Deacon Blue, “Dignity” and Late ’80s Scottish Bands (there were a lot of them!)

Short post but still thinking fondly of my recent “staycation” and the song Dignity by Deacon Blue came to mind. The late ’80s were a very fertile time for bands from Scotland and the charts were littered with their successes. Deacon Blue released their first album “Raintown” in 1987, the week I came to live in the Highlands, and possibly because I suddenly felt the strength of my Scottishness more (coming to live in a place where tourism is one of the main industries), it was a great time to have all this great music around. There were also the bands Hue and Cry, Texas, Aztec Camera, Primal Scream, Big Country, Wet Wet Wet, Hipsway, Danny Wilson, Fairground Attraction and of course Runrig whom I have written about before.


Ever since starting the blog, I have come across these instances where suddenly there is a new “fashion” (for want of a better word) in music and sometimes it comes from a particular venue (Cavern Club in Liverpool, Blitz Nightclub in Covent Garden), sometimes as a reaction to what has gone before (punk, ska) and at other times from a particular label or producer (2 Tone, Phil Spector). I know “fashion” isn’t the right word for it but neither is zeitgeist or the bandwagon or halo effects. If anyone can help me out here please do, but whatever the correct word for it is, Scotland had it in bucketloads in the late ’80s.

Looking back, I can’t believe that the song Dignity only got to No. 31 in the UK charts as it is the song that is still most closely associated with them and is usually the one they finish any concert with. They even sang it at the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony in Glasgow in 2014. Listening to the lyrics again, I think we all suspect we know of someone like the character in the song. The mild-mannered council worker who despite his low grade job and very simple lifestyle (love the reference to the Sunblest bag – no artisan bread for this guy) has a dream that once he has saved enough money, he will head off in his dinghy and be permanently “on his holidays” leaving the rest of us stuck in the nine to five. Having gone back to work this week after my holiday, the thought of a life “sailing up the west coast, through villages and towns” is suddenly very appealing but sadly I think I’ll need a few more years of putting “money in my kitty” before that can happen.

Dignity by Deacon Blue:

I love the whole idea behind the theory of six degrees of separation but Scotland being quite small, there are more likely to be only two degrees of separation here. Donnie Munro from Runrig taught my husband Art at school, I have several friends who were at University with people in the bands mentioned above and my own sister-in-law went to school in Dundee with Deacon Blue frontman and songwriter Ricky Ross!

So many great bands to write about so I will keep this post short but stick to the theme over the course of the week. Already excited about all those great songs, ripe for being revisited!

Dignity Lyrics
(Song by Ricky Ross)

There’s a man I meet walks up our street
He’s a worker for the council
Has been twenty years
And he takes no lip off nobody
And litter off the gutter
Puts it in a bag
And never seems to mutter
And he packs his lunch in a Sunblest bag
The children call him bogie
He never lets on
But I know ’cause he once told me
He let me know a secret about the money in his kitty
He’s gonna buy a dinghy
Gonna call her dignity

And I’ll sail her up the west coast
Through villages and towns
I’ll be on my holidays
They’ll be doing their rounds
They’ll ask me how I got her I’ll say I saved my money
They’ll say isn’t she pretty that ship called dignity

And I’m telling this story
In a faraway scene
Sipping down raki
And reading Maynard Keynes
And I’m thinking about home and all that means
And a place in the winter for dignity
And I’ll sail her up the west coast
Through villages and towns
I’ll be on my holidays
They’ll be doing their rounds
They’ll ask me how I got her I’ll say I saved my money
They’ll say isn’t she pretty that ship called dignity

And I’m thinking about home
And I’m thinking about faith
And I’m thinking about work
And I’m thinking about how good it would be
To be here some day

Radio, Chart Shows and The Music of 1973

Last time I wrote about Jackie Magazine and although it ran for 30 years, its heyday was definitely the early 1970s. Its sales figures would make any newspaper boss of today green with envy. Although full of great features on fashion and make-up, a problem page, a Dear Doctor column and “dreamy” love stories, for many of us the main attraction was lots of behind the scenes gossip on the everyday lives of our favourite pop stars. This remember, was an era long before we had the internet and one of only three TV channels so information was very limited indeed.

For me at that time, the highlight of the week was Thursday night’s Top Of The Pops but we also had BBC Radio One whose stars were DJs like Tony Blackburn, Noel Edmonds and Kid Jenson. If we were really lucky we might pick up a crackly, late-night signal from Radio Luxembourg giving us the voice of Tony Prince or Emperor (please) Rosko. So, we heard all the music but were desperate to find out more about the artists and that is where Jackie Magazine was happy to oblige. I remember they once gave us a free flexi-disc with the voice of a very bored-sounding David Cassidy recording a message for his fans in the UK. I found it recently after buying my new turntable and after playing it, now realise that the strain of being a pop idol in 1973 was definitely telling on him by this time.

But back to the music. As well as Jackie magazine, Radio One and Radio Luxembourg we had Sunday night’s Top 20 Chart Show (only an hour so they had to really rattle through it) which culminated in finding out who had either made it to the No. 1 spot or who had held on to it. If like me you were a fervent pop music fan, you decanted to your room at 5.55pm with your cassette recorder at the ready. The key was to press record/play, at just the right time to avoid any annoying voice-over, but also not to miss out on any of the song. Although I had a little tranny (short for transistor radio of course) at the time, my parents had moved their old GEC “wireless” (lots of wires actually) to my room after updating their own sound system and although very old-fashioned to look at, it had a great sound quality. The front of this monster of a device had words like Hilversum (where the Philips radio factory was based), Hamburg, Light, Scottish, but the only thing that mattered was that I knew how to tune into the station which would give me the new chart (and funnily enough it wasn’t 247 on MW, it was indeed on LW which really helped with the quality of my recordings).

Another embarrassing admission is that not only did I record my favourite songs on C90 Philips cassette tapes (such a furore nowadays about illegal downloading but we were all party to criminal activity on a vast scale in those days) but I also listed and carefully dated the new chart in a notebook. My best friend at school was similarly afflicted and we both went on to study accountancy in later life so something about that kind of mind-set obviously.

So, after a lot of preambling, here comes a Top 10 chart listing from the week I became a teenager in June 1973 and when my anorak tendencies were obviously at their height. An eclectic mix indeed.

Tum…, tum…, tum…, tum……, tum, tum, tum…, tum, tum, tum…, (surely you remember the music).

At No. 10 – Walking In The Rain by The Partridge Family. (A David Cassidy vehicle essentially but a song originally recorded by The Ronettes – excuse his very girly blouse!)

At No. 9 – Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree by Tony Orlando and Dawn. (That ribbon still in circulation today.)

At No. 8 – Hell Raiser by Sweet. (The beautiful Brian Connelly with his long blond hair and half-brother of Taggart as it turned out – Somehow he manages to look both macho but also not dissimilar to Tammy Wynette.)

At No. 7 – You Are The Sunshine Of My Life by Stevie Wonder. (A slightly more svelte Stevie in those days but still a wonderful song.)

At No. 6 – Albatross (1973) by Fleetwood Mac. (Re-issued. Why?)

At No. 5 – Rubber Bullets by 10cc. (Excellent band and about the only one from this list whose material has stood the test of time. Followed this up with other big hits like I’m Mandy Fly Me and I’m Not In Love.)

At No. 4 – And I Love You So by Perry Como. (One for the Mums and Dads.)

At No. 3 – One And One Is One by Medicine Head. (Had forgotten all about them – Not quite a one-hit wonder but their only record of note.)

At No. 2 – Can The Can by Suzi Quatro. (The Amercian rock chick.)

And finally at No. 1 – See My Baby Jive by Wizzard. (With the unforgettable Roy Wood ex of The Move whose “Flowers In The Rain” was of course the first song ever to be played on Radio One.)

Before I move on, yet another reference to my old friend Joe Strummer (his name keeps popping up in this blog) – Despite the fact that young teenagers like myself adored Radio 1 in the 1970s, the older, wiser Joe came out in protest at what had happened to radio at this time – The “establishment” he felt, had in effect outlawed the pirate stations but then didn’t cater for the market they had created. He stated, “There is no music station for young people any more, only for housewives and trendies in Islington”. My older self can now see that this was the case but at the time I was just a teenage girl, so what did I know. The Clash famously refused to appear on ToTP but had to suffer the ignominy of having Legs and Co perform one of their very literal dance routines to Bankrobber. Watch it and weep!

See My Baby Jive Lyrics
(Song by Roy Wood)

Look out! look out! your Momma will shout
You might as well go home
She said my bed get’s into your hair
So give me back my comb
But you
You make things that get along
Turn out so wrong
Doo ron, doo ron
You’d better rock on
The band might play our song

See my baby jive
See my baby jive
She hangs onto me and she really goes
Whoa (whoa) whoa
See my baby jive
Such a lazy jive
Well every one you meet coming down the street
Just to see my baby jive

That tenor horn is turning me on
He’s dropped down to his knees
Oh boy that sax is calling me back
This dog ain’t got no fleas
But you
You dance all the guys up town
Into the ground
Doo ron, doo ron
You gotta rock on
Your Daddy ain’t coming home

See my baby jive
See my baby jive
She hangs on to me and she really goes
Whoa (whoa) whoa
See my baby jive
Such a lazy jive
Well every one you meet coming down the street
Just to see my baby jive

Too bad,So long,it’s driving me mad
The top down on my car
I don’t suppose that everyone knows
Exactly who you are
But you
You make things that get along
Turn out so wrong
Doo ron, doo ron
You gotta rock on
The band might play our song

Jackie Magazine, Jackie The Musical and “Sad Sweet Dreamer”

If like me you became a teenager in 1973, when I mention Jackie magazine you will know exactly where I am coming from. Between 1972 and 1974 the magazine was selling in excess of 1.1 million copies per week and was a must-buy for “go-ahead” teens – its target market. I don’t know if my friends and I were indeed all that go-ahead, but Thursday was one of the best days of the week as it was not only Top Of The Pops night, but it was also the day when we picked up our copy of Jackie. With centrefold posters of the pop idols of the day, titbits of gossip about their likes and dislikes, great fashion spreads and the Cathy & Claire page (where all those problems we couldn’t possibly discuss with our mums were aired and very sensibly answered), it truly was the bible for girls trying to find their way in the world.

As we all know, they will make a musical about practically anything nowadays, but last week I went to see “Jackie The Musical” (excellent by the way) and if this blog is all about looking back nostalgically, by revisiting the Tracks of My Years, this was the stage musical equivalent. The main character was 54-year-old Jackie, a woman with an adult son still living at home, going through the trauma of divorce, and experimenting with online dating. Whilst packing up the contents of her house she finds her old teen magazines and of course starts to reminisce about her hopes and dreams back then. Her younger self even makes an appearance dressed in very authentic early ‘70s-style clothing (flares/big collars/platform shoes) to great comedic effect, often quoting verbatim what Cathy & Claire would have advised.

But of course the raison d’être behind any musical is the performance of the songs and this Jukebox Musical did not disappoint – Interwoven into the storyline were a host of very nostalgia-provoking songs such as Could It Be Forever (by David Cassidy), I Love To Love (by Tina Charles), Crazy Horses (by The Osmonds), The Things We Do For Love (by 10cc), Hold Me Close (by David Essex), Tiger Feet (by Mud), Puppy Love (by Donny Osmond) and many, many, more.

It was no coincidence of course that the vast majority of the audience were ladies of a certain age with very few men, quite sensibly, choosing to partake in this very girly extravaganza. By chance I met lots of people I knew, which was really nice, but of course it is also no coincidence that the main character was a stereotypical 54-year-old of today, and sad to say the chances of being separated or divorced are indeed quite high. Sad also to reflect that Cathy & Claire would not have anticipated that being the outcome for the Jackie Class of 1972-74 and although this is not the place to conjecture what has gone wrong, from a purely observational point of view, it seems that No – We can’t have it all. I have my own theories on that one, but perhaps for another time.

As a Scot, I am really proud that DC Thomson of Dundee, that city famed for Jam, Jute and Journalism was the publisher responsible for a magazine that both entertained and helped so many of my generation negotiate their way through those tricky teenage years. I probably still have my pillowcase somewhere with the Donny Osmond iron-on transfer (in purple – his favourite colour) and my heart-broken/heart-mended badge, both free gifts from that golden era.


So many songs from the show that I could feature here but as I have already written about a few of the most obvious contenders, I think I will pick one of the lesser known songs that may have been forgotten about in the intervening years. Before the days of Pop Idol and The X-Factor we had much less lavish mid-week talent shows such as New Faces. One of the acts that did really well on that show was an 8-piece soul group from Manchester, called Sweet Sensation. Once signed to Pye Records, under the guidance of one of the judges Tony Hatch they started to release records and although their first didn’t make it to the charts, their second, Sad Sweet Dreamer, made it all the way to the No. 1 spot in October 1974. (Again – just so much purple.)

The readers of Jackie magazine were often sad (mainly due to boyfriend trouble – the lack of one), they were young so generally still quite sweet, and, they were all overwhelmingly “dreamers”. There couldn’t have been a similar magazine for boys at that time and practically none of the songs in the show would ever have appealed to them anyway – The Davids and the Donnys belonged to us, and boy did we dream!

Sad Sweet Dreamer Lyrics
(Song by David Parton)

Sad sweet dreamer
It’s just one of those things you put down to experience
Sad sweet dreamer
It’s just one of those things you put down to experience

Been another blue day without you girl
Been another sad summer song
I’ve been thinking about you girl
All night long

Been another sad tear on my pillow
Been another memory to tell me you’re the one, girl
I kept thinking about you girl
All night long

Sad sweet dreamer
It’s just one of those things you put down to experience
Sad sweet dreamer
It’s just one of those things you put down to experience

Been another long night and I’ve missed you girl
Been another story from those endless magazines
Can’t help thinking about you girl
All night long

Was so happy when I found you
But how was I to know
That you would leave me walking down that road

Been another hard luck story
Been another man who thought that he was oh so strong
Been thinking about you girl
All night long


I often feel we go in circles here as since starting the blog so many hitherto unknown connections have come to light. It turns out that the bass player with Sweet Sensation, Barry Johnson, later joined reggae band Aswad whom I wrote about only last week. Different style of music but definitely more in tune with his roots as like many of his fellow bandmates from Sweet Sensation, he was born in Kingston, Jamaica.

Allan Sherman, Camp Granada and Missin’ The Wi-Fi

For reasons too boring to mention, we decided to have a short “staycation” this summer – That term came into being a few years ago after the global recession really started to kick in and the spending frenzy on things like luxury holidays went out of fashion for a while. To be honest, in view of what is happening around the world at the moment, I am pretty sure many more of us are thinking along those lines this year but of course the problem with staycations in the UK is that our green and pleasant land is not renowned for reliable, hot, sunny, weather.

True to form, the first three days of our holiday have been beset by heavy rain at worst and light drizzle at best. Brave faces put on though and my husband, Mr Sporty Spice, has still been able to head off with his boys’ toys which involve wheels, sails and boards. As for me, my plan was to do some reading, writing and attempt to take some “artsy” photographs. Turns out that the reading has been easy but something I could have done at home, the photography has been challenging due to the inclement weather but as for the writing, and more specifically blogging – downright impossible. I am incredibly lucky to live within an hour’s drive from some of the most spectacular scenery and beaches in the country but the downside of all this natural glory is……. Not a lot of Wi-Fi or even a paltry little phone signal – Missin’ the Wi-Fi, really missin’ the Wi-Fi.

Fortunately day four is now upon us however and as forecast (when I eventually managed to pick up a signal last night in a slightly dodgy bar) the weather today is absolutely glorious. Already had a long walk along the beach this morning taking some pretty spectacular shots, and children are now out of their cagoules and into building sandcastles. I have to say, all of a sudden life is sweet – Not “missin’ the Wi-Fi” so much at all, and to be honest, feeling a tad guilty that I seem to have become so addicted to it. (I’m definitely not alone though, as a group of sullen teens who are obviously similarly afflicted are hogging the one and only hotspot in the area.)

So, what song inevitably came to mind when I walked along the beach this morning? One from my days of listening to Junior Choice on a Saturday morning presented by another name from the long list of those sadly departed in 2016, Ed “Stewpot” Stewart – Hello Mother, Hello Father (A Letter From Camp) was a novelty song recorded by American comedy writer Allan Sherman in 1963 as a result of receiving letters of complaint from his son Robert whilst at camp in upstate New York. The first few days at the fictional Camp Granada were beset by problems and homesickness but inevitably as soon as the sun came out and the fun began, Dad was told to disregard the letter!

I still find this song really funny and if you have kids, an oh-so familiar tale. Sadly today, assuming kids who go to camp do actually get a phone signal, after the first few texts of complaint and homesickness to parents, they will probably be metaphorically helicoptered out asap, not letting them get past the initial settling in phase which is sometimes needed to get onto the really good, memorable stuff.

I am reminded of a postcard in my collection of family memorabilia sent to my grandmother in the early 1950s by my uncle, who had headed off with The Scouts to a camp in our capital city, Edinburgh. Now I can’t emphasise enough how far this was from his home in rural North-East Scotland and I’m not just talking miles here. What he wrote on the postcard was as follows, “Arrived here safely but I have lost the other boys. Hoping I will find them later on but don’t worry I’m sure I will be fine”. When I found this in with a load of old photographs I had to laugh – My poor little granny must have had a fit when she received this postcard two or three days later. But then again as Mr Sporty Spice and I often remark, much better to just rely on that good old-fashioned maxim – No news is good news. If there is no mobile phone in the first place, there is no anxiety when it is not answered, which in 99.9% of cases is just down to a lack of signal or battery power. A policeman didn’t arrive at the door back in 1951 about my lost uncle, he ended up finding the other boys and had a great holiday so his epistle, like in the song, should definitely have had the postscript “please disregard this letter”.


As for me, I’m off to skulk with the sullen teenagers – If they know where the elusive hot spot is, I want a piece of that action!

Hello Mother, Hello Father (A Letter From Camp) Lyrics
(Song by Allan Sherman/Lou Busch)

Hello Muddah, hello Fadduh,
Here I am at Camp Granada
Camp is very entertaining
and they say we’ll have some fun if it stops raining.

I went hiking with Joe Spivy
He developed poison ivy
You remember Leonard Skinner
He got ptomaine poisoning last night after dinner.

All the counselors hate the waiters
And the lake has alligators
And the head coach wants no sissies
So he reads to us from something called Ulysses.

Now I don’t want this should scare ya
But my bunkmate has malaria
You remember Jeffrey Hardy
They’re about to organize a searching party.

Take me home, oh muddah fadduh, take me home, I hate Granada
Don’t leave me out in the forest where I might get eaten by a bear.
Take me home, I promise I will not make noise or mess the house with
other boys, oh please don’t make me stay, I’ve been here one whole day.

Dearest fadduh, darling muddah,
How’s my precious little bruddah?
Let me come home if ya miss me
I will even let Aunt Bertha hug and kiss me.

Wait a minute, it stopped hailing,
Guys are swimming, guys are sailing,
Playing baseball, gee that’s better,
Muddah Fadduh please disregard this letter.


As it turns out I never did find the elusive hot spot so have had to wait until returning home to post this piece of nostalgia. Now out of date but it turns out Tuesday was indeed the hottest day of the summer so far and was followed by more beautiful sunny days so a really enjoyable, relaxing holiday in the end (and our sand sculpture, coming in at 30 feet long, caused quite a sensation!). Doing my bit for the Scottish Tourist Industry I feel with these photographs and although taken on the Dornoch Firth in East Sutherland, it could almost be Nantucket!

One final thought, the recent discovery I made about the late Clash founder Joe Strummer (that his mother came from a small village in the Scottish Highlands) made me realise that my “staycation” was spent on the very beach he would have no doubt frequented as a child if on a visit to his grandparents. Somehow, I find that quite endearing.

The Double Deckers, Aswad and “Don’t Turn Around”

Last time I wrote about the film Summer Holiday but of course there was another Double Decker London bus that is etched on the memory of most people my age – The one used by that eclectic bunch of youngsters called, not surprisingly, “The Double Deckers”. The kids television sitcom, Here Come the Double Deckers, ran for 17 episodes between 1970-71 and was must watch telly for pre-teens of my generation.

double deckers

It all makes sense now in that it appears to have been made jointly by American 20th Century Fox and a British independent film company, obviously to appeal to both markets. It had a very different look to it at the time from most of our home-grown shows made by the BBC, Granada or Thames Television. Most of the child actors in it were however British and they included gang leader Scooper (sorry but even in those days I’m sure the writers should have been able to come up with a cooler name than that), Spring, Billie, Brains, Doughnut (you can imagine the furore nowadays over that one), Sticks (the token American) and little Tiger. All stereotypes were covered but of course in reality it is highly unlikely that such a bunch would have ended up hanging out together at all, as right through life we do tend to gravitate towards people most like ourselves but no matter, you didn’t really think about things like that at age 10, you just really enjoyed the show.

Something that has surprised me, it turns out that Scooper and Spring (whom I will write about more in a minute) were both aged around 17/18 when this was aired so like Ant and Dec, who got too old to hang around the youth club at Byker Grove, this pair were well past the age of playing in an old disused junk yard in 1971 – Wouldn’t have done for the little ‘uns  to see Scooper and Spring head off for a “swift half” however in the midst of building a gun that shoots chocolate candy so all good, wholesome, family fun.

Anyway back to our two heroes, the ones who obviously got a taste for life in the entertainment industry at a young age and kept going. Peter Firth, who played Scooper, has gone on to have a lengthy career in film, theatre and television and is currently masquerading as “Head Spook” Sir Harry Pearce in the long-running BBC drama set in the offices of MI5.

Looking back at the young Peter, he is a good-looking lad with a fine head of hair but I remember as a student watching him play the time-traveller Dominick Hide and although only in his 20s he definitely had thinning hair and a receding hairline – Nothing wrong with that at all but probably led him down a different path from that of becoming leading man material, and one which has served him well.

So now we come to Spring, the lovely Brinsley Forde who quite soon after his days as a Double Decker formed the reggae band Aswad. I don’t remember there being many home-grown reggae bands in the UK in the late ’70s and early ’80s but Aswad, although they never appeared on mainstream shows like Top Of The Pops, seemed to continually tour the Student Union circuit so were pretty well known for a long time before making the leap to chart success, reaching No. 1 in 1988 with Don’t Turn Around. Hadn’t realised that this break-up song had been recorded by so many people before Aswad gave it the full-blown reggae treatment, but it certainly worked well for them. Also hadn’t realised it was a Diane Warren composition, that lady lyricist, who along with Bernie Taupin could walk down a street unrecognised but must be one of the highest paid individuals, ever, in the music industry.

So, “What’s It All About?” – Being a child star seems to have mixed blessings as many haven’t had a smooth ride to adulthood at all. It seems however that once you find your particular niche, best to just keep your head down and work hard at it. Like Diane Warren, better to have a fairly anonymous life and enjoy what you do than experience the stress, strain and fleeting success of teen idolatry. Looking forward to seeing much more from Peter Firth and Brinsley Forde MBE in the future but for those of us who watched kids telly in the early ’70s, they will always be, Double Deckers!

Don’t Turn Around Lyrics
(Song by Albert Hammond/Diane Warren)

If you wanna leave, baby
I won’t beg you to stay
And if you wanna go, darlin’
Maybe it’s better that way

I’m gonna be strong, I’m gonna be fine
Don’t worry about this heart of mine
Walk out the door, see if I care?
Go on and go now but

Don’t turn around
‘Cause you’re gonna see my heart breakin’
Don’t turn around
I don’t want you seein’ me cryin’
Just walk away
It’s tearin’ me apart that you’re leavin’
I’m lettin’ you go and I won’t let you know
Baby, I won’t let you know

I won’t miss your arms around me
Holdin’ me tight
And if you ever think about me
Just know that I’m gonna be alright

I’m gonna be strong, I’m gonna be fine
Don’t worry about this heart of mine
I know I’ll survive it, I’ll make it through
And I’ll learn to live without you but

Don’t turn around
‘Cause you’re gonna see my heart breakin’
Don’t turn around
I don’t want you seein’ me cryin’
Just walk away
It’s tearin’ me apart that you’re leavin’
I’m lettin’ you go and I won’t let you know

I wish, I could scream out loud
That I love you
I wish, I could say to you
Don’t go, don’t go, don’t go

Don’t turn around
Don’t turn around
I don’t want you seein’ me crying
Just walk away
It’s tearin’ me apart that you’re leavin’
I’m lettin’ you go

Cliff, “Summer Holiday” and a Red London Bus

Well it’s still raining and I’m still waiting for summer to begin – So much for getting all excited on the 1st of June when I thought the song of the day should be June Is Bustin’ Out All Over from Carousel. And, so much for rethinking it all at the solstice when I redefined the start of summer based on “seasonal lag” (yes new to me too). No I can see it’s going to be one of those summers where we need Cliff Richard to come along in that red London bus to whisk us off to Athens.

If you’ve ever watched the 1963 film Summer Holiday, you’ll know that the title sequence starts off in black and white and shows scene after scene of miserable looking holiday-makers trying to shelter from torrential rain at Britain’s various seaside resorts and piers. A group of mechanics at London Transport’s main “works” are looking out at the rain and, apart from not looking very convincing as mechanics (but we’ll come to that), are not hopeful about their forthcoming holiday. All of a sudden through the pouring rain a bus emerges, colour comes to the screen (turning the bus bright red) and a very young looking Cliff Richard runs in to tell them, through the medium of song, that he’s got the go-ahead to convert the bus into a giant 1960s Winnebago so that they can tour the continent (a trial run for fee-paying passengers the following year).

summer holiday.png

Now we all know that Don (Cliff’s character) will never have picked up a spanner in his life nor will any of his friends (they are all talented dancers, actors and singers) but even in those days it must have been hard to suppress a snigger when listening to Don’s rallying cry to the “fellows” on the shop floor (in reality I know where they would have told him to go) but this is a musical so they get the job done on time and off they set on their travels. Cue the scene where Don/Cliff sings the very memorable title track, also called Summer Holiday.

Summer Holiday by Cliff Richard:

If ever you needed a song to lift the spirits, this is it, and I remember well waking up to it one morning when working as a breakfast waitress the summer after leaving school. I was sharing a room with my best friend in a cottage on the grounds of a very grand country house hotel, but come the weekend, we had to get up at the crack of dawn ready to serve unsuspecting guests. In those days we could burn the candle at both ends so had probably been out the night before, but at 6am we were not exactly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Fortunately the gods of radio playlists must have known of our plight and offered up Cliff with Summer Holiday. Within seconds of hearing the very jaunty, upbeat intro, a big smile crept onto our faces. Getting “up and at it” suddenly didn’t seem such an effort with this song playing in the background.

The film of course looks dated now but is still great fun to watch with some amazing performances from the cast – Una Stubbs is perfect as Sandy, lead singer with the girl trio they meet on the way and the dancer Teddy Green, although appalling at acting, can definitely move on a dance floor. The girls and boys all pair up pretty quickly leaving poor old Don (by far the most attractive of the bunch) on his own, just drivin’ the bus. Fortunately for him however they pick up a young runaway lad who soon ends up being his love interest (what?), this lad being thinly disguised American stage actress Lauri Peters, initially posing as a boy (ah that explains it). Even in those days it seems we needed an American in any film being pushed towards that market. Anyway, many adventures later they reach Athens and end up in the Mediterranean joined by The Shadows, Hank playing a Bouzouki rather than the famed Fender Stratocaster Cliff bought him in the early days.

If ever a post needed a postscript however, this is it – All about a happy, upbeat song with a few fond memories thrown in. As it turns out I can’t share any of these happy memories with the afore-mentioned friend as she passed away over 15 years ago aged only 41. After being joined at the hip for at least four of our most formative years, boys and relationships got in the way and after a silly misunderstanding we had a falling out and subsequently lost touch. Writing to her parents after her death, telling them that she was probably the best friend I’d ever had, was a massive case of too much too late.

So, “What’s It All About?” – It’s definitely about making up with old friends before it’s too late, being able to share some really special memories unique to just the two of you. It’s fun reminiscing about the past, but much more fun when you are doing it with the people involved and not just typing it all out on a computer screen. Sorry to end on a sombre note but worth saying. As for me I think I’m off to look for, and dust off, some of those old address books.

Until next time….

Summer Holiday Lyrics
(Song by Bruce Welch/Brian Bennett)

We’re all going on a summer holiday

No more working for a week or two
Fun and laughter on our summer holiday
No more worries for me or you
For a week or two

We’re going where the sun shines brightly
We’re going where the sea is blue
We’ve seen it in the movies
Now let’s see if it’s true

Everybody has a summer holiday
Doing things they always wanted to
So we’re going on a summer holiday
To make our dreams come true
For me and you

Katie Melua, Mike Batt and “Nine Million Bicycles”

Last time I wrote about the great punk-rock beauty Debbie Harry. Roll forward to the mid noughties and another rare beauty came along in the form of Katie Melua. Although born in Georgia (the former Soviet Republic one) she had moved to Northern Ireland with her family as a child, before heading across to London to attend the BRIT school in her late teens. She has been one of its most successful attendees along with the late Amy Winehouse and of course Adele.

Unlike Debbie Harry however, Katie did not give us punk attitude, instead she gave us…… Really annoying lyrics! I have written before about songs that I had hitherto quite enjoyed because I had never really listened to the lyrics properly (Rupert Holmes’ Pina Colada song – grrr) but it didn’t take long at all for some of Katie’s songs to really grate.

Exhibit A – Nine Million Bicycles which charted in September 2005. I know I am probably being pedantic here but every time I heard her sing about “the fact”, “the thing we just couldn’t deny” (those nine million bicycles traversing the streets of Beijing), I kind of had to say to myself – Really? Could it not possibly be nine and a half million, or perhaps a bit less than nine million now that car ownership has risen? But no, Katie was emphatic in her song that nine million was the exact number.

Nine Million Bicycles by Katie Melua:

Of course we then get on to the next verse and now she tells us that “we are twelve billion light years from the edge” but that “it was a guess and no-one could ever say if that was true”. As it turns out they could, and no, it wasn’t true. Cosmologist Simon Singh took to writing an article for the Guardian pointing out that scientists had pretty much worked out after much research and careful measurement that the universe was actually 13.7 billion years old. A playful spat ensued with Katie re-recording the song with this new information contained within – Needless to say it wasn’t a howling success and both parties had a bit of a laugh about it and agreed that a modicum of poetic license was needed for the song to work, but just shows how hot under the collar we can get when faced with incorrect facts.

I put it all down to the “fact” that the song was written by Mike Batt who despite massive success in many different strands of the music industry will, for me, always be “Head Womble”. There can be no-one of my age who will not have occasionally dipped into an episode of The Wombles on television after coming home from school in the afternoon. They were way ahead of their time with all their recycling, now part of our modern day lives, but back in the 1970s a bit of a novelty and a cue for entertainment.

When Mike Batt got the job of writing the theme song for the animated show, rather than accept a flat fee he chose to acquire the character rights for The Wombles and formed a pop group, releasing a string of top-selling singles and albums between 1973 and 1975. Must have been very hot work “Wombling Free” around BBC Television Centre but quite liberating, as the costumes could be worn by whoever was available on the day. It turns out this was often members of Steeleye Span or the guitarist Chris Spedding (he of Motor Bikin’ fame) whom Mike worked with frequently.

So when Mike discovered Katie in the mid noughties, I think he was so thrown by her amazing beauty that his old Wombling song-writing skills momentarily left him and he put together odd lyrics juxtaposing “facts about love” with erroneous “scientific facts”.

Just one more bone of contention however about a line from the song before I move on – Katie sang about how she would “never tire of the love she would be given every night”. Written by a man indeed as I don’t know of any of my female friends, however happy with their other halves, who would not tire of being given love every night! Sometimes a mug of cocoa and a good book is all that is required – Just sayin’…..

Nine Million Bicycles Lyrics
(Song by Mike Batt)

There are nine million bicycles in Beijing
That’s a fact,
It’s a thing we can’t deny
Like the fact that I will love you till I die.

We are twelve billion light years from the edge,
That’s a guess,
No-one can ever say it’s true
But I know that I will always be with you.

I’m warmed by the fire of your love everyday
So don’t call me a liar,
Just believe everything that I say

There are six billion people in the world
More or less
and it makes me feel quite small
But you’re the one I love the most of all

We’re high on the wire
With the world in our sight
And I’ll never tire,
Of the love that you give me every night


And in case anyone can’t remember how much fun it was to be a Womble in 1974, here is a clip from Top Of The Pops to remind you (just try to avert your eyes from Noel Edmonds’ revealing shirt and medallion during the introduction). All members present and correct I think – Orinoco, Madame Cholet, Great Uncle Bulgaria, Wellington and Tobermory. Didn’t even have to look it up, such is the power of a childhood memory.

Blondie, Debbie Harry and “Denis”

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.


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


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.


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 the North of Scotland for goodness sake but all the charity shops within a 50 mile radius must have been totally raided 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 phenomenon 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 surreptitiously 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
Bring back the Prince…aahh!

The Clash, Big Decisions and Girlfriend Trouble

Short post, but with only a day to go, there should be no-one in the UK who doesn’t understand the significance of today’s clip. If the EU was our girlfriend this is how it would be playing out right now but despite the 24/7 debate and news coverage from both sides (all very balanced so as not to show any bias of course) many of us are still none the wiser as to which way to vote.

Should I Stay Or Should I Go by The Clash:

Not entirely sure why Angela Merkel and Co. haven’t been getting involved in the debate but it seems that they don’t want to affect the outcome one way or another, so are leaving it to the people of the UK themselves.

So, no tearful last minute pleadings – “It’s not you, it’s me”, “I think we just need a break” and “You’re too good for me” – It’s all down to us and us alone.


As for The Clash, they were part of the first wave of British punk bands that emerged in the late ’70s. I was a 17-year-old then, and even we girls couldn’t help but get excited about this new style of music. Lots of energy and a cosmic leap away from everything else that had been around for most of the decade (glam rock, country, soul and disco). They wrote politically-charged songs that meant something to young, white, disaffected youth and became one of the most respected bands from that era influencing many bands that were to follow. This song, Should I Stay Or Should I Go, was re-issued several times but it first charted in September 1982 which was just at the tail-end of their heyday as a band.


I have just made an interesting discovery however, the band’s co-founder Joe Strummer (John Graham Mellor) was born in Turkey to a Scottish mother who hailed from a village not far from me in the Highlands. Also, his diplomat father was born in India and had part-Armenian, part-German parentage. The young Joe spent a lot of his early life living in both Mexico and Germany so although I thought of him as being quintessentially English, and a Londoner at that, I couldn’t have been more wrong. A great choice of song therefore to have used on this last day of campaigning featuring one of music’s most significant contributors.  As it turns out this late discovery about Joe, and the fact that he delivers the song’s backing vocals in Spanish, has made my voting decision even easier.

joe strummer

Should I Stay Or Should I Go
(Song by Mick Jones/Joe Strummer)

Darling you got to let me know
Should I stay or should I go?
If you say that you are mine
I’ll be here till the end of time
So you got to let me know
Should I stay or should I go?

It’s always tease tease tease
You’re happy when I’m on my knees
One day is fine, and next is black
So if you want me off your back
Well come on and let me know
Should I Stay or should I go?

Should I stay or should I go now?
Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double
So come on and let me know