Tag Archives: Cliff Richard

The Last Seaside Resort

(This is the follow-up to “Oh Harpenden so much to answer for”, as it carries on from that period – early 1978 – to some point in 1980 when I leave junior school. Oh and it’s back to my parents’ record collection again)

On the 1st June 1978 the Morgan family left Harpenden for the final time and headed west to our new home in Penarth, a few miles west of Cardiff in South Wales. At the time I thought we were moving because my father’s job was going to Cardiff from St Albans, but that wasn’t the whole story – we were also moving to be closer to our family. We had looked at a few houses around the area before settling on Cherry Close – there was a big house in Whitchurch whose garden was flooded (not a good idea), a very modernist house in Dinas Powis which was all sharp angles and glass and concrete (too radical) and another house in Penarth – a dorma bungalow in Robinswood Close (not big enough for us really). If we’d bought the latter house I would have ended up opposite one of my best friends’ houses – my friend Adrian who would be with me on 30th April ’83 buying “Dazzle ships” and “Doot-doot”. But no, we settled on Cherry Close, a big four bedroom house which was oddly built – it had a garage at either end of the house and two driveways to get there, and a slopping roof which our cats would regularly jump up to and then sit outside my bedroom window miaowing at night. So now we were in Penarth…

Penarth was a sleepy little seaside resort on the South Wales coast with a pier and an esplanade and a beach covered in rocks and pebbles and no sand at all and some rather nice Italian gardens and a horrible 60s monstrosity of a car park and leisure centre at the end of the beach. I say “was” because it isn’t that now. Admittedly I’ve not visited there properly for the best part of 17 years but a few years ago I visited the high street on business and barely recognised it. The Cardiff barrage and the building of Penarth Marina, not to mention the radical transformation of Cardiff Bay a few miles up the coast, have turned Penarth from a sleepy town mainly known for the number of care homes and pensioners in residence into a busy town with all the trappings of wealth. Penarth used to be the retirement home of South Wales. Now it’s a thrusting town with connections. From time to time it will appear on television as well – an episode of the remake of “Upstairs Downstairs” was centred around an affair on Penarth seafront, only it was supposed to be somewhere in Kent. And there’s lots of “Doctor Who” filmed there – but they film that all over South Wales, I watched the first trailer for the comeback being filmed in the tunnel under Newport railway station years ago…. Penarth then is small and posh, geographically and emotionally halfway between Cardiff and Barry.

So we moved to Penarth in June 1978 and my brother and I started another school just over a year after starting at a new school in Harpenden. Evenlode school is still there, about three quarters of a mile from our house, a pleasant walk there and back, a school built in the sixties, all on one level with a large playing field around it. I only have happy memories of Evenlode – although I wasn’t treated like a genius like I had been in Harpenden, the teachers in Penarth recognised if I had a talent and let me run with it. At that time that talent was for story writing, and after I wrote a 19 page story called “The dream”, full of strange dream imagery and disconnections, some of it based on real dreams I had – well after that my teacher let me develop a series of stories based around a multi-national crime solving gang. Only I didn’t know what to call the individuals in the stories so used the exotic names of lower-rank Grand Prix drivers, like the Renault team of Jean-Pierre Jabouille and Rene Arnoux. “Nobody will know where I got those from” I thought to myself. A week later, Jabouille won the French GP with Arnoux and Gilles Villeneuve famously battling wheel to wheel for second place. The game was up. Sigh. In my final year at Evenlode – 79 to 80 – we were encouraged to write ‘a novel’. Most people gave up, I wrote over three hundred pages – mostly complete nonsense but still in a structured way. I think it ended up with some kind of nuclear apocalypse. Those were the days. I always took these things too far.

Evenlode was a great school and I was happy there, and I still know some of the people I went to school with (hello Mike, if you’re reading this). OK, so there were mishaps and misunderstandings and I did have a fight with Paul Mumford but it was pretty limp wristed – he was the smallest boy in the class, I was one of the tallest, he was trying to assert some kind of authority by picking on a tall speccy kid (see picture at the bottom of the page) and nobody really got hurt and we laughed about it afterwards. We played British Bulldog on the field, I scored a goal at football by walking across the pitch and kicking a ball randomly as I passed by, everybody seemed really happy there. Oh and I learnt rude words from Paul – even if I didn’t know what they meant, they sounded cool. It’s peculiar, the more I think about Evenlode the more I can remember it…. One of our teachers drove a Fiat 126 which was a great novelty… There was a little ‘forest schools’ area with a pond where we nurtured tadpoles into frogs.. My pencil case – yellow plastic from WHSmiths, with two layers, it swung on a hinge at one end (damned if I can find a photo of it anywhere)… Playing board games during the last weeks of term… The first electronic games – Simon and Merlin…The novelty of shatterproof twelve inch rulers, and proving that they weren’t shatterproof at all….

And then there was the main hall
So many memories from there. Sitting in the back row of assembly playing Pocketeer games and hoping nobody would notice. Doing gym in there – climbing bars on the wall, attempting rolls on blue mats, falling and laughing. Singing odd old songs- “Pack up your troubles” and “My old man said follow the van” – in school assembly. Doing exams there, sat at little individual desks, not knowing why we were doing them. We would spend the second week of Wimbledon sat in the main hall watching the matches on TV – I wonder what the teachers were doing!

(As I am married to a primary school teacher, I look back on these years with wonder – I see the planning and assessments that she does, the stress of inspections, and think that the job of teaching has changed so much since then)

So we settled into life in Penarth. There were no shops nearby, except for Sully Terrace Stores about half a mile away. Actually no that’s wrong – there was a shop actually within someone’s house on Forrest Road until around 1980 – their front rooms were full of groceries with a counter and lots of sweets and I was gutted when they closed down. Sully Terrace Stores was a little further away from home and back in the late seventies it was known to us as Mr Teagal’s, as it was run by a lovely old gentleman of that name. We’d stop there on walks into town to get drinks or sweets or both. It was a quaint little place, dark and woody, jars of sweets behind the counter, a wide array of just about anything you could want – an Aladdin’s Cave for a ten year old. I would frequent Sully Terrace Stores for many years to come, and I wonder if it’s still there.

So it’s the late seventies and what music are we listening to? Unsurprisingly there was a lot of Abba to be heard. The C120 tape of Abba was a permanent fixture in the car. It had “Abba’s Greatest Hits” and “Arrival” on one side, then on the reverse “Abba – The Album” and “Voulez-vous”. All fine records with some wonderful songs and some dodgy moments too. I didn’t really think of them going disco with the latter album but something was lost along the way – no room for melancholy like “My love my life”. I suppose the real melancholy would come later for them. I still believe “Arrival” is one of the best pop albums of the seventies, but I wouldn’t say the same for the LPs that followed. By the time the “Super Trouper” LP came out in late 1980 we didn’t buy it, and the first time I heard it was at a Christmas party with all the family in Rhiwbina that year, and it didn’t stay playing long – it didn’t sound like a party record.

My father bought a few LPs during this time – ’78 to ’80 – and I’ll investigate a number of them in depth, but there were a few LPs which were bought but not played in full. “Repeat when necessary” by Dave Edmunds starts well but slowly grows more weary as it progresses – which is probably why only side one of the LP was played, with the occasional play of track one side two. But that one side of music is great. “Girls’ talk” is wonderful. I must admit that I don’t know Elvis Costello’s original version even now, but Edmunds’ cover is surely definitive. Sharp and chiming and a cool key change and those baying backing vocals. (It probably helped that I generated an alternate lyric interspersed with the names of contemporary Grand Prix drivers – “But I heard you mention my name, can’t you talk Niki Lauda?” etc). Side one grinds through swampy rock like “Creature from the black lagoon” and the speedy blast of “Crawling from the wreckage” and even Cliff Richard’s “Dynamite” kicks like a bull. But after “Queen of hearts” at the start of side two the album falters a lot. Of course retrospect would say take the best bits of this LP and the best bits of “Labour of lust” by Nick Lowe and you’d have a killer album. But then Lowe wrote all his material and Edmunds wrote none of his…

Another LP we only heard edited highlights from was “Discovery” by Electric Light Orchestra. There is a very fine review of this LP over at Then Play Long which is worth your time In the meantime we heard the singles from it. “Shine a little love” was a little bit disco, “Confusion” was rather nice, “The diary of Horace Wimp” would be a nice dream in a few years from this point, but best of all was “Don’t bring me down”. It thumped and rocked, it was primal and simple, I absolutely loved it. I also loved the little synth figure that appeared between “Don’t bring me down” and “Gruss”, because it reminded me of a similar sounding figure on “Equinoxe 6”.

There were two compilations of older material which opened a few doors for me. “Legend” by Buddy Holly helped to fill in the gap between Elvis and the Beatles – here was a man and a band writing their own songs and performing them in new and interesting (at the time) ways. Listening to Holly’s music now, it’s remarkably uncomplicated, synthesising its influences (country, western swing, Chuck Berry, pop) into plain speaking songs that still sound fresh and sparklingly clean. It was a forty song tape which was always in the car – until the tape chewed up, as is the way of things. But in the time it spent in the car, that tape wormed its way into my heart. Holly’s songs spoke simply – he avoided metaphor and simile and went straight for the heart. If he had something important to say then he would sing “Listen to me”. If he was overjoyed he would sing “Oh boy!”. I loved that simplicity of communication. My two favourite songs on the compilation were two of the oddest. I didn’t really understand “Midnight Shift” at the time – I probably thought Annie had been working at a bakery overnight – but there’s a minor key atmosphere which is cool. “Well…all right” is incredibly cool and forward looking, the song ebbs and flows beautifully and again is simply sung. I could hear the Beatles in that song. I liked that tape a lot and considered it an education.

The other compilation was “Semi-Detached Suburban”, a TV advertised LP by Manfred Mann. The advert is actually wonderful and I certainly didn’t understand it at the time but I do now – very clever. As for the album, I always preferred side two – the Mike D’abo era – to side one – the Paul Jones era. Nothing wrong with the early stuff, perfectly good R&B with a jazzy touch, but when D’Abo joins there’s a sense of discovery and joy and playfulness within songs like “My name is Jack” and “Fox on the run”. Of course they fell down the bubblegum route and weren’t taken seriously which lead to their splitting up eventually. And it’s worth mentioning that this LP was my introduction to the songs of Bob Dylan – “The mighty Quinn”, “If you gotta go, go now” and “Just like a woman” were intriguing songs, beamed in from another planet that seemed a lot cooler and stranger than Penarth.

So let’s look at three LPs which I associate most with this era.

“Hotel California” – The Eagles

Before I go diving headlong into this LP, let’s clear up a few issues.

Firstly, regular readers with long memories may remember that I don’t like the title track to “Hotel California”. I wrote a paragraph or two here about an incident in school which put me off the song, and since then I’ve always avoided it – leaving pubs and workplaces when it has been played. Indeed I’m sure there have been times the song has been deliberately put on a jukebox to annoy me. So it’s about time I faced the fear and listened to the song, in the context of the whole LP.

Secondly, I was discussing this post with my parents a few days ago and which albums I would be looking at and my father – an avid reader of Goldfish – said he didn’t remember having this LP and preferred their earlier stuff. I do know we had “Their Greatest Hits ; 1971 – 1975” as a tape – bought from Cobs Records in Portmerion in 1976 – but I listened to that LP on Sunday night and didn’t recognise half the songs. Obviously I knew “Take it easy” and “One of these nights” from constant play on Radio Two, but songs like “Witchy woman” and “Peaceful easy feeling” I’d not heard before. Maybe he played the tape in the car when we weren’t around. And as a sidenote “Lyin’ eyes” goes on for about five hours. But I know we listened to “Hotel California” a lot because every note is known to me. Well I think so anyway.

Deep breath – I’m going in…

It’s quite an attractive opening chord sequence, you know. What’s with the swirling synth noise? So far so good. And now it’s gone limp reggae, very clipped. Trying not to think of legs in libraries. Concentrate, Rob. I can see men with beards and double neck guitars. People nodding out. This ain’t so bad. Lyrics are quite clever. I read how Don Henley argued with a journalist who said wine wasn’t a spirit, and completely missed the point. Still limp musically. Oh no, here’s the big reveal – “BUT YOU CAN NEVER LEAVE!”. Guitar solo one. I’m back in that library again. Guitar solo two. Those tom rolls are doing my head in. Here comes the harmony bit. Air guitars out. Fade out sooner than I thought.

Now that wasn’t so bad, was it? No need to run away.

“New kid in town” is limp too. For some reason I keep thinking that little electric piano figure is going to turn into “Knock three times” by Dawn. I’d rather listen to that. This is just a bitter little song about transience in the music business. JD Souther was a bit of a miserable git. This sounds so wimpy though. “Life in the fast lane” is closer to rock. Did nobody use reverb in the seventies? Again clever lyrics if slightly harsh – and I wouldn’t have got half the lyrical references at the time – “There were lines on the mirror” would have bypassed me. Is this a fantasy or a reality for the Eagles? Is this glamorising sex and drugs? It’s ambivalent, I suppose. Oh maybe it’s not, getting to the last verse. But for such a classic rock song it doesn’t really rock that hard. “Wasted time” is a slow ballad, and I’ve not heard this for over 30 years but I know every word. If I thought of this song at all – which I might have done – I always thought it was a Bob Seger song. A big weepie, but they’re not sympathetic at all. This is a tiresome facsimile of passion. Pointless instrumental reprise too.

“Victim of love” is the band live in the studio (instrumentally at least) and at last it sounds like a group of people. But the lyrics are nasty. I really object to these words, they are horrible. Oh hang on – “Victim of love, we’re not so far apart” – is Henley showing sympathy? Not for long. Eurgh. I feel slightly contaminated listening to this – it all sounds like seedy sex and drug parties and bitching and hatred and posing. Very LA really. “Pretty maids all in a row” – that intro is nice. This sounds like Steely Dan. It is also drifting in one ear and out of the other. It doesn’t sound like the Eagles. I’m a sucker for string synths. Pleasant enough then. “Try and love again” is what I would expect of the Eagles – a 70s update of the Byrds. Again quite pleasant, and the words aren’t nasty for a change. Nice “Abbey Road” style arpeggios and descending chords. I really like this one. A hidden gem, I suppose. “The last resort” is a tribute to the Troubabour in LA (according to books I’ve read) and the big statement. It’s also a regular song to be played after “Popmaster”. It’s meant to be important but it drags dreadfully. So people came to California and it wasn’t as great as promised. Big deal. Some people don’t get there at all. What do you want? Sympathy?

For such a well known classic album “Hotel California” is a bit dull. I don’t really like the people they are writing about, there’s no emotional connection with them from me or the singers themselves. A distance which leaves a bad taste. To sum it up in three words – bitter and twisted. I won’t be listening again in a hurry.

“Parallel Lines” – Blondie

Now here’s an album that definitely was part of the family. I had been aware of the hit singles from their previous LP “Plastic Letters” – and remember someone bringing that LP into school. (Why did people bring LPs into school? To show how cool they were obviously. Because it’s not like there were record players there.). I’ll categorically state right here that I was too young to understand the sex appeal of Debbie Harry. I still had Abba posters on my walls of my bedroom but had no idea of what other boys saw in her. Call me a late developer, I suppose. For me it was about the music and I had liked “Denis” and “Presence dear”. I liked the singles from “Parallel lines” too, so was quite happy when my father bought the LP.

It’s another album with specific memories actually. There was a holiday in Guernsey in May 1979 that I may have mentioned already – notable for me getting lost on a military training ground, purchasing a massive 1;15 scale model of a Brabham BT44, buying a ton of the newly launched Lego Space sets and seeing Tubeway Army perform “Are ‘friends’ electric?” on Top of the Pops on my birthday and liking it. Watching it again it may have something to do with the uniform that Gary Numan was wearing looking like the uniform of the Lego Space men and the two intwined in my mind…

And in a record shop I saw my first twelve inch single. It was “Sunday girl” by Blondie. It was on a wall display and I pointed at it and asked my father “Is that a new Blondie album?”. Because in my head albums were twelve inches and singles were seven inches. “No, that’s a twelve inch single” he said and my little mind was blown. I wondered at how exotic a single on twelve inch vinyl would be – would it be different? Longer? Better? It would be another four years before I owned one but I saw a few along the way…

As for the album itself. Er.. The problem is I know it inside out and love it, even the slightly duffer tracks in the middle. Actually “I know but I don’t know” was one of my favourite songs on it when I was growing up. Those squelchy synths, the endless riff, loping drums, the unsureness of the lyrics. Damn it, I’ll have a go but really you should read what Marcello says about it at Then Play Long, a blog that is a thousand times better than mine (someone pay him – and Lena – to write a book please).

(Starts listening to the LP)

I can’t do this justice, you know it’s a great rock pop album, I don’t get how it’s punk. It’s honourable to the antecedents, even the Buddy Holly cover – which obviously made me happy as it was on “Legend”. It’s nice to hear “One way or another” without thinking of One Direction, and did they include the final verse which turns the song on its head? (Do I want to listen to their version and find out? No thanks, I don’t take research that seriously!). I’m amazed by Debbie Harry’s voice – the way she goes from purring to growling so easily. The grain in the voice. “Fade away and radiate” is nicely moody – that intro is pure Saint Etienne, Harry sounding totally like Sarah Cracknell – ok, vice versa. I’d forgotten how much I love this song. No, I’d forgotten how much I love this album. “11;59” is pretty apocalyptic, is that one minute to midnight or midday? Maybe she wants lunch? 😎 God, I don’t care if it’s not that good a song, the energy pushes it along as it does on “Will anything happen?” Great production by Mike Chapman on this LP – not too glossy but clean. I remember years later buying an old copy of “Trouser Press” from early ’78 where there’s a page long article previewing this LP while they’re making it, a report from the studio, how nobody in America knew who Chapman was, how they didn’t know how people would react to their disco song… “Heart of glass” of course. This is the song that really caught me at the time and it still sounds fresh. I could listen to this forever. I knew nothing about disco at the time – music was music, it was in the charts if it was good and then I’d know about it. Such innocence. (I should point out that the first synth I had – a Roland SH3a – was the one used to create the pulsing synthetic bass of this song, I wonder how they synced it to the drum machine). Even “Just go away” is a funny end, a kiss off with a p instead of a k.

One last memory for this LP. Exactly one year on from the day we moved into Cherry Close we held a charity bring and buy sale in our garden and I remember it well. There were tables all over the place, selling bric a brac and sweets and toothpaste and books. My brother and I had a stand selling a few things, one of which was “Parallel Lines” – I don’t think it was my parents’, it was donated to us. I kept telling anyone who looked at it that it was a perfect album and that they should buy it. Eventually someone did. I hope they got as much enjoyment out of the LP as I did.

“Rock’n’roll juvenile” – Cliff Richard

If you have read my remembrances of Harpenden then you’ll know that my parents had a fondness for the music of Cliff Richard. Maybe not the person himself, but the music. Somehow my parents had followed the rest of the world and ignored his “Green light” album, but this LP from autumn 79 was bought almost as soon as it came out and was a staple in our car. The album was a continuation of the “Every face tells a story” LP – mostly written by Terry Britten, produced by Britten, Bruce Welch and Richard himself. And it’s an odd LP.

“Monday thru’ Friday” is harder rocking than anything on “Hotel California”, the chorus is playing against the beat, the guitars are overdriven and rough and Cliff sings in a committed way about the working week, paying his union dues and looking forward to Saturday – as it is “Rock’n’roll time”. There’s even some shockingly high falsetto notes towards the end. A lovely outdated attitude to rock’n’roll already. Is that motorbikes rev-ing at the end? “Doing fine” is bright and breezy and bland, Richard is on a positivity tip – it’s not so much “I’m OK you’re OK” it’s “I’m OK who are you again?”. He doesn’t need politicians giving him blues. Best stick your head in the sand, matey. “Cities may fall” is the first of a number of songs co-written with BA Robertson and is…er..odd. It’s like someone’s listened to “Heroes” and “Are ‘friends’ electric?” and thought it would fit Richard. He sings through a flanger, there’s unearthly synths, drums through harmonisers like “Low”, Bowie style sax.. And the words are even odder. All “no more machinery” and “human zoos”. What the HELL? (Of course this was the song my brother always said I should like – “You like that weird Jean Michel Jarre synth music” – and I suppose I did like this song). Good ending too. “You know that I love you” is clipped, spare and sharp. He loves her, he wants to be with her, and she doesn’t care. Slightly funky, but more memorable for the peculiar drum noises in the chorus and the angular guitar solo. It passes pleasantly. “My luck won’t change” begins dreamily but soon kicks into traditional rock. More positivity (that Christian life’s got him in its sway) but it does nothing for me, except the bizarre atonal piano running through the song’s bridges. The LP’s title track – written by Richard alone – closes side one, rollicking along like pub rock. Richard starts professing to roll over Beethoven then goes Christian again – “I’m a rock’n’roll holy roller, I love to sing about Jesus ‘cos he saved my soul-yeah”. Oh give over. (And I’m a Christian but this sort of thing makes me sick). Then plays on the dream on the guitar making you a star. Shut up, only fools like the Gallaghers believe that crap.

Side two starts with “Sci-fi”, more synths and references to “Close encounters” and “Star wars”. But it’s nonsense – Richard can’t be into UFOs if he’s into Jesus too. These lyrics are hilarious actually. The musical backing is hilarious too, very new-wave nerdy proto-synth pop – I’m sure there’s a vocoder in there somewhere. “Fallin’ in luv'” is a through-back, all doo-wop vocal harmonies and more clipped guitars. “Carrie” is special though, it paces the room in circles and doesn’t spoil things by being too obvious. Is Richard a private eye, or looking for an old girlfriend? Is he a stalker? There’s enough gaps in the lyrics to keep the listener guessing. How does the narrator turn it into the third person on the second verse? Nothing is resolved, nothing is delivered – that cry of “Carrie!” before the sax solo is truly pained. Wonderful. “Hot shot” sounds like more hackwork – there’s a lot of library music which sounds like this – and is rubbish. “Language of love” is hilarious again – Richard trying it on with French and Italian girls and trying to impress them with his language skills, but ends up sounding like Del Trotter. “I’m getting ready for my new vocation – I’m gonna be the man who’ll unite the nations”! But the joie de vivre (sorry, couldn’t resist) in the playing and singing is obvious.

And then at the end, a glimpse of the future.

“We don’t talk any more” wasn’t the most futuristic single of 1979 but it was so different from the run of the mill Cliff Richard canon that it caught everyone’s attention. So many synths on it, hardly any guitar except the occasional guitar solo. And Richard sounds committed to the song, throwing in some high notes and making the words count. A relationship in freefall – always a good subject for me – and Richard really sings his heart out. A hugely deserved number one single, you know. Not bad as a song recorded in a day towards the end of the session – and don’t forget it’s the only song with any help from Alan Tarney, who will go on to far greater things.

This LP – well, tape actually – stayed in the car forever. In fact it transferred from our white Lancia Beta to our Datsun Violet about a month before the Lancia rust bucket story hit the news, so we were lucky to sell that car. The Violet may have been smaller than the Lancia but I loved it, I can still remember the number plate (AWO 300T) and everything…


So, you may ask, how about punk? Didn’t that have any influence on you during the time? Well…er…

First of all I should say that I was ten years old in 1979 so just about too young to really know what was going on, and certainly my father had stopped buying Melody Maker somewhere between Harpenden and Penarth so I wasn’t reading about these things. If it was on the radio or on Top Of The Pops then I knew about it. The Clash? “London Calling” and that’s about it. Buzzcocks? Always in the charts, so I knew them. The Sex Pistols completely passed me by until the very end – I can remember Sid Vicious doing Eddie Cochrane songs appearing on TOTP in early ’79. But one song of theirs did find its way into my life. I have a distinct memory of my friends and myself sitting in the hall with a bunch of year 6 boys a year above me and they passed around a seven inch single of “Something Else”, and them teaching us younger boys the words to the b-side “Friggin’ in the riggin'”. Until the teacher caught us singing “‘Cos there was f*** all else to do”. I also remember the seven inch of “Hit me with your rhythm stick” being handed around specifically for the b-side “There ain’t half been some clever bastards”. Rude words clearly were very funny.

And then there’s The Jam. I first noticed them doing “David Watts” on TOTP, and amazed my brother’s classmates by singing it in the lunch hall the next day. I didn’t know it was a Kinks song – it didn’t appear on “The Golden Hour Of The Kinks” which had been in my parents’ collection for years. The Jam seemed furious about something, there was an urgency in their performances which made them seem really important to pre-teen me. When “Going Underground” went straight into the charts at number one, it felt like a bomb had gone off – that never happened in those days. And even I recognised that the cover of their “Sound Affects” LP was made to look like the BBC Sound Effects LPs that my brother and I borrowed from Penarth library then used as material for our own crazed tapes – snippets of songs, radio broadcasts, records old and new. Some of these tapes are ingrained in my mind – a cross-over from a lick in Paul McCartney’s “Another Day” into a steam train tooting its horn into a Grumbleweeds sketch.

The final months at Evenlode were Spring into Summer 1980. We were the “big frogs” according to our teacher but we’d be “small frogs” when we moved to secondary school and we prepared for this transition by walking there one day, having an assembly and walking back. The first three weeks of May in 1980 were spent on a concentrated course of swimming lessons. Each morning our year 6 class would climb aboard a coach outside the school, drive down to the seafront to the swimming baths and have a morning of lessons there – with Radio One blaring in the background. So many songs from the chart in May 1980 remind me of those lessons – “Geno”, “Talk of the town”, “Coming up”. Don McLean singing “Crying”, “Suicide is painless”. Of course the baths were closed in the mid 80s and turned into a bar (“Inn at the deep end” – sigh). It’s probably flats now.

On our last day at Evenlode, Year 6 gave a presentation on what we wanted to be when we were older. We all stood in a line waiting to act out our dreams. I said “When I grow up I want to be a writer”, swung my scarf meaningfully like some Oxford undergraduate (as suggested by my teacher, it was her scarf) and wrote a few lines in my ‘novel’. Everyone clapped.

A writer! Me! Ha ha ha.

Thanks for indulging me, dear reader. Next time – what happened next, and another journey through the past.

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.