“One of the boys told me what was going on last night. One of the boys said if I tried it, everything would be alright.” (Nazareth: Talkin’ To One Of The Boys, 1980)
This is going to sound crazy, but I wasn’t a massive fan of Nazareth. Sure, I knew their hits, hell I’d even blagged their entire album collection from Mountain’s storeroom when we were stablemates, but a fan? Not really. I partly blame Zal for this cos, back while I was babysitting his kids and he was driving a taxi, Derek Nicols, Mountain’s MD, tried in vain to convince Alistair into joining them, once flying him out to Canada to witness them perform to a huge sell-out crowd. On his return, he told me, “I don’t wanna spend the rest of my career playing Love bloody Hurts! Honestly, Billy, they’re not very good, and that’s me being generous for fuck’s sake!” I was flabbergasted. That was the most Zal had ever spoken to me, ever, fuck’s sake!
After he’d succumbed to their offer of joining and came home for a few days from the studio on the Isle of Man, Zal played me some rough mixes from No Mean City while I was fixing his daughter a snack and exclaimed, “They still wear flared jeans, fuck’s sake!” “Been there, done that,” I muttered, the memory of a certain Swedish ferry springing to mind. (Incidentally, No Mean City is my favourite Naz album.) I attended Naz’s Hammersmith Odeon concert during the No Mean City tour as Zal’s guest with my brother Ian cos Mary wouldn’t go. A year later I was there for the Malice tour’s gig at Glasgow Apollo, again as Zal’s guest and took my mum cos Mary wouldn’t go. On both occasions, I thought Zal did okay on the new stuff, but he was overshadowed by some Manny bloke who was taking all the main solos. I should’ve taken notes. Also, on both occasions, I gave away our after-show laminates to the first fans I came across wearing SAHB patches on their denim jackets. Family ties and all that.
A few months later, Mountain Records went under. They’d been propped up by Nazareth’s success alone and, even discounting SAHB’s debt and failed signings (yours truly included), the fact their office was at 49 Mount St, Mayfair, London should’ve sent bells of alarm to Derek Nicols’ monthly outgoings but didn’t. The poor guy went down with the ship, lost his house and everything but so, potentially, would Dan, Pete, Manny and Darrell. Zal picked his moment to once again hide behind the couch and contemplate a return to a “Where to Guv?” vocation. This is when I inadvertently entered the arena.
It was to involve many arenas, and Mary still wouldn’t go.