“Call again tomorrow, we’ve forgotten what your name is. Gotta make a dollar when you’re Takin’ Care Of Business.” (Billy Rankin, 1984)
As previously touched upon, Jim White had me by the balls in all of my musical endeavours. As an artist through his I-Rate Management company, as a songwriter via his Money For Music company and, as a recording musician, with Jim White Ltd. I couldn’t fart, or even write about a fart, without his involvement. He was, he reminded me often, “Paying your bloody wages” and I had to agree though I reminded him often, “From all the bloody money you got from signing me to A&M and Almo Irving.” He had to agree likewise.
Once back home in Dalgety Bay, I set about writing and demoing new stuff cos Crankin’ was gone. Even though A&M had washed their hands of me, they had paid for and owned, the rights to the album itself. Also, Growin’ Up Too Fast with all the songs on both albums published through Almo Irving.
A few months down the line, Jim called with what he said was “Good news.”
“I’m signing you to Warner Chappell for publishing, Bill. They really like your songwriting.”
“Do I have any say in this?”
“Nope. I have you by the balls and I pay your bloody wages.” We both agreed on this.
Then something akin to a spanner appeared in Jim White’s proverbial works.
Don’t Keep Me Waitin’ home demo 1985
Don’t Say It’s Over home demo 1985
Walk Out home demo 1986
To complete the deal and pocket a sizeable advance of £50,000, Jim had to give Chappell a signed letter from me permitting him to deal on my balls’ behalf. The spanner which upset Jim’s apple cart, derailed his gravy train, opened his stable door and ultimately broke his camel’s back (What?) was that the letter came from Chappell to my address. It was from Diana Graham, an up-and-coming mover and shaker who would eventually become MD of Universal Music, but hadn’t started moving and shaking yet. I decided to call her:
“Hello, Billy. So good to finally talk to you.”
“Aye, you too, Diana. Listen, I’m not comfortable signing this.”
“I understand, he’s got you by the balls hasn’t he?”
“In a vice.”
“Well, we’re not interested in your balls. It’s your songs we want.”
“So would you consider signing me directly?”
“Absolutely. Jim sent us all your demos and we’ve already secured a cover for one of your songs by a major artist. It’s guaranteed to recoup the £50,000 advance we’re offering to pay him for not being remotely involved in the whole songwriting process.”
I’m paraphrasing here, but that was the gist of the conversation.
“Cool. Who’s the major artist?”
“And the song?”
“Err. Sorry, Diana. I’m going to have to call you back.”
Several things now happened. First, I phoned a specialist car dealer and put my beloved BMW up for sale: We were gonna need the money. Second, I called Jim White:
“Just spoke with Diana at Chappell Jimbo.”
“What? You’ve no right doin’ that! Sign the letter or I’ll ruin you!”
“Aye, whatever. Listen, are you really as stupid as you appear to be?”
“What are you talking about?”
“What about Meat Loaf?”
Oh my. He didn’t know.
Finally, a call back to Diana:
“Bad news I’m afraid,” I began. “That song you’ve got Meat Loaf covering, Burning Down? It’s actually the final track from my debut solo album on A&M Records.”
This took a few seconds to sink in, then: “It’s already published then?”
“Yup. By Almo Irving via Jim White.”
“So he sent us your solo album on a tape called Billy Rankin demos?”
“Aye, probably my 2nd solo album too.”
“So we’ve successfully gotten a song of yours on a potentially million-selling album, and it’s already owned by one of our biggest publishing rivals.”
This wasn’t a question. Diana Graham was simply stating a fact, no doubt with her head in her hands.
She then launched into such a tirade of filth I couldn’t possibly repeat it here, but suffice to say a future MD of Universal owned quite a ‘potty mouth’ and who could blame her.
“On a positive note Diana, if it does go on to sell a million, neither you, me or in particular Jim White will make a penny from it. Almo Irving wouldn’t even let him shit in their bathroom.”
“So, he’s screwed everyone including himself, what an idiot!”
After some more ranting, I decided to ask the question I already knew the answer to:
“Do you still want me to sign for Chappell?”
“Not while Jim White is involved, Bill. This is a total headfuck!”
“So what should I do?”
“Get yourself a good lawyer.”
“Do you know any?”
After a brief pause, Diana Graham replied:
“As a matter of fact, I do.”
“We needed a plan, we needed defences. We couldn’t raise a smile.” (Burning Down: Billy Rankin, 1984; Meat Loaf, 1986; Nazareth, 1994)
“Telephone is ringing,” as Alice Cooper once said. “Hello.” “Oh, good afternoon. May I speak with Billy Rankin please?” “Speaking.” “Hello, Mr Rankin. My name is Debbie and I’m calling on behalf of James Ware from Davenport Lyons Solicitors.” “Hi, Debbie. So James got my letter?” “Indeed. James has asked if you can meet with him next week sometime. Wednesday would be preferable.” “Sure. Eh, he knows I don’t have much money, doesn’t he Debbie?” “James wants me to assure you this is not an issue at present Mr Rankin. Shall we say 2pm, Wednesday week?” “I’ll be there. Thank you.”
The letter referred to here was at the suggestion of Diana Graham. “Write down everything you’ve been stupid enough to sign or do and send it to James Ware, c/o Davenport Lyons, Soho Square, London, W1,” was her advice, so I did.
Man, it made for some grim reading.
From Fool Circle Music to whom I’d signed away Dream On and never received any royalties or statements AND given Dan, Pete, Manny & Darrell 80% writing credit for it and the other songs I’d written for Naz, to the more recent Jim White fiasco where it seemed I couldn’t break free of the bastard and rebuild my career. So off to London I went, on a cheap day return train ride I may add.
Once there, Debbie showed me into an office bigger than me and Mary’s 1st flat. “Hello, Billy, please take a seat,” said James Ware, solicitor. “Thanks for seeing me,” I began, shaking his hand. “I really do app…” “Before we speak, sign this!” he interrupted and slid a piece of paper and pen across the desk. “What is it?” I asked then corrected myself, thinking, “It’s a bit late to be questioning signing shit, isn’t it Asshole?” “It grants you Legal Aid. Otherwise, this would cost you a considerable amount, young man.”
I knew this to be true. £200 per hour was his going rate.
Before I continue with this tale, a brief background history of James Ware is in order.
His most recent case had involved getting some young upstart called George Michael out of a contract he’d signed when he was, oh I don’t know, 9? “He’s going to be Big,” James assured me, and he was right. Previously, he’d signed Lemmy and his pre-Motörhead band, Hawkwind, to Atlantic Records, helped Richard Branson set up Virgin Music and created the T.Rex Wax Company for Marc Bolan and its offshore offices in the Bahamas which he still controls to this day. “My only regret there,” he told me, “Was not being able to stop Fly Records from releasing Jeepster as a single after Get It On went to No. 1. Marc didn’t regard Jeepster as a single.” “I’m glad you failed,” I interjected. “Jeepster was a great song.” “No, Marc was right. It only got to No. 2.”
Shit! This guy was something else.
Most importantly to me that day was that he actually cared. He wasn’t doing this for the money that’s for sure, cos I had none.
“You must think I’m such an idiot.” “No more so than others I’ve represented. Joe Strummer signed similar things to you. I got him out of most of them but, as I fear in your case, it was too late. It doesn’t make him an idiot, though.”
James had anticipated I’d sign the Legal Aid contract, so he’d already addressed some of the issues outlined in my letter. “Within the next 2 hours, you’ll be completely free of all Jim White related contracts. If he even tells someone in the music business he knows you, we’ll have his house.” “But what if he phones me and threatens me and…” “Then we’ll have his Bentley too.”
This, alone was worth the journey. The rest wasn’t quite so clear cut. (If you thought this was boring so far, prepare to be comatose, dude.)
Over the next few weeks, James had the following sussed:
Meat Loaf was indeed covering Burning Down on his, soon-to-be-released, Blind Before I Stop album with Almo Irving benefiting, but the $100,000 advance they’d paid to Jim White for Growin’ Up Too Fast wasn’t yet recouped. Neither was the undisclosed advance he’d ‘Banked from Crankin’ which was never going to be released. James found it particularly amusing that Chappell had sold Burning Down to Big Marvin Lee Aday Loaf on the premise that they owned the rights to a demo. I did not find this amusing at all. “Think how Jethro Tull felt when they sent their record label one of their earlier albums as a demo tape and got rejected. This business is hilarious!” he countered. Similarly, to my dismay, Nazareth had successfully removed Jim White from Fool Circle Music and had set up their own company, Nazareth Dunfermline. As yet another ‘Limited Company’ they could, and undoubtedly would, go bust rather than pay the outstanding royalties I was due. And the royalties, James had deduced, were substantial. Based on worldwide sales of Dream On alone, my 20% share would, according to James, help avert a Third World crisis, but if we sued to prove I wrote 100% (which I did apart from a few lines added by Manny), I could buy a Third World country. “Either way,” he added, “Your current entitlement to Legal Aid would be nullified.” Summing up, even with the help of one of the most brilliant music business lawyers around, the devious tactics of ‘smart arses’ in our midst with no talent whatsoever ultimately defeated me.
Meat Loaf Burning Down
On the other hand, James had some encouraging words:
“I would gladly give up representing Richard Branson/Marc Bolan/Lemmy/Hawkwind/George Michael/ Joe Strummer/Aswad/Gilbert O’Sullivan/Pans People (What?) to have just one ounce of the talent you possess.”
My final conversation with James Ware in late 1985 was strictly off the Legal Aid record and went something like this:
“I’ve got an offer of help from John Ryan.”
“Ah, the producer of both your solo albums as well as his work with the brothers Allman & Doobie and, er, did Santana have any brothers?”
“Not to my knowledge.”
“So just those two families then. What’s he offering?”
“Getting me a new deal.”
“A production deal?”
“Aye, but seeing as you’ve just gotten me out of 3 of them with Jim White, you’re probably going to recommend I reject it.”
“Not necessarily, William, he is not Jim White.”
“So, I sign it?”
“Good God, No! Haven’t you learned anything? Sorry, don’t answer that. Apparently not.”
“Soooo… I don’t reject it?”
His final piece of advice was what I based all my future contractual obligations on.
“Get some financial payment agreement from him. i.e. he pays your wages for the duration of the contract. Limit his control to one area, either as your producer, manager, publisher or record company. Set a time limit of a maximum 6 months contract and, finally, if he doesn’t succeed on delivering what you agreed he would, then you owe him nothing.”
“Jeez, James. Even if John Ryan were Lemmy, he wouldn’t sign that.”
“Even Lemmy would serve you better than Jim White. Goodbye and good luck.”
To my surprise, John Ryan DID agree with these terms and set about getting me a record deal, for Crankin’. “It deserves to be heard,” was his logical reason and I understood it. Unfortunately, bad news travels fast in this business and, try as he did, no one was going to touch anything with Jim White’s tarnished name attached, especially when they’d have to repurchase the masters from A&M before even thinking of putting it out.
Next in line was good old Uncle Pete Agnew who’d dropped by my house for a different reason entirely. My ex-bandmates were currently writing for their new album, Cinema, and were short of material. “Got any songs?” As I’d been demoing lots of ditties recently, we sat down and had a playback. Not only did Pete knock back everything I played for him, he also unwittingly knocked back some songs which would appear on a Naz album in the future, proving that had Pete Agnew been an A&R guy, he would’ve turned down the No Jive album by his own band. He did, however, offer to attempt what John Ryan had failed to do, this time with no contracts, no strings attached, just as a favour as he couldn’t believe I was without a recording or publishing deal.
Alas just like John, he failed.
In Pete and John’s defence, 1986 was not a great year for Rock music. The biggest hit single of the year in the UK was The Lady In Red by Chris de Burgh, hardly a headbanger.
Right Between The Eyes home demo 1985
Cry Wolf home demo 1985
Every Time It Rains home demo 1986
Step forward our ex-tour accountant with Naz and now personal manager of Ted Nugent: Doug Banker. Once he’d agreed to a James Ware approach and signed me to his Madhouse Management company with wages thrown in, Doug felt confident he could break the stalemate. After securing a meeting in New York with my old A&M buddy, Jordan Harris (now with Virgin Records) my fears were eventually realised. While waiting in reception, Jordan’s secretary asked Doug the nature of his visit. When he replied, “Billy Rankin,” he was advised to leave immediately as “Mr Harris has nothing to discuss on this matter.”
That was That.
“Eskimo Brothers – When two males acknowledge having been intimate with the same female and remain on good terms” (Urban Dictionary)
1985 was a strange year for me.
I’d fucked up by trusting the wrong people yet my various friends had also failed to fix it.
“Grow a pair,” was probably what I told myself a lot, but then something very unlikely happened.
I got a call out of the blue from none other than Zal Cleminson.
“Uh-Oh,” I remember thinking. “Someone’s dead.”
“Hey Bro,” he began. “I’ve started rehearsals for a major tour with Bonnie Tyler’s band.”
“And she’s just died?”
“What? No! She needs a second guitarist who can sing and I thought you might be interested.”
“Sure thing Bro, what’s the script?”
“£500 per week, hotels, travel expenses and all the usual perks. You in?”
“Cool. Bonnie’s musical director will phone you later today. See ye soon Bro.”
This wasn’t Zal’s first involvement with a female artist.
The previous year he’d recorded an album at Abbey Road Studios as guitarist with Elkie Brooks then did her subsequent UK tour later that year. The tour included a date at the Glasgow Apollo, 10th October to be precise and I’d attended it as his special guest alongside Eddie Tobin.
“This is gonna be Shite,” muttered Eddie as we waited for the show to begin.
For starters, a quick glance at the audience revealed not one SAHB or Nazareth denim jacket was to be found amongst the mainly hand-holding couples awaiting Elkie’s appearance. It was safe to assume we were the only couple not holding hands, but alas the only audience members there to see the mighty Zal Cleminson rip it up. And rip it up he did, if only for the few minutes allocated to a solo spot during which everybody else present stuck their fingers in their ears.
“She’s gonna sing Fool If You Think It’s Over, isn’t she?” Eddie predicted, correctly.
“Probably around the same time as she does Pearl’s A Singer,“ I replied, again correctly.
“Fuck! Was that her? Bastard!”
Eddie hadn’t calmed down much when we went backstage later and Zal asked what we’d thought of our free night out.
“You’re wasted in this band!” he said, a tad harshly I thought, but nevertheless honestly.
I said something less harsh, like, “Nice tone Bro,” and helped myself to a free beer or two.
Sometimes it’s nice to be nice.
Zal with Elkie Brooks 1984
Elkie Brooks, Apollo, Glasgow ticket 10th October 1984
Fast forward to the start of this tale and the call came from Bonnie Tyler’s musical director as promised.
“So, can you start next week Bill?”
“Don’t you want to audition me, or something?”
“No need. I asked Zal if you were as good a player as he was and could you sing Jim Steinman’s “Turn Around Bright Eyes“ bits on Total Eclipse of the Heart?”
“And what did he say?”
“That you’re a way better guitarist than him and that you could, and I quote, probably sing Bonnie’s bits too if she’s having an off night.”
Was Zal being serious? I’d like to think he’d remembered my reaction the year before and in true Bro-like spirit decided, sometimes it’s nice to be nice. Unfortunately we’ll never know cos the tour got cancelled before I could board the flight to London.
“That’s a pity,” said Eddie when I informed him of the situation.
“Why? Because me and Zal would’ve been back playing together?”
“Nah” he countered.
“Both of you in Bonnie Tyler’s band would’ve helped spread the fuckin’ shame!”
“Looks like the referee has given a penalty but I’m no sure. What do you think, Dodsy?” “Well, Willie, I’ll tell you what. I’m definitely, positively no sure.” (Live commentary of Rangers v Celtic match by Scottish ex-footballers Willie Miller and Billy Dodds, 2018)
Being from Scotland, football (or soccer to Americans) is a way of life. In fact, the only escape routes from a mundane hard grafting life were to be either a football player or a Rock Star. In my case and despite being selected for Kirkintilloch High School’s first-ever competitive game, it was obvious the PE teacher got it wrong, and I was dropped from the team the following week, and then forever. I got my own back later and in a comparison akin to failed painter Adolf Hitler: “I can’t get the mountains right. Fuck It! I will kill Everyone!”
Kirkintilloch falls into the region known as Glasgow, so growing up there meant you were either a Celtic or Rangers supporterdependent on your religion, or even something as simple as which school you attended. I was a Glasgow Rangers fan through no choices or faults of my own. I was a Protestant.
As a musician, I’d played alongside my adversaries (or Damn Catholics as my father would’ve called them) from the beginning. Catholics we called ‘Bead-rattling Fenian Tims’ and we, in turn, were referred to as ‘Orange Bastard Masonic Huns’ but I digress. This all changed when I joined Nazareth. Not completely, you understand. When me, Darrell and Manny (aka The Protestants) would meet for breakfast in some far-flung hotel in the Mid US, we’d often start the day with Manny asking, “So what did the Catholics get up to last night.” The Catholics in question being ex-altar boys Dan and Pete.
It was mainly due to Bead-rattling Dan that I got passionate about local Fife team, Dunfermline Athletic and we often attended their games, albeit separately (A Tim and a Hun couldn’t be seen collaborating.) In 1985, Dunfermline Athletic gained promotion to the 1st division and, in celebration, we did a song with the team. The resulting recording was a genuinely awful affair. We assembled 22 footballers into a small Edinburgh studio then walked around the room identifying those who could sing in tune, sticking a microphone in their face and doing multiple takes til it sounded like 22 singers and not just the selected few. Oh, and they were also very drunk. The B-side, on the other hand, was written and performed by ex-Glasgow Rangers coach, Gregor Abel, with help from myself and is quite a fond memory of Greg to me as he passionately loved Dunfermline Athletic. The only downside was, after being dropped off back home post-recording session by Dunfermline’s legendary manager, Jim Leishman, he inadvertently closed the car door on my fingers which put me out of action guitar-playing wise for a few weeks:
“Fuck You, Jim Leishman!” was my parting comment that night. My fondness may have been based on a Glasgow Rangers bias, but it’s a fitting tribute to a team who, on the first game of a future return to the Scottish Premier League, completely gubbed Glasgow Celtic at East End Park. That’ll work for me every time.
Eastenders 7" sleeve
Eastenders 7" rear
The Pars Song 1985
Next came ‘Should’ve Been A Rock Star’ Jay Crawford who’d written a poem about our national team, Scotland. Having given it some thought, he’d decided if someone could put it to music, Jay could persuade his buddy, Rod Stewart, to record it and make so much money he could stop writing poetry. I was given the task and came up with a typically Rod Stewart-sounding track called Hampden Nights which, when sent to Rod Stewart by Jay, was subsequently turned down by Rod who cited that it sounded too much like something Rod Stewart would sing. Jay countered with, “Isn’t that kinda the point, Rod Stewart?” Rod Stewart conceded that, even although that was indeed kinda the point, he wasn’t going to sing it, so Jay ended things politely with a “Fuck You, Rod Stewart!” and that was that.
Hampden Nights Home Demo 1986
Finally, somewhere near the end of the domestic football season of 1987, I got a call up from Brian Young and Ali at Ca-Va Studios in Glasgow.
“We want to record and release a football single really quickly,” they informed me.
“The season’s almost over and it would capitalise on the league winners success to their fans.”
“You mean the Glorious Glasgow Rangers?” I replied cos I’d been following recent results and, although it was a close-run thing, I was fairly hopeful my boyhood team would make it.
“No,” said Brian, “The Heroic, Hail-worthy, Heart of Midlothian,” to which I nearly dropped my phone.
It turns out his beloved Hearts did have a chance of taking the title and Brian had written an A-side called Championi and a B-side based on Chuck Berry’s Johnny B Goode about Hearts’ twin striker’s John Robertson and John Colquhoun, both songs he wanted me to sing. By the time I’d gotten to the studio a few weeks later, however, the tables had quite literally turned, and the Glorious Glasgow Rangers had triumphed, thanks in part to their new player/manager Graeme Souness.
“That’s fucked it!” muttered a downbeat Mr Young. “We’ll need to rewrite the lyrics,” and so we did. As Rangers didn’t have any twin strikers called John, we needed a new B-side too so cunningly rewrote a track we’d recorded for my Crankin’ album called Come Out On Top.Championibecame the latest song of choice amongst Rangers fans on the terraces. We made some good royalties too, due to it not only being bought as a single by said fans, but also PRS money from it being played during every home game at Ibrox Stadium, which in turn would be heard during BBC and/or STV broadcasts. Everyone was happy and I remain friends with many of the Rangers squad. Everyone, of course, except for Brian Young who, although having a hit song (relatively speaking) on his hands, was ultimately crestfallen by the Scottish Premier League’s outcome. He should’ve perhaps laid some of the blame at the doors of Messrs Robertson and Colquhoun for not having the consistency required to take the title. Alas, no. Brian had a new mantra:
“Fuck You, Graeme Souness!”
Championi 7" sleeve 1987
Championi 7" side 1 1987
Championi 7" side 2 1987
Championi 7" back 1987
Come Out On Top 1987
“They sit at the bar and put bread in my jar sayin’ “Man, what are you doin’ here?” (Billy Joel: Piano Man, 1973)
Now into 1987, I faced the stark reality my solo career was finished and reluctantly decided I needed a ‘real job.’
Enter another old friend and mentor, Eddie Tobin. Eddie was now a rep for the largest chain of bars in Scotland. He invited me to meet with him at one of the establishments for which he was area manager: Harvey’s Show-Bar in Paisley. Once seated, Eddie pointed stagewards to a guy with keyboards and a microphone saying, “Check him out. You could do this.” The guy was and still is, Robert Wishart: A stalwart of the Glasgow pub scene who used a combination of backing tapes and drum machines to create a one-man band sound which, to the untrained ear, could’ve been a six-piece band of session musicians. He was and still is very good. Unfortunately, he was and still is, very good at performing one song in particular.
The Lady in Red by Chris de Burgh.
“I can’t do that, Eddie!”
“Course you can. You could be the Rock version of Robert Wishart.”
“Aye. Call yourself Rob Witch-hunt!” said a voice behind us, namely Robert Wishart himself. Between them, they convinced me. The added promise of well-paid gigs from Eddie was enough to get me motivated. Over the next month or so I recorded enough backing tracks on my 4-track to play for a couple of hours and bought a compact but bloody powerful PA system. It was difficult at first, playing popular cover versions to sometimes ten people in the room, but Eddie’s faith in me paid off. “You’re 10 times better than anyone else on the circuit, and there’s enough work to make you more money than you had when you were a fuckin’ Rock Star,” and he was right. Playing weekly residencies, I built up a small, but faithful, audience who’d suggest songs I’d then add to the pre-recorded repertoire helped word spread further than Eddie’s sphere of influence to the point where I was playing 5 or 6 gigs a week to the delight of profiting landlords. Personal favourite venues included Sunday nights at the Solid Rock Café, Glasgow, the Ettrick Bar in Partick and Prohibition, Hamilton where I first got to know Barry and his pal Keith: Later to be immortalised as “The Great Barry or Keith” further on in this story. Several years later, I was comfortably established as a popular ‘Pub Act’ but, as with all real jobs, I’d let the dream of Stardom wane somewhat and wasn’t writing songs so much. After all, who was I writing them for?
Things changed one night at my Wednesday night residency in Shawlands, namely JJ Booths at the Newlands hotel. I was approached by Chick McSherry, the guitarist with Glasgow band La Paz who asked if I’d be interested in joining them. I’d heard of La Paz mainly due to their lead singer Doogie White’s impressive vocals. “Aye,” said Chick. “That’s the reason I’m asking ye. Doogie’s out. He’s off to London next week and you came recommended so how about it?” One thing led to another and I became the new lead vocalist/2nd guitarist with La Paz.
Tom Russell’s Rock Show, Radio Clyde 1989
“Got any songs?” asked Chick, bassist Alex Carmichael and drummer Colin Morrow. “Fuck, Aye!” I replied and let them hear dozens of demos (that must’ve been fun for them) before deciding this could actually work. We settled on a few of the songs Uncle Pete Agnew had passed on several years previous and, because of their disbelief at this, I played them “Another song I wrote for Nazareth“ namely Love Leads To Madness. Armed with this, a few others from the demos I’d played them and a couple of older La Paz favourites originally featuring Doogie, we went into the studio (my first time in 5 years.) We did a session and interview for Tom Russell’s Rock Show on Radio Clyde, briefly changed our name to Hope and Glory when Chick had to go on a business trip and, as a 3-piece, planned to do some live shows. Then something dramatic happened. To quote the guy already quoted at the top of this section, Mr Billy Joel:
“Got a call from an old friend, we used to be real close.”
Johnny Don’t Dance studio demo 1989
Every Time It Rains Radio Clyde session 1989
Love Leads To Madness studio demo 1989
Right Between The Eyes Radio Clyde session 1989
Cover Your Heart studio demo 1989
This Boy’s In Love With You studio demo 1989
“Last night I heard my mama singing a song. Ooh-wee, Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep.” (Middle Of The Road, 1970)
Studious readers of this site will recall my earlier history with Scottish MOR band Middle Of The Road.
My first band, Phase, signed to their Black Gold record label in 1977, and my post-Phase concept idea was recorded at their state-of-the-art studio just before I joined the Zal Band in 1978. For those of you unfamiliar with Scotland’s predecessor to Boney M, here’s a brief history. They were ironically formed on April Fools Day 1970 in Glasgow and went on to have no less than 11 hit singles between 1970 and 1974.
Think about that for a moment.
Who can lay claim to having 11 hit singles over a 4-year period?
This band must have been good, yes?
By bass player Eric McCready’s own admission, they were at best ‘A High-End Show Bar Band’, but this shouldn’t detract from their phenomenal success. I myself mocked MOR as Eric drove me to his luxurious bungalow in his US imported Ford Mustang. With its indoor swimming pool and in-house recording studio overlooking the Campsie Hills, it was just outside the tranquil, and much sought after, village of Fintry. “How can you sleep at night?” I foolishly asked before he drove me back in luxury to my mundane family home in Kirkintilloch. Their first and biggest hit was entitled Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep and, although we can agree it was awful, it was awfully catchy. Here’s Wikipedia’s take:
“Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep is a song recorded in 1970 and made popular by Scottish band Middle of the Road for whom it was a UK #1 chart hit. That version is one of fewer than fifty all-time singles to have sold in excess of 10 million physical copies worldwide.”
10 million copies worldwide!
And they had 10 more hits after that?
I kept in touch with Eric. He was a lovely guy who could’ve sued me for breach of contract many times, but didn’t, so when we met at my solo gig in Harvey’s Show Bar, (the irony wasn’t lost) with good news, I was all ears.
“We’ve got a record deal in Germany to re-record our Greatest Hits.”
“That’s great, Eric. I feel your pain.”
“Aye. We canny wait to do them all again,” he sarcastically replied.
He was a funny guy.
“There’s one stipulation,” he continued.
“They want a new song and we don’t have one. Any chance you do?”
After giving him a copy of both my solo albums, I didn’t expect to hear from him again, but alas, I did.
In hindsight, One More Night from the Crankin album is as MOR as it gets, so they did a version and put it out as their potential 12th hit single.
Again, though in hindsight, Eric should’ve taken my advice that night at the Show Bar.
“Why not do an updated Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep?”
“Follow up from the original “Where’s Your Mama Gone?” to:
“We’ve Found Yer Maw!”
Middle Of The Road – One More Night CD front cover 1989
Middle Of The Road - One More Night CD front cover 89
MOR OMN F (2)
Middle Of The Road – One More Night CD back cover 1989
Middle Of The Road - One More Night CD back cover 89