“I like a good beer buzz early in the mornin’ and Billy likes to peel the labels off his bottles of Bud.” (Sheryl Crow: All I Wanna Do, 1993)

Nazareth’s first gig of 1993 took place on January 24th in Sofia, Bulgaria. Not somewhere we’d played much, if at all, but it turns out we were very popular there. So much so they filmed our every move from arriving at the airport or any of us going for a pish to the actual gig itself at the Universiade Hall. We even enjoyed a slap-up meal with Miss Bulgaria herself during which she grabbed hold of any one of us returning from going for a pish and created the perfect photo opportunity. “I Love Nazareth!” she’d scream: I think it was the only English she’d learned, but it was more Bulgarian than any of us could speak so fair play to her. She was not only very pretty, but was obviously accustomed to sidling up to older men if it could further her career. What the camera crews missed occurred during the gig itself. I was beckoned continuously by a woman in the audience who wanted a kiss. I’d gathered this not from understanding Bulgarian but, well let’s just call it male Intuition. Eventually, I signalled agreement to a peck on the cheek, after all, she was no Miss Bulgaria. She seemed amenable to this. I bent over and in doing so, realised that she had the same ambitions as her prettier and more famous regional counterpart. She grabbed my hair and tried to force my face into hers. Naturally, I recoiled, thus avoiding catching something Bulgarian and, after wagging a finger at the bitch, thought nothing more about it. Then once back home in Scotland and during only the slightest of breezes my kids were frequently heard to exclaim “Mum! Mum! We can see Dad’s bald patch! Ha, and again, Ha!”

Yes, Miss Bulgaria’s Ugly Sister had ripped a piece of my locks in an area not generally associated with Male Pattern Baldness about the size of a helicopter launch pad. Oh, how we laughed.

Rhythm, Bulgaria 20th January 1993
24 Hours, Bulgaria 24th January 1993
24 Hours, Bulgaria 24th January 1993
Universidade Municipal, Sofia,Bulgaria ticket 24th January 1993
Trud, Bulgaria 25th January 1993
Rhythm, Bulgaria 27th January 1993
Rhythm, Bulgaria 27th January 1993
Rockshow, Bulgaria 3rd February 1993
Rockshow, Bulgaria 3rd February 1993
Rockshow, Bulgaria 3rd February 1993
Rockboulevard, Bulgaria 8th February 1993
Rockboulevard, Bulgaria 8th February 1993
Rhythm, Bulgaria 20.1.93

Next was our, now customary, Carnival In Rock tour of Germany with The Heeps. An unexpected tour of Canada and the US followed, mainly due to us securing a contract with Griffin Records for the album and they were pretty cool. For starters, this Canadian company issued No Jive with a limited edition (artificial) leather cover with extensive radio interviews slotted in during the tour.

One particular interview in Chicago with the ex-Partridge Family member, Danny Bonaduce, was very special. How he got the crap kicked out of him by Donny Osmond is beyond me. (Look it up on YouTube. It’s funny.)

Danny Bonaduce show on The Loop, WLUP Chicago 1993

Danny-Bonaduce
Danny Bonaduce
Griffin Music No Jive limited edition 1993
Griffin Music No Jive limited edition 1993
Griffin No Jive limited edition front
Griffin Music No Jive press kit 93
Griffin Music No Jive press kit 1993

But we nearly didn’t do the tour, and it would’ve been all my fault.

Air Canada was one of the first airlines in the world to ban smoking on its flights and, before any of you younger readers pipe up (sorry) with “What? You could smoke on an aircraft?” yes you could, in fact, it was almost compulsory, even if you weren’t a smoker. After all, you’re all stuck in a big tin can together where you most certainly couldn’t open a window to clear the air and, although we all now know about the dangers of breathing in secondary smoke, we didn’t back then. We liked to smoke on planes especially if drinking was involved too so, to put us on a 10-hour flight for Ontario, supply us with copious amounts of alcohol and then casually mention during the pre-flight blarg that “This is a No Smoking flight cos we at Air Canada are a bunch of forward-thinking bastards who are leading the way towards a pollution-free environment and you Scottish guys who are just now yelling “What the Fuck” can eat shit and die for all we care. Thank you and enjoy your flight.” Now, in defence of the embarrassing tale about to unfold, this was a completely alien concept to not only us but to every smoker who’d ever boarded an aircraft, half-drunk to boot. Yep, we’d already had a few libations (and ciggies) in the airport bar prior to boarding, so this announcement came as a bit of a shock, and it would only get worse.

Willie McQuillan at stage monitor desk Town & Country, London 11.4.92
Willie McQuillan at stage monitor desk. Town & Country, London 11th April 1992

The first few hours passed relatively smoothly as the complimentary beers flowed, but the longer some of us went without our nicotine fix, some twitching came into play. Eventually, something had to give and that something was road manager, Willie McQuillan. Willie never went anywhere without a big roll of ‘Fragile’ tape which he’d stick on any piece of our equipment likely to be manhandled by airport baggage staff, usually with no real effect. Guitars still got busted regularly. However, Willie, in his desperation for even just a puff or two, hatched the perfect plan, or so he thought. It went something, no, it went exactly like this:

Armed with a ciggie, lighter and the aforementioned Fragile tape hidden under something, enter the aircraft’s restroom nodding to the air stewardess when required or just exclaim, “I’m gonna shit myself!” to get them away from the area. Once locked in, tape up the smoke alarm overhead, drop to your knees with your head in the toilet bowl (yes, things were THAT desperate) light a ciggie and inhale. Just as you exhale the smoke, press the flush button which will remove the secondary smoke at a terrifying rate and at great suction. Thinking about it now: the sheer power of that toilet flush could’ve had a polar bear below in the Arctic tundra suddenly, and without warning, wearing Willie’s face. Repeat, but only a couple of times cos all we needed was a quick tobacco fix, stand up, spray the area with some duty-free aftershave and return to your seat after removing the Fragile tape from the alarm. And you know what? It worked! One at a time, the smoker’s among us embarked at prearranged times on ‘Operation Oh Ya Beauty, That’s So Good’ til agent Billy Ballsup fucked up by forgetting to remove the tape from the smoke alarm.

The first sign our cover was quite literally blown was when a guy in an Air Canada Captain’s uniform complete with an Air Canada Captain’s hat and Air Canada Captain’s stripes on his sleeves came storming up the cabin and stopped at yours truly. “He must be the Captain,” I remember thinking.
“You’re in Big Trouble, Buster!” he yelled.
“Huh? Why? By the way, are you the Captain?”
“Fuck Yeah!” he clarified. “And you had a cigarette in the restroom by taping up the smoke alarm which is a federal offence and is punishable by death in some regions. (I’m paraphrasing here.) So whadda ya got to say about it, Punk?”
“But how do you know it was me?”
“We removed some Fragile tape from the smoke alarm, and you’re wearing a whole roll of Fragile tape on your upper right arm you Dumb Fuck!”

It was a fair cop.

“Don’t give them any more liquor,” he instructed the stewardess. “We’ll deal with this when we land.” Shit! What if I get arrested in Canada and sent back home? I’m the guitar player. They can’t do the tour without me. How much would we lose if we can’t do the tour? Why isn’t Manny still in the band? At least we could still do the tour if I wasn’t the sole guitar player? Those thoughts and more ran through my mind as we prepared to land in Ontario. A final request was made by me to speak with the Air Canada Captain during which I apologised then fired all my thoughts at him directly. Fortunately, his son was a big Nazareth fan who had tickets for our show in Barrie, Ontario a few days from now, so some autographed photos and backstage passes were hurriedly arranged. All was forgiven. By Captain Canada perhaps, but not by my fellow bandmates and crew. “You could’ve cost us the tour,” they rightfully scolded me with much finger-wagging til my embarrassment was diminished by an off-the-cuff comment by drum tech Rab Kennedy.

Rab-Kennedy
Rab Kennedy

“Aye, even I minded tae take the tape aff the alarm afore Ah left the shitter,” he laughed.
“But Rab. You don’t smoke,” someone pointed out, correctly.
“Nah, but Ah had tae eat ma last hash cake afore we landed. Thon alarm might’ve had a mic attached and would’ve picked up ma conversation wi’ Buddha or whoever the fuck I was gabbin’ with.”

And the tour went ahead, or to put it another way:

“There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

“Somewhere along the lonely road, I had tried to find you.” (Uriah Heep: Easy Livin, 1972)
Loud and Proud North American tour dates 4/5.93
Loud and Proud North American tour dates April/May 1993

I’ve always been a bit of a History Buff. Not in an authoritative date listing kinda context, more in the way of “How did we do that?”
How we lived through certain hardships.
Human endurance if you like.

Case in point: When our recent ancestors got home from Normandy having had their balls shot off by Nazis and, within 20-odd years, are watching ‘long-haired goateed effeminates’ dancing at Grateful Dead concerts and (as Alanis Morissette once said) giving a peace sign, they must’ve shaken their heads and wondered, “Why are they doing that and what did we get our balls shot off for?”

Winnipeg, Canada 17.5.93
Winnipeg, Canada 17th May 1993

I have a similar thought as I write this when it comes to current bands. Not all of them mind you, but in my opinion, most Rock bands in my day were, well, harder. Bad comparison to War veterans I know. Way back in 1993 we’d had our faces fried off by dodgy electricity, our livelihoods threatened by dodgy business contracts and, most importantly, developed an attitude of “Let’s Just Do It” when things got tough. There were times we’d be doing multiple gigs with overnight travelling, early morning interviews and TV appearances slotted in, afternoon soundchecks then dressing on the tour bus before driving to the next town, again overnight, and all the while staying focused.

Now I’d like to make it clear here, I’m not complaining. I remember the slating Nazareth’s opening track from Close Enough For Rock N Roll: Telegram got in 1976. “747 flies us high, much higher than we’re meant to be,” quoted one critic, before pointing out we were moaning about travelling on something most of our fans could only dream of doing, and quite high up too, apparently. We were not all huddled together in a Transit van bouncing around between gigs. It was hard work is all I’m saying, okay? In fact, we were probably the hardest working band of our ilk during 1993.

Winnipeg, Canada 17.5.93
Winnipeg, Canada 17th May 1993

Well, one band might take umbrage at that claim: Uriah Heep.

I would not deny them the counterclaim cos for a lot of this time we were working hard together, so much so that both bands and crews developed a bond akin to, well, two groups of hardened veterans getting through whatever was thrown at us. We even jokingly referred to ourselves as The Nazaheeps and would help each other out in so many ways, no matter what. Too tired to soundcheck? No problem, both our road crews had musicians (well except for our Rab Kennedy and Heep’s John O’Leary, they were drummers.) We jumped from theatres to clubs and to the occasional arenas where the gig times varied greatly, but we always just got on with it, got the job done. One of the funniest memories I have is our development of Roadies Revenge. Before this time, it was customary for our road crews to have a bit of fun at the band’s expense on the last gig of a tour. Now, with The Nazaheeps, it could happen anytime and could also include members of either band, sometimes before they’d appeared on stage that night before their fans. I’d be in mid solo, when out of nowhere, Mick Box would appear behind me complete with guitar and attempt to both out-play and out-pose me before running offstage again, leaving Uriah Heep supporters in the audience wondering if they’d imagined it.

The best example would have to be when Naz were in the middle of our Drums & Vocal rendition of Long Black Veil. In the true spirit of Roadies Revenge, the Heeps came out of nowhere wearing pink rabbit suits and banging on toy drums, an apparent reference to the Duracell Bunny adverts on TV at the time. We were like battery hens, powerless to do anything but lay down our eggs and laugh.

It kept us going cos 1993 was the craziest year of my life as a musician. Why? Well, mainly because of the insane workload, but also this: For the first time in my years with Nazareth, we all believed we were maybe, just maybe, on the way up again. Shit, we weren’t even beating the crap out of each other regularly, just randomly slapping one of us to bring him back into focus: To get the job done. With the new album, the newly invigorated band and everyone’s approval of the new songs I was writing, we reckoned we could make a comeback, or in Big D’s words, “We could do an Aerosmith.” All we needed was someone with Aerosmith-type connections to help things along.

“Careful what you wish for” was about to be realised.

Carnival In Rock tour February/March 1993
Carnival In Rock tour February/March 1993
Carnival In Rock tour February/March 1993
Carnival In Rock tour February/March 1993
Carnival In Rock tour February/March 1993
Carnival In Rock tour February/March 1993
Carnival In Rock tour February/March 1993
Carnival In Rock tour February/March 1993
Carnival In Rock tour 2/3.93
“Seduce you with his money-make machine, cross-collateralize (big-time money money.)” (Queen: Flick Of The Wrist, 1974)

His flight into Glasgow was due at 17.30hrs and, as I was the sole band member residing in the West of Scotland, it was decided I should be the one to pick him up and drive him to our usual meeting place, and his hotel for the night: The Pitfirrane Hotel, Dunfermline. Although we’d never met before, there was no shortage of conversation on the 50-minute journey east as we already knew a lot about each other. His praise of my guitar playing and songwriting was both appreciated and slightly off-putting as I’d heard this sort of ‘sooking up’ before a long time ago from a guy who ended up ending my solo career. Nevertheless, I was equally complimentary of him and his success, so who was the bigger ‘sook’ on this occasion? “My!” he exclaimed at one point, “I love your wonderful Scotch mountains,” and I had to politely inform him that (a) Scotch was a drink and (b) He was referring to a set of hills called the Campsie Fells. No matter, my American passenger was here to offer us a deal. He was the only one of many we’d approached to do so and he had the ominous track record of working with a band everyone had written off many times over the years but were still surviving, nay, were more successful than ever.

His name was David Krebs, one half of Leber & Krebs Management who’d steered Boston band, Aerosmith to stardom in the ’70s despite their reputation for being the Bad, Bad Boys of Rock. Speaking of reputations, David Krebs is also listed in LA Weekly’s top 10 of “Managers Who Fucked Over Their Artists”, but we didn’t know that at the time. Our meeting at The Pit went well as Krebs waxed lyrical about No Jive and the demos Big D had sent him of my new songs stating that:
“With this man’s voice (Dan) and this man’s songwriting talent,” as he put a hand on my shoulder, “I predict great things are gonna happen.”
We invited him to put his money where his mouth was, and he promised to do just that.
“If you sign up with me for management and publishing (my spider-sense was tingling, and not in a good way) I’ll not only finance your album. I will also secure its release on a major record label.”
Jeez, the resemblance to our old manager, Jim White, was uncanny. We should tread carefully.
“No catches?”
“As long as McCafferty sings and Rankin writes the songs, I give you my word.”
Pete and Darrell may have been offended, b
ut they didn’t let it show, they wholeheartedly agreed.

And so, with handshakes all round, we set about planning to make our next album.

Fish at Funny Farm
Fish at Funny Farm

This time there was no need for rehearsals at Shorty’s: All that was required was to transpose the keys of my demos to suit Dan’s vocal range (rule of thumb was to shift ‘em up by five semitones) choose the studio (St Ingbert again) and decide on a producer. It was deemed necessary by all cos we didn’t want to go through engineering it ourselves (aka Me) then have it butchered by a Mike Ging type who’d only showed up for the mixing and bury Pete’s bass. The job would eventually go to Tony Taverner who’d previously worked with Naz as an engineer on Hair Of The Dog and No Mean City. For now, however, we kept up with our busy touring schedule (which I was still having to enhance financially by doing solo pub gigs) content in the knowledge that we’d been given another chance of a comeback. For my sins, I re-recorded some of the demos in keys suitable for Dan, but we also did some pre-production at our friend, Derek Dick’s home studio, Funny Farm, just outside Edinburgh.

Thinking back on it now, Derek (or Fish to Marillion fans) probably hoped by offering us free studio time to do the demos we might’ve considered recording the new album itself at Funny Farm, but we’d already settled on St Ingbert so, Derek, if you’re reading this now and muttering “Fuckin’ Dunfermline Athletic supporters!” please don’t seek me out and hit me, there’s a good Big Hibernian supporting Fish. As it happens, some of the recordings did make it onto the album, namely the bonus acoustic tracks of some old favourites and this led to yet another string to our bow:

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you:

Nazareth Unplugged.

“If you turn him up, I’m leaving!” (Pete Agnew to soundman: Sax, Cumbernauld, Scotland 16th February 1994)

I don’t remember whose idea it was, but it was a good one. “Let’s do a whole set of acoustic versions of our songs.” I know whose idea it wasn’t: Darrell’s. He hated the thought of sitting down with a bass drum and a tambourine plus he knew the rest of us wouldn’t let him sing, so he was out. Some improvisation was required.

The tambourine was easy, Dan could play that but drums? Road manager, Willie came up with a solution by attaching a PZM microphone (that’s the tile-shaped flat type available from Radio Shack usually used to record ambience in a concert hall) to a wedge-shaped, highly reinforced board which I could stomp on. No such contraption existed so Willie simply built one himself. The resulting sound didn’t so much resemble a drum of any kind, more like a huge foot hitting a large plank of wood. It was gloriously effective. Dan, Pete and I got rehearsing with one primary objective: To play only the songs from our back catalogue we liked and to play them as different from the originals as possible. Once this was achieved some Scottish pub dates were booked and, armed with a backdrop designed by Lee Agnew, off we went. Unlike the usual touring paraphernalia, all we needed was our guitars, 3 microphones and Willie’s homemade stomping board. Each venue supplied a PA system and sometimes even some stage lighting. Willie did the out-front sound (which meant we’d always be loud) and, it’s fair to say, we not only had the most fun we’d had in years but as a direct result of witnessing this, the audiences enjoyed it very much too. The three of us together were always a bit of a vocal powerhouse but, stripped bare of effects and electric instruments, our house of vocal power was structurally enhanced, or something like that.

Unplugged 1994
Unplugged 1994
Unplugged 1994
Unplugged 1994
Unplugged 1994
Unplugged 1994
Unplugged 1994
Unplugged 1994
Unplugged 1994
Unplugged 1994
Unplugged 1994
Unplugged 1994
Unplugged 1994
Hamilton Advertiser January 1994
Sax, Cumbernauld ticket 16th February 1994
Unplugged 94

May The Sunshine – Sax, Cumbernauld, Scotland 16th February 1994

Turn On Your Receiver – Solid Rock Café, Glasgow, Scotland 23rd February 1994

Guilty – Sax, Cumbernauld, Scotland 16th February 1994

This all happened in early 1994 and, as we weren’t booked for any full-on Nazareth gigs at the time, it brought us some welcome income into the bargain. As April ’94 approached, we agreed to put Nazareth Unplugged on hold safe in the knowledge that we could resurrect it any time we needed to have a bit of a break from reality.

Reality was about to return, however, and then some.

“Fate comes a-knockin, doors start lockin’. Your old-time connection, change your direction.” (Aerosmith: Same Old Song And Dance, 1974)
Far Studios, St Ingbert, Germany 4.94
CAS Studios, St Ingbert April 1994

Thanks to David Krebs, he being half the partnership known as Leber & Krebs responsible for ‘Fucking Over’ Aerosmith (and incidentally credited with launching AC/DC and Joan Jett to a wider audience) we headed out once again to Frank Farian’s studio in Germany to commence the recording of our follow-up album to the critically acclaimed No Jive. For a mere management and publishing deal with us, Mr Krebs had personally guaranteed to not only finance the about-to-be-recorded album but also secure its release on a major record label.

The Big Time once again beckoned.

Far Studios, St Ingbert, Germany 4.94
CAS Studios, St Ingbert April 1994

Everything was in place. We had the songs, we had Tony Taverner both engineering and producing and we had a belief amongst the band that we could actually pull this off. As we set about laying down backing tracks, all appeared well til Darrell suddenly announced, “Band meeting. Now!” He’d received a fax (yep, it was a long time ago) from Saviour Krebs outlining the details of the contracts to be signed and there was a problem. No. Not a problem. A Major Fuck Up, legally speaking. The publishing deal (i.e. the songwriting contract) was not only for this as yet untitled/unrecorded album, but also to include (notwithstanding all exceptions) every song from every album Nazareth had ever made:
“Every album?”
“Aye, and every song we’ve ever written: Razamanaz, Hair Of The Dog, Expect No Mercy, Sunshine, May The Sunshine, Sunshine On Leith, wait, that wasn’t us, Broken Down Angel, We Are Animals, Shit! He’s done his homework guys.”
What he’d done was read the writing credits on every Nazareth album ever made, probably from the CDs Darrell gave him at the meeting we’d had at the Pit a few months previous, and stuck them into the contract.
“I have nothing to do with this. I should leave the room,” I offered.
“No, Bill. You are a quarter of Nazareth and therefore you need to hear this. He even wants the publishing to Dream On, and you wrote that, mind?”
After carefully analysing what Big D had just said and recalling what had become of my songwriting royalties on Dream On, among others, I reiterated, “I have nothing to do with this. I should leave the room.”
The bottom line was that David Krebs was attempting to do to us what he’d previously done to Steven Tyler, Joe Perry and those other guys in Aerosmith: Shaft us for our publishing rights.
“Ah’m no signin’ that!” was the general consensus in the room and when Darrell faxed back pointing out that this was not part of the deal, we never heard from Krebs again.

You can see the problem, right?

We were in Germany recording an album which no longer had financial backing. We had a studio to pay for, a band and producer to pay for and, as always, a substantial bar bill to pay for and no major record company involvement.

We were quite royally Fucked!

Far Studios, St Ingbert, Germany 4.94
CAS Studios, St Ingbert April 1994

Except we weren’t. There was an outside chance Phonogram Germany were interested. Interested is an exaggeration. We’d approached our long-time friends Karin Heinrich and Astrid Horn earlier in the proceedings and they’d expressed interest despite their bosses insistence that “Dance Music” was the future and to steer clear of those “Rock Has-beens” if they wanted to keep their jobs. We knew our old friends would love what we were creating and would still believe there was a market for it, but now was not the time to let them hear it. We’d barely got the backing tracks down, so a decision was made.

We would finance it ourselves.

“He said that if I had a certain style, then stuff would start to happen. (Pixies: Talent, 2016)
Tony-Taverner
Tony Taverner

The album which would ultimately become Move Me wouldn’t have happened without the immense talents of Tony Taverner. It’s difficult to explain, but I shall try. He knew the others well due to previous albums together, and it wasn’t long into the sessions before he and I became friends too. Tony had a knack of getting the best out of us simply by taking a ‘Let’s just try it’ approach when we were recording. 

Dan, Pete and Tony Taverner Far Studios, St Ingbert, Germany 4.94
Dan, Pete and Tony, CAS Studios, St Ingbert, Germany April 1994

An early example would be my solo on Let Me Be Your Dog. I’d tried everything from using a slide to out-and-out shredding, but nothing was working for me. Encouraging words from Dan, Pete and Darrell along with Tony himself, weren’t helping so Tony called for a break and took me aside:
“All the solos you’re playing work fine Bill.”
“No Tone,” I answered dejectedly. “None of them suit the swagger of the track.”
“So what would?”
It was then that I remembered a gig with the Party Boys when Zal and I were trading solos. When it came to Zal’s bit, instead of playing one of his blistering ‘How the Fuck’s He Doing That?’ masterpieces, the bold Alistair stood rooted to the spot, staring into space with a glazed look in his eyes and played a simple arpeggio guitar part so boring anyone could’ve played it, except they couldn’t have, of course. When the chord in the song changed, he kept up the boredom by changing just one note, and I remember thinking, “That’s awesome.” I recited this memory to Tony and, putting his arm around my shoulder, he led me back into the studio, saying, “Let’s just try it.”  A few minutes later I’d laid a track down and everyone was laughing. In Pete’s case, uncontrollably.
“No good then?” I asked through the catcalling.
“Play it again, twice more,” replied Tony.
“We’ll triple-track it.”
“But you’re all laughing.”
“Yeah,” agreed Pete. “It’s like it’s your big solo moment and you’ve just gone, “I don’t give a fuck,” it’s wonderful!”

The Zal-inspired solo

And as it turns out it was, but I would never have dared play it if Tony hadn’t encouraged me. He was great at that, even letting us try out weird vocal ideas or sound effects like the subtle dog-barking at the end of Dog. That led into the only appearance of Willie McQuillan on a Naz album when, after re-enacting a very real hangover, he’s heard dissolving painkillers into a glass of water on Can’t Shake Those Shakes.

Far Studios, St Ingbert, Germany 4.94
CAS Studios, St Ingbert, Germany April 1994

Tony was also very methodical and used sheets of paper stuck to the control room wall for every song, scoring off individual tasks as they were completed. Compared to the trials of recording No Jive, this album was a joy to make. I think this comes across when you listen to it and it’s mainly, in my opinion, down to Tony Taverner’s brilliance as an engineer and producer. As we got closer and closer to mixing, Big D invited Karin and Astrid (along with another rep from Phonogram whose name escapes me) and gave them a full album playback at maximum volume. After requesting we turn it down a bit: “You Scots are Deaf! the German’s gave it a massive thumbs up, saying they’d never expected such a fresh sounding record from what their bosses had deemed Has-beens. Although nothing was certain yet, they set about discussing deals during which we all agreed on specific details. Dan, Pete and Darrell (as directors of Nazareth Dunfermline) would sign over the recording rights to Phonogram GMB and I, as main songwriter, would assign my rights to Polygram GMB, Phonogram’s publishing arm. Once again, I was not about to make the same mistake I’d made during my earlier involvement with Naz. I was going to make damn sure MY songs remained MY songs. That would lead to a problem of fatalistic proportions later, but for now, we’d made a great album we were rightfully proud of, and it looked like the future was brightening up.

“What about, Frankly my dear, I don’t give a fuck?” (Billy Rankin, 26th June 2019)

A few months later we were offered an opportunity of what should’ve been monumental proportions. CBS Broadcasting in America had filmed a 4-part TV adaptation of the classic Gone With The Wind at the cost of $45M. It featured such luminaries as Joanne Whalley-Kilmer, Timothy Dalton, and Sean Bean and we were asked to contribute to the musical soundtrack by recording a new version of Love Hurts, with a major difference: an orchestra. Not just any orchestra, but the Munich Philharmonic no less.

Love Hurts CD cover 94
Love Hurts CD cover 1994

On the flight over to München, I bored my fellow bandmates with my extensive knowledge of this world-famous band of classical musicians. Alongside the Berlin Philharmonic, this lot were the best. I had dozens of albums on the Deutsche Gramophone label by them and even my cello-playing hero Pierre Fournier had jammed some Dvorak with these talented Germans once in a while. By the time we got to the Paradise Studio, Munich, I was beside myself with excitement. Hell, I hadn’t even gotten drunk on the plane. We were quickly ushered into a small recording room with an even smaller window overlooking the much larger room which accommodated this legendary orchestra. The window, incidentally was so we could see the conductor as he ran through the arrangement for the song. My quite reasonable request of, “Can’t we be in the same room as them?” was met with a harsh but fair response of, “Nein!” by more than just the baton waver. It was unanimously voted down. No matter, this was fuckin’ epic! After a few run-throughs, a voice from the control room announced, “That’s a wrap. Guitar solo please.”  “Wait. What?” It was no big deal for us, we played the bastard every night, but the orchestra had nailed it in two takes? Actually no. The producer had only started the tape on the second run through so they’d nailed it in one take. Impressive or what? As it was decided my guitar solo would benefit from the greater ambience of the larger room, my Marshal stack was set up while the Munich Philharmonic packed their instruments away. For a few minutes, I was in the company of greatness. I made a beeline for the cellists, in particular, the ‘leader-off’ as he would’ve been known and heaped much praise on him. Mainly, like a schoolboy, I gleefully tried to inform him I was, like him, an accomplished cello player. He very politely thanked me for the compliments, but ran like fuck to the control room as I began warming up for my solo spot. “I’m just like Pierre Fournier,” I told myself, but really I wasn’t. The tape machine rolled, I played a solo and once again the voice from the control room announced it was a wrap. I’d done it in one take, just like them. I entered the control room to polite, but sustained applause from my new friends in the orchestra and almost took a bow, but didn’t. I was particularly pleased to be complimented by the lead cello player who’d liked how I’d played “An obviously minor note in an obviously major key” during my one-take performance.
“Thank you,” I replied. “It’s due to my influence of The Blues.”
“Ah, Black Music?”
I let that comment slide cos, although he might’ve been historically correct, my main influence of The Blues, guitar player-wise was from Nottingham, played with Ten Years After and was most definitely not Black.
“Enough about me,” I countered.
“What do you think of Pierre Fournier as a cellist?”
“Not bad,” he said, before adding, “For a Frenchman.”
It was not going well.
“That’s a beautiful cello you have there. Is it expensive?”
Judging by the look he gave me I may as well have asked if he’d ever slept with his sister.
Unzipping his gig bag, he proceeded to let me look at it.
“Can I play it?” I pleaded.
Now, my German is not good, but I’m pretty sure as he zipped up his gig bag and laughed in my face, his reply was along the lines of, “Fuck Nein!”
Pete was watching as the cellist left and he hurried to my side.
“What was that all about?”
“Fuck it, Pete!” I replied.

“That was Alvin Lee’s German cousin!”