Minutes of an Ordinary Meeting of the Old Glasgow Club
Held at Adelaides, 209 Bath Street
On Thursday 11th December 2014 at 7.30pm
Ms Petrina Cairns (President)
Ms Cairns welcomed members and visitors to the last OGC Club meeting of 2014. A good year for Glasgow all round, I think you'll agree. Events are'nt quite over yet as tonight we have our annual raffle.
Ms Cairns also said that now the weather is changing that members and visitors should be thinking about contingency plans should there be adverse weather conditions. If you have any doubts about a meeting taking place, Ms Cairns said to phone Adelaides 0141 248 4970.
Should the Directors decide to stand down a meeting, Adelaides would be informed and there would also be a post on the Old Glasgow Club website and facebook page.
John McKnight, Janette Knox, Isabel Haddow, Margaret McCormack, Ian Frame, Molly Crichton, Grace McKay, Maureen McRobb, Jim O'Kane and Dorothy Blair.
The minutes of the last ordinary meeting, held on Thursday 13th November were approved and proposed by Joyce McNae and seconded by Anne White. There were no amendments.
Matters Arising - A huge thank you to Liz and Graham Smith for indexing and tidying the books in the Trades House.
Mrs McNae welcomed everyone and reminded them to take part in this evenings quiz and raffle. Mrs McNae also told us that the Calendars from the OGC shop were sold out and the bookmarks would be available again at the next meeting.
Mrs McNae drew everyones attention to upcoming events in the next few weeks and months :
The Mackintosh Architecture and Travel Sketches Exhibition is running at The Hunterian until Jan 4th 2015.
information on all current and upcoming events at Glasgow galleries. You can sign up to an e letter informing you of upcoming events like "Alisdair Gray : From the Personal to the Universal" exhibition which is running until 22nd February 2015. This is the centrepiece in a number of events to mark his 80th birthday this year.
We've been mentioning the 'People Make Glasgow' website a lot since it's launch. It really is an excellent website which is worthwhile exploring if you haven't already had a chance. The OGC is actually mentioned in a link. People Make Glasgow' has been the brand name for the City since June 2013 and the
website has really useful information as to what is going on in the City, plus discounts and competitions like Freebie Friday.
Welcome news was formally announced today. Glasgow School of Art has leased the B listed McLellan Galleries from Glasgow City Council for 95 years. This is great news for the galleries which have been empty for a number of years.
Finally, remember to check out the OGC facebook page which currently has 203 followers
Ms Cairns said how much she had enjoyed last months talk given by Adrian Searle on "Look up Glasgow" and wondered just how many of us went out of our way to look for the sculptures in his pictures.
Our Facebook page is coming along nicely, currently at 203 followers as Joyce already said. If anyone comes across anything of interest then please let me know and I will post it on the site. I will be updating it regularly over the Christmas break so please feel free to get in touch.
St Mungo Festival - from January 7th - 17th, with various events taking place around the city.
On 7th January at Govan Old Parish Church, Professor Stephen Driscoll will talk on "Glasgow's Buried Legacy - 1500 years of of growth, development and regeneration". Professor John Hume will also give a brief introduction on Govan Old Parish Church and the importance of the building. Booking is essential.
Also, a copy of the 12th century illustrated manuscript, Vita Kentigerni will be on display in the Mitchell Library on Saturday, 10th January 12.30 - 2pm.
There's details of events and bookings on the OGC noticeboard and also online at People Make Glasgow website.
I went along to Fairfields last month for the lecture, "The History of Shipbuilding in Govan up to 1855 by John Hume". It was my first visit to the new heritage centre. It's well worth a visit if you haven't already been. An impressive interactive style with lots of videos and models of the ships. The art work on the walls eg. Muirhead Bone sketches is worth a visit alone. The lecture was also excellent.
Springburn Winter Gardens design competition winners were announced on November 21st. The Glasgow Institute of Architects named James Hand and Nik Klahre as the winning designers of a new gathering space and history resource, with their entry entitled "Ruins to Rebirth". The Springburn Winter Gardens Trust is yet to confirm a timescale for the build but will be submitting a bid for stage one Heritage Lottery Funding by the end of the year as part of an overall plan to redevelop this site. Information and picture is on our OGC Noticeboard.
Tonight's speaker is Kenny Forbes with his eagerly awaited "Memories of the Apollo". The original was scheduled for last March and I'm sure this will be worth the wait.
Kenny is a Lecturer in Commercial Music at the School of Creative and Cultural Industries at the University of the West of Scotland, based at Ayr campus. He is currently studying for his PhD at Glasgow University, his research exploring why the much loved venue still resonated among it's audience almost thirty years after the venue closed and I'm sure he'll share his findings with us tonight.
My name is Kenny Forbes and "Memories of Glasgow" is part of a PhD thesis that I am doing at the University of Glasgow. I’ve lived in Glasgow all my life and when this opportunity arose to do my PhD I wanted to do something on my home city. Although this is an academic study, I also wanted this to be something that local people could relate to, and, in this context, thought the Apollo would be an ideal subject for analysis.
I grew up in Glasgow in the 60s and 70s, a time when there was a lot of change occurring. I think the Apollo was a key part of the city's social and cultural change. This is reflected in the large amount of media dedicated to the venue and the fact that those of us who experienced the Apollo at various concerts are still talking about the venue nearly forty years after it first opened.
There's been lots written and recorded about the Apollo over the years. There's been the Tommy McGrory - 'I Was There' musical, numerous articles by Billy Sloan, Scott McArthur and Andy Muir website to name but a few.
I wanted to take a different path and build on the information already there. I looked at the history that Glasgow had with entertainment, as well as examining notions of Glasgow's demanding audience. The UK live music industry was quite different at that time. In a pre-arena age, the Apollo was ideally placed to accommodate major concerts by artists of global stature. Of course, this no longer applied after the early 1980s, when the venue becomes increasingly marginalised as live music inhabits new environments. There were other factors to be analysed and considered. This included licensing, live music infrastructure in the city, local media, audiences, cinema architecture, technology and urban renewal.
A lot of my research involved conducting interviews. I interviewed former management and staff from Unicorn, artists, promoters, the man who owned the chippy downstairs, focus groups and audience members. I've also spoken to academics, journalists and media. They all made a huge contribution to the study and I've had the pleasure of meeting a lot of interesting people along the way.
The Apollo started out as Green's Playhouse.
Green's Playhouse was opened at 126 Renfield Street in 1927 as an entertainment complex. The deluxe cinema was the cumulation of four years work by the Green family. In the early 1920s, the Greens recognised the need to secure the best and latest films for their customers which needed a city centre location. They employed the services of the architect, John Fairweather who specialised in cinema design. He had traveled to America in 1922 to study the famous cinema architect, Thomas Lamb's work.
It was to be one of the greatest forward steps ever made in theatre construction with immense pillar supported over-sized girders. It was for a period the largest cinema in Europe and was promoted as a deluxe venue with cinema, ballroom, tea room, restaurant, offices and smoking room.
The cinema had a seating capacity in excess of 4,000 with a top tier of 1,000 (nicknamed 'the gods') people seated on benches. Although designed primarily as a cinema, the screen could be retracted to reveal a small stage. The decor was luxurious for its time and the 'golden divans' seating was popular with couples adding a uniqueness that was exploited in the day. When it first opened, Greens showed first runs / film premieres and could pick and choose what it wanted to show.
The ballroom was also constructed to exacting standards as was expected of ballroom dancing at the time with a sprung floor designed to absorb the impact of the dancers. At it's peak, the ballroom played host to leading dance bands of the era, the Joe Loss Orchestra, Duke Ellington, Ronnie Scott's Big Band, Harry Lauder.
With the decline in ballroom dancing and the cinema audience reaching it's peak in 1946, Green's Playhouse was really struggling financially and the surrounding area was in decline. By the mid 1960s maintenance costs was outstripping revenue and they started taking out fixtures and fittings to lessen the rateable value. There was a reprieve of sorts when the licensing restrictions were relaxed in 1964, with some of the top bands of the day hiring the cinema as a concert venue and Unicorn Leisure leasing the ballroom to use as a club. Although it provided the Green family with a guaranteed income, it was done as a sideline and the building continued to deteriorate to the extent that the cinema auditorium finally closed in 1973.
Shortly after the closure, a lease was negotiated by Unicorn Leisure who reopened the cinema auditorium as a music venue, 'The Apollo'. After a low budget makeover, The Apollo re-opened in September 1973 to two consecutive nights by Johnny Cash.
Frank Lynch of Unicorn Leisure understood that Glasgow was perceived to be an industrial city and a city with no suitable music venue to accommodate bands with a larger following. The Apollo now met high, local demand for live rock music and met commercial expectations. Unicorn Leisure were a new breed of rock promoters with local knowledge
and a good understanding of bands requirements.
The week after Johnny Cash, The Rolling Stones played at The Apollo. Between 1973-78 acts like Diana Ross, Chuck Berry, The Osmonds, Duke Ellington, ELO, Billy Connolly, Jethro Tull, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Steeleye Span, Genesis, Black Sabbath, The Clash. A lot of acts either started their tour at The Apollo or ended their tour at the Apollo.
Status Quo recorded their first live album, "Live at the Apollo" in October 1976 and were quoted in 2002 as saying "the best venue anywhere in the world". AC/DC also recorded their first live album, "If You Want Blood You've Got It" at the Apollo on 30th April 1978.
There was a serious side to the venue too, I asked Frank Lynch and Davie, the head bouncer at the Apollo if there was a problem with the bouncers. Both of them said there wasn't. The artists and promoters said differently, if you saw fans being taken out the front door then that was okay, but, if you saw them being taken out a different route then you knew the bouncers were going to get heavy handed with them. The punk gigs especially were a source of conflict. The spitting at staff, pogoing and ripping up of seats didn't go down well. You would see these kids being taken to the back of the hall and being beaten and kicked by the venue bouncers.
Despite the Apollo's success as a music venue, the building interior was in poor condition and it's structure was gradually deteriorating because upkeep and repairs were only being done on a make-do basis. In 1977/78 Unicorn Leisure's lease was up. They relinquished their lease and they re-located to Florida.
Leisure giants Mecca had plans to turn the Apollo into a bingo hall. There was such an outcry about this that 2 fans, Christine Oliver and Valerie Paul collected a 100,000 signature petition in protest, even getting Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton's signatures. A big campaign was underway with debates being carried on through council chambers, newspaper columns, Radio 1 DJs and even the Church of Scotland to save what was seen as a cultural asset.
On 6th July 1978, Christian played what was supposed to be the Apollo's final gig. It was the only Apollo concert ever to be licensed to sell alcohol and golden tickets issued for the gig were highly sought after.
Fortunately, the highly public campaign payed off and Mecca's plans were shelved. Apollo Leisure now decided to run it as a corporate venue and the Apollo was given a much needed refurbishment. They wanted and needed to attract an audience from all over Glasgow, including the posh people.
The Apollo re-opened on the 29th September 1978 with Tom Robinson and Stiff Little Fingers. Between this time and it's closure there were a lot more 80s rock and heavy metal bands like Bad Company, Blondie, The Stranglers, Def Leppard, Rush, AC/DC, The Who, Roxy Music, Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake, Meat Loaf, ZZ Top, Robert Plant to name a few.
There had been a seven year downward spiral in the buildings condition and the venue was no longer suitable to host the bands with bigger productions that were being transported in big trucks which were just not viable for the lane behind the Apollo. The Apollo was now haemorrhaging money and in 1985 it was decided that the venue was to close. This was the same year in which the SECC opened. There were rumours that the Apollo would rise again. This time, however, there was no petition or public outcry.
The last band to play to take to the stage was Paul Weller's 'Style Council' on 16th June 1985.
The Apollo caught fire in 1987, taking premises on either side of it. It was eventually demolished in 1989, with the site now occupied by the Cineworld Complex.
That was a great talk, Kenny. I'm sure we all have our own memories of the Apollo. Mine being not only of the gigs themselves but the atmosphere in the queue outside. And, the buskers, who on some occasions were better than the bands I was waiting to see. I'm sure Kenny will answer any questions from our audience. Kenny's research website is
Q Can I thank you very much, that was some talk about the Apollo. I loved the shows there, Johnny Cash etc. I got lots
of autographs from the artists that preformed there.
Q Is there anywhere in Glasgow that comes close to having the same atmosphere as the Apollo? I was 4 when the
Apollo was demolished so I've never had the privilege.
A The Carling Academy and Barrowland have been compared to it. What's happening at Barrowland at the moment is
the same as what happened at the Apollo.
Q Can I ask you about the economics? It used to be £2 for a ticket to see a group and the record was £5. Now it's £100
but the albums still cost the same.
A The live shows are now monetised. They're big shows and now a huge source of income for the artists.
Q I was interested that you were saying the Apollo was 'Glasgow', What do you think the venues say now about
A I think the Barrowland is the present day equivalent in terms of atmosphere, uniqueness and Glasgow. We now have
the Hydro, which is essentially holding a Glasgow audience but the Hydro is an International arena and could be
anywhere really. The Apollo was of it's time. 1973-75/77 was it's time.
Q My only real reflection is that is was all pre Ticketmaster. You queued up outside in all types of weather, sometimes
for 3 hours.
A Yes, I've spoken to people who have queued up all night, playing football in Sauchiehall St. Getting to know people.
Relationships were formed in those queues.
Gavin - "It was nostalgic talking about the Apollo. Joyce and I once complained that there were no seats. We were taken up to the VIP area. There were seats but there were no walls or ceilings".
Joyce - "lots and lots of memories. I remember standing on top of a seat with my bowler hat on and being huckled by a
bouncer out the door until somebody shouted at the bouncer that it was a lassie".
Vote of Thanks
Ruaraidh Clark thanked Kenny for his magnificent performance, telling him that he had put the Apollo in a social context, what it meant to the people of Glasgow. "I remember being at the Rod Argent concert in 1975 where the balcony was buckling with all the jumping up and down. It didn't phase me in the least as I was on some of Morocco's finest....I was a student. On behalf of the Old Glasgow Club, thank you so much, Kenny",
Question - What is the surname of the tobacco manufacturer whom Glasgow's Mitchell Library was named after ?
Answer - Stephen Mitchell
After last months poor result there were lots and lots of correct entries. Tonight's winner is Jane Collie.
Raffle tickets were drawn by Kenny Forbes.
Next Directors Meeting - 22nd January 2015
Next Ordinary Meeting - 8th January 2015
Ms Cairns wished all an enjoyable festive season and a safe journey home and looks forward to seeing everyone in January. The talk is being given by David Carson on "William Laird McKinley - Clydebank's Arctic Hero".