Unreliable memories of an ageing Cado Belle fan
Cado Belle first came to prominence by winning a “Search For A Star” competition in the mid 70’s. Commercial radio had just started up in UK (previously BBC had enjoyed a monopoly) and each local radio station held a competition to find a band to represent their broadcasting area. The prize was a recording contract with Anchor Records. At that time there were only 2 commercial radio stations in Scotland; Clyde in Glasgow and Forth in Edinburgh. And probably no more than a dozen or so in England either, just in the main cities such as Manchester, Birmingham, London etc. Cado Belle won the Clyde nomination and went on to win the final in London. They toured extensively around the University/College circuit and the London Pub scene that was particularly vibrant at that time.
I was still at school when I first came across them purely by chance. One of my friends was working for an advertising company in town. He had an older workmate who was involved in promoting concerts in a country pub just outside Edinburgh in Carlops and he had booked Cado Belle for a Monday night show there. As several of my friends ran a mobile disco to earn some extra pocket money they were invited to provide the pre and post concert entertainment. I went along as a roadie, to the aforementioned pub called the Allan Ramsey, but did very little other than enjoy the band’s performance whilst devouring chicken in a basket. The night was particularly memorable since that was the first occasion that Maggie met Alasdair Robertson. She and rest of the band had created songs from his lyrics and this would provide most of their performance material and ultimately become the LP. She admitted how much that she admired the talent involved in their creation and had got to know them as her own but hadn’t, until that night, met the creator. She name checked him several times that night just to emphasise his contribution to the Cado Belle songs she was performing.
The first time I heard the band on the radio was from a mono recording on cassette tape that a friend lent me. The BBC Scotland programme had lyricist Alasdair discussing how the inspiration for the songs had come about and amongst other things said the reason for the bands name came partially from a Mississippi Paddle Steamer. The “Sailing In The Sea Of Life” chorus from their second song had attempted to convey this imagery. The band performed live in the studio and played Infamous Mister (3.04), Piece of Sky (3.21), Rocked To Stony Silence (5.50) and That Kind Of Fool (5.32). They are slower and more folky sounding than they eventually turned out on the LP. I’ve got a second generation copy of this on cassette and have transferred the songs onto CD but the quality is pretty poor. I put a copy of the second track on YouTube since I’ve never heard them perform it since and it is a pretty catchy song. Trawling the net, I did find the following review of them in the Felix newspaper from Imperial College Union dated Friday 11th June, 1976. It includes a review of a concert from The Red Cow in Hammersmith, London written by Ian Morse. This sounds so typical of what they were doing at this time and nicely describes how they were developing as performers.
Next time I saw them was one Friday night at Heriot-Watt University students union in Grindlay Street whilst I was a student there. They had mentioned they would be appearing at Brucie’s Record shop in Shandwick Place the following day where they would autograph copies of their LP that was newly available that day. Me and a friend duly went to the shop only to find little going on so with my copy of the LP in hand asked the assistant where the band were? He phoned upstairs to the office and was instructed to take us up to the manager’s office to meet them all. Maggie met us at the door then introduced us in turn to each of the band and got them to sign my LP. She even got an inkpad so that her dog Dill could add his footprint to the cover. Unfortunately I missed out in getting Gavin’s signature but it was a memorable occasion all the same.
Shortly after that they did an In-Concert programme on BBC 2 TV (which I have on audio tape). Don’t recall much about the performance but the track listing was; That Kind Of Fool (3.16), Stones Throw From Nowhere (4.19), Dill (10.24), Got To Love (3.56) and Still Running (6.23). Have put a couple of these on YouTube as recent fans of Maggie won’t have heard them before. This would have been around late ‘76 or early ‘77 after the LP was released. Again the quality is poor and it’s in mono I probably just recorded it straight from the speaker but at least it’s listenable.
They also appeared on the BBC2 TV series “The Old Grey Whistle Test” probably around ‘77, I think they did “Got to love” as that was the current single and also “Sneak It In The Back Way”. The presenter Bob Harris commented that he thought the album would do particularly well when it got released in the USA later that year. I also went to Tiffany’s night club that year to see them perform. Curiously enough this is the same concert reviewed on the Cado Belle MySpace site. http://www.myspace.com/cadobelle76/photos/4118714#%7B%22ImageId%22%3A4118714%7D
I remember the power cutting out and one of the band, maybe Stuart, taking a poster off the wall and rolling it up into a sort of funnel shape and giving it to Maggie as a makeshift megaphone. They had been told that evening by the manager of the club that they held the record for the number of appearances at that particular venue at possibly 8 or 9, can’t remember exactly which it was.
The author of the MySpace review (Ian Cranna) frequently appeared in the New Musical Express as the Scotland correspondent and I recall he also did memorable piece titled something like Celtic Soul Stew. The NME was an essential read back then to keep track of who was appearing where and when. Later that year they did a BBC Radio 1 concert introduced by Pete Drummond, this was particularly well produced and in stereo. The track listing was: The Next Best Thing (5.41), Aint No Doubt (4.15), Falling In And Out Of Love (5.20), September (5.11) and Still Running (8.12). The first three were already posted on YouTube so I just added the remaining two. This was all new material so must have been circa 1977.
I saw them another couple of times after that, once in the old Astoria cinema in Abbeymount courtesy of Queen Margaret College. This was meant to be exclusively for their students but I managed to blag my way in using my Heriot Watt student card. Probably the last time I saw them was at Edinburgh University’s Health Centre Union later that same year. By that time they had a sizeable following and I recall talking to a guy who had travelled all the way from Hemel Hempstead or somewhere like that just to see the band again. It was from him that I found out about the Jim Wilkie album that they had contributed to and made a mental note to purchase it when it was released.
Their final TV appearance was again on BBC 2 TV as part of the series “Rock goes to College” or maybe even “Sight and Sound In-Concert”, hard to recall since it was such a long time ago. Unfortunately there had been some band upheaval in the days preceding the recording. Alan Darby had left and “Jim Mullen” ex Kokomo stepped in at the last moment to allow the gig to take place. It was a competent performance but somehow a bit of the magic had gone with the demise of the original line up. Never saw them again after that and I believe the band went their separate ways. Gavin joined an Irish band called Stagalee named after the old Tommy Roe song. Maggie and Stuart were involved with Riotous Assembly and although I saw some posters around advertising up and coming gigs I never did get to see them. Alan Darby went off to other bands and session work.
I did get Jim Wilkie’s LP The Waxer the following year ’79 and enjoyed hearing Maggie’s distinctive vocals again particularly on the song Skye. The band’s sound could be detected on several other of the tracks too, so it was the next best thing to a new Cado Belle album. Went to see Jim Wilkie perform at the Nightclub above the Playhouse theatre thinking there might be some of the band playing but on that occasion he was backed by a band from Dundee called The Mafia. One of the most memorable things from his performance was his rendition of Little Sister the old Elvis number that was also covered by Ry Cooder. That song alone turned me on to Ry’s music I went straight out and bought his .Bop ‘till You Drop LP and now count him as one of my favourite artistes.
Shortly after that I left university and joined the world of the employed, eventually moving down south to work. I’d pretty much forgotten about Cado Belle though I do recall picking up a copy of their album on cassette out of a bargain bin on one of my trips home to Edinburgh. It was a welcome relief getting to listen to them again in my car as I frequently travelled back and forth between Chester and Scotland.
In 1980 Johnny Logan performed What’s Another Year in the Netherlands for the Eurovision song contest ably assisted by Colin in front of a TV audience of 10’s of millions. He then wrote and performed the film soundtrack in That Sinking Feeling and then Gregory’s Girl in ’81. Alan also made a brief appearance in the ’83 film Local Hero as one of the Acetones ceilidh band. Supposing there must be some connection with Bill Forsyth the director of all these films and the band.
Then that same year I heard Mike Oldfield’s Family Man on the radio and immediately recognised who the vocalist was. So became a convert to his music and bought Five Miles Out, Crisis and Discovery over the ensuing years to keep up with what Maggie was then doing. The rest is pretty much history, Maggie went from strength to strength now that she has become known to a far wider audience with the Mike Oldfield hits. In 1984 I picked up a copy of As Tears Go By the old Rolling Stones song that was a hit for Marianne Faithful in the 60’s but unfortunately Maggie’s version failed to trouble the charts here in the UK. The same year I became a father and moved back to Scotland and got on with my ordinary domestic life.
In 1991 I came across a copy of Jim Wilkie’s book Blue Suede Brogans, Scenes from the Secret Life of Scottish Rock Music that has a chapter on Cado Belle and Alan Darby. I’d highly recommend it if, like me, you’re interested in the history of Scottish Music. It’s out of print by I managed to get a second hand copy off Amazon.
I’ve now managed to obtain most of her CDs over the years though curiously enough they’re seldom available to buy in Scotland, and completely unheard of in England. I’ve bought copies in Saudi Arabia, Minorca, Spain and Copenhagen amongst other places. The remainder are becoming more readily available on the internet so I’ll probably manage to get them all in the fullness of time. And now that I’ve discovered the range and variety of material available on YouTube I think my interest in Cado Belle will continue for quite some time yet.