Category Archives: Uncovering My Tracks

UNCOVERING MY TRACKS (Part #4)

Heavy Rotation.

It wouldn’t be too long to wait before my first gig – only another four months or so, in March 1973. But in the meantime, my Alice Cooper LP ‘Love it to Death‘) was being played to death in my bedroom.

It whetted my appetite for more ‘heavy rock.’ In late 1972, however, gaining access to such music was not easy. You either had to know somebody who had bought an album and played it to you, or you took a punt and bought blind (or perhaps that should be ‘deaf.’)

Some shops though, like Lewis’s in Glasgow had ‘listening booths,’ where you’d be allowed to listen to one or two tracks from an album in the hope that you’d eventually buy.

(Latterly, the dingy wee Virgin Records shop at the end of Argyle Street, then Cambridge Street in Glasgow offered the use of headphones to listen to music. The down side though, was that only one person at a time could listen – we used to pile about six mates into the listening booth along the road in Lewis’s.

You would also have to explain to your parents just why your clothes were stinking of incense when you returned home. Telling them the shop burned joss sticks to cover up the smell of other smouldering substances in-store was probably not a good idea, though.

Some rock bands, however, like Free, Deep Purple and the excellent Atomic Rooster had been given airtime on the UK’s prime time popular music show, Top of the Pops in late 1971 / early 1972 and although a bit late to the party (again) I started to search out music from artists such as them.

Being ‘late to the party’ is a trend I’ve managed to maintain for almost fifty years, having just bought my first two Atomic Rooster albums in this past year.

(1972 also saw the blossoming of Glam Rock in the UK. Arguably started by Marc Bolan in mid 1971, the Glam movement was well and truly on the march through 1972.

At school, though as a thirteen / fourteen year old lad, it was not de rigueur, to show your true Glam self. Stars like Bolan and Bowie were for the girls. Boys had to be into what was perceived to be ‘harder’ rock. As mentioned in an earlier post, I got terrible stick for admitting I liked The Sweet. Little did those ‘macho’ pals of mine appreciate that most Glam bands could rock-out some pretty heavy riffs too.)
(Look out for a special Glam Rock Feature coming soon to LOUD HORIZON.)

My first rock album however, was one of those blind / deaf purchases I referred to earlier. I had read of this band Uriah Heep in Sounds paper / magazine, and around mid-1972, sent away for their debut album, ‘…very ‘eavy… very ‘umble.’ This immediately took over from the Alice Cooper LP that had hogged the turntable for so many months.

With the exception of Lee Kerslake, who would play drums on subsequent recordings, this for me was by far the best incarnation of the band, with Dave Byron up there with the best lead vocalists of any band.

From a kid who was totally unaware of The Beatles just a few years earlier, I was now totally immersed in music. I couldn’t play a note, of course – I was far too lazy to learn despite my parents’ best efforts. And singing? There was more chance of me holding the World Heavyweight Boxing title than me holding a note.

1972 had been a year of musical enlightenment for me. It had started with me pestering my folks to buy me a shirt similar to one I’d seen Kenney Jones wear while playing drums for Rod Stewart on Top of the Pops. I wanted to look ‘cool’ at my school disco. (We never found one, of course, and I had to settle for a turquoise, paisley pattern shirt and matching kipper tie, with lilac needle-cord trousers.)

It ended with me wearing that very same outfit to a disco in London (I was part of a representative Glasgow Boy Scouts group visiting the city) where I had my first schoolboy crush on a girl from a local Guides troop. She liked me because I made her laugh.

I now know why.

Anyway – here’s the song that kicked off the year for me and is to this day, still one of my Top 10 tracks of all time.

Roll on 1973.

(To be continued …)

UNCOVERING MY TRACKS (Part #3)

Alice Banned.

My tastes were changing. Maturing, some would say.

But the kid in the 1971 me still found it tough to be weaned off the bubblegum and sugary Pop hits of the day. As a family, we’d been our first foreign holiday the previous year. To Spain, it was. And being played to death that summer was’Candida‘ by Tony Orlando and Dawn, while back home The Mixtures and ‘The Pushbike Song’ had been popular enough to reach number two in the January charts of 1971.

Both songs, and ‘Grandad‘ by Clive Dunn, were found by my parents on the one album in Woolworths. I’m guessing, but in in ultimately forlorn hope of ‘getting with it,’ they bought that album. And on bringing it home, chuffed to bits, they proudly told me I could play it (carefully) on the new radioogram.

My excitement, however, didn’t last long when it very quickly became apparent that the songs were not performed by the original artists Still, money was tight, and it was better than nothing at all.

A few months later, and buoyed by their ‘new cool,’ my folks bought another of those trendy compilations, principally for the track ‘Get it On.’ Of course there was no fooling me this time. Once bitten and all that. Also, the song ‘Coco,’ was on the LP, and I had the proper, 7″ single by The Sweet. I could spot the difference.

Anyway, this one didn’t last long in our scant collection. A couple days later, my Mum saw the TV Top of the Pops and decided Marc Bolan of T. Rex, who of course had the hit with ‘Get it On, ‘ looked ‘dirty.’ The following day I was dragged along to Woolworths in Drumchapel Shopping Centre, where she demanded her money back, despite the album having been played many times.

That was the day I learned the meaning of the word, ‘mortified.’

The rest of 1971 music passed me by without leaving much of an impression. I do still have ‘Bannerman‘ by Blue Mink in my collection, but that’s about it.

The following year though, shaped my music of choice – pretty much for life.

On a family weekend trip to Blackpool, I remember buying what would be only my third album. (The second was ‘Slade Alive‘ by Slade.)

That album was ‘Love It To Death,’ by Alice Cooper. I have no idea as to how I knew of the band. I think perhaps I was flicking through the record box and the rebellious, now fourteen-year-old in me had decided to exact retribution for my mother’s performance a year previous. You think Marc Bolan is ‘dirty’ do you? Get a load of this dude and his cronies!

(I unfortunately now own only a CD copy. I sold the vinyl to a second hand record store in Stirling not long after being married when we had no cash.)

I should have known my parents would win out in the end.

A few months later, Alice Cooper arrived in the UK for a series of shows. His reputation preceded him and of course the very conservative press of the time were all over it. I was desperate to go to the Glasgow show. It would be my first gig. But there was zero chance of that happening.

Determined my mind would not be corrupted by some deviant from the other side of the Atlantic, my folks properly ‘grounded’ me on the evening of 10th November 1972, to prevent me sneaking off to the show with a couple of pals who did have tickets. It was for my own good, of course.

One of my mates though, somehow managed to smuggle a tape recorder into the venue and so I was at least able to hear a very muffled version of the show.

My first gig would have to wait.

UNCOVERING MY TRACKS (Part #2)

Sweet, Sweet Music.

In truth, it was the cartoon more than the music that commanded my attention of The Beatles and ‘Yellow Submarine.’

I was to remain blissfully unaffected by the hype surrounding the Fab Four for many more years. Indeed, even now, I don’t quite ‘get’ them. I know that amounts to something like heresy, but while I can appreciate their later work, I still have more time for each of John, Paul, George and Ringo’s solo efforts than that they produced together. In fact, ‘Back Off Boogaloo‘ would end up one of my favourite singles from 1972, the words being scrawled in an old-school Kolossal graffiti style across the cover of my English jotter.

Even at the age of ten, I railed against convention. Not for me, this accepting what was uniformly and blindly followed. Unimpressed with the biggest band on the planet, I was already showing a stubborn and ‘punk’ attitude.

I nailed my colours to the Ohio Express and The Scaffold masts in 1968.


1969 was another year more focused on football, Batman and Thunderbirds. I do, however, have vivid memories of returning from the annual Carnival with my Cub Scout Pack, on the top deck of a Glasgow Corporation bus, singing the latest big hit by The Archies.

I’m not so sure that was evidence of a musical maturing, though.

Being only eleven / twelve years old in 1970, my scant pocket money stretched only to a copy of Shoot! magazine, a pack of football related bubblegum cards and a handful of gobstoppers. Any money I saved would go towards buying a trick / joke item from Tam Shepherd’s magic shop in Glasgow city centre.

Music and records would not become a priority until the following year when at the age of thirteen I developed the ‘cool’ gene.

OK – maybe ‘cool’ is stretching it. But I was the only kid in school who owned a copy of ‘Kongos’ the first album John Kongos released in his own name. This was the first album I bought and paid for on my own, and came a few months after my first single, ‘Co-Co,’ by The Sweet.

It’s fair to say I got a bit of stick at school for my choices. But hey – nineteen years later, The Happy Mondays covered John Kongos’s ‘He’s Gonna Step On You Again.’ It was ‘cool’ then, wasn’t it?

One thing about the early Sweet singles was that while the ‘A’ side was of a pretty commercial, twee style, the ‘B” sides were infinitely more rocking. They had a harder edge, and I played them as much as the principal song.

My musical development was to take on a heavier bias.

TO BE CONTINUED …




UNCOVERING MY TRACKS (Part #1)

Apple Tree Awakening.


Do you recall the precise moment you became aware of music? Not the nursery rhyme type stuff your exasperated parents would sing as you lay in your cot, determined to make them regret that rainy, alcohol infused weekend at the B&B in Rhyl some twenty-seven months previous.

No – real music. The stuff that set you off on your personal musical odyssey. (See how I cleverly avoided using that dreadful ‘J’ word, just there?)

I grew up in a household filled with the sound of marching military bands and film soundtracks. The Royal Marines Bands Service and South Pacific still come back to haunt me. In fact, having asked my Dad what was the music of choice to get me settled when I was a nipper, I was horrified to hear it was ‘I’m Getting Married in The Morning,’ from the musical, ‘My Fair Lady.’

Sheesh! 1958 – even Pat Boone or Dean Martin would have almost passed as ‘cool’ then. But no – I must have been the most uncool six year old in Glasgow when I first became aware of some combo called The Beatles.

1964 – The Swinging Sixties and all that were just around the corner and the only reason I became aware of the biggest music phenonemon until Wet Wet Wet came along (‘J’ for joke) some twenty-odd years later, was because my father had written a banner with the words ‘She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah Yeah’ to stick on my Uncle Robert’s Triumph Herald on the day of his wedding. And even that was a year after the release date.

Unbelievably, it would be another five years before I eventually ‘got with it,’ as we would say. And I remember the precise moment.

I was climbing the apple tree in our back garden with my pals, when one mentioned the cartoon he had seen on TV (yeah, I know – apple tree / garden / TV – we were terribly middle class, not that I’m at all ashamed of that)

Cartoon? He said ‘cartoon?’ That was me – I was in. What was this ‘cartoon’ of which he spoke?


TO BE CONTINUED ….