Saturday, 5 November 2011

Dedicated Follower Of Fashion? A History Part 3

The Beatles were already on the brink of going their separate ways by the time I caught up with them. My parents would grudgingly allow that they (especially that nice Paul McCartney) could write some decent tunes, but they assured me that ever since Brian Epstein's demise they had been corrupted by dark forces (i.e. drugs) and headed in the direction of the Rolling Stones, who my mother considered "dirty". As in unwashed, I think, but my father tutted at the cover of "Sticky Fingers" so perhaps it went deeper than that.
Point is, The Beatles, and pre-Pepper Beatles at that, were hardly the epitome of cool or where it was at, come 1971. I listened to the radio a bit. Ed "Stewpot" Stewart on Junior Choice at the weekends for the most part, if I'm honest. I watched the Saturday night variety shows hosted by Cilla, Lulu, Rolf et al, who would occasionally present credible musicians alongside the sanitised banality of The Young Generation, a dance troupe who proved how "down with the kids" the Beeb really was. But really I was clueless about what else there was beyond the Fab Four and I think I stayed quite naive until the summer of 1972.

During the summer holidays at the end of my first year of senior school I caught viral pneumonia. We were on a family trip to London when I developed a bad enough fever to experience hallucinations. Back then people smoked on tube trains, in restaurants, indeed virtually everywhere, so a respiratory condition was particularly challenging. By the time I was tucked up at home in Cheshire my lungs were becoming seriously gunked up and the G.P. took some persuading (on his visit to our home - another blast from the past) not to send me to hospital. Instead, along with antibiotics, I had to lie on my tummy three times a day while my mother rubbed and knocked my back so that I could cough out the accumulated unpleasantness. Probably the sickest I've ever been, and for a little while. Duly enfeebled, I started listening to Wonderful Radio One, the adjective being theirs, not mine. I realise now that the procession of disc jockeys, some long gone but some -Tony Blackburn & JohnnieWalker - still going, were seriously restricted in what they could play by the station playlist, but at the time I was quite underwhelmed by the constant repetition of tunes, some of which I found irritating on first listening. Lynsey de Paul's "Sugar Me" being a case in point!

Still, it wasn't all that grim! Hawkwind's only chart hit, "Silver Machine" went quite well with my drugged up state, and Alice Cooper's "School's Out" held sway throughout August. I developed a deep loathing of "Sylvia's Mother" by Dr Hook & The Medicine Show, while the novelty of Hot Butter's synth instrumental "Popcorn" soon wore off. The less said about Donny Osmond's relationship with his puppy, the better.
The best part of a month listening to chart radio in 1972, for all its irritations, did broaden my musical horizons and began to drag me into the decade in question. I have never lost my fondness for The Beatles, although I would now choose Abbey Road or the white album over A Hard Day's Night, but from the summer of 1972 I started to notice what was happening NOW, at least as far as I had access to it. A major contributing factor to my desertion of the church choir of which I had been a mostly enthusiastic member for four years was that choir practice was scheduled on Thursday evenings and clashed with Top Of The Pops. As teenagerdom approached it became increasingly obvious that The Devil Does, indeed, Have All The Best Tunes

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