Unless you happen to be a Japanese soldier who has just emerged from an island jungle still fighting World War Two, you will know who T'he Big Yin' is. Such is the measure of success now being accorded to Billy Connolly, the name on the lips of everybody from Dundee to Doncaster, Motherwell to Miami. He is the man who, single-handed, took on Scottish show business and gave it more than just a shot in the arm. He put in the boot. And when he had conquered Scotland, his name was so big that victory with English audiences was inevitable. Now he plays to packed houses all over Britain and in America and Canada. He has already filled the London Palladium on his own, and when he appeared as a guest on the Michael Parkinson TV. Show, he had the boy from Barnsley completely helpless with laughter.
Connolly is no stranger to the Transatlantic label. His early association was with the Humblebums, a duo he originated, first with Tam Harvey and then with Gerry Rafferty. Towards the end of his six year association with the Hum'Bums Billy was singing less and talking more. He realised amid the laughter that his patter often went down better than any of his thoughtful songs. He was stage-managed but also lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.
This compilation album sets out, and I think succeeds, to capture the end of one era in Billy's life and the beginning of another. His past career in show business is neither dead nor forgotten. In short it's about the high points in the life of a Glasgow shipyard welder who became a legend in his own lunch-time. A soldier of fortune with a banjo. There are five tracks featured from Humblebum's albums-music that unfortunately never received its true acclaim from the record buyers. Acclaim, however, is something to which Connolly has now become accustomed. His records sell all over the world and people clamour to buy tickets for his personal appearances.
Connolly, I hope, will never lose sight of his working class background on which he has based much of his humour. With all the fame, money, and luxurious trappings that are now contained in his life style he could easily be accused of becoming like the Middle Class he so often cruelly derides. But any one who knows the man will tell you this will never happen. His songs and his stories speak for those who haven't a voice loud enough to be heard. And will continue to do so. He is their representative, their champion, and a hero of the Seventies. Connolly has been compared to other comedians and his style has been dissected by those who have to look for reasons. But that's the point. There is no need to seek beneath his straggly beard to find the reason for his success. He is loved by thousands for whom he cannot put a platformed boot wrong. He is the 'Big Yin' and he talks about things we remember or in some cases pretend to remember. Social problems, injustices or even diseases, none can escape his savage attack.
Connolly needs only to walk on stage, grin and flash his newly capped-teeth. It is enough. The ‘Big Yin' is with them and they fall around hysterically and say to each other "Zat no rer?" (is that not marvellous?). When he speaks it is with all the authority of the Jolly Green Giant who always threatens to crush the whole audience in the palm of his hand. He has a swash-buckling arrogance which is often tempered by moments of honest innocence.
Side two of the album will be known to all Connolly fanatics. In some cases word perfect. For nowadays you can walk into the Glasgow Pubs (or for that matter a London hostelry) and find at least one guy using his material. And sometimes with the cheek to think he is better than the master.
Two of Billy's most famous classics are included — "Marie's Wedding "and "Harry Campbell and the Heavies!' These portray alleged moments in Billy's adolescence and everyone who calls himself a Glaswegian likes to claim the same memories. His progression is continuing and Connolly is gathering more and more disciples on the way. He is now at the top and if he cannot go any farther he certainly will not move from that position. Scottish show business will hopefully never again deteriorate the way it has done in the past few years. The thanks must go to Connolly who has proved by his own earthy efforts he speaks the language necessary to open new avenues for exciting new talent.
If however you are one who knows little of Connolly's earlier days as an entertainer, side one of this record will serve as an interesting guide to the thoughts of the man at that time. These were the days when he had many influences — among them jazz, blues and folk. He wrote songs that had meaningful lyrics and that told of simple things like love and the everyday life of the small man. But his unique style of capturing the Glasgow sense of humour comes through in almost everything he did.
In "Saltcoats at the Fair" he is a Glaswegian in a pub and and on holiday and singing about the magical moments that contribute to this annual pilgrimage to the sea-side "Little Blue Lady" was also taken from the first Hum'Bums collection. With strong assistance from a kazoo, Billy launches himself into Vaudeville in a little song with predictable but priceless lyrics. But lyrics then were never expected to be anything but predictable and naive. If you have ever been across the Clyde to Govan, you will howl with laughter at his renderings of "Stainless Steel Wellies" and "Silk Pyjamas!"
This is an album that will become a collectors item and will be relished by both Connolly fans and recently released prisoners of war. Its vintage "Big Yin" and in his words "It's Magic!"
Scottish Daily Record