It was the letters that started it. One's and two's to begin with; then five at a time; finally a steady stream of them, growing bigger by the day. All from lucky persons who'd just seen Altered Images or Haircut One Hundred, and all with one common enquiry: just who was that support band, and why weren't we writing about them?
As it happens, they're The Bluebells, and we are.
The quintet in question are a batch of extremely carefree Glaswegians, wearers of striking second-hand clothing and vendors of sturdy guitar-driven pop music with a distinctive ringing tone which — once heard — isn't easily forgotten.
The same can be said of leader/singer Robert Hodgens (23) who, when on band duty — which is most of the time — becomes magically transformed into Bobby Bluebell. Lurking behind the stupendous specs is a slightly gangling figure often decked out like a gawky American student — cord trousers, check shirt, hush puppies — which gives the distinct impression of Permanent Youth. Quite fitting, really. Especially as most of his songs are about the problems of "growing up." Any easy process? "Dunno," he says. "I haven't got there yet."
Drizzly downtown Glasgow, Bobby claims, was not the most thrilling place to live. Fortunately this view was shared by a good few of his friends, not least of them Clare Grogan, who lived 'just along the road" and who he first met at the age of nine.
By the late '70s, with "Glam New Wave" to one side of them, 'Punk" on the other — this tight-knit knot of kindred spirits fragmented into various groups like Altered Images, The Fire Engines, Josef K and Orange Juice. All released records on the Postcard label and were firm believers in brisk uplifting pop topped off with lashings of good humour. "Brass necked cheek and a total irrelevance to what was going on" were the orders of the day.
Bobby, at the time, wasn't among them. Instead he was busy scribbling articles on Postcard musicians for the local fanzine Ten Commandments. When he'd run out of bands to write about he quite simply invented imaginary ones, like Frank Sinatra and The Pop Guns, and then filed glowing reports about them. So glowing, in fact, that people enquired about their songs. So he made some up, with titles like "Ava Gardner She Hates Travel" and other such whimsy, all filched from headlines in old women's magazines that he found under carpets in his job as a furniture remover.
Then they wanted to hear these songs — so he wrote some, like "Wishful Thinking" and "Some Sweet Day" (still Bluebells standards) — and when the public demanded to hear them performed he was eventually forced to piece together The Oxfam Warriers. Their brief appearance at lunchtime in a Glasgow Art School was greeted by "hit" and "miss" cards held aloft by the audience (mostly "miss"), though the final verdict was "terrible group but quite good songs."
By April '81, he'd recruited The Bluebells and a make-shift set was distilled from early Bowie and various American legends such as The Lovin' Spoonful, The Velvet Underground and Mike Nesmith (the one in The Monkees with the daft woolly hat).
"Before punk," Bobby recalls, "you bought a lot of old '60s and '70s records 'cos there was nothing worth listening to at the time. When punk came along you went off and bought punk singles, and by '78 you were back with your old records again. Much the same ideas as Nick Heyward," he adds, chuckling, "but then I've been a very great influence on him.
The next major stepping-stone in Bluebell history was when a rough tape fell into the hands of Elvis Costello. Impressed, he offered to produce some songs for them. Elvis they liked, partly because "in some ways his ideas are similar to ours: he judges songs solely on whether they're good or bad, not whether they're fashionable," and partly because of his eccentric eating habits. Lunchtime Elvis-style consists, apparently, of carrots, cheap caviar, gallons of Perrier water and very little else. "Lucky he can take a laugh," he adds.
With possible singles being lined up for release and major contracts (hopefully) being signed as you read this, Bobby sounds more than confident about the road ahead.
"In ten years time I'd like to see a book written about us. A Bluebells File, or a documentary. Or to have written a song as classic as 'Satisfaction' (Rolling Stones), 'Mr. Tambourine Man' (Bob Dylan) or 'Anarchy In The UK'. Something that sums up the times. I think we'll always be contemporary 'cos we're not trying to catch up with anything. It's bad to try and be ahead of the times 'cos when you put a record out it's always out of date."
To support all this, various lines of clothing have made brief outings and then ducked back inside the group wardrobe. One was roughly based on the movie Kes, which basically meant posing about in sporty caps, tweed waistcoats, knotted scarves, with a shot-gun slung across the shoulder. This survived one day.
More recently, Bobby's tended to go for the Young American look intended to resemble Holden Caulfield, the upstart hero of the infamous novel Catcher In The Rye. Hence the lumberjack shirt and general US hiking garb. "Me hair's a bit long, though," he reflects.
"I liked that book. Especially the way Caulfield expressed himself. Very black and white. Also I liked the fact that it was all about growing up. I've got to try and get a hunting cap like his. All the boys in the group have got hats except me, but then I've got a funny-shaped head. I'm not as handsome as them but I pull more girls," he decides. "Put that in the article. And that I'm charming. Charming and heartbroken. Put that in too. My girlfriend's left me `cos she thinks I'm too flippant. Oh, and I'm in love with Siobhan from Bananarama. Put that in. And I'm doing quite well! Don't forget, charming and heartbroken, got a girlfriend in Glasgow, doing well with Siobhan... you've got to put all that in..."
Excitable type, isn't he?