This week I’ve been sharing some private diary entries from 1979 with a group of men in their 60’s, who now live scattered, all across the globe. I had been searching for the diary for a completely different reason which I will explain later, but when I found the information I did, I just knew I had to share it with them.
It is sometimes strange how the ties that bind us and the unlikely friendships that really can last a lifetime, come about.
This group met each other at Cambridge University. Now I know what you’re thinking, were they members of one of those elite, secret societies like the Bullingdon Club, the one that David Cameron and Boris Johnson joined at Oxford. Maybe they came together over politics like Michael Gove and Boris Johnson…at Oxford.
The All Conquering CCAFC.
Not at all. What binds this rather distinguished group of upstanding citizens, many of whom have gone on to reach the peak of their professions is…football and one team in particular, Christs College Association Football Club or CCAFC for short.
On arriving at University, Freshers Week offered all sorts of clubs or interest groups that you could join. I became a member of CCAFC and in reality 40 odd years later I’m still a member. Last year the team met for a golfing holiday in Cowbridge and I ended up sharing a double room with my former team captain Micky McGuire. He thought he’d booked a twin room…we arranged ourselves top to toe.
CCAFC in 2023
I’ll return to the secret entries a little later…
The reason I had wanted to find the diary was that my latest record release was originally written and recorded at the same time as I adjusted to University life. By this stage I had been signed to Elton John’s Rocket Record Company for over 5 years. I had seen Mangers and A&R directors come and go and I think I felt a little unloved.
Trying to look cool in Cambridge.
I made the best of my time in University writing songs, performing at the college folk clubs and playing football with the odd lecture, supervision and essay thrown in for good measure. Seeing the writing on the wall at Rocket I decided to take the matter into my own hands and contacted a producer I knew at Radio 1. He wrote back offering me a session for the Andy Pebbles Show.
When the session actually went out I was on a footie tour of Dublin with CCAFC. As you can see the days were pretty full and it was only when I phoned home that I found out CBS records wanted to send a telegram to arrange a meeting.
‘If You Wanna Get Next to Me’ from the Andy Pebbles Sessions 1979.
When I got back there was a message from Harvey Goldsmith the rock promoter saying he wanted to chat about a new management company he was setting up.
A mixture of CBS Records, TV Personalities, football and Bible Studies!!!
My return to college led to a number of trips down to London to meet CBS and Harvey. The Radio 1 sessions also stirred a new interest from the new Rocket management.
Over my years in the music business I had met all sorts of people, but nothing had prepared me for Eric ‘Monster, Monster’ Hall. Eric was a legendary character in the biz who later went on to become a football agent. He had started as a tea boy in Tin Pan Alley with another kid named Reg Dwight. All these years later Reg, or Elton John as he became, had asked him to take over his Record Company.
Quite a week, Paul Gambaccini, Margaret Thatcher & Eric Monster Monster Hall!
I walked into the office and was greeted by a loud short fella in an equally loud suit. He had a Kevin Keegan curly perm and was holding the biggest cigar I had ever seen.
‘Bubbale, come in come in you’re going to be a Monster, Monster star!’
Eric told me he had heard my new songs and loved them. The trouble was going to be which one was going to be a hit first. He then introduced me to Mark London, a Canadian producer and songwriter who had given Lulu some of her biggest hits.
They sat me down at the piano and asked me to play whatever songs I wanted. After getting some good response to the songs from the Radio 1 session I said I was working on a new song called ‘Letting You Down’. When I finished I knew that they liked it. Mark said I was surely one of the finest young songwriters around and Eric said,
‘Bubbale…’Letting You Down’ is going to be a Monster, Monster Hit!’
A budget of £5000 was agreed (£35,000 in todays’ money) and we spent 3 days in AIR studios with some of the best studio musicians. When they all left I sat down at the Paul McCartney ‘Live and Let Die’ piano and recorded ‘Letting You Down’ solo. A week later we returned to record the strings and mix the tracks.
And with that 6 years later, my Rocket Days were over!!
The trouble was despite all this new Rocket Records activity I had set off a chain of events that were in reality unstoppable. Harvey Goldsmith wanted an artist free of all contractual obligations and as my initial 1973 contract with Rocket had expired he informed Rocket that as my manger I was leaving and that was that. Like the rest of my catalogue the ‘Letting You Down’ tapes went into storage for over 40 years.
It was my engineer Tim Hamill that first drew my attention to the tape box marked Air Studios.
‘That must be the Paul McCartney Live and Let Die piano you’re playing’ he said.
That was when we decided to replace my teenage voice with my new old voice and then add the rest of the Jacks to the production as well.
The record came out this week and is currently NO. 35 on the Mike Read Heritage Chart as well as getting playlisted across the country including BOOM Radio. Who knows maybe Eric ‘Monster, Monster’ Hall might be proved right after all?
Anyway, back to the diary. The term at Cambridge after Christmas is known as LENT but we knew it better as the Cuppers Term, the University knock out cup competition term.
Having been brought up in a little Gospel Hall the way we talked about our college rivals initially shocked me. Somehow the words that I had spoken so reverently all my life took on different meanings in this new context. Christs’ biggest rivals were Jesus College. Thus , my diary entry for 22nd January 1979. Christ 7:2 Jesus (Hammered them!!!)
The rest of the week I’ve been keeping the lads up to date on the state of the immaculate, wonderful college pitches we were blessed to play on every week. The Cambridge weather must have been bad as snow postponed the Second round game against Catz (St Catherine’s) for the best part of a week.
Finally the game went ahead on Friday 2nd February 1979. Star striker Maurice Cox put us one up. With 25 minutes to go Catz scored 2 in ten minutes. Thankfully our captain Mick McGuire (my recent shared bed friend) scored the equaliser and Irish Rugby International John Robbie scored the winner.
Now that probably means very little to you but to a group of old blokes around the world that will all seem like yesterday!