On the evening of 12 March 1966 Cliff Bennet played at the Chelmsford Corn Exchange.
Meanwhile, that afternoon Sandra and I went to Dace’s, Chelmsford’s main record shop, to buy Lee Dorsey’s latest single and Lou Christie’s, ‘Lightnin’ Strikes’. But while we stood in the booth with the papier mache walls, swaying to the rhythm of ‘Get Out of My Life, Woman,’ looking at the small discreet biro messages of love and protest – Me 4 You, shit – some lads we knew knocked on the window in the door and squeezed into the booth with us. They said we should listen to something they had just heard. They said it was the best thing around. So we did. It was the Graham Bond Organisation’s ‘St James Infirmary’.
Standing in that hot, airless booth, on a grey Saturday afternoon, surrounded by the smell of Avon perfume and Old Spice after-shave, it seemed like a deep, soulful song that spoke of all the emotions and tragedy that we experienced every day. And Sandra ended up buying the Lee Dorsey and ‘St James Infirmary’.
Listening to it now, it doesn’t speak to me in quite the same way. Having said that, compared to the Lou Christie, it’s a classic.