Time for another delve into Chris’s story. The building above is The Royal Exchange in Glasgow. Now the Gallery of Modern Art and home of the iconice statue of The Duke of Wellington with traffic cone that has become synonymous with Glasgow, it was, back in the early sixties, home to The Stirling’s Library and the workplace of Christopher Stuart Adams…. but for how long?
All I Really Wanna Do
In the end, the Beatles were mainly to blame for the demise of my mother’s long held dream of her oldest son becoming a professional, though the exact circumstances would involve both cultural and generational conflict, all of which played out as follows.
By mid ’63 the Press had cottoned on to the fact that any mention of the Fab Four would sell papers in their millions, and one of the angles they serially used was what they termed their ‘hairdo’. So, any story that remotely involved a male fringe gave them an excuse to feature photos of the Beatles, which invariably translated into increased circulation. So long hair was a subject of great controversy, a symbol of the divide between a generation that had lately been involved in a life or death struggle with the Nazis, and one that was reaping the rewards of that hard-fought victory while simultaneously thumbing its nose at the Victors. For Broadsheets and Tabloids alike, in a world of little or no media competition, this topic was to prove one long controversial cornucopia.
Meanwhile, I was endeavouring to hang onto both my accountancy career and my sanity, a balancing act not made any easier by the fact that I had given up on the compulsory Saturday morning apprenticeship classes after three weeks. In fact, it had taken me just a few days to realise that notwithstanding the £3,2/6 a week which was paying for the Burns bass, the decision to follow this particular calling was probably the single most foolhardy thing I had ever done, and that was saying something. However, crunch time was fast approaching, in the form of my First Year Accountancy Exams, which I had as much chance of passing as Toulouse Lautrec had of gaining entry to the Paris Opera Ballet School.
My year in the Dickensian room had occasionally been brightened by field trips, when I was sent out with a fellow apprentice to do an audit, which basically meant ticking ledgers in situ, rather than in our city offices. It so happened that one of our clients was the owner of a manure factory in Paisley, [I kid you not] and it was to their premises that I was dispatched with the part time footballer, who was called Sonny. Getting to the factory involved taking public transport then, in theory, walking the last half mile. I say, ‘in theory’, because if the wind happened to be blowing in a certain direction, it was necessary to do a Jesse Owens, for fear of being overcome by the deadly fumes. How the poor people living in the nearby houses put up with it, I’ll never know. In fact, I remember joking about being tempted to try what soldiers did in the First World War when faced with a sudden gas attack, namely pee into a hankie and run with it over your mouth. Adding to the bad smell were entries in the ledger for payments to people who seemingly spotted dead horses in fields, though exactly what our client did with the equine corpses, I’m not sure. Either way, I was happy to see the back of the place, even if it meant returning to the daily grind in our five-person hellhole.
However, I was only back a few days when the junior partner stuck his head round the door and beckoned me out. Looks were exchanged between menials as I got up and followed him across the hallway to his office, which was bright and spacious with big bay windows overlooking Sauchiehall Street and coincidentally, my first nirvana, Lyons Toy Store. The junior partner, a man in his early forties with worry lines etched round his eyes, bade me sit, then coughed quietly; never a good sign.
‘Chris,’ he said, ‘We’ve just had a complaint about the length of your hair from the owner of the business you’ve been auditing.’
It was my turn to cough, though with incredulity. Here was the owner of a ghastly enterprise which was casting a deathly pall over a complete neighbourhood, quite possibly cutting the life expectancy of locals and workers alike, and the asshole had the cheek to complain about the length of my hair! The junior partner seemed to sense my unspoken angst.
‘Look, I know Beatle Haircuts are the fashion, but under the circumstances, all you have to do is agree to get it cut and we’ll carry on as usual with no blemish on your record.’
I swallowed hard.
‘Can I have a day or two to think about it?’
Now it was his turn to look askance.
‘Certainly not. Either get it cut or you get the sack.’
Faced with what he obviously regarded as Hobson’s Choice, I chose my own little nuclear option and handed him my notice.
But what may appear to have been another immature reaction was nothing of the sort, for, in light of the upcoming exams, I had already sketched out an escape plan which involved applying for a job with Glasgow Public Libraries at a salary three times my present level. My contact, who was already working there, was my buddy Dempse, who had guaranteed that the man in charge of the lending branches would be glad to take me on as he was keen to redress their gender imbalance, which was running about three females to every male. I couldn’t help but see this factor as something of a bonus, having spent the previous twelve months couped up in a storeroom with three males and a chain smoking thirty something dragon.
There was a slight gap, however, between leaving one career and starting the next, and most of this time I spent hanging out in the cafes and bars of Charing Cross with my proto beatnik buddies. So it was that one afternoon in the Chatelet, a self service restaurant with booths, I met a young lady with big green eyes and the de rigueur bohemian fringe. Her name was Pauline Allan and it transpired that she’d been on the Aldermaston CND marches, which impressed me greatly as these events were symbolic of our generation’s desire to reject the bankrupt policy of mutually assured destruction. She also had traces of an English accent, having spent her childhood in Chelsea, which added to the allure, and not to labour the why’s and wherefores, I was immediately smitten.
Soon we were inseparable, no mean feat given the fact that she lived in the North of the city and I in the West, but as it turned out, our blooming relationship was to impact badly on my musical career for, in the next few weeks, I missed band rehearsals twice. This led to an unexpected phone-call from my erstwhile acolyte Harry, who coolly informed me that the band had auditioned another bass player and had decided to offer him the job, though they wanted me to continue as singer. If I’d had an ounce of sense, I’d have asked myself if I’d rather be Mick Jagger or Bill Wyman, but given that I’d only taken up bass to accommodate Harry, who had turned out to be a very dark horse indeed, I regarded this as crass betrayal, so took the huff and left the band.
So now I was in danger of becoming a serial quitter, but it transpired that the libraries job was more to my liking and my life moved seamlessly on, its centre of gravity now based round Pauline and the boho crowd in the State Bar. The only fly in the ointment was having to part each night, me going my way and she hers, never an easy thing to do in the first throes of love, but there was always the odd all-night party when going home wasn’t on the cards. The ideal thing would have been to find a bedsit and move in together but, though I’d been disregarding my parents’ wishes for years, such a move would have caused a permanent rift, and, though the times were definitely changing, they hadn’t quite shifted to the point where I was brave enough to jump the mother ship quite yet.
The changing times is obviously a reference to the next seismic shift my generation experienced, though this one began very subtly. The first time I ever saw Dylan’s name was on the covers of two LP’s under the arm of a guy called Stuart Christie, who was heading off on a CND march. The fact that he was carrying two albums was a massive endorsement, for Stuart was a charismatic character with long flowing hair who would soon enter the annals of Glasgow’s Boho history by setting off for Spain on an anarchist inspired trip to assassinate the Fascist Dictator, General Franco. Unfortunately for Stuart, on the way, he happened to mention his intention to the eccentric tv pundit, Malcolm Muggeridge, who just happened to be an MI6 informant, and on arrival in Spain, he was immediately arrested and spent the next three years in prison, thereby missing some of Bob’s finest years.
So where had this this unknown American folkie come from? Well unlike The Beatles who arrived via the mainstream of tv, Dylan crept in un-noticed with the subversive forces of the underground protest movement. While The Fab Four were revolutionary in a cultural sense, Dylan’s influence was more philosophical. He didn’t affect how we dressed, just how we thought. And while The Beatles’ songs were basically secular, his were bizarrely sacred, with references to the Garden of Eden and implicit suggestions of impending Biblical plagues in ‘A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall.’ In fact, if anything, Dylan was an Old Testament prophet, reminding those in power that they owed a greater loyalty to the Truth than to the Vote. On a protest level, he gave voice to all the idealistic Stuart Christies, who believed the world was being run by mad men who would rather countenance global annihilation than disarm.
For me, living in the shadow of the mushroom meant existing for the moment, and someone who shared my hedonistic philosophy was Paddy, who drove his old Wolseley like there was no tomorrow. I remember roaring through to Edinburgh to see Champion Jack Dupree at the Place then heading to London to see Sonny Boy Williamson at the Marquee. The drive down is a blur, but I still have a vivid impression of the man himself, way into his seventies, but dressed in a dapper suit, its right side dark blue, the left brown. He was backed by the Chris Barber Band, who were basically trad-jazzers, so though I enjoyed the gig, the music was a bit tame for me. Hats off to the guys like Sonny Boy who invented the Blues, but begging their pardon, I preferred the regurgitated version that the Stones and the Yardbirds were now spitting out, full of energy and grit in equal measures.
So, Paddy was my soulmate, but as I started spending more time with Pauline, he and Dempse teamed up, and gradually the two of them began to get more heavily involved in the drugs scene. This was a defining issue, for if you didn’t go with the flow, you would be cast as fatally unhip; though never having run with the herd, elite or otherwise, that really didn’t bother me. The trouble was, the State Bar was full of drugs, with characters like Alec Brown, a small pudgy chap in his mid-thirties with a mouthful of bad teeth who had been a registered heroin addict in London under a woman doctor called Lady Franco. Like a lot of the crowd, Alec had served time after drug busts and he was forever inviting me to parties. Luckily someone advised me that there was an ulterior motive to this, for if the drug squad did arrive, the arrested would appear in court alphabetically, so the charge sheet which usually read ‘Alec Brown and x others’ would now become ‘Christopher Adams and x others.’ As this was the formula then used verbatim by the local press, my name would naturally appear on the top line of the story, which I’m sure would have been a real thrill for my folks.
It was around this time I first heard of LSD. On the night, we coiffed till closing time, [then ten pm], before decamping to Dempse’s flat where, amongst the long haired crowd was a very hip young woman called Linda Hofstetter, wife of a legendary figure on the Glasgow beat scene, the inventor of the giro boat, Johnny Hofstetter. Johnny was of Swiss origin, with parents who reputedly owned a remote Scottish island and his infamous invention was basically a rigid inflatable fitted with a set of helicopter rotor blades, which took to the air when pulled along by a speedboat. Eccentric perhaps, but harmless enough you might think, though not if the story I got from Alec Brown was true.
According to him, the trials in a Norwegian fjord had started off well, for to most people’s surprise, the contraption had successfully taken off, but just as the invited onlookers were starting to applaud this accomplishment, Johnny’s giro boat had suddenly spun out of control and in the ensuing dive, had decapitated a member of the Norwegian press standing in a nearby boat. Now it was obvious even to us youngsters that this story was just too good to be true, but one of the charms of growing up in those hazy pre-internet days was that no-one could really prove it wasn’t. And so it graduated to become the next best thing, namely myth. Thus, Johnny was a legendary figure who hovered around our collective consciousness but never actually materialised to be given the third degree. Who knows, maybe he was serving time in a Norwegian prison, but in his absence, here was his young wife that night enquiring of the assembly if anyone had some LSD.
Sadly for her, no-one did, but we were all hip enough not to admit at this point none of us had a Scooby what LSD actually was, let alone Acid, which had not yet become its favoured nickname. Of course, most of my contemporaries soon found out, in spades, and some of them are no longer here to describe its effects, but regarding myself as far enough out as it was, I opted to refrain, although much later I did have one singular encounter with magic mushrooms, as you’ll hear in due course.
Running against this grain of bohemian madness was my desire to start playing music again, though this time I had decided it would be on six-string, and given that I was still haunted by the trauma of my electrocution, preferably acoustic. By now, I had discovered that one of Pauline’s hidden talents was her incredibly pure, sweet voice which she had used to good effect on those Aldermaston marches, singing worthy protest songs like ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone?’. As soon as we started harmonising, it was obvious that our voices blended and it seemed that the magic ingredients were all there if we could find a platform to launch them. One might almost say that at this stage, we were a Peter and Mary, just waiting for the arrival of a Paul…
But, in the meantime, my librarian career was cruelly curtailed when it was decided that the policy of trying to staff the branch libraries with as many males as females was futile and we were told that we would all be moved to the Mitchell Library. Until then, I had been happily ensconced in Stirling’s Library in Royal Exchange Square, a building that had started life as the palatial residence of one of Glasgow’s tobacco barons, and is now the Gallery of Modern Art. On the eve of the transfer, I received a visit from the man who had hired me, a Mr Hepburn, who proposed that I leave early so that I could get myself a haircut before I encountered the Chief Librarian on the morrow. I decided it would be churlish to turn down the offer of an early finish, but when I turned up at the Mitchell next morning, I was still sporting the cavalier locks that had taken me a year to grow.
On arrival, the two dozen or so branch males were herded into the main board room, where a huge bevelled oak table awaited us. Once seated, we waited patiently until the door opened and a man in his late fifties with a dark visage appeared and occupied the top seat. This was Mr Black, the Chief Librarian. In a clipped Potteries accent, he outlined what our tasks would be and indicated that the regime here in headquarters was less relaxed than out in the suburban branches. He then dismissed us, but as I went to rise, added the caveat:
‘… All except you.’
As the others trooped out, I reached into the inside pocket of my jacket and skimmed my resignation letter up the table towards him. He watched it arrive, regarded it with distaste for a moment, then slit it open. After a quick glance at it, he looked up and gave what might have passed for a smile in bondage circles.
‘You don’t think we’re going to have you on view to the public for a month, do you?’
And so I worked out my notice in a cranny in the dark basement of the building, supposedly cataloguing books that had been bequeathed by rich Victorians and had lain untouched for decades. During this period, Paddy intimated that he had a buddy in the Press who would love to do a story about this latest victim of the Beatle Hairdo syndrome, for a sizeable recompense, but imagining my parents’ distraught reaction, I declined. I would just have to continue suffering for my art in silence, though just at the present, there was not a great deal of art being created, a situation I was now determined to change.