Football, Peel Sessions

The Twelfth Men

This great picture of young Celtic fans storming the Hampden Park barricades and getting themselves into the big match is a real look back in time, to an era when showpiece games at the national stadium weren’t always ticket-only, when brass neckery and opposable thumbs gave you and your pals just as much right to take your place on the ash and pish-coated terracing as anyone else.

This picture has everything; it’s in colour, so it’s not that old. It comes from an era in football somewhere beyond rollups and rattles and record attendances, from a generation deeply entrenched in brutal tribalism and Rangers Ends and Celtic Ends (check out the wee scribble of casual sectarianism graffiti in the picture), with the EBTs and biscuit tins and the Big Two’s unfounded entitlement that they win everything not yet quite in full view.

The clothes would suggest very late 70s or the early 80s. I vividly remember my mum asking me if I wanted ‘flares or drainpipes‘ when she was ordering my new school trousers from the catalogue. “What are flares?” I asked in all innocence, before, once she’d shown me the picture, I very quickly ensured she ordered drainpipes, and only drainpipes. In an era of 2 Tone and Madness and, yes, Baggy Trousers, if you wanted to avoid merciless slaggings and a lifetime of misery, drainpipes were the only obvious choice.

The wee guy side-on at the front, in his grey Harrington and grown-out suedehead is, I’d imagine, no stranger to the back catalogues of both the Nutty Boys and The Specials. His pal, a dead ringer for a young Roy Aitken as it happens, in the home-knitted Celtic jumper has pulled a proper ‘whityegauntaedaeabootit?‘ sneer on his face, purely for the benefit of the photographer, a gaffer ensuring every one of his troops makes it safely over to the other side. Wee bams, and brilliant with it.

The Hampden terracing was quite the place. For someone small like me, it could be exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure. Glimpses of the pitch, let alone the actual ball, could be few and far between, the abstract and abrupt swearing, the aw ayes and aw naws providing you with the necessary running commentary in lieu of the actual game. “Great ball Souness that’s shite!” is the one I remember the most, remonstrated from the North Stand during a Scotland V Wales qualifier sometime around 1985. The smell of cigarettes and alcohol and piss hung heavy in the nostrils while your feet hung hopelessly in the air. From first whistle to last, the Adidas Kicks would rarely touch the ash. If there was a goal – and in the 80s, when Scotland fielded teams of world beaters there were always goals – there’d be a massive surge; a tidal wave that started from front and back and all sides simultaneously, and you’d be swept along in its soup-stirring free-flow, down ten or more rows before being jarrred swiftly to the right or left or both then back again, like a giant man-made spin cycle that always, always, returned you to where you’d been standing (floating) before the goal had been scored. You might lose your pals temporarily, but everyone’s your pal when Kenny Dalglish has just swerved in Scotland’s third of the night v Spain.

By the mid 80s my pals and I were going to Hampden ourselves. I say ourselves, but the truth was, Irvine Rugby Club ran a minibus to Hampden and, organised by someone our dads knew, we’d get to go to the game on the bus with them. What our parents never knew was that the bus would park somewhere near the Church On The Hill pub, and while all the men nipped in for a quick pint before the game, we’d get all gallus and, visibly growing a couple of inches, swagger the mile or so to Hampden by ourselves, take in the game then swagger back along the shadowy streets of Glasgow’s southside to the bus again. Semi-free small-towners from the Ayrshire sticks, we’d never have had the nerve to loup the wall like those boys in the photo. Let’s not kid anyone on here.

One particular game (v Romania possibly) stood tip-toed on the North Stand is memorable not for the box-to-box penetration happening on the pitch in front of us but for the ball games happening behind. “Stephanie, Stephanie…c’moan, it’s ma turn!” said the guy in the tight Souness perm, moustache ‘n all, as he and his two pals took turns at disappearing down the ash path and behind the stand with a young woman wearing a tartan scarf and a Crombie and quite possibly nothing else.

He shouts, he scores, to paraphrase.

Like those wee boys in the photo at the top, or or those wee blue disabled cars behind the goals, not the sort of thing you’ll see at the football anymore.

Echo and the BunnymenOver The Wall (Peel Session 22.5.80)

From a similar time and place, here’s Echo and the Bunnymen‘s Peel Session version of Over The Wall. Del Shannon via The Doors, filtered through era-defining hair and total self-belief. A bit like that Scotland squad of the times…and the wee guys in the picture at the top.

Cover Versions, Gone but not forgotten

I Am The Cosmos double whammy

A couple of weeks ago I was window shopping in Glasgow when I chanced upon a wee stall selling replica football tops and assorted football related t-shirts – Scotland Argentina ’78 -inspired designs and the likes. Unfortunately, the Celtic-inspired tops seemed to be the best – the Ramones logo re-done with the names of the Lisbon Lions, the Dylan ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ video where Bob discards 3 cards saying “It’s A “, “Grand Old Team“, “To Play For“. Umpteen Larsson tops. That sort of thing. Amongst all the Archie Gemmell and Old Firm crap I found a brilliant New York Cosmos t-shirt. I had to buy it.

I remember the Topical Times ’79 football annual having a big piece about them and I was something of a nine year old trans-Atlantic fan. They attracted all the best players, just as they entered the final stages of their playing career. In some cases, players came out of retirement, lured by the big bucks of the club’s financial backers. Pele, Beckenbaur, Neeskens, to name 3, all played in the team’s colours. The badge was even designed with Pele in mind – incorporating the Brazilian football team colours of yellow, green and blue, the owners believed this would appeal to Pele. And it did, not just to Pele, but also to Carlos Alberto, captain of the famous Brazil ’70 World Cup winning team. This was a masterstroke by the owners – when Pele signed in ’75, average attendances rose from 3500 to over 10,000. Anyway, here’s the music part…

The Cosmos were founded by Atlantic Records’ Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun, so in turn they were funded in no small part due to the success of a mid-70s global shagging Led Zeppelin. You could say that for every copy of Led Zep IV sold, some of the profits would go into funding terrible acts like Bad Company and some of the profits would line the pockets of footballers on the wrong side of 35.

Not on Atlantic Records, and therefore nothing to do with any of the above useless trivia was Chris Bell, Alex Chilton’s foil in Big Star. Since Chilton died the other week, it’s been said that one of the reasons he underplayed the recordings he made with Big Star is because he knew how much of the Big Star sound had been created by Chris Bell and not by himself. If you listen to Chris Bell’s solo album I Am The Cosmos (d’you see what I did there?), there may be some clout in this opinion. The title track itself is a fantastic slice of mid 70s rock – easily on a par with The Stones Exile On Main St or much of The Faces back catalogue. It’s loose, it’s sloppy, it’s full of soaring vocals, there’s a fabulous twin guitar break in the middle; all the ingredients required to make the hairs on this particular neck to stand to attention. In fact, while I’ve got your attention, I’d like to offer up the opinion that it’s this record (link updated again!) more than anything from #1 Record or Radio City that gave Teenage Fanclub the blueprint for everything they recorded at the sessions that produced Bandwagonesque. Not a bad point of reference at all.

In total contrast to the original above, there’s another version of I Am The Cosmos currently released and charming the pants off me. Pete Yorn and Scarlett Johansson recorded the songs that would form the ‘Break Up’ album in 2006 but  they only saw the light of day at the end of last year. I’m not normally a fan of actors making records (or vice versa) and this album is just OK. It’s nothing spectacular and had Yorn made it with N. E. Singer, I doubt I’d even have gone out of my way to find it, let alone listen to it. But for Miss Johansson I can make exceptions. Her voice is decent enough and her duet with Yorn on their version (link updated) of I Am The Cosmos is indie/lo-fi at its best. They claim to have been influenced by Serge Gainsbourg’s recordings with Brigitte Bardot, but I can’t really hear it. I could, however, quite happily listen to it/her all day long. Indeed, if she gets in the queue behind Zooey Deschanel and plays her cards right, Scarlett Johansson could yet be the next Mrs Plain Or Pan. Mind you, I’d need to make sure I’m not wearing that new Cosmos t-shirt. I’m not nine years old anymore. I bought a medium, but I really should’ve gone for a large. I knew at the time, but who was I tryin’ to kid?