Tag Archives: Blighty

March 27th 1973

“Day Off” / “Went to Southampton with Mal & Nig – Went in Wimpy’s for dinner – I bought Magical Love – Saturnalia” / “Got Roxy Music tickets”

This could end up being a meandering lengthy post…….

Let’s start off with the reference to Wimpy’s shall we?

Wimpy – or Wimpy Bars as they were known then – were the first American-style ‘fast food’ restaurants in Britain. (For the sake of a “fast food” descriptor we shall conveniently ignore the whole British “fish & chip” phenomenon… the precursor of ALL fast food, surely?)

The chain was originally founded in 1930’s Chicago. (The restaurant name came from cartoon character Popeye‘s hamburger-eating chum J.Wellington Wimpy, seen on the right) It was licenced in the 1950’s by the huge J.Lyons food corporation, who brought the notion of self-serve quick food served at tables to the other side of the Atlantic. By the time of this diary entry (1973) there were an astonishing 1000+ Wimpy restaurants across 23 countries.

Wimpy Bars continued to flourish until 1974. Then a new player entered the marketplace. That player was McDonalds.

In the face of the McD’s behemoth as well as other interlopers like Burger King and KFC, the Wimpy brand went into rapid decline and the company was sold four times over between 1977 and 1990. Each attempt to re-promote and reposition the chain was met with public resistance.

In 1973, Wimpy offered freshly-cooked burgers accompanied by chips (french fries) and thick milkshakes. As I remember food was ordered from a waitress, and then eaten from real plates and with real cutlery. Maybe Wimpy is therefore responsible for two things in my later life?…

The first is that I have generally had FAR too much of a fascination for fast food in all its forms which has most definitely aided and abetted in my middle-aged ‘girth’ (However, despite ignoring fast food joints in the past 4 years, my girth regardless grows!)

Secondly, that Wimpy may have formed my dislike for eating messy burgers with my fingers, something for which I am considered no less than a ‘freak’ by my fellow Americans. I’ll always prefer to eat a burger with a good ol’ knife & fork than my hands. Something that my good wife even felt necessary to comment on at her excellent foodie blog.

Perhaps surprisingly, Wimpy STILL exists on the British retail/dining map, albeit it in a much reduced capacity. It operates over 270 franchise restaurants, many in motorway service stations and bowling alleys. It does have some stand alone locations too, predominantly in the South of England with a dozen or so in London alone.

Maybe next time I am back in Blighty I will search one out?

Front and back of the original Saturnalia picture disc with the diffracted (3-D) images

Now, onto Saturnalia’s “Magical Love”…..

OK…confession time. I bought this album because of what it looked like!

I had no idea of who Saturnalia were (neither, I suspect, did Mal or Nig) or what this album was all about. Here’s what I DID know. It was a picture disc inside a plastic sleeve. The pictures on the disc must have looked very groovy, and the middle label had a weird refractive element to it which made it change colour.

I was an impressionable youth with (apparently) money to burn.

I can tell you nothing about what Saturnalia sounded like. I can remember the sum total of nothing about this album. I know nothing about the band or their subsequent career.

I bought this album entirely on spec, most likely because it was on sale in one of the shops we went in whilst wandering around town. I probably thought I was being hip and trendy by buying this picture disc?!

I do remember that the sound quality of it was truly awful. Picture disc technology was doubtless far from perfect in 1973 resulting in hiss, skips, rumbles and more. I can’t have played it much and have no idea where it went over the years that followed its purchase.

Who’s not to say that Saturnalia’s career would have been stellar had their record label not inflicted a crappy picture disc on them?

Let’s do a little research on Saturnalia and “Magical Love” shall we?….

• Seems as if this was the second EVER picture disc released commercially in the UK. (The first was a version of Curved Air’s “Airconditioning” LP)

• The album was produced by (former) Yardbirds singer Keith Relf and is considered something of a lost psych/prog rock “classic”. (In this regard I’m betting it normally changes hands for obscene amounts of money)

• The band’s sound is often compared to Jefferson Airplane. (As if I needed another reason not to listen to it in 1973… Grace Slick’s screechy warbling has never appealed)

• The band featured a somewhat attractive female lead singer known as Aletta

• The picture disc was notorious for featuring images of the band naked from the waist up.

Aaaaaah….. now I know why I may have been attracted to it!

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