The Crying Game

In August 1964 we went on holiday to Aberystwyth.  Everywhere we went I was looking out for mods, although unfortunately young people in Aberystwyth were predominantly rockers.  When I saw a blue and white TV 175 scooter I noted it in my diary.  My sister and I spent a lot of time on the pier and we went to a dance at King’s Hall where a group called the Wolves played.  My response, spelled out in my diary, was Ugh.  But someone there was wearing a ‘gorgeous … brown leather’, and we had the exquisite pleasure of meeting a girl called Gwen, a mod from Tottenham.  Tottenham, what could be cooler?

We went to see ‘the Moonspinners’ with Hayley Mills and Peter McEnery in a tiny little cinema, called the Coliseum.  I was reading, ‘How Green was my Valley’, and ‘Have I the Right’, by the Honeycombs was shooting up the charts.

But the song that I liked that holiday was the Crying Game.  Dave Berry was quite intriguing with his black leather outfit and the microphone sliding all over his body.

This interview is quite interesting.  He talks about the influence of Gene Vincent, his love of the blues, about his act, how it developed, and how he wanted to appear not to appear.

Heaven must have sent you

Even when the pirate ships came along like Radio London and Radio 390, the trouble with radio was that you had to wait, sometimes for hours, for your favourite song to be played.  That’s why juke boxes were so important – although you often had to wait with them too.  Sometimes you never even heard your record that you’d paid 3d or 6d for, because so many were in the queue to be played, that before you knew it, it was time to leave to catch the bus home for tea.  And we didn’t get a record player in our house till late 1966.

The upshot was that I never had any records, the records that formed the background music to everything I did in the early and mid-sixties.  Later I had an obscure Motown compilation, and sometimes there  was a track here or there on a Golden Guinea LP of the blues that I had liked.   But I had no record collection, nothing to say, this is where I come from, this is what was going through my brain.

So roll forward twenty years.  It is a grey Tuesday afternoon, I have just finished a case in Waltham Forest Magistrates Court, a soulless modern concrete building ironically set next to the handsome forties-built Waltham Forest Town Hall.  After waiting for an hour it was clear that my client, charged with stealing money from the open till of a shop, is not going to appear.  He has done this before.  A warrant has been issued for his arrest.  I leave court and wander down the road, thinking about my client, wondering how long it will take the police to find him.  About forty five minutes, probably, as he is bound to be at home.  He’ll be back in court tomorrow.  Mindlessly I walk past the bus stop, I turn left, down Hoe Street.  I look in the shop windows, consider some fruit, wonder if I need a step ladder or a new broom, and I pass a second hand record store.  I go in.  I flick through the old 45s, not looking for anything in particular.  Then I see a Motown label.  The name rings a bell, I try to think of the words, the tune.  The Elgins – not a group that says much to me.  But I buy it.

I take it home to Stoke Newington and on my huge, unwieldy ghetto blaster with built-in turntable I play it.  Heaven Must Have Sent You.  I know all the words, I know where she changes key, I know the pauses.  And as I dance round my flat, yes, of course, I’m back in the Corn Exchange with Sandra, doing our mod jive to the records, waiting for tonight’s group to come on.

the Big O

Roy Orbison – he was so different from everybody else.  His music was different, almost orchestral, his look was different, the tinted glasses and the enormous slicked back hair, and his way of being on stage was different – standing so still, his face so expressionless.   I recently heard a radio programme analysing his music, the rhythms, the change of pace, the unusual format, explaining how different from all other pop stars he was.  But in the 60s, that meant nothing to me.  You liked it or you didn’t.  And even though he didn’t have a rocking beat or a blues feel, somehow he managed not to sound like Engelbert Humperdinck.  Roy Orbison was no smooth balladier.  The emotion in his songs was so passionate, so raw, it was just what you wanted to hear.  It said it all.

Spaghetti Straps

Was it this song, Soulful Dress by Sugar Pie Desanto, that told me there was a world outside of the Woodhall Estate?  What could spaghetti straps mean to someone who only ever ate spaghetti out of a tin on toast?  You wouldn’t, you couldn’t surely have that spaghetti holding up your dress.  That spaghetti was about two inches long and covered in tomato ketchup-like sauce.  With the voice that she had and the sound that she made, Sugar Pie Desanto clearly knew what the world was about, there had to be more to spaghetti than Heinz.

On Sunday August 9 1964 in my diary I described a tiring daying, playing tennis in the street, sunbathing and watching TV.  Then I wrote ‘Cyprus doesn’t care if she causes a third World War.’  Out of nowhere I was talking about politics in my diary.  The claim to Northern Turkey by the Turkish Cypriots was bringing  Cyprus to the brink of war, Turkey was threatening to invade.  I don’t think I mentioned it again.  In fact, the next day, when the UN brokered a peace deal, my main concern was that my best friend, Sandra, was starting work at Hoffman’s, the ball bearing factory in town, while I was still at school.

And on August 11th at the top of the page in my diary I wrote ‘ “Soulful dress” Sugar Pie Desanto(?)’.  The Cyprus crisis had been, temporarily at least, averted, and good music was being played on the radio.