I did my A levels at the North East Essex Technical College and School of Art in Sheepen Road, Colchester (now the Colchester Institute). During my time there I worked on the student newspaper Outlook, in particular on the fashion pages. Last week, preparing my talk for the Essex Book Festival, I went through an old box of papers, looking for my Beatles scrapbook and my postcard collection. Amongst them all, I found this copy of the college newspaper.
Apart from letters to the Tinkers Club in the Chelmsford Newsman Herald, I think this was the first time my writing had appeared in print. Unfortunately there was no by-line to this December 1967 article about the style inspired by the film Bonnie and Clyde, but I remember the angst of discovering that the illustration accompanying my article was just too small. And I clearly had not explained the brief properly to the artist (doubtless a talented student from the School of Art, but who, like me, was not acknowledged by name) so that she did not give boots to the image of Bonnie Parker. This is probably because she had seen the film and had noticed that Bonnie did not ever wear boots.
Interesting to see the longer hemlines when we were still wearing short skirts in real life. But it wasn’t long before I bought myself a maxi skirt and a pair of (admittedly unattractive) boots.
And a good beret is always good to find.
As is Georgie Fame.
Radio 4 Mastertapes 11pm Monday 21 December – don’t miss it! Or you can listen online NOW! A great programme, great music. He even plays Green Onions.
I wrote about the recording here.
Readers of this blog will know how important Georgie Fame was to Chelmsford mods. He was a regular at the Corn Exchange in Chelmsford. I have written before about him and those days.
So imagine my delight and excitement when music writer Val Wilmer invited me to a recording of Mastertapes for BBC Radio 4. We strolled through the leafy streets of Maida Vale to the BBC studio, and then began a wonderful afternoon as he talked about his album Rhythm and Blues at the Flamingo.
Read about his influences, the early days of the Blueflames, and his memories of Chelmsford Corn Exchange here.
It was a cold and grey day. It was 9am Sunday in Soho. Not a lot is open at 9am. We were there early to beat the crowd, taking pictures that will form the basis of the cover of Beyond the Beehive. Our model, Billie, was shivering and needed coffee. She was polite about the clothes she was required to wear, but it was clear they weren’t her usual style. A straight skirt and a simple twin-set didn’t speak to her the way they spoke to me in Chelmsford, queuing to get into the Corn Exchange on Saturday night. I suppose that’s what they call the march of progress.
And suddenly the Bar Italia was there, open.
Warmth at last. Then we walked round Soho taking pictures. At Ronnie Scott’s it was obviously an omen that Georgie Fame was appearing. We hummed Yeah Yeah to ourselves as we completed the shoot.
Now we have to start making decisions. Should it be this one?
Or this one?
Or this? …
The action now takes a step to London. What did we in Chelmsford know of London in the 60s? We knew Oxford Street – it was in the C&A store there that I bought my suede coat. At last I was a real mod. I was so proud of it – it was brown, it was soft, I could swap buttons with Christine and her brown leather. I didn’t realise till later that it was wrong, the sleeves were too wide and it had an A-line shape, akin to what was then called a duster coat. It wasn’t a straight, narrow tube. But it was suede, real suede. And it came from London.
What else we knew about London (apart from Trafalgar Square where we fed the pigeons when we were small and gathered at the end of Ban the Bomb marches when we were teenagers) was that there were clubs. Christine, my best friend, and I didn’t know them personally. On Saturday evenings in Chelmsford, when the groups had finished playing at the Corn Exchange, the mod boys would mooch up to the railway station to jump on a train, or hop down to the A12 to hitch a ride to the Smoke, to go Up West, to the Flamingo or the Marquee, where they would often see the same group that had just been grooving it up in Chelmsford.
And now the two worlds will collide – in the best possible way – at the London launch of A Sense of Occasion.
Read all about it at http://www.elizabethwoodcraft.com
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.