If you missed my spot on Fred MacAulay’s Radio Scotland show on Monday, here it is in glorious, em, mono as we talk about how we first met, my book, the rock’n’roll lifestyle and how everything has changed since oor day.
Now, Rock Radio was a family station so the BBC are even more careful, and I couldn’t quite tell my Ozzy story the way I did in Billy Rankin’s School of Rock. So here’s that wee bit from the book, told the way I’d prefer to tell it…
Shit in the dark
Once when Nazareth played in Little Rock, Arkansas, Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne were staying at our hotel, and came down to our concert.
Ozzy was meant to be on the wagon at the time, so Sharon wasn’t too happy when she caught him in our dressing room taking a swig of out of a Jack Daniel’s bottle. After a serious rammy, she stormed off back to the hotel.
Ozzy came back with us after the gig then went off to bed. Next morning at breakfast, he came down alone.
‘Where’s Sharon?’ we asked.
‘She’s gone, replied Ozzy. ‘But she was in bed when I got back last night’.
‘So how to you know she’s gone?’ we wanted to know.
‘Bit of a no-brainer really,’ he said. ‘There’s a massive great shit in my suitcase…’
In a shock move Fife rockers Nazareth have sacked founder member Manny Charlton and installed a replacement – in the shape of guitarist Billy Rankin.
Drummer Darrell Sweet said this week that, “musical and personal differences” had led to a new core line-up for the band after 22 years. While no-one was prepared to talk in detail about the split which occurred shortly after the charity fund-raising concert at East End Park last month – Manny said this week, “Basically I was fired.”
He went on, “I thought that we might have been able to resolve things, but obvoiusly the rest of the guys reached an impasse.”
The guitarist, who co-wrote much of the band’s material with singer Dan McCafferty, says that he plans to “put out feelers” in the business and send off demo tapes of songs he has written in the hope of finding a recording deal. Manny emphasised that there is no acrimony between him and his successor, who has worked with the band in the past, and he said, “I have a lot of respect for Billy. He is a talented guy.”
Explaining that Nazareth regard the affair as an internal matter, Darrell said, “This is basically our business, albeit to a certain degree we are in the public domain.” He went on, “Nobody was happy about how things were going and as it happened the three of us decided to stick together and Manny was asked to leave.”
Billy was part of the band when they were a six-piece from 1980-1983 when it also included keyboard’s player John Locke. “That was a phase in our career when we reckoned that we had done everything that we could with a four-piece band and then we reverted.” said Darrell.
He added, “There was no question of going further afield. Billy is an excellent guitarist. We wanted a change with minimal disturbance and luckily we managed to do that.”
Of the rift, Darrell commented, “Manny, being one of the main songwriters, had a lot to say about the songwriting. However, we haven’t had a hit record for six years.” Nazareth are currently rehearsing for tours in Scandinavia, Europe and America and Darrell summed up, “We are very happy about the way things are going.”
Billy Rankin, who is originally from Kirkintilloch, began his career with The Sensational Alex Harvey Band in 1978. He said, “I’ve always got on with Manny Charlton and everybody else in the band, and it was actually a big surprise when they asked me to replace him.” During his eighties involvement with Nazareth he contributed a number of songs, including Dream On, which was a number one hit all over Europe. Billy has enjoyed solo success in America.
CBS/Delta disagreement causes Billy to be dropped but Delta’s Colin Robertson agreed to keep him on retainer of £60 per week if he returned to Scotland. In November, Eddie asked him to call Pete Agnew (Zal had quit) who asked what type of guitar he played.
“You’re in, son,” was the extent of his Nazareth audition.
In December the STV In Concert at The Gateway in Edinburgh and a solo Buddy Holly tribute on the Hear Hear show meant two TV appearances on consecutive nights.
US tours from January to May promoting The Fool Circle LP. Gigs were recorded with The Record Plant mobile resulting in the S’Naz album. Billy’s first Naz studio recordings, Crazy for the Heavy Metal Soundtrack then Morning Dew/Morgentau/Juicy Lucy for the S’Naz bonus single. S’Naz mixed at The Manor and live video mixed at Air London with John Punter. Began writing (with Darrell) for next album in December.
Recorded 2XS in Monserrat then toured S’Naz album in Europe. A & M records financed solo demos at Ca-Va in Glasgow having been impressed by Billy’s writing contributions to 2XS. Four tracks were delivered and a solo deal was offered. John Locke left the band prior to Euro dates with Rush. Writing for solo and band albums (again with Darrell).
AIR Studios, Montserrat, owned by George Martin, was the tropical island location for Fool Circle and 2XS. Work on the second record began on departure of Sheena Easton and band prompting one member of staff to declare, “You guys spilled more drink than Sheena’s entire entourage drank during their stay.” The bill for liquor was ‘queried’ by their manager and George Martin wrote to each member personally asking, “Own up (band member’s name), you KNOW you drank it!”
January saw Nazareth recording demos in Pencaitland. February & March brought recording of the Sound Elixir album at Little Mountain in Vancouver where Billy became pals with Bryan Adams who had also signed a solo deal with A&M.
Sound Elixir was recorded at Little Mountain studios in Vancouver. It’s not regarded as one of the best Naz albums but, nevertheless, an eventful time was had by all. Friendship struck with Bryan Adams who was getting Billy shit-faced as his daughter, Anna, was being born back in Scotland. Darrell broke the news to him next morning by replacing the milk with Scotch in the cornflakes at breakfast. Neither of them made it to the studio ’til late evening when a crate of Champagne arrived (from A & M).
Billy also became friends with Brian (too loud) McCloud from Headpins who unwittingly gave Billy’s second solo album its title. After a jam on stage, Brian said he’d finally met his match in the ‘volume stakes’ and said to the deafened crowd “Too loud McCloud?, this is Crankin’ Rankin!” All Nite Radio’s intro is actually the pinball machine at the studio which Billy and Pete recorded and then went back to the rented condo and wrote a song around it.
Guitar Tech, Davie Horner, and Billy had to flee a downtown bar after buying onyx totem poles from an Eskimo who proceeded to fondle Billy’s leg under the table. The following week the local paper listed the bar as Vancouver’s No. 1 gay venue. (Suddenly it all made sense).
This, however, is topped by the Vancouver Police Pipe Band who arrived next door to record their new album. Armed only with 4 crates of Johnny Walker Red Label, they took Naz to their ‘club’ and, for once, trounce the Nazareth entourage in drinking prowess. Billy & Pete got so wasted they left and attempted the short walk home. Suddenly, sirens surrounded them and the officer, using a megaphone, said, “Nice try boys but we’re takin’ you in, we ain’t done with you yet!” They were taken back to the party and placed under arrest until more drinking had taken place. All of the above goes some way towards explaining the patchiness of the album.
Part 1: Early days | Part 3: Solo | Part 4: Nazareth again | Part 5: Rock Radio