My 17th book, The Beatstalkers: Scotland’s Number 1 Beat Group, is published on April 12 at a launch party in The Clutha, Glasgow. It will be available in limited-edition hardback and standard paperback editions, with worldwide availability. Here’s a brief extract from the story, which takes place just as the Beatstalkers were beginning to build a name for themselves…
RONNIE SMITH: The fans got quite close to us. We had nicknames for some of them. One person, whatever you said to her, she’d go, ‘Aw, scabby!’ and another would go, ‘Aw, riddy!’ So we called them Scabby and Riddy. There was one called Nippy Sweetie because she was always moaning, and another called The Animal because she’d come in for a goodnight kiss and nearly tear the face off you. They came to every gig, no matter where it was.
DAVIE LENNOX: Even though we were getting bigger, I was still getting the bus in from Priesthill. You didn’t use taxis. I was having to run like fuck for the bus and the whole of Priesthill were chasing me! It was stupid. Then Joe started picking us up in the van instead. But I loved the adulation and the stage thing! If we did a gig in a strange place and they were just clapping, and not throwing themselves onto the stage and fainting, it was like, ‘We’ve lost it. We’re rubbish!’ Success is fragile. But it was like living in a goldfish bowl. You didn’t have the wealth to disappear and just appear at gigs. It was constant. We lived two floors up and the fans were all the way up the stairs, just wee lassies. My big brother, my sister and my mammy would make them cups of tea and that – it’s somebody’s weans. When we went to London later I loved it, because I didn’t have to deal with that.
IT WAS ABOUT TO GET MUCH WORSE. As the Glasgow ‘city fathers’ began to live with the idea that rock’n’roll was here to stay, they took the initiative of staging free lunchtime concerts on George Square. That decision was to lead to one of the most remarkable moments in Beatstalkers history.
ALAN MAIR: Everywhere we played on the Scottish circuit, the places were packed. We’d had a couple of concerts where we’d blasted people off the stage. Herman’s Hermits would come up to the Barrowland and we’d blast them off the stage. The Pretty Things were hard to blast off the stage, but we stood our ground. We heard the English bands were starting to say, ‘Watch out for the Beatstalkers – make sure they’re not supporting you because you’ll have a tough time.’ Another concert we did where the news probably travelled south was at Paisley Ice Rink, where we supported the Yardbirds, featuring Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck – and we blew them off stage.
That’s when the concerts started in George Square. Chris McClure did one, Dean Ford and the Gaylords did one, and we went to see that one. They were very sedate. People just watched, and I think there were even tables and chairs. We were due to play one on a Friday, and everywhere we played, in the weeks before, we’d say, ‘By the way, we’ll be in George Square, playing for free.’ My mother said, ‘You should put an advert in the Sunday Post,’ but I said, ‘We know a lot of people are going to come – there’ll be enough people to make it a great concert.’
It was a really big square and it was tarmacced at the time. On the day, we were waiting over at Joe Gaffney’s house, but people started to turn up in the square at half-ten. We heard there were a few hundred before we got there. Divot and Vinnie, a couple of guys from the Tongs, said, ‘There’s probably going to be a bit of chaos, so we’ll come down as bodyguards.’ We were in a van quite near the square because there was nowhere to get changed, and someone told us, ‘There’s a few thousand people there.’ Then someone said, ‘The whole square is full.’ It was unbelievable – and there were only two policemen there.
The stage was about fifty metres from the City Chambers and we drove the van round, but we couldn’t get out and walk to the stage, so we drove right up to it. We saw the whole square really was full, and it was starting to spread out onto the streets. It was a nice day, a clear day, and the fans went in every direction. There was hysteria. People were going mental, screaming, and the police were on their radios calling for backup. That was before we’d even played!
We did one song, but by the time we got to the end, the whole stage was moving from all angles with people fighting to get on. We started the second number with the Tongs holding everyone back – they were having a good time, really enjoying it, because it was better than a gang fight. We got to the third number and it was obvious we weren’t going to get to the end of it. Suddenly there was a helicopter above us and the press were there. We couldn’t get to play our instruments. They were coming from all angles. It’s uncontrolled for the fans – they’ve just lost it and the only thing they want to do is get a part of you, grab your hair, rip your jacket…
Find out more at www.beatstalkersbook.com