Getting around

Brent Cross 2014 (1)

 

 

 

 

 

I am often asked – what was it like in those days, to ride on a scooter, with the wind in your hair, swooping round corners?*

And I say – it was great, it was wild, it was cold.

Tell me more – they say.

And I answer -well, if you really want to know, get yourself up to Brent Cross and find the coffee bar of your dreams.  Slip onto the seat, order a Horlicks, and away you go.

photo 1

Is it a Vespa?  Is it a Lambretta?  Does it matter?

For the full effect you would probably need to take a hair dryer that blows cold as well as hot.  Train it gently on your hair and feel Free!

If you have a little music with you, I say, that would be good too.  The Beach Boys.  Sometimes you had to question their sartorial choices, but they had one of the sounds of the 60s.  They got around.

Who knew that Brent Cross could be so … mod?  It is of course, Christmas.

Brent Cross Xmas 2014

*In fact, I have never been asked this, but for the purposes of this post, I am prepared to step inside the minds of those who can only stand, silent.  This, I know, is what they want to know.

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Rebel rouser

On the evening of 12 March 1966 Cliff Bennet played at the Chelmsford Corn Exchange.

Chelmsford Directory 005Meanwhile, 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.

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.