IAN Donaldson was the first pop star I saw in the street. Union Street in Glasgow to be exact. This would have been in 1983, the year Donaldson appeared on Top of the Pops as front man of H20 signing their Top 20 hit I Dream to Sleep and the year he was named as one of the Top 10 most gorgeous men in pop according to the late, lamented Smash Hits.

I can’t remember now if he was loitering outside HMV or Virgin (where young men would hang around beside the video jukebox upstairs hoping that Godley and Crème’s “banned” video for Duran Duran’s Girls on Film might appear), but it was definitely him, quiff, long coat (de rigeur back then; it’s possible I was in my grey check Echo and the Bunnymen coat acquired from Flip too) and the perfume of Top of the Pops-approved success

The question I have, Ian, I tell him all these years later, is did he often just hang about outside record stores back then waiting to be noticed by rubes from the sticks like me visiting the big smoke?

“I wasn’t hanging about waiting to have my photograph taken,” he protests. “I was probably doing … something,” He starts laughing.

Well, it was 35 years ago. Memories fade. Times change. Record shops close. (Both HMV and Virgin are long gone.) Pop star’s hair fades to grey. Ian Donaldson turns 60 next year (which makes those of us who remember him in his pomp, or in Union Street in 1983, umm, not so young anymore either).

So here we sit in Glasgow hotel two middle-aged men remembering our glorious pasts (his, to be fair, rather more glorious than mine).

The reason? Donaldson is active again. After years in which he took a back seat running a studio and producing records (and years in the late 1980s when he didn’t do very much at all), Donaldson is writing, performing and recording.

Near the start of the year he put out a new album, From Stars We Came, played his first gigs in a decade and published the novel, A Rainbow in the Basement, that he has been working on for the last 20 years.

It’s clearly given him a taste. He’s already working on a new book and new songs one of which, Leonard, inspired by a Ray Bradbury short story, he’s going to reveal to the world via Alan McGee’s Boogaloo Radio show. When I arrive to chat to him he has his notebook out and is doodling some lyrics. “On the train coming in I got a couple of lines,” he says happily.

“It’s going to be book, album, book, album until I drop now. I don’t know how much I’ve got left but I know there’s more behind than in front of me. I’m going to use it wisely.”

What’s behind him is a story of Govan gang wars, punk, post-punk and career mismanagement. But like so many of the pop stars of the 1980s it opens with David Bowie. When Donaldson was 12 when he saw Bowie sing Starman on Top of the Pops. “My world changed overnight to technicolour from black and white.”

Bowie gave him a glimpse of another world. His own sounds slightly bleak. Donaldson grew up in Govan. His dad had been pensioned out of the army having contracted tuberculosis in Hong Kong and worked as a night porter in a hotel. His mum worked in factories. They fought a lot, so Donaldson spent a lot of his time in the streets playing football, dreaming of being the next George Best or QPR’s Stan Bowles while avoiding the local gangs.

“It was the time of ultraviolence,” he recalls. “Loads of gang warfare. There were times when there was no hiding place. Every summer I’d end up at the Southern General with one thing or another.”

On one occasion he was chased by a gang into his tenement by “guys with feather cuts and swords and sabres and machetes and baseball bats.”

To avoid them he ran into his building, “Spider-manned” up the walls in the close and turned the light out so they couldn’t see him when they barrelled in.

He escaped that time. He didn’t always. “One year there was a big gang fight in the street and someone stuck a slate in the back of my head.”

Music was to be his escape route. He started playing in an old-school rock and roll band at the age of 14. At art school he discovered punk and formed a band called Skroo.

When that ended he started H20. The original line-up was something of a who’s who of future Scottish pop names; Alan McGee, who would go on to form Creation Records, Andrew Innes who would later be part of Primal Scream and Neil Clark who would go on to be one of Lloyd Cole’s Commotions were all members.

That line-up didn’t last but Donaldson was driven enough to hire a venue (what is now The Garage) to play. Soon, record companies were flying up to listen. The band signed to RCA in 1982 and were on Top of the Pops a year later singing Dream to Sleep. His dream come true. How did that feel? He’s not sure.

“You’re a young man. You’re on Top of the Pops. You’re standing where David Bowie stood 10 years before. What do you do?”

What he should have done, Donaldson says now, is taken time to enjoy it. “I really should have smelt the roses a little more than I did. I really didn’t savour the moment as I should have done.”

“I remember doing Top of the Pops and it was all business. Our manager was in the dressing room and we were doing business before we went on.

“I was always scheming about what was going to happen next.”

Unfortunately, what happened next were a couple of almost hits. Worse, it turned out that his music publisher had been using the band’s royalties to invest in airlines. The investment didn’t go well, the publisher went bankrupt and the band lost a lot of money (he doesn’t know how much but possibly a six-figure sum).

The band carried on for a few years, still hoping that they would get another chance. “I suppose the gas was gone,” Donaldson admits. “We were running on empty, but we weren’t aware of it. I thought the good times would still come back somewhere.”

Eventually the reality of the situation sunk in and Donaldson drifted back to Glasgow and did, well, very little.

“I was a hermit for a few years. There’s an old song by Smokey Robinson where he sings ‘a taste of honey is worse than none at all.’ And I think there’s a lot of truth in that.

“I didn’t do music for a long, long time. It was a difficult time. I just went into hibernation mode. I suppose that was a way of protecting myself.”

But he was still in love with music. He started co-running a studio in Maryhill, got involved in production work, even producing a couple of country albums, and began writing songs for other people.

This century saw him return to the stage. For a while in the early years of the century he toured as a member of Four Good Men, a Scottish supergroup of sorts that also included Big Country’s guitarist Bruce Watson, and former Simple Minds bassist Derek Forbes and keyboardist Mick MacNeil. They even made an album.

Somewhere in there too, a life was lived. He got married, became a dad and worked on the novel. Now he has finally came back to singing and performing in his own right.

And when he does the song people want to hear is I Dream to Sleep. When Donaldson launched his newest album earlier this year fans travelled from the US and Japan to see him play in Glasgow. That’s the reach of a hit song.

“People still stop me in the street and take selfies. Dream to Sleep appears every year on another album. There’s a genuine love for that song.”

In some hearts it is always 1983.

From Stars We Came is out now. A Rainbow in the Basement is published by Strident.