Oh Harpenden so much to answer for

On 1st April 1977 our family moved from Leeds to Harpenden in Hertfordshire – a small town halfway between Luton and St Albans. I was nearly eight years old and remember it quite clearly. My father had been working in St Albans for almost a year and had been commuting between Leeds and St Albans all that time – he’d be home with us at the weekends usually with a box of chocolates – the St Albans GPO Computer Centre where he worked was next to a Cadburys Schweppes factory and he’d buy factory rejects, mis-shapes and damaged Creme Eggs. He also said that the computer centre was opposite the building which was used for the outside shots of HMP Slade for “Porridge” (I’ve just checked this on Wikipedia and it’s true, you know). Had I been happy in Leeds? Well yes and no. Yes I had my small circle of friends. No I had been bullied already and was glad to get away from there and I had some bad memories of Leeds thanks to an operation on my left eye that kept me in hospital for three weeks when I was six. But hell it wasn’t my choice. Maybe I’ll deal with Leeds in general next time I look at my parents’ record collection.

But we moved. We packed everything up, Pickfords came along and took it all and we sort of followed the lorry down the M1 towards our new home. Our house was a newly built four bedroom detached house on a new estate – it was the first house on the estate so was established while the rest of the estate – and our new school – was being built. According to the school’s website it was built and opened in 1975 so I’d imagine our house was around that time, if maybe a year earlier. I can remember the layout of the house – the big front room with our old hifi in its stereogram case at one end and the TV and sofas at the other, the dining room coming off the lounge so we could watch the TV if we wanted (the only time we did this was for Sunday lunch, a meal I detested and still dislike, so hearing “Nantucket Sleighride” by Mountain – the theme tune to “Weekend World” – brings back feelings of revulsion at facing another plate of vegetables. Don’t get me wrong, my mother was and still is a fantastic cook and her Sunday lunches were great but I had a thing against vegetables…). The kitchen had a breakfast bar which was quite an innovation – I’d never seen one before and loved sitting on the high stools. There was a small hall with steps in a square that led upstairs. Again a small landing leading to the main bathroom, my parents’ bedroom (with en suite! And a shower! Such luxury compared to Leeds), my brother’s bedroom and a spare bedroom. Oh and at the front of the house was my bedroom. I have an idea of how much my father paid for it, and according to Zoopla the house two doors along sold for £573,000 more than that price last year. Now the bathroom was where something odd happened. We always listened to the Top 40 rundown on Radio 1 on Sunday evenings and it usually coincided with an evening bath. One evening I got into a lovely warm bath with a ton of bubble bath in it (Matey, probably) just as “I hear you now” by Jon and Vangelis started – the simple four note sequence and the lovely little melody of synthesised notes over the top. And for some reason that stuck with me, in such a way that if I get into a hot bath with bubble bath even now I still have the intro to “I hear you now” going in my mind. Weird. (Maybe I share too much, hmm?)

Now my bedroom was long and thin and painted navy blue with a single bed at the far end under the window. Along the walls were posters of cars and pop groups. I was an avid reader of Look-In magazine and had their posters of Abba up on the walls. Were there other bands I liked and placed alongside Abba on the blue walls? Well they weren’t going to put posters of the Beatles in Look-In, so it was unlikely I had other bands up there. I didn’t think much of David Soul who seemed to be everywhere at the time but I did love Abba a lot. They never smiled, they looked so stern and cold and that suited some of their music – I heard “Arrival” a lot and adored it, especially “My love my life”, “Tiger” and the title track. There was something strong, Nordic, foreboding in that title track – it was the aural equivalent of the cover shot, a helicopter at dusk, the day on the cusp of night, a chill in the air.

I enjoyed the change of school to be honest. There was nothing wrong with the school in Leeds, but for some reason everyone seemed to treat me like a genius at the new school. We were streamed into three sets – red, green and blue – and would do our work in the room with the carpet the colour of our set. I was in the blue room – the top set – with only five other pupils, three girls and two boys. We always had to work in pairs and as I was an ‘interloper’ – a new boy – I had yet to make many friends so the two boys paired up, two girls paired up and the other girl – who I believe was named Leigh – was always paired with me. She soon got fed up with this and complained bitterly to the teacher that she always ended up with me, and then we realised that we had a common love – the “Pink Panther” films – and became firm friends, re-enacting scenes from the films in the playground.

School was fine, and I’ve got lots of happy memories from that year in school. 1977 was Jubilee year so we had celebrations in school and I remember contributing to the crown that the class constructed, and how it was placed on a shelf just too high for me to reach in the store cupboard. We had a school trip to St Albans to visit the Roman museum there and I know my mother came along as an adult helper, and I had a meltdown there for some reason. We also had fantastic grounds around the school, lovely playing fields and if the sun was out we’d do country dancing outside. I still burst into one of the songs we’d dance to, it’s ingrained on my mind. “I want to be near you, you’re the one for me for me”. A traditional square dance it seems. And again researching this I find the song on a website for the Hertfordshire Folk Association, and also mentioned on a BBC schools publication “Dancing for fun”.

Which brings us to another area of the school with striking memories – the music. There was a series of books and programmes and records called “Time and Tune” which changed every three months and we would love these songs and books. One of my favourites was during my time in Harpenden – “Time and Tune Echo” which was a cartoon style newspaper with story songs. There was one song story about pies I remember quite vividly, and the “Time and tune echo” song still spirals around my mind. And again doing a search on “Time and tune” brings it up, as it’s still being produced by the BBC and I’m sure I once found a website which had scans of all the books from over the years. I’ll keep looking for that. There was also a music book which our teacher was always dipping into called something like “Apiscadu” which I can still see in my mind’s eye – brown cover, long and thin shape, orange fish swimming across the cover…. There were also other BBC schools books and albums and I saw an article about these albums in Record Collector a few years back and recognised the sleeves.

What is odd is that I don’t really remember Harpenden town centre. Maybe I didn’t go there. I know there was a MacFisheries there which I thought was a hilarious name. Up in Leeds we’d had Asda and Safeways and Morrisons, down south we had MacFisheries and VG. I also know there was a sweet shop around the corner from where we lived because – well I went there often enough! I was and still am a sweet addict so I had to try any new sweets I saw. This was the era of new flavours of Tic Tacs and it was around this time I was introduced to my favourite sweet ever – cinnamon Tic Tacs. They stopped selling them in the UK after a few years and they disappeared alongside aniseed flavour in the early 80s but they were still available in the US until a few years ago. If I found someone I knew was going to America I’d give them a tenner and say “Buy as many cinnamon Tic Tacs as you can for me please”. We also had milk delivered by Unigate and that freaked me out – I didn’t like the “Humphrey” advertising around at the time, an anonymous straw stealing milk. We were given a set of “Humphrey” stickers and I made a point of not using them, I didn’t approve of it at all. As well as milk deliveries we also had pop deliveries – that’s pop as in fizzy drinks. It was Corona I think, or maybe Alpine. No, we had Corona in Cardiff because it was a Welsh brand – we had Alpine pop in big glass bottles that we would wash out and leave out for the next delivery. That’s what recycling was about in the seventies.

Getting back to Hertfordshire I can remember the shops of St Albans better than Harpenden for one reason – there was a toy shop I remember well because it was there I bought an Aurora AFX set. At some point in 1977 my love of cars had pushed me towards some kind of slot car racing system. Scalextric seemed too big and cumbersome but there was a smaller system which looked more fun – the cars had better grip so didn’t fly off the track at the merest flick of the controller, and the set was promoted by James Hunt. What could be better? I was bought a set and loved it – it had a McLaren M23 and a Ferrari 312-T2 racing each other.

Aurora was a bit of a niche thing – it was nowhere near as popular as Scalextric but I loved it. I had the track in my bedroom and made lots of complicated circuits and set up championships. I continued to buy extra track and cars for it as my interest in Formula One developed. I had chickenpox in early 1978 and was bed-ridden in the spare bedroom for what felt like forever, it was more than likely a fortnight. To pass the time my parents bought me an issue of Motor Sport magazine and I devoured it from cover to cover, learning about what was happening in the GP world and elsewhere. I fell in love with the romance of speed, the beautiful design of the cars themselves, of racers on the edge, of team-mates who supported each other. Put all that together in 1978 and you had Lotus – their innovative ground effect car Lotus 79 ruled that year. I wasn’t fussed on Mario Andretti but Ronnie Peterson was my absolute hero – when he really raced he was unbelievable, like in the rain in Austria that season. Of course that had a tragic end – I can remember being on holiday in Tenby in September 78, watching the TV news that Sunday evening through tearful eyes as they reported on the events of that day’s Italian Grand Prix and the accident that would take Peterson’s life.

(Ahem – music, Rob?)

Oh yes there was a lot of music too. This was the era of pre-recorded cassettes to be played at home and in the car. My father bought a white Lancia Beta 1300 which was a lot more upmarket than our previous Datsun Sunny. It had four doors! It was spacious! But it did turn into a rust bucket within three years. The cassette player didn’t chew up so many tapes either, which was an advantage. There were a few albums which soundtracked my time in Harpenden and they were about as far from what was happening in the music world as possible. Punk? Never heard of it at the time.

“Every face tells a story” – Cliff Richard

Now this is an odd one because it crossed over from Leeds to Harpenden. I distinctly remember my parents buying it in Morrisons in Leeds a week or so before we moved so it is possible that this album soundtracked the journey down the M1. It was bought presumably on the back of the “My kinda life” single. It’s odd, I remember that song being a far bigger hit than it actually was. This was the follow-up to Cliff’s big comeback “I’m nearly famous” LP which had two huge singles on it – “Devil woman” and “Miss you nights” – so this album was a development on that album’s theme. The same team were brought together – Bruce Welch, Alan Tarney and Terry Britten, all of whom had been related to each other through the reformed Shadows in the mid 70s – and more success was expected. Not that I knew this in ’77 – I just thought it was an album like any other.

“My kinda life” was as big a hit as the album would produce, a sort of rock / country hybrid that is pleasant enough and should be played on Radio 2 sometimes. (Question – does any radio station at all play Cliff now?). “It must be love” lollops along nicely with the first appearance of Tony Rivers in the backing vocals department. “When two worlds drift apart” is a stunning song, written by one Peter Sill, who I believe ended up as a music teacher in Essex though I may be wrong. This is far more dramatic, lots of heart-stopping chord changes and modulations, and some incredible crescendos, there’s a lot of dynamics here – not much of a pop arrangement, mainly piano and orchestration. It’s as good an adult break up song as “It’s too late” and is full of remembrances of a happier past – “It’s such a shame, but who’s to blame?”. Somewhere perhaps Bob Wratten was listening, but not admitting to it. (Having known and loved this song since I was eight I was pleased when it turned up on Marcello Carlin’s “Then Play Long” blog – the whole review is worth reading and he is far more insightful than me on the song). “You got me wondering” is again different, starting with acoustic guitar and slide guitar before moving to a bed of highly strummed guitars. I had no idea what this song was about but looking at it now it’s clearly about Christianity – “Gave us life for the living, gave us love for the giving…”. The wordless high falsetto notes Cliff hits at the end of each chorus show he’s passionate about this song. Great backing vocals again – and I’ve always felt this song was a distant cousin to “Mrs Ritchie” by Tony Rivers’ late 60s group Harmony Grass. The title track is as rocking as it gets on the album and is again vaguely Christian – the second verse about the man walking on water who came to save us – but other verses are more personal. And it’s a typically mid 70s sounding record – it’s a very dry sound, little or no grit on the guitars and absolutely no reverb. “Try a smile” on the other hand is a bland ballad to close out the side.

“Hey Mr Dream-maker” was a semi-hit single from late 76 and always confused me, it sounded familiar as soon as I heard it back in the day. I’ve only just realised now – it’s because the idea sounds like “Meet me on the corner” by Lindisfarne, which I knew because we had the “Fog on the Tyne” album. “Give me love your way” is something special – almost funky, bass-led with two wonderful acapella sections where Cliff sings of searching and finding love over doo-wop style vocals from Tony Rivers and the Castaways. “Up in the world” is another orchestrated ballad and almost as good as “When two worlds…”, there’s a hint of bitterness in the background. “Don’t turn the light out” is almost disco with a bouncy setting and jaunty Minimoogs playing a figure not unlike “Gonna make you a star”. However the song comes over as a plea to chastity – Cliff wants to keep the lights on to avoid “the ups an’ the downs of what lovin’s about”. Phnarr phnarr. “It’ll be me babe” is a far cry from “It’ll be me” back in the sixties, this was a failed Shadows single from their post-Eurovision mid 70s comeback, Cliff comes across as slightly creepy here, a bit of a stalker – “It’ll be me babe at your door”. OK. The Rhodes piano and wah-wah guitar creep around too and there’s a fine guitar solo, the first time the album has truly rocked up a bit. Finally “Spider man” – note the important space making it two words instead of a copyrighted one – hangs around for seven long minutes. I can remember the album being played at home in Harpenden and asking my father why it was going on so long – “The song’s finished, isn’t it?”. There’s hints of menace, it sounds like a good continuation from “It’ll be me babe”, similar instrumentation and hissing hi-hats and electric piano. There’s some ‘tasty’ mid-70s harmonised guitar and talkbox and it all goes on too bloody long.

So an album of highs and lows – but mainly highs. It was played very frequently and has lots of nice associations of Harpenden with it. The last time it was played was on the long drive to Sheffield in September ’88 alongside “Seconds of pleasure” and “Blonde on blonde” but that is another story for maybe never. The tape is in my attic, incidentally.

“20 golden greats” – The Shadows

Now this was definitely my father’s choice. Before the purge of his record collection in the mid 70s he had a lot of the Shadows’ early albums, but I don’t remember them too much but once we all started hanging out at record fairs he collected them again so I know the first three or four albums of theirs really well, quite eclectic with rocking piano stompers like “Stand up and say that” alongside classics like “Shadoogie” and “Nivram” and “Midnight”. If only they didn’t sing. But that’s all ahead of us here – in the summer of ’77 when punk was everywhere (really? I didn’t notice, maybe I was too young) we were playing this all the time. It’s the perfect Shadows compilation really, 20 of their best known songs, highlighting what everyone knows them for – twangy guitars, and er… more twangy guitars. And not singing.

The earliest material like “Apache” , “Man of mystery”, “FBI” and “The frightened city” races past. Heard in isolation you get a picture of how important and influential they were at the time – these tracks properly rock, Hank Marvin’s guitar solo on “The frightened city” is positively ferocious. The earlier tracks with Jet Harris and Tony Meehan do pack a punch, and something was definitely lost with their departure. From there it seems Norrie Paramour as producer started pushing them in directions which didn’t always work. It doesn’t help that the Beatles came along in ’63 and stole their crown as “best band in Britain” so they were playing catch-up. But their 62 – 63 music is slightly odd in places. The only comparison I can make is with the songs the Everly Brothers were issuing around the same time – “Temptation”, “That’s old fashioned” – where an overabundance of strings and horns and girly backing vocals almost overwhelm the songs, it’s like the producers in question wanted tto diversify the artist’s appeal and it doesn’t quite work. I love all those songs but they feel slightly off. A Spanish guitar solo? Really? “Guitar tango” doesn’t work – Hank sounds wrong on acoustic, all his tricks with echo and note-bending can’t be used. When the music is slower some of the orchestrations work and “Wonderful life”, “Theme for young lovers” and “Atlantis” are beautiful melodic wonders. Some of the uptempo tracks work well too – “The fall and rise of Flingel Bunt”, “The warlord” and “Stingray” are great, the songs have heavy drum patterns and fuzz lead guitars. You can hear the move from Fender to Burns guitars on these songs too (oh did I not mention I’m a gear freak too?) But the whole album works perfectly, is well sequenced and flows well.

As for memories…it links to a memory of driving north out of Harpenden towards the roundabout for the junction on the M1 – J9 I believe – with the tape playing and my father saying the same thing every time. He’d point left towards a hill with a bank of tall trees and say “Behind all those trees, that’s where Eric Morecambe lives”. And we believed him. And he was right.

Oh and the TV advert (a version of which is here) with a dad playing a cricket bat as guitar was a lot of fun, and inspired the opening song “Cricket bat boogie” on The Shadows’ next LP “Tasty”, a great album that got lost along the way.

“40 golden greats” – Cliff Richard

Well it may have had forty songs on this cassette but we never heard forty. Just as we didn’t get to hear all the Beatles album due to the editing power of my father’s cassette recorder, we didn’t hear all of this album. Maybe my father was right, this album is a bit much to take in one sitting. Instead we’d hear side one of the tape and virtually nothing of side two. And were we so wrong?

By sticking to side one we got “the early stuff”. “Move it” sounds quite tame, especially besides what The Drifters – as the Shadows were called at this point – would produce shortly. “Living doll” is sadly tainted in my mind by the Young Ones’ version from the mid 80s which was a common room regular at the time so I always hear that version in my mind. But my word Cliff already sounds neutered here. “Travellin’ light” is great, but “Fall in love with you” could be Bobby Vee. There follows a stream of trite pop songs characterised by “Gee whiz it’s you”. Knowing how Cliff had torn into something like “Dynamite” makes hearing this limp lettuce of a song all the worse. Even when Hank gets to solo it’s not that good. And then we approach the soundtrack songs.

Now my first memory of Cliff is very vivid. We were back in Leeds and preparing for a birthday party – not sure if it was mine or my brother’s – but I can remember the room being cleared up, sofas pushed against walls, the dining room table being prepared with food. And on the TV was the film “The young ones”. I sat on the floor and watched it open mouthed. Well maybe not open mouthed but I watched it and my six year old self quite liked the film. The song itself sets up the generation gap – Cliff is clearly a Young One – but is already thinking about the future when he may have children. It’s all a bit slushy. So is “When the girl in your heart….”. Wet wet WET. There are some good songs on this side of the tape but they are few and far between – “It’ll be me”, “I’m lookin’ out the window” is rather special, quiet and moody…er…oh sod it. Cliff’s reputation hinges on most of these songs like “Batchelor boy”, “Summer holiday” and by the end of the first twenty songs his career is assured, safe clean and antiseptic. The last of the twenty songs is “Don’t talk to him” which hints at paranoia and isn’t quite as safe as it seems.

And that’s where it mostly ends. We would reach the end of side one of the tape and rewind it. We might have heard one or two of the early songs on side two – “On the beach” or “In the country” but after that – nothing. So side two of the tape is quite interesting and educating. Not least because it shows how Cliff reacted to the Beatles. Again this is similar to how the Everly Brothers reacted to the Beatles, some of their mid 60s music was dreadful and some was wonderful. But back to Cliff. “On the beach” is lightweight but enjoyable fluff but the references in the lyrics and music to “Twist and shout” show he’s ruffled by the new incoming bands. “In the country” is OK too – though I still think of the Farmers Boys version which I saw them perform on “Crackerjack” back in the day. Some of the ballads are lovely but some are bland middle of the road nonsense. “Visions” is nice and “All my love” is fantastic. In fact “All my love” is one of the revelations for me, I adore this song, I have a soft spot for this sort of thing when it’s done well and this really is special. “Blue turns to grey” is also good, it’s a Jagger-Richards offcut but Cliff takes it more seriously than they did (hear their version on “Metamorphasis”, it’s a bit crap), and Hank gets some good twangs in along the way. “The day I met Marie” I did remember and I thought it was odd, the lovely minor key verse handled with care by Cliff followed by this major key brass band. I didn’t understand it but I liked it. “Congratulations” is tat though, as is “Goodbye Sam Hello Samantha”. Euro-oompah.

But in between those two songs is “Throw down a line“. A stomping beat – similar to “How does it feel to feel?” by The Creation – then Cliff sort of goes psychedelic. The lyrics are crazy – “a poor boy hanging in a nowhere tree”? – but the tune is a stomping monster, some great chord changes and Hank throwing some wacky guitar solos in along the way. I’ve included a link to the video here simply so you can all see the size of Cliff’s flares (thanks again Marcello for pointing this out to me). But it all passes, diminishing returns for “Power to all our friends” and “Sing a song of freedom”, and by the early 70s Cliff was forgotten – although the “Take me high” film is a great advert for Spaghetti Junction. Cliff’s comeback with the “I’m nearly famous” album was unexpected but welcome, and is well represented by the likes of “Devil woman” and “Miss you nights”. I never liked “Miss you nights” at the time, and still can’t say I’m that fussed about it now. It didn’t help that I never understood the title – if it had been written as “”Miss you’ nights” it would have helped perhaps. Finally the long long slog of an album concludes with “My kinda life”, his then recent hit single. But we never got there, if side two was ever played there was plenty of use of the fast forward button. In retrospect we missed a lot.

“Travelling” – John Williams

Now this is 1978 rather than 1977, and has some very specific references for me. This was the soundtrack to a lovely holiday we spent in Norfolk at a Hoseasons sort of cottage called The Wherry Arch. It was basically a building built as an archway over the end of a river, and if that sounds odd well yes it was. But it was a great holiday coinciding with my birthday so we spent a day in Norwich where I bought a load of Matchbox cars. The things you remember… It was also this holiday where I saw a “Play safe” public information film for the first time and that scared me shitless. I can still see the room with the TV in the corner showing it and being frightened silly.

John Williams then. Not the composer of the themes to “Star Wars” and all the rest but the classical guitarist from Australia. We already had his album with Julian Bream though I never remember it being played, and we had a double play tape of his two earlier “pop” albums “Changes” and “The height below” though again it was rarely played. There was a note on the card inlay giving the tape counter number for the end of the “Emperor Nero Suite” which opens “The height below” and a message saying “Very weird, fast forward to here” so someone clearly didn’t want to hear that again. But “Travelling” was bought as soon as it was issued and remained in the Lancia for a long time, then again somehow ended up in my attic (I seem to have inherited a lot of my family’s tapes as I was the only one interested in preserving them). When all three of these Fly / Cube albums were issued on cd a few years ago I had to buy them. And indeed “Changes” and “The height below” were totally unfamiliar to me, but “Travelling” felt like a long lost friend.

Now I’m going to show what a total ignoramus I am here. There are pieces I recognise as classical music re-arranged in a light pop fashion and there’s original material too. So I’ll do my best, and forgive me my stupidity if I say something that turns out to be incorrect. “All at sea minor” is a classical piece with frantic – and frankly impressively dextrous – guitar work from Williams with a shuffling rhythm section, and light orchestral touches. “Portrait” is slower and more orchestral and quite lovely really. “From the top” is funky. Yes it is. Jay-Z or someone should sample the opening drum, bass and Fender Rhodes riff. There’s wah-wah guitar going wakka-wakka, and Williams over the top too. It sounds wrong but works well. This was just before the formation of Sky and I believe that most of Sky are performing on this track and others, Francis Monkman making freaky with a Moog, Herbie Flowers getting his funk on. “The swagman” is the sort of light and easy listening that library music houses like KPM and Dewolfe were churning out by the album at this time, if Williams wasn’t playing it would be totally anonymous and it may well be that I heard it used as “Schools and Colleges Interlude” music beside Ruby’s “Bart“. However at the two minute mark everything slows down and someone appears to play a koto and there’s a totally epic heart stopping chord change, then it all returns to library music again as if the previous few seconds hadn’t happened. “Sheep may safely graze” is a classical piece which I believe Monkman arranged so it’s keyboard heavy with synthesised flutes and string synths and I absolutely adore this piece of music, and the arrangement too. So that’s the end of side one.

Side two starts with the title track and you’re reminded that this is most definitely the late seventies. This could easily slot alongside multi-part light classical pop music like Julian Lloyd-Webber’s “Variations”, or John Miles’ “Music” – there’s a heavily arranged vibe, lots of tricky time changes and lots of phased brass and electric guitars and I get the feeling it was far more fun for the musicians than for the listener. It last six minutes through all the changes and it feels like an hour. Actually I’ve just realised what it reminds me of – Yes. “The river god” starts with a slow tremulous orchestra, then pan pipes appear and I feel like fast forwarding. This is more uneasy easy listening, and if the pan pipes weren’t there it would be quite gorgeous but no, they sodding stay around. Shame. “J.S.B” is clearly that Bach piece everyone knows, rocked up and played with impressive skill and again falls into the “Variations” template. Holy cow where did that Moog come from? If you listen closely enough there’s that wah-wah guitar again, only becoming prominent for the last second. “Romanza” is another well known guitar piece and is nice enough and “Air on the G string” is another Monkman arrangement keyboard extravaganza, actually that’s not fair it’s actually quite well arranged and subtle.

“Travelling” stayed in the car a long time, and probably soundtracked the move from Harpenden to Penarth in South Wales in June 1978. Quite why we moved so quickly to Wales has only recently been explained, and I had to go through the upheavel of leaving more friends behind and starting from scratch in a new town and a new school. How life would have turned out if we’d stayed in Harpenden… Well that’s for some parallel universe.

There’s one more record from Harpenden I should mention, though it doesn’t exist. At some point my father borrowed a Hollies greatest hits album from the record library and I was taken with “Stop stop stop”, that strange echoing banjo throughout. Of course I didn’t understand the lyric at all, but I loved it and would dance around the living room to it. Another song – or piece of music – I liked at the same time was “The wonderous boat ride” – at least that’s what it’s called on the soundtrack album to “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”. It’s the part where they take a boat journey and it goes a bit psychedelic and Gene Wilder starts singing quite calmly before ending up screaming. I loved that song too. So I made up a pretend record player from Meccano and made a double a-side single of “Stop stop stop” and “Boat ride” from card and pretended to play them both. Ah the imagination of youth. Kids today etc etc etc

Next time. Well last time I said next time it would be “Synthesisers in the rain” and once I started to write it turned into this so next time I promise it really will be “Synthesisers in the rain”. Honest.

2 thoughts on “Oh Harpenden so much to answer for

  1. I think my mum might have been one of your teachers in Evenlode, Mrs Poole. Do you remember her?

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