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“And if your train’s on time, you can get to work by nine and start your slaving job to get your pay.” (Bachman-Turner Overdrive: Takin’ Care of Business, 1973)

I wasn’t privy to the meeting Zal had with Mountain Management after leaving his own band, but I do know it had to be bad enough for him to attach a Finchley Cabs plate to his Citroën estate car. My meeting, however, was much more amicable and, as I only had a Mini 850, there was no chance of me following him in his new vocation. Basically, Jump Out the Window had impressed Mountain boss Derek Nicol enough to keep me on the payroll. A&R guy Davie Batchelor (SAHB producer & singer with Tear Gas til Alex arrived) supplied me with a reel to reel tape machine and even Hugh McKenna’s Mini Moog (which rattled til I discovered the empty vodka miniatures inside) and left me to it.

Tear Gas 1971
Tear Gas 1971

Chris' House 1978
Chris’ House 1978 with brother-in-law Harry

Davie liked the demos and suggested I do ‘em with Chris & Ted, also still on the payroll but, to cut a long story short, we were all let go by Mountain shortly afterwards. It wasn’t pleasant; in fact, it was pretty nasty and involved an underling at the time called Jim White. Remember the name. In the meantime, the most important thing for me was to remain in London where I could scour the music papers for auditions. This meant getting a job and actually working for a living which, in North London during 1978, wasn’t difficult. (Margaret Thatcher was merely the local MP for Finchley at the time and I was the only one who didn’t vote for her. What a visionary I was.) I suppose the most interesting thing to point out about the ‘Mountain demos’ is how your brain can hold on to the slightest of ideas and regurgitate them years later. Case in point: The guitar riff I play on In Depth became Let Me Be Your Dog.

In Depth home demo with Chris Glen 1978

I found work as a labourer with Tompkins & Sons (near Zal’s taxi rank) earning £60 a week, already a raise in my living standards from being a Rock Star, but I was determined to go back down the ladder (metaphorically and literally) in due course.
Mr Tompkins: “So ‘Jock,’ any experience of labouring?”
Me: “No sir, but I assume at £60 a week I won’t be required to ‘take it up the arse?”

Mr Tompkins: “Indeed no son. We’ve got joiners for that.”

“Fifty Grand? For that, you can sign ma dog. Want me to put him on?” (Alex Harvey on the phone to RCA Records, 1979)

I was actually there in Alex’s house when that conversation took place, but let’s backtrack a little to mid-1978 when I spotted an ad in Melody Maker: “Major RCA rock band seeks lead guitarist.”

The only RCA rock band I could think of was The Sweet so, after securing an audition at Camden Town’s Roundhouse the next day, I showed up expecting to meet Brian Connolly, who’s from Blantyre by the way. Instead, some bloke called Rudi shook my hand and after discovering I’d played in a band with SAHB started screaming excitedly to his bandmates (in German) before beckoning me into rehearsals. It went well. So well in fact that, within half an hour, I was offered the job with one stipulation: I had to move to Hannover. “Shouldnae be a problem,” I replied. “Ah’ll just need tae check with ma fiancé.” It was agreed Rudi would call me that night to confirm Mary was okay with the move, and he did, and she was. All was good, Rudi said someone would call with flight details and they’d find us a nice house in the Hinterland. Wow! My first audition and a new start with a band I’d never heard of called ScorpionsThen, nothing. No call, no tickets, no house keys, nothin’.

Rudi Schenker
Rudi yells “Beelee!”

Years later, I met up with them in a Birmingham hotel when I was with Nazareth. “Beelee!” yelled Rudi from across the crowded bar and gave me a big German hug. After a few drinks, I asked him outright what had happened. (By this time, I knew what had happened, a bit. Uli Jon Roth had left in ‘78 and was replaced by Matthias Jabs, the guy now sitting across from me, but why not me?)
“I am so sorry,” Rudi said, taking my hands.
“You did get the job. You were moving to Germany with us; then we had second thoughts.”
“Why, Rudi, why?”
“In truth, my friend,” he frowned.

“We could not understand your English!”

“Looking in the mirror, but they don’t know that I’m scrapin’ it off every night.” (Nazareth: Preservation, 1982)

After the disappointment of the Scorpions try-out, I wasn’t in any hurry to commit to another band and besides, a new and exciting social life had developed as Mary and I were to be found either round at Chris’ house, or babysitting for Zal and wife Sandra. Then two things happened at once.

First, I met up with drummer Paul Simon, guitarist Mark Schofield and bassist Mike French who were looking for a frontman for a band with a difference. Although ‘melodies’ were encouraged, ‘no singing in American accents and definitely no cliched guitar solos’ were stipulated. I was ‘on the fence’ with their idea til they all admitted to being fans of Cheap Trick, so I was maybe definitely in, perhaps. The band was called The Mirrors and Paul’s then-girlfriend, Paula (no, really) worked at EMI, reckoned she could set up a ‘showcase’ type gig to hopefully land us a record deal. Much writing, rehearsing and demoing ensued, so much so that one evening at Chris’ house I ‘overplayed’ my welcome by making him listen to a full hour of us practising before pulling out another tape and announcing, “And this is from Tonight’s Rehearsal!” (I never ‘Crossed Chris’ again. Not unlike The Hulk, I didn’t like him when he was angry.)

The Mirrors 1978
The Mirrors November 1978. L-R Paul, Billy, Mark, Mike

The second thing to happen was a call from Eddie Tobin. His friend, Colin Robertson, who owned Shuffles Nightclub (now The Garage) back in Glasgow had formed a new record company, Delta Records, to be distributed through CBS. His partner was none other than Peter Shelley, who’d had solo hits with the likes of Gee Baby and Love Me, Love My Dog. He also had, as writer/producer with Magnet Records, created Alvin Stardust by not only writing and producing all of Alvin’s hits but, on the first few singles, actually WAS Alvin, before Shane Fenton was persuaded to lose his Fentones and adopt an even stupider name.

Alvin Stardust
Alvin Stardust 1974

As The Mirrors were playing our showcase gig for EMI, Peter called me and arranged a meeting with Delta. A single deal for The Mirrors was on offer from EMI, but Peter saw potential in me, not only as an artist, but as a songwriter with the promise of the full backing of CBS’ publishing arm, April Music. I had to quit the band. Bare bones of my short time with The Mirrors exist in later, barely recognisable form as in Preservation and Love Leads To Madness on my debut studio album with Nazareth, 2XS.

Ashamedly, I spent several weeks avoiding bandmates’ phone calls saying to Mary on one occasion,

“Now I know how Zal felt.”

“Tom Cat, you know where it’s at. C’mon let’s go to my flat.” (Alvin Stardust: My Coo Ca Choo, 1973)

One of the most outrageous tales ever told to me was by Peter Shelley during our first meeting at Delta Records/CBS.

It regards his massive solo hit single Love Me Love My Dog from 1975. After his appearance on Top Of The Pops, lots of children would show up at his house asking to see his dog as featured on TV. He didn’t have a dog, but his wife suggested they get one to placate them pesky kids. Unfortunately, the dog featured on TV was an Old English Sheepdog, one of the stupidest breeds and, as it was a pup, it proceeded to demolish everything in their house: Curtains, Sofa, Everything. A few weeks later, Love Me Love My Dog started to drop out of the charts, so Peter took his dog out for a walk by the canal with a brick, and in Peter’s words, “Sunk the Bastard!”

Now, this story either makes you very upset or makes you laugh your head off: I did both, but it gets better. His next single was entitled Gee Baby and during its time in the UK charts his wife frequently advised,

“Peter darling. You’re goin’ nowhere near that canal with our fuckin’ pram!”

“Some of the shit has sprouted in roses and some of the roses have died.” (The Wildhearts: Geordie In Wonderland, 1995)

The fine art of songwriting:

I was first inspired to write songs by listening to David Bowie, particularly his Hunky Dory album which had been completely overlooked til Dame Dave caught our attention by wearing makeup and crotch-less ear flaps, thus forcing us all to buy his entire back catalogue, shit and all. Being (slightly) classically trained, I became aware of his clever combination of chords. I mean, how could he steal the entire structure of Frank Sinatra’s cover of Paul Anka’s My Way and turn it into the verse for Life On Mars? From that moment I decided all my songs would be ‘overly complicated and self-indulgent’ until one fateful day in 1978.

Peter Shelley
Peter Shelley 1974

Rob Davis
Rob Davis 1974

As CBS’s latest signing, I was invited to a songwriter’s workshop at April Music in London by PeterAlso at the table that day was former Mud guitarist, Rob Davis, who later wrote Can’t Get You Out Of My Head for Kylie Minogue, and ex-Womble creator, Mike Batt.

Mike Batt
Mike Batt songwriting

The idea was that we all played one of our song demos then gave our opinions of them. Rob went first, and although I can’t remember his ditty, I could easily get it out of my head, and told him so. A sideways glance from Peter should’ve warned me, but hey, I was young and arrogant. Rob was neither of those things and, his song was, forgettable. Mike Batt’s offering, on the other hand, was not, in fact you probably know it. He played us a ballad called Bright Eyes. Afterwards both Peter and Rob commended it for its structure, its melody and mainly for how fabulous it was. “Ah!” I thought. “So that’s what this is all about. Compliment their song.” As much as I wanted to I couldn’t, so instead found myself exclaiming, “That’s the most cliche-ridden crock of shit I’ve ever heard! No offence Mike.” Mike didn’t take any. Instead, he informed us it was to feature in an upcoming animated movie about rabbits and would be sung by Art Garfunkel. (Note: It became the biggest selling UK single of 1979.) “That’s worse!” I announced, “He’s Shit too!” I then played my song. I don’t remember what, but it was obviously ‘overly complicated and self-indulgent’ cos that’s how I roll. Mike was genuinely complimentary and that made me feel bad. Not enough to change my opinion on Bright Eyes, it was still a crock of shit. Afterwards, I asked Peter what I should do to make amends. “Write a ballad like Mike’s,” he said. “Just to show you can.”

So I did.

CaVa Studios, Glasgow Demo 1980

It was called You Changed My Life Overnight, jokingly renamed by Peter and me as Exchange Your Wife Overnight. Within 2 weeks of April Music receiving my demo, they informed me they’d gotten a lawyer’s letter from a ‘Famous Male Recording Artist’ requesting a ‘First Dibs’ on the song, enforceable for 5 years. (In the end, he didn’t record it but that wasn’t the point.)
“I knew you could do it!” said Peter when I told him the news.
“You wrote to order. That makes you a songwriter and a publisher’s dream.”
Just don’t tell that Womblin’ Rabbit-Faced Mike Batt,” I countered.
“Why?” asked Mr Stardust. “Who’s the Famous Male Recording Artist?”
Although I knew Peter was really chuffed for me, I had to brace myself for the response I deserved before informing him, and I quote:

“Barry Fuckin’ Manilow!”

“Bigmouth, oh bigmouth, la, Bigmouth Strikes Again.” (The Smiths, 1986)
Music Week 28.7.79
Music Week 28th July 1979

As Delta Records 2nd signing, I was paraded by Peter to the Mothership CBS Records offices in Soho Square. I met boss Maurice Oberstein and his rather large hound, neither of whom thankfully understood my accent when I announced, “If that dug comes near me, ah’ll boot its baws,” and the head of A&R Muff Winwood (known to everyone in the office as ‘Duff Windbag’) who played me a track by his most recent signing, Dire Straits entitled Sultans Of Swing. “Load of pish,” I muttered to Peter. Unfortunately Duff, sorry Muff did understand my accent, or maybe he’d just been subjected to this insult before. Either way, and after obtaining my assurance I’d never apply for a job as an A&R guy, Peter hurriedly escorted me to CBS’s music store downstairs where I met Frank Zappa who was in town to promote his Sheik Yerbouti album. He was trying out and being offered free Fender amps and guitars by overawed staff. “Can I get one?” I asked. They didn’t respond, obviously unaware of who I was, or perhaps just under-awed.

Rick
Who? Me?

Someone else unaware of who I was happened to be Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, also trying out free stuff and getting similar treatment to Big Frank. I had to speak to him, so I went through the whole “You’re my hero! Cheap Trick is my favourite band in the whole world! Can I wear your cap?” type thing to which he replied, “No, you can’t. And you are?” I then went through the whole “I’m CBS’s new solo signing, I’m gonna be huge. Oh, and I used to play with Zal, Chris and Ted from SAHB.”  “No way! You shittin’ me, Man?” It turns out Cheap Trick & SAHB toured together years before and were bestest buddies. After promising to pass on his regards to my ex-bandmates and still refusing to let me wear his cap, we took up separate positions in the store and tried out stuff only one of us was going to leave with for free. This is where it gets interesting. I had a new song called Angelina She Gone which had a very distinctive riff in D. I started playing it through different amps etc. I don’t need to elaborate further except if you check out a song called Way Of The World, from the then yet to be released CBS Dream Police album, and replace my lyric: ‘Angelina, Angelina, Angelina She Gone’ with ‘I’ve been running, I’ve been hiding, It’s the way of the world,’ you’ll know how my song went.

Yep, Rick Nielsen stole it!

This would come back to bite his ass when Cheap Trick and SAHB (with me in tow) were reunited years later in Glasgow, April 22nd 2002 to be precise. That night, after I’d confronted Rick and the song’s co-writer Robin Zander of their crime and promised them I wouldn’t sue, Rick could only put it down to ‘subconscious plagiarism’ which is a fair cop. Robin’s reply was much more to the point and features elsewhere on this website. Anyway, back to 1979.

Baby It Feels So Right 1979
I Wanna Spend My Life With You acetate 1979
Can’t Stop Now 1979
Can't Stop Now acetate 1979
Jump Out The Window 1979
Morgan-Studios
Morgan Studios

I say I was Delta Records 2nd signing because, as Producer/A&R boss and part-owner of the new company, Peter Shelley quite rightly signed himself as its 1st and Delta’s first release was to be a song I’d co-written with him called Baby It Feels So Right. I was drafted in as guitarist on what was to become my first ever session in a professional recording studio, Morgan Studios owned by seasoned session drummer, Barry Morgan who also played on the record. Mel Collins played sax and an array of other seasoned session players contributed cos Peter knew them all. Big Jim Sullivan (who’d mentored a young Jimmy Page) played on all of Peter’s Alvin Stardust records but obviously wasn’t available that day, hence my involvement. The finished product was typically bland MOR fodder and thankfully wasn’t a hit, but it was picked as Record of the Week on BBC Radio 2 so was heard every two hours by anyone listening. I didn’t tell anyone.

Delta 1979
Delta Records announcement July 1979

Next, it was my turn. Peter selected a song I’d written called I Wanna Spend My Life With You, a bit like Bonnie Tyler/Frankie Miller hits of the time, but not quite as good. Sticking with Morgan Studios, Peter asked if I knew a good bass player, drummer and keyboardist or should he just go ahead and book his usual shit-hot sessioneers? I immediately name-dropped Chris Glen, Ted McKenna and Tommy Eyre to which Peter responded, “Who?” but graciously agreed to my choices. (Unfortunately, Ted was unavailable, due to having recently started working with some talentless upstart called Rory Gallagher, so I called in my old Phase drummist, Allan Hendry.)

Phase in 1977
Allan Hendry

Recording went well and Tommy, in particular, was brilliant so long as we got him before 4pm, after which he’d get rip-roaringly drunk. Me, Chris and Allan (and Peter, who’d try and keep up, bless) would abstain till nearer 5. A ‘B side’ was needed and, fortunately, I had one which Chris already knew and Allan picked up quickly during a tea break in the studio bar. (Tommy wasn’t required, or was too pished, or both.) In a single take, which surprised the shit out of Peter, we nailed my old Zal Band ditty, Jump Out The Window. After overdubbing a guitar solo and backing vocals (all of us yelling “Over Yoo!”) we indulged in a few spliffs (which again surprised the shit out of Peter. He’d never had a spliff from Chris before.) We went back to the bar and laughed uncontrollably at Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson laughing uncontrollably at a new episode of Fawlty Towers. A few days later, Peter decided the single wasn’t strong enough so we went back into the studio, minus Allan who’d returned to Kirkintilloch and was replaced by Pete Phipps from The Glitter Band (another of Mr Stardust’s, sorry Peter’s sessioneers) and came up with Can’t Stop Now. It didn’t even make Radio 2’s playlist, so that saved me the bother of not telling anyone.

It was then that I met Patrick Campbell-Lyons, an eccentric but lovely Irish producer at an April Music songwriter’s workshop who, when hearing of my connection with SAHB, asked me to get one of his songs to Alex Harvey. I went round to Alex’s house armed with Patrick’s cassette and my first single. (See earlier Alex/RCA phone conversation.) Alex didn’t much care for Patrick’s song but cared even less for my Can’t Stop Now ‘45. “Load of pish!” he muttered, reminding me of myself in a déjà vu moment before smashing the vinyl record against a nearby coffee table. “The B-side’s quite good,” I offered, cowering slightly. “Oh?” he sneered. “Got another copy?” After Jump Out The Window started, Alex let it play, turned it up and exclaimed, “Now that’s more like it!”

Tittenhurst
Tittenhurst Park

Disappointed with Alex’s response to his song (which I could ‘physically’ relate to) Patrick nevertheless offered me a session as guitarist on an album he was about to produce with a country singer called Nancy Pepper. The recording was at John Lennon’s home studio in Tittenhurst Park, where the last Beatles photos were taken, where he’d shacked up with Yoko and where he’d recorded Imagine. Ringo had since bought the whole estate from John and renamed the recording facility Startling Studios. The other musicians comprised of Van Morrison’s backing band and, although flattered, I had to ask Patrick, “Why me?” His reasoning didn’t resonate with me at the time but now, years, decades later I kinda get it. “You’re good enough to play with The Sensational Alex Harvey Band.” I gained experience in the studio playing with great musicians and, although the album was never released to my knowledge, it did spawn an unusual connection with a song I wrote years later. I played a bass line intro during Nancy’s vocal rehearsals, subconsciously retaining it for what was to become Come On Boys from the Crankin’ album. Not that I recall Nancy ever using this term but who knows? She was from Coatbridge after all.

Nancy Pepper – Sunsets & Silver Bullets

On the last night as I was stripping down my amps etc., a young guy arrived in a van with a drum kit. His name was Rick, he was 15 years old and he’d driven, illegally, from Sheffield. I helped him unload the van, set up his kit and even took him for a cheeky pint or two at the local pub. On our return, Rick became my young and pished accomplice as we invaded the ‘forbidden’ section of Lennon’s mansion and, with the aid of a roadie’s screwdriver, we prised out the cigarette-butt-stained onyx ashtray in the master bedroom. (The one on the bedside table marked John. The one marked Yoko was left alone, it had split up The Beatles after all.) I still have it, but can’t admit to it, right? As we parted company, me back to London and he to the nearest sink to throw up his 3rd pint, Rick informed me his band were starting their 1st album’s recording tomorrow. He’d driven down early to get his kit set up in advance. “That’s great son!” I said, sounding like the wise old 18-year-old I actually was. “What’s the name of your band?”  “Def Leppard,” he replied. “Def Leppard? Change the name son,” I sagely advised.

“That’ll never catch on!”

Warning: This section will only appeal to ‘Guitar Geeks.’
“So, what guitar do you play?”
1959 Gibson ES335.”
“Ah, a Real Guitar. Well, unless you’re a total twat, consider yourself in.”
(Telephone conversation with Nazareth’s Pete Agnew, 27th November 1980)

In truth, there was more to it than that. The fact that Eddie Tobin had recommended me, I had been in Zal’s band and Pete and I shared a love of Little Feat certainly helped my audition, but this was the factor which made the difference between me having to show up and play or just avoid being a total Twat.

I was first made aware of this guitar via Chuck Berry. It looked good but sounded like, well, Chuck Berry. Then I discovered Alvin Lee. He played one and wore clogs. After studying Alv’s guitar sound from Ten Years After’s Recorded Live album I realised this instrument had the edge on every other type of axe. Because of its semi-hollow body, you could get various feedback options dependent on where you opted to be in conjunction with your amp.

Aged 15 in 1975
Aged 15 in 1975 with newly acquired Gibson 335 both of us born in 1959

This appealed to me and when I heard there was one for sale privately in Glasgow back in 1975, I wasted no time in begging my dad to firstly drive me to the vendor’s house then pay the £250 asking price which I promised to pay back by doing a paper round. (Dad being Dad, he made damn sure I did.) The guitar itself was, as previously mentioned, a 1959 model and had been sprayed white (from its original sunburst finish) by well-known custom guitar guru, John Birch. It was a beauty and, in my hands, it played perfectly. In others, (Zal’s and Manny’s for example) not so much. That made it all the more perfect to me.

Charing Cross Hotel 76
Phase at Charing Cross Hotel, Glasgow 1975 pre-Bigsby 335

I soon had it fitted with a Bigsby tremolo arm (£25 from McCormack’s in Glasgow) then spent hours standing in different rooms of the house with my amp turned up full to see how many dogs in the street I could kill with its lethal feedback. Many cats also perished tragically. The final components to what was, and still is, the perfect Rock Sound were a 1960’s Marshall 50W valve amp with 4X12 speaker cab and a WEM Copycat echo unit with the gain turned fully up. I rarely used the tape echo. (Incidentally, this was all thanks to Bill Nelson who’d similarly used a Copycat with Be Bop Deluxe.) Over the years, I experimented with different pick-ups, from Di Marzio, EMG and others before finally settling for Seymour Duncan Jeff Beck humbuckers which retained more of the guitar’s natural character and tone whilst still having the capability of blowing one’s balls off. If proof be needed, after watching a Nazareth gig at the Cobo Hall, Detroit from my side of the stage, a very serious Ted Nugent burst into our dressing room and, pointing a gun at my suddenly quivering head yelled, “Sell me your guitar Motherfucker!”

Sound Elixir Tour 1983
Washburn 335 Sound Elixir Tour 1983

During my endorsement with Washburn guitars, head of the company, Greg shared my passion for the Gibson. He tried to replicate its every detail from not just the sound but also its exact neck and fret dimensions, resulting in some great replicas. (Even my 12 String Washburn was built using my 335’s measurements.) In years to come, I would play some other excellent guitars including the Les Paul Standard I had during the ’90’s and the Fender Strat once owned by Bob Seger’s axeman (who’d sold it to Dan for drugs money), but if ever there was a ‘soulmate’ between a guitarist and a plank of wood, the original 1959 Gibson ES335 was the love of my life. Still would be if I hadn’t, in a fit of inexplicable rage, utterly destroyed it.

On that day, many neighbourhood cats and dogs rejoiced.

“Looking to my future, not my past. I wanna be a good boy but how long can it last?” (Thin Lizzy: Fighting My Way Back, 1975)
Chris' House 1978
Uncle Chris’ House 1978

The remainder of 1979 did not pass without incident. On June 30th, my dad passed away. I took some solace in the fact that when I’d visited him in hospital a few days previously, after driving up from London, I’d handed him an advance copy of Can’t Stop Now with my name on the CBS label and he said he was proud of me. (He might not have said this if I’d actually played him the record.) It’s weird thinking back now, but only a few months before, he and Mum had paid me a visit in London “Just to check up on you,” as he put it. After I’d taken them round to meet my new ‘Uncle’ Chris Glen, he left happy saying, “Your mother and I can breathe easier knowing Big Chris is looking after you.” The fact that Big Chris had taught me how to smoke, drink and do Class A drugs had obviously slipped his attention and I’m glad I never replied with, “Thanks, Dad. Next week he’s going to show me how to freebase.” But in hindsight, dad was kind of right. On the morning he died, Mum phoned ‘Uncle’ Chris and asked him to tell me the bad news, as she couldn’t bring herself to do it by telephone. An hour later, with a bottle of Scotch in hand, Chris arrived at my door, sat me down, poured me a large one and held me tight as I cried my eyes out.

Another ‘incident’ occurred on December 15th 1979, when Mary and I got married at Hendon Registry Office. This led to a significant change for 1980. As newlyweds, we were now officially ‘Grown Up’ and began acting accordingly. (Apart from the night we spent at Barnet General suffering from severe flu symptoms, seemingly both vomiting blood. We were discharged later, after they discovered our attempted cure for the common cold had involved copious amounts of Captain Morgan’s rum and blackcurrant.) The other grown-up decision we made was to buy our first house. This would be impossible in the high-priced market of London Town but, as Delta Records now employed me as an artist and songwriter (Yeah, like that’s a proper job mate!) I could live anywhere and Mary could find work too due to her superior ‘real world’ abilities. In short, we moved back to Scotland.

Brian Young
Brian Young

The first thing I did after we moved into our Victorian sandstone flat in Glasgow was to acquire an upright piano. The weekly list of ‘Artists requiring Songs’ April Music was giving me included a lot of shall we say, ‘Middle of the Road’ acts, many of a keyboard persuasion but always for some reason mentioning Barry f*ckin’ Manilow and Cliff bloody Richard. Peter Shelley asked me to find a demo facility where I could record my new songs ‘appropriately’ meaning, “A lot cheaper than it would cost us in London.” This I did, in the shape of Ca-Va Studios. Ca-Va at this time was located in the basement of a building at 201 St Vincent Street, Glasgow, run solely by engineer, Brian Young and his girlfriend, Alison, henceforth to be known as Ali. Word on the street, apart from, “You’re getting stabbed,” was that Brian could achieve better sonic results with his 8 track facilities than 16 and 24 track studios in the area for a fraction of the price. This turned out to be accurate info. Brian Young’s talent was not only his gifted ability to work the equipment, but he was also a musician, with two ears. Avoiding getting stabbed by his competitors (and regular Glaswegians) was a boon. Our technique was simple. I would play all the instruments except drums. For that, we employed Kenny Hyslop (formerly with Salvation, then Slik, eventually Simple Minds. Google him. He’s awesome.) Brian would engineer/produce and April Music would send the results to Barry, Cliff and others. During this fruitful time, we’d come up with differing qualities of songs but always produced meticulously by Brian. Some you won’t have heard of, one you definitely, well maybe will be familiar with. Brian, Ali and Ca-Va shall appear again later.

Kirkintilloch Herald 15.7.80
Kirkintilloch Herald 15th July 1980

At the same time as I was ‘writing to order’ (My darling wife, Mary alludes to this time as: “That’s when all your songs sounded like the theme to Mr & Mrs”), Delta was also trying to advance my career as a solo artist. This resulted in several meetings with executives at STV and BBC Scotland. My first breakthrough was an appearance on the Steve Jones Programme as the musical guest performing a live version of one of the Ca-Va demos: When The Morning Comes. A fellow guest that day was future acting legend, Alex Norton. Google him too. Actually, I’ll save you the bother. Eck later starred in such epics as Taggart, Gregory’s Girl, Local Hero, Braveheart, Patriot Games, Les Miserables and even Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Years later, when we met at a pub gig I was playing (The Ettrick, Dumbarton Road, Glasgow) he could still sing the chorus of When The Morning Comes.

‘High Livin’ CaVa Studios, Glasgow demo 1980 (Mr & Mrs version #31)

‘I Want’ CaVa Studios, Glasgow demo 1980

Kirkintilloch Herald 12.80
Kirkintilloch Herald December 1980

My second break as a TV Artist was thanks to Anne Mason, an up-and-coming producer with STV, who’d been given a series of fifteen-minute shows to be aired at the peak time of 6pm before something interesting was scheduled to come on. Inspiringly entitled Hear Here, the premise was a singer (that would be me) could select their favourite artist and perform 3 or 4 songs live with STV’s house band. Daunting indeed, but I was young and Alex Norton was still on benefits, or should’ve been. I picked Buddy Holly cos my 1st choice of Be Bop Deluxe was deemed too “Who?” by Anne Mason and her cohorts. The show was recorded for future broadcast which ironically would lead to one of my favourite quotes from someone I was yet to meet: “Fuck’s Sake! Even Frank Sinatra isn’t on TV two nights in a row!”

After a meeting with Delta’s Colin Robertson in November 1980, who’d hinted my writing was lacking some balls in recent times, (Neither Manilow or Cliff had helped there) I decided to get back playing with a band. The band, or at least my involvement, was short-lived. An established ‘Functions’ trio, bassist/singer Tommy and drummer Midge hired me as guitarist and dual vocalist to replace their axeman who’d gone all ‘married’ on them. I should’ve called ‘Uncle’ Chris Glen, not necessarily to form a band, but at least to have touched base on how it is to Rock again or just score some decent drugs.

Fortunately, fortune now dealt an unexpected blow and I was about to be introduced to a new, bass playing Uncle.