The Soundtrack to my Life (Part 2)

stmlstePart 1 of the Soundtrack To My Life, which you can read by clicking here began by me trolling through my old albums. These days I buy a lot of  CD albums but back in my younger days I was a singles man. Yes, those vinyl discs spinning at 45 rpm sent me into a spin too from the very first single I bought in 1973, well it was two together actually, Banks of the Ohio and What is Life, sung by my seventies heart throb, Olivia Newton John.

In a previous post I compiled my all-time top 100 singles. You might think it was hard, well it wasn’t but my original task, that of compiling my all-time top 12 was, which is why I ended up with 100 records, all vying to get into the top 12 slot.
In an idle moment, well, a few hours actually when I had some free time on my hands, I made a rather nerdy spreadsheet of my top 100 which you can download. 100besttracks. Here are a few of my favourite tracks in detail.

The oldest track in my top 100 is Moon River from Andy Williams. I’ve always liked Andy and used to look forward to his TV show when I was a child and there was a rather memorable moment when the song was used in Sex and the City, one of my favourite TV shows, when Mr Big decides to leave New York for his vineyard somewhere in the country.

Olivia Newton-John doesn’t feature in my top 100 but she did do a pretty good version of Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘If You Could Read My Mind’ but I think its only fair to have the original in my top 100.

I do rather like acoustic guitar music and so Peter Sarstedt, James Taylor, Carole King and Bob Dylan are entries from the late sixties. On one of my very first dates I took a girl called Beryl to see the movie Pat Garret and Billy the Kid. I always thought that it featured the Dylan song ‘Lay Lady Lay‘ but it was actually Knocking on Heaven’s Door which was another great Dylan track, anyway, despite the movie mix up on my part, Lay Lady Lay always reminds me of that date.

Two other sixties tracks are Burt Bacharach songs: ‘Do You Know the Way to San Jose?’ and Dusty Springfield with The Look of Love. As a child in the 1960s, I wasn’t really aware of pop music, and all the sixties tracks mentioned here came into my record collection retrospectively but I came to know Burt’s music through the many films that benefited from his songs.

When I first started work in Manchester as a fresh youth of sixteen in 1973, a new colleague told me she was into soul music and I remember wondering what soul music was. I eventually asked her and she couldn’t define the genre except to say that it was dance music which doesn’t really go far enough to explain soul. Anyway, the first soul track I bought was Stevie Wonder’s ‘Boogie on Reggae Woman’. Later I added ‘Superstition’ to my collection.  The Chi Lites and ‘Have You Seen Her’ was another great soul track and  I’ve always loved ‘Midnight Train to Georgia’ by Gladys Knight and the Pips.

In the mid-seventies I used to frequent a bar in Manchester called the Playground and the DJ in the evening, his name was Steve also, used Loves Theme by Barry White’s backing band, Love Unlimited, as his theme song. I can’t hear that single today without remembering that bar with its dance floor sunk low in the floor where drinkers could look down at the dancers and where on weekday lunchtimes, office workers like myself could watch the topless dancer who appeared at 1 pm to entertain the patrons. No wonder I always used to get stuck with the 12 o clock lunch slot!

Angie Baby by Helen Reddy was one of those haunting tracks with clever lyrics. It was released in 1974, the most popular year in my top 100 with nine records from that year. The Hustle by Van McCoy was a disco classic from 1974 but another record I love from that time was ‘How Long’ by a now long defunct group called Ace. The writer and lead singer was Paul Carrack who went on to greater fame with Mike and the Mechanics and as a solo performer. That song  always reminds me of the Salisbury, a pub just by Oxford Rd Station where my colleagues and I used to congregate at lunchtimes or after work.

Young Americans was a track from rock legend David Bowie which made the soul charts in the USA and David Essex sang Rock On looking incredibly cool in his white suit.

Walking in Rhythm was a track I used to dance to in Manchester in the dark and packed night clubs of the seventies.  I also boogied away to Can you Feel the Force, (The Real Thing) September, (Earth Wind and Fire) and Night Fever (The Bee Gees) but another quirky favourite was the Pino Colado song with its wonderful engaging lyrics. While on the subject of Manchester, I must mention that great Manchester band 10cc and their classic 1975 hit, I’m Not In Love, recorded in Stockport’s Strawberry studios.

I’m not a great Cliff Richard fan but in the 80’s he came out with some fabulous songs like Wired for Sound, again with wonderful lyrics.

Billie Jean was my favourite of Michael Jackson’s work and I much prefer it to the overhyped Thriller.

I was still liking the acoustic guitar in the mid-eighties with songs like Marlene on the Wall by Suzanne Vega but a ground breaking record was that of Nineteen by Paul Hardcastle that introduced computers and sampling into music making.

Two songs that were from movies were Into the Groove by Madonna from the film Desperately Seeking Susan and The Power of Love by Huey Lewis and the News featured in Back to the future.

I must stop to mention Bruce Hornsby and the Range from 1986 and ‘The Way it is’. What a great track that is, a major contender for my all-time top 10.

In the late seventies I was a great fan of Elton John, buying all his early albums but my interest in his work fizzled out in the 1980’s. Made in England was a single by Elton that re-acquainted me with his music after twenty or so years.

The newest tracks on my list were from 2002 and 2003. Vanessa Carlton released A Thousand Miles in 2002 and sang backing vocals on a version of Big Yellow taxi in 2003 by Counting Crows. Neither were ever heard from again.

I’m sure there must have been great singles released between 2003 and now but nowadays I don’t rely on radio stations to tell me what to listen to. Radio channels and adverts just don’t go together for me so I tend to favour the BBC and Radio 2 but I must admit to liking Smooth FM and its playlist of non stop classic pop.

After having written this post about my top 100 list compiled a few years ago I reckon it’s time for a 2017 update. The thing is, that might just mean my top 100 is going to become my top 150!

Before I sign off, I think it’s only fair to leave a link to an outstanding post from fellow blogger Dave Kingsbury that inspired me to write this one: https://davekingsbury.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/a-life-in-music/


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The Soundtrack to my Life

The soundtrack to my life? What’s that all about? Well, quite simply it’s music. I don’t know about you but I’ve been a music fan all my life and I have always bought records of one sort or another. Vinyl singles and albums, cassette tapes, CDs and yes, even the occasional download.

picmonkey-imageMy Christmas present in 1972, my shared present I might add, which I shared with my brother, was a record player. I don’t actually remember getting any records to play on it though but a few days afterwards I bought a collection of TV and film themes by John Barry in the post Christmas sales.. Barry scored the early Bond films and wrote the theme from the Persuaders, the 70’s TV show starring Roger Moore and Tony Curtis. So much is that record built into my memory that whenever I hear the tune from the Persuaders, it’s not Curtis and Moore that comes to mind but that small portable record player that spent much of its life in the bedroom that my brother and I shared many years ago.

31436280925_c1d7ff01eb_oThe first single I ever bought was by my childhood heart-throb Olivia Newton-John. I actually bought two singles together, The Banks of the Ohio and What is life. A single back in 1973 cost thirty-eight pence if I remember correctly and as both those singles had dropped out of the charts I was able to get the two singles for half price, nineteen pence each. Olivia Newton-John started out as a country/folk singer but found greater fame as John Travolta’s co-star in the hit movie Grease. Sorry Olivia but Grease just didn’t do it for me.

Olivia Newton-JohnI’ve never been one for albums, I’m much more of a singles man but in the 1970s I was very fond of Elton John’s music. When I first heard his records I just assumed he was an American so I was pretty surprised to find he was English and hailed from Pinner in Middlesex. His first hit single was ‘Your Song’ from his second album, Elton John but the first album I bought was ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’. Elton worked closely with lyricist Bernie Taupin to produce some memorable songs. Taupin wrote the lyrics in the fashion of poems, passed them over to Elton who worked them into a song, which is the way they work together today some five decades later. I still have all my Elton John albums but after Elton made Rock Of The Westies I lost interest in his music a little. In the CD era I picked up some of my favourites of his music on CD and I have found some of his newer work that I really like, in particular Made In England which must count to me as one of his best ever albums.

img_0142Back in my single buying days a work colleague lent me his copy of Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds. I didn’t really fancy it but my friend was insistent that I would love it and he was right. The idea of a whole album telling a single story including snippets of dialogue and sound effects is brilliant. I copied the album onto cassette tape and today I have two CD versions, one for in the home and one for my car.

It seems to me sometimes that back in the 70’s buying music was so easy. Hear a record on the radio, go out to the record shop and buy it; job done. Nowadays when I sometimes watch music videos channels like the Box, I hear something I like but there are no music stores to visit to buy the recording. Not only that, when and if you find one, they’ve never heard of the track that you noted down! Actually its much easier to just go online and search for the music you want and then its just a few clicks to download. However, I’m not convinced a download is what  I really want. I want something physical, something I can pick up and look at, something with sleeve notes and inserts, that’s what I used to love about vinyl albums.

The last vinyl album I ever bouht, and the last one that John lennon made. Double Fantasy. £2.99, what a bargain.

The last vinyl album I ever bought, and the last one that John Lennon made. Double Fantasy. £2.99, what a bargain.

So, back to the present. The other week I was watching a programme on BBC 4 about Kate Bush. It was all pretty interesting and seemed to portray a Kate Bush that was a whole world apart from babooshka babooshka and Kath-ee,  let me in at your window, the slightly scary Kate Bush that I remember from the seventies and eighties.

I did an online search and on e-Bay I found myself three fairly cheap CDs. 1: The Sensual World. (Sorry Kate, this didn’t do it for me at all.) 2: The Red Shoes. (Pretty good, nice album.)  3: Aerial. Now this was more like it. A cracking double CD. Actually more chill out than the Kate Bush of the seventies I’m used to hearing. It has not been off my in-car stereo since I bought it. It’s a fabulous album full of exciting rhythms and sounds.

aerialSo, what music do you have on the soundtrack to your life?


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Will the Real Fifth Beatle Please Stand Up?

The story of the Beatles is a story that envelops anyone who is interested in music. A whole generation grew up with them and watched them morph from mop tops to hippies and beyond. That same generation was shattered when John Lennon was killed and saddened when George succumbed to cancer. The Beatles have always been there and have always been a part of our lives. It seems to me that there is always something in the media about the Beatles and one thing that comes up time after time is the mysterious fifth Beatle. The fifth Beatle is a sort of honary title bestowed either by the media or the Beatles themselves. We all know who the Beatles were; John, Paul, George and Ringo, so who was the fifth Beatle? Here are a few of the contenders.

beatlesStuart Sutcliffe.
Stuart was a great friend of John Lennon’s and John invited him to join the band despite his lack of musical talent. In fact he couldn’t even play the guitar properly which dismayed Paul McCartney no end. However, John was the creator of the band and therefore the leader and in the band’s early days he was the eldest which counts for a lot for those in their teenage years. John and Stuart met at Art College in Liverpool where Stuart had a reputation for being a talented artist. Stuart later went to Hamburg with the Beatles where they had a long term gig as the resident band at a club in the Reeperbahn district. There he met and became involved with a young photographer called Astrid Kirchherr and stayed with her when the rest of the Beatles returned to the UK. Sutcliffe enrolled in Hamburg art college to further his artwork. Astrid was a stylish influence on the Beatles and encouraged them to abandon Brylcream and try the now famous mop top haircut which was popular at the time with students in Hamburg. She was studying art and photography and took many famous photos of the group.
Sutcliffe began to experience severe headaches and after one such episode in 1962 he was rushed to hospital. He died on the way there, the cause of death later diagnosed as a cerebral haemorrhage.

Picture courtesy Wikipedia

Picture courtesy Wikipedia

Brian Epstein.
Brian Epstein was the manager of his family’s music store in Liverpool city centre, NEMS. Epstein worked hard to make the store a success and it became one of the biggest music stores in the North of England. The story goes that a local music fan came into the store and ordered a copy of ‘My Bonnie’ which the Beatles had recorded with Tony Sheridan in Germany. Epstein was curious and made enquiries about the group, later going to see them at the Cavern in Liverpool. Some have dismissed this story, as Epstein was bound to be aware of the Beatles through the local magazine Merseybeat which was on sale in NEMS and featured the Beatles in their second edition. Whatever the original facts are, Epstein liked the Beatles immediately, watched their performances several times at the Cavern and eventually approached them with an offer to be their manager. Brian Epstein went on to manage the Beatles until his death in 1967. His management of their business lives was not too successful as he was perhaps, like everyone, not prepared for the whirlwind global stardom into which the Beatles were catapulted. Marketing and licensing opportunities were lost and other artists that Epstein managed felt that they were overlooked as Brian concentrated on the Beatles.
Brian Epstein died in August 1967. The coroner recorded his death as an accidental overdose.

George Martin.
Brian Epstein made many attempts to get his band a recording contract with little success. One record producer famously told Epstein that ‘Guitar groups are on the way out!’ Epstein persevered and managed to get George Martin, a producer for the EMI label Parlophone to record the Beatles. Martin, who had previously worked on comedy records with stars like Peter Sellars, was reportedly not completely impressed with the Beatles’ music but more so with their wit and banter. Drummer Pete Best did not impress Martin either and he engaged a session drummer to work with the Beatles on their first recordings. That was to have important repercussions for Pete and the band later.

John Lennon and me . .

John Lennon and me . .

George Martin paired his formal musical expertise with the Beatles raw talent and in fact either wrote or performed many of the orchestral arrangements on their recordings. The violin quartet on ‘Yesterday’ was one of Martin’s ideas.
He died at the age of 90 in 2016.

Pete Best.
Pete Best joined the Beatles in 1960 on the eve of their departure for Hamburg. He became a popular member of the group, especially with the fans and was noted for his James Dean-like moody good looks.
His mother Mona, had bought a large house in Liverpool that was formerly the West Derby Conservative club and she modelled the basement into a coffee bar which opened in the early sixties as the ‘Casbah’ and Pete played there regularly with his group the ‘Black Jacks’. Paul McCartney spotted Pete there and convinced him to join the Beatles in Hamburg.
On New Year’s Day 1962 the Beatles, including Pete on the drums, recorded fifteen songs as part of an audition for Decca. Decca ultimately rejected the Beatles but Epstein bought the tapes and managed to get George Martin from Parlophone to listen to the tracks. He liked them, offered a possible recording contract to Epstein but wanted to record the Beatles himself first. In June of 1962 the group went to Abbey Road studios to play in the recording studio for George Martin. They played a number of songs but then Martin decided he wanted a session drummer to stand in for Best. Later, the Beatles learned that at the next recording session, planned for September of 62, the engineers still wanted a session drummer so they decided that it was time to replace Best. Their new drummer, Ringo Starr, was also replaced by a session drummer and George Martin has said he was surprised that the group wanted to get rid of Pete. Pete at the time, was the most popular Beatle with the fans. Whatever the ins and outs of the issue, whether it was Pete’s drumming, the fact that he was a bit of a loner and spent little time with the others, or just didn’t fit in well with them, we will never know for sure. The three other Beatles, Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison tasked Brian Epstein with giving Pete Best the sack. He was out and Ringo Starr was in.
Pete Best had missed out by a whisker on global fame and fortune on a massive scale.

beatles-alternate-album-cover-a-hard-days-night-mono-33.gifDerek Taylor.
Taylor was a journalist who worked for newspapers in the North West. He wrote a review of the Beatles in concert and gradually became a trusted insider and confidante of the group. Later, Brian Epstein asked him to become their press officer. He left the Beatles after their US concert tour in 1964 but returned in 1968 to become the press officer for the Beatles’ Apple Corps in 1968. In the late seventies Taylor collaborated with George Harrison on his memoir, ‘I, Me, Mine.’

Derek Taylor died in 1997 while still working for Apple on the Beatles’ Anthology book.

Neil Aspinall.
Neil Aspinall was the Beatles’ road manager and personal assistant and surprisingly, he was originally employed by Pete Best on behalf of the band. Neil drove the band up and down the UK to various gigs in a small Commer van for which he paid £80. Aspinall was a great friend of Pete Best and offered to resign from his work with the Beatles in sympathy with Best’s sacking but Best apparently felt Aspinall should carry on. Later, Aspinall became manager of the Apple Corps when Brian Epstein died. He was the executive producer for the Beatles’ Anthology.
He died in New York in 2008.

Murray the K.
Murray the K was a New York disc jockey in the early sixties. When the Beatles first went to the USA in 1964 Murray was an instant hit with the band. He accompanied them to various events in the US and even broadcast his radio show from the Beatles’ Plaza hotel suite. He claimed to have been named the fifth Beatle by either George Harrison or Ringo Starr and his radio station WINS built him up as the ‘Fifth Beatle’ in their publicity.


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10 Random Hits from the World of the Vinyl Single

10 hits from the world of the vinyl singleAs a teenager there was one, really important thing in my life. Music. And by music I am talking about singles. The BBC top twenty was all important to me and every Saturday night my mate Steve and I would drink beer and talk about women, sci fi and music. I bought numerous singles every Saturday. It’s very rare that I would buy something already in the charts for the full price. I’d usually wait until the record I wanted started to drop down the placings then I’d snap it up for half price. I spent a lot of time flicking through boxes of records in record stores with the end result that now, in 2016; I have a considerable amount of boxes of records. Ninety nine percent of them are singles. I was never one for albums because mostly albums let you down. You’d hear some great single by somebody new, buy their album and it rarely lived up to the single.
Singles are a whole different ball game in these days of downloading. There are those with even more records than I have but my records fill half a small room, whereas my young friends today have their entire music collection on their mobile phone or mp3 device. Not for them the allure of the soft dark vinyl or the album art or sleeve notes. No personal annotations like there were on my record sleeves with the discreet addition of the date I bought the record. The first single I ever bought was in 1973 and it was Olivia Newton-John’s version of ‘If Not For You’. Reduced to half price it was 24 pence. One day I’ll have to sit down and work out which was the last ever vinyl single I ever bought.
Here are a few of my very favourite singles.

I’m Not in Love by 10cc
Forget about the Smiths and Oasis and all those other whiney bands. 10cc were a proper Manchester band making some great music from the early seventies all the way through to 1983. There were two distinct groups within 10cc, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme and Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman. Godley and Creme left in 1976 to work with a musical device they invented called the Gizmatron and Stewart and Gouldman kept 10cc going until 1983 although the band did reform in later years. This fabulous track was recorded at Strawberry studios in Stockport and was originally an album track until public demand made the group release the track as a single.

I’ve Got the Music In Me by Kiki Dee
Most people associate Kiki Dee with Elton John and the hit single ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ but Kiki had a pretty successful solo career and this is a great up-tempo rock number.

Escape (The Pina colada Song) by Rupert Holmes
This was a hit in 1979. What I really love about it are the lyrics. It’s about two lovers who have perhaps lost each other but then find each other again.

Yesterday by the Beatles
Hey, it’s a list of great music! Of course there is going to be a Beatles track! This is really something of a Paul McCartney solo piece and it’s interesting to wonder how it might have turned out without the influence of George Martin, the Beatles’ producer but anyway, it’s a wonderful song. (I have to admit that this is one single I don’t have on vinyl though!)

Only You by Yazoo
Yazoo comprised Alison Moyet and Vince Clarke who later went their separate ways. There was a cover version of Only You by the Flying Pickets, a vocal group who were a group of out of work actors. Their version was just as good as the original and was a Christmas number one in 1983.

Into the Groove by Madonna
This was the theme from the movie ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’, one of my all-time favourite films. It’s actually a great candidate film for a 2016 remake because the plot of the film which involves a girl who follows the personal ads in a newspaper would be perfect for the current internet social media age. Check out the video below with clips from the movie.

Loves Theme by the Love Unlimited Orchestra.
Love Unlimited were, if you didn’t know, Barry White’s backing band and if you’ve never heard this before just imagine one of Barry White’s tracks without him singing and you’ll get the idea. I’ve always loved this single and there used to be a bar in Manchester I used to frequent called the ‘Playground’. It was a sort of disco bar and the DJ used this as his theme song. Read more about the Playground in my novel Floating In Space.

How Long by Ace.
Now this is a serious contender for my all-time favourite single ever. Written by Ace vocalist Paul Carrack who went on to work with other bands like Mike and the Mechanics and later become a solo artist. Paul’s other great songs include ‘The Living Years’ and ‘Over My Shoulder.’

The Way It Is by Bruce Hornsby and the Range.
A great eighties track dating from 1986. Bruce Hornsby was an American singer and songwriter. I’m not sure if Bruce had any other hits but this one is a great piano driven rock song that I’ve always loved.

Gonna make you a star by David Essex.
This was a hit in 1974 and I have written a post already about David and his white suit and the impact it had on me. Read more about it here. One quick word of advice though, don’t travel on a grimy old bus wearing a white suit!

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12 Chart Hits from a Decade when Pop Music was Fun!

quotescover-JPG-88Bored by the latest music chart? Remember when the music charts were fun? Well, maybe you don’t but back in the 1970’s, the decade covered in my book ‘Floating In Space’, the music charts were a whole different ball game. Every taste of music was covered from soul to rock and back again. TV theme tunes made it into the charts, as did comedy and novelty records. Here’s a quick selection of ten of the most memorable. Can you think of any others?

Toast by street band (1978. Can you spot a young Paul Young?)

King of the cops (1975)

Mr Jaws by Dickie Goodman. (1975)

Renta Santa by Chris Hill (A sort of British Mr Jaws using the same idea of music clips. 1975.)

Theme from Van Der Valk by the Simon Park Orchestra (a number 1 hit in 1973!)

Ernie, the Fastest Milkman in the West (Benny Hill reached the Christmas number 1 slot in 1971)

The Monster Mash (Bobby Boris Picket and the Crypt-Kickers! originally from 1962 but re-released in 1970.)

The wombles (1974)

Convoy: C W McCall (1975)

Convoy GB By Laurie Lingo and the Dipsticks (1976)

Ugly duckling mike Reid (Number 10 in 1975!)

Car 67 by Driver 67 (My favourite oddball hit  of all time from 1978!)

What Happened to my White Jacket and my 70’s Pop Star Heroes?

David Cassidy

image courtesy wikipedia

image courtesy wikipedia

I wasn’t so much a fan of David Cassidy, I just wanted to look like him. I always thought he was a pretty cool dude and although I didn’t rush out and buy his music I always kind of liked him.( You can click here to see what happened when I went for a David Cassidy haircut!) Cassidy was an unexpected superstar, the son of actor Jack Cassidy who crops up frequently in classic Columbo episodes.

David began working as an actor and musician and was signed up by Universal studios in 1969. He worked on many TV shows of the time like Ironside and Bonanza until he was signed up for a part in a show called ‘The Partridge family’. Cassidy and the show became a runaway hit and ten albums produced during the show’s run sold over a million copies each. David became a teen idol and his personal concerts were sell outs but a Cassidy mania, not unlike that experienced by the Beatles years earlier, caused numerous problems and culminated in a stampede at White City stadium where many people were injured and one girl fan sadly died.
Today Cassidy is still singing and writing and has appeared in many stage shows and musicals. You might even have seen him in a TV version of his life story, ‘The David Cassidy Story’.

Gary Glitter
Gary Glitter’s first big hit, back in the early seventies was ‘Rock n’ Roll’ parts 1 and 2, a double-sided single which on part 2 was mainly instrumental with group chants of ‘rock n roll’. Glitter followed this up with a string of hits throughout the early seventies with singles like ‘I’m the leader of the gang’, ‘I love you love me love’, ‘Do you wanna touch me?’ and ‘Hello hello, I’m back again’. His career faded afterwards but in the early 90’s his records were discovered by a new generation of record buyers and many modern artists have acknowledged that he was an inspiration to them in earlier years.

The late 1990’s saw his image become fatally destroyed by his arrest and conviction in 1999 for possession of child pornography. Some years later, in 2006, Glitter faced criminal charges and deportation from Vietnam after a court found him guilty of obscene acts with minors. Glitter was deported back to Britain and placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register for life. These convictions turned Glitter from being one of the best-loved stars in British pop history, into a hated and reviled figure. As much as I like the glam music of the seventies, I actually feel bad today playing Gary Glitter’s music.

blogpicheroes

David Essex.
David Essex was another performer who made his name in the early seventies. I remember seeing his album in a record shop and thinking what a cool dude he looked. The album was ‘Rock On’ and the single went to number 3 in the UK charts in 1973. The next year David released one of my all-time favourite tracks ‘Gonna make you a Star’ which went all the way up to number 1. He also appeared on the double album ‘Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds’ and went on to star in many musicals such as ‘Godspell’ and ‘Evita’. In 2011, he joined the cast of TV soap ‘EastEnders’.

david-essex-rock-on-cbsThe White Jacket
David Essex sang ‘Rock On’ wearing a white suit on ‘Top of the Pops’ and as I have said above, I thought he was a real cool guy and it seemed that one way to transform my gangling self-conscious self into somebody ‘cool’ might be to get that very same white suit. I couldn’t afford a suit at the time so I settled for a jacket, a white jacket and I well remember admiring myself in the mirror before my first Saturday night out wearing it sometime back in 1973.

The first problem came on the bus into town. I sat on the back seat and in those days, the back seats of our local buses were a little notorious for being dusty and grimy as they were over the engine and absorbed all the engine fumes and also there were people who put their feet up on the seats leaving marks to which people like me (the twerp in the white suit) were highly susceptible. Another thing too is that all my life I have been cursed with being clumsy and once I had met up with my friends I managed to spill beer all down my sleeve. Anyway, the night went on, more or less successfully. I certainly remember having a good time although the white jacket failed in its primary function, that of attracting gorgeous girls. Later on we stopped at the kebab shop and somehow I managed to land a sizeable portion of chilli sauce down my front. Rather than feeling like David Essex, I felt a little like Alec Guinness in that film ‘The Man In The White Suit’, wanting to get away from everyone! I never wore the stained jacket again and it lingered sadly in the back of my wardrobe until my Mum decided my room was cluttered up enough and threw it out.

Of course, it could have been worse, I could have gone out wearing jeans, a white t-shirt and a red jacket and tried to look like James Dean! (Actually, that was another night!)


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10 things you didn’t know about American Pie

71WZbVhqbkL._SL1300b_Well, here’s the first thing that perhaps you didn’t know; The lyrics to American Pie, or more correctly, writer Don McLean’s sixteen page original draft of the song was sold recently at an auction in the USA for 1.2 million dollars, that’s £806, 000 for us here in the UK. That’s a hell of a lot for a few song lyrics but to be fair, American Pie has the most interesting and fascinating lyrics of any pop song ever.

American Pie debuted in 1972 and reached number 2 in the UK charts. I didn’t really get interested in music until 1973 when I started buying singles but also, in that same year, a magazine was launched in the UK called ‘the story of pop’ and in one of the issues there was a lengthy article about the song and what it meant and ever since then I’ve been fascinated by the lyrics and what they may or may not mean.

The day the music died

This is generally thought to refer to Buddy Holly’s sad death in 1959 at the age of 22. Holly was only at the beginning of his career and would have gone on to greater success. Even so, he was inducted into the rock n roll hall of fame in 1986.

The Jester

The Jester is Bob Dylan and the coat he borrowed from James Dean can be seen on the cover of Dylan’s album ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.’

The King

The King is of course the King of rock n roll, Elvis Presley, and it was his crown that the Jester stole when the King was looking down.

The beginning of the song looks back to a golden time for Don McLean, the fifties and the birth of rock n roll and artists like Presley and Holly. The sixties gave birth to a new freedom for young people and it was expressed in music and in the use of drugs like marihuana. No wonder the ‘half time air was sweet perfume!’

The sergeants played a marching tune

The Beatles are the Sergeants, fresh, no doubt, from their Sergeant Pepper album.

I saw Satan laughing with delight, the day the music died

Jack Flash is the Rolling Stone’s Mick Jagger and it is he that Mclean sees as Satan. ‘No angel born in hell could break that Satan’s spell.’

This part of the song refers to the Rolling Stones’ concert at Altamont Speedway in northern California. The event was a free one and was anticipated as a sort of ‘Woodstock west’. Various bands played including Santana, Crosby, Stills and Nash, and The Grateful Dead. The fans however, were stoned on drugs and drink and the atmosphere deteriorated, so much so that the Grateful Dead declined to play. The local chapter of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang were hired, supposedly, to take care of security but they later denied this and said they had been promised $500 dollars’ worth of beer merely to keep people away from the stage.

During the concert a fan by the name of Meredith Hunter was killed by a Hells Angel. Hunter had tried to get on the stage during the Stones performance and the Hells Angels had pushed him away. Hunter returned and pulled out a revolver from his jacket. Hells Angel Alan Pissaro charged Hunter; pushed the gun aside and stabbed him. The incident was caught by a film crew which helped Pissaro’s self-defence plea later on in court. Pisarro was acquitted. The clock had turned full circle from the innocence of the fifties to the disillusionment of the late sixties and Don Mclean’s classic song is a wonderful and lyrical evocation of the times.

Click on the video below and enjoy American Pie for yourself.

Music and the Fifty Year old Teenager

800px-nadelaufplatteMany years ago in my mid-teens I was in Manchester doing pretty much what I have always done, then and now, whenever I have free time on a Saturday, either looking at records in a music store or looking at books in a book shop.

In 2014 there are not many record stores left; the whole culture of buying records is a different ball game these days, downloading instead of taking home a hard physical copy. You might be thinking hey: haven’t we had this blog already? Yes but the other day I went on to talk about James Dean, today I want to carry on with music.

As a teenager Saturday afternoons meant one thing to me, going into town, probably Manchester, and flipping through records and books. I was a big music fan and back in the seventies and eighties singles were marked down in price as soon as they dropped out of the charts and vultures like me were there to buy up cheap records. I started buying singles in 1973 and the last one I bought must have been in the late eighties. I wish I knew which record it was. In the eighties I started buying picture singles which were singles in clear vinyl with a picture running through. My favourite is probably Alexi Sayle singing ‘Hello John, got a new motor’ which comes in the shape of a Ford Cortina With Alexi Sayle on the bonnet.

The day came, probably sometime in the nineties, when the pop charts had become a mystery to me, singers and bands were in there that I’d never heard of with records I had no interest in buying. Just then, almost like a thief in the night, vinyl disapeared and the CD era began.

In the box room at my Mum’s house are four or five boxes of my singles, another box of LP’s and a two boxes of 12 inch singles which started out in the eighties as a single but with a longer or different mix or sometimes with an extra track. The strange thing is, my teenage counterparts in 2014 probably have a similar size collection only without the physicality. A huge stack of music kept on a hard disc or MP3 device, kept forever in cyberspace. I like my vinyl records, I like the smoothness of the plastic, the static electricity, the album covers, the sleeve notes (can anyone really read the sleeve notes on CDs written in that tiny writing?) and the inserts. I still have all the booklets that came with Elton John’s Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy and I so wish I’d written the lyrics to that Cliff Richard song, ‘Wired for Sound’; power from the needle to the plastic.

I’m not much of a downloader but I do have a shed load of CD’s I’ve picked up over the years and I’ve gradually started to use my MP3 player, especially on holiday and I even have fun making up playlists just like in the old days when I’d copy my vinyl singles onto cassette tapes.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve really changed at all from the teenager I used to be. .


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