Artistic Collaboration with Scottish Fellow Man.
I was living in my home city of Edinburgh, Scotland in 1981 and working at William Blackwood Printers just a few streets back from the famous Princess Street. I had returned back from Sydney, Australia in late 1979 after my second stint Down Under. And for all intended purposes I was back home to stay permanently. That was before Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party became the party of choice after the British General Election. I was taken into office the general manager at Blackwood’s one day and told that I would be one of ten employees who would be made redundant. I was thirty years old at that time and I knew that hundreds of thousands of people all across the country were losing their jobs. And it looked like that working at my trade as a Graphic Reproduction Camera Operator in Edinburgh had indeed hit a dead end. I decided to sell my house on the outskirts of the city and head back to Sydney, Australia and seek employment Down Under for a third time.
Before departing back to Sydney my friend Stuart Jeffries invited me one day to attend a recording session at Craighall Studios where he worked as a recording engineer. I asked who were the musicians in question and Stuart replied that it was Davie Paton the singer songwriter from the famed Edinburgh rock band Pilot and two of his musician friends. On the day of the sessions I turned up and Stuart introduced me to Davie, Stuart Tosh and John McNairn who were working on the session with Davie. Pilot has ceased to be a working band in late 1978 after releasing four excellent albums and two worldwide hits Magic and January. The reason for this weekend recording session at Craighall Studios was to record new material and later present them to a record company in London for release at a later date. For most of the day I stayed quietly in the corner of the recording booth with Stuart as Davie Paton, Stuart Tosh and John McNairn went about the business of making music. It was indeed a nice change from all the other stuff happening at that particular time with the gloomy jobs outlook around the country. There was seven songs recorded that day and my personal favourites were Midnight Limelight, When The Sun Comes, Chance In A Million and On My Way.
I had always been a fan of music and how it was put together although up to that point my main interest was in playing football. As a teenager I would attend the dance halls around Edinburgh listen to the current Scottish bands play live gigs like the Marmalade the Poets and the Bay City Rollers. Davie Paton was a band member with the Rollers early in his career before leaving to form his own band Pilot in the early 1970’s with Billy Lyall, Ian Bairnson and drummer Stuart Tosh. The bands early demos Magic and Just A Smile were first recorded at Craighall Studios with Billy Lyall the resident recording engineer at that time. My friend Stuart Jeffries was the young apprentice to Billy and he eventually took over the full time roll when Pilot secured a three year recording contract with EMI Records in London in 1974. Magic reached the heady heights of UK top twenty and top five in the USA and sold over one million copies thus earning the band a gold disc. The following year in 1975 Davie’s song January written for the second album ‘Second Flight” peaked at number one on the UK Charts and also in many other countries worldwide. When Pilot completed their three contract deal with EMI Records they signed a one year deal with Arista Records in 1977. The band had been reduced to only two working members with Davie and Ian at the helm. As for Billy and Stuart both musicians had left for new pastures and also to work on personal musical projects.
At the close of the Saturday recording sessions I thanked Davie and Stuart for their kind invite to attend the sessions and left to head back home with fond memories of my special day out at the famous Craighall Studios. Four months later I packed my suitcase and left my house with most of its contents and finished front and back gardens for the new owners. It was a sad day although I was excited to start my Trek America road trip across the Southwest of the United States of America the following week with my wife Elaine Brodie. Our first port of call was New York City where we stayed for three days prior to catching up with the Trek America group to start our exciting journey. Elaine and I visited the Heye Museum of the American Indian and after a good look around I purchased two books “Black Elk Speaks” and “Lame Deer Seeker of Visions.” I did not know it at that time that for the next thirty-two years I would cross the Northern and Southern Great Plains on sixteen occasions driving 200,000 miles along the way researching the recent history of the Lakota-Sioux and Cheyenne Native Americans and on three separate occasions selling my published books from the boot of my rental vehicle during the summer seasons. Becoming a creative artists was the last thing I had in mind at that time. What I did know that the system of control with their invisible chains regarding a twenty-five year minimum bank loan was not something I wanted to venture near again any time soon. Over the following years and decades I periodically think back to my Margaret Thatcher Exodus from Scotland and instead of thinking about the negative side of events I always remember my time down at Craighall Studios and watching and listening to the music men at work. I suppose in a way it is healthy to always try and remember the positive and good side of humanity and the soulful individuals who are kind enough to share their lives with you even for a day.
Over the years I continued to collected and listen to my favourite rock bands and I was always a keen supporter of Scottish bands who were making interesting sounds and being successful around the world. This was the days before the internet and one had to buy music magazines or catch the weekly music shows like Molly Meldrum’s Countdown or Donnie Sutherland’s Sounds Unlimited hosted each weekend in Sydney. After Pilot folded Davie Paton continued to ply his trade as a sessions musician bass player and also spent times in various bands Keats and Camel. Davie worked with many of the greats in the music industry over the years like Kate Bush, Chris Rea, The Pretenders, Jimmy Page, Chris de Burgh. And he spent over a decade playing with the Alan Parsons Project and for three years he toured the world as Elton Johns bass player. With the advent of the internet at the start of 2000 I decided to try and contact Davie and send him a copy of my booklet “Lakota Spirit” The Life and Times of Jack Little 1920-1985 as a gift for his kindness way back in late 1981. We then kept in touch by e-mail for the next six years and when Davie published a new compact disc I would purchase a couple of copies to support the cause. When I uploaded my first website in 2003 it then allowed me the opportunity to reach a wider audience with my artistic endeavours. Davie was also doing the same in Edinburgh and he had his website online and with it came a section titled “Studio Diaries” which spoke about the current projects he was working on at that time. When Davie had a batch of songs ready to enter the world he would offer them for sale on his website and periodically he along with Ian Bairnson would remaster old material from their Pilot days and bring a fresh sound and feel to this timeless music. No longer did one have to scrounge through music newspapers and magazines for information about ones favourite artists. The internet and cyberspace allowed music fans around the world instant access to what new projects were in the making. It was indeed a interesting time to be a artist and being able to control ones creative output while working in all areas that the recording companies had performed their duties when representing signed artist.
In early 2007 I received a e-mail from Davie from his home in Edinburgh saying that he would be touring Australia with Molly Meldrum’s Countdown Spectacular Concert Touring Show. This large scale event would be highlighting many of the number one hits from bands across the world from the late 1970’s and 1980’s. Davie said that when he was in town for the Sydney show that we should catch up for a cup of tea and a chat. Normally I would be travelling across the Great Plains in the month of August but in 2007 I had decided to have a years break from my on road travels. When Davie arrived in town in early August we met at Bondi Junction and stopped at the Curious Cafe and had a bite to eat and said hello to Elvis Cat before walking back to my apartment on Bronte Road. And for a couple of hours we spoke about music and Native American culture. Prior to departing the apartment Davie asked that it would be nice if he could meet up with a Aboriginal elder while staying in Sydney. I thought about his request and later I mentioned it to my wife Kim when she arrived home from her job at St. Vincent’s Hospital. Kim said that she would be working the side door at St. Mary’s Cathedral that Sunday for the 150th Anniversary of St. Vincent’s Hospital. It was to be a VIP event and there would be a Aboriginal Smoking ceremony prior to the start of the service. Kim continued by saying that usually Uncle Max Eulo would perform the smoking ceremony before leaving for other engagements. Maybe there was a opportunity for Davie and Uncle Max to catch up after the smoking ceremony Kim said. I left that evening and attended the Countdown Spectacular concert at Acer Arena in Sydney’s West with my friend Nan Horton. It was a amazing trip down memory lane and the highlight was watching and listening to Davie sing his worldwide hits Magic and January. The full house in attendance gave Davie a huge welcome onto the stage and sang along as he performed both these classic songs.
On Sunday morning I arranged to meet up with Davie outside his Kings Cross Hotel at Rushcutters Bay and told him there was a possibility that we could have the opportunity to meet with a Aboriginal elder at St. Mary’s Cathedral that afternoon. We walked down Williams Street and shortly arrived at the Cathedral which was packed with dozens of high profile politicians and business people from across Australia. Shortly two Aboriginal gentleman started to walk down the aisle singing quietly and with burning sage in their hands they smoked the areas in front of them on their way to the main alter of the Cathedral. When the smoking ceremony was completed the two men departed out of Kim’s side door of the Cathedral. And shortly after this Davie and I also departed out of the same doorway. Kim was standing outside speaking with Uncle Max Euro and his friend Wayne as they waited for the changing rooms to be opened. Kim then introduced me to Uncle Max and Wayne and then I introduced Davie to Uncle Max and Wayne. This was the moment when the mind of a artist takes over and that verbal events are about to shape future areas of a current project. Davie said to Uncle Max that he had come to Australia from Scotland. And as the two men shook hands Uncle Max replied “You have come a long way.” After a few minutes of interesting conversation I shot a couple of images with Davie and Uncle Max and Wayne. It was always a long shot finding a Aboriginal elder for Davie to meet while on his short stay in Sydney but it had happened and worked out well for all concerned.
Shortly after this quick fire meeting with Uncle Max and Wayne I left with Davie and we walked back up Oxford Street to his hotel. On the way Davie informed me that he was currently working on a new solo album which was almost completed with only a couple of new tracks to think out. The new material did not have a working title and as such the album artwork could not be finalised. What did excite Davie was one of the main tracks on the album “Fellow Man” spoke about the evolution of mankind on the planet we inhabit. Davie continued by saying that part of the lyrical content of “Fellow Man” said “You have come a long way.” Which was exactly the words Uncle Max said to Davie as they shook each others hands. Davie said he now had a working title for the album and that it would be called “Fellow Man.” On a personal level I was thrilled to have helped out in the creative processes and I was pleased that Kim and I had made the effort to locate Davie’s Aboriginal elder. It now seemed that Davie’s new solo album was finally coming together while he journeyed Down Under. During all my trips to the United States of America over the years and decades the local people have always been so kind and generous to a stranger from a another country. And it was nice to return the favour to a fellow artist from my original homeland of Scotland who had been extremely kind to share his time with me at Edinburgh’s Craighall Studios way back in 1981. Before saying our goodbyes I gave Davie one of my favourite arrowheads as a gift along with some of my limited edition images. And I wished him all the best for the rest of his tour with the Countdown Spectacular as it toured Australia.
I was returning home from my shift at the War Memorial Age Care Hospital with my friend Nan Horton one day in mid November, 2007 and before having tea in the apartment I checked the mailbox. There was a package from Davie Paton and inside was a compact disc with a note saying thanks for all your help when Down Under Andrew. I was surprised that Davie had decided to publish my “Paha Sapa Sunset” image on the front cover of his album titled “Fellow Man.” The cover had a image of Davie and the Beatles on the top righthand corner in a three image montage with text written across the most of the cover. The disc had the arrowhead gift printed on it and one of the booklet pages highlighted the image I had taken of Davie and Uncle Max Euro at St. Mary’s Cathedral four months earlier. Nan and I sat down and while enjoying our cups of tea we listened to the entire album. One of the final tracks written for “Fellow Man” was also a ballad like the title track called “Across The Ocean.” The lyrical content of this song spoke about Davie’s thoughts prior to leaving Scotland and heading thousands of miles to another country. It was indeed a beautiful song and they say in this Earthly life that fortune favours the brave. And that artists are dreamers and long may we continue to dream!
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