion.

Welcome to my relationship with Billy Connolly.

I’m pretty sure the first time I heard Connolly utter a word was on the Pavilion stage in February 1974.

There was a buzz as the relative unknown had sold out several nights at the Pavilion Theatre in Glasgow, something only Sydney Devine (Scotland’s answer to Elvis) could do back then.

Billy promoting his stint at The Pavilion.

My pal Barry suggested we get tickets to see him on a Friday night as we had no school the next day, we were both 15 at the time and part of the plan was to find a pub and go for the full Friday night Glasgow experience.

We duly found a wee working mans pub round the corner from the venue, and foraged for a seat out of view, it was tea-time on a Friday, so the pub was busy with artisans in their work clothes finishing their shifts for the weekend.

We must have stood out like sore thumbs.

I think Barry braved the first approach to the bar and I was amazed but delighted when he came back with 2 halves of lager and 2 vodka and oranges’ (non-diluted orange squash of course).

A half and a half back then was the working mans preferred tipple, so who were we to challenge the established order of things.

The drinks were downed pretty quickly, and we enjoyed a few more bevvy’s before floating off down the road to the Pavilion in good spirits.

Stand-up comedy in the 70’s was dominated by middle aged men who wore suits and bow ties and told corny jokes about their mother in laws or minorities or Germans bombing their chip shops.

This guy Connolly was different though he was younger, he looked like a welder on acid and he spoke our language.

A bit like listening to the opening 4 tracks of Led Zeppelin IV for the first time, Connolly literally took our breath away. I had never laughed so long or so hard before, and I’m pretty sure I haven’t since, although Jerry Sadowitz has come close a couple of times.

He was loud, gallus, hilarious and the audience loved him, his stories were relatable, and he was one of us.

I remember hearing the Crucifixion sketch for the first time that night, it was the funniest thing I’d ever heard, he was irreverent and didn’t give two hoots about poking fun at religion or sectarian taboos or bodily functions or the establishment, no topic was off limits to the Big Yin.

It was a memorable evening; from the nervous bus-journey into town wondering if we’d get served or huckled for being underage, to the journey home, fish supper in hand, trying to recount all the jokes and patter and remembering we had football for the school the following morning.

We were so smitten by Connolly that we spent the next couple of weeks spreading the gospel, telling everyone we knew how great he was, mostly to blank faces however, as no one had heard of him.

Billy takes over The Apollo.

His career really took off after a live album of the Pavilion material was released in May 1974, and the following year he finally came into the general public’s consciousness.

In 1975 Connolly sold out an unprecedented 12 nights at the Glasgow Apollo, as well as appearing on Parkinson for the first of his record breaking 15 appearances.

That year he also showed off his acting chops by appearing in a powerful Peter McDougall TV play called ‘Just Another Saturday’ which was about West of Scotland culture, beliefs, innocence and sectarianism.

If that wasn’t enough, he also headlined a London gig for the first time and even had a number one single, appearing on TOTP with a parody of Tammy Wynette’s Divorce. It was the archetypal rags to riches story; the guy had gone from zero to hero in the space of 18 months.

There’s a picture that was taken in 1975 by Ronnie Anderson, a newspaper colleague of one of our contributors George Cheyne, that is my favourite Connolly portrait.

The occasion was an after-party in The Dorchester for the first of Billy’s sell out shows at the London Palladium in 1975, and it features – Billy, Alex Harvey, Jimmy Reid the shop steward, Hamish Stuart from AWB, Frankie Miller and Jimmy Dewar (a musician from Stone the Crows and Robin Trower Band).

A motley crew of 6 Glaswegians toasting their mate’s success in a foreign land.

The Glasgow Mafia – 1975

If I’m being completely honest, the parody single was the point when I started to think the Big Yin was overreaching.

A parody single? That was for Benny Hill and Rolf Harris but not for the Big Yin!

I’d also noticed that his accent had started to soften a bit and he was definitely losing some of his tough Glasgow brogue.

Of course, I look back now and understand he was just reaching out to a wider audience, the guy was a welder turned folk singer turned comedian, he had no idea how long this gravy train was going to run for.

He was simply making the most of his opportunities

As Connolly got bigger so did his global reach, hanging out with Hollywood celebs and Royalty and appearing in big budget movies and hosting TV specials.

Billy, Robin Wlliams & Dudley Moore.

There was a point where he seemed to be everyone’s favourite comedian, but he probably wasn’t mine anymore.

I had discovered American stand-up, guys like Richard Pryor, Steve Martin and Bill Hicks, and I liked the cut of their jib.

Richard Pryor doing his thing.

I still liked Billy and I would go the odd gig, but for me comparing his newer, more mainstream material to his earlier stuff was like comparing Stevie Wonder’s I Just Called to Say I Love You to Superstition or Living for the City.

And I guess I’ve just addressed some of my issues right there!

If Stevie can’t maintain unrealistic artistic excellence, who can??

On a subconscious level I also think that for some absurd reason I thought he’d forsaken his Scottish roots, which is illogical, particularly as I moved away from Scotland myself in 1984.

There’s no doubt that Connolly has had a fantastic career, he’s adored by millions and he is and always has been a wonderful ambassador for Scotland.

As he’s got older, I think he’s got back to being a bit more irreverent and a bit more outspoken, and that’s the Billy I adore.

I’ve loved stand-up comedy since I was 15 thanks to the Big Yin, he was my first and he was one of the best.

When all’s said and done, I’m glad I got to discover the Big Yin in February 1974 and share him with the rest of the world.

You’re welcome!

In Praise Of Lunch

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, January 2022

It came to my mind recently that lunch tends to get overlooked these days.
Brunches & Suppers are regularly championed by Nigella and Jamie, we’re constantly bombarded with dinner ideas on MasterChef and up until intermittent fasting came along we were hoodwinked into thinking that ‘Breakfast is the most important meal of the day’.

By the way, do you know who’s credited with that oft-repeated and very famous quote?
None other than John Harvey Kellogg…. yeah THAT Kellogg!

Subsequently, lunch has dropped down the ‘square meal’ league table into the relegation zone which is a bit of a comedown.
Once upon a time it used to run away with the title but that was before Gordon Gekko’s “lunch is for wimps” claim in the movie Wall Street.

In its glory years lunch was called dinner, it was the main meal of the day and was eaten any time between late morning and mid afternoon. Then the industrial revolution came along at which point sustenance was required between morning and afternoon shifts to enable workers to sustain maximum effort throughout the day, hence the regimented one hour lunch break, we know now.

Cut forward to today and lunch for many consists of a quick sandwich in front of a computer screen, checking out social media and looking at Nigella’s recipes for supper, or if you’re male, and of a certain age, just checking out Nigella!

Back in the 70s however, when we were at school or newbies in the workplace, lunch WAS the most important meal of the day… by a long chalk.

Maybe it was by default… after all breakfast was relatively basic, a plate of cereal or a slice of toast before you ran out the door to catch the school bus.
Dinner, on the other hand, was a bit more formal in most households, the table would be set but you had to wait till your faither got home.

To be honest dinner was a bit hit or miss in our house.

You see, my dad was an offal man for his offal – kidney, Tongue, liver, tripe, all the stuff that was popular in its day and made fancy window dressing at the butchers…. but offers good reason to turn vegetarian now.

It got worse though, if the raw materials my mum had to work with weren’t great, then her cooking skills only compounded things.

I love my Mum to bits, but she was no Fanny Craddock and trying to mask the stench of charred liver from my favourite Fred Perry polo shirt, (by splashing on copious amounts of Brut) before heading out to impress, was not a pleasant experience.

So, whilst breakfast was on the hoof and dinner could easily have consisted of hoof…. lunch was always to be savoured for a few reasons…..

Firstly, although we may not have been enduring the same hardships as our distant relatives from the 1800’s, lunch still broke up the day perfectly – and if like me you were stuck in a dull lesson pre-lunch, then you could start counting down to the lunchtime bell before meeting up with your pals to eat, blether, and release some of that pent up energy.

Secondly, free-will, which was in scant supply back then, came to the fore as we were able to take ownership of our daily lunching choices.


You could go to the canteen for school dinners if you were seduced by the day’s menu offering, (beef olives was always a favourite), or if you fancied a wee donner (the walk not the kebab) then you could take your lunch money and saunter down to Bearsden Cross to the bakers for a sausage roll or a sandwich…. always accompanied by a carton of ski yoghurt for pudding.
It was probably the best hour of most school days!

Bearsden Cross pre lunchtime

School holidays meant lunch at home, and after a bit of trial and error, home lunches became a slick operation, i.e. straight out of a can – Campbell’s chicken soup and cold Ambrosia Devon Custard…. tasty, low-maintenance stuff that even I could prepare without the need to splash any Brut on afterwards.

It’s strange but I can’t remember much about school lunches at primary school, I lived about 15-20 min’s walk from school so I doubt that I lunched at home every day. I do remember a few kids having packed lunches though and thinking that themed lunchboxes were cool, but I don’t think soup and custard would have travelled that well.

Another weekly treat during school holidays was going to Drumchapel swimming baths, not so much for the eye-stinging chlorine or the daredevil belly flops off the dale, but rather for the delicious pie & beans in the adjoining canteen afterwards.

As we moved into the workplace, lunchtimes were a saviour, it broke the day up and gave you time to regroup and recharge your batteries.

I worked in a small office in central Glasgow when I left school. There was just 5 of us and I was the youngest by some 20 years, so come lunchtime I was a lone-wolf – until my good mate Billy Smith started working in Frasers in Buchanan St a few months later.
This was a tremendous turn of events as I used to go with Smiddy to their excellent staff canteen where we’d fill our faces and gawk at all the elegant cosmetic girls, before meandering about town to wile-away the rest of the golden-hour.

The iconic gallery at Frasers Glasgow

It was a splendid arrangement and when Smiddy told me he was thinking of quitting his job for a more lucrative one, I did what every good mate would do in the same situation….. and tried my darnedest to convince him to stay.

what about the great staff discounts”
“what about all the pretty girls in the cosmetics dept”
“what about the opportunities for promotion”

“what about the fact you’re working in an iconic building”
“what about – the subsidised staff canteen for Christ’s sake!!

Of course, Billy very selfishly took up the life changing opportunity, leaving me to lope around as a lone-wolf once more, although I used to regularly meet my mate Joe Hunter on a Friday and we’d head to Paddy’s Market to get our outfits for the weekend.
If ever clothes required a splash of aftershave, it was those ones!

As enjoyable as all those lunch times were back then, you knew the pleasure was temporary, you always had an enemy – the clock!

As you get older and escape the constraints of the clock, lunch offers a great social opportunity to catch up with friends and family and the lunches I look forward to the most now are the leisurely ones you have on holiday. Looking out at a sun-splattered, turquoise ocean, with a cold beer or a chilled glass of wine accompanied with never-ending portions of seafood or salty tapas… living in the moment with nothing to rush back for.

All hail lunch….


a plastic scandal.

Many years back, towards the end of the Tang dynasty in fact, a court dancer named Yao Niang bound her feet into the shape of a new moon (whatever that would have looked like) and danced on her toes before China’s Emperor Li Yu.

The practice grew in popularity, and for best part of a thousand years, Chinese women, mainly with peasant upbringings, would similarly bind, and basically deform their feet. It was not always a voluntary action, and mothers would bandage their daughters’ feet this way because tiny, ‘lotus’ feet were considered very alluring and enhanced the poor girls’ ‘marriageability.’

Here in the West, we were of course horrified to hear such tales. We could never inflict such pain and discomfort upon our own children. Oh no, no, no!

And yet we did. At least our parents did. Yes, that’s your parents, dear reader. And mine. They tortured us not through some misplaced social belief or controlling instincts. They did so for reasons of thrift; because they were tight!

They bought us, and forced us to wear ….. plastic sandals!

Most likely sourced in Woolworths, our gullible parents fell for the claim that products from the store’s own Winfield brand were ‘the mark of quality.’

Nonsense.

They did leave a mark though, I’ll give them that. Both physical and mental.

First up, even if you were an uncool ten-year-old and made to wear wee ankle socks, the tops of your feet would still be left with a lattice shaped impression when you removed the sandals. The shape of the buckle strap could remain for hours!

On returning indoors to watch Hector’s House, you’d change into your cozy little Thunderbirds or Sindy slippers. The bliss was not long lasting however – you’d experience a sharp, burning  sensation as you padded about the house and the skin around your ankle creased into the indentation left by the collar of the sandal.

This was because, and it’s not exactly rocket science, sandals being summer wear, were worn when the weather was generally warm. Feet swell in the heat, and at a damned sight faster rate than plastic does. Duh!

Somebody, not least our parents, should have realised that perspiration and a plastic inner sole are not a clever mix: that little feet would randomly slide around the albeit restricted confines of the sandal while the ankle was already set in following another, more conventional and safe direction.

Remember the excruciating pain of your toes sliding up into the sandal’s toe cap as you stopped walking at pace? It was times like that you regretted locking yourself in the bedroom when your mum said she was going to cut your toenails with the kitchen scissors. Lesser of two evils and all that.

 I say ‘walking at pace’ because the external sole of this footwear offered possibly even less traction, rendering attempts to run almost impossible – certainly foolhardy.

You know that Jon Bon Jovi chap? The rock star. Well, his band’s best-selling album was written and recorded based on the true-life trauma of being forced to wear plastic sandals as a kid.*

Too chuffin’ right these things were slippery when wet. We were suburban kids. We played in burns and streams. Possibly, our parents had too, but plastic sandals weren’t a ‘thing’ when they were young.

They had never experienced the excruciating pain of scraping the skin from your shin bone as you slipped, trying to make the jump onto the big sharp stepping stone in the middle of the of the stream. Neither had they been subjected to the ridicule of friends as you played out the rest of the afternoon with a bloody lower leg and a wet back side!

I should also add that I grew up in the West of Scotland. It rains frequently, even in summer. Pavements and paths are never dry for very long. And our parents wondered why we’d go through a box of Elastoplast every week?

Here’s another thing: perhaps you were lucky enough to go on a family holiday in the summer. Perhaps though, you were unfortunate enough to end up in a place with a pebble / shingle beach. Rustington in Sussex springs to mind – about two miles east of Littlehampton. On the face of it, the idea of plastic sandals is actually quite sound, when your folks would dig in the windbreaker and set up ‘camp’ for the day at the point on the beach furthest from the sea.

“In case the tide comes in, dear. It’s ok though, you can walk to the water in your plastic sandals. Heck! You can even wear them in the water. That’s the beauty of plastic – you can’t do them any damage. Aren’t Winfield such clever people? Aren’t you so lucky to have your own natty brown pair? Off you go, dear. Have fun.”

‘Have fun?!’ I think it was about this age that I developed a cynical sense of irony.

Neither was it true that plastic sandals couldn’t be damaged – the strap would always be the first bit to go. So now, instead of just tentatively tottering across the beach like somebody seventy years older, you’d walk with a pronounced limp, trying your best to keep the now flapping sandal on your foot.

After endless minutes of playing in the cold sea, you’d opt for the surely more pleasant option of something to eat (the ‘chittery bite,’ we called it.) Further anguish would inevitably follow when it was discovered to your horror that the day’s ‘chittery bite,’ was actually just a pilchard sandwich. With lettuce.

On exiting the sea though, the weight of water in your little size five sandals was extraordinary, though this soon dissipated as you watched water gush from the sandal slats like that produced by the bilge pump on the QE2.

(NOT the QE2)

And so began the quest of traversing the pebbles back to ‘camp,’ your feet slip sliding inside the sandals, one of which would be just hanging together in no more, while the sandals themselves would be slithering in every direction on the stones.

You’ve seen the films of newly hatched turtles heading for the sea? This was it in reverse.

Neither were these abominations that passed as appropriate footwear of any earthly use in the unlikely event of prolonged dry weather. Each grain of sand, dry soil, dust, whatever, reacted like a mini ball-bearing when stuck to the soles of plastic sandals.

It meant relying on a speedy getaway from any situation, like, just say, stealing apples, which some bad boys and girls did, was somewhat injudicious. Precious seconds could be lost as your feet sought solid grip with the ground in kind of Wile E. Coyote style.

What the Chinese did to millions of young girls was dreadful; abhorrent. But even though it took almost a millennium, they did officially ban the practice in 1912.

However, although Woolworths and their ‘quality brand’ Winfield disappeared from our High Streets back in 2015, others have stepped (limped) up and now produce, market and sell this dangerous footwear, camouflaging the discomfort and pain by calling them ‘jelly shoes.’

And that, my friend, is nothing short of a plastic scandal.

(* This may not be completely accurate. Or at all.)

_________

Kiss On My List

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, January 2022

I reckon most people can remember who they shared their first romantic kiss with… although perhaps we’re reaching an age now where some of us are struggling to remember who we shared the last one with!

That first kiss can be a defining moment, a conclusion to months and in some cases years of anxiety…. they don’t call it teenage angst for nothing.

For our troop of wannabe Romeos, any thoughts of engaging with the opposite sex didn’t emerge until the lead up to the Qualifying (Quali) Dance in primary 7. Up until then we had more important things to focus our blossoming brains on, like Football, Subbuteo & Airfix models.

Whilst the Quali Dance appeared to be the tipping point for this seismic shift in interests, the real catalyst I think was the onset of puberty which was having its impact on the fairer sex as well…. why else would they show any interest in a monosyllabic boy sporting a matching shirt & tie abomination hand-picked by a mum who thought Peter Wyngarde was a style guru?

The Quali Dance of course was a school ritual and part of said ritual was to ‘escort someone to the dance’… except it never really worked out that way.
There were no limousines, corsages, bowls of punch or live bands like the feted American high-school proms…. just teuchter music, unbranded fizzy-pop, dollops of awkwardness and an evening that seemed to go by in a flash.

Despite all the talk and bravado I don’t remember anyone from our year popping their ‘kissing-cherry’ at the Westerton Primary School, Quali Dance of 1970.
Not even our resident man-boy…. a lad with a voice like Barry White and a full thicket of short & curlies at age 11, who’s hormones were obviously running amok whilst the rest of us were popping champagne corks if we located a single strand in the nether regions with a magnifying glass.

I didn’t think about it at the time but looking back I imagine the dynamics in the girls changing rooms were pretty similar.

Our transition to the ‘big school’ several months later presented fresh opportunities and challenges. There were lots of new people on the scene now and more social events…. however, this just seemed to ramp up the pressure as you sought to avoid being the last in your peer-group to land that first smooch.

There was also some anxiety around the question of technique – kissing wasn’t something you could practice by yourself (or with a mate!) like football, so how could you tell if you were doing it properly?

What if you banged her teeth or bit her lip or she swallowed your chewing gum? The word would surely get out and no one would ever want to kiss you again.

You’d be kiss-shamed and canceled!

There were one or two awkward near misses before the big event took place, notably a spin the bottle session with an older crowd, resulting in a couple of consolatory pecks to the cheek and forehead… which wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t been sitting eyes closed, lips pursed, in anticipation.

As it turned out, my first kiss was with a girl I’d known since primary 3 and although it wasn’t articulated, I think we were both motivated by a shared need to get this kissing monkey off our respective backs.
In that respect I suppose it was more a kiss of convenience than an explosion of passion.

Don’t get me wrong, it was nice, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t chip her teeth or block any airways with my Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit, but I don’t remember there being any fireworks…. just a joint sense of relief before we went our separate ways to share our news.

I think we appreciated we were in the same boat…. it was a rite of passage for both of us.

Fast forward a couple of years and the kissing floodgates were well and truly open now – I remember this bizarre ritual at local disco’s where revellers would just start snogging mid-song and I’m not talking about the slow songs at the end of the evening, as that was par for the course.
There was no verbal interaction, no please or thank you’s, no “you’re looking ravishing tonight”…. just a tap on the shoulder, two and a half minutes of shuffling around to 10cc or Cockney Rebel followed by a 30 second snog and then you’d be on your merry way before the DJ played the next song…. I’ve often wondered if it still happens today?

This was an era when you would go to the cinema ostensibly to ‘winch’ your way through whatever blockbuster was showing that week.
Bearing in mind that double bills were the norm in the 70s, that was a lot of smooching, particularly as you only came up for air when the lights came on for the obligatory half-time refreshments… Kia-ora and choc-ice.

I think it’s fair to say that the back rows of the local cinemas were always chock-a-block on a Friday and Saturday night and it wasn’t to get a panoramic view of the screen

This was also the period when ‘love-bites’ came into prominence (as did polo-necks, funnily enough) with girls applying makeup (and toothpaste?) to conceal their perceived marks of shame whilst boys strutted around like Mick Jagger, parading their vampiric contusions as a badge of honour.

There was plenty of anxiety around this practice too – what if I suck a bit too hard and draw blood, will I turn into a bat?

It was a curious phenomenon.

Some people even practised the art on themselves (well, I’m guessing the love bites on their arms didn’t get there any other way!) whilst others used the suction from a coke bottle or similar to make it look like they’d been party to an amorous encounter… when really they’d been in their bedrooms alone, listening to Gilbert O’Sullivan and waiting for the ice-cream van.

Looking back, love-bites were horrendous things but like tartan scarves, Gloverall duffel coats and first kisses, at a certain point, we all had to have one!

for whom the bell chimes

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

“Five more minutes. Pleeeaaase?”

I must have used that plea more than any in my sixty-three years on this planet. It’s become an almost instinctive response when I’m reminded that time is pressing and really should be doing something else, somewhere else.

I no longer even hear myself say it, but my wife is convinced that when the Grim Reaper comes calling, I’ll still be bargaining for “just another five more minutes.” And who wouldn’t, let’s be honest.

She also asserts my habitual tardiness will see me late for my own funeral. I’d hate to disappoint, so it’ll actually be written in my final instructions, that the hearse delay arriving at the church or wherever. Remember this if you plan coming. There’s no need to rush that cup of coffee before leaving your home – especially if it’s a cold or wet day (which it won’t be, by the way.) Just take it easy.

Sorry, I’ve gone really early with the digression on this post.

Anyway, the origins of this now habitual phrase stem, I believe, from the winter months of my early years. It was developed as a counter to that dreaded call from my parents:

“Time for bed!”

It was a stalling ploy – at least, so I hoped.

You see, I’d been promised somebody special was coming, but they had not yet arrived. They’d be here any time now. Five more minutes. Pleeeaaase?

Well – if you don’t ask, you don’t get, right?

So my dad would strike a bargain. If I went to bed ‘right now’ like a good little boy and left him in peace to watch the latest episode of ‘The Saint,’ then he’d buy me a pack of ‘The Man From UNCLE’ bubblegum cards when the ice-cream van came down the street.

And off to bed I’d go, eventually drifting into a blissful sleep dreaming of a packet with no ‘swapsies,’ but containing that elusive # 43 card everyone in class was yearning.

Yes, the Ice-Cream Man, or ‘Icey’ as we knew him played a huge part in our, early lives. In the winter months, he’d generally arrive under cover of mid-evening darkness – probably because he had another daytime job, or simply because there was little custom to be had through the day.

Though I forget it now, we all then knew the ‘Icey’ by his surname. He was a kindly gent as I recall, and always obliged, when having been sent out by Mum, I asked:

“Ten Embassy tipped please. And …. do you have any broken biscuits, please, Mr (Whoever)?’

I’m sure every kid on the route asked the same. Poor guy. I even witnessed him breaking up wafers and cones deliberately for me.

He sold all sorts. From delicious, soft ‘Mr Whippy’ type ice-cream (with raspberry sauce, of course) through bubblegum card packs, cigarettes, to chocolate and all kinds of ha’penny / four to a penny sweets. Of course, there were also the spectacularly coloured ice lollies such as ‘Fab’ and ‘Zoom,’ and on Saturdays, he’d also have a supply of the ‘Pink’ a newspaper with the day’s football results and reports.

During the school summer holidays, though, even making an extra afternoon visit round the local streets, he’d face competition. That came in the form of the ‘branded’ ice cream seller – in our case, Walls.

The Walls man differed in many ways and though our unsophisticated vocabulary of the time couldn’t express it so succinctly, I think all us kids regarded him somewhat an interloper.

His van was smaller, more like a conventional car, but with a raised section at the rear to house the fridges. I always harboured the impression it was based on an American model, with the driver / seller wearing a red and white shirt and sometimes a small white cap. Maybe though the latter detail has been implanted in my memory from watching U.S. based television sitcoms based in 1960s Diners. 

The Walls ice cream differed from that of the other ‘icey,’ in that it came in blocks. Wrapped blocks, if I remember correctly. How many young tears do you think were shed over a treat dropped onto the pavement as it was being unwrapped?

Even more unconventional were the biscuit ‘cones’ used by walls. I was pretty rubbish at maths (actually, make that ‘totally’ rubbish) but I’m fairly certain a ‘cone’ was circular at the top and not rectangular. I suppose once they were committed one of the two, the other had to follow. Whatever, they were a nightmare to eat – the made-up phrase ‘square cone and round mouth’ comes to mind.

Granted, the blocks were a better option than the soft stuff if you were one of these weird folk that preferred your ice cream to be to be sandwiched between two individual wafers.

Then there was also a third means of serving up the frozen dessert, one that was favoured by the ‘icey’ who passed my Gran’s house; scooped. Falling somewhere in consistency between the poured ‘Mr Whippy’ sort, and the rock hard block of Walls, it was reasonably adaptable in its serving. It did though have the unfortunate look of the mashed potato slapped down beside your beef olive by the school dinner lady. Of course that was easy sorted by another liberal addition of raspberry sauce, but the use of gravy coloured chocolate sauce would not have helped ease that initial impression

It was at my Gran’s house too, that I first clapped eyes on an ‘oyster.’ This was a very mysterious delicacy indeed, because only the adults got one. Whenever I asked, I still ended up with a cone. Tight wads, my family!

I was about nineteen before I sampled my first one and true enough, this was too good for kids! Scooped ice cream held between twin oyster shaped biscuits that had been dipped in chocolate, and coconut, with a soft, gooey, sweet mallow filling.

And then there was the ‘double nougat’ – ice cream sandwiched between  two wafers, the edges of which had been coated in chocolate and then injected with a similar mallow fill.

Such decadence.

Of course, an ice cream van wasn’t only identified by the goodies it sold. Neither was it the cartoon characters adorning the bodywork that necessarily distinguished one from another.  No – the idea was to announce the impending arrival on your street by sound, rather than sight. To this end, each ‘icey’ played their own distinguishable tinny, high-end chimes, giving plenty time for kids to pester parents into supplementing that week’s pocket money. One van would use ‘The Teddy Bears’ Picnic,’ as their rallying call; another, ‘Greensleeves,’ others maybe ‘Pop Goes The Weasel’ or ‘You Are My Sunshine.’

Undoubtedly, the peak of my excitement at a visit from an ‘icey’ would have been as a kid, pre-1974. And this is significant, because prior to the ‘Control of Pollution Act, 1974’ there were no restrictions placed on vans playing these tunes.

However, under Section 62 of the act, action could be taken if chimes are ‘sounded after 7pm in the night time, or before 12pm (Midday), or if they are sounded at anytime as to cause an annoyance.’ (I believe the legal maximum volume for this is 80 decibels from 7.5 metres, and they must be played for no longer than 12 seconds – and only while the vehicle is stationary.)

So – lying in my bed, having lost the ‘five more minutes’ argument, I would often hear a van arrive in the neighbouring estate, across the railway line that divided us.

I would wonder who the ‘icey’ was trying to entice to part with their money for the treats he could offer. Would some of my school chums have been allowed to stay up late for his visit? 

I would stress. Would he play his tune down my street? And when?

Of course he did. And my ol’man wold be true to his word and buy me some ‘Man From UNCLE’ bubblegum cards.

Because you know what – to slightly bastardise John Donne’s words that would centuries later inspire the title to one of Hemingway’s masterpieces:

‘…. never send to know for whom the bell chimes; it chimes for thee.’

______________

Poster Boy

Alan Fairley: Edinburgh, November 2021

April 1967. Just another day spent in the drudgery of the Primary 7 class in Westerton School.
My eyes drifted to the classroom window as I gazed longingly towards the football pitch at the bottom of the hill, wishing I was out there instead of listening to Mrs Smith’s dreary drone and then…bang!

The headmaster, J. Jeffrey Thomson as he liked to present himself, Tommy Gun as he was known to the pupils, came barging through the classroom door.

Tommy Gun never walked. He just barged like a thundering elephant everywhere he went and after a brief consultation with Mrs Smith he announced to the class that one of the school’s pupils, Alan Fairley (i.e., me), had come third in the National ‘Learn to Swim’ poster competition.

A few weeks earlier, I and the other six members of the school’s special art group had been informed that the Scottish Health Authority were promoting a Learn to Swim campaign and that all schools in the country were to submit entries for the poster design. We were each handed poster sized sheets of paper, given access to all sorts of artistic materials, and told to get drawing.

My design featured a girl standing at a zebra crossing (remember them) with the swimming baths at the other side of the road.  My caption was ‘Don’t just stand there, go over and Learn to Swim.’

Mr Lovely Biscuits himselfJimmy Logan

The announcement that I had come third in the whole of Scotland made me something a of a mini celebrity among my classmates, especially when it was revealed that the prize would be presented by Jimmy Logan, a renowned comedian, actor, and impresario (whatever that is).

Logan’s main claim to fame was that he appeared in a couple of the legendary, if politically questionable, Carry-On films and any child of that era who had ever attended a pantomime at Glasgow’s Pavilion Theatre would have encountered him in some capacity.

The admiration of my classmates paled into insignificance however when the prettiest girl in the class (if the not the entire school), Alison McDougall, gave me her autograph book and asked me to get Jimmy Logan to sign it for her. Even at that pre-pubescent stage of my life, I was acutely aware of the brownie points which could be gained with a girl like Alison by acceding to her request.

The prize for third place was a ten-pound record token (sorry, this Taiwanese keyboard doesn’t have a pound sign) which doesn’t sound like much but back then it would have bought you 30 singles or 6 albums. Interestingly that ten pound is valued at 154 quid in today’s money so it was a tidy sum for a 12 year old.

The prize giving was to be held in the function room on the top floor of Lewis’s department store in Argyle Street, so off I trotted with my proud parents in tow and as we stood in the assembled gathering the announcement was made that Jimmy Logan had been called away and wouldn’t be attending. But not to worry folks, we’ve lined up a replacement -international singing star Eve Boswell – at which stage virtually everyone in the hall turned to each other and said ‘Eve who?’

Lewis’s Argyle St
Alan & Eve, it’s got a ring to it…

Everyone except me that was. I was more concerned about having to break the news to the lovely Alison that I hadn’t been able to come up with the goods.

Anyway, I was called forward to receive my prize and the mysterious Ms Boswell shook my hand and said ‘well done’ in an east European accent as she handed me the envelope.

Gola Speedsters

The problem was, I just wasn’t into music at the time so giving me a record token was akin to giving a McDonalds voucher to a vegan. All I cared about at 12 was football and a pair of Gola Speedsters would have been a far more amenable reward for my creative efforts.

My music loving elder sister, Jean, had been uncharacteristically nice to me in the run up to the presentation as she eyed a share of the prize and I was happy enough to let her have her pick from the top twenty as the two of us later wandered about the record department in Woolworths, Drumchapel. 

Meanwhile I came away with one of my favourite novelty songs – Three Wheels on my Wagon by the New Christy Minstrels along with a couple of football related records I’d managed to excavate from the bulging album racks.

So what, I hear you say, became of Eve Boswell? To be honest, I never gave her a second thought after our brief encounter but amazingly, about eight years ago I was enjoying a relaxing pint on a Saturday afternoon in the Sheep’s Heid Pub in Edinburgh when, among the plethora of retro pop music memorabilia on the wall, I noticed a poster announcing the release of Eve Boswell’s new single ‘Pickin’ a Chicken.’

It was the first time I’d heard her name mentioned for 46 years and a quick glance at Wikipedia told me that, in 1955, she had reached number 9 in the UK charts with the said single.

I left the pub content in the knowledge that I had once shaken hands with a Top Ten artist.

I did get her autograph that day back in 67 but, perhaps predictably, Alison McDougall was suitably underwhelmed at the absence of Jimmy Logan’s signature in her book and, even more predictably, my brownie point score came in at a resounding zero.