Kate Bush, The Motors and The Summer of 1978

Last time I shared a little film of my hometown, which highlighted just how blue the skies were on the first day of Spring. Since then, I have been feeling a bit nostalgic about the band ELO – That of course would be because the music I chose to accompany the film was Mr. Blue Sky, from their 1977 album “Out of the Blue”. The cover for that particular album was very memorable for me, because it was one of the pieces of artwork that graced the walls of the very basic cottage I shared with my best friend the summer after leaving school.

out of the blue

We had headed off to work in a very posh country house hotel and luckily for us accommodation came with the job. It was basic indeed, but we had our first taste of independence, with no parents hovering over us querying our movements – Needless to say that summer we worked hard (being a breakfast waitress plus hotel jack-of-all-trades is a tough gig) but also played hard – Living off the beaten track, we built up a good working relationship with Diamond Doug, our local taxi-driver who seemed to favour wearing a certain style of patterned jumper.

That summer, over the course of a weekend, it was not unusual to:

  • Work until 10pm.
  • Rush back to the cottage to change into our “going-out” clothes. (This being 1978 the previously under-used function suites of our local hotels had suddenly become kitted out with flashing dance floors and glitter balls as per the film Saturday Night Fever, but the clothes to match came later. That summer for us was still the summer of peasant skirts and broderie anglais tops as worn by Linda Ronstadt et al.)
  • Get picked up by Doug who would take us to our destination of choice by 11pm.
  • Bop until 1am (hoping that the last dance of the night, to the refrains of The Commodores mega-ballad Three Times A Lady, would be with one of our local T-Bird equivalents, that name taken from the summer’s other film phenomenon, Grease).
  • Have a bit of a smooch with the aforementioned T-Bird (who for one summer only had decided that girls of the Sandy persuasion were perhaps preferable to those of the Rizzo persuasion) whilst waiting for Doug to come and drive us home again, just in time to grab around 3 hours of sleep before getting up and doing it all over again!

The Summer of ’78 summed up for an 18-year-old girl!

Phew, I’m exhausted just writing about that so am amazed that my younger self managed to actually live life at that pace – The energy of youth. But back to the album cover for “Out of the Blue”, my friend Catriona definitely had that one up on her side of our bedroom wall, and I had some of my favourites over on mine. Looking at my album collection now, I can still tell which ones they were as they have those telltale blu tack, or even worse, sellotape marks on the covers. The vinyl itself must have been simply kept in the inner sleeve but was played constantly on the little mono record player I had brought from my parents’ house. It was the predecessor to the massive Toshiba Music Centre that had replaced it only 6 months previously, but I was never going to be allowed to take that with me, so the mono player it had to be.

Although our social life revolved around going dancing, we were both massive music fans and played anything and everything during our time off that summer. BBC Radio 1 woke us up and entertained us during the day but we also loved playing our records, and roped in friends and relatives to bring us new releases from record shops in the city when they came to visit. So, it was not only the soundtrack albums to Saturday Night Fever and Grease along with ELO and The Commodores we listened to that summer, oh no, it was also punk (Blondie, Sham 69), reggae (Bob Marley), pop and soft rock (Marshall Hain, Jackson Browne) and of course the obligatory novelty song (Father Abraham and the Smurfs!).

I still have one of the singles that Catriona’s sister bought on my behalf that summer – They didn’t really have many other hits and were short lived indeed but there was something about The Motors song Airport that I really liked and whenever I hear it now, I always think of that summer at the cottage with our mono record player.

Airport by The Motors:

As for my friend, the single she had requested, and which was duly delivered by her sister was this one by Kate Bush. Yes, The Man with the Child in His Eyes was also a hit that summer but I have just discovered that Kate actually first recorded it in 1975 and had written it three years earlier at the age of 13. To quote the title of another of her songs – Wow!

So, “What’s It All About?” – Funnily enough, when I sat down to write this post it was going to be all about ELO; about how it was actually the brainchild of Roy Wood; about how he soon moved on but left Jeff Lynne and the others to create something really quite amazing fusing modern rock and pop songs with classical instrumentation; about how Jeff’s partner for many years was the wonderful Rosie Vela whose song Magic Smile has been a bit of an earworm this week; but no, as is wont to happen, looking at the artwork for that ELO album cover just brought back so many memories of that wonderful summer.

The awful thing about reminiscing about the happenings of the summer of 1978 is that I can no longer talk about them with Catriona, as she died 16 years ago, leaving behind a husband and two young children. By then we were living on opposite sides of the Atlantic but if we ever got together, it was just like old times. I didn’t realise back then that I would never have such a close friendship with any other female, ever again. There have been many friends in the intervening years and some lovely friends are part of my life now, but how can you ever recreate what you had with the person you were closest to during those formative years, aged 16 to 21.

Before I go, here is a shot taken with my trusty Kodak Instamatic, of the little cottage Catriona and I shared that summer. Happy memories indeed of a very special person, who had her own magic smile. She made the world that little bit better for all of us who knew her and is sadly missed.

Our very basic cottage (garden needed a bit of tending!)

Until next time….

Airport Lyrics
(Song by Andrew McMaster)

So many destination faces going to so many places
Where the weather is much better
And the food is so much cheaper.
Well I help her with her baggage for her baggage is so heavy
I hear the plane is ready by the gateway to take my love away.
And I can’t believe that she really wants to leave me and it’s getting me so,
It’s getting me so.

Airport –
Airport, you’ve got a smiling face,
you took the one I love so far away
Fly her away – fly her away – airport.
Airport, you’ve got a smiling face
You took my lady to another place
Fly her away – fly her away.

The plane is on the move,
And the traces of the love we had in places
Are turning in my mind – how I wish I’d been much stronger
For the wheels are turning faster as I hear the winds are blowing
and I know that she is leaving
On the jet plane way down the runaway.
And I can’t believe that she really wants to leave me – and it’s
getting me so,
It’s getting me so.

Airport –
Airport, you’ve got a smiling face,…

Airport –
Airport, you’ve got a smiling face,…

Postscript:

As luck would have it I found another entry in my 1978 journal where I’ve jotted down a short and snappy review of the the two big movies Catriona and I went to see that summer, one at the beginning and one right at the end. Again, embarrassing to read my words from back then (and my penmanship seems to have deteriorated) but interesting all the same. Yet again I seem to have not been particularly impressed with either of these films at the time, yet they are now two of my favourites movies of all time – The nonchalance of youth!

img055 (3)

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team Bacharach and David - The opening line to that song was "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

16 thoughts on “Kate Bush, The Motors and The Summer of 1978”

  1. What a lovely post – although that gives a new meaning to “all day breakfast” if you were breakfast waitressing till 10pm. I had to smile at the shocking language and immoral behaviour you reacted to in Saturday Night Fever – Mary Whitehouse would be proud! A better encapsulation of the moral decay of society I couldn’t imagine – compare this with the attitude of a present day 18 year old. (What an old git I sound when I write that. They were very different times.) Sorry to hear your friend is no longer around to share the memories.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gosh I’m still doing a bit of editing so you were quick off the mark here – No, we weren’t just breakfast waitresses but also “chambermaids”, “laundrymaids”, kitchen assistants and everything else in between. We had a few hours off in the afternoon but were then back in the evening until the restaurant closed. How did we have the energy?

      Wasn’t sure about including my film reviews because a bit embarrassing really, but as you say, different times – At 18 I was shocked at the immoral behaviour and language, but just an average episode of Game of Thrones nowadays!

      Yes, I’m a bit torn about including the picture of my friend as not sure she would have approved but she was a lovely girl and it keeps the memory of her alive. Happy days.

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  2. When I was 17 I went off with two pals to work as a waiter in North Berwick for the summer.
    One of my pals had a record player and one record – Tubeway Army
    I still can’t listen to it to this day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really was the thing to do back then wasn’t it and if you got accommodation/food thrown in, you were loaded as all your pay was essentially for yourself – I did save a lot that summer though which ironically wasn’t even needed that much for the coming year as students were much better funded in those days with fairly generous grants – How times have changed.

      A mono record player and one record – Yes that must have been grim and I don’t imagine that Tubeway Army were ever your thing?

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    1. So many happy memories (and of course not so happy ones when we consoled each other through messy break-ups!). It’s weird sometimes when I’m watching telly and a music doc comes on about that era – I just know we’d have so much to reminisce about but of course it can’t happen. Far too young as you say.

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  3. Sounds like an intense summer and a wonderful friendship. Great how films and music can take us back mentally to happy times. Sorry to hear you miss your close friend, from your description someone who made the world a brighter place for those who knew her.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not everyone manages to find someone they gel with like that so I was lucky and we ended up going through those really big events like life-changing exams, leaving home, working in hotels, going to Uni… at the same time – Friendships don’t get any stronger than that but a shame I no longer have her around. As you say, whenever I watch those films mentioned above today, they take me right back and I think about what we were doing.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to hear this post has reminded you of that album – They certainly went on to great things post-The Move although for us in the UK Roy Wood will forever be remembered as the guy who gave us “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day”! – Really Roy?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. A great piece of writing – and a lovely tribute to your late friend. I still have 4 chums I’ve known since the mid 1960’s who keep in touch and you’re spot on when you ask “how can you ever recreate what you had with the person you were closest to during those formative years, aged 16 to 21?”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks – I was primarily writing about the summer of ’78 but of course it ended up getting personal. I think I’ll have to do an edit in a few days but I felt I couldn’t finish off this post without a few pictures. I’m still in touch with some other friends from that era but I didn’t go through with them what I went through with the friend mentioned above so very different relationships. Also we came from the same neck of the woods and came from practically identical backgrounds so we really “got” each other. We both loved music, performing, dressing up but were both essentially quite shy and lacked confidence back then. We were also both quite “swotty” back in the day and suffered great examination stress. In fact I think I could write a whole blog about our exploits and anxieties but I’m feeling bad enough just showing a picture (for a limited amount of time). Thanks for dropping by.

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  5. A lovely glimpse into your past, Alyson – really enjoyed this – though felt quite exhausted too just reading about the hours you kept. The Motors and Kate Bush – they’re just so of the time and songs like that take me right back to my formative years as well. As lynchiefromab says, you’re spot on with the reference to early friendships (I have two friends I’ve known for 44 years now and although we only see each other 2 or 3 times a year there’s a very special bond which runs very deeply and the memories of our youthful exploits are irreplaceable!) I’m so sorry to hear about Catriona and completely understand how much she is missed. That is such a beautiful photo of her and indeed a magic smile.
    And your journal entry for the films – priceless!
    I’m afraid I never ever liked ELO, though 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha – No I don’t imagine ELO were ever your thing but after seeing that album cover it just brought back so many memories of that summer of 1978, and how we used to put our covers up on the wall as artwork.

      As for my friend, I think I’ve said it all above in the previous replies, but I now know that I will never have that kind of friendship ever again, as just couldn’t be possible. As for sharing the picture, I know how much she hated even having them taken, let alone having anything uploaded to the world wide web so will definitely have to do an edit in a few days time, but couldn’t finish off this post without sharing it (so much for reining in the personal stuff around here!). As I said to Lynchie above, I think I could write a whole blog about our exploits alone, and she was a far better writer than I was back then so I have wonderfully funny letters from her that would be great to use. Not sure what the etiquette is regarding all this – She died in 2002 and I am not in touch with her American husband at all (whom I didn’t really ever know) and her parents have passed on. I suppose it is one of these cases where if you have doubts the answer should be a resounding NO, but I am torn as I also want to retell the “stories”.

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  6. Great post, Alyson, and a fitting follow-up to your last piece with the dash-cam footage. We’ve discussed the loss of your childhood friend before but it’s nice to see a photo and get a little more backstory. Thanks so much for sharing and exposing a bit of your personal life. Don’t worry about your anonymity going away, though. Also, nice pick with The Motors. I’ve heard of them but never heard their music. Can’t say that anymore. I really enjoyed that song and I’ve added a 17-track Motors compilation to my Spotify “saved albums” list. Will play that soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gosh – 17 tracks by The Motors! You will be far more au fait with them than just about anyone in the UK as they were short-lived.

      I’d forgotten I’d told you about my friend, but of course I seemed to pipe up with a different anecdote every week relating to what I was doing in 1977, and most of it would have involved this friend. I’m pretty anonymous here but over on your blog I was even more anonymous so I think I felt as if I had more freedom. There is a lot that I haven’t even dared mention here yet. One story that springs to mind is the one involving Mr Rod Stewart. You’ll probably have forgotten it but I would like to shoehorn it in here at some point!

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