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NORMAN ROGERSON

There were a hell of a lot of novelty hits in the 70s, records that didn't fit into any known pop format but attracted an entirely different response. Most of them - apart from the 'comedy' records - were accidents: a DJ (normally on Radio Two) would pick up on an oddity, play it to death until sufficiently large numbers of non-pop fans bought it and got it onto Top of the Pops, where several million other people who didn't much care for pop would also go for it.

The one major exception was the Band of the Black Watch under Norman Rogerson. Appointed as bandmaster in 1973, Norman deliberately set out to have hit records. Knowing the popular appeal of bagpipes - particularly following the success of 'Amazing Grace' - he recorded an irresistibly catchy instrumental called 'Scotch On The Rocks', confident that it would be a success: 'All the way through, I felt that we had a hit with "Scotch On The Rocks". I just needed to convince people, and fortunately people like Terry Wogan were convinced - he helped it immensely on Radio Two.'

'Scotch On The Rocks' and the album of the same title sold fantastically well in 1975, the album hitting the top twenty and the single reaching the top ten in Britain and making similar impacts abroad. Thereafter there was no stopping Rogerson: during his decade with the Black Watch, the band released twenty-four albums, a record for a British military band under a single bandmaster, and fifteen singles.

Only one of these singles - 'Dance Of The Cuckoos', better known as the Laurel & Hardy theme - followed 'Scotch On The Rocks' into the British charts, but there were successes elsewhere, and some genuinely intriguing records. Amongst them were 'Super Sonic Tartan Tonic' - a Rogerson original - backed with 'Y Viva Espana', a disco version of 'White Christmas' and 'Highland Hustle'. Weirdest of them all was Papa's Got A Brand New Bagpipe', which Norman quite accurately points out was 'the first rap record that was produced with band and pipes'.

These records helped raise the profile of The Black Watch, which was clearly a useful thing in terms of recruitment, but they also helped the diversity of the charts, and diversity was - perhaps above all else - what we cherished about the 70s. In Norman's words: 'It was that era, I think, when almost anything seemed to go. There was a certain amount of luck in it, of course.'


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Bill Oddie
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Norman Rogerson
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Sunny
Alwyn W Turner
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Pip Williams