Melody & Alice (Friday Night Film Club #5)

Leave a comment

Melody & Alice

A Tracy Hyde Double Bill: Melody (1971) & Alice (1982)

British cinema in the 1970s often gets a bad rap. The way some commentators go on you’d think the entire decade had consisted of a parade of sexploitation comedies, cheesy horrors and unsuccessful big screen sitcom adaptations. But in the first two years of the ’70s alone, films like Deep End, Bronco Bullfrog, Kes, Get Carter and A Clockwork Orange demonstrated the quality that could be found.

Melody arrived during this time and although nowhere near a box-office success in Britain its reputation has risen steadily in recent years. This might have been aided at least a little by The Wondermints’ wonderful single Tracy Hide in tribute to the young first time actor who played the titular role. In the States, incidentally, its title was switched to S.W.A.L.K.. Apparently, at one point, it was to be named after the Bee Gees’ song To Love Somebody. A better idea by far.

Music plays a very important part in Melody and is largely supplied by the brothers Gibb. The screenplay was even written around seven tracks by that band. A young producer named David Puttnam obtaining a raft of cash that allowed the film to go ahead – on the condition that these tracks were used.

There’s also some Crosby, Still, Nash & Young thrown in too. Teach Your Children utilised in a scene where a bunch of kids get a more than a little anarchic. This is often praised for its irony but its Californian vibe doesn’t really feel appropriate for a film set in inner city London (Hammersmith and Lambeth mostly with short excursions to Soho, Trafalgar Square and even Weymouth).

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The film starts with a Boy Brigade march where two boys meet for the first time. One is a scruffy, little cheeky chappie called Ornshaw, the other a solidly middle class kid Daniel Latimer. Alan Parker, who penned the screenplay, has admitted his script was partly autobiographical, comparing himself with the Ornshaw character while suggesting that David Puttnam shared a number of similarities with Daniel.

Melody was heavily promoted on the partnership of the two young actors, reunited after their double act in the 1968 hit musical Oliver! and roughly speaking the first half features their developing friendship while the second concentrates the budding romance between Daniel and Melody.

Melody - Mark Lester & Tracy Hyde

Both these actors were only eleven at the time of the shoot and they do make a very sweet young couple while the adults represented range from well meaning idiots to complete wallopers. The movie has a go at persuading audiences that the viewpoint of children deserves to treated with the same validity as that of grown-ups.

Maybe in 1971 this idea struck some as a good idea – this being the time of the infamous Schoolkids issue of OZ and The Little Red Schoolbook – but if anybody thinks that it might be a good idea for eleven year olds to marry, they should definitely give themselves a good shake.

So, a silly premise but is this a film worth watching?

Well, Wes Anderson has called Melody ‘A forgotten, inspiring gem’ and this is a movie whose mere mention is guaranteed to get many children of the 1970s misty eyed with nostalgia. This doesn’t include me though albeit I found it enjoyable enough.

The story takes far too long to get started. ‘When it gets to the rag-and-bone sequence, where Melody swaps her parents clothes for a goldfish, the film kicks up a gear and takes off,’ Alan Parker later admitted. Since then he has always tried ‘to get to the goldfish’ as quickly as possible.

The direction is solid enough, though never that imaginative with Waris Hussein displaying a TV sensibility for much of the running time. And talking of running, how many times did we need to see schoolkids erupting out of their classes at the sound of the school bell?

The music is pretty good albeit twee – I do rather like The Bee Gees before the medallions and visible chest hair. Its use, though, is generally uninspired – such as To Love Somebody during the school’s sports day.

On the plus side, the acting is very good, particularly from Jack Wild (who was by far the oldest of the three central leads). Ornshaw was also the most interesting character of the three, like a junior version of the characters that Gary Holton went on to specialise in a decade or so later. In comparison Daniel was positively drippy.

Okay, the possibility does exist that I couldn’t enjoy Melody properly due to watching it on STV 2. Interrupted by an infuriating number of mind numbing ads – some of them urging viewers to enter some competition via a premium rate phone number – together with news reports and weather updates, this is hardly the ideal way to watch any film. StudioCanal released it on Blu-ray last year and here’s the trailer:

Alan Parker, of course, soon embarked on a career as a director himself. I’ve always found his work hit and miss. Midnight Express and Angel Heart were superb, The Wall and Angela’s Ashes belong squarely in the category of dreary borefests.

Puttnam next went on next to co-produce The Pied Piper, a disaster that starred Donovan and Diana Dors along with Jack Wild. More music related movies followed: Glastonbury Fayre (1972), That’ll Be the Day (1973), Mahler (1974), Stardust (1974) and Lisztomania (1975). You likely know the rest.

Jack Wild and Mark Lester both found the transition from childhood fame to maintaining adult success a struggle. Drink and drugs abuse followed and, sadly, Jack died in 2006, likely as a result of his excesses.

Bizarrely, Mark later befriended Michael Jackson and has claimed to have been a sperm donor for him, believing he might be the father of Paris Jackson. Wacko Jacko’s former lawyer Brian Oxman, though, has dismissed this idea, saying during a TV interview that: ‘The thing I always heard from Michael was that Michael was the father of these children, and I believe Michael.’

Yeah, sure.

Tracy Constance Margaret Hyde never fully realised her early potential either. Up until the late ’80s she still occasionally appeared in shows like Dempsey and Makepeace, and The Bill. She did star in 1980’s The Orchard End Murder (which I really must seek out) and she also teamed up once more with Jack Wild for Alice (Alicja), a 1982 musical-fantasy.

Alice - Tracey Hyde & Jack Wild

This was only a smallish role and maybe that was for the best. Yet another take on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, it’s hard, if not impossible, to imagine how anybody could have imagined this was a good idea.

A European co-production shot in Poland, France and England with cast members from each of those countries, Alice failed on every level. There’s one marathon song in the middle of the film that feels as if the lyric writer was trying to concoct the most obvious – and therefore painful – lyrics in the history of the musical. Then there’s I’m A Psychiatrist. No song with that title could be anything other than dreadful, could it?

Sophie Barjac plays Alice, a twenty-something divorcee who works in a factory with her pal Mona, (Tracy Hyde) and Mock Turtle (Jack Wild), a biker obsessed with trivia. I have no idea why most of the characters are assigned names from Alice as they bear little or absolutely no resemblance to their Carroll counterparts.

The best thing about Alice is when Barjac sings but this is down to the fact that her vocals were dubbed by Lulu. Barjac’s co-star is Jean-Pierre Cassel, who in a long career worked with the likes of Claude Chabrol and Luis Buñuel. I can only guess what his old pal Serge Gainsbourg must have thought of his turn here.




L-Space press-photo

Run by unpaid volunteers, Last Night From Glasgow is truly a label that is all about a passion for good music. In 2017, LNfG established itself as one of Scotland’s finest imprints with Sister John, in particular, winning over fans with their album Returned From Sea. Music bloggers uniformly loved it and the lead-off track, Thinner Air, made its way into my Best of the Year list.

This year looks like it might be even more fruitful with album releases earmarked for Bis, Radiophonic Tuckshop, Zoe Bestel and L-Space.

The latter act describes themselves as ‘a noisy dream pop band from the central belt of Scotland’ and their wonderfully woozy single Suneaters is just out and available on the usual digital outlets.

With a mesmerising sound that made me think of Dot Allison fronting a spacey Prefab Sprout, the track has already received a number of highly favourable reviews with Louder Than War, for example, hailing it as ‘a truly enchanting piece of work.’

Here is almost five celestial minutes of fragile vocals and misty clouds of noise accompanied with one of the most visually sumptuous videos you’re likely to see all year – directed and produced by Coconut Island Photography, Ben Rigley & Fabio Rebelo Paivo. This is Suneaters:

L-space will be playing several live shows in the very near future, to the extent they are even performing in Glasgow and then Edinburgh on the same day. Not quite Phil Collins’ journey from London to Philly for Live Aid I know but the music will assuredly be far better.

Here are some dates for your diaries:

11.03.18 (noon) – Glasgow, Art School (with Lake of Stars).

11.03.18 (7pm) – Suneaters single launch at Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh (with Pocket Knife and Beta Waves).

31.03.18 – Stereo, Glasgow. LNfG’s Bigger Birthday Bash (with Bis, Sun Rose and Stephen Solo).

28.04.18 – Snuffledown Festival, Larbert.

Look out too for label compilation The ABC of LNFG, which will consist of twelve songs from twelve different artists with a couple of remixes thrown in too. This will be released officially on 30/03/18 and available at the LNfG Birthday Party (see above).

For more on L-Space, click here.

& for more on LNfG, here you go.

Talking of a previous L-Space track Space Junk, Scots Whay Hae! speculated that, ‘If Nicolas Winding Refn is looking for a band to soundtrack his next movie then he should look no further.’

High praise indeed. And on the subject of that visionary director and going down the same road, if he’s on the lookout for some hypnotic sounds with an ominous edge to include in the forthcoming remake he plans to produce of Italian horror classic What Have You Done to Solange? I’ll throw Dirge by Death in Vegas into the hat for his consideration.

Featuring the aforementioned Dot Allison on guest vocals here is the track live on Later and wouldn’t this be perfect for a twenty-first century Giallo?

For more on Dot, click here.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Music (& Some Junkshop Glam too)

Leave a comment

Some Guida releases

Back when I was accepting music submissions, I would seldom go a day without some young band sending me details of their single along with a bio stating they were a punk band.

None of these tracks were ever featured on the site. Taking inspiration from punk, fine. Claiming to be punk in the 21st century? Isn’t that like saying you’re an impressionist painter or angry young man playwright?

Anyway, I mention this because not one single act ever approached me describing themselves as glam.

Giuda don’t use this description in regards to themselves and actively want to avoid being labelled as ‘glam’ but – certainly if you’re a child of the 1970s like myself – it’s impossibe to listen to their music without thinking back to a world of men in mascara, terrace terrors and monumentally high platform boots. Giuda did try out some stackheels themselves but found it too hard to walk in them so they were ditched. All the same they do sound like they’re on a five man mission to party like it’s 1973.

Inspired by junkshop glamsters like Hector and glitter titans such as The Sweet and Slade, Giuda have additionally mentioned Slaughter And The Dogs, Eddie and The Hot Rods and gritty early 1970s British guitar group Third World War as being among their influences.

Chock-a-block with crunching glam riffs and bucketloads of oomph, their last album Let’s Do It Again was hailed by Vive Le Rock as ‘hitting the right side of the line that lies between parody and homage with pinpoint precision’, awarding it 10/10, while Alex Petridis in The Guardian judged that: ‘They carry the very essence of guitar rock into the 21st century.’

Giuda are undoubtedly a great live act too as I found out a few years ago when I caught them in Glasgow and if you ever get the chance to see them onstage take it as you will be guaranteed a fun night out, which is always a good thing in our increasingly po-faced world.

Pronounced Joo-dah, the Italian five-piece outfit will have a new single entitled Rock ‘n’ Roll Music out in the very near future. No video as yet but to get you in the mood, here’s a stomper from 2015, Roll The Balls:

Giuda will be in Britain shortly, playing London’s Lexington on Friday 6th and Saturday 7th April.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Music is released on Rise Above Records! on March 30th.

For more on Giuda:



Some of the guys from Hector apparently dropped in one of Giuda’s previous London shows and gave the band their seal of approval afterwards.

Hector themselves have been called ‘the perfect introduction to anyone not familiar with Junk Shop Glam’ by ex-Barracuda Robin Willis, who seems to be familiar with every track that could possibly be associated with glam rock.

The band appeared on Lift Off With Ayshea, supported Slade and even had their own fan club but sadly Hector never got a sniff of any chart action.

Here’s their best known track, their debut single from the tail-end of 1973 that’s given its name in recent years to a book on glam – there was even talk of Hector reforming to play at the launch party although that wasn’t to be – and a fanzine. This is Wired Up:

Wired Up is available on the 2005 compilation Boobs: The Junkshop Glam Discotheque, which also features some top tracks by the likes of Angel, Screemer and Jimmy Jukebox. A highly recommended album obviously!

For more on Hector click here.

Norman Wisdom and The Electric Banana (Friday Night Film Club #4)


What’s Good for the Goose – Tigon British Film Productions (1969)

‘Whatever the Swinging Sixties are going to be remembered for it won’t be films,’ Alan Parker argued on his Turnip Head’s Guide to British Cinema. ‘The moment you saw a red London bus go through the shot you knew you were in for a rotten time.’

Safe to say then he wouldn’t have been a huge fan of What’s Good for the Goose, a film that opens to the chimes of Big Ben and a shot featuring a red bus. He wouldn’t be alone in thinking it rotten. There were plenty of detractors on its release including the star of the film Norman Wisdom and since then it has failed to win over many fans.

Matthew Sweet, in his book Shepperton Babylon, judged Wisdom’s attempt to reinvent himself to be a disaster. ‘Watching him in his tight little white Y-fronts in a comfortless hotel, psyching himself to have sex with Sally Geeson, is like attending the funeral of his career.’

What's Good for the Goose 1969

So why was I keen to see it when it screened on Talking Pictures last week?

Well, there are a number of intriguing ingredients involved in the film. First up, the aforementioned Norman Wisdom, the man once tipped by Charlie Chaplin to be the comedian who would follow in his footsteps.

Then there’s Tony Tenser, who acted as an exec-producer on the project. A master of publicity stunts, he was also heavily involved in Roman Polanski’s Repulsion, Michael Reeves’s Witchfinder General and Hannie Caulder, a Spanish-filmed western starring Raquel Welch, the latter two movies released by his production company Tigon.

Mostly though, I was curious about the participation of The Pretty Things. This lot were the bad boys of the British R&B boom of the early 1960s. They had very close links to The Rolling Stones, and charted a number of times in their early days.

In 1973, Bowie covered a couple of their tracks, Rosalyn and Don’t Bring Me Down for his Pin Ups album and referenced their name in several of his songs starting with Oh! You Pretty Things. Van Morrison loved them. Dave Gilmour loved them. Joey Ramone loved them, once calling them ‘The biggest influence on us. They invented garage bands.’

Like many of their contemporaries, as the ’60s began to heat up, the Pretties tuned in, turned on and dropped out, embracing a psych sound along the way.

On their 1967 Emotions LP they hired a guy called Reg Tilsley to help out with some orchestration. Tilsley persuaded them to try their hand at cutting some tracks for library music company De Wolfe. They agreed to the idea, adopting the pseudonym The Electric Banana – a name presumably taken from a line in Donovan’s Mellow Yellow about the electrical banana that was apparently gonna be a sudden craze.

This music was recorded in between stints at Abbey Road where they were laying down their opus S.F. Sorrow, which is credited as being the first ever rock opera.

S.F. Sorrow failed to sell in the numbers that it deserved to – single Defecting Grey should have been a massive hit and is one of my favourite psychedelic singles – and maybe this lack of success encouraged them to continue with the library music idea and also make some easy money when offered the chance to play themselves in Goose.

Here they are with It’ll Never Be Me from the film:

The script of Goose was co-written by young Israeli director Menahem Golan and Wisdom, who here he takes on the lead role of Timothy Bartlett. A timid bowler-hat wearing banker (no rhyming slang intended), he’s stuck in a rut of breakfast with the kids, peck on the cheek of his wife Margaret (wearing her curlers), work, return home for a meal and another peck on the cheek of his wife (still in curlers) before bed.

Sent to a banking conference in Southport, his car is practically hijacked along the way by two hippyish dolly birds, brunette Nikki and strawberry blonde Meg. Timothy is in his fifties and wears his bowler and dickey bow as he drives while the pair look like they’re in their late teens and wearing the groovy Carnaby Street style garb of the day.

On arrival, the girls skedaddle off to enjoy the delights of Swinging Southport while Timothy makes his way to the most boring conference ever devised, with pompous and stuffy older men like himself. Listening to one particular zeds inducing speech, he finds himself thinking fondly of the girls and is clearly smitten by Nikki.

Later he heads into town, obviously hoping to bump into the girls. He does so when he enters a pop art coloured discotheque called the Screaming Apple where the town’s hipsters sit on swings, topless barman serve drinks and surprise, surprise, The Pretty Things are onstage. And what do you know, Nikki appears rather keen on him.

The Pretty Things - Electric Banana

By the next time he pays a visit to the Apple – where, of course, the Pretties are again playing live – Timothy has undergone a hippy makeover of paisley pattern shirt, psychedelic cravat and mustard coloured bell-bottoms.

At which point a more appropriate title for What’s Good for the Goose might have been No Fool Like an Old Fool.

Well I say fool but who could blame him skiving off from his dreary conference to frolic around with Nikki at Southport’s Pleasureland and on the beach – where we even catch a little nudity. Yes, I have now seen Norman Wisdom’s buttocks – and let me tell you ‘pretty things’ was not a phrase that sprang to mind as I did so.

At times, the film does come over like a precursor to those awful 1970s British sexploitation comedies, a subgenre that lacked very much in the way of sex and even less in the way of comedy.

The humour in Goose is generally predictable but on a number of occasions Wisdom’s knockabout physical comedy did bring a smile to my face. As did his transformation into a middle-aged hippy but he’s woefully miscast and his agent really should have had a word.

It’s easy to see why the movie bombed critically and commercially on release. Now though, it possesses a fascinating period charm with the music of The Pretty Things being the best thing about it. If Wonderwall was a movie for real heads then this was one for weekend hippies gullible enough to smoke (non electric) banana peels in an attempt to get high.

After Goose, Norman Wisdom retreated to British TV and shows like Norman and A Little Bit of Wisdom while Tony Tenser took up with a much younger woman and decided to move to Southport in his later years.

In 2013, The Pretty Things celebrated their fiftieth anniversary with dates in Britain and Europe and they’re still on the go.

The most bizarre and high-profile future of any of the main talents involved though would be director Menahem Golan. He will always be best remembered as one of the two men behind Cannon Films, working with everyone from Chuck Norris and Bo Derek to Jean-Luc Godard and Peter Bogdanovich. Notably, he earned a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nomination in 1978 for his Operation Thunderbolt but also picked up three separate Golden Raspberry Awards nominations in the space of four years in the mid 1980s.

Ninja III: The Domination, a hokey as hell martial arts/horror movie he co-produced in 1984, airs on Film 4 tonight at 11.10.

For more on The Pretty Things:

A 1978 Top Ten

Leave a comment

A 1978 Top Ten

1978 saw the Yorkshire Ripper claim his eighth victim. The Sex Pistols fell apart in San Francisco. Saatchi & Saatchi launched their Labour Isn’t Working campaign and Tory poll ratings immediately shot up. Keith Moon died. Dallas appeared on TV screens for the first time. Over 900 members of religious cult, the Peoples Temple, died in Guyana after drinking Kool-Aid laced with cyanide, in what became known as the Jonestown Massacre.

In Scotland, the World Cup In Argentina helped take people’s minds off all the misery but that feelgood factor didn’t last long. On the plus side, Space Invaders was launched, Ian McEwan’s The Cement Garden was published and on the big screen there was The Deer Hunter, Blue Collar, Jubilee, Midnight Express and Halloween.

Best of all there was plenty of amazing new music.

Aged sixteen, I left school and took on a job in a local factory. A lousy labouring job but it provided me with the money to get my hands on a Waltham music centre and a Lucky Hit Phillips cassette player. Home recording, we were warned, was killing the music industry, although I bought a shedload of vinyl that year, more than in any other year before or since. Go figure.

I also reckon I saw more live shows in 1978 than I have in any other year. There was The Clash and Suicide, The Buzzcocks and Subway Sect, The Stranglers, Skids, Magazine, The Banshees, Damned, Rich Kids, Rezillos, Jam, Television, Ultravox, Devo, Eddie and The Hotrods and many, many more.

Inventive new bands emerged on a weekly basis. Think the likes of The Cure, Joy Division, Undertones, Stiff Little Fingers, The Television Personalities, Gang of Four, Mekons and, of course, The Fall while some old wavers returned and proved they were still very capable of delivering. Lou Reed’s Street Hassle made a compelling case for his continued relevance. The Stones issued their last great album, Some Girls, with nods to punk and disco along the way and The Walker Brothers’ final album Nite Flights proved inspirational to David Bowie and many others.

There were many fantastic punk records released in 1978 including albums by The Buzzcocks, Ramones, Lurkers and The Adverts although, in many respects, you could say that 1978 was the year of Post-Punk with the launch of PiL and Magazine and Subway Sect, The Banshees and Wire helping suggest a whole new way forward for guitar bands.

Reggae scored big in ’78 with Althea and Donna’s Uptown Top Ranking securing a UK #1 slot early in the year while Is This Love provided Bob Marley and The Wailers with another big hit that summer. In Britain, Handsworth Revolution by Steel Pulse became one of the best reviewed albums of the year.

Then there was disco. Saturday Night Fever was a phenomenon in Britain at this point. I didn’t go to see it at the cinema but really should have. It’s a very accomplished movie even though the soundtrack does nothing for me.
Disco did tend to suck but the genre could also claim some real artistic triumphs, chief among these being Sylvester’s joyous You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) and the C’est Chic album, where the dizzying marriage of Nile Rodger’s infectious, choppy guitar licks and Bernard Edward’s muscular, masterful and soon to be much imitated basslines created a new blueprint for sophisticated disco.

From that album, here’s Le Freak, a dancefloor filler extraordinaire:

Electronic music continued to come to the fore around the globe, occasionally making real commercial inroads. Yellow Magic Orchestra formed that year and issued their self-titled debut; Fast released Being Boiled by The Human League while Midnight Express, Giorgio Moroder’s first commission to compose a movie soundtrack, went on to win an Academy Award for Best Original Score. Best of all, Kraftwerk (who were a highly prolific lot back then) brought out The Man-Machine, an album immediately proclaimed by NME as ‘one of the pinnacles of 1970s rock music.’

Also worth noting is that this was the year Brian Eno arguably invented ambient music with his Music For Airports. At the very least, this was the first album ever to be specifically designated as ‘ambient’.

And then there was the uncategorizable Kate Bush. Nowadays you can turn on 6 Music and it might not be too long before you hear a female artist like Joanna Newsom or Regina Spektor who obviously possess some Kate in their musical DNA. Back then, Kate Bush was a true one-off and hearing Wuthering Heights for the first time was an extraordinarily odd experience. Could I detect any influences? Not really, maybe a faint echo of Noosha Fox. I may even have wondered momentarily if this was some kind of novelty song.

Wuthering Heights was the big hit but I have a slight preference for this, single #2, written by an insanely precocious Kate when she was a mere thirteen years old.

Here’s my complete top ten in no particular order:

Kate Bush: The Man With the Child in His Eyes
Chic: Le Freak
Sylvester: You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)
TV Personalities: Part Time Punks
Kraftwerk: The Model
Walker Brothers: The Electrician
Wire: I Am The Fly
Brian Eno: 1/1
The Clash: (White Man) in Hammersmith Palais
The Only Ones: Another Girl, Another Planet

I’ve omitted any tracks like The Light Pours Out of Me and Ambition that I’ve featured before but still feel I have to include honourable mentions for a further ten. Lou Reed: Street Hassle, La Dusseldorf: Viva, The Cramps: Human Fly, The Undertones: Teenage Kicks, Steel Pulse: Ku Klux Klan, X-Ray Spex: Identity, Siouxsie and The Banshees: Hong Kong Garden, The Cure: Killing an Arab, Stiff Little Fingers: Suspect Device & Blondie: Heart of Glass.

Goodbye, Mark E. Smith


The death of Mark E. Smith is unlikely to have come as a major surprise for fans of the band. I doubted at one point he would make fifty let alone sixty but it is still inevitably sad when someone blessed with his talent and originality finally passes away.

In the last five years or so, Mark had finally succumbed to something of a creative slump. Their final album, New Facts Emerge, proved to be a definite disappointment and I only listened to it three or four times. Since then I’ve had to come round to the conclusion that The Fall would never again scale the artistic heights of yesteryear such as Hex Enduction Hour and This Nation’s Saving Grace.

Even when nowhere near their best, though, The Fall continued to be a more interesting prospect than just about any band that has emerged in the last decade or so.

And as I wrote last March in a post celebrating Smith’s sixtieth birthday: ‘Length-wise, The Fall did enjoy a just about unparalleled spell of longevity as one of Britain’s most exciting and innovative bands.’

Staying relevant and artistically potent for over three decades with a massive discography of marvelously off-kilter, inventive, unpredictable and sometimes genuinely surreal music – that is an utterly remarkable achievement. And Mark is one of the few artists of any kind that I would ever describe as a genius.

He is appreciated and so he should be.

This is Mark guesting with Gorillaz at the main stage at Glastonbury in 2010 with the glam stomping Glitter Freeze:

Mark Edward Smith
5 March 1957 – 24 January 2018

Independent Scotland #10


Bee Bee Cee - You Gotta Know Girl

Bee Bee Cee: You Gotta Know Girl (1977)
REL (Radio Edinburgh Ltd)

So far in this far from regular series I’ve spotlighted labels like Fast and Postcard, the kind of influential imprints still likely to get folk highly nostalgic. To give just two recent examples of the continued interest in Scottish based independent music of the late 1970s and early ’80s – Fast was the main subject of Grant McPhee’s Big Gold Dream documentary from 2016 while Simon Goddard told the preposterous story of Postcard Records in his 2014 book Simply Thrilled.

Don’t expect anything similar with REL though.

For every Fast there was a Klub, for every Postcard there was a Moonbeam and for every Zoom there was a REL. Completely independent from the majors, yes, but embracing the DIY ethic with a similar ideological zeal as the upstarts of the 1970s?

‘Fraid not.

Launched by Neil Ross in the early 1970s, Radio Edinburgh Limited began life by renting out musical equipment and making recording facilities available to local acts. As independent labels increasingly became big news in the music world the company branched out into the record business with REL Records in 1976.

A roster was quickly assembled and although the new initiative hoped to eventually feature some rock acts, the bulk of the early signings could be best categorised as traditional, hoochter teuchter acts like The Tartan Lads.

During 1977, the label’s releases included Christmas Dream by those Tartan Lads, an album Dean Park Sings and a track by Bob Heatlie titled Tell Me Where I Stand. None of which I have ever heard. At the tail end of the year they also put out You Gotta Know Girl / We Ain’t Listening by a young and punky Edinburgh five-piece outfit.


You might well be asking where this lot fitted in with the label and I’m not entirely sure myself although I should say that the band were never contracted to REL and they self financed the record themselves so I’m guessing this was a marriage of convenience.

During an interview in The Student in 1985, Neil Ross told readers: ‘We get lots of cassettes handed in every week but in fact the majority of bands on the label have become involved with us by paying to come in for a day or two to make demos and we’ve noticed their potential.’

Was this the Bee Bee Cee route?

Consisting of the very first two tracks ever written by singer Dave Gilhooley, this proved to be the one and only single from the band. Recorded at REL Studios (as was The Skids’ Charles EP incidentally) the single sold well enough locally but failed to muster much interest beyond Scotland at the time despite the talk in Cripes of challenging for chart success.

The band supported many punk and new wave visitors to Edinburgh such as The Ramones and Ultravox and they found management with the same team who ran Clouds in Tollcross.

A piece in City Lynx around the time of the record’s release claimed that the band were going to pay another visit to the studio shortly to record another single but presumably this never happened. The same piece also mentioned that other labels had offered them contracts and that the band were heading to London in the near future to discuss business with WEA and MCA.

True? False? Again I don’t know but maybe someone could get in touch with more information.

With an R&B feel that isn’t a million miles away from The Jolt, here are Bee Bee Cee:

Bee Bee Cee failed to go on to bigger and better things – although Callum McNair did join The Bathers twenty years later – and the same could be said of the majority of the acts on REL.

In the early summer of 1978, they would bring out a highly optimistic single predicting success for Scotland in that year’s World Cup: Mona Stewart and We’ll Bring the Cup Home – and to digress, Argentina ’78 had a big effect on traditional Scottish independent labels. Bone Idol’s The Roar of the Lion (Olé Ally) was recorded at REL Studios and as the backsleeve stated it took its inspiration from Scotland ‘Who Will Win the World Cup’ while Klub struck cash-in gold with the cringeworthy dirge Ally’s Tartan Army, which probably sold more than the entire Postcard discography. Luckily Mr Abie’s contribution to national self-delusion Ay Ay Argentina, also on Klub, fell by the wayside.

The aforementioned Bobby Heatlie, later wrote a track for a traditional Scottish singer who had once won a gold medal at the Mod. Mary Sandeman became Aneka and Japanese Boy – which Ross produced, licensing the record to the German-based Hansa label – became a number one in Britain and sold around 5 million copies worldwide.

Heatlie also later composed Merry Christmas Everyone for Shakin’ Stevens, another British #1. I’d love to post the video for that but unfortunately, it would be four or so weeks too late to enjoy fully.

Aye, right.

REL is still on the go with an ever growing catalogue of Scottish/Celtic artists on their books although sadly no mention of Bee Bee Cee, although You Gotta Know Girl does feature on the recent various artists CD boxset release Gary Crowley’s Punk and New Wave.

For more on that release click here.

Older Entries