Orange Juice, Altered Images and Gregory’s Girl

Last time I perhaps foolishly put out a request asking for song suggestions – My previous post (link here) had featured two songs from the Gamble & Huff stable in Philadelphia, Year Of Decision by The Three Degrees and Back Stabbers by the O’Jays. As ever you didn’t disappoint and there were quite a few Should I Stay Or Should I Go suggestions but that Clash song featured here last year (link here), as part of my “pre-EU Referendum going-to-the-polls” post (we all did one let’s face it and I’m just glad that over a year on, everything is progressing so well on that front, with negotiations going swimmingly!). Other suggestions were mainly for songs I didn’t really know or for another song by the same artist so I decided to plump for this one, Rip It Up by Orange Juice (that suggestion from Rol over at My Top Ten).

Rip It Up By Orange Juice:

Every now and again a particular city seems to be at the epicentre of things, musically speaking, and in the early 1980s that city seemed to be Glasgow. The independent Postcard Records, started in a tenement flat bedroom, spawned many fine acts, two of which were Edwyn Collins’ Orange Juice and Roddy Frame’s Aztec Camera. Postcard Records didn’t last long but both of these bands were soon signed by bigger labels and started making headway in the charts. In 1983 the single Rip It Up made it to No. 8 in the UK Singles Chart which was their only top 40 success which surprises me. This single was less post-punk than their earlier material and they used synthesisers to create a more disco-oriented sound. Edwyn went on to become a solo artist and had a worldwide hit in 1994 with A Girl Like You. There also can’t be many people who don’t know that Edwyn suffered two cerebral haemorrhages in 2005 which resulted in a long period of rehabilitation – A documentary film on his recovery, titled The Possibilities Are Endless, was released in 2014. He now lives on the old family croft in Sutherland, north of where I am, and has his own recording studio up there. His speech is still affected but when he sings it all magically comes together – The power of music.

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I did try to put together a list of all those bands that came out of Glasgow in the late ’70s/early ’80s but just too many to mention and if you’re here already, you probably know who I’m talking about anyway – Suffice to say there were many. I always remembered Claire Grogan from the band Altered Images saying in an interview that when they travelled south to London in those days to record ToTP, it was a bit of a home from home, as half the dressing rooms were filled with bands they knew well from their home city. Altered Images also fitted into that post-punk genre when they started out, although like Orange Juice soon started making headway in the charts reaching No. 7 in 1983 with this fine song, Don’t Talk To Me About Love. The “pop pixie” Claire only needed a big baggy top, a pair of dangly earrings, a quick blow-dry at the hairdressers and a bit of gold eyeshadow to make us all fall in love with her back then. So much more demure than the pop princesses of today and for me, much sexier – Just sayin’ girls!

Don’t Talk To Me About Love by Altered Images:

But of course for people of my generation, and specifically Scottish people I imagine, Claire Grogan is best remembered for playing Susan in Bill Forsyth’s wonderful coming-of-age romantic comedy Gregory’s Girl. If like me you went to a straight down the middle, semi-modern state secondary school (usually called an academy), this film will resonate in so many ways. All the stereotypes were present – The gangly and awkward Gregory (played by John Gordon Sinclair), his socially inept friends (think the Inbetweeners 40 years ago), the football obsessed PE teacher, the more mature and business-savvy Steve who offers dating advice, the confident and sporty Dorothy and the slightly quirky but impossibly cute Susan.

This film was made in 1980 and I left school in the summer of 1978 but little had changed and when I went to see it all those fond memories came flooding back. I realise now in later life that I was one of the lucky ones as my schooldays were charmed, full of fun, friends and laughter (and hard work of course). Like in the film, the machinations that took place between girls in order to contrive an evening date “up the country park” (heady stuff), were something to behold. Also what was it with Scottish schools and football? – At our one, all other sports were pretty much side-lined as the focus of attention was on getting as many boys as possible into the prestigious North of Scotland Select – Our school was so focussed on this goal (no pun intended) that we had five boys at one point in that team and when school-boyfriend scored the winning goal in a grudge match with the South of Scotland, he huffed for a week when I wasn’t suitably impressed!

I still really enjoy watching this film today and never tire of it – The music by Colin Tully recorded for the title sequence was just perfect and I can’t listen to the sound of that wonderful saxophone without having a massive pang of nostalgia for my schooldays – I know it doesn’t happen this way for everyone but my schooldays really were the best days of my life, yet I didn’t realise that at the time, which is sad. (I’m not saying of course that it’s all been rubbish since, but as an adult there are always pesky responsibilities and worries that detract from that feeling of pure happiness – As you get older and your kids get older the worries sadly don’t seem to ease, they just change!)

But before I go, it just occurred to me that in the picture recently posted from my final year at school, there was a strong similarity to the “look” sported by Dorothy, Gregory’s love interest in the film – It was from about three years earlier but what with the cream V-neck waistcoat and the carefully “curling-tonged” hair, it was obviously one of the looks of choice back then. Of course I don’t think Dee Hepburn who played Dorothy had used quite as much Sun-In hair “brightener” in the build up to the making of the movie, as my hair does have a distinct orange tinge to it which was what tended to happen with overuse. Nowadays I spend a pretty penny on getting the locks looking just the right colour but back then all that was needed was 39p and a bottle of Sun-In – Not much wonder I was happy. Were you a Susan or a Dorothy, or neither? As it says at the top of the comments boxes, I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time….

Rip It Up Lyrics
(Song by Edwyn Collins)

When I first saw you
Something stirred within me
You were standing sultry in the rain
If I could’ve held you
I would’ve held you
Rip it up and start again

Rip it up and start again
Rip it up and start again
I hope to God you’re not as dumb as you make out
I hope to God
I hope to God
And I hope to God I’m not as numb as you make out
I hope to God
I hope to God

And when I next saw you
My heart reached out for you
But my arms stuck like glue to my sides
If I could’ve held you
I would’ve held you
But I’d choke rather than swallow my pride
Rip it up and start again

Rip it up and start again
Rip it up and start again
I hope to God you’re not as dumb as you make out
I hope to God
I hope to God
And I hope to God I’m not as numb as you make out
I hope to God
I hope to God

And there was times I’d take my pen
And feel obliged to start again
I do profess
That there are things in life
That one can’t quite express
You know me I’m acting dumb-dumb
You know this scene is very humdrum
And my favourite song’s entitled ‘boredom’

Rip it up and start again
I said rip it up and start again
I said rip it up and rip it up and rip it up and rip it up and rip it up and start again

Alyson’s Archive #1 – Eddie and the Hot Rods, Radio Stars and Squeeze

Welcome to this occasional series where I will very embarrassingly, share the contents of my archive box of teenage memorabilia. I always knew these random bits and pieces would come in handy some day, but little did I think back in the 1970s that they would find their way onto such a thing as a “blog” thanks to Sir Tim Berners-Lee and his little invention, the world wide web! 

Back in 1978 I used to keep a journal. Here is the extract from Friday, March the 3rd, the day I’d gone in to Aberdeen with the school boyfriend (s bf) to watch Eddie and the Hot Rods at the Capitol Theatre. The Capitol was used as a cinema most of the time but between the mid ’70s and mid ’80s I went to see an awful lot of bands and artists perform there. Eddie and the Hot Rods were the only band on the bill that night who’d had much chart success to date, having got to No. 9 in the UK Singles Chart with Do Anything You Wanna Do in August, 1977. The two support acts were Radio Stars and an unheard of, fledgling band called Squeeze.

If you can read the extract below you will see that I was a very “proper” and not very “cool” teenager (who also didn’t have brilliant writing skills it seems) but hey, I was wearing my new-fangled straight-legged trousers and was still flushed with the success of having won the prize for “Best Pogoing” at our local Community Centre (documented here) so despite my misgivings about punk concerts, it turned out to be a good night. Interesting also to note that the ticket cost only £2.50 but looking back that was what I earned from my Saturday job, working a whole day in a shop – It’s all relative.

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The strange thing is that in later life we seem to develop a selective memory based on subsequent events and I had always thought that the standout act that night was Squeeze – Looking back at my journal entry, the verdict was that “they weren’t bad”. How bizarre as down the line they became one of my favourite bands and Up The Junction is still one of my all-time favourite songs.

Eddie and the Hot Rods were apparently “very good” and we had “no qualms about jumping up and down pogoing”, although it was “an exhausting occupation” (it’s all just so embarrassing). I don’t really think that in the annals of punk, Eddie and the Hot Rods will be remembered as one of that movement’s biggest movers and shakers – They were more of a pub rock band from Canvey Island but I suppose back in 1977, they did fit that whole “new wavey” mould quite well.

It seems that the band I most enjoyed that night were the Radio Stars and looking at the picture of them now, I still remember the showmanship of their lead singer, Andy Ellison. He had bleached blond hair and certainly knew how to work the crowd – I remember how he effortlessly meandered through the audience, niftily navigating his way across the back of the seats in the stalls. Their minor hit record Nervous Wreck also went down well that night and funny how my memories of that night are so at odds with how the respective careers of each of these bands evolved. I don’t know if it’s just me but looking at him now, does he have a hint of the Joe Brown about him?

But I can’t leave it there, for although it seems I didn’t think that much of Squeeze that particular night, they went on to become one of the UK’s best-loved bands. The vast majority of their songs were written by Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, but of course the band Squeeze also spawned one Jools Holland, who seems to have become a bit of a National Treasure and whose annual New Year’s Eve Hootenanny is watched by millions. During the height of their popularity in the late ’70s/early ’80s they had hits with such classics as Cool for Cats, Slap and Tickle, Another Nail in My Heart, Pulling Mussels (from the Shell), Tempted, Labelled with Love, Black Coffee in Bed and Hourglass, as well as the aforementioned Up The Junction.

It was with great joy therefore, whilst watching live footage from Glastonbury this year, that I managed to catch Chris and Glenn pop up as guests in the outdoorsy green room area where Mark Radcliffe and (my other girl crush) Jo Whiley usually reside. They performed a very alternative version of Up The Junction complete with a band of kazoo players – This clip has appeared in my little corner of the blogosphere before but well worth another outing I feel.

Up The Junction (original version) by Squeeze:

So, “What’s It All About?” – Funny how we have a selective memory when it comes to reminiscing about the music of our youth. Just as Fred Astaire’s first audition went badly and notes were made to the effect, “Can’t act, can’t sing, slightly bald, can dance a little”, my diary entry from March ’78 was less than complimentary about Squeeze. Fortunately I soon saw the light and became a big fan down the line – I must have just been far too dazzled on the night by the energetic antics of Joe Brown lookalike Andy Ellison, to really concentrate on the talents of Messrs Difford and Tilbrook. That of course and all the pogoing – “An exhausting occupation”!

Up The Junction Lyrics
(Song by Chris Difford/Glenn Tilbrook)

I never thought it would happen
With me and the girl from Clapham
Out on the windy common
That night I ain’t forgotten
When she dealt out the rations
With some or other passions
I said “you are a lady”
“Perhaps” she said. “I may be”

We moved in to a basement
With thoughts of our engagement
We stayed in by the telly
Although the room was smelly
We spent our time just kissing
The Railway Arms we’re missing
But love had got us hooked up
And all our time it took up

I got a job with Stanley
He said I’d come in handy
And started me on Monday
So I had a bath on Sunday
I worked eleven hours
And bought the girl some flowers
She said she’d seen a doctor
And nothing now could stop her

I worked all through the winter
The weather brass and bitter
I put away a tenner
Each week to make her better
And when the time was ready
We had to sell the telly
Late evenings by the fire
With little kicks inside her

This morning at four fifty
I took her rather nifty
Down to an incubator
Where thirty minutes later
She gave birth to a daughter
Within a year a walker
She looked just like her mother
If there could be another

And now she’s two years older
Her mother’s with a soldier
She left me when my drinking
Became a proper stinging
The devil came and took me
From bar to street to bookie
No more nights by the telly
No more nights nappies smelling

Alone here in the kitchen
I feel there’s something missing
I’d beg for some forgiveness
But begging’s not my business
And she won’t write a letter
Although I always tell her
And so it’s my assumption
I’m really up the junction

An American Odyssey in Song: Massachusetts – Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers and Roadrunner

Welcome to this occasional series where I am attempting a virtual journey around the 50 States of America in song – Suggestions for the next leg always welcome!

Well, I seem to have enjoyed my time in Vermont so much I stayed there for over a week! Time to move on again though and this time we’re heading down into Massachusetts (tricky to spell as was pointed out last time), named after its indigenous people.

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The random fact element of this post will have to be brief this time as more songs to get through than has been the case to date. Suffice to say it was where the Pilgrim Fathers settled after arriving on The Mayflower in 1620. They formed the Plymouth Colony and after a tough first winter, with the help of the local Wampanoag people, learnt how survive by growing corn. They then held a three day Thanksgiving event to celebrate their first harvest and that celebration of course still goes on today.

The island of Nantucket, more famous now for its beaches and holiday cottages, was home to the whaling trade back in the 18th century and the tale of Moby-Dick was set there. That infamous Tea Party occurred in Boston, but being British I’ll gloss over that one. I am reminded however that our own Alex Harvey put that story to song in 1976 with his version of The Boston Tea Party.

The Kennedy compound was at Hyannis Port in Massachusetts, presided over by dad Joe and mother Rose. Education is big business in Massachusetts and the city of Cambridge is home to both Harvard and the research institute, MIT. In popular culture the film Jaws was set there, mostly filmed on Martha’s Vineyard.

But which song to feature this time? I know that everyone expects it to be this one and it would be remiss of me not to include it, but not one of my favourite Bee Gee songs, and at the time of writing it they had never even been to Massachusetts. It was 1967, the year of The Summer of Love, and the hippies were all heading west to San Francisco so it felt as if here on the East Coast it was time to switch the lights out, as everyone had left. I remember well watching them perform this song on TOTP as a child but didn’t realise until later that the twins Robin and Maurice were aged only 17 at the time. So young but already so prolific.

Massachusetts by The Bee Gees:

Thanks go out again to my blogging buddies who offered up suggestions for songs associated with Massachusetts (links to their blogs on my sidebar). Rol came up with Feelin’ Massachusetts by the Juliana Hatfield Three and Massachusetts Avenue by Amanda Palmer. Both he and Lynchie came up with the Steely Dan song The Boston Ragalthough to be fair Lynchie decided that he was allowed to call them simply The Dan as he had been a fan right from the beginning.

Before I get down to the actual featured song for this state, how would you like to come for a quick drink with me in a great bar I know called Cheers? It’s right here in Boston and for the guys who go there, it’s like their “blogosphere” – Nice to be in a place Where Everybody Knows Your Name.

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot. 
Wouldn’t you like to get away? 
Sometimes you want to go 
Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
Your name.

So, lots of suggestions already, but for this post it could only really be the one that came in from both CC and C (no relation) – Roadrunner by Massachusetts natives Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers, first recorded in 1972 but a hit for them in 1977, when all of a sudden their proto-punk sound fitted the “times” perfectly. I don’t know what I was doing during my teenage years but it certainly doesn’t seem to have been listening to the lyrics of songs properly as until CC pointed out the whole Jonathan Richman/New England connection when I started this series, the Roadrunner I remembered best from those days was this one!

roadrunnerNo matter, it has now clicked and the Massachusetts comedian John Hodgman came out saying that the song was, “Woven as deeply into the cultural landscape of Massachusetts as the Turnpike itself. It is the pulsing sound of the night and the future. It connects the midnight ride of Paul Revere with the dream of every Massachusetts teenager who has just gotten their license and is discovering the Freedom Trail that is Route 128 after the last movie lets out“.

Roadrunner by Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers:

This song came out the summer I turned 17 and after a few disastrous driving lessons with my dad (who in every other walk of life was patience personified), I gave up. The boys who were the same age however did not, and one by one they passed their driving tests and acquired “wheels”. We lived in the country and just like Jonathan Richman and his buddies, these local boys became weekend roadrunners. They had no particular place to go but the radio was on and they just wanted to hang out with friends and burn some rubber. Needless to say, every couple of years or so there was a tragic car crash and some of them didn’t make it. Fortunately all my close friends did get through that phase unscathed but the village cemetery is littered with the graves of those who did not. This one is therefore for them. Dougie, Wendy and Neil – You are not forgotten.

Next time we’ll travel into the smallest of the 50 states, Rhode Island. I do have a song idea for that one of my own but definitely “tenuous” so again I would be really grateful for any other suggestions connected in some way to that state (you know where the comments boxes are). We’re still in New England but are now getting ever closer to New York where I now realise there will have to be a Part 1 and a Part 2. Songs about Rhode Island – not so much. Songs about New York – where does it end?

Until next time….

Roadrunner Lyrics
(Song by Jonathan Richman)

One-two-three-four-five-six!
Roadrunner, roadrunner
Going faster miles an hour
Gonna drive past the Stop ‘n’ Shop
With the radio on
I’m in love with Massachusetts
And the neon when it’s cold outside
And the highway when it’s late at night
Got the radio on
I’m like the roadrunner

Alright
I’m in love with modern moonlight
1:28 when it’s dark outside
I’m in love with Massachusetts
I’m in love with the radio on
It helps me from being alone late at night
Helps me from being lonely late at night
I don’t feel so bad now in the car
Don’t feel so alone, got the radio on
Like the roadrunner
That’s right

Said welcome to the spirit of 1956
Patient in the bushes next to ’57
The highway is your girlfriend as you go by quick
Suburban trees, suburban speed
And it smells like heaven, I say
Roadrunner once
Roadrunner twice
I’m in love with rock & roll and I’ll be out all night
Roadrunner
That’s right

Well now
Roadrunner, roadrunner
Going faster miles an hour
Gonna drive to the Stop ‘n’ Shop
With the radio on at night
And me in love with modern moonlight
Me in love with modern rock & roll
Modern girls and modern rock & roll
Don’t feel so alone, got the radio on
Like the roadrunner
O.K. now you sing Modern Lovers

(Radio On!)
I got the AM
(Radio On!)
Got the car, got the AM
(Radio On!)
Got the AM sound, got the
(Radio On!)
Got the rockin’ modern neon sound
(Radio On!)
I got the car from Massachusetts, got the
(Radio On!)
I got the power of Massachusetts when it’s late at night
(Radio On!)
I got the modern sounds of modern Massachusetts
I’ve got the world, got the turnpike, got the
I’ve got the, got the power of the AM
Got the, late at night, hit ’em wide, rock & roll late at night
The factories and the auto signs got the power of modern sounds
Alright

Right, bye bye!

Postscript:

I kind of ran out of space above for this little story but still worthy of inclusion I think. The family that lived next door to us in our Scottish village when I was growing up actually did the unthinkable and emigrated to Boston, Massachusetts (they had relatives there and it must have been a lot easier in those days).

They had a son around my age called Graham and it is weird now to think that he will have had a parallel life to my own but of the “American” variety. He will support the Boston Red Sox or the New England Patriots as opposed to our beloved Aberdeen FC. He will have had a Prom instead of a school disco, will have a Boston accent instead of a Scottish one and no doubt became a roadrunner after having “gotten his licence” as opposed to having “passed his driving test”. As a family we didn’t keep in touch, as it was just so far away in those days and communication methods were very primitive – Hope he has had a good life however and in the unlikely event he ever comes upon these pages, hello from Scotland!

1967
The humble author, aged 7 – Quick hide the ball!

Elvis Costello, Alison and Punk Comes To Scotland

During my recent hiatus when I took a fortnight off to catch up with other things, a long list developed of all the stories/songs I thought would make for a good post when I got back to business as usual. Since last Sunday, when I took to a bit of “tipsy blogging” (it’s a thing), I have published four new posts so I think I’m back into my groove again. Time therefore to refer to this long list, and the first item noted is: Punk, Dance Competitions and Bubble Bath. Hmm…  cryptic indeed.

Now whenever I touch on new wave, punk or ska, I see a marked spike in the number of views I get but I realise most of these people will have stumbled upon this place by accident and might be sorely disappointed when they find my twee little ramblings. If you are one of those people please don’t be deterred – My thinking is that anyone who lived through the punk explosion of the late ’70s will, at best, be middle-aged now and any stories of those days have a nostalgia factor, and are part of social history.

A couple of months ago I wrote about how the mainstream musical landscape of Britain changed in the autumn of 1977 (Punk, Late ’70s Fashion and The Wrong Trousers). Tony Parsons wrote a great book about those times called Stories We Could Tell but also associated with this change was the shape of our trousers! I’m sorry to keep coming back to stories about trousers (I have another waiting in the wings about leather trousers as it happens) but I cannot emphasise enough how important it was in those days to look the part. We’d already had the infamous television interview with the Sex Pistols where Bill Grundy foolishly goaded them into uttering those childish profanities – The upshot however was that Bill lost his job and single-handedly elevated punk rock into the mainstream. Mr Rotten on the other hand is still making lots of money starring in adverts for butter, so who ended up looking silliest in the end (ok so it’s still Johnny but he apparently does them to finance PiL tours so fair do’s)?

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The infamous interview!

But back to the autumn of 1977. Although punk had been around for a while by then, the music played on most radio stations still tended to be a mixture of soft rock, soul and disco. When we went back to school however to start 6th Year, things were definitely a-changin’. I had completed those important life-changing exams needed to get into University so 6th Year was going to be a bit of a blast to be honest where we took a few subjects for “interest”, did good works for the community and represented the school at various events. Best of all however was that we had our own common room where for the first time, boys and girls hung out together between classes. We were practically adults by this time so instead of the silliness that goes on between the sexes in the lower years (the more insults a boy throws your way the more he likes you etc), we all got on really well and needless to say quite a few romances were kindled, some of which have even stood the test of time. My romance did not stand the test of time, but no matter, at 17 I found myself romantically involved with the boy who had been my main crush since the age of 11. Life was good and instead of hanging out with our girlfriends, we spent all our time with our new boyfriends who only of course wanted to listen to punk rock. By default therefore, so did we!

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This very spartan 6th Year common room (complete with an urn for coffee-making no less) was the centre of our universe and when a record player was taken in, a lot of vinyl-swapping went on. (Yes it was the 1970s but we weren’t married yet so it wasn’t wife-swapping.) One of the albums of choice was Elvis Costello‘s “My Aim Is True” and of course one of the songs on it was (still is) called Alison so very apt for my good self – Indeed life just couldn’t get any better. My best friend at the time was a girl called Sheena and lo and behold we also had The Ramones with Sheena Is A Punk Rocker – Anyone who knew Sheena could not in all seriousness have called her a punk rocker, she was Head Girl, but we all loved this music, partly because the boys loved it but also because it was new and exciting.

Alison by Elvis Costello:

In the November of that year there was to be a big dance in our local Community Centre for all the kids aged 17 and under. Just like now there were plenty of adults and community leaders who wanted to supervise such an event – Oh that’s right, no-one for over 20 years has even contemplated supervising such a thing. Very sad for the youngsters of today and my daughter must have got fed up of me telling her how much was laid on for us as teenagers, when she had nothing.

Anyway, this dance was going to have the local band play for us – Lets call them Pyramid (because that was their name). I had seen Pyramid play often as they were usually the band of choice for such events and did a pretty good job of playing cover versions of songs by The Eagles, Ace (remember them), Smokie and so on. We pretty much knew what we were turning up for so the new-fangled straight legged trousers were left at home and the 36 inch flares, wedge-heeled shoes and big-collared, checked shirts were the outfits of choice for that night – A last harrah for them before being relegated to the….. Was going to say charity shop but we didn’t really have them in those days, I think we just wore our clothes until they fell apart. Imagine our surprise therefore after arriving at the venue, to discover that Pyramid had turned into a punk band overnight! Yes, for the next three hours we were treated to the music of The Stranglers, the Sex Pistols, Elvis and his Attractions, Tom Robinson and The Clash. Looking back I think they must have repeated the same songs over and over again but whatever they did, the new boyfriend and I discovered pogoing that night. Certain styles of music make you want to dance in a certain way, and with punk, it definitely made you want to jump up and down.

The bizarre thing of course was that we were pogoing in full American country rock uniform, so it was a real anachronism – Also with all that denim flapping about we got really, really hot so after a few hours of jumping up and down, the time came for us to disappear off for a (non-alcoholic) beverage. We were casually rehydrating when a call went out that we were needed on stage, as we had won the prize for “Best Pogoing”. Now we certainly didn’t know there was any competition going on and we didn’t know there was going to be a prize but the Community Centre management in their wisdom had planned such a thing, and we were the winners.

So, aged 17, dressed in wide flares, the new boyfriend and I headed up onto a stage in a large draughty sports hall in the North of Scotland, to be presented with prizes for “Pogoing”. Pyramid (ex soft rock turned punk rock band) did the honours and what did the prizes turn out to be? A his and hers gift set – Cufflinks and a Pen for him and Bubble Bath and Smellies for her. Even at that age I found this hilarious – The punk attitude obviously hadn’t quite reached our neck of the woods yet.

The school boyfriend lasted quite a few years as it turned out and ironically when we called time on the relationship it had a lot to do with the fact that his friends were still weekend punks, whereas my friends were not. Simples.

As for this song, it still gives me goosebumps as I remember those times. A couple of the friends are no longer even with us, so this one’s for them – If there is an internet in heaven, you are not forgotten.

Alison Lyrics
(Song by Declan Patrick MacManus)

Oh it’s so funny to be seeing you after so long, girl.
And with the way you look I understand
that you are not impressed.
But I heard you let that little friend of mine
take off your party dress.
I’m not going to get too sentimental
like those other sticky valentines,
’cause I don’t know if you’ve been loving somebody.
I only know it isn’t mine.
Alison, I know this world is killing you.
Oh, Alison, my aim is true.

Well I see you’ve got a husband now.
Did he leave your pretty fingers lying
in the wedding cake?
You used to hold him right in your hand.
I’ll bet he took all he could take.
Sometimes I wish that I could stop you from talking
when I hear the silly things that you say.
I think somebody better put out the big light,
cause I can’t stand to see you this way.

Alison, I know this world is killing you.
Oh, Alison, my aim is true.
My aim is true.

Punk, Late ’70s Fashion and The Wrong Trousers

Wrote a very serious post last time so a bit of a change is called for I think. If like me you were aged around seventeen in 1977, you will remember that not only did the musical landscape change quite dramatically that year, so did the trousers!

As we had entered the ’70s, trousers still had a hint of the ’60s about them. They could even be ordered from the music papers and were called “loon pants”. As the decade progressed we often copied the fashion sense of our favourite pop stars and wore flared velvet or satin trousers, as worn by Marc Bolan and Rod Stewart. When Scotland became responsible for the latest teen “mania” by producing those boys-next-door The Bay City Rollers, some of us even took to having a stripe of tartan down the side of our trousers (but not me just to be clear).

loon-pants

In 1976, a stroke of marketing genius by the Brutus Clothing Company made their jeans the must-have brand. David Dundas sang the song for their advert, then had a hit with it later on that year reaching No. 3 in the UK Singles Chart. The song was simply called Jeans On and the lyric was changed from “Pull my Brutus jeans on” in the advert to “Pull my old blue jeans on” for the single. Of course I had to have a pair and the must-have top to go with them that year was a cropped, cheesecloth shirt that tied at the midriff. Of course this was not the kind of outfit that parents were too keen on seeing their daughters head off into the night wearing (those were more demure days), so a long jacket was always worn until you made it to the end of your street, after which the jacket came off and went into the (coincidentally very large) handbag.

By this time, jeans were the only type of trouser any self-respecting teen would wear and of course they had to have wide flares. The music of the moment was very much American country rock, and the more we looked like dudes who would hang out on dark desert highways drinking in those tequila sunrises, the better. If like me you were a girl, your shoes would also have sported massive soles and wedge heels – All the better for that swathe of flared trouser fabric to drape across. Cleverly worn, you could add a good few inches to your height, like those circus-type performers who look really, really tall but are simply walking on stilts.

But of course this is a music blog (or is it a fashion blog tonight?) so what song comes to mind when writing about all of this. Well first of all it was actually a book that came to mind, by Tony Parsons, called Stories We Could Tell. I read it a few years ago but have just downloaded another copy in order to read it again. The story all takes place on one night in August 1977 when a group of diverse, music-loving young people, each have life-changing experiences. It really highlighted how that was a time of real cultural change in the UK and if you were young, like me, you will remember it well. The music of the moment was no longer that of The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, it was punk and new wave. All of a sudden the very American, western-style clothing we wore looked ridiculous, and in order to be part of this brave new world it was imperative you get a pair of tight-fitting, straight-legged trousers, pretty damned quickly.

Always keen to be at the forefront of fashion, I prided myself on being the first of my group to acquire a pair of these new revolutionary trousers – They weren’t even denim, but a very fetching brown corduroy (of the elephant variety). The first time I wore them out, they were the talking point of the night – Everyone wanted to know where I’d bought them and what they cost. Sounds ridiculous now but after years of wearing acres of denim and checked shirts, this new pared down look was definitely something just a bit different.

Of course we were now used to the new style of music that was sweeping the country but it wasn’t all contrived or out to shock. My favourite punk/new wave band from that period was The Stranglers and in 1977, just after the night at the centre of the book I am about to revisit, they gave us the classic No More Heroes. Their sound (having just looked it up) was driven by Jean-Jacques Burnel’s melodic bass but also gave prominence to Dave Greenfield’s keyboards (every day’s a school day). Hugh Cornwell was the lead singer and quite rightly he didn’t look like a teen idol but his gruff vocals were perfect for the band. Over time, they grew more refined and sophisticated and managed, quite amazingly, to have a record in the UK Singles Chart every year between 1977 and 1992. Summing up their contribution to popular music, critic Dave Thompson wrote, “From bad-mannered yobs to purveyors of supreme pop delicacies, the group was responsible for music that may have been ugly and might have been crude – but it was never, ever boring.” Amen to that.

No More Heroes by The Stranglers:

No More Heroes Lyrics
(Song by Hugh Cornwell/Jean Jacques Burnel/Dave Greenfield/Jet Black)

Whatever happened to Leon Trotsky?
He got an ice pick
That made his ears burn

Whatever happened to dear old Lenny?
The great Elmyra,
And Sancho Panza?

Whatever happened to the heroes?
Whatever happened to the heroes?

Whatever happened to all the heroes?
All the Shakespearoes?
They watched their Rome burn

Whatever happened to the heroes?
Whatever happened to the heroes?
No more heroes any more
No more heroes any more

Whatever happened to all the heroes?
All the Shakespearoes?
They watched their Rome burn

Whatever happened to the heroes?
Whatever happened to the heroes?
No more heroes any more
No more heroes any more
No more heroes any more
No more heroes any more

Postscript:

And if it seems somewhat bizarre to have leapt from writing about Burt Bacharach songs to writing about The Stranglers in one post, the astute amongst you will remember that in 1978 the wonderful Bacharach and David song Walk On By was indeed recorded by The Stranglers (there’s the link). Dionne Warwick it wasn’t but somehow it just worked and was right for the times – Wonder what Burt thought?

Denis, Blondie and Debbie Harry

I seem to have stumbled upon “new wave” with my last couple of posts, writing first about The Clash and then Madness. I am still however not entirely sure how to define new wave which does seem to be a common problem. Although it started out with ties to late ’70s punk-rock, it eventually covered a myriad of sub-genres and the distinction between them leaves me confused and bewildered. Suffice to say it wasn’t “old wave” which up to that point had been rock, pop, country and soul.

The new wave artist that caused a fair bit of excitement when she first appeared on Thursday night’s Top Of The Pops in February 1978 was Debbie Harry, or Deborah as she preferred to be called. She was the lead singer with the band Blondie and this was the first time we had seen them perform the song Denis (pronounced Denee). Dressed in her “swimsuit” with what appeared to be her dad’s old tuxedo jacket casually thrown on top, she really made us sit up and take notice. She was stunningly beautiful with perfectly applied make-up but everything else was of a punk persuasion – Hair bleached a white blonde (it either had to be jet black or blonde if you were a girl) and odd combinations of black/red/white/striped clothes.

Denis by Blondie:

I was in my final year of high school and of course the topic of conversation the next day was Debbie Harry. I don’t know how it was done in those pre-internet days, but the shocking news got out quite early on that she was the grand old age of 32. Considering some of us probably had mothers who were not much older, I can see now how that would have been newsworthy. In the North of Scotland at that time (or anywhere?), our mothers just didn’t look like Debbie Harry.

The difference in look was because these guys were American and had emerged from New York’s punk-rock scene whose music venue of choice was CBGBs based in Manhattan’s East Village. This was where The Ramones, Television, Patti Smith and Talking Heads had also cut their teeth, but possibly because Blondie had Debbie Harry, they quickly moved on to more mainstream success, especially with their top-selling album “Parallel Lines” from which they took their disco-influenced single, Heart of Glass.

Yet again Debbie looked stunning, despite the fact her long hair seemed to have been roughly chopped off with a blunt pair of scissors and then dragged through the proverbial hedge backwards. Her dress appeared to have been fashioned from a bit of old sackcloth then suspended loosely from one shoulder, but as ever she looked marvellous. The hits kept on coming for a few more years until, as is wont to happen, they started to fall out of favour with the record-buying public.

A bit of trivia about the song Denis – It was originally recorded by American doo-wop group Randy & the Rainbows in 1963 but back then was called Denise. Changing it to a song about a boy sounded better with a silent “s” so the boy became French. Debbie sang the last two verses in that language although a bit of poetic license was used it seems with grammar, but who cared – Debbie in her swimsuit could sing the telephone directory, badly, and still get away with it.

randy .jpg

As someone who had their hair chopped off yesterday after having it long for over 20 years, I couldn’t help thinking that in life there are the Debbie Harrys, and then there are the rest of us. I would have loved to be able to carry off the sackcloth and mussed-up hair look back then and even now, but sadly I will continue to be a slave to hair products and styling techniques for the foreseeable future. As for Debbie, aged now 71, she still looks great and I will very magnanimously put that down to excellent genes.

Debbie+Harry+SHOT+Psycho+Spiritual+Mantra+rdbprDS6J8Cl.jpg

Denis Lyrics
(Song by Neil Levenson)

Oh Denis doo-be-do
I’m in love with you, Denis doo-be-do
I’m in love with you, Denis doo-be-do
I’m in love with you
Denis Denis, oh with your eyes so blue
Denis Denis, I’ve got a crush on you
Denis Denis, I’m so in love with you

Oh when we walk it always feels so nice
And when we talk it seems like paradise
Denis Denis I’m so in love with you

You’re my king and I’m in heaven every time I look at you
When you smile it’s like a dream
And I’m so lucky ’cause I found a boy like you

Denis Denis, avec tes yeux si bleux
Denis Denis, moi j’ai flashe a nous deux
Denis Denis, un grand baiser d’eternite

Denis Denis, je suis si folle de toi
Denis Denis, oh embrasse-moi ce soir
Denis Denis, un grand baiser d’eternite

Oh Denis doo-be-do
I’m in love with you, Denis doo-be-do
I’m in love with you, Denis doo-be-do
I’m in love with you

Postscript:

The law relating to freaky coincidences strikes again. I discovered after writing this post about Debbie Harry, that it happened to be her birthday today – Many happy returns D!

The Prince, Madness and The 2 Tone Label

A joyful evening in the midst of all the political upheaval, as the band Madness have just been performing at this year’s Glastonbury Festival and I am reminded of how much I enjoyed them in the late ’70s when the 2 Tone label suddenly flooded the charts with great ska music, updated for a new generation. In those pre-internet days, pretty much the first and only time you would ever see a band perform would be on Thursday night’s Top Of The Pops. If you liked pop music it was a must-watch show and even in the sterile atmosphere of that little studio at television centre, with an often-bored looking audience being marshalled from stage to stage, you could really tell that these young lads were just a little bit special. Of course I didn’t realise at the time that The Prince they were singing about was in fact an early sixties Jamaican ska artist called Prince Buster, and that they had taken their name from one of his songs from that period.

The Prince by Madness:

As was wont to happen in those days, a new cultural movement emerged overnight and suddenly the soft rock and disco records that we were used to listening to seemed ridiculous and irrelevant, especially to young urban males. The 2 Tone label was set up in Coventry by Jerry Dammers of the Specials and very quickly ska/reggae/punk influenced records were being released by The Specials, Madness, The Beat and The Selector. The artwork for  the record sleeves was of course two tone, featuring a black and white checkerboard and a man wearing the ska uniform of black suit, white shirt, black tie, white socks, black loafers and of course, the very necessary pork pie hat.

220px-Specials_Message_to_You_Rudy_single_cover

As for me, I was a student at the time and when we discovered that the 2 Tone Tour (has a nice ring to it) of late 1979 was coming to our city it was a no-brainer that we should go and see all these great acts live. It was going to be held in one of the big night-clubs usually frequented by weekend John/Joan Travoltas and this is where I made my first mistake – Because of the venue I wore one of my “disco-dancing” outfits (wasn’t called clubbing in those days) complete with footless tights and shocking pink sparkly accessories. I don’t know how they managed it, but 99 percent of the audience that night were dressed in full “rude-boy” uniform complete with pork pie hat. This was Scotland for goodness sake but all the charity shops within a 50 mile radius must have been totally sold out of vintage clothing, and who knew that so many pork-pie hats could still have been in circulation! Yes, the shocking pink accessories stood out amongst all the black and white so in order to feel less conspicuous we quickly moved up to one of the balcony areas, to witness the phenomemon that was 2 Tone, from there.

The night started off with The Selector and frontwoman Pauline Black turned in an energetic performance culminating with their hit record On My Radio. Next up was Madness and of course we were treated to The Prince but the difference here was that they had Chas Smash whose role in the band was pretty much solely, dancer. Looking back at the clip now, this is exactly how he performed right through the set. He and Suggs made a great double act, a couple of likely lads from Camden Town doing something that was totally different.

chas smash

I was sad to see that Chas Smash was not with the band at Glastonbury as he is “off doing solo projects” at the moment (they’ve had a falling out then). Something I have just got to the bottom of however is this – During the 1979 concert Chas at one point got down into the audience and it was hard to work out what he was doing. It looked as if he was in a fight, but then again the punches looked as if they were choreographed and part of his style of dancing. Turns out that it was commonplace for a skinhead element to come to the concerts somehow thinking that because of the style of clothing and haircuts, these bands had a similar mentality. Of course this could not have been further from the truth and if certain racist remarks were made, some of the band members got down into the audience to deal with it themselves – Young men and lots of testosterone.

The final band to perform that night were Coventry-based, 2 Tone founders, The Specials.  Not so much “nutty boys” but more politically informed which came through in their lyrics. Terry Hall, their lead singer, always had a bit of the Herman Munster look about him I felt which was probably intentional. Not possible to sing about the really serious issues of the day (Ghost Town) if you look like a teen-idol. We definitely witnessed something from music history that night however as the whole 2 Tone concept was short-lived and quickly morphed into something else.

As for Madness they are still out there doing their thing and although the dancing is no longer quite as energetic, they still make me smile. Aged only 18 in the clip, Suggs is now 55 and he got his grandchildren up on stage at Glastonbury at the end of their set to view the ocean of festival-goers. Could he have envisaged doing that back in 1979 when they were surrepticiously beating up unsavoury audience members? I doubt it very much, but I am very glad he did.

The Prince Lyrics
(Song by Lee Thompson)

Buster, he sold the heat with a rock-steady beat

An earthquake is erupting, but not in Orange street
A ghost-dance is preparing, You got to help us with your feet
If you’re not in the mood to dance, step back, grab yourself a seat
This may not be uptown Jamaica, but we promise you a treat

Buster, bowl me over with your bogus dance, shuffle me off my feet
Even if I keep on runnin’, I’ll never get to Orange street

So I’ll say there’s nothin’ left to say, for the man who set the beat
So I’ll leave it up to you out there, to get him back on his feet

Buster, bowl me over with your bogus dance, shuffle me off my feet
Even if I’ll keep on runnin’, I’ll never get to Orange Street

Bring back the
Who is the
We want the