Saturday, 28 February 2015

55 From 55 - 1967

55 songs in 55 days - one for every year of my 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 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 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 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?

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

55 From 55 - 1963

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

'Tanx' 10 Years Early.

Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, even Frank Sinatra. All artists introduced to me by Dad. Pretty good really. He could so easily have gone down the Black & White Minstrels route like many others of his generation, then where would I have been? Anyway, add Dusty to the list. The Springfields were big favourites of his, particularly popular, I seem to remember, as a soundtrack to any decorating going on in the house - an empty room devoid of wallpaper providing the perfect acoustics for Dad to sing along.

'Say I Won't Be There', a slightly punchier single than some of their folkier efforts, still sounds fine.

Monday, 23 February 2015

55 From 55 - 1962

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

Modelling my Sunday best in 1962.

1962 was a good year for Bernard Cribbins. He scored two big hit singles with 'Hole in the Ground' and 'Right Said Fred', popular tunes on the BBC's Family Favourites radio programme throughout my childhood. Often overlooked nowadays though, is Bernard's third hit that year, 'Gossip Calypso'. For some reason this one is vividly etched in my memory. Perhaps it's Cribbins' breathless rat-a-tat delivery or maybe it's the unique use of the phrase 'oxyacetylene welder' in a pop record, but this song has always stuck.

'Gossip Calypso' was written by Trevor Peacock. Latterly a noted TV actor, in the 1960s Peacock penned songs for the likes of Joe Brown, Adam Faith and Billy Fury in addition to the bona-fide hit, 'Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter' for Herman's Hermits.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

55 From 55 - 1961

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

I've written about Dad's love of music a few times, how it drifted from Jazz in the 1950's to Pop in the 1960's and on to Classical in later life. He was never interested in Rock 'n' Roll, yet owned virtually complete sets of Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison singles, many of which I still have. I think it was the quality of the songwriting that attracted him to these particular artists. He had good taste too. All these years later Buddy and Roy are legends, while other popular artists of the day have faded from memory.

Are you laughing at my hat? The Swede in '61.

The drama of Roy Orbison's songs captivated me as soon as I was old enough to pay attention, evident even in lesser hits like 'Blue Bayou' and 'Borne on the Wind', but dominant in 'It's Over', 'In Dreams' and most of all here, in 'Running Scared'. One day (I don't know how old I was, 5, perhaps 6) as I listened to this song, I can remember feeling my eyes tingle and tears starting to form. It was frightening, I thought something was wrong with me, but, even at such a young age, I was already picking up on the emotion in the writing and performance. 50 years later, it's still a challenge to make it through 'Running Scared' unscathed.

(More on Roy Orbison, Dad and I, here.)

Greatest Hits