If you’re looking for a prime example of a hard-working, dues-paying, doggedly dedicated rock band, you won’t find better one than Nazareth. Launching in 1968 and continuing through today, Nazareth rode the wave of success up and down over 50 years, peaking with their classic album Hair Of The Dog in 1975. The last time they hit the charts was with the song “Holiday” in 1980. On this episode, we tap into this classic track. And, with the help of author Robert Lawson, we take a quick tour of the history of Nazareth.
If you’d like to purchase a copy of any of Robert’s books, you’ll find them here:
Nazareth – “Holiday” (McCafferty, Cleminson, Charlton, Agnew, Sweet) Copyright 1980 Nazsongs Ltd
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I present the latest edition of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. This is the Pantheon Podcast Network, and I’m your host, Brad Page. This is the show where I pick one of my favorite songs and we explore it together to get a better understanding of what makes it a great song.
Now, before we get into this episode, I want to make note of one thing. The first episode of this show aired back in April 2018. Well, here we are in April 2023. So that makes this the fifth anniversary of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. So I just wanted to take a minute to say thank you to all of you listening. Some of you have been here since the very beginning. Some of you are new listeners, but you all make this show possible. And we couldn’t have gotten this far without you. So thanks for being a part of the show.
On this episode, we’re visiting with a band that made their mark in the helped define the sound of hard rock, and they continued to produce solid records well into the 2000s. This is Nazareth with a song called “Holiday”.
Now, usually at this point in the show, I give you a short history of the band and work our way up to the song. But author and friend of the show, Robert Lawson, has written a number of books, including “Razama-Snaz! the Listener’s Guide to Nazareth”. So I thought rather than give you the information secondhand, I’d invite Robert onto the show so you can hear it from the expert. So let’s bring Robert into the conversation.
BRAD: So, Robert Lawson, thanks for joining me here on the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast to talk a little bit about Nazareth. You’re the guy that wrote the book– you’re the expert. So, tell us a little bit about the history of the band, how Nazareth came to be in the first place.
ROBERT: Well, you’ve got the original four guys from Dunfermline, Scotland, which is a small city in Scotland. And, they’re like a 70’s phenomena, really. So, the first album came out in ‘71 and maybe took them an album or two to get their sound together. By the mid 70’s, they’re just huge. I think it was in ‘77 or ‘78, they did a coast-to-coast Canadian headlining arena tour, which is a big deal back then. So they’re right on that level of Aerosmith and a lot of those kind of arena bands, right? And those are still great, great albums that when people talk about Nazareth, they tend to go back to records like “Hair of the Dog” and “Expect No Mercy”. Those are the classics. But really, during the 70’s, they were really on top of the game. You’ve got, like, five, six, maybe seven albums in a row that are all great, all really strong. I’m in Canada, where they were really big up here– so much so, there’s people up here who think Nazareth were Canadian. And some of those albums were recorded in Canada, so they were a big part of a lot of our lifestyles and lot of radio play in Canada in the ‘70’s.
BRAD: You think that’s maybe the Scottish connection?
ROBERT: That’s part of it for sure. There’s definitely a lot of Scottish history in Canada, a lot of Scottish people live here. I have a Scottish background. But part of it also is, and I don’t think I got to touch on this in the book actually, but there’s something up here called CanCon. And what that means, for anyone who doesn’t know, is there’s a percentage of Canadian content that must be played on the radio. So, of course that doesn’t mean we don’t play music from the UK and the States and everywhere else, but there’s a certain percentage that has to be Canadian. And that can just be written by Canadian, produced by Canadian. The band doesn’t necessarily have to be Canadian. It could be recorded in Canada. There’s like four different aspects and I think you have to tick off two of them to be considered “Canadian content”. So, Nazareth covered the Joni Mitchell song “This Flight Tonight”, and that was considered Canadian content in a way. So a lot of radio stations would play it, not only because it’s a great song, but it would check off the box for Canadian content for them.
ROBERT: They recorded bunch of albums up here and they were just touring here a lot. So Canada really took to them. The guys seemed to really like Canada, they still tour here a lot, . the current lineup. Canada just always kind of had a relationship with Nazareth and that’s probably how I got into them as a kid in the 70’s.
BRAD: So let’s talk a bit about the 4 guys individually that made up the original lineup of Nazareth. All from relatively the same area of Scotland, right? In fact, didn’t a couple of them grow up together?
ROBERT: The original four are all from Dunfermline, yes.
BRAD: And so, let’s talk a little bit about the guys. You have, of course, Dan McCafferty on lead vocals– I think one of the most distinctive vocalists in rock history, right?
BRAD: He kind of was doing Brian Johnson before there was Brian Johnson, if you ask me.
ROBERT: Yeah, absolutely. I used to say for years, when I was younger, that if you listen to, like “Hair of the Dog”, that that actually sounds like Brian Johnson, way before Brian Johnson was known internationally, for sure.
BRAD: So then you have Manny Charlton on guitar…
ROBERT: I think one of the great underrated guitar players, frankly.
BRAD: from that era.
ROBERT: His stuff’s really neat, because when you really start digging into the albums, and really listening, a lot of the songs are a lot more complex from a guitar standpoint than I kind of thought of when I was younger, because he’ll have a couple of rhythm guitars, electric rhythm guitars; he’ll be playing a lead; then he might have a couple of acoustics in the background. And on some of them, he even adds, like, mandolin, and the mandolin and the lead guitar are playing in sync. It’s really just a lot more interesting than I thought. When you’re a kid, you just go “Loud guitars, yeah!”
ROBERT: And then you realize, wow, Manny’s doing like five or six different things on different stringed instruments on some of these songs. It’s great stuff.
BRAD: Yeah. And then the rhythm section.
ROBERT: Pete Agnew on bass, and he does a lot of the backing and harmony vocals, including on the song that we’re going to talk about. So he’s a real big part. And he’s the one, him and Dan, who met when they were, like, five years old in kindergarten or something like that. They go way, way back.
ROBERT: And then, of course, Darryl Sweet on drums.
BRAD: So tell me if I’m incorrect here, but I believe they formed, or at least the first early versions of the lineup, came together in around 1961 as The Shadettes.
ROBERT: Shadettes, that’s right, yeah. I don’t think all four were in The Shadettes, but, yeah, that sort of evolves into Nazareth by the mid to late 60’s.
BRAD: Manny joins later, I think, in the late 60s, and they kind of cut their teeth doing cover songs, which many bands do. But their ability to take a cover song and make it their own is pretty unique and is a big part of their catalog.
BRAD: They landed on the name “Nazareth” from the classic song by The Band. “The Weight”, right?
ROBERT: That’s.– I’ll be a little controversial here: That’s the story that has always been told for years and years. And when I was researching my book, I found another story that was a lot darker, behind how they got that name. And I posted it on Facebook, just saying, “Hey, has anyone ever heard this?” And a whole bunch of people jumped on me saying, “What are you talking about?” and “It’s from The Band” and “Robbie Robertson wrote the song”, and all this, they always say that it’s that story. Well, you know, if you do a lot of music research, you know that just because a band always says a story, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true, it just means they might come to believe it.
BRAD: Right; you tell the story enough times and it becomes the truth.
ROBERT: Yeah. So, for all intents and purposes, yes… The name came from the song by The Band.
BRAD: And their first album, self-titled album, comes out in ‘71.
ROBERT: That’s right.
BRAD: And that record, that was kind of different from what we think of when we think of Nazareth today. I mean, the sound of that record is a little bit different, isn’t it?
ROBERT: Yeah. They’re still kind of finding their way, which for a lot of bands that’s not that uncommon these days, I guess. For a long time now, you have to have three hits immediately or else you lose your record deal. Back then, bands were signed to development deals where you could actually put out a few singles, and even a couple of albums, while you’re still figuring out who you are. And Nazareth are definitely an example of that. The first album, it’s got some heavy parts, but there’s a little bit of some acoustic stuff and they’re kind of all over the place a bit.
BRAD: Roy Thomas Baker worked on that first record, right?
BRAD: That must be fairly early in his career. He went on to be a legendary producer. I think he was an engineer or something on that record.
ROBERT: Yeah, that’s right.
BRAD: And then they put out a second record called “Exercises” in ‘72 and then “Razamanaz” in ‘73. And that’s kind of the first record that sounds like the Nazareth we all came to know and love.
ROBERT: Yeah, absolutely. And I like those first two records a lot, but some fans think that the career really takes off with “Razamanaz” in ‘73.
BRAD: Yeah, I love that. I love that record.
ROBERT: Oh, sure.
BRAD: And that’s followed up by a couple more records: “Loud and Proud” in ‘73, “Rampant” in ‘74 and then the big one, “Hair of the Dog”, their 6th album, in 1975. And that’s the one that really breaks them worldwide.
ROBERT: Yeah, so this is the first one that Manny Charlton produces after, Roger Glover from Deep Purple had done the last few records. And you’re right, ‘75’s “Hair of the Dog”, they really knock it out of the park. Not that the records before that weren’t great– they are, I’m pretty partial to “Loud and Proud” and “Rampant”, but “Hair of the Dog” definitely kicks it up to another level.
BRAD: Yeah, it’s the one that seemed to just catch public attention. That’s followed in ‘76 by “Close Enough for Rock and Roll” and then “Playing The Game”, ‘76, “Expect No Mercy” in ’77…One of the great album covers of all time, I think, right?
ROBERT: Yeah. That’s a ‘70’s album cover right there, right?
BRAD: Yeah. That’s the side of a van.
ROBERT: I was just going to say that, Brad. I think there was a van that had that on it, driving around when I was like ten or eleven years old or something.
BRAD: And then, in ‘79, they release a record called “No Mean City”. And that’s kind of a, I don’t know, a shift? But it’s a change in the band, right. Because they have a new member who joins. That’s their 10th album, and they bring in another second guitarist. Let’s talk about that character.
ROBERT: Right. And “character” is right. So they get Zal Clemenson, who, for people who maybe aren’t familiar, he was a guitar player in a really great Scottish band called the Sensational Alex Harvey Band. Real unique group of characters. And Zal, in that band, he was known for performing in complete white makeup and he had these bright green and yellow shiny outfits and platform heels, and he was kind of like an offshoot Kiss guy. But instead of all black and silver, it would be green, and real visual character.
So he dropped all that stuff when he joined Nazareth. But a great, great player. And I think that the addition of Zal to Nazareth is just really important. And I always talk about the fact that there’s some live stuff, which is actually the “Malice” tour, so maybe we should get to that… But if you ever hear any of the live stuff when Zal was in the band, it’s absolute killer. Manny welcomed having a second guitarist; there’s no competition between them at all. Manny, since he’s songwriting and he’s concentrating on producing, he, wanted a little help with the guitar playing, which is very generous. And Zal gets to play a lot. I like the “No Mean City” album a lot. I think it’s a little darker. I mean, the song “May The Sunshine” is one of the ones I was kind of referring to before, that it’s got this mandolin part that’s just really bright, and it’s just a great record.
ROBERT: A very kind of iconic album cover with a character that they still use on their merch to this day.
BRAD: And what do you think it was specifically that Zal brought to the band? Besides just being a great player? I mean, do you think there’s a certain element or two that he brought?
ROBERT: I think it was just kind of like a shot in the arm that they needed. Like you said, they had done ten albums or something with a lot of touring as well. When you look at these records, it’s like they’re putting out a record every single year from ‘71 to ‘77 and touring a lot in between. Like I said, they were doing arena tours in Canada. I know they played Cobo Hall, I believe, in ‘78. They were opening a lot of shows with Deep Purple, so a lot of touring, a lot of recording. Then you get TV appearances and radio shows and all kinds of stuff. So I think they just kind of needed a bit of an extra hand. And Zal is someone who was sort of in their orbit already, because there was a Dan McCafferty solo album that Manny produced and Zal plays on that. Sensational Alex Harvey band and Nazareth also shared managers, so they knew of Zal. And because I think Zal is kind of such a zany character, probably just fun to have a fun guy like that in the band, and give them a shot in the arm with his extra energy. Because he is a guy who would run around on stage a lot. He plays really fast, he doesn’t play the same thing twice a lot. So he’s kind of unpredictable. He’s a bit of an unpredictable character like that. I think it was probably just a mix of fun and the extra energy that Zal would bring from being such a character.
BRAD: Yeah. So “No Mean City”, the first record with Zal, comes out in ‘79 and then that’s followed by an album called “Malice in Wonderland” in 1980. And the song we’re going to delve into on the show today is from that album. That’s their 11th album. It’s pretty amazing when you think about eleven albums, and they would go on to cut a lot more after that. But they were like veterans at this point. I mean, eleven albums, that’s a whole catalog right there.
ROBERT: That’s right. And even when the first album came out in ‘71, they weren’t teenagers either. Some of the guys were already married with kids and stuff. So yeah, at this point they’re real veterans of the business, and life on the road, and life in recording studios and all that kind of stuff. They’re well-seasoned at this point.
BRAD: And the “Malice” album is interesting on a number of fronts. And I think the impression, I guess, is it’s somewhat controversial among fans, but it’s the first album that’s produced by a real outsider, an American, somebody that fans of the show will know– Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, from Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers, actually produced this record. And it was not recorded in either Canada or Scotland, right?
ROBERT: Compass Point Studios in Barbados. So that’s where everyone goes, you got the beach right outside the studio.
BRAD: You’ve got a very different environment, and you’ve got a very different producer. And I think fan reaction is fairly mixed to this record, right?
ROBERT: Yeah. And I think that’s justified because Skunk Baxter, for all of his credits in the past, he does kind of tame the sound. Manny had done five albums, and those albums, like I said, are like the Roger Glover produced albums. The Manny Charlton produced albums are all great. They’re all a lot of fun, great songs, great production, great vocals, guitar, everything. And then Baxter comes in and he kind of mellows them out a bit. And I kind of consider it the band’s first misstep. Not that it’s a mistake, but I would have liked to have seen Manny Charlton produce this album or even maybe bring Roger Glover back, because I think having a guy as exciting as Zal Clementson on board, and then you kind of neuter him, is counterproductive.
BRAD: It’s definitely a different sound than any ofthe records before. In fact, I think it’s the biggest shift in sound since maybe the first two albums.
ROBERT: Yes, absolutely.
BRAD: But it does contain one, I think, all-time classic Nazareth song, the song “Holiday”, which opens the record. And that’s the one we’re going to dive into today. So, before I get into the track, Robert, tell me your thoughts about the song.
ROBERT: Oh, I love it. It’s probably one of the ones that I really caught onto when I was really young. It’s very, catchy, very upbeat for a band that was doing heavy stuff like “Expect No Mercy” and “Hair the Dog”. It’s kind of poppy, melody wise, anyway. And then you’ve got this great lyric, and Dan’s vocals are terrific, although it’s almost redundant to say that because he’s known as being such a great vocalist. But there’s a line that kind of gets repeated a couple of times, and I’m sure you’re going to talk about this, where at the end of a couple of the choruses he says, “Mama, mama, please, no more husbands”. And I think the second or the third time he says it, he really digs in with a growl and says, “I don’t know who my daddy is”. And that line kills me to this day. It’s such a good line. And the way he delivers it is great.
BRAD: Absolutely. So, let’s get into the track. “Holiday” opens the “Malice in Wonderland” album– Side One, Track One. It was performed by Dan McCafferty on lead vocal, Manny Charlton and Zal Clementson on guitars, Pete Agnew on bass and backing vocals, and Daryl Sweet on drums. And as we mentioned before, it was produced by Jeff “Skunk” Baxter. All five band members share writing credit on this song; McCafferty, Clementson, Charlton, Agnew and Sweet.
The song begins with a classic bluesy guitar boogie riff. There’s also an organ in the background, I’m guessing that was played by Skunk Baxter. When the band comes in, they add some vintage Chuck Berry style guitar licks.
BRAD: This is a fairly restrained vocal from McCafferty. He’s not belting it out or doing a lot of emoting yet.
BRAD: Nice work on the backing vocals here. Let’s listen to that.
BRAD: That brings us into the chorus, which has a completely different feel than the verses. And this is where the lyrics get really interesting, too. I’ve always pictured this song as being about a spoiled rich kid drinking and partying with his friends. But he’s got some real issues, especially with his mother, as we’ll hear in the choruses. “Mama, mama, please, no more jaguars, I don’t want to be a pop star” …sounds like she’s trying to buy his love, or maybe just keep him out of her way by buying him fancy cars. Let’s hear the first chorus.
BRAD: That may be my favorite line in the song: “Mama, mama, please no more facelifts, I just don’t know which one you is.”
BRAD: Then this chorus ends with “Mama, please no more husbands”. And then it goes right into the next verse.
BRAD: “Wasting my time, hiding out in my rented dream”. Let’s hear more of the vocals on this verse.
BRAD: Darryl Sweet plays a nice tom-tom driven beat during this part, so let’s listen to a little of that. There’s also a nice little lyric here. “Ask the chauffeur who he knows; numbers, he’s got lots of those”. I especially like that pause that McCafferty puts in there.
BRAD: There’s some nice guitar work behind the vocals there. I like to think of these kinds of parts as guitar orchestration. It’s the kind of things that you could do with strings or horns, but doing them with electric guitars instead. So let’s listen to that.
BRAD: There are multiple layered guitar parts during the chorus spread across the stereo field. Let’s hear some of the chorus without the vocals.
BRAD: Also a nice little drum fill that takes us out of that chorus.
BRAD: That takes us into a tasty little guitar solo by Zal Clemenson.
BRAD: “Holiday” by Nazareth. Let’s bring Robert Lawson back in to wrap things up for this episode.
So after the release of Malice in Wonderland again in 1980 and this incredible track, where does Nazareth kind of go from there, Robert?
ROBERT: Well, they did tour the album and there’s a great live recording from the Hammersmith on the “Malice” tour that I always have to give a shout out to. You can listen to the whole thing on YouTube. Some of the tracks were used as B-sides and it’s a great, great live album. I always wish that they would have released it as an official live album, because you really hear the Manny Charlton/Zal Clementson guitar work. It’s a great, great live recording.
But, after that, Zal, leaves the band, so that kind of hurts them in some ways. There’s a couple of lineup changes, they put out a couple of more albums. There’s a live album called “Snaz”, mostly recorded in Vancouver, Canada, which is a really great live album. When I was growing up, it was right up there with Cheap Trick’s “Budokan” and Kiss “Alive” and all the rest of them. Then they put out a few more albums. I think Manny produces a few more, but as you get into the ‘80’s, like a lot of hard rock bands, they have a little bit of a hard time figuring out how they fit in the hair metal and the glam kind of rock scene. And at that point, they just kind of become a club band, and that’s where they’ve been ever since. They’ve still put out some great records. There’s a bunch of later-era albums, when Dan was still in the group, that I think are really strong, but nobody heard them outside of the hardcore fans and that’s really a shame, because they are good albums and they didn’t get as much airplay. And ever since, they either became kind of an opening band for other groups or, like I say, playing much smaller venues.
BRAD: And we’ve lost most of the original members at this point.
BRAD: Darryl Sweet, the drummer, was he the first to pass away?
ROBERT: Yes, that’s right.
BRAD: And then, really fairly close together, we lost both, Dan McCafferty and Manny Charlton, within the last year or so.
ROBERT: Yeah, I think both actually in 2022. Manny was like maybe in the spring or earlier in the year, and that was pretty sudden. We weren’t really expecting that. Dan had not been in the greatest health for a few years, which is what prompted him to leave the band.
ROBERT: He just couldn’t tour anymore. He couldn’t really perform more than a couple of songs at a time. So he had to step… you know, he was still out there, and even put out a solo album, but his condition eventually got worse. So his passing wasn’t as shocking, but still pretty sad. I mean, I spent some time with Dan in Dunfermline, Scotland, and just a really great guy and I really enjoyed talking with him about his career and about the book and about everything. So, losing him was pretty painful for me.
BRAD: Yeah… Pete Agnew, the bass player, he’s still alive and kicking and still working today, I think, right?
ROBERT: Yeah. He’s the main guy in Nazareth now. The guitarists that they have and the drummer have both been there for like over 25 or 30 years. So they’re not really the new guys anymore.
ROBERT: And they have Carl Sentance on vocals, who has sung with Don Airey a lot, and he sang with Geezer Butler, and he’s been around. He’s kind of a road dog. He knows what touring is all about, and they’ve done two albums with him now. And they’re not bad albums by any means, but it’s hard not to miss Dan.
ROBERT: Dan and Pete still lived in Dunfermline their whole lives; Pete still lives there. So even though he’s gone from having gold and platinum albums and touring all over the world, he still lives in the same small city. I think it’s a population of like 60,000 people or something.
And Dan, up until his passing recently, also still lived in Dunfermline. So I think that kept him pretty grounded.
BRAD: Yeah. Well, Robert, thanks for coming on and talking about Nazareth. The name of your book is Razama-Snaz.
ROBERT: That’s right.
BRAD: It is kind of an album-by-album history of the entire career of Nazareth. If you’re a fan or if you just kind of want to explore Nazareth, It’s a great place to begin.
Robert’s also the author of “Still Competition”, which is kind of the same album-by-album look at the legendary Cheap Trick, another band that’s a big favorite here on the podcast. So both of those I recommend. What are you working on next, Robert? What’s coming out?
ROBERT: Well, my third book that came out, I guess a year and a half ago, is about a Canadian group called The Guess Who. And that’s “Wheatfield Empire”. The Guess Who were like Canada’s Beatles up here. Huge group for us. And I’ve been working now for about two years on a book about one of my heroes, Little Steven Van Zandt.
ROBERT: So he’s got solo stuff, and then of course, you got Bruce Springsteen and E Street Band stuff, and you got Sopranos stuff, and he’s got a radio show, so he’s kind of all over the place. So that’s what I’ve been working on during kind of pandemic and lockdowns and stuff like that. So, I keep plugging away at that, and letting people know about the previous books.
BRAD: Great, well, looking forward to that and thanks again for coming on and talking about Nazareth and this great track. Thanks, Robert.
ROBERT: Anytime, Brad, thank you.
BRAD: And thanks for joining Robert and I for this episode. If you’re interested in Robert’s books on Cheap Trick, the Guess Who or Nazareth, you can find them at the FriesenPress website, that’s FriesenPress.com/store. And then search for Robert Lawson, and you’ll find those books. I really do recommend them.
I will be back in two weeks with another new episode. Until then, you can get caught up on all of our previous episodes on our website, lovethatsongpodcast.com. You can also find us on all of the podcast apps and services– Amazon, Google, Apple, Spotify, iHeartRadio… This podcast is available on all of them.
On behalf of the Pantheon Network, I thank you again for being here for the past five years of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast and I hope you stick around for more. If you’d like the show to keep going, the best thing you can do is to tell people about the show and share it with your friends.
Thanks for the last five years, and thanks for listening to this episode on “Holiday” by Nazareth.