One of the most creative and initially successful of the Scottish beat crews during the 1960s, The Poets began life at the dawn of the beat group boom, around the end of 1962. George Gallacher (vocals) joined forces with Hume Paton (lead & 12-string guitar), Tony Myles (rhythm guitar), John Dawson (bass) and Alan Weir (drums). They took Glasgow by storm with their personalized take on rhythm and blues and soul sounds, and their striking image: high-heeled boots, velvet collars and ruffle-front shirts. By the beginning of 1964 The Poets were the biggest live attraction all over the country, with many busloads of teenage fans regularly traveling to their gigs. George, Hume and Tony were also writing highly original material too. Andrew Loog Oldham noted this fact with great interest when he auditioned the group after spotting a photo of them staring out from the cover of Scottish publication ‘Beat News’, while he was up in Glasgow; on an eloping mission to Gretna with his (in England) still-under-age bride to be. Knocked out by what he heard at the audition, and by the riotous scenes he witnessed at a gig The Poets played that night, the Loog had them whisked off down to London in quick time to record their debut single ‘Now We’re Thru’ / ‘There Are Some’ for Decca (F11995).  


A quite unique range of sounds were to be heard on the single, not least Hume’s acoustic 12-string shimmer, and George’s heartfelt, nasal sneer, which sat atop a dense and startling production, courtesy of the Loog. When an advance copy of the record was played to John Lennon, he commented that it was “weird”. Hitting the lower rungs of the Top Thirty in late autumn 1964 the group took to the road playing a zig-zag tour of never ending one-nighters, fitting in a few television appearances on the way, including Ready Steady Go, Stramash and Top Of The Pops. In Scotland they had to repeat the TOTP programme a few days later or so because when it went out initially there had been a power cut. The group’s fans were in despair at not getting to see their idols on the popular television show so the BBC were forced to show it again. The single climbed to number 22 in the NME Pop Thirty and the group were on their way, or so it seemed.


In early 1965 Decca issued their shattering second single ‘That’s The Way It’s Got To Be’ / ‘I’ll Cry With The Moon’ (F12074). With a rumbling six-string bass intro that echoed the future hit ‘Keep On Running’ by the Spencer Davis Group, and a furious maraca-shakin’ end coda, The Poets totally excelled on this stomping killer slab of hard-edged beat, or what is now forever (almost) globally termed, freak beat! That it didn’t cement the group’s fortunes says less about the quality of the work in question and more about the tastes of the majority of the Great British record buying public at the time; perhaps ‘I’ll Cry With The Moon’ the mournful B side ballad would’ve worked better as a chart-hopping plug side? George Gallacher has said in interviews over the years that Decca, having flung all their promotional might behind ‘Now We’re Thru’ gave virtually nothing to any of the subsequent singles.

By the middle of 1965 internal problems within the group came to a head with drummer Alan Weir being replaced by Jim Breakey. Then Tony Myles - closer to Alan than anyone else in the group, and part of the songwriting triumvirate - jumped ship, supposedly to run off and get married, but the group didn’t hear from him again. His replacement was Fraser Watson, a mod-looking teen who joined from Glasgow group The Arrows after a six-hour auditioning session. The initiation began before Fraser had even played a note, it went something like this: “George jumped down from the stage, took a look at me with my long hair, and said ‘if you’re any fucking good you’re in’ “, Fraser told me recently. Well, as luck would have it, Fraser beat out the competition, and joined the group just after Decca released their third, and final single - at that juncture - for the label, ‘I Am So Blue’ / ‘I Love Her Still’ (F12195). It didn’t see any chart action, however it’s still a top quality coupling; subdued but effortlessly magical on the A side,

while the flip is another mid-tempo groover, and, to these ears anyway, somehow redolent of some of the moves made by mid-60s Dutch beat combos such as the Outsiders, Motions etc; unusual descending chord patterns; melodic 12-string twang, and forlorn vocal delivery. I feel that this too would’ve made a great A side, but by now Decca didn’t care, and the group followed Andrew Loog Oldham as he switched his organisation from Decca to begin a new life at his independently-run Immediate label. The group’s Immediate debut was with ‘Call Again’ / ‘Some Things I Can’t Forget’ (IM006). This marked the debut of guitarist Fraser Watson in the studio. Again the group are in subdued mode, but they must’ve inhaled some of the vibes wafting over from California , as there is a tangible folk-rock element creeping into the group’s playing, most evident in the song’s bridge. ‘Some Things I Can’t Forget’ is another intense affair, employing a crisp production, nice jangling 12-string notes, George Gallacher’s yearning vocal and a couple of dramatic pauses, which all serve to enhance the group’s already patented introspective nature. This Immediate outing is a real gem and also one of the most difficult Poets 45s to track down.


Around this time there was talk in fan club newsletters of a full-length LP by The Poets, which was at least half-finished, and it was hoped that it would be finished and in the shops by Christmas 1965. Of course, this never happened. More internal strife within The Poets camp resulted in one of the biggest upheavals of the group’s career, lead vocalist and chief melody / lyric writer George Gallacher announces he will leave the group at the beginning of the new year, 1966. He cites management problems and lack of support as being the biggest factor in his decision to withdraw from the group he helped to create.  Meanwhile, Immediate issue the group’s next single, Marvin Gaye’s ‘Baby Don’t You Do It’ / ‘I’ll Come Home’ (IM024). It’s the first time the group had recorded a cover version, offering for their fifth disc outing a rollicking, mod-i-fied take on this popular soul raver, adding in some restrained fuzztone, menacing bass and drums, and other reverberations all fighting for space in the murky mix, behind George’s pleading wail. ‘I’ll Come Home’ was yet another quiet original, pleasing to the ear, but not as impressive as their previous contributions. The single was produced by Paul Raven, aka the future Gary Glitter. He certainly messed up the sonic balance with everything sounding clangy and tinny and somewhat distorted. However, in trying to do a Joe Meek but failing, it’s still a momentous record. Although according to the group it would’ve sounded a much more propulsive and aggressive driving beat number had the production been nailed. Although he was about to leave, George Gallacher stuck around and encouraged group rehearsals with Fraser Watson’s choice of singer to replace George, Andi Mulvey, of East Kilbride group The Spirits - themselves dedicated fans of The Poets. With Andi in place the group continued playing club and ballroom dates, but with George gone - he hung around in London doing vocal work with, among others, Alex Harvey and Elkie Brooks before heading home to Glasgow - crucial support from Immediate was non-existent, and a few months later the last of the original Poets, guitar player Hume Paton, followed by bassist John Dawson, left the group too.


With the 12-strings now gone, not to mention the group’s original songwriting team, Fraser’s harder-edged sound was becoming more central to the group’s new approach. Norie MacLean was the group’s new bass player and Ian McMillan was brought in on rhythm guitar. Confusion was rife everywhere as The Poets sought to get a deal for their new material, having hooked up with Glasgow songwriter and production / A&R man Eric Woolfson. Their next single was scheduled to be issued by Polydor but at the last minute it was Decca who took them on board instead, releasing ‘Wooden Spoon’ / ‘In Your Tower’ (F12569) as the group’s last gasp effort. The topside was written by Woolfson, who already had Marianne Faithfull and Dave Berry among his credentials. ‘Wooden Spoon’ was a propulsive psychedelic rocker, with real heavy guitar and drums and keening vocal harmonies. It was backed by a Watson/ Mulvey original, a rather bewitching tale of intrigue played out on Indian-style flute, buzzing low-end guitar and very very Gallacher-esque vocalising. Totally perfect for 1967. The story of the recording session for this single is legendary. It started with drummer Jim Breakey having an argument with the rest of the guys, over the lack of funds the group had, among other things, and then him leaving the group to join Glasgow pop-psychsters Studio Six. So The Poets asked Stuart MacKenzie of Glasgow-area group The Sabres to join them, but he gets completely hammered the night before the recording session, getting pretty crazy and smashing loads of windows and stuff. He ended up in police custody for the next couple of weeks, so The Poets brought in The Marmalade’s drummer Raymond Duffy at the last minute to do a great job on the session. The single again failed to capture the public’s attention and the writing was on the wall. Fraser, the last of any of The Poets who played on any of their earlier records, decided he’d had enough and threw in his lot with Glasgow soul aces The Pathfinders, only now they were to be called Jason’s Flock, albeit for a very brief time, before reverting back to The Pathfinders. It was while he was with them that the group made the recording in 1968 of the irresistible psychedelic charmer ‘Pumpkin Lantern’, which, criminally, only made it to the acetate stage at the time, although a B side was also recorded - it was a double-sided acetate - featuring a robust and flowing rendition of The Bee Gees’ ‘To Love Somebody’. This all happened as The Pathfinders and George Gallacher were demoing material for ex-Shadows drummer Tony Meehan, who was now a scout for the burgeoning Apple empire. Gallacher’s sumptuous track ‘Dawn’ and others were passed over in favour of The Pathfinders on their own, who joined the Apple stable, were re-christened White Trash, then Trash, issuing a storming, hard-rockin’ soul version of Carole King’s ‘Road To Nowhere’, coupled with the wonderfully imaginative ‘Illusions’ (APPLE6) where the group took off in the middle for another excellent psychedelic stroll, before remembering where they were and jumping back into the song. Trash released another single where they covered the yet-to-be-issued ‘Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight’ suite from The Beatles’ ‘ Abbey Road ’ LP. The progressive scene that a lot of the groups were embracing at the time can be heard to great effect on the single’s flipside ‘Trashcan’ (APPLE17). The Poets, in one form or another, and featuring various members from The Marmalade, Hughie Nicholson and Dougie Henderson among them, soldiered on, mainly in Scotland where they were still a big draw on the gig circuit, but the only recorded evidence of this group came in the form of a promotional only 45 for Barr’s soft drinks, the resulting 45 ‘Heyla Hola’ / ‘Fun Buggy’ was issued on the Strike label (different from the label responsible for Our Plastic Dream, early Roy Harper, etc.) sometime in late 1969 or 1970. Both sides are worthy of our attention, being as they are cool, funky workouts with fat wah-wah washes and some particularly nice drum break-beats; these traits have been lauded in more recent years by many club DJs. Other than that the songs extolled the virtues of drinking Strike Cola, Scotland ’s answer to the world-conquering Coca-Cola.


Some early and unissued at the time demo tracks which The Poets recorded, supposedly as far back as 1963-64, including ‘With You By Me’, the autumnal majesty of ‘Love Is Fading Away’, the truly haunting ‘I’ll Keep My Pride’ and the primal-sounding savage R&B raver ‘Miss Queen Bee’ have subsequently been released on the CD ‘The Poets - Scotland’s No. 1 Group’, issued on the American independent label DynoVox.


The Pathfinders track ‘Pumpkin Lantern’ first surfaced on Dig The Fuzz’s ‘Incredible Sound Show Stories’ series of LPs -Volume 10 - ‘A Hidden Secret Garden Found’.


‘Pumpkin Lantern’ surfaced again, intact with it’s counterpart ‘To Love Somebody’ on the more recent ‘Alphabeat’ compilation LP/CD, issued on the Topsounds label.


Lenny Helsing    



 A huge spoonful of Marmalade Skies thanks goes to Lenny for sparing the time to write this article.                


The cool pic of The Poets in rehearsal is taken from "Urban Spacemen & Wayfaring Strangers" by Richie Unterberger, which includes an excellent chapter on The Poets as well as including "Some Things I Can't Forget" on a free CD!