You dance like Zizi Jeanmaire

At 96, Zizi Jeanmaire retires on tiptoe - France 24 - Teller Report

In 1969 I was at Birmingham University living in a Hall of Residence. Most of us used the place just to eat and sleep, but we had a very energetic Entertainment Committee and many rising stars came to play. We went to all the concerts. There was Michael Chapman who I liked a lot because he played a mean guitar;  Al Stewart, who I wasn’t keen on because he sounded so clean. And there was Peter Sarstedt. He was about to become a big star but I didn’t like his style – that clipped, posh voice, and then there was his moustache, not to mention his hair.

Having said that, I knew all the words to his hit song, Where Do You Go To My Lovely, and could, if asked, sing them.

‘You talk like Marlene Dietrich, you dance like Zizi Jeanmaire.’

However, I couldn’t believe there really was a person called Zizi Jeanmaire, it sounded such an impossible name. I thought maybe I was mis-hearing, like people who think Abba sing ‘Dancing queen, feel the beat from the tangerine’, or the Eurythmics, ‘Sweet dreams are made of cheese.’ Perhaps he’d said something about the Folies Bergere.

Folies Bergere poster

So imagine my surprise when I read in the paper today that there was indeed someone called Zizi Jeanmaire, a Parisian who was a wonderful classical dancer as well as an actor and singer. And sadly, she has died. It was her obituary that I was reading.

In retrospect it was my mistake not to investigate her further at that time, when there was even a chance to see her perform. Here she is, dancing in the film Hans Christian Andersen.

 

 

 

Rock and Roll Island

The wonderful ‘Story of Ready Steady Go!’ on BBC4, was followed a week later by Rock and Roll Island: Where Legends Were Born. This was Eel Pie Island, ‘off the coast of Twickenham’, in West London.

The programme began with trad jazz and a well known trumpeter and band leader of the late 50s, early 60s, Ken Colyer.

I have to say in the crowd I hung out with, it wasn’t cool to like trad jazz, but who knew what Ken Colyer did? He joined the merchant navy so he could get to the home of trad jazz – New Orleans – arrived, met a lot of the black blues musicians, played with them and invited them to the UK.

Here they became very popular –

    

and then, ironically, their music went back to the States and became popular there.

In the second wave playing on Eel Pie Island were the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds,

the Who, the Kinks (Mick Avory said, ‘It was better to be a drummer than delivering pink paraffin’),

Rod Stuart and Long John Baldry,

even Elton John was there, as Reg Dwight, a member of Bluesology.

     

Knitting them together was Alexis Korner, who played piano and guitar, and who is often seen as the godfather of the blues in this country.

He had started playing in Chris Barber’s jazz band in 1949, and then played with Ken Colyer. The list of those who went on to play with him is long and luminous and includes Long John Baldry, Ginger Baker, and Graham Bond. He was also generous with support and advice. It is said he suggested to the Stones that they should play more blues and this was the reason for their version of the classic Little Red Rooster.

Apart from Cleo Sylvestre, who sang with the Stones, not a lot of women performers were included in the programme. Perhaps the lack of women was a sign of the times, perhaps it was because not a lot of women were playing blues or rock, or those that were didn’t head over to Eel Pie Island. Or maybe they did, but no-one took their photo. Whatever the reason, for me the story of Eel Pie Island starts to take off with a picture of the little-known (to me, anyway) girl group from South Africa who played there. The Velvettes came over to England in 1961 as members of the all black cast of the hugely successful jazz musical King Kong – in itself a fascinating story about the life of the heavyweight boxer Ezekiel Dlamini, which played all over South Africa with Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba.

 

The Velvettes then became backing singers in the Cyril Davies All Stars.  Cyril Davies was an English vocalist and harmonica player who looked like a bank manager, and who played with Alexis Korner, before setting up the All Stars.

Another view of the way that Eel Pie Island worked was shown in a Look at Life film made in 1967, when the promoter Arthur Chisnall, who ran the club, as a private members’ establishment so that he could sell alcohol, acted as a kind of social worker with the people who came to hear the music. As well as art school and college students, other people came. People who’d left school at 15, had possibly failed the 11+, or who had drifted through jobs, were encouraged to study (several went on to Cambridge) and then began to do challenging and satisfying jobs, in the way that was possible in the 60s, including running Adventure Playgrounds. A different world.

Take a look at life again soon.

 

The weekend starts here!

IN this new strange world we are living in, there are some shards of light. Tonight there is an Ready Steady Go! extravaganza on BBC4, starting at 8.30. How important RSG! was in those early days. It was on at 6.30 on Friday, and when it first started I was still going to Girl Guides on Friday evenings.

Although I enjoyed, to a greater or lesser extent, being a Guide, I was so envious of my best friend Chris who could sit at home and watch it. Something had to give. I left Guides.

And then life really began. Ready Steady Go! was a programme which was just for us – it had everything, style, music, dancing and exclusivity. This was a programme which had nothing to do with our parents. Keith Fordyce was a shame – he was so old (he was 35 in 1963), his jackets were so square and his hair so, so old-fashioned – but apart from that, everything was just what we wanted. Including, of course, the lovely Cathy McGowan, whose hair we all yearned to copy.

       

It was in black and white and our TVs were all very small in those days but it was ours.

So let’s hope tonight’s programmes reflect how very special it was.

On a completely different note, given it’s mother’s day on Sunday, I thought an image would be appropriate. I just ask the question: even in the Sixties could they seriously believe that this was a gift that your mother, any mother, would appreciate for the rest of the year? You should live that long.

But let’s finish on a great note – the song that in the very beginning announced the start of the weekend. Wipe Out by the Safaris. Happy days. Great days.

It’s Friday – it must be RSG!

The Story of Ready Steady Go went out on BBC4 on Friday 20 March 2020 (available to view until 20 April). What a joy it was. It had the same excitement, the same exuberance it always had. I was taken back to those Friday evenings when the very act of watching the programme told me that I really was part of a special group.

The Story of Ready Steady Go was fronted by Vicki Wickham, who produced it throughout its three year run, 1963-66 and there were stories from director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, of working with Mick Jagger, and finding new ways to use cameras in the studio.

 

There was great commentary from Chris Farlowe, Georgie Fame, and Eric Burdon from the Animals.

    

      

There were clips of everyone who made the Sixties great.

    

        

    

The Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Tamla Motown Tour, Dusty Springfield, Martha and the Vandellas, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, the Supremes, Them, the Animals, the Who and Georgie Fame. It was like Saturday night at the Corn Exchange in Chelmsford, or listening to the juke box in the Orpheus coffee bar in London Road.

   

Theresa Confrey talked about her time on the programme. Every week she and Patrick Kerr  demonstrated a different dance, some of which came and went – I mean who ever actually danced the Mashed Potato? There was Annie (Anne as she then was) Nightingale with extraordinary hair and Donovan just looking extraordinary, with grey wavy hair down to his shoulders.

    

    

There were clips of Michael Aldred, one of the groovy and yet short-lived presenters. Apparently he didn’t have audience appeal. Unlike Cathy McGowan, who sadly didn’t take part in the BBC programme.

The mime competition was included and Melanie Coe (far right of the picture), who won miming to Jump the Broomstick by Brenda Lee. Paul McCartney judged the competition and when Melanie went back to school the next Monday (she was 14) she was asked for her autograph.

It was interesting for its description of those days in the 60s when anything seemed possible. Using the cameras in a way that they became part of the programme itself, as they moved round the tiny studio. It brought it all back. I wanted to dig out my suede and head off to the Orpheus for a frothy coffee and hang out with people with Vespas and Lambrettas.

And there was the famous clip of Otis Redding, Eric Burdon and Chris Farlow singing Shake.

It was a very good programme. Watch it again.

They call it stormy Monday

… but this week they’re calling it Cyber Monday.

From Black Friday to Cyber Monday – bag yourself a bargain.

Look, just LOOK!  at this offer.

The Saturday Girls has been selected for a Kobo ebook promotion. It runs from 29th November until 2nd December and and you can buy the book for 99p !!

So if you’re wondering what to do on a cold rainy afternoon, why not curl up in a comfy armchair, with a cup of tea and a custard cream, or a Bourbon, and read about Sandra and Linda and their friend Sylvie, as they look for love and Lambrettas in Sixties Chelmsford.

Start here…

”The Corn Exchange was never full at half past eight on a Saturday night. It wouldn’t fill up till the group started playing. Tonight the group was Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band. But now it was still just records. We paid our money and then the men at the door stamped our hands and, as always, the ultraviolet light made the mark blue and our skin eerily white.        As we stepped into the empty, cavernous hall, the vinyl hissed and the first notes of ‘Green Onions’ rolled round the room. The single chords of the electric organ, low and smooth, touched the pit of my stomach. It was an anthem to mod superiority. Mods had all the good music, the latest music, the cool music….”

Now read on for more Mods, Motown and Minis.

They call it Stormy Monday …

Also available on Kindle for 99p here

Talking About My Generation

A great website – Female First – asked me to talk about my new book The Girls from Greenway. The book covers the early Sixties – when people were enjoying the security of the National Health Service and other social welfare reforms put in place after WWII. Everything seemed possible.  But people were also dreaming of an even brighter future – going to Australia as a ten-pound pom, or winning the pools – filling in their coupons every week and watching Grandstand to see if their life was going to change for ever.

Angie and Doreen are sisters, living on the Greenway Estate in Essex. They have hopes and dreams but unfortunately fall in love with the same man  in the meantime they listen to some cool music. like Dave Brubeck playing Take 5.

And I’ve been talking about my generation to Sadie Nine on BBC Essex. We talked about The Girls from Greenway but also a bit about my later life! You can listen to it here. I come on about 2 hours 20 minutes in. It was a great morning.

A couple of years ago when Sadie Nine did the Breakfast Show I used to go and do newspaper reviews – stumbling in to the studio at 6.15 in the morning. Sometimes the papers didn’t come in till the very last minute – but hey! If you come from Essex, nothing phases you!

 

 

Sixties Celebration

BBC Essex mods and rockers special 2 (2)

Bank Holiday Monday

It’s 55 years since the historic meeting of mods and rockers on Clacton beach. Where were you on Bank Holiday Monday 1964? It was August 31st – I was in Chelmsford.  ‘Have I the right?’ by the Honeycombs was number 1 in the charts. ‘Doo-wah diddy diddy’ by Manfred Mann was number 2. I had just heard ‘Under the Boardwalk’ by the Drifters.

On Monday 31 August 1964, according to my 1964 diary, most of the mods I knew spent the day in Chelmsford. Why go to Clacton, when you’ve got Chelmsford?

Again according to my diary, I had a ‘fabulous day’. I went to the Orpheus cellar coffee bar in New London Road, where all the mods hung out, listened to the Ronettes on the juke box, had a discussion about a mouth organ, noticed someone wearing a very nice navy blue suede with a leather collar and then went home for my tea. In the evening my best mate Christine and I went to see Chelmsford City football team play, in their ground on the far side of the rec. My diary is strangely silent about who we were playing and what the score was – I was much more impressed with the fact that after the game we got a lift home in the mini of Pete B. A mini!

         BBC Essex mods and rockers special (3)    

A few weeks ago I went into the BBC Essex Radio studios to talk about my memories of those early mod days, with Laura Doyle. She’s put together a BBC Essex Special, Leathers and Lambrettas, which will be on BBC Essex at 12 noon on Monday 26 August, presented by Marty Wilde, to mark the 55th anniversary of the historic clashes between mods and rockers. The programme asks the question, ‘Was it all about throwing deckchairs at each other on the beach?’ The short answer is of course, no. It was about clothes, and music and transport and just hanging out with your mates. We talked about the music I was listening to, and I described that feeling, sitting in the Orpheus, coffee in a glass cup in front of me, my suede on the seat beside me, chatting to Christine, when the first drum beats of Be My Baby rolled round the room. Heaven.

Listen in at 12 noon on 26 August 2019 to hear the memories and music of mods and rockers in Chelmsford and Essex of 50 years ago. BBC Essex Radio 95.3 and 103.5 FM, and on 729, 765.

BBC Essex headphones       

Mods: Shaping a Generation

Day trip to Leicester to see the Mods: Shaping a Generation exhibition in the New Walk Museum. Some of you may know that once I lived in Leicester so it’s close to my heart. I wasn’t there in the 60s but I was a student and then taught there in the 70s so I was hoping for many nostalgic highlights.

                 

The exhibition was great. Fab exhibits – suede and leather coats to die for, sparkling Vespas and Lambrettas, wonderful music – Green Onions was playing as we walked in, followed by Harlem Shuffle.  Milling around with the other visitors was like being at a Corn Exchange reunion. Everyone talking, remembering their coffee bar and their dance hall, sharing stories.

One item was a silk headscarf (we all wore them) that had been soaked in perfume. The note beside the scarf said that in Leicester in the 60s girls wore Youth Dew – who knew? In Chelmsford it was always Avon.

           

I spoke to a woman who said she had always worn Youth Dew. We discussed the North South divide. But our experiences were so similar her husband asked me if he’d met me before in the Dungeon (answer no).

    

To the sound of Harlem Shuffle I stood looking at the scooters next to a man who was almost sighing with nostalgia. He had had a Lambretta 175 he said. He preferred Lambrettas to Vespas because he felt you could personalise the panel, and I talked about the advantage of a Vespa bubble. He had been at Art College and then gone on to Coventry. I did my A levels at a Tec College that was also an Art School. We discussed our life experience.

I saw this quote from an old mod – how alien it was when flower power hit the scene. I felt that too, when I got to Birmingham in 1968 – nowhere near enough ironing with hippies.

Then I noticed this article about mods and rockers.

Who knew we were considered so radical? ‘overdressed mannequins’ indeed! The chance would have been a fine thing. But really I was a mod because I wanted to listen to great music and wear the fashions of the day. And sit on the back of a good scooter. And have fun.

The New Walk museum is a lovely building. The exhibition is very well laid out, everything is clear, and there’s a lot of room to stand and gaze. Read what the Independent had to say about it.  A history to be proud of.

On top of the exhibition in New Walk, there was Richard III in the cathedral, and the market in the centre of town (a place I always loved) and a great meal in a very nice restaurant.

Get down there. The exhibition is free and it’s on till 30 June 2019, every day 11am – 4.30pm. It was a very good day and well worth the trip.

#generationmods  Leicester Museums

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Girls from Greenway

The Girls from Greenway, the next book about mods in Chelmsford has just gone to the typesetters and it will be out on 19 September 2019! The book features all those iconic aspects of Sixties life – scooters,

the Orpheus, Wainwright’s Milk Bar, the Golden Fleece, the Bus Station,

 

plus a few more – Carnival Queens,

The Saracen’s Head,  the County Hotel, and Bonds Department Store.

All accompanied by the great sounds of Motown, Stax and Mark Shelley and the Deans.

There’s also a slight peppering of fashion and a few magazines, like Honey and Vogue.  And a new men’s boutique in town. Everything to look forward to! And here’s a synopsis

1960s Chelmsford

Angie Smith lives on the Greenway estate in Chelmsford, with her elder sister Doreen, their struggling mother and their drunk, violent father. Bored of her job, and of her dull, ordinary boyfriend Roger, Angie dreams of bigger and better things.

But then she meets boutique-owner Gene Battini, older, handsome, charming – and married. She is completely swept off her feet. Little does she know that Doreen too is falling for Gene, and that their affair will have disastrous consequences.

As things at home go from bad to worse, Angie and Doreen must struggle to fight for what they want.

Can the girls from Greenway ever achieve their dreams?

o o O o o

And in other news, The Saturday Girls is out on 1 May in large print!

What to do

It’s been a long time since my last post. I’ve been working on the next book – The Girls from Greenway. It’s out in September! It’s another novel about the Sixties – life in Swinging Chelmsford, mods, Motown, frothy coffee and Ben Sherman shirts. The editing process has been long, but it’s almost over. And now I have two weeks before the next stage begins.

So I decided to go mad and have a weekend in Paris. But then news began circulating about industrial action by French customs workers, talk of 5 hour queues at the Gare du Nord for trains back to London, and I began to wonder if I should risk it. So I found myself walking along the road humming What to Do by Buddy Holly. And I found I remembered all the words.

I loved Buddy Holly’s songs when I was at school, and would walk home in the afternoons, singing whatever song suited my mood. ‘That’ll Be the Day,’ ‘Oh Boy,’ ‘Raining in my Heart’ and ‘Rave On’ were all on my singing playlist. If there was homework that just wasn’t going to get done, if there was a good group due to appear at the Corn Exchange next Saturday, if the weather wasn’t too hot, I would swing my bag, hold on to my beret and sing out loud. I probably looked quite stupid in my navy-blue school uniform and my sensible lace-up shoes, but I was happy.

In the end I didn’t go to Paris – the advice from Eurostar was not to go unless my journey was absolutely necessary, and by the time I took the decision, there was talk of 6 and 7 hour queues. Well, ‘Maybe Baby’ I’ll go soon.