Celts on 45 part 2

albums girl

If you thought the Eurovision Song Contest was bad, here’s Marmaduke Baglehole with a look back at some of the more offbeat (in some cases quite literally) unofficial recordings which used to grace the stalls of the Barras.

Celtic’s glory years of the Sixties and Seventies brought the club unprecedented success and world renown. In order to cash in on this phenomenon, the fledgling Celtic commercial enterprises division, operating from a wee office above the bookies in Renfrew Street, were using the Celtic brand name to endorse everything from carpets to cigarettes (no kidding – 20 Celtic tabs for 1/6d – support the team, smoke the colours!).

In the wake of this official entrepreneurial initiative the men with the parrots on their shoulders and the peg legs were not long in sailing into view as the pirates spotted a potential market for Celtic albums.

One of the first artistes off the starting blocks were The Coatbridge Accordion Band of Glasgow, best remembered – if at all – as the ensemble which had accompanied the team lorry on its lap of honour around the Celtic Park track when the Lions made their triumphal return from Lisbon. The fans were making so much noise that evening acclaiming their returning all-conquering heroes that nobody could actually hear a note the Coatbridge Accordion Band of Glasgow were playing. Their subsequent album, entitled ‘Celtic Boys Hurrah’, released in 1968, served only to make those present at the live gig appreciate how lucky they were.

However, the Coatbridge Boys’ record soon found itself vying for browser space with another classic of its genre released the same year.

album holy ground colour

‘The Holy Ground of Glasgow Celtic’ was performed by a combo calling itself The Green and White Brigade. No names were mentioned on the sleeve notes (although I seriously suspect that some of the aforementioned Coatbridge Accordion Boys might well have been press-ganged into service for this musical extravaganza) but musical arrangements on such numbers as ‘Celtic The Team’ and ‘Hail Hail The Celts Are Here’ were accredited to somebody with the exotic handle of ‘Sigmund’.

Freud of that ilk would have had a field day.

The tracks themselves are pretty standard renditions of old favourites, but Sigmund really comes into his own when the Brigade launch into their medleys, one of which includes ‘Kelly’s The Boy’, ‘Feed The Bear’ and ‘We’re All Off To Dublin’. James Last eat your heart out!

album celtic champions colour

 

1970-71 saw Celtic win the double and Hallmark bring out an album entitled Glasgow Celtic The Champions. It was a delight­ful, joy­ous record­ing, great fun and deep plea­sure from begin­ning to end. This band didn’t recre­ate the sound of the immor­tal Quin­tette du the Hot Club of France, although the instru­men­ta­tion is almost the same; rather, with its echoes of Django Rhein­hardt and Stephane Grap­pelli it exuded verve and joi de vivre. The play­ing com­bined the light­heart­ed­ness and steam-roller power that were a styl­is­tic fea­ture of 70s Hot Jazz with a mod­ern taste for har­mony and intro­spec­tion. Their chord sub­sti­tu­tions….

Nah, only kidding. It was very much in the snare drum and accordion tradition of this genre and contained the usual bizarre mixture of terracing favourites, Clancey Brothers covers (The Wild Rover, for example), rebel numbers (Roddy McCorley, the Boys of Kilmichael) and surreal original material based around popular hits of the time, such as this, to the tune of Louis Armstrong’s Wonderful World (to do it justice you’ve got imagine it sung in best pub singer voice.):

I see Jock Stein
He’s really in the groove
He’s singing to Wullie Waddell
We Shall Not Be Moved
And I think to myself
What a Wonderful World

I see Yogi Bear
In the chapel every night
He’s lighting candles
For poor old Davie White
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

The colours of the Rangers
Are red, white and blue,
I see worried faces
They don’t know what to do…

And who could possibly forget Inky Pinky, an outrageous reworking of a classic from the Great War:

The Rangers are looking for miracle cures, Parlez Vous,
The Rangers are looking for miracle cures, Parlez Vous,
The Rangers are looking for miracle cures, they’re thinking of taking the team to Lourdes, Inky Pinky Parlez Vous.

Well, probably everybody has forgotten it, but with that kind of writing talent abounding in the East End of Glasgow in the 70s it’s a wonder that Paul Simon ever got a break in the music industry.

For sheer audacity, though, nothing can surpass a double album entitled ‘Celtic And Proud Of It’, released in 1970 (it should really have been held in custody without bail).

The names of the artistes involved have been lost to us (indeed there weren’t too many fevered egos fighting it out for the credits on any of these Barras Pirate Specials) but that’s maybe just as well because this album makes The Holy Ground of Glasgow Celtic sound like Sergeant Pepper by comparison.

Unlike other recordings, all the tracks on this LP are originals. The person, or persons, responsible for writing them must have been on seriously hallucinogenic substances at the time, for not even the most diehard traditionalist Celtic supporter could listen to this spine-twistingly embarrassing drivel without doubting the sanity of the composer.

The first track contains plenty of hints regarding the quality of the whole album. ‘Why I Follow Celtic’ has the refrain:

1-2-3,
Celtic for me,
Not a team in the world like the Celtic

Which pretty much sets the tone for a lot of the nonsense to come.

With a track listing which includes ‘Celtic 4 Rangers 0’, ‘Our Famous Celtic Team’, ‘Celtic Is The Name’ and ‘The Flags Are Out For Celtic’ it’s easy to conclude that here is a writer that desperately wants us to believe he is a Celtic supporter and not just somebody trying to cash in on the unofficial souvenir market.

Suspicions are further aroused when two tunes drop like neutron bombs right into the middle of the album.

The first is called ‘Big Jock, Manager of Celtic’ (you don’t have to have the word ‘Celtic’ in every title but it helps). Incredibly, the tune is ‘The Billy Boys’ – yes, THAT Billy Boys:

Come on, big Jock
We’ll hit this team for six.
Come on, big Jock
For you know all the tricks.
We’ll beat them all around the field
We’ll really have a go.
Big Jock, manager of Celtic.

The song goes on to recount how Jock came down from Aberdeen to become Celtic’s manager, which came as news to me since the only connection I was aware of between Jock Stein and Aberdeen (other than the obvious rhyming possibilities) was the regular thrashings his team used to dish out to the Sheepies.

This track is only surpassed by a ditty called ‘Celtic – The Bhoys’. These surrealist lyrics go to the tune of The Sash (I kid you not!):

Jimmy Johnstone,
He’s a fine wee lad,
Not forgetting Bertie Auld.
May all, wherever,
Please forgive,
The nasty names we call.

The title track of the album is final and conclusive proof of the insanity of those responsible for it. ‘Celtic And Proud Of It’ is a duet which features a youngster quizzing his grandfather about the exploits of the Celts of old. It is a poignant ballad performed by two stoned weirdos. As the ‘boy’ character (he sounds as if he could be in his late fifties) sings the choruses, the ‘grandfather’ chips in with a succession of soliloquies quite stunning in their abject banality.

Take, for example, old pop’s ruminations on the great Jimmy Quinn:

One of the greatest sights you could want to see was Jimmy Quinn heading for goal and firing in one of his unstoppable shots. He was a big, broad lad and there were some said he was rough and he came in for all sorts of abuse… But when you can’t stop a man you have to find some sort of an excuse…

Chorus: Another reason why I’m proud to be a Celtic man

He later goes on to say that, ‘It would take months, maybe years to talk about it.’

Believe me, two minutes of this would sap your will to live. For sheer cheek it’s the double album of the century!

MANFRED LURKER

2015 16 issues

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