“The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley.” (Robert Burns: To A Mouse, 1785)
This section is all about the album Sound Elixir. Now, before any Naz fans reading this decide to skip through it, let me just say I agree with many of you.
Sound Elixir is Shit.
Not that we planned it to be, it just is. It all began after the 2XS tour ended and Nazareth parted company with A&M Records in the US and Canada after a 12-year relationship. I’m not altogether sure why. One reason could’ve been the band’s gradual decline in popularity over there. Another I heard from friends at A&M later who said our manager, Jim White, put so many unreasonable stipulations into a new contract they had to say, “Go Fuck Yourself.” Jimbo negotiated a new deal with MCA (again conspiracy theorists I trust say he’d already done the deal under A&M’s noses.) MCA requested a new album, not only for the US but also for Phonogram in Europe, eager to capitalise on the success of Dream On. I say a new deal, but not for me. Nazareth were still (quite rightly in my opinion) regarded as McCafferty, Agnew, Sweet and Charlton, which I believe the non-inclusion of Locke ultimately cut the band down to a 5-piece.I was still on A&M/Phonogram’s radar for reasons already covered in this story. It was around this time the rest of the band began referring to me as “Billy Bethlehem, Son of Nazareth.”
Songwriting began with the same partnership arrangements from the year before though I tried writing with Dan and Manny on a few ditties (Blue Skies and Let Me See the Light) without much enthusiasm from all concerned. Darrell and I convened at my new abode in Dunfermline intending to write songs with strong melodies which the band would transform into Rock anthems using the same energy we’d already achieved on tour. It went well. Straight off the bat, we knocked out what everyone agreed was the follow-up ballad to Dream On: Where Are You Now. (A brief listen to my version on Growin’ Up Too Fast is how the two writers envisioned it should sound.) Another idea I’d had for a while, All Nite Radio, took shape along with Whippin’ Boy, Backroom Boys, Rags To Riches and a few others, one of which would become Why Don’t You Read The Book. Me and Big D were fast becoming the Lennon and McCartney of Methil (a cheap joke but only if you’re from Fife.) All to no avail, however, cos the finished product solidly proved to be, as I’ve said, Shit.
Blue Skies home demo 1982
Let Me See The Light home demo 1982
Where Are You Now home demo 1982
Rags To Riches home demo 1982
So what went wrong?
I blame two things:
1. Manny and Calum Malcolm’s production, in particular, Manny’s newfound love of guitar synths and Calum’s long-standing involvement with Scottish synth outfit The Blue Nile. For example, I remember at one point of the recording suggesting, “This calls for a blistering guitar solo,” to which Manny and Calum countered, “No. That’s just what they’d expect.”
“Well, Err, Fuckin’ Yeah!”
But even more to blame:
2. Me, Dan, Pete and Darrell’s complete failure to confront the way we sounded on the recordings. When Whippin’ Boy is rightly cited by fans as the most rocking track on the album and was as close to me and Darrell’s demo cos it featured two guitars, bass and drums, somebody should’ve spoken up. Take out the sampled drums, the effected bass, the lack of real electric guitars and all sort of 80’s jiggery-pokery, and Sound Elixir could’ve been a great Rock album. Backroom Boys was written and demoed shamelessly copying Dance, Dance, Dance from Crazy Horse’s first album, but ended up sounding like Tears For Fears.
That’s quite a leap… into a pile of shit.
Backroom Boys home demo 1982
“We ain’t no Wise Boys, we ain’t no Fools. We try to play clean and keep to the Rules.” (Nazareth: Vancouver Shakedown, 1978)
Little Mountain Studios wasn’t so different to Air Studios, Montserrat except for a lack of tropical climate and the fact that Sir George Martin couldn’t ban us from recording there. Despite the downsides, we agreed this was the perfect place to make what was to become Sound Elixir. We recorded and mixed from February 22nd until April 6th 1983. In-house engineer Mike Fraser was demoted to Tape Op due to us bringing Calum Malcolm to twiddle the knobs. Mike became our go-to guy for everything we didn’t know about this historically Nazareth-friendly city. (Side note: If you don’t know who Mike Fraser is then Google him. If, on the other hand, you are familiar with AC/DC, Aerosmith, Metallica and even Led Zeppelin then I’ve just saved you the bother.)
Me and guitar tech Davie Horner, in an attempt to avoid the customary drum set up, asked Mike for some advice. “I need a pair of portable speakers for my (recently invented) Sony Walkman,” I proffered. “And I want to go with him,” Davie added trying to make himself heard over Darrell’s relentless bass drum testing. Being typical males, the objective was achieved within 10 minutes of us following Mike’s advice after which Davie and I found ourselves in downtown Vancouver with time on our hands. “Pint?” one of us suggested. “Well, I think so,” the other agreed. Again, being boys, we soon found an old-style, sawdust-floored, 30 beers on draft type bar and perused the menu. “12 Buffalo wings and 2 pints of Old Pish Pot,” we confidently ordered and found a table near the bar. “Hey Bill,” said Davie after surveying our surroundings. “There are no women in here.” “Aye,” I concurred, “And all the barmen look like someone out of the Village People.” Our observations were interrupted by a Native American gent, (wait, Native Canadian, Inuit or Eskimo gent?) who was attempting to sell us a pair of black onyx totem poles. They were cool. He was asking $150 each and we’d seen ‘em at that price when we were buying my speakers. I offered half the price figuring they were ‘knocked off’ and our vendor, we’ll call him Nanook, accepted. After doing the deal, Nanook offered to give us some history about my new purchases. We got him a pint of ‘Old Pish Pot’ and momentarily forgot about our girl-less bar predicament.
Not for long.
During his informative lecture about the various layers of the 12″ statues, Nanook discreetly placed his hand on my knee, an action not missed by Davie who suddenly turned very camp: “Hey! Stop that ya Bitch! He’s mine!” “Whoa! Sorry, I didn’t know you two were in love.” “Aye! He’s a One-Man Man, Man!”
In hindsight and, after checking the local newspaper confirming we’d been in Vancouver’s No. 1 Gay Bar, we could’ve made a subtle exit if it hadn’t been for Davie’s parting comment. “Hey Nanook,” he yelled across a crowded bar while brandishing a foot long black onyx monolith.
“Where do you put the batteries in this?”
“No offence, Man, but we’ve subconsciously plagiarised better than you.” (Robin Zander’s response to Cheap Trick ripping off one of my songs. Glasgow Garage, 22nd April 2002)
Whippin’ Boy came about when Darrell and I got into a weird conversation. Big D was at a loss as to how we’d just supported Billy Squier in the US and not the other way round. “Cos he’s got a hit single (and album) and we don’t,” was my obvious response, but Darrell then made an interesting point. “Why was Everybody Wants You a hit? I mean, it’s not that special.” “Let’s write it again,” I suggested and quantified this logic by going to my record collection and playing him two songs back to back. The first was Norman Greenbaum’s Spirit In The Sky which was a UK No. 1 hit for weeks. We both hated it. Then I played him Alvin Stardust’s 1st single, My Coo Ca Choo, also a massive UK hit and the work of my old friend, Peter Shelley, who’d basically got the studio band to play their own version of Greenbaum’s hit which he then wrote a new song around. “Fuck me!” shrieked Darrell. “Two similar songs, both huge hits, and both Shite!”
Now I’m warning you all now. This next bit will only appeal to either songwriters or music fans with anal-retentive issues.
We started by actually playing Squier’s hit live in my house, just me with an acoustic and Darrell manually smacking the shit out of his hands, otherwise known as clapping. We recorded the 4-track home demo later that day. The song starts with a guitar riff in A major which obviously we couldn’t rip off, so a new riff was agreed on. Next, two power chords G to D takes us to the verse section. Then back to the riff, then verse section again before dropping to E major then back to the riff. Rinse and repeat. Both songs don’t have a chorus as such but Billy’s ditty wins hands down with the Everybody Wants You punchline compared to our Always been your Whippin’ Boy hook but, the bottom line is, we created a new song which can be played alongside its ‘original inspiration.’ If Mr Squier reads this, please don’t sue us. As a wise man who was probably trying to avoid litigation once said:
“Imitation is the sincerest form of Flattery.”
Whippin’ Boy acoustic home demo Jan/Feb 1982
Whippin’ Boy 4-track home demo Jan/Feb 1982
Everybody Wants A Whippin’ Boy
“I played it to John, played it to George and Ringo, family, friends even total strangers and they all loved it. But had they heard it somewhere before? No. That worried me.” (Paul McCartney on writing Yesterday, 1966)
All Nite Radio was not Yesterday. As a demo, it was only one more contender for inclusion on Sound Elixir, but what made it the opening track on the album was more of a Long And Winding Road… sorry. Pete and I were running through the arrangement in Little Mountain’s communal area, which happened to include a pinball machine. It would burst into life at the most inopportune moments, so much so we’d often have to unplug it from the wall as its “Thomb, Thomb, Thomb, Thomb” sonic invitation to play it could cause drinks to be spilt, though generally not by us Scots. I was singing the first verse from my demo version as in, “Turn off the TV, Turn down the lights,” when Pete commented:
“You’re singing like Paul Rodgers,” to which I responded,
“Really? Thanks, Pete.” “No. I mean I’ve heard Paul Rodgers sing that tune. ‘Here comes the Jesters, one, two, three.’ Bad Company. Rock And Roll Fantasy. It’s the same Fuckin’ melody.”
And it was.
“We need to change it. He’s from Yorkshire. He’ll sue us for sure.” During a furious attempt at coming up with a new, original verse, the pinball machine burst into life and Pete started playing a killer bass line alongside it. Within a few minutes, we’d concocted the idea of a guy unable to sleep, eat or fornicate so instead was reduced to lying in bed listening to, yes, you guessed it, the All Nite Radio.
“So you’ve run outa numbers, and you’ve run outa lovers. They won’t deliver that pizza. You’re hungry under the covers.”
The chorus, which I’d had for years, remained relatively unchanged cos Paul Rodgers, or McCartney for that matter hadn’t come up with it in the past. We hurriedly ran it by the rest of the band who were decidedly unimpressed til we introduced the real influence behind the final song. Five minutes later we’d hooked up a microphone to the pinball machine then spent an hour waiting for the bastard to fire up its “Thomb” sound which we then made into a loop. Result! Never, apart from Deep Purple featuring an air conditioning machine for the intro to Fireball had any band ever used an inanimate object as its basis for a song.
Unless we count the bubbles on Yellow Submarine… Dammit, Paul!
All Night Radio home demo 1982
“It’s three o’clock in the morning and they’re sayin’ you’ve had enough.” (Nazareth: Local Still, 1983)
Contrary to what some of you may think, being in a Rock band isn’t all work, work, work.
Case in point, Vancouver in 1983 was a hothouse for entertainment. Aside from the already experienced Gay Bar activity, this small but perfectly formed city had a thriving Rock community and I, for one, was up for joining it. To aid me in this quest, I had two Brian’s assisting me. One was Brian spelt correctly, the other was Bryan, as in Adams. I first met Bryan during our first few days at Little Mountain Studios when he’d turned up hoping to meet one of his heroes, Manny Charlton. This he did but, when I caught up with him later in the studio lounge, I realised we had something in common. No, he had never visited the No. 1 gay bar in Vancouver but strongly advised I never return to it, lest I leave with a totem pole up my arse. The common thread was that he was signed to A&M Records as a solo artist and I was about to be signed likewise. The parting comment of, “Hopefully see you around, Bryan,” was answered with, “Oh, you will, Bill,” or something like that. To be honest, I don’t remember, but that was the gist of it, okay?
The second Brian in this tale was to become one of my bestest friends for, oh, the 6 weeks we were in town, maybe more. Headpins’ guitarist Brian ‘Too Loud’ MacLeod was friends with drummer Matt Frenette and Mike Reno of Loverboy, Bryan Adams and his band. Hell, every single Rock musician in Vancouver was Brian’s mate and, thanks to a chance Jam session, I was too.
On the 14th of March 1983, I was invited onto the stage of a Rock club by Too Loud himself, both of us pished hence my non-recollection of the club’s name but, nevertheless, both determined to outplay the other. It was fun. At the end of the performance, Brian stepped up to the mic and announced: “I am Too Loud MacLeod, this is Crankin’ Rankin!” Wowzers. If only I could end the story here, but alas no. We all went back to other Bryan’s house where, after some further shenanigans, I passed out on the floor, quite happily I think, but who knows? Not me. I don’t remember, okay?
By the time I’d come to some sense it was now the early stages of 15th March 1983 and I’d gotten myself back to the apartment I shared with Darrell. Big D opened the door and said, “Where the Fuck have you been?” I tried to explain, but he sat me down at the kitchen table and hugged me. “Been trying to reach ye Billy Boy. Got a call from the hospital back home. You’re a daddy again. A wee lassie. Everything’s good. Mother and Baby doin’ fine.” He then produced two bowls, filled them with Corn Flakes and, instead of milk, poured a lavish amount of whiskey. Handing me a spoon, he beckoned we eat. “They’ll be nae work done today.” My daughter, Anna, was indeed born while I was unconscious on Bryan Adams’ floor. A fact she has never let me forget, though in my defence,
I don’t remember.
“A host of holy horrors to direct our aimless dance.” (Rush: Freewill, 1980)
The public perception of a Rock band’s workload is quite accurate, especially in the ’70s and ’80s. From Led Zeppelin to AC/DC it was always: Album/Press/Tour.
Nazareth were no exception though we may have added ‘Pub’ to the agenda a tad more than most. After our one gig as a 5-piece in February ‘83 which, due to TV coverage, would constitute Press, then recording Sound Elixir during March and April dispensed with the Album requirement, we were duty-bound to go back on the road. Thus, the Tour box was duly ticked in early May.
This time it was with Canadian prog-rockers Rush in Germany and we relished the prospect. The gigs were brilliant, both bands got along swimmingly, but Rush were entirely unprepared for Naz’s additional Pub clause. I can take personal credit for introducing this to one poor unsuspecting member of the band. Unbeknown to most, Geddy Lee is a big fan of malt whisky. He doesn’t drink it a lot, but when he does he savours every drop. Fuck, he’d even smell it before letting it slither down his throat then moan his approval as it hit the spot. Me, I didn’t particularly care much for the Water of Life, but I knew Darrell. This was enough for Geddy and me to embark on a, quite literally, spiritual journey across the many bars of Hamburg following our gig the night before. Yes, it was a night off before playing Düsseldorf. What could possibly go wrong?
As it happens, we had a wonderful time. We sampled many a fine snifter before finally arriving back at the hotel in the wee small hours clutching each other for added stability but, more importantly, to protect the bottle of, who knows, 150-year-old malt? I don’t remember, neither does Geddy I’d wager. Most admirably we made it to someone’s room, mine I recall, but only just. “Bill. Let’s have a nightcap,” spake the Gedmiester and poured us a large one. “Don’t wanna alarm ye Geds,” I slurred, “But I’m seeing two of you.” “No Shit? I’m seeing four of you!”
Our uncontrollable laughter was interrupted by my hotel door being forcibly removed from its hinges and entered by Rush’s tour manager who, after slinging Geddy over his shoulder, turned to me and exclaimed, “You! Stay the Fuck away from my bass player!”
And I did.
“You know we aim to please, bring you to your knees.” (Motörhead: Bomber, 1979)
Speaking of Hamburg, this was to be the location for the 3rd worst video ever made and, having been in both the 1st and 2nd worst videos ever made, we demanded a copy of the script.
It didn’t read too badly: To be filmed in a 1940’s themed ballroom with the band suited and booted in period costume. Eventually, the ballroom and band would be brought up to the present time. The End. Our initial feedback was positive though Pete’s poignant observation that a 1940’s Hamburg ballroom would be, for the most part, covered in dead bodies under tons of concrete and bomb-induced debris was wisely omitted from our fax to Phonogram Germany. His suggestion of having us play instruments of the day cos “Les Paul’s weren’t invented yet” was entirely accurate as they came out in 1952 so he was given a full-size double bass for his trouble. Even the inclusion of the, now stereotypical, love interest for Dan was grudgingly accepted cos his wife hadn’t stopped laughing at the last two he’d been filmed with. Not the women, just him.
At no point in the discussions between video director and band do I remember anyone say, “Hey! Let’s get a helicopter.”
Footage of us playing in the ballroom accounted for mere seconds in the video for Where Are You Now but, as Phonogram had chosen it as the follow up to Dream On and were footing the bill, we could forgive them some artistic license to promote the virtues of the beautiful and, thanks to our forefathers, mostly rebuilt city of Hamburg. But it kinda took over. Near the end, we were instructed to stand on the docks then run towards the circling helicopter waving.
Only Manny had the balls to say, “Why? Fuck that. I’m not running towards anything that could shoot you!” So he didn’t.
Add to this, the video also highlighted German opinion of Greenpeace at the time by having Dan lob a can of something into the harbour. “Save the Whales” indeed. Nope, when we finally watched the finished product, we were all stunned into silence. Except for our Master of Decorum, Pete Agnew:
“Well it’s bad, but at least there’s nae Dwarfs in it!”
“Now calm down. The best thing we can do is go on with our daily routine.” (Nurse Ratched: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, 1975)
When Steven Spielberg released the movie Jaws in 1975, it took the world by storm. As with all storm-bringers in the entertainment industry, it gave rise to many cash-ins usually featuring something outrageously big which would eat you. (No doubt the porn industry jumped on it too, sorry.) One of the most critically slated ripoffs was called Grizzly, released just one year after Spielberg’s masterpiece, in May 1976. Against all the odds, it did rather well. So much so that the filming of a sequel began in 1983. It was to take place in a Woodstock-like Rock festival during which an oversized Yogi Bear would run amok. Amongst its cast was a young George Clooney, making his motion picture debut by being eaten. An equally young Charlie Sheen (who passed on starring in The Karate Kid for this) also suffered Clooney’s fate during 5 seconds of screen time, a quick but deserved mauling I assume.
Most surprising of all, however, was the inclusion of award-winning actress, Louise Fletcher, whom some of you may remember starring as Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. She won an Academy Award, BAFTA and Golden Globe for her efforts becoming only the third actress after Audrey Hepburn and Liza Minnelli to achieve this. Why she agreed to be in Grizzly II: The Concert/The Predator we’ll never know, but I digress.
The producer of this piece of shit was from Hungary so, instead of simply using existing footage of Woodstock and tossing a 20-foot bear into it, he decided to stage a real outdoor concert on a vast area of army land just outside his home town of Budapest.
Support acts included UK girl band Toto Coelo, whose one-hit-wonder I Eat Cannibals was not, I’m guessing, familiar to Hungarian Rock fans and recently formed Glaswegian techno outfit Set The Tone, whose drummer was an old mate of mine. More on him later. Cast, crew and equipment were flown in and an enormous stage built which included a mass of lights, speakers and even spring-loaded trapdoors complete with pyrotechnics from which the headline act would appear. Oh, did I mention the headline act? They were called Predator. They wore shiny suits. They performed dance routines choreographed by Strictly Come Dancing’s Bruno Tonioli, and their frontman resembled David Bowie doing Gary Glitter… Steady Boy! They were miming to one song. That’s all they had. The song was terrible, but it had to be. It was only required to evoke the musical taste of a 20-foot grizzly bear who’d subsequently tear them apart. Predator was a purely fictitious band, played by dancers and actors.
So to the Elephant in the Room:
How do you sell a Woodstock-style festival to tens of thousands of Budapest Rock fans with a few pop acts and some miming sequin adorned thespians?
Enter some Hairy-Arsed Scotsmen.
“Try and relax, just cool it, fall apart in my backyard.” (Baloo the Bear from The Bare Necessities: The Jungle Book, 1967)
We flew into Budapest direct from doing a TV show in Munich for new single Where Are You Now and met up with our US crew at the Intercontinental Hotel, Budapest for a bit of a reunion, or piss up more like. Soundman Geoff Newsome had already been out to the site of the gig and proclaimed it to be “Fuckin’ Huge!” From the information given to us at the time by our Hungarian translators, the eventual audience would surpass the last big gig of over 50,000 participants the country had witnessed back in 1956 for The Hungarian People’s Revolution (or Uprising depending on whose side you’re on.) More of a Rock Throwing than a Rock Concert mind, so when we saw it for ourselves, I was in no doubt it was going to be special. The stage was, as described earlier, complete with catwalks and risers which the promoter informed us we should not, nay, MUST not use.
This was the Mindfuck for us: Nazareth were booked to headline this massive outdoor event on 13th August 1983 cos we were big enough to sell the tickets in Hungary, but we weren’t actually the headliners. They were the aforementioned Predator who only had one song which they’d mime to after we’d, err, headlined.
Anyhoos, back at the hotel we met up with support acts Toto Coelo, nice girls, and recent Island Records signings Set the Tone who, again I’ve mentioned before, were from Glasgow. “Haw, Billy Boy!” was the cry across a crowded room I recognised. “Kenny, Ya Rocket!” I replied. Set The Tone’s drummer was none other than Kenny Hyslop, he of Slik, The Skids, Simple Minds but, more personally to me, the guy who played on my original demo of Dream On back in 1979. We alighted to my room with a bottle of Hungarian firewater, where I whipped out my Walkman. Kenny had never heard the finished demo before but was even more blown away when I played him the Naz version then informed him it was a massive hit all over Europe. “Hang Fire, Bill,” spake the Kenster. “I need ma singer tae hear about this.” He returned after a few minutes with his vocalist. Half an hour later, I excused myself from the conversation to visit the bathroom.
Then it happened.
As I returned, it became obvious something was going on. As the old quote goes: “Suddenly in the middle of the fight, a Scottish wedding broke out.” Kenny was beating his singer senseless with my hotel room’s table lamp.
“Whoa, Guys! What the Fuck?” Kenny ceased the attack for a moment. “He said Ah was bein’ Aw Big Heided ye know? Hangin’ oot wi ma ‘Billy Big Time’ mates cos Ah think Ah’m better than him.” “So?” “So Ah’m just lettin’ him know I AM better than him, the wee shit!” “Kenny. Don’t you have a table lamp like mine in your room?” “Eh, Aye sorry, Bill. I’ll swap it for yours mate. Sorry about the damage.” “Not what I’m saying, Kenny. Why don’t you take the wee shit to YOUR room and knock Fuck outa him wi’ YOUR table lamp?”
And this he did.
There’s something to be said for Scottish diplomacy.
On the night of the gig, all went well. Toto Coelo sang live to backing tapes, Set The Tone did their techno-dance routine with a heavily bandaged frontman and we played a blinder. The crowd were wonderfully Hungarian. Dodging friendly fire became part of our performance with Dan frequently yelling, “Incoming!” at the arrival of yet another alcohol-filled missile and, according to our promoter, the crowd was 280,000 in number. I’ve no reason to doubt it cos looking out from the stage we couldn’t see the end of people. Trust me. It was a Buzz.
Now to the ‘Headliner.’
Predator the Band were a likeable bunch of boys and girls, constantly rehearsing their moves backstage and getting autographs from all the real bands. In particular, the Bowie/Gary Glitter frontman was an amiable bloke who’d never done this sort of thing before. He sought advice from Dan about facing such a large crowd and Dan obliged with his usual kindly approach. “Just enjoy yourself, kid. Oh and watch oot for glass bottles. Don’t drink ‘em. They’re always full of Pish!” The moment arrived, the crowd were revolting (but not in a 1956 way) so we positioned ourselves at the side of the stage We witnessed a truly epic sound/light introduction as the trap door shot Gary Stardust up and onto the top of the stage set amidst many explosions. And…
He completely bricked it.
All around bombs went off; dancers danced, the musical soundtrack kicked in, drummers mimed, guitarists mimed, the bass player mimed… you get the picture, but, the whole time, he stayed rooted to the spot, petrified. Even when his prerecorded vocal blared from the PA, the poor guy remained open-mouthed and frozen. “Aw Shit!” one of us must have muttered. The crowd’s booing was deafening, and the bottles of urine raining down were even more than I’d seen years previously at the Star & Garter, Maryhill. And yet, they’d have to do it all again for the cameras. Ten minutes later, David Glitter and his backing band repeated the one-song performance successfully to, by this time, a totally ambivalent audience and we could all go home, or in our case the Intercontinental Hotel.
Next day I had a great time visiting many of the city’s beautiful monuments, the ones the Soviets let stand anyway. I acquired many classical album box sets including Mozart’s Marriage Of Figaro and loads of rare recordings by Bizet, Dvorak et al by merely exchanging a Nazareth T-shirt with the local record store. All was good til I sampled a traditional Hungarian Goulash from a street vendor and was taken back to the hotel screaming that my waters had broke and I wanted to die.
Grizzly II was never released, mainly I’d guess, cos it was crap but also due to the film company’s equipment being confiscated by the Hungarian Government in compensation for non-payment of, well…
The final word on the whole experience happened on our last night in the bar. Kenny, completely tongue in cheek, said,
“Where’s yer drummer, Bill? I played Dream On better than him!” “Over here, Son,” replied our Darrell. And to (almost) quote Spielberg:
“You’re gonna need a bigger lamp.”
“Got to get away, get you out of my mind.” (Nazareth: Where Are You Now, 1983)
A few weeks before the dates with Rush, we played some German gigs in our own right where we tried out a new set including a truly awful rendition of Where Are You Now. This was yet another lesson in not bowing to record company pressure by promoting a version of a song the band itself considered shit, filming a shit video and then convincing our audience it really was shit by playing it shittier than the record company could’ve imagined. My refusal to play keyboards contributed to how shit we did it, but I have no regrets, it would still have been shit.
I’m reminded of an incident which happened a few years ago when my wife, daughter and I were enjoying a Caribbean cruise like folks of a certain age do. One of the bands aboard were, like all the bands/bar staff/restaurant waiters/housekeepers, from the Philippines, and they were good. Called Top Man Band, this lot could play anything. From The Lady In Red to Heard It Through The Grapevine, they reproduced the originals with much accuracy but alas with little volume due to much of their audience being of, let’s say, mature years and easily upset by war-zone levels of sound. They fought for our freedom after all. One lunchtime on the poolside deck, Top Man Band opened their set with, get this, Deep Purple’s Highway Star. Note-perfect. I was astounded, not by the choice of opener nor the accuracy of execution but, as always in my experience, how quiet the guitarist was in the mix. I had to say something, so I did. During the ensuing argument, I was accosted by the bass player (it’s always the bass player) who enquired, “Who the Hell are You?” My daughter then told him who the hell I was and the atmosphere changed. “Nazareth? We have much respect for you, Sir!” They then launched into a version of Where Are You Now which, it turns out, was a massive hit in the Philippines. Eager to praise, I hugged the entire Top Man Band and exclaimed, “That was utter Shit! Just like the original.”
Lost in Translation? Probably not.
“Hey, Darrell. Welcome to my brand new venue.”
“Thank you. Nice place Man.”
“Yeah! Frank Sinatra opened it last month.”
“That’s Show Business!”
(Conversation between American club owner and hard-of-hearing drummer, November 1983.)
The remainder of ‘83 is a bit of a mish-mash to describe. On the one hand, we didn’t tour as much compared to the previous two years but, on the other, it was by far the most hectic time in my short career as a musician. Much to-ing and fro-ing with exact details are required, and some of it will be covered in future sections of this site. We could do this the hard way, so let’s not. Staying with all things Naz, I recommend checking out the itinerary for our May tour of Germany written by our Scots/German promoter whose name escapes me. Still, it’s a brilliant piece of pre-Brexit European humour.
Moving forward, we returned to Castlesound Studios to try out a few ideas. The first was Manny’s and involved a most unholy of alliances: Nazareth does ABBA. Our cover of S.O.S. was, at best, different. At worst, ditto. Another was taking on one of several songs I’d written without Naz in mind (more on that later) called Baby’s Got A Gun. This also fell short of Naz standards mainly due to various key changes required to compensate for my demo’s vocal compared with one of Rock’s finest singers. Again, at best, different.
Brandywine Club, Chadds Ford PA 4th November 1983
Brandywine Club, Chadds Ford PA 4th November 1983
Brandywine Club, Chadds Ford PA 4th November 1983
Brandywine Club, Chadds Ford PA 4th November 1983
Brandywine Club, Chadds Ford PA 4th November 1983
Brandywine Club, Chadds Ford PA 4th November 1983
Brandywine Club, Chadds Ford PA 4th November 1983
Sound Elixir tour 1983
Sound Elixir tour 1983
Sound Elixir tour band pass 1983
Sound Elixir tour setlist 1983
Sound Elixir tour poster 1983
Baby’s Got A Gun
October saw us once again embark on a major tour starting with some big gigs in Canada but, the further south into the US we ventured, the smaller the venues became. This was intended to reverse previous tours of 15-20,000 arenas, on which lost everyone money. Gone were the big agencies such as Nick the Greek’s DMA who’d championed what still remains as some of my personal life-changing moments at the Cobo Hall/Joe Louis Arena, Detroit. Replacing them were local agents with less interest in Rock history, but more about making a profit. Clubs and theatre venues were the name of the game, but something bigger changed the entire tour for us. For the first time in over 6 years, Telegram was replaced as our opening number by another song.
All Nite Radio.
Let’s face it. Since Telegram was introduced in 1976, it was the equivalent of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck, SAHB’s Faith Healer or Captain & Tennille’s Do That To Me One More Time. It had all the ingredients for a killer opener with Dan’s vocal range highlighted from the very first line and, by the end, had built to a fierce-some crescendo leaving no-one in any doubt that the band had ‘Arrived.’ All Nite Radio had none of that, shit, even Tennille’s Captain could’ve sung it with ease. Big mistake methinks.
The Living Room, Providence, RI 30th October 1983
Regardless, we returned to London’s Heathrow airport after what was, at least, a financially successful tour. It was then that I had an epiphany. While waiting to board our connecting flight to Edinburgh, I found myself sandwiched between two of my major musical influences. On the left was a Yorkshireman telling the foulest jokes ever whom Chris Glen had first introduced me to via his Pressure Drop album. This, in turn, got me into the backing band of that album: Little Feat, a favourite shared by the guy on my right who’d freely admit to anyone interested was pivotal to me joining Nazareth. The bloke on my left went by the name of Robert Palmer, or, “Call Me Bob,” he said to me as I bought him a pint of bitter. He was epic! On the right sat our very own Pete Agnew who, having just acquired this week’s Melody Maker, looked up from the front-page headline and enquired to no one in particular: “What’s MTV and who the Hell is Durrrran Durrrran?” How could’ve Pete known that MTV, ‘Bob’ Palmer and Durrrran Durrrran would all be involved in a new era of Rock of which Nazareth and bands like us would not play a part. In fairness, he probably didn’t, but I did. “The times they are a-changing,” I remember thinking as we helped Pete and Bob to their ‘little’ feet at the airport bar.
Some things in Rock never change.
Dunfermline Press 26th April 1983
Dunfermline Press 26.4.83
Where Are You Now video still 1983
Where Are You Now promo 83
Hemmerleinhalle, Neunkirchen, Germany poster 5th May 1983