In the 1970’s, the Apollo theatre in Glasgow was our only rock venue. It was built so many years before I was born that it epitomized just how antiquated Glasgow was in at that time. Nothing was done to keep up with modernity and it was so representative of how the UK government treated us up in Scotland. We were the unwanted few, the rebels, the heathens, north of the border. Some people reading this might disagree strongly with that last statement, but it was an absolute fact. And another issue was that our local government didn’t care either, just whipping boys for pompus Westminster rabble. I remember the very first vote I cast, in 1978, hoping it would change the world, but it didn’t and it never will. Such a defeatist attitude, I know, but it’s filled with realism too. I have become such a cynic. I trust no one, especially in politics. Liars and cheats, one and all. The only thing in life that ever changes is the date, everything else stays the same no matter what the promise. Seeing so many empty promises over my lifetime, most by politicians, I am so desperate to ring someone like Obama by his neck and tell him to ‘take his head out of his arse’ and sort it out! Anyway, in the 1970’s we, in Glasgow were deprived of any real rock venue other than the Apollo, where thankfully, most of the huge rock stars of that era came and performed. We also had the Glasgow Citizens Theatre, but that was more for plays, and people like Frankie Vaughn, not for Led Zeppelin or Abba.
My focus, as a teen had been to sit and watch movies on a Thursday night, with my grandmother Rose, while my two sisters watched the weekly version of Top Of the Pops. That pop show seemed always to be a lip-synced laugh a minute, (unless you were really cool and trendy), of all the latest bands playing their new music. It took songs from the top 30 and some who were ‘almost’ there, and gave maybe 6 bands, the opportunity to perform in front of millions. A bit like American Bandstand, only this show was completely contrived and hosted by buffoons such as Tony Blackburn, who couldn’t host a piss up in a brewery never mind a pop show. One night I decided to join Ruth and Barbara, only because I’d already seen the movie that was playing on the other channel. We only had 3 channels to watch in those days, but we were fortunate enough to have two TV’s, one color, one black and white.. So, sitting comfortably, with my long hair, (oh yes, long hair!), pretending that I didn’t give a shit, trying to be cool, on walk a group called Sparks. Ron and Russel Mael, remember them? “This Town Ain’t Big Enough” and BOOM, I was addicted. There was something about the way Ron, or was it Russell, sat at the piano, not moving, not smiling, not doing anything, except play. Brilliant stuff, and within 2 minutes, I wanted more. I never watched with my grandmother again, not once. It was Top Of the Pops every Thursday after that, hoping to see these guys perform again, which they did, regularly.
Fast forward 4 months, and with their single at number 1 in the charts, concert dates were announced. Sparks were coming to Glasgow! I’d never been to a live show before. I’d seen classical music performed live, which I’d loved, I had even sung in a choir, many times live, and in front of 3000 plus people, but I had, at that point, never been to a rock concert. I remember making a note of the exact date the tickets were going on sale, it was a Friday, and in those days, before the internet and telephone sales, you had to physically go to the theatre and line up. I took the day off school and the bus into town, and stood, with a thousand others, for hours and hours until I got to the front of the line to pay, receiving my tickets with a massive smile and sigh of relief. I was going to the show, and the question was, who was I going to take. To this day, I can’t remember which sister I went with or if I even went with one of my sisters, all I can remember is the band came on 1 hour late, the support act was shit, and when Sparks eventually started to play, I was blown away at how different this experience was compared to listening to a vinyl record at home on my stereo unit. All the same, when the show ended, I had a very annoying buzzing sensation in my ears from the volume, and a happy smile on my face, from the thrill of hearing my favorite tunes played live.
That night marked the beginning of a concert going streak that lasted many years. I had a friend called Gary, (not he of the porno mag fame in my blog from February), a different Gary, who’d managed to get a job as a bouncer at the Apollo not too long after the Sparks concert. Gary was my ‘in’ and tickets for all future shows became easy to obtain and virtually guaranteed and with his assistance I saw,
Status Quo, 12 times
Rick Wakeman, with and without Yes
Earth Wind and Fire
Average White Band
Elton John 4 times
Mott The Hoople
The Stones, and so many more. I had nothing else to do at the weekends, and so the Apollo became my hang out. I was often let in for free, and sometimes got right to the front row of the theatre. No matter where I stood, the view was brilliant and the show? Well sometimes it sucked. I remember walking out of the Average White Band concert because they were crap. 10CC walked off because they had the flu, and one time watching John Denver, I walked out when he walked off to snort come cocaine. Yes, all fun times, all started by the Mael brothers and all because there wasn’t too much else to do on a Saturday night in Glasgow. They knocked it down in 1985. What a shame. Bob Geldof said at that time, ‘The only thing that should happen to the Apollo is that it should be torn down brick by brick by rock fans while they play Scotland the Brave at 50,000 watts!” Too true Bob, too true!