On Easter Monday 1965 Sandra and I took the coach with the other members of Chelmsford CND, to join the final stage of the Aldermaston march in London, to ban-the-bomb. For some reason we started marching with the French and Spanish contingents. We ate our sandwiches in Hyde Park, before moving on to Trafalgar Square for the rally and the speakers. This was my third Aldermaston march and the slogans had changed. Now it was as much about Vietnam as about the H-bomb. We shouted, ‘Yankee agressors’ ‘OUT!’ ‘US in Vietnam’ ‘OUT!’ ‘Polaris’ OUT OUT OUT!’ ‘1,2,3,4 – we don’t want war, 5,6,7,8, we say negotiate.’ We sang ‘Och och, there’s a monster in the loch,’ and we sang ‘We shall not be moved.’ Everyone knew Pete Seeger.
On 18 April 1965 – Easter Sunday – the Yardbirds were number 4 in the charts with their single ‘For Your Love’. The following Saturday they were coming to play at the Corn Exchange in Chelmsford.
This is how good it was to be in Chelmsford.
We talked about it all that week. We planned our outfits – I went to Oxford Street with my mum and bought a dress in C&A – it was cream with long sleeves and a hipster belt. I would look gorgeous. On the Friday I bought our tickets – Sandra couldn’t buy them because she was at work. They were 8s 6d each. That was expensive but everyone knew it would be a great night. It was all going so well.
And then at some point between standing at the ticket office in the Corn Exchange on the Friday afternoon handing over the remains of my saved up pocket money, and tea-time the next day, the Big Day, I committed a social offence. Exactly what that was is not clear from my diary, but it may have had something to do with going to see ‘Girl Happy’ starring Elvis Presley on the Friday evening. The upshot was that my mum would not let me go out on Saturday. I had to stay in. I had watch TV. Sandra went with the ticket I had bought her. Her mission was to try and get my money back by getting a refund or reselling the ticket to a desperate Yardbirds fan, but that didn’t happen. Later she tried to hide what a good time she had had.
And I have always wondered, was it like this?
The first thirty seconds of this video are wonderful. It looks as if it’s a party in someone’s living-room, with a juke-box… apparently for posh people – notice the bow ties – but taken over for a few seconds by the mods in the room.
This didn’t ever happen at the Corn Exchange in Chelmsford, but I remember something like this in 1965 when the girls’ High School had a dance. The boys from the Grammar School came and as the first notes of a good record like this started, the mods among them moved onto the floor in a group, followed by the High School girl mods, and they danced – the Block or the Bang – a mod dance.
Georgie Fame often came to the Corn Exchange. If it had been in our power, we probably would have given him the freedom of the city. He had that anyway, really.
Sandra and I knew that after he’d played at the Corn Exchange he’d be hurtling down the A12 to get back to the West End, before all the Chelmsford mods had got it together to catch the last train to Liverpool Street to see him again at the Flamingo. Sandra and I had to catch the last bus to Skerry Rise. It wasn’t the same. Some times we’d try out dance steps, walking up the road.
Here he’s talking about those days to Jamie Cullum.
It was 1964. I was 14. I wasn’t going to the Corn Exchange regularly, but Sandra and I would walk past on a Saturday night and see which of the Chelmsford mods were there, standing on the steps. We’d go into the Golden Fleece or the Lion and Lamb, and sometimes the groups would be there, having a drink. We wouldn’t talk to them though, that wouldn’t be cool at all.
Meanwhile – in my diary I wrote down the songs I heard on Mike Raven’s show on Radio 390 or maybe even on Radio Luxemburg or Radio Caroline. In small neat block capitals at the top of the page I would name the tracks I liked. On 7 October 1964 I wrote ‘Mercy, Mercy’ Don and the Time…. It was as much of the name as I could catch, as the reception on my little transistor swayed in and out.
On 1 October I noted Joe Hinton, singing ‘Funny.’
They never got into the top ten then or at all. In those autumn weeks they couldn’t compete with Pretty Woman by Roy Orbison and I’m Crying by the Animals, both of which I liked. But my Radio 390 choices were cooler, they were almost exclusive, they were mod.
Sometimes music is playing and you don’t realise how good it is until you’ve aged about 20 years. The thing about the Everly Brothers was that they just didn’t look very hip. There was a hint of grease in their hair and they were so neat, in their suits. They didn’t rock like Elvis. I wouldn’t have described theirs as my kind of music.
And yet, and yet, I know the words – and the harmonies – of all their songs. Because of course, they say everything you’re trying to say, all the yearning and misery and uncertainty, which when you’re 9, 10, 11, 12, is all about love. Crying in the Rain, Ebony Eyes – ‘they may have run into some turbulent weather, and had to alter their course’,
All I Have to Do is Dream
Walk Right Back
Let it Be Me
I know them all.