Something for the Weekend

This is pretty heavy for 1966. My Uncle Peter used to see them live a lot back then so I was looking for him in the audience. No luck unfortunately.

Didn’t realize until near the end that was Dave Lee Travis introducing them. Not surprised to see him getting handsy with his female co-host.


My Mother’s Records

Originally published June 2010

What is it with the British and soul music? Why did we fall so truly, madly, deeply in love with it, worship even its most obscure artists and form so many cults and lifestyles around its every permutation? I doubt if there’s another country in world with such an obsession.

The most obvious expression of this love affair was the huge popularity of Tamla Motown which seemed to be adored by everyone in England from sharp-dressed Mods to mums and dads. Growing up, Motown songs always seemed to be coming out of a transistor radio somewhere — usually introduced by the chirpy voice of Tony Blackburn — and I don’t think I entered a house that didn’t have a copy of Motown Chartbusters on the shelf, Volume 6 with it’s bizarre Roger Dean cover was especially popular.

So it was only natural that next to her Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett albums my mother should have a copy of the 1968 compilation “The Motown Sound: A Collection Of 16 Original Big Hits Vol.6”. I’ve no idea what was on the other albums in this series (I can’t find any of them online and the American version has a completely different track listing) but the thing I love about it (especially now) is that only about three tracks on it were big hits while the rest is made up of more obscure numbers which gives it the feel of a from-the-vaults rarities collection rather than a package of chart smashes.

Little did I know when I was a little kid jumping around our living room to the fabulous, rousing “I Got A Feeling” by Barbara Randolph that I was enjoying a cult tune that was filling the floors of Northern Soul clubs. It wasn’t until the Mod revival in the late 70s when I “rediscovered” the album, dusty and half-forgotten in our sideboard, that I realized it was probably the hippest record my mother owned.

Download: I Got A Feeling – Barbara Randolph (mp3)

My other favourite track was the ballad “I Can’t Give Back The Love I Feel For You” by Rita Wright which even as a kid I thought was heartbreaking (I was a softy even then). Though I didn’t know then that “Rita Wright” was later better known by her real name Syreeta (and for a while as Mrs. Stevie Wonder), how this was never a hit either is beyond me as it’s utterly gorgeous.

Download: I Can’t Give Back The Love I Feel For You – Rita Wright (mp3)

My Mother’s Records

Originally published February 2009

When I was about 14 my best mate at school told me that he thought my mother was good-looking. I don’t know if I should have thumped him for eyeing up my mum in that way (and maybe having secret Mrs. Robinson-style fantasies about her) but the truth is I was more chuffed than anything. I was rather proud that I had an attractive mother who got compliments — even from chubby schoolboys — and was wolf-whistled at when she walked past a building site, even though she had reached the shockingly ancient age of 40. So while she might not have been able to afford to buy me the new Gola trainers with the lime green stripe that all my mates had at least I didn’t mind being seen in public with her.

Not that she was a Bond girl or anything but because she was a single woman with long blond hair who still dated men she seemed younger and more glamourous than my friend’s mothers who were more Woman’s Realm than Cosmopolitan if you know what I mean — “proper” mums like the ones you saw in Daz commercials on the telly. That’s how I remember them anyway, but when you’re that age most grown-ups seem old and boring. My mate Paul had parents called Stan and Winnie which not only sounds like two characters out of Andy Capp they looked like them too, the sort of people the 1960s seemed to have completely passed by and you can’t imagine ever being young or having sex — though Paul was proof that they must have done it at least once. Lovely people, mind.

As you can imagine, being a divorcee raising two kids on her own my mum had a thing for songs about strong, independent women battling against the odds (men, usually) so she loved the Country record “Harper Valley PTA” by Jeannie C. Riley. This 1968 hit was about a single parent (though widowed in this case) who scandalizes the other parents at her daughter’s school by wearing short skirts and being seen out on the town with men. The best part about it is she stands up for herself and gives them all a good verbal knee in the balls for their small-minded hypocrisy. When one-parent families were portrayed in the media back then it was usually as a “problem” — latchkey kids, “broken” homes and all that crap — so it was nice to hear a loud and proud single mum in a pop song. Not only that, but it also stands up for a mother’s right to look sexy which must have made mine pump her fist in the air and shout “right on sister!”

Download: Harper Valley PTA – Jeannie C. Riley (mp3)

Every Picture Tells A Story

Originally published October 2010

If you have a copy of the terrific photo book London Through A Lens turn to page 199 where you’ll find the above picture titled “Roll’s-Royce at the Hilton” taken in 1965 with a caption that describes it as “the perfect image of urban glamour and sophistication in 1960s London”. Which it is, but besides being a great photo what makes it special to me (and gave me quite a nice surprise when I first looked through the book) is that the man in the top hat is my grandfather.

He was a doorman at The Hilton (and then The Dorchester) in the 60s and 70s and I imagine that working the door at such a swanky, jet-setter hotel during the height of Swinging London he must have seen and met a lot of the beautiful people of the era. Unfortunately I don’t have any stories about that or if I did I’ve forgotten them, and back then I wouldn’t have cared anyway unless he told me Captain Scarlet had stayed the night.

That salute he’s giving reminds me that another thing I never knew much about was his military service. I knew he’d been in the Navy on a submarine during WWII (which seems to have been about the toughest job a sailor could have ) but his generation never talked about that and, to be honest, my generation never asked either. Besides I reckon he’d rather play golf than talk about that stuff anyway, the only hint that he might have had another, more serious, life in the past was the faded tattoos of anchors on his forearms. But I never could quite square those and what they implied with the warm, happy man who used to give me 50p to wash his Ford Capri at the weekends.

As is often the case by the time I was old enough to think that maybe my grandad did have some interesting stories to tell he had passed away, having a heart attack while playing golf in the early 80s. At least he went doing something he loved and it gives me a real happy feeling to see him immortalized in such a great book — as part of London’s history too.

Download: A Salty Dog — Procol Harum

Something for The Weekend

Ray Davies introduces this song as “a little known album track” because when this was recorded in 1973 the album was sadly a forgotten flop. Of course now it’s probably their most beloved record.

It’s hard not to listen to his and think of Brexit now, but it’s not Ray’s fault that this kind of cosy nostalgia has curdled into reactionary xenophobia.

The Compass Points To Love

This is one of the those records that was on the radio a lot when I was a kid, so it always feels to me like it’s coming out of a little transistor radio and providing the soundtrack to sunny days with not a care in the world.

Reparata & The Delrons were an American trio who never had much in the way of hits despite making some excellent records (and having one of the best group names ever). “Captain Of Your Ship” is a real Girl Group classic and their only UK hit in 1968 so I would have been 6 when this was on the radio, no wonder it makes me feel so happy.

Download: Captain Of Your Ship – Reparata & The Delrons (mp3)

This was co-written by Kenny Young who also co-wrote The Drifters’ “Under The Boardwalk” and then went on to form the group Fox (recently featured on this very blog!) and co-write “Ai No Corrida” with Chas Jankel so he has quite the CV.