Tuesday, 3 March 2015

55 From 55 - 1970

55 songs in 55 days - one for every year of my life...so far. 

This was the last year that my tastes were almost totally informed by the music Dad played around the house. For Christmas, I was given my own mono record player - freedom! Meanwhile, earlier in 1970, Dad continued to bring home reel to reel tapes of LP's that he'd recorded at work. 'Bridge over Troubled Water' by Simon and Garfunkel proved very popular with him and was followed a couple of years later by a tape of their 'Greatest Hits' LP. He liked that one so much that he actually bought the record, which I still have.

At ten years old I wasn't too struck with the ballads on 'Bridge Over Troubled Water', preferring the tunes with a bit more of a kick, none more so than 'Cecilia'. 40 years later, during a TV documentary on Simon and Garfunkel, I learned the origin of the looped rhythm track that forms the spine of the song. If you haven't heard the story, the clip is here.

Monday, 2 March 2015

55 From 55 - 1969

55 songs in 55 days - one for every year of my life...so far. 

Excuse me while I bend my own rules. I've written previously (here) about the adventures Dad and I shared around the speedways of London and the South East in the 1960's and 1970's. We went to many tracks, but my favourite (and local) team was the Hackney Hawks, whose stadium stood in Waterden Road, on a site that is now occupied by the soulless edifice of the Olympic Stadium Media Centre.

The Hackney Hawks 1969. Biggs, Silver (Promoter), Gooch, McGillivray, Erskine (Manager), Middleton, Leonard, Etheridge, Pratt (Captain, on the bike), Smith (insert).

The public address system on match days at Hackney, was little more than a series of tannoy speakers mounted high on wooden poles around the track, connected by low swinging wires. Hi-fi it wasn't. The sound dipped in and out with every breath of wind. Yet it was here, in 1969, between race announcements, where I heard the song that would become the first single I ever bought for myself.

A back garden speedway star in 1969

And this is where the rule bending comes in. 'Sweet Talking Guy' by The Chiffons was originally released back in 1966, but the reason that it was being played so frequently at Hackney in 1969, was that it had been re-issued - so it counts, doesn't it? Anyway, the song got its hooks in me to such an extent that I ventured into a record shop (on the corner of Church Road and Lea Bridge Road in Leyton, a few yards from my Nan's house) on my own for the first time and bought a copy of the single. And it had 'One Fine Day' on the flip - result!

Still got it!

Sunday, 1 March 2015

55 From 55 - 1968

55 songs in 55 days - one for every year of my life...so far.

A fine figure of a man. 1968.

Popular films didn't disappear in those days - there was no video for them to go to - they just kept on coming round, time and again, to one of the many cinemas in the local area. My parents went to the pictures a lot in the 1950's, before I arrived on the scene, and when I was old enough they took me along too. 'Mary Poppins', released in 1964, 'The Sound of Music' in 1965, 'Oliver' in 1968 and 'Scrooge' in 1970. All family favourites and we saw them several times each, the big songs becoming staples for Dad and I to sing at home.

30 years later, after seeing the film countless more times on TV, Dad bought 'Oliver' on video. No matter how often he watched it, he always laughed at this line.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

55 From 55 - 1967

55 songs in 55 days - one for every year of my life...so far.

Behind the wheel in Belgium, 1967.

Dad worked as the manager of a shop selling hi-fi equipment from the beginning of the 1960's up until we moved out of London in 1975, and from time to time would buy LP's with which to demonstrate record players to customers. If he liked something he heard, he would record it onto reel-to-reel tape at work and bring it home. In 1967, among several others I'm sure, I particularly remember that he brought home tapes of 'The Byrds Greatest Hits', 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' and 'Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits'. I still have his Byrds and Dylan tapes, which he continued to play and enjoy for another 30 years, although he never purchased anything else by either artist. He wasn't so keen on 'Sgt Pepper' though, and soon taped over it. A few months later, after updating the demonstration records at the shop, he brought home the fairly worn 'Sgt Pepper' LP for me to keep. I didn't fully appreciate the significance of the record for another few years, but did get to know it well enough to write a couple of stories in English lessons at school, based on the lyrics of 'She's Leaving Home' and 'Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds'.

Friday, 27 February 2015

55 From 55 - 1966

55 songs in 55 days - one for every year of my life...so far.

Christmas '66

For obvious reasons, all of the music discussed thus far in this series, burrowed its way into my consciousness slightly later in my childhood, when I was old enough to fully take it in. From this point on, though, I began to enjoy new records bought by Dad, or others I heard on the radio, as they appeared. Take 'Pretty Flamingo' by Manfred Mann for example. Years later, I'd hear great versions by artists such as Paul Weller, Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Costello, but I'll always return to the original. Some songs just take you right back there. And this one does just that.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

55 From 55 - 1965

55 records in 55 days - one for every year of my life...so far.

'Helping' Mum in the garden. 1965.

The pictures on the nation's television screens may still have been in black & white, but in 1965, my imagination was ablaze in vivid colour, thanks to the creativity of one man - Gerry Anderson. I was marginally too young for Fireball XL5, but Stingray was already a firm favourite by the time Anderson's newest TV series, Thunderbirds, appeared on the scene in October of that year.

 How I met the Tracy family.

Century 21 Records used the latest in their brilliant '7" Mini LP' series to introduce the Tracy family, Lady Penelope and Parker. Thanks to the kindness of Aunts and Uncles, I accumulated a clutch of these records, which contained theme tunes and exclusive adventures featuring all the various Supermarionation characters. I played those records constantly on the family radiogram and still know them all off by heart, including every scratch, crackle and jump. Thunderbirds are Go!

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

55 From 55 - 1964

55 songs in 55 days - one for every year of my life...so far. 

At the end of August 1964, Dad sat me down in front of the family reel to reel tape recorder to interview me, much as he did from time to time, right up until I was about 7 or 8 years of age. On this occasion the talk was all about school. My first day was fast approaching and I was really looking forward to it. He asked me what I thought I was going to do at school. 'Play football' I confidently replied.

 The original letter sent to my parents prior to my first day at school in 1964. Note point 2. (Click to enlarge)

When the big day finally arrived, I was keen and eager to get going. I'd chosen my clothes the evening before and even told Mum what I'd like for lunch - soup, so family legend has it. Then, clutching Mum's hand, we walked the short distance to Markhouse Infants School. The Mothers of all the newcomers were invited to stay for a short while to ease the transition for their children, before being ushered quietly from the room. Mum gave me a little wave as she left and with her went every shred of my confidence. The flood gates opened and I cried. And cried. And cried. After an hour or so of me howling the place down and no doubt having tried every soothing trick in the book, one of the teachers phoned Mum to ask her to come and get me. I was an utterly traumatised wreck, though later, when it became apparent that Mum hadn't abandoned me forever and would be there to collect me each lunchtime and at the end of every day, I settled into school life quite happily.

 What a little angel I was! Mum & I, 1964.

Earlier in 1964, West Ham United won the FA Cup, beating Preston North End 3-2 in the final. Dad, though approaching the end of his interest in football, went to the match at Wembley, then, a few days later, took me to see the team's victory parade through the streets of the East End. I found this marvelous converted cine film footage of the parade, which is a fascinating little time capsule and well worth a look, football fan or not.

Here I am in the crowd, a little overwhelmed, not even a football fan, but wearing my rosette with pride.

And that rosette? Still got it!


Some of the tunes accompanying this series of posts might be obscure, others better known, while a few will be absolute classics. Today's selection falls into the latter category and was a firm favourite on the family radiogram in 1964. Honestly, does pop music get any better than this?

Greatest Hits