Thursday, 29 August 2013

Flip It! #3 - John's Children

While flicking through a scruffy cardboard box of old 7" singles, on a junk stall on Walthamstow Market, one Saturday morning in early 1973, my fingers alighted on a picture sleeve for 'Desdemona' by John's Children. I was nearly 13 years of age and knew that before T.Rex there had been Tyrannosaurus Rex, whose albums I had recently discovered via the 'Toofa' double LPs released by Fly. I also knew, somewhat vaguely, that before Tyrannosaurus Rex Marc Bolan had briefly been a member of a group called John's Children and made a single with them, but that was back in 1967, nearly half my lifetime ago. I'd certainly heard no music by John's Children and had seen only one photograph of the band, which, luckily, was the very one used on the picture sleeve in front of me. If it hadn't been for that particular shot, I might well have flicked right on by to the back of the box, none the wiser.

Diane Wynd, wherever you are, thank you.

So I was aware that this was a potential rare gem, but convinced that when I pulled the record from the sleeve, I would find either a copy of 'Desdemona' so damaged as to be unplayable or, even worse, a Frank Ifield single in the wrong cover. In the event, the sleeve contained a near pristine copy of 'Desdemona'. With uncharacteristic maturity, I tried to control my breathing and told myself not to become over-excited, as I swallowed hard and asked the price. The man in the cap who ran the stall took a drag from his cigarette, sucked his teeth, thought for a second and said - '10p'. That was the hardest moment of all, I stifled a yelp of delight. He didn't realise the significance of the record! Hands shaking, I gave him the coin, he dropped the single into a brown paper bag and I was off home, heart beating fast and sweat trickling down my back.

The old faithful.

Back in my room I fired up my trusty Fidelity HF43 mono record player and listened to 'Desdemona' a couple of times. It was impossibly thrilling to hear Marc's voice, instantly recognisable, as he echoed the title refrain. Then, needless to say, I phoned all my friends to gloat about my good fortune. Everyone was at my place within the hour and it was orange squash and jaffa cakes all round as we played the single several times over to let it all sink in and make all-important attempts at transcribing the lyrics. Then we played the b-side. If we'd considered 'Desdemona' to be somewhat raw and primitive, compared to the lush Tony Visconti T.Rex productions our ears were attuned to, the opening few seconds of 'Remember Thomas à Becket' completely blew our young minds. 40 years on from that first play, it still sounds pretty far-out to me.

'Remember Thomas à Becket' features no Marc Bolan involvement - that's his predecessor in John's Children, Geoff McClelland, on guitar. The song was re-written and re-recorded later in 1967, emerging as a slightly more trippy, less freaky A-side, with the flowered-up title, 'Come and Play With Me in the Garden'.


C said...

Fabulous tale, The Swede (and made even better by the mention of jaffa cakes too, mmm!) I still like JC's rather shambolic sound.
If it was the hard to stifle your response then, imagine how you'd feel if you came across a pic sleeve copy of that now for 10p - better get round to some boot sales, you never know...

Old Pa's Corner said...

What a brilliant tale TS and like C I had a little smile at the mention of Jaffa Cakes...may be worth a few bob...but not life changing1

The Swede said...

C. I picked up a little treasure at a car-boot about 20 years ago, where I really did have to keep my cool. I'll write about it one of these days.

Old Pa. It was probably worth more back in 1973 than it is now! I can't imagine parting with it anyway.

(All back to mine for Jaffa Cakes and Nesquik?)

Anonymous said...

How did I miss this post when you first put it up? I love this tale and can easily imagine how excited you were at the discovery of such a gem. I don't think I've ever seen a copy of this anywhere but it was certainly a legendary release, wasn't it? To us T. Rex fans it seemed to come from some sort of prehistory. Nice mention of this wonderful toofers, as well. Love 'em.

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