I Left My Heart In Scotland

DISC, December 16th, 1972

Don Powell... Plays like King Kong

TONY BENNETT may have left his heart in San Fnancisco, but I left mine in Scotland last week. Glasgow,for instance, has had so much bad publicity over the years, especially lately, that I honestly entered it fearing for my life.

Instead, I found it a warm, friendly town filled with the nicest people I have met in years. Why is it no one ever thinks to mention that? Let me start at the beginning. As pop columnist for the New York Sunday News (which at 5 million has the biggest readership of any paper in the US) I had the opportunity a few months ago to pass an opinion on a new album called "Slade Alive." I heard those opening three notes and I knew immediately what it was going to be - album of the year. 

I loved it and also loved the band when they came here for their short tour. American audiences also loved them, but not quite enough, the boys grumbled. One or two, for instance, didn't stamp along every single moment and occasionally their were some people actually sitting down! "If you saw us at home you'd know what we meant," the boys explained, which is how I came to see them not just in England where I know they are very popular, but in Scotland where they are downright royalty.

I deliberately chose the Glasgow and Edinburgh gigs over Liverpool and Brighton and others for several reasons. One, I'd never been to Scotland and I wanted to see it. I was once engaged to a Scotsman and I wondered if there were any more like him up there. Two, I wanted to see Slade at their absolute best and I had a hunch, totally justified later,  that their love affair with Scotland was one of the romances of the century. Three, I wanted to check out for myself the recent reports that the Scots audiences are made up of ill-mannered louts and dangerous roughnecks. So, here's what I discovered - one, there are more at home like him. Two, Slade were fantastic. Three, Scots audiences are rowdy and exuberant and very demanding but they are lovely. In my whole life I have never felt such electricity and excitement in a room or such total audience involvement. No one works harder than Slade at any time, but in Scotland they apparently always outdo themselves and for good reason - because the audience works hard for them.

For Slade, it's a dream audience, always giving as good as it's getting, matching every one of Noddy's impertinences with an impertinence all of it's own. At one stage in the evening of the Glasgow show I was so knocked out by the vibes and the energy that the audience were giving out that I found myself close to tears. The performance? Well you don't need me to tell you what Slade does or how well they do it. Everyone in those audiences was up and stamping even before the shows began and they didn't stop till well over the last encore.

Now I know what you've heard about broken seats in Scotland. That's just the Scots having a good time. This is not an angry or bad mannered audience, just a happy one. Besides, to be honest, the seats are so old and shaky that I don't wonder they break easily. I stood up for just one moment and to my great shame and embarrassment there was a loud crack as one of the legs went. (A few days later in Southampton the chairs being newer and more expensive stood up well to being jumped on).

You would not think so, but in good old formal Edinburgh the audience was just a little rowdier than the infamous Glasgow. The bouncers kept trying to get people to sit down. Sit down? At a Slade concert? Noddy was visibly upset. He told them it was all right to stand up as long as they didn't stand on the seats. Even the promoter, Mel Bush, who is a much more gentlemanly version of the promoters I know in the US, agreed people should not be asked to sit down.

One thing that struck me about Scotland generally was the natural beauty of the girls at the concerts. They are not particularly tall but they have perfect, even features, nice smiles and a gorgeous sprinkling of freckles. They were friendly and kind to me and also well informed and intelligent. I loved talking to them, I see so many sleazy groupie scenes in New York that I found it hard to accept that these nice girls were coming round to see the band as friends and were welcomed by the band in the same way.

At the North British Hotel in Glasgow and the Carlton in Edinburgh those cool and collected waiters and desk clerks totally lost their cool at the sight of Slade and had the boys signing autographs non-stop for hours. Outside the Carlton a girl recognised Dave as he was hobbling into the car and rushed up to kiss him. "Aren't you going to kiss the others?" I asked. "I only like him." she said. Dave looked very pleased with himself.

The whole excursion gave me a good opportunity to study Slade as people as well as musicians and entertainers. All four are extremely friendly and know exactly how to handle newspaper people. They treat them like old pals. Dave is the most outwardly sophisticated and confident. Noddy, when thinks no one is looking, always looks sad and worried. I suspect he is the one who feels things most deeply. But when we were all watching TV his comments were the funniest. He definitely should be in movies. Onstage he looks like a marvellous drawing.

Jimmy is such a powerful bass player that I was surprised to find him shy and unspoilt. Don, who in the conventional sense, is the handsomest, is also surprisingly quiet and modest for someone who plays the drums like King Kong. The group even have a good looking road manager, Graham Swinnerton, who could double for Mick Jagger. Come to think of it Chas Chandler, a former teenage idol himself, isn't too bad. I can't see how the Slade crew can fail to win friends in the United States. I think they will be particularly popular with younger audiences who are not afraid to get down and get with it. In fact, I would like to see Slade do a whole bunch of matinees in America for the under-17's who are often not allowed out at night. Just to check out my reflexes and make sure I hadn't been dazzled by Scotland, I took in the Southampton show taking with me a colleague, Tony Scaduto, the American author of "Bob Dylan." He almost fell off his seat, which he was standing on by the way. I kept telling him this was tame besides Scotland, but he had no idea what I was talking about. "Can't you see?" I said. "Some people aren't singing." He still had no idea what I was talking about. "Some people are sitting down." I said. He still looked puzzled. Next time Slade go to Glasgow or Edinburgh they'd better take him with them.

Many thanks to Chris Selby for supplying this one. Lillian Roxon  'Mother Of Rock' (8 February 1932 - 10 August 1973) was a noted Australian journalist and author. In 1959 she moved to New York, becoming the first Australian female overseas correspondent and the first Australian journalist to establish a high profile in America. She became one of the leading lights of the scene centred the New York music club Max's Kansas City, which was frequented by members of the Andy Warhol circle, Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground, Jim Morrison and many others. One of Roxon's last print articles reported on the landmark New York concerts at Max's Kansas City by Iggy Pop and The Stooges and her final piece, filed in early August, was on rising British glam rock star Marc Bolan.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lillian Roxon, what a great writer she is! Not to mention astute ("Noddy should be in movies"). I was previously aware of her legendary status as a rock journo and also knew she was a champion of Slade, but what I did not know until only very recently is that her niece is a (Labor) Health Minister in the Federal Australian government.

I heard her recently on the radio being interviewed by our own answer to Nod, Red Symons - former guitarist of the legendary Skyhooks who were huge here in the 70's. Skyhooks had the "T-Rex Vs Slade" thing going here with Sherbet (who had a no. 2 hit in the UK with Howzat). Good old Red's scored himself a gig as the breakfast host on ABC radio in Melbourne.