I wrote my first song when I was about seventeen, fifty years ago. It was called Gardens and Steve recorded it on a borrowed Revox reel-to-reel in his mother’s wool shop in Heysham Village. We recorded another song I had written called Morning Into….. We took the tape along to a local studio in Hest Bank called, I think, De Lane Lea, and asked them to make a 7″ single from the two songs. They did, but maybe because we played it too soon, or because the quality of the materials wasn’t too good, it soon got very scratchy and almost unlistenable. Anyway, for anyone who is interested, here it is.
And here’s the B-side (as we used to call them, back in the day).
I didn’t write anything else for years after this, mainly because I had no confidence in either my songwriting, my singing or my guitar playing. Thinking about it now I did write a couple of things while I was drinking and living in the caravan at Meadowfield (and I must write something about Meadowfield at some point. It was a very unusual caravan site!). I remember writing a song called It’s in the Wires, a sort of paranoid view of the world, unsurprisingly considering my state at the time. I think I wrote a couple of other things but I can’t remember what they are now – with all the alcohol related brain damage it’s a wonder I can remember yesterday!
I carried on playing and trying to sing, but just at home, and eventually, for some reason, I was asked to join a local band, AKA-Bats, as rhythm guitarist. I don’t remember why they asked me, I don’t even know how they knew I could play, but anyway ask me they did. Continue reading →
There are some songs that, when I hear them, take me back to the first time I heard them. All of them except one are from the 60s and the other is from the 50s. In fact when I look through my (growing) list of favourite songs, about 70 or 80 at the moment, some are from the 50s but the majority are from the 60s, quite a few are from the 70s and early 80s, and very few after that. That could mean:
the songs were better then and they’ve been going downhill ever since
I’m getting older and my palate is becoming more jaded
I’m getting older and don’t listen to as much music as I used to
I’m getting older and my hearing is gradually getting worse
All of the above
I could have chosen 20, or 50, but I thought that 10 was a reasonable number to start with. Anyway, here they are. I’ve added the intro for each song so you can have a listen and see what you think. They may not all be great songs (some of them are), but they all bring back memories.
Let me know if you agree, disagree or have any other thoughts on the songs I’ve chosen and my reasons for choosing them.
1. God Only Knows by The Beach Boys (1966)
I don’t know what to say about this song – Two minutes fifty-five seconds of perfection?The greatest pop song ever written? Whatever you say, I can remember hearing this, probably on Radio Caroline, in the summer of 1966, walking round in the sun on Morecambe fairground behind the Winter Gardens, seventeen years old and touched by bliss. It still touches me deeply when I hear it but, of course, never in the way it did then.
We moved onto Delamere Avenue in 1950, when I was about eighteen months old. The house we moved into, number twelve, was about a third of the way down a line of semi-detached, pebble-dashed council houses facing out over the roofs of the houses opposite towards Heysham Harbour and Half Moon Bay. It was part of a new estate, Trumacar which, when we moved in, was still being built. My mum used to tell the story of how I had somehow become friendly with one of the builders and how he had taken to letting me sit with him in the cab of his lorry while he was working. One day she heard a knock at the door and opened it to find him standing there clutching a tear-stained creature covered head-to-toe in a layer of dirt – I had fallen out of the cab into a pile of gravel. Being very small and gravity being what it is, I hadn’t fallen very hard and so, apart from a few bruises and scratches, I was relatively unhurt. That was the last time I rode in the lorry.
Bill and Ben were my first heroes. I was three when it started, but my first memory is of running home from school so as not to miss it on TV. As far as I remember it was on at about half past three and school was about half a mile away at the bottom of a hill, so it was quite a rush to get back in time – and of course there was no video recording or pause-and-rewind in 1954. The funny thing is that, in my memory, I am rushing back to number 11 Delamere, not number 12, even though we didn’t move into number 11 until about five years later (that’s another story which I’ll come back to at some point). Continue reading →
I love my shed. It’s my own private world. Okay, it’s only about eight feet square with one window facing Half Moon Bay and a door to the back garden, but I can shut myself in here and not have to think about anything else. I’ve got a couple of comfy chairs in here and a small table and, of course, my record player (a Fergurson in a wooden case with a sort of grey leatherish lid. It’s five watts! You could buy an extension to plug in to make it stereo but I don’t have that.
In fact I’ve never heard stereo, the first time I hear a record in stereo is at my Swedish friend Mick’s flat on Euston Road. He puts on Yellow Submarine and it’s amazing, the voices moving across the room from left to right – or possibly right to left). Of course this is a long time ago and, my memory being what it is, which is mainly defunct, some of the facts may be wrong. But it’s my story and this is the way I’m telling it; think of it as a kind of unreliable biography.
But the shed is real – and the record player – and the window looking down to Half Moon Bay.Continue reading →
In 1964 I was fifteen and had been playing guitar, or rather trying to play guitar, for about a year. I had an old arch top acoustic guitar (I think it was a Hofner but I’m not sure) which my parents had bought for about £15 from our next door neighbours and had recently persuaded my mum and dad to buy me my first electric guitar. It was called a Caravelle Top Twenty and had, I think, three pickups and was a similar shape to a strat. It was very light and cheaply made but it was an Electric Guitar!!!, the first one I had ever owned and, as far as I can remember, the first one I had ever touched. I loved it, even though I had nothing to plug it into. It was either light blue or a sort of purple colour (I’m not sure on the colour as I am colour blind), but it had six strings and a tremolo arm and looked a bit like the guitars the bands I was watching on TV were playing. Oh, and the action wasn’t too good, probably nearly half an inch at the twelfth fret but as the only guitars I had played had been as bad and my playing was fairly rudimentary this didn’t bother me too much. (I’ve just checked with Steve and it was actually pink). The shop where we got it was at Strawberry Gardens, a little music shop where I also bought my records. I’ve just realised that one of the records I bought there was ‘You Don’t Have to be a Baby to Cry’ by The Caravelles, http://www.45-rpm.org.uk/dirc/caravelles.htm a female duo from London (which was probably not played on a Caravelle Top Twenty). It wasn’t the sort of record I was really into but when I had my six shillings and eight pence in my hand (the price of a single then), I had to go home with something, and I thought my mum might like it. I think she did but I don’t remember her ever putting a record on to listen to; she probably only heard it once when I got home and played it to her. In fact I don’t remember anyone in my family ever listening to music. We were a television family; in the evening we would gather in the front room and watch TV, although there wasn’t much choice in 1964 as there were only two television channels, the BBC and ITV and, now I was fifteen, I had started to spend more time either out with my friends or in my room listening to records and trying to work out how to play them on guitar. Continue reading →
Dive Four – ‘You haven’t got a little bit of butter to go with that?’
In 1966/7 I was working for the Co-op and I was sent to work in the Co-op grocery shop in Heysham Village for a couple of weeks while the manager was on holiday (that’s the co-op on the right with the blind). Steve, someone I’d know at primary school, was working there and we soon found that we had a lot in common (Mad magazine, music, torturing the delivery boy). But I mainly remembered him from the bus to school – he went to Balmoral Road, I went to Morecambe Grammar but we caught the same bus – where he had gained a bit of a reputation as a mad professor, inventing electric shock machines and devices to make dalek voices. He was also known as an expert bogey builder (bogeys are what we called carts made using old pram wheels with a rope for steering). Anyway, he invited me down to his cellar (all mad professors have to have a cellar, it’s one of the rules). This is where he played around with electronics and recording equipment and, as I was a fairly mediocre guitarist with aspirations and an occasional songwriter, the idea of being able to record my music was an exciting idea. He played me some of the things he’d been recording with someone called Dave Wynne.
What was exciting was that he was doing multitrack recording, this at a time when most albums were being recorded on just four tracks. As far as I remember he did it by having two tape recorders – recording a track onto one machine then playing this back and recording it onto the other machine while, at the same time, adding another live track. I’m sure he’ll correct me if this is wrong. The problem with writing about something that happened so long ago is that memories fade and get distorted (a bit like old tapes) and when, like me, you only have about seven brain cells left for one reason or another, they end up more faded and distorted than ever. Continue reading →