Singer songwriter Benny Gallagher can remember - vividly, given all the years that have since passed - the old Upper Clyde shipyard pubs being lined with trays full of glasses of cheap wine at the end of the day.

The workers pouring in would order "two to the moon". If the first two glasses didn't send them on their way, more would be ordered.

"Those were the real bad days of the cheap wine drinking in Greenock. It was really bad, a bit of an epidemic there," said Largs-born Gallagher, who was an apprentice electrician then.

"They couldn't really see the future, because you were more or less locked into that. I was the same, and God bless them, they knew I wanted out to be a songwriter and get into music. But it must have been horrible having a family there and thinking, that was it."

It's been a few decades since Gallagher last experienced the yards, but that memory of the pubs has remained with him, which is why the song Two to the Moon has cropped up on his new album, At the Edge of the Wave, his first-ever studio solo venture.

It's coupled with Worksong, which was co-written with his erstwhile partner, Graham Lyle, after a night of reminiscing with Billy Connolly, another former shipyard man, about the workers' love-hate relationship with the yards. Gallagher can still remember the first song he ever wrote, at home in Largs.

"I've never actually recorded it, I must get round to doing it," he said. "I was probably 14, 15 at the time. We had a band already, Graham and I, and he used to come in and out of the other bands that I was in.

"He got into recording and writing before I did, and then we both started writing together. He had a wee studio above one of the shops in Main Street, Largs, and we'd do demos. His mum bought him a couple of tape machines and we'd record from one to the other."

It was as staff writers at Apple, the Beatles' music publishing company, where Gallagher and Lyle honed their talent, writing songs for artists such as singer Mary Hopkin, Gallagher's lifelong friend. Paul McCartney was a key influence in Gallagher's development as a songwriter.

In 1970, as part of McGuinness Flint, he and Lyle enjoyed chart success with When I'm Dead and Gone. Later, they struck out on their own, and became famous with Breakaway, I Wanna Stay With You, Heart On My Sleeve and A Heart in New York.

The latter was famously performed by Simon and Garfunkel at their Concert in Central Park, and by Garth Brooks at his own show there. Singer Don Williams took Stay Young to the top of the country charts, generating well over one million airplays on US radio.

And there's his time at the helm of the Performing Artists Media Rights Association, when £20 million was distributed to artists for use of their recordings.

These days, Gallagher remains as busy as ever, having newly returned from playing South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, and dates in Australia. He's excited by the new album.

One autobiographical song, A Gift of Life, is followed by a darker tale altogether, The Salt of Her Tears, prompted by a real-life incident witnessed by his daughter. "She saw part of a thing that ended up with one set of parents not having a son, and two or three other sets of parents having children end up in jail. It kicked off just outside our house and further up the road. It ended up with one boy dead."

Beyond this, he plans to raise the profile of Scots-based OnSong, which is targeting singer-songwriters, and making people aware that he himself is back. And yes, he will be singing some of the old songs, the ones that made him famous. On tour: The Ferry, Glasgow, May 14; Catstrand Arts Centre, Castle Douglas, May 15; Tolbooth, Stirling, Oct 27; Paisley Art Centre, Oct 29; Harbour Arts, Irvine, Oct 30. The album is available from