Monday, 18 June 2018

Rip It Up at the National Museum of Scotland

Rip It Up charts the history of Scottish pop and rock music from the 1950s to the present day. It talks about the main players and protagonists, showing the evolution of myriad idiosyncratic genres and styles over seven decades. This book will accompany a major exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland 22 June to 25 November 2018, and a BBC Scotland TV series, presented by Vic Galloway, which explore the musical culture of Scotland from Lonnie Donegan to Calvin Harris.

The exhibition features clothes, photographs, instruments, memorabilia, props, film and, music as well as interviews and archive footage. For a country of around only five million people Scotland has punched above its weight in shaping the twentieth century's most important, accessible and radical art form, pop and rock music.

(Video Courtesy: NationalMuseumScotland Youtube Channel)

Monday, 23 April 2018

BA Robertson

Brian Alexander Robertson was born in 1948 in Glasgow. He attended Allan Glen's School, Glasgow before graduating from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music. At 21, he signed a publishing deal with Steve Morris and in 1973 released his debut album entitled, Wringing Applause. The album had and impressive line-up of musicians including Herbie Flowers (Bass), Paul Beer & Stephen Saunders (Euphonium) and Barry Morgan (Drums) but it attracted little attention. BA meantime worked as a session musician and played keyboards on recording for other bands including Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel’s (1976) Another Journey (B-Side of Come up and make me smile).

The same year Alexander Robertson released his second album, "Shadow Of A Thin Man", which featured George Fenton, Tony Hymas (keyboards), Frank Ricotti, Terry Britten (guitarist), Herbie Flowers (bass), Chris Spedding (guitar) and Simon Philips on drums. BA and Terry Britten formed an ongoing song writing partnership and in 1978, they wrote “Start all over again” for Cliff Richard which was released on his Green Light album.

Robertson and Britten wrote many more songs for Cliff Richard including "Wired for Sound" for Cliff (1979) was released on the Rock 'n' Roll Juvenile album and “Carrie" (1980).

BA Robertson enjoyed chart success as a solo artist with six hit singles, starting with "Bang Bang" in 1979 which written and produced by Terry Britten.

In 1980, his third album Initial Success was released credited to BA Robertson and contained his next three follow up singles "Knocked It Off", "Kool in the Kaftan" and "To Be Or Not To Be" which reached chart positions 8, 17 and 9 respectively. The album also sold well and sat outside the top thirty albums in the UK.

His next album Bully For You (1981) contained another hit single Flight 19.

The "R&BA" album contained his last Top 40 hit which was a duet with Maggie Bell and cover version of P J Proby’s "Hold Me" which reached number 11 in the UK Singles Charts.

During the early 80s Robertson combined his career as an artist in a writing and production partnership with bassist Herbie Flowers. They wrote and produced with an eclectic crowd, including Lionel Bart, Joe Brown, Jim Cregan, Ray Cooper, Micky Dolenz, Gillian Gregory, Georg Kajanus, Harry Nilsson, Phil Pickett, Annie Ross, Sandie Shaw, and Chris Spedding. BA also recorded with Frida (Anni Frid Lyngstad) from Abba, 83, and Lulu in 84. But by this time his music tastes had changed and BA started to develop his career in other areas.

He penned and sang the theme music to the BBC television series Maggie and Brown Sauce's Multi-Coloured Swap Shop (Hello, Hello) theme and "I Wanna Be a Winner".

Robertson wrote and sang "We Have a Dream" for the 1982 World Cup Scotland squad (with John Sinclair Clarke) .

BA Robertson branched into acting and played the lead in the movie Living Apart Together (1982), directed by Charlie Gormley. He also wrote the score.

In 1985 BA Robertson started a song writing collaboration with Mike Rutherford (Genesis). Together they wrote "Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)" for Genesis and Mike and the Mechanics’s "The Living Years". The latter was written after Robertson's father died twelve weeks before the birth of his own son, and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Song of the Year in 1990.

In 1987 Robertson wrote (and produced) some of tracks on the Eddie and the Tide album Looking For Adventure.

He continued to write music for films and briefly became a television presenter. Jock 'n' Roll Parts I & II charted the history of pop music in Scotland and B. A. in Music featured contributions from contemporary musical guests. The show was made for Channel 4 but only had a short run. On air Robertson had a confrontation with Bow Wow Wow singer, Annabella Lwin during which she called the program a 'pretty shit show' and stormed off.

BA conducted the last on camera interview with Alex Harvey before Alex died in 1982.

Throughout the 80's and 90's he continued to write and work in the studio with an even more diverse group of artists, including Sam Brown, Roger Daltrey, Lonnie Donegan, Dave Edmunds, Bernard Edwards, Peter Frampton, Alan Gorrie, John Jarvis, Maz + Kilgore, Joe Sample, Helena Springs, Andy Taylor (Duran Duran) and Chaka Khan.

He wrote the theme for the Wogan Show and in 1986 he was commissioned to compose the music for The Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh.

From the 90s on wards BA has continued to work both in the UK and the US writing, producing and more recently performing again.

Worth a listen
Brian Alexander Roberstson
Moira's Hand

Alexander Robertson
All the Thin Men (1976)
Goosebumps (1979)

BA Robertson
Bang Bang (1979)
Knocked it Off (1979)
Kool in the Kaftan (1980)
To Be or Not to Be (1980)
Flight 19 (1980)
We Have a Dream (1982)
Ceud Mìle Failte (A Hundred Thousand Welcomes) (1986)

Duet with Maggie Bell

Hold Me (1981)

Friday, 13 April 2018

The Beatstalkers

The Mod group was formed by two Shawlands Academy school boys, Alan Mair and Eddie Campbell in 1962. The lineup was Davie Lennox (vocals), Eddie Campbell (guitar), Alan Mair (bass) , and ‘Tudge’ Williamson (drums) [replaced by Jeff Allen]. A little later Ronnie Smith (rhythm guitar) joined the group. Under the management of Joe Gaffney they sang cover versions of obscure soul and R&B songs they heard at Gloria’s Record Shop in Battlefield.

The group gained quick popularity and were followed by hoards of screaming fans causing riots everywhere they made a pubic appearance. As a consequence they were dubbed by the press as the ‘Scotland’s Beatles.’ Beatstalker fans modified Beatle fan songs like

"We love you Beatstalkers,
Oh yes we do, and where you go-o-o, we'll follow you.
We've been to Barrowland, the Palais too,
Oh Beatstalkers we love you!

They even had fan songs like:

Heh I'm a Beatstalker fan
Heh I'm a Beatstalker fan
Davie, Eddie, Tudge, Ronnie, Alan
Davie, Eddie, Tudge, Ronnie, Alan
Davie Eddie, Tudge, Ronnie, Alan Mair

Sang to the tune Watermelon Man

The Beatstalkers were regulars at the Barrowland and the Dennistoun Palais and signed to Decca Records. The group released several singles including ‘Everybody’s Talkin’ ’Bout My Baby’. Although this sold well in Scotland ‘Left Right Left’ and ‘A Love Like Yours’ which followed, did nothing chart wise.

In 1967 the group moved to London and had a send off from Central Station with 2,000 screaming fans. They played regularly at the Marquee Club and appeared on Ready Steady Go. Now full blown Mods they wore tartan hipsters and sharp Ben Sherman shirts.

Despite changing labels to CBS the group was unable to achieve a major breakthrough. Now under the management of Ken Pitt, the Beatstalkers recorded three of hitherto unknown David Bowie compositions. ‘Silver Tree Top School For Boys’, ‘Everything Is You’ and ‘When I’m Five.’, All failed to catch public attention and after a series of mishaps and lack of general success the original group broke up in 1969. Allan Mair started a clothes and boot company in Kensington Market and in the early 70s employed Freddie Mercury as shop manager. Mair did eventually return to the music business and had success with the Only Ones. Eddie Campbell played in Tear Gas and Jeff Allen went on to play for Dr. K's Blues Band and then East Of Eden. Davie Lennox joined The Joe O'Donnell Band in 1978.

The Beatstalkers reformed for reunion concert at the Barrowlands in 2005. They enjoyed the experience and continue to play.

Worth a listen
Everybody's taking 'bout my baby/ Mr Disappointed (1965 )
Left Right Left/ You'd Better Get A Better Hold On (1966)
A Love Like Yours/Base Line (1966)
My One Chance To Make It/Ain't Got No Soul (Left In These Old Shoes) (1967 )
Silver Treetop School For Boys/Sugar Chocolate Machine (1967 )

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Bill Martin

William Wylie MacPherson was born in 1938 in Taransay Street, Govan, Glasgow. His father was a poet and piano player and Wylie learned to play piano as a child. He later attested his song writing skills to his father’s early influence. He went to Govan High and began writing songs as a teenager. Wylie left school at 15 and started as an Apprentice Marine Engineer at The Alexander Shipyard in Govan. His two main interests were song writing and football. At 18 he went to London to try to sell some of his songs but returned without success. On his return he was delighted to sign for Partick Thistle and later joined Johannesburg Rangers in South Africa and the for next three years Wylie found himself exiled but kept writing and in 1960, London Music Publisher accepted one of his compositions called “That’s the only way.” The song was never recorded. Undaunted he kept at it and eventually in 1962 he had his first published song, “Kiss me now,” recorded by Tommy Quickly.

The song sold moderately in Australia but was a flop in the UK. Quickly was one of Brian Epstein’s GEMS artists and this did raise Wylie’s profile. Still writing as Wylie McPherson he was advised to shorten his name to ten letters and chose Bill Martin. In 1964 he teamed up with Tommy Scott and together they wrote songs for: The Bachelors, Twinkle, Van Morrison, and Serge Gainsbourg.

In 1965, Bill met Phil Coulter and formed a publishing company which spurned hits for many British artists. The impressive list includes: The Troggs and Geno Washington (Hi Hi Hazel 1965); Cliff Richard (Congratulations 1968), and Cilla Black (Surround yourself with sorrow 1969), The Dubliners (Scorn not his simplicity 1970) and many, many more.

However, it was a composition for the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest which catapulted them into the superstar category it was Puppet on a string recorded by Sandie Shaw.

Success continued into the 70s staring with the number one hit by The English World Cup Squad (Back Home 1970).

Martin and Coulter were quick to spot the rising popularity of Scotland’s Bay City Rollers and penned a few of their hits including: Remember (Sha La La La) (1974), Shang a lang (1974), Summerlove Sensation (1974), All Of Me Loves All Of You (1974), and the band’s #1 US hit Saturday Night (1976).

Phil Coulter and Bill Martin translated the lyrics of Jean-Pierre Bourtayre and Claude François song. "Parce que je t'aime, mon enfant" (Because I Love You My Child) into English and the song was recorded by Elvis Presley in 1973 and reached #20 on the Billboard pop chart,

Bill and Phil later formed the Martin-Coulter Music Group to discover new talent including Billy Connolly and Midge Ure. Martin-Coulter Music, also signed other songwriters including Van Morrison, Christy Moore, Donal Lunny, Eric Bogle, They continued the hit factory with Kenny “The Bump" and 'Fancy Pant's; Slik with ‘Forever And Ever’. (1976).

Aside from pop music Bill also wrote for films and TV including “The Water Babies”, some “Carry on" films and a number of television theme songs including "Spiderman ".

The partnership with Coulter ended in 1983 when Martin bought out Coulter's share of the business then sold it to EMI Music. In the same year he produced the stage musical Musical Jukebox which ran to critical acclaim in the West End for six months. Bill has continued to write songs and collaborated with many other composers. As a songwriter, record producer and music publisher the boy from Govan has had No1s in every country of the world and some estimated worldwide sales of over 35 million. Bill Martin continues with other business interests but was recently inducted into his old school Govan High's Inaugural Hall of Fame in 2011 and joins fellow luminary, Sir Alex Ferguson.

Worth a listen

Tommy Quickly
Kiss Me Now (1963)

The Troggs
Hi Hi Hazel (1965)

Sandie Shaw
Puppet on a string (1967)

Cliff Richard
Congratulations (1968)

Cilla Black
Surround yourself with sorrow (1969 )

All kinds of Everything (1970 )

England World Cup Squad
Back Home (1970 )

Richard Harris
My Boy (1971)

Dick Emery
Ooh you are awful (but I like you) (1972 )

Elvis Presley
My Boy (1973 )

Bay City Rollers
Remember (Sha La La La) (1974 )
Shang a lang (1974 )
Summerlove Sensation (1974 )
All Of Me Loves All Of You (1974)
Saturday Night (1976 )

The Bump (1974 )
Fancy Pants (1975)

Forever and ever (1975)
Requeim (1976 )

The Water Babies
High Cockaloum (1978)

Monday, 19 March 2018

Jackie Dennis - The Kilted Choirboy

Jackie Dennis was born in Leith, Edinburgh in 1943. He grow up in Canonmills and loved to sing. He started performing aged 14 and became popular with US Servicemen regularly appearing at an American Air Force base in Prestwick. The spiky haired teenager covered pop tunes dressed in a kilt and his likable cheeky persona earned him the title, “The Kilted Choirboy". Mike and Bernie Winters (a comedy duo) spotted him and made the introduction to their show.

Business agent Eve Taylor signed him and he recorded for Decca. There under the watchful eye of Harry Robinson (Lord Rockingham’s XI) he recorded a cover version of Billy and Lillie’s US hit “La Dee Dah.” The single went to #4 in the UK Charts in 1958.

Meantime Eve Talyor secured him a spot on the Six-Five Special (BBC), television program and subsequent movie spin off. The tartan teenager proved a popular novelty act.

When Jerry Lee Lewis controversially withdrew from his British tour Jackie Dennis replaced him.

He also toured the US and appeared on the Perry Como Show billed as 'Britain's Ricky Nelson.’

On his return he continued to perform and released several singles. Despite his initial success his subsequent works were less commercial. A cover of Sheb Wooley's "Purple People Eater” did make it to the UK Top Thirty which would prove Jackie’s last chart success.

Musical tastes were changing and Jackie found it difficult to break free of the cocky Scotty image. After he was dropped by Decca he retired from show business in the early 60s.

Worth a listen La Dee Dah / You're the Greatest (1958)
My Dream /Miss Valerie (1958)
The Purple People Eater / You-oo (1958)
More Than Ever / Linton Addie (1958)
Lucky Ladybug / Gingerbread (1959)
Summer Snow/ Night Bird (1959)
The Wee Cooper O' Fife / Come Along (1959)

Monday, 5 February 2018

Alex Harvey (1935 - 1982) [SAHB]

Alex Harvey was born in 1935 in the Gorbals, Glasgow. He did a number of jobs after leaving school aged 15, before turning to music in 1954. He played trumpet with a number of different Dixieland and jazz bands around Glasgow including the Clyde River Jazz Band and the Kansas City Skiffle Group. In 1956 he entered and won a talent competition as “Scotland’s answer to Tommy Steele.” Alex preferred the songs of Big Bill Broonzy and Jimmie Rogers and turned his talents to singing them in a skiffle group. Once skiffle peaked he played pop covers with the Kansas City Counts. In 1959 Alex had formed the "Alex Harvey's Soul Band," (sometimes called, Alex Harvey's Big Soul Band) and was performing around Scotland sometimes backing Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran and John Lee Hooker on their local tours. The band took the opportunity to work in Germany eventually taking residency at the famous Top Ten Club in Hamburg. A recording contract with Polydor Records and released a live album called Alex Harvey and His Soul Band, in 1963.

The recording took place in an empty theatre with the Liverpool band the Undertakers (although some authorities credit "Kingsize" Taylor & the Dominos) both playing and acting as the audience. The album is now highly sought after and considered to be one of the better live recordings of that era. A couple of singles came from the album, an excellent cover version of Willie Dixons’ “I just want to make love to you”, which is in my opinion, superior to the Rolling Stones version; and a brilliant cover of Muddy Waters' "Got My Mojo Workin'".

Alex left the band in 1965 and recorded an album with his younger brother Les, the album was called The Blues.

Back in Glasgow a year later the Harvey brothers teamed with local musicians (including Bill Patrick and singer Isobel Bond) to form the Blues Council but the group soon disbanded and Alex briefly joined Giant Moth a psychedelic band.

By 1967, he had found steadier work in the backup band for the London production of Hair. Three years later he released another solo effort, Roman Wall Blues, but it failed to make a commercial impact.

Just as Alex was rethinking his career he met Glasgow’s progressive rockers Tear Gas. Together they metamorphosed into the Sensational Alex Harvey Band in 1972. (SAHB) line up was guitarist Zal Cleminson ('Pierrot' image of white-painted clown make-up), bassist Chris Glen, and the cousins Ted and Hugh McKenna on drums and keyboards respectively and Alex on vocals. The band gave a good sound and all were accomplished musicians who would be happy on stage performing old pop songs, Broadway standards, folk music and heavy rock. Their live act was amazing with Alex’s performances a combination of musical and verbal flair coached in both humour and sincerity with songs which often contained messages and morals.

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band scored a couple of chart hits in the UK "Delilah", a re-make of the Tom Jones hit, and also with "The Boston Tea Party".

In 1974 the band released the Next album.

SAHB also made several concept albums including The Impossible Dream and Tomorrow Belongs To Me. Their live act also featured a tale of "Vambo", an urban superhero who was the subject of some of his more energetic numbers.

His physical performances took their toll and with back problems Alex announced his retirement in 1977. He made a brief comeback in the '80s with the Electric Cowboys, but sadly died of a fatal heart attack in 1982. SAHB did reform after Alex’s death and have played at rock concerts across Europe ever since.

Worth a listen:
Alex Harvey Soul Band
I just want to make love to you (1964)
I got my mojo working (1965)

Sensational Alex Harvey Band
Faith Healer (1973)
Gang Bang (1974)
Next (1974)
Vambo (1974)
Cheek to Cheek (1975)
Action Strasse (1975)
Delilah (1975)
Boston Tea Party (1976)

Monday, 25 December 2017

Barry St John

Elizabeth Thompson was born in Glasgow in 1943. She enjoyed singing from a young age and as a teenager joined the Ian Campbell & The Midnighters. Later she became vocalist and backup singer with Bobby Patrick Big 6 in 1961, before moving to London with the band in 1962. Bobby Patrick Big 6 were invited to tour American bases in Germany before taking up residence at the club, Hamburg. She took the stage name Barry St John. Despite the band making several pressings none contain the soulful voice of Barry St John

Barry St. John' management encouraged her to leave the band and pursue a solo career in England. In 1964, she recorded her first single for Decca a cover of The Jarmels, ‘A little bit of soap’ and the’ B side’ was a cover of The Shirelle's 'Thing of the Past'. Both highlighed perfectly her soulful vocal stylings. Her follow up single, was a version of the Newbeats’ ‘Bread and butter’ made the German top 40 in 1964.

In 1965, she had a minor UK hit with Chris Andew’s ‘Mind how you go’, but the follow up ‘Hey boy’ produced by Andrew Loog Oldham , failed to attract attention and Decca released her from contract.

Barry moved to Columbia Records, and had her only UK singles chart entry with an anti-protest song, "Come Away Melinda", produced by Mickie Most and Mike Hurst made #47 in the UK charts in 1965. The ‘B side’, Although atypical of her work, the song came the closest to providing Barry with a UK hit – it spent one week at number 47 in the UK charts in December 1965. The B-side, ‘Gotta brand new man’, was more in her style and later became much in demand on the northern soul dance scene.

The more soulful, ‘Everything I touch turns to tears,’ (1966) failed to sell well and Barry was released from her contract. The song has subsequently became popular with northern soul.

In 1967, she joined The Krew, as lead vocalist and this brought her back to work with former The Bobby Patrick Big Six member, Archie Legget. The band released an album entiltled, ‘According To St. John, ‘ on Major Minor label in 1968. The album was produced by produced by Mike Pasternak, (aka Emperor Rosko). The next two singles came from the album.

Cry like a baby, was released in 1968 The second was a cover of By the time I get to Phoenix, which had previously given Country and Western singer Glenn Campbell a hit in the US.

Barry became regular session singer and worked with Alexis Korner, Long John Baldry, and Duster Bennett in the late 1960s. Between 1972 and 1973 she was a member the Les Humphries Singers and later featured on backup in Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon (1973) and Roger Glover's rock opera The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper's Feast (1974). She also was a session singer on Andy Fairweather Low's, La Booga Rooga (1975).

Whilst still a session singer and working with Bryan Ferry, Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel and Elton John in the 70s, she carried on with her solo career releasing several singles including 'My man,' (1974), and 'I won’t be a party' (1975).

Barry continued a busy schedule into the early 1990s having worked with many pop luminaries including Elton John and Jorge Ben Jor.