“Life In The Fast Lane. Surely make you lose your mind.” (The Eagles, 1977)
I’ve been a massive Naz fan forever. I was 17 when I first saw them live with Zal at the Glasgow Apollo on the Malice tour in 1980. I saw them there again on the Snaz tour where the wee prick who’d usurped ‘my band’ told me to “Fuck Off.” I should’ve just lamped him (Scottish for punched) and been done with it. He was still a member for the incredible 2XS show at Coasters, Edinburgh in ‘83. Next time I saw the band, he was gone. I was happy.
Fast forward to the late 1980s and the same wee prick was playing at Prohibition in Hamilton, my hometown. Keith and I went along to check him out. He was great. He could really sing, he could REALLY play. We were very happy. Billy singled us out as the two longhairs in the crowd, joined us at his break and thus began a 30-plus year friendship. We’ve hung out, attended gigs, drank a lot (and I mean a lot!), spent hours with each other’s families and mostly pissed ourselves laughing. I turned him on to The Wildhearts, my favourite band. He failed miserably to do likewise with the interminable widdling of his hero, Alvin. He even introduced me to him. Twice! He’s right about bassists and the blues.
I saw him play hundreds of times. His regular Sunday night in the downstairs lounge of the Solid Rock Café in Glasgow was always a favourite. As a mate, I could wander down long before it officially opened. One Sunday, Billy was setting up and a dark figure was sitting with his back to me:
“Hi, Barry,” sez Billy. “Have you met Chris?”
Chris? Glen?? Fuck me!!
Twenty minutes later, Chris had taught me how to do the Sgt. Fury dance and named two very prominent female artists he’d pumped. I realised then and there that if you were in, you were IN. I also discovered that Chris is one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met.
I came to understand just how much of a contribution Billy made to ‘my band.’ The ‘big box of cassettes’ was a revelation. I heard all of the demos on this site and many more. Hell, he even gave me copies. Who’s that singing the incredible high backing vocal on the Coasters version of Back To The Trenches or taking both solos on the six boys version of Talking To One Of The Boys? Wanna guess? Later, I was one of the first people to hear the demos that became No Jive, Move Me and Shake. I even played bass on some of his stuff, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Billy, Keith and I were outside Prohibition in May 1990 when he casually dropped into the conversation, “Manny’s oot, I’m back in the band.” This time I was fucking overjoyed. Then the bombshell: “Wanna come to rehearsals?”