“Hail Caledonia! Thy name acts like magic on each Scottish heart when they’re far o’er the sea.” (Hugh Ogilvie, 1912)
“Haw! Somebody get me a taxi, puleez!” The voice was loud and unmistakably Scottish. I naturally rushed to his aid in the middle of A&M’s parking lot and suggested, “Haw! Take mine. I’ll be here for a while.”
The voice in question came from none other than Dougie Thomson, bass player with my A&M stablemates Supertramp and a proud ex-resident of Rutherglen, Glasgow. We chatted fondly of the rainy weather we were now avoiding here in California and compared our shared near-death experiences while playing the Mill Hotel in his native suburb.
“Here, huv ye met Andy? He’s English ye know.”
Andy turned out to be Mr Summers, guitar player with multi-million seller’s The Police and I had indeed met him many years before.
“Do you remember the early years?” I asked him over a beer in the staff room.
“It’s pretty much all I remember now,” Andy replied rather sadly.
“Oh, good!” I said, ignoring his obvious despondency.
“We used to rehearse in the same studios back in ‘78.”
“Yeah,” I continued regardless, “I was in a band called The Mirrors and you lot were next door practising a song I think was called I Don’t Want No Day Job, right?”
“Yeah, that was one of our first…”
“Aye, it was Shite!” I interjected.
“Nothin’ personal. You and I used to play on the pinball machine? You always beat me, mind?”
“Billy? Are you Billy?”
“Aw Man! Now I remember you. Is that you on the billboard out there? Fuck me. I loved kickin’ your arse on that machine!”
“Steady on Andy…”
“You sucked Man!” He was laughing now, me not so much. Ach, who am I kidding. I was laughing too.
“I really miss those days,” he went on to say. “I wish sometimes we were back there,” and he meant it.
Not me, though. There was a pinball machine next to the toilets, so I challenged Andy to a rematch. He kicked my arse again. Fortunately, my disappointment was short-lived as A&M had cancelled my flight home that day to have some brainstorming meetings about my ‘dreaded 2nd album,’ as Andy put it. “I hope you don’t end up miserable like us Bill,” were his parting words as he left to go back, I assumed, to his Malibu mansion.
I wasn’t miserable at all, nor was I dreading making a 2nd album. Hell, I had what everyone was telling me was a hit record, my very own band and 6 or 7 songs which I played snippets of on an acoustic guitar to the bigwigs who loved them all. “At least we’ve got the next album title,” said an elated Jordan Harris after I’d played them Crankin’ Up The Handle. Along with Jordan and Gil Friesen, manager Jim White was in attendance, and we seemed to thrash out all the details in a relatively short time, well most of the details. It was agreed for instance that John Ryan would continue in the producer’s role although I’d briefly suggested my new mate Mick Ronson for the gig. “He’d be up for it,” I told everyone. “I bet he would,” said Gil before assuring the rest of us that Mick hadn’t done a great job with their Canadian signing The Payolas a few years back. I disagreed but was outvoted. Also agreed was that drummer Gary and bassist Max should be hired. No more drum machines and a heavier ‘live’ sound was the order of the day. Finally, which studio should we use? Various suggestions were made: Air Studios Montserrat, too expensive, especially when the bar bill from 2XS was mentioned. A&M’s own studio right here on the lot was also ruled out due to its proximity to Sunset Strip and the distractions that offered. Several more candidates were bandied around until: I swear you could’ve heard a pin drop if it wasn’t for all the laughter when I put my hand up and declared:
“I wanna do it in Glasgow.”