IT would be the late 70s. We would be standing in a queue on Inverkip Street outside the Victorian Carriage at the back of six.

The doors opened at half past and the band came on stage at eight-thirty. If you weren’t in that queue you didn’t get in.

The band was Joe Lethal. Two guitars and a drum kit. Loud. Mostly covers. Feelgood, Chicago, Steppenwolf, Stones. They made the songs their own. It was boisterous and sweaty and sometimes the management pulled the plug to get everyone down from the tables. But it was great and we were part of it!

There were lots of other venues about Inverclyde at the time but it seemed to be the Carriage or the Locker, in the basement of the Ashton Hotel, where we usually found ourselves.

Sometimes it was the Dead Skunk Band. Sometimes it was Panache!

Music is often characterised by the decades. They say that if you remember the sixties you weren’t there. The sixties laid the foundations for what was to come next. The seventies gave you everything and not much new has really happened since.

You had this wheen of great singer songwriters. You had the Motown stuff. And then you had three big genres, the creative pomposity of Prog, the instant gratification of Glam, and then its antidote which was Punk!

Glam died a long while ago and is remembered fondly. The punks now meet up at the tennis club do or at the golf club. Anarchy for them now is a black t-shirt without a collar. Prog has moved to a new level though. Its vinyl sells! Most of its music was created around fifty years ago. Its composers are now around the eighty mark or have already shuffled off this mortal coil, some more dramatically than others. The complexity of its pieces compare closer to classical music than to pop and it’s finding a new appreciative audience.

It was a delight therefore to be in attendance at a packed yacht club in Gourock at the weekend watching Outside the Original, an incredibly talented combo featuring local keyboard player, Suzanne McKenzie. The music of Floyd, ELP, King Crimson, Yes and Genesis. The full twenty three minutes of Supper’s Ready was a triumph. Musicianship of the highest order and a privilege to be in the room.

The week before it was the Albany. Moving Pictures. The music of Rush. And what a job they made of it! Sixty and seventy year old guys inspired to find the energy to get the air guitars out. Live music at its best. Small venues often hand out the most memorable occasions. Ian McNabb in a room in Largs. James Grant against a bar in Inverkip come to mind.

Two years ago a young chap called Hamish Hawk and his band played a set in Greenock Central Library to around fifty people. A few weeks ago he sold out the Barrowlands in Glasgow where he took feeding off the audience to a new level with his clever lyrics and catchy tunes. Grassroots to stardom indeed!

And grassroots music is where it’s at, and that’s something that Inverclyde has always connected with, always that undercurrent. Rig Arts have their School of Rock. The Music Departments of our schools are turning out a constant flow of talent. Come to the Schools Spring Gala Concert tomorrow night in the Town Hall and be amazed.

Seek out the live venues locally. For a few quid you can have a better night’s entertainment than you would forking out an arm and a leg to sit in some cavernous auditorium watching the folk down the front enjoy a concert!

Support live music, support small venues, spot the rising stars, and keep your money in Inverclyde!