“Hi Billy, it’s Darrell. Listen, Manny’s oot. We’d like you back, mate.” (Phone call, May 1990)
Billy rejoins Nazareth 5.90
Billy rejoins Nazareth May 1990

After a brief call to Manny who confirmed he was indeed ‘oot’: “Aye, good luck Bill. You’ll fuckin’ need it!” it was negotiating time.
When I informed Big D of my monthly income, he was quite taken aback.
“Jeez! Ah didnae think playin‘ the pubs was That lucrative!”

I offered to show him my accounts
“Nah, I believe you. We’ll match it, so are you in?”
“Dunno Big D, I’m kinda set in my ways, and I’m playing in a band too. I’ll need to run it by them and my family.”
“I understand. We’ve got a major US tour booked with two other bands, big venues and all that.”
“Oh, Aye? Which bands?”
“Ten Years After and Blackfoot.”

“I’m In!”

“But what about your band and family?”
“Fuck ‘Em!”

Rickey-Medlocke
Rickey Medlocke

Truth be told, he couldn’t have named two better bands, the bastard! I’d get to play on the same bill as Alvin Lee and Rickey Medlocke? No brainier.

Dunfermline Press 5.90
Dunfermline Press May 1990

As for the reasons behind Manny’s ooting, a tit-for-tat mud-slinging exchange between Darrell (now Nazareth’s manager) and Manuel himself was covered extensively by The Press. When I say The Press, I mean the Dunfermline Press as presumably Rolling Stone magazine, if offered this story, would’ve likely responded with, “Who?” Whatever the reasons, I was announced as Nazareth’s new/old guitarist, returning to the fold after some much-needed rehearsals and even more (in my case much catching up) drinking bouts.

Text of the Dunfermline Press article:
In a shock move, Fife rockers Nazareth have sacked founder member Manny Charlton and installed a replacement – in the shape of guitarist Billy Rankin. Drummer Darrell Sweet said this week that, “musical and personal differences” had led to a new core line-up for the band after 22 years. While no-one was prepared to talk in detail about the split which occurred shortly after the charity fund-raising concert at East End Park last month. Manny said this week, “Basically, I was fired.” He went on, “I thought that we might have been able to resolve things, but obviously the rest of the guys reached an impasse.” The guitarist, who co-wrote much of the band’s material with singer Dan McCafferty, says that he plans to “put out feelers” in the business and send off demo tapes of songs he has written in the hope of finding a recording deal. Manny emphasised that there is no acrimony between him and his successor, who has worked with the band in the past, and he said, “I have a lot of respect for Billy. He is a talented guy.” Explaining that Nazareth regard the affair as an internal matter, Darrell said, “This is basically our business, albeit to a certain degree we are in the public domain.” He went on, “Nobody was happy about how things were going and as it happened the three of us decided to stick together and Manny was asked to leave.” Billy was part of the band when they were a six-piece from 1980-1983 when it also included keyboards player John Locke. “That was a phase in our career when we reckoned that we had done everything that we could with a four-piece band and then we reverted,” said Darrell. He added, “There was no question of going further afield. Billy is an excellent guitarist. We wanted a change with minimal disturbance and luckily we managed to do that.” Of the rift, Darrell commented, “Manny, being one of the main songwriters, had a lot to say about the songwriting. However, we haven’t had a hit record for six years.” Nazareth are currently rehearsing for tours in Scandinavia, Europe and America and Darrell summed up, “We are very happy about the way things are going.” Billy Rankin, who is originally from Kirkintilloch, began his career with The Sensational Alex Harvey Band in 1978. He said, “I’ve always got on with Manny Charlton and everybody else in the band, and it was actually a big surprise when they asked me to replace him.” During his eighties involvement with Nazareth, he contributed a number of songs, including Dream On, which was a number one hit all over Europe. Billy has enjoyed solo success in America.

So as not to appear the Bad Guy in all of this, I also reactivated my friendship with Manny, much to Dan, Pete & Darrell’s disapproval but fuck it. In my mind, they’d all been at least partly responsible for ripping me off last time so better to be safely connected to all of them this time around. Not that I was going to raise the “Where’s Ma Royalties Ya Bastards?” issue at this time but interestingly enough, they did. My 3 bandmates, while acknowledging I hadn’t had any, were quick to blame Jim White although they knew that I knew he’d only had a small stake in Fool Circle Music: Their company who’d collected everyone’s royalties and was meant to pay me mine. Manny, however, and perhaps with differing motives was up-front about it. “Aye, we got your royalties all right Bill, and we spent ‘em. In fact, I’m still earning a fair amount from your Dream On, we all are.”

Crikey!

Still, now was not the time for opening old wounds, but rest assured it would be firmly placed on my back burner for future reheating. On a positive note, I was about to become Billy Big-Time again with the downside being a customary drop in wages and the upside:

No more Pub Gigs… or so I thought.

“The sound will fill the hall, bringing power to us all.” (Manowar: Warriors Of The World United, 2002)

When Darrell said, “We have a tour booked,” he didn’t mention it was in a few weeks, which it was.

“What if I’d said no?” I asked when we all met up in Dunfermline.
“We would’ve had to cancel it,” was their combined response.

Before we headed Stateside, Dan and Pete had been round at my house running through some song choices for the tour and then joined me for my Sunday night residency at the Solid Rock Café in Glasgow. An impromptu jam session ensued (with Pete using Barry’s bass) and an excellent semi-professional time was had by all. The faithful Solid crowd were both happy and sad when I announced I was leaving them for a while to join, as I said that night, “These two reprobates!”

Solid Rock Café, Glasgow 17th June 1990
Solid Rock Café, Glasgow 17th June 1990
Solid Rock Café, Glasgow 17th June 1990
Solid Rock Café, Glasgow 17th June 1990
Solid Rock Café, Glasgow 17.6.90

Cocaine – Solid Rock Café, Glasgow 17th June 1990

Steamroller Blues – Solid Rock Café, Glasgow 17th June 1990

Tush – Solid Rock Café, Glasgow 17th June 1990

Merriweather Post Pavilion
Road Warriors tour itinerary extract June/ July 1990
Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia MD 26th June 1990
Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia MD 26th June 1990
Dolphin City Fair, Gratz PA 30th June 1990
Dolphin City Fair, Gratz PA 30th June 1990
Dolphin City Fair, Gratz PA 30th June 1990
Dolphin City Fair, Gratz PA with Rickey Medlocke 30th June 1990
Merriweather-Post-Pavilion

Luckily for me, we were the middle band of what was called The Road Warriors Tour following Blackfoot but second to Ten Years After, the headliners. That meant a shorter “Greatest Hits” setlist, so I was familiar with all the songs. To shorten the need for crash course rehearsals, I simply recorded the relevant songs from the S’Naz album onto my 4-track, removed the left side of the audio which was Manny’s side and recorded my own guitar in its place. This resulted in cries of “Wizardry” from the boys but proved in one fell swoop to everyone (me included) that I was capable of the task: i.e. being Manny II.

The first date was at the Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia MD and I was pumped. Not specifically for playing this impressive venue itself, that was a given, but more for having the privilege of meeting one of my all-time biggest influences, Alvin Lee and Ten Years Fuckin’ After! I’d even decided to break one of the greatest no-nos among Rock bands of not asking fellow musicians you’d meet for their autographs. I had a photo of Alvin I’d kept for years, and the bastard was gonna sign it, fuck the no-nos!

Then disaster struck.

Upon arrival for a brief soundcheck the day before the concert I was met by guitar tech, Tam Sinclair, who said solemnly, “You might want to see this.” After taking me to our dressing room, he opened the case of my true and trusted Gibson 335 (a guitar I’d only gotten when I was 15 cos Alvin played one) and revealed its neck had broken at the headstock. Now I know most guitar players have a back-up instrument for this kind of thing but, due to the sheer intensity and timing of my reuniting with Naz, I’d completely dismissed the possibility of needing a back-up. Everything I required to play this tour was with the 335 and Washburn 12-string, it hadn’t even been discussed in rehearsals. Hell, Pete only had his trusty Alembic bass and acoustic equivalent with him so I wasn’t the only one who hadn’t expected the unexpected. No Mercy! Luckily, we found a local music store employee who owned a 1965 walnut brown 335 and was willing to lend it to me for the gig. Darrell offered to buy it, but when he heard how much it would cost he recoiled.
“How much? That’s more than a hoose!”
“Aye,” I said. “Mine’s worth even more cos it’s a ‘59.”
“Right now it’s worth Fuck All!” he pointed out, and I had to agree.

Road Warriors tour pass 6/7.90
Road Warriors tour pass June/July 1990

Before we went on, I met Rickey Medlocke who’d stormed into our dressing room after Blackfoot had played and hugged everyone but me. They had History. That was okay cos Rickey Medlocke was no Alvin Lee, he was just better than me. Our performance went well, as well as it could’ve with a borrowed guitar and, afterwards, Rickey was more engaging with me in particular.
“You’re good, Man. That sound you got? Wow! I was just sayin’ to Alvin…”
“Wait! What? You spoke to Alvin?”
“Sure. We were watching from the side of the stage and he was impressed with your guitar sound.”
“Thanks. Will you excuse me please.”
After knocking politely, I entered TYA’s dressing room with my brown, borrowed 1965 Gibson 335 in one hand and my treasured photo of my hero in the other.
“Hi, guys. I’m Billy. Just wanted to say hello.”
“Come in,” said bassist Leo Lyons, which in true bass player form was irrelevant: I was already In.

Don't even look at it.
The signed photo

“I’ve got this photo of you,” I waved at my hero. “Could you sign it?”
“Sure. Hey, really impressed with your guitar tone tonight. Is that your guitar?”
“No. It’s borrowed cos mine’s got a broken neck.”
“Shit! At the headstock?”
“Aye.”
“Common with 335’s. Mine’s broken there 3 times. Still, nice guitar.”
“It’s only a ‘65, mine is a ‘59, but its neck broke.”
“Yeah, you said. Here you go,” said Alvin handing me the now signed photo.
“You can have a shot if you like,” I blurted out, offering him my piece of wood.
“Eh, sure thanks,” he replied and gave it a polite strum.
Sensing an awkward silence, I dug myself a bigger hole.
“Is that it?” I nodded towards the open guitar case in the corner.
“Yeah, that’s Big Red,” he acknowledged cos it was the legendary 335 I’d idolised along with the man himself since I was 12.
“Can I have a shot?”

Alvin sez don't
“Don’t even look at it.”

“Absolutely not,” he shook his head and closed the case while doing his best Nigel Tufnel impression saying, “Don’t even look at it!”
The tension was broken by drummer Ric Lee adding, “Yeah. His goes to eleven!”
Over the next few weeks, we all gelled as fellow touring bandmates. Blackfoot always gave us something serious to follow and we did our best to upstage TYA’s blues jams, but the highlight occurred on the last night of the tour.
“Hey, Billy. I’ve got a surprise for you.”
Leading me into his dressing room, Alvin directed me to the closed guitar case in the corner. He unclipped the clips, opened the case and stood aside.
“Really?”
“Yep. It’s time.”
Trying to contain my excitement, I asked again.
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sure.”
We both took a moment before Alvin Lee, my childhood hero and the reason I’d taken up serious guitar playing in the first place, said:

“You can look at it.”

“Now it’s a fine line between passion and dread. Foolin’ and a-droolin’ starts a-rulin’ your head. (Nazareth: Hire And Fire. Written in Berlin, Novmber 11th 1990)

“Well that went well, we all agreed on the flight home from America. And it had. “So what’s next? we all asked Darrell, cos he was our manager now. “More gig offers coming in, but we should be thinking about doing another album sometime. That wasn’t a totally out of the blue statement from Big D. I’d played the guys the La Paz demos during the US tour, and everyone seemed to like them.

Well, not all of them.

Cry Wolf, Every Time It Rains, Right Between The Eyes and Johnny Don’t Dance were firm favourites, Cover Your Heart not so much. Only Darrell liked that one, so we all just ignored him.

Once home for a few days I resumed some of my pub gigs to help what I’d expected all along would be a reduction in my pre-Naz income, but the venues were pleased they could now put “Guitarist With Nazareth” on their posters. An assessment of our setlist was in order cos we all wanted to ditch the opener of over a decade, namely Telegram, for something newer. Or older as it turned out. Night Woman from the Razamanaz album was the resulting new/old opener and, before we tried it out to actual paying audiences, we did a couple of warm-up shows in Glasgow. Firstly at The Village in Shawlands then at my favourite residency pub-wise: The Solid Rock Café. Imagine bringing your Rock Star friends to your place of work!

It went well-ish.

The Village, Shawlands, Glasgow ticket 18th September 1990
Solid Rock Café, Glasgow ticket 19th September 1990
Amphitheatre, Edinburgh patch 20th October 1990
The Village, Shawlands, Glasgow ticket 18.9.90

Although there were no offers of a record deal from anyone at the moment, we agreed to demo the  songs mentioned above and send ‘em out there, just to test the water. So, in August 1990, we ventured into the same small studio in Coatbridge I’d used with Chick, Alex and Colin previously and basically Nazzed up La Paz. We ditched Johnny Don’t Dance early doors cos Dan felt he wasn’t able to sing it right, but the rest of the new versions worked a treat, and we now had the beginnings of the next album, if we could get a deal. Interestingly, due to time constraints and additional expenses which would’ve been required getting his drum kit from wherever the fuck in the world it was, Darrell was happy for us to use my Roland drum machine and my programmed patterns instead of himself. This ‘happiness’ would continue throughout the next few years, but initially, we just wanted presentable demos. This done, the band for the first time in its history (with the possible exception of Long Black Veil) put a not-recorded-on-an-album song into our set. Right Between The Eyes fitted right in as a fast-paced rocker and who knows? There might be the boss of a major record label in the audience one night.

In early November we got 2 offers of touring which would take us up to the end of 1990 and a 3rd in early 1991.

Melodic Rock Festival, Greifensee, Switzerland poster 10.11.90
Melodic Rock Festival, Greifensee, Switzerland
poster 10th November 1990

First up was a brief European outing with American ‘clever-clogs’ outfit Kansas and Canadian proggers Saga. I describe both of them as such because, at first glance (and with further scrutiny), we really didn’t fit the bill. Unlike them, Nazareth never played anything remotely clever or proggy or with a weird time signature…. except when Darrell dropped a drumstick mid-song of course, but that’s hardly the same thing. Nope, we were more of a thinking fans nightmare to this tour’s audience and received polite applause at best.

Ian-Crichton

Philipshalle, Düsseldorf ticket 16.11.90
Philipshalle, Düsseldorf ticket 16th November 1990

No matter, we had a good time and the band’s themselves were great to work with. Steve Walsh of Kansas was going through some tough times by the look and sound of it and was a shadow of his former brilliant self: A situation I’m happy to say no longer exists. Guitarist, Big Kerry Livgren and the other members were an absolute hoot as were Saga. In particular, their guitar player, Ian Crichton, took a shine to us crazy Scotsmen and would often hang out with us in the bar after shows. We had a day off in Berlin, so Ian and I decided to go on a pub crawl, something I’d done previously in Germany many years ago with another Canadian, Geddy Lee. That hadn’t ended well, so when Ian started chatting up every available (and some unavailable) Frauleins in the bar, I decided to bail. After ensuring he’d be okay, I got back to the hotel where I met up with everyone else from Saga, Kansas and my bandmates who found it hilarious that Ian was so desperate. Big Kerry piped up something like, “I mean Man! You’d listen much to anything when anything’s in sight, Wontcha?”

“Oh!” thought I. “That’s a fuckin’ great line!” and proceeded to scribble desperately onto a paper serviette til Hire And Fire was written.

Next morning I showed it to a very hungover Ian Crichton. “Great lyric Man!” said the Thinking Man’s Master of Clever-Clogs Prog.

“What’s it about?”

“Some day,” he thought, “I would like to meet a monster who LOOKS like a monster.” (Ira Levin: The Boys From Brazil, 1976)

“You Bastard!”

This would’ve been echoing throughout at least 4 Scottish households when we told our wives we’d be touring Brazil in December 1990, and who could blame them. December in Scotland was always wet and windy, with more than a chance of snow. Brazil, on the other hand (and side of the world), was the complete opposite. The family pressure didn’t drop much when we cast up the time involved getting there cos it was a massive undertaking to anyone suffering from travel sickness. Early morning connection flights from Edinburgh to London, 4 hours in Heathrow, 18 hours to Brazil then a further 4 hours in traffic to our hotel which was on the beach in Rio with views of Sugar Loaf Mountain to the front and the Hang Glider statue of Christ to the rear. Yep, that last detail or 2 destroyed any hope of marital sympathy. After checking in, we all met at the rooftop bar, settled down with cocktails, watched a recent NASA space shuttle orbiting overhead and generally soaked up the atmosphere of this tropical paradise called Rio de Janeiro.

Brazamanaz tour itinerary extract December 1990
Dama-Xoc, São Paulo, Brazil 7th December 1990
Dama-Xoc, São Paulo, Brazil 7th December 1990
Dama-Xoc, São Paulo, Brazil 7th December 1990
Dama-Xoc, São Paulo, Brazil 7th December 1990
Dama-Xoc, São Paulo, Brazil 7th December 1990
Dama-Xoc, São Paulo, Brazil 7th December 1990
Dama-Xoc, São Paulo, Brazil 7th December 1990
Brazamanaz tour AAA pass December 1990
Santro Andre Poliesportivo, São Paulo, Brazil 9th December 1991
Santro Andre Poliesportivo, São Paulo, Brazil 9th December 1991
Santro Andre Poliesportivo, São Paulo, Brazil 9th December 1991
Santro Andre Poliesportivo, São Paulo, Brazil 9th December 1991
Santro Andre Poliesportivo, São Paulo, Brazil 9th December 1991
Santro Andre Poliesportivo, São Paulo, Brazil 9th December 1991
Santro Andre Poliesportivo, São Paulo, Brazil 9th December 1991
Canecão, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rock Festival, Canecão, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil production pass 12th December 1990
Canecão, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil ticket 12th December 1990
Circulo Militar, Curitiba, Brazil 14th December 1990
Circulo Militar, Curitiba, Brazil 14th December 1990
Circulo Militar, Curitiba, Brazil 14th December 1990
Circulo Militar, Curitiba, Brazil 14th December 1990
Circulo Militar, Curitiba, Brazil 14th December 1990
Circulo Militar, Curitiba, Brazil 14th December 1990
Circulo Militar, Curitiba, Brazil 14th December 1990
Circulo Militar, Curitiba, Brazil 14th December 1990
Circulo Militar, Curitiba, Brazil 14th December 1990
Circulo Militar, Curitiba, Brazil 14th December 1990
Circulo Militar, Curitiba, Brazil 14th December 1990
Circulo Militar, Curitiba, Brazil 14th December 1990
Circulo Militar, Curitiba, Brazil 14th December 1990
Circulo Militar, Curitiba, Brazil 14th December 1990
Circulo Militar, Curitiba, Brazil 14th December 1990
Circulo Militar, Curitiba, Brazil 14th December 1990
Circulo Militar, Curitiba, Brazil 14th December 1990
Circulo Militar, Curitiba, Brazil 14th December 1990
Circulo Militar, Curitiba, Brazil 14th December 1990
Circulo Militar, Curitiba, Brazil ticket 14th December 1990
Circulo Militar, Curitiba, Brazil advert 14th December 1990
Brazamanaz tour itinerary extract 12.90

We can’t tell the wives about this,” we unanimously agreed.

The tour itself was a fantastic success although you wouldn’t think so from the diary I kept at the time. There are descriptions of tiny children begging at traffic lights, stabbings and shootings, Ronnie Biggs the great train robber showing up at our gig asking to come back to say hello: “Tell him to Fuck Off!” we cried, again unanimously. Then there was the name of a jewellery store in the hotel reception: Hans Stern & Co. Established 1946. “Wonder where his first shipment of gold came from?” mused Pete.

Curitiba terça feira 18.12.90
Curitiba terça feira 18th December 1990

As for the gigs themselves, we learned early on NOT to touch the microphones with our lips while holding anything else metal (such as guitar strings) as this would result in quite a severe electric shock to the face. We all knew about Alex Harvey’s wee brother, Les, and his tragic demise, so were wary not to replicate it. The Brazilian audiences were among the most enthusiastic anywhere. They knew every song and joined in at every opportunity, well, except for Right Between The Eyes of course though we noticed some of them were singing along with it towards the end of the tour, a testament to how quickly bootlegs were being circulated. It was after the final gig, tour manager Willie McQuillan took us to a small box at the side of the stage. It appeared to be made of lollipop sticks glued together with bare wires, fizzing and crackling like a fireworks display.
“That’s been our main power supply the whole tour, he explained. “That’s why your lips are blue.”
“Why haven’t you told us that before?”

“Cos you wouldn’t have done the tour,” he rightly concluded.

Finally, let’s go back to that first night in Rio de Janeiro when we were trying not to worsen things with our spouses back in Arctic Scotland despite being surrounded by all this 5-star luxury. After a few more cocktails, we grew bored with watching the space shuttle coming in to land and reconvened in somebody’s room where we proceeded to get more hammered and settled down to watch Brazilian MTV. As The Clash were halfway through Should I Stay Or Should I Go, Pete made a valid point.

“How can anyone make a Les Paul sound so bad?”

Then, one of us raised the most important question of all. “So what do we tell the wives we did in Rio?” After a few seconds, Dan had it.

“The same as we did in Fuckin’ Milwaukee!”

Long Black Veil live at Canecão, Rio de Janeiro 12th December 1990

Bad Bad Boy live at Canecão, Rio de Janeiro 12th December 1990

Vigilante Man live at Canecão, Rio de Janeiro 12th December 1990

“Let me hear your balalaikas ringing out, come and keep your comrade warm.” (The Beatles: Back In The USSR, 1968)
Russian tour AAA pass 02.91
Russian tour AAA pass February 1991

Russian winters are cold. Just ask Napoleon or Hitler. Like previous dictators, Naz had been there before so I was pre-warned. “Bring warm clothing, tinned ravioli and cheap ‘one size fits all’ ladies tights.” The last piece of advice wasn’t to be for my personal use. Along with everyday items such as soap, deodorant and shampoo, the luxuries of the West were unavailable to Russians in general. Give a hotel maid a pair of Superdrug tights and you’d not only find your room spotless on arrival back from the gig, your previous day’s T-shirt, underwear and socks would be placed on your bed, washed and starched to perfection.

Russian newspaper 6.2.91
Russian newspaper 6th February 1991

The flight from London to Moscow was painless thanks to an overwhelming fear of flying on Aeroflot and the subsequent use of alcohol to combat said fear. When we passed through customs we were so drunk we actually had each other’s passports, so the guy on duty simply looked at mine showing a photo of a bald, bearded bass player, looked behind me and waved me on. Jeez, it was cold! Minus 36 was the average and we, being Scottish, bragged of how much colder conditions were back home then turned into quivering wrecks when the wind chill hit.

Nazareth were huge in Russia. For example, Tina Turner and Dire Straits both had to cancel their tours of the country due to lack of ticket sales while we had not only sold out some massive venues but in some cities had added matinee shows to meet demand. Cynics would suggest this was because Russia is 30 years out of touch with Western musical trends, but audience reaction proved otherwise. The fact that we had to add We Are Animals to our set (a track from 1989’s Snakes ‘N’ Ladders album) due to popular demand was clear evidence they were keeping up with the band’s current output. This was not good news for Dan. Animals is a bastard to sing and, with additional afternoon gigs being added daily, it didn’t take him long to require medical treatment for his inflamed larynx, but he did us proud.

We Are Animals – Linnahall, Tallinn, Estonia 9th February 1991

Russia 2.91
Russia February 1991

Russia was going through a transitional period where, before, you couldn’t spend your hard-earned on anything more than food and vodka unless you were prepared to queue in freezing conditions for a pen & paper or some sandpaper to wipe your bottom with. Now you could buy concert tickets to see Rock bands and get a Big Mac meal from the recently opened McDonald’s in Moscow. The times they were a-changing, but not so much. A Marlboro (and by that I mean a single ciggie, not a pack) could get us Westerner’s a taxi ride around Tallinn, but woe betides you’d offer the cabbie a light for it. This was currency to him. I met a Soviet military pilot in a hotel bar and ended up swapping a Blackfoot T-shirt for his top-of-the-range Aviator’s watch complete with Yuri Gagarin embossed on its strap and a fully functioning altitude meter which worked perfectly for a month or so. Thank fuck I hadn’t been flying my MIG fighter jet at the time when it stopped.

Russian press conference 2.91
Russian press conference February 1991

Nope, this was a country where a brain surgeon was neighbours with a refuse collector in the same cockroach-infested apartment block. Talking of cockroaches: they were everywhere and some were the size of a small rat. There’s nothing that makes your skin crawl more than when you switch on the lights in your hotel room and the entire carpet changes colour as they scuttle away into the skirting. Oofft! And, speaking of skin-crawling, our very own Pete awoke one night to find a huge roach waving its antennae at him while perched on his very own bare arse. We heard the resulting scream along the entire corridor. “Good on ye Pete,” I told him later as I’d assumed he’d been helping our singer out by practising hitting Dan’s high note in Animals.

Russia 02.91
Russia February 1991

As for the shows themselves, they were pretty awesome, mainly due to the fans who proved once again that people are people wherever you go. Two local kids, in particular, would be outside our hotel, the venue, anywhere we’d be and in -36 conditions, just to wave and say hello. They had tickets for all the shows, had gotten our autographs the first day and, as one of them told me, “We love Nazareth and want to see you all the time because we might not see you ever again.” I invited them into our catering room where they thawed themselves out with bowls of stew before thanking me and returning into the cold to join the queue for our next performance. We never had any trouble with the kids, but we did have several run-ins with the heavy-handed Red Army security who would happily beat down with sticks anyone crazy enough to look like they were having a good time. Dan stopped the gig in Leningrad midway through a song to berate Russia’s Finest for knocking 50 shades of shit out of an over-enthusiastic fan yelling, “Stop! Just Stop That! Fucks Sake!”

But the final insult came from Pete who’d had problems understanding why everything in our hotel rooms would break (electric sockets, the wall surrounding electric sockets, toilets etc.) They’d simply send up the State plumber/plasterer/electrician who’d do a temporary repair which lasted only til you used the thing again. “Shoddy,” was how we’d describe the workmanship. So with this in mind, after Dan had stopped the assault in Leningrad, Pete approached the microphone and, pointing directly at the Red Army commander who was glaring at us menacingly said:

“Call yourselves a Super Power? You cannae even hang a door straight!”

Night Woman – Linnahall, Tallinn, Estonia 9th February 1991

Right Between The Eyes – Kiev, Ukraine 24th February 1991

Bad Bad Boy – Kiev, Ukraine (matinee) 24th February 1991

“S’cuse me while I kiss this guy.” (Misheard lyric from Jimi Hendrix: Purple Haze, 1967)

Volkhaus, Zurich security pass 11to13.4.91
Volkhaus, Zurich security pass 11th to 13th April 1991

Stan-Webb
Stan Webb

The Volkhaus, Zurich was an impressive venue. Nazareth played there on 13th April 1991 as part of a 3-day festival celebrating 20 years of our Swiss agency’s existence. Among the other bands present were Uriah Heep and two of my all-time favourites, Ten Years After and Stan Webb’s Chicken Shack. I, for once, wished I played in a different band. Stan Webb is a genuinely outstanding exponent of The Blues, and I watched spellbound that night from side stage and tried to ignore Pete Agnew, a bass player. “Utter Pish!” he kept screaming in my ear. Bass players seem to have a distinct disdain for The Blues. Ten Years After also had Blues credentials, and some history with us. (Alvin Lee had once let me look at his Gibson 335 for fuck’s sake.) “Utter Pish!” Pete continued in the same manner. “Guys,” I’d pleaded earlier, “Can we just play an extended jam of I Wanna Do Everything For You tonight? I can play The Blues like fuck.”
“No,” they said, quite forcefully.
Shit!

Volkhaus, Zurich poster 11to13.4.91
Volkhaus, Zurich poster 11th to 13th April 1991

Afterwards, the Agency boss invited all the bands involved back to his house overlooking the lake. Stan Webb, his Shack of Chickens and some of the Heeps accepted. Alvin, after hearing his fellow bandmates weren’t going and I’d convinced him we’d have a whisky or two together, also agreed to go but my cohorts in Naz blanked the whole thing. I blame Pete for suggesting the party would be “Utter Pish!” but they all seemed to agree. Bloody heathens. Once there, the promoter unveiled his 12 string guitar with a string missing and passed it among us. Stan went first and did a flawless rendition of Red House which would’ve made Jimi cry. I got ignored cos I was from the only non-blues band on the bill. Next, Alvin was handed the 11 string and after much hounding from me to play I’m Going Home he kinda lost the plot. “I’ve had to play I’m Going Home every night since 1968! Here, you fuckin’ play it,” and he handed me the guitar.

So I did.

All went well till I got to a particular verse.
“I love my baby, with a rigorous arm,” I sang.
Alvin grabbed the strings to halt my perfect rendition of his Woodstock classic and said, “With a What?”
Without missing a beat, I repeated, again perfectly, “I love my baby, with a rigorous arm.
“With a rigorous What?”
“You know? With a bit of force Alv. With a Rigorous Arm!” and I flexed my arm muscle in clear demonstration to all present.
“It’s with a Red Dress On, you Twat!” Alvin screamed.
“Wait. What? Why would you have a red dress on?”
“Not me! My Baby has a red dress on Man!”
Now, for all the years I’d been singing and playing I’m Going Home, I’d never once thought the lyric was, “I love my baby, with a red dress on.”
It was embarrassing. I was a laughing stock.
To my relief, Alvin handled it well and saved my blushes.
“That’s the most wonderful thing I’ve ever heard. Rigorous Arm? Red Dress On!”
“I’m so sorry. I really thought it was…”
“No Bill, don’t apologise,” he said and poured us both a large whisky.
“I’ll think of that every time I sing that song from now on. Fuck Me, that’s priceless!”

Glasgow-Pavilion
Glasgow Pavilion

Fast forward to the Glasgow Pavilion on 16th February 1995, where Alv was playing a solo gig. Naturally I was there.
In the dressing room, before they went on, the bastard told his backing band, Nine Below Zero, the whole story of that night in Zurich before declaring, “We need a whisky, old friend!”
As there was no Scotch in the dressing room, I nipped into Lauder’s Bar next door and ordered two doubles to go, explaining to the barman it was for Alvin Lee and I’d return the glasses later.
“No need pal. Alvin Lee? What a legend. No charge by the way.”
“Thanks, appreciate it.”
“Pleasure. Does he still do I’m Going Home?”
“Fuck You!”

Now here’s the best bit. That night he finished with I’m Going Home with one little difference. Unbeknown to me, there was an extra amp and speaker cabinet set up on the stage with a Gibson 335 plugged into it and, as I watched from the wings, a roadie approached and slung it over my shoulder as Alvin gestured at me to join him onstage. “Ladies and Gentlemen,” he announced, “This is my friend Billy Rankin from right here in Glasgow and he’s gonna help me with the words on this one.” It was, as you can imagine, one hell of a buzz, especially when we shared the mic and a smile as we sang:

“I love my baby, with a rigorous arm.”

Glasgow Pavilion pass 16.2.95
Glasgow Pavilion pass 16th February 1995

I wish.

What actually happened that night went more like this:

After I’d asked his backing band politely to join Alvin onstage for I’m Going Home and having my request politely declined, I stepped things up a gear. Approaching rhythm guitarist, Dennis Greaves, I advised him if he didn’t give me his guitar as requested there may be trouble ahead:
“Hmm. I don’t know Man. Alvin doesn’t like surprises.”
“Neither will you, Denny Boy cos if you don’t gimme that guitar I’ll take you down and wrestle it from your cold, dead hands!”
It worked, proving again that diplomacy is not always the best option. Violence, or the threat of it, is. Alvin’s only comment on seeing me appear onstage was, “Whoa! Billy?” before I joined him at his mic to finally put this whole lyrical dispute to bed. In unison and with a wry smile, we sang:

“I love my baby, with a rigorous arm.”

What do you think hes singing?