I wrote yesterday about how a shelf had collapsed in the “study” and how I had to tidy everything up afterwards. One of the things that I decided to do was to organise my postcards. I do like a postcard and have a red box full of “Leeds Postcards”, who have been selling “provocative” postcards since 1979, according to their website. I bought about 200 of them in the early Eighties and they came in a sturdy box. I still have a lot of them. The company is still going strong, still amusing and thoughtful.
In amongst all these old cards were a few postcards from the Sixties when some of my school friends sent me a postcard from their holidays. There were quite a few from “musical guru Peter” but also one from Gooj which was the nickname of a mutual friend of ours. It was from Hickling on the Norfolk Broads.
As you can see, banter was alive and well in 1967, when Gooj and I were both thirteen years old. It was probably later in the year when Gooj invited me to stay with him for a few days in Grange Park, Enfield. Peter, Gooj and I had been at the same junior school in Winchmore Hill and we had all transferred to the same Grammar School in Southgate when we were eleven years old. After one year there I moved to Kent as my Dad changed jobs. It was a good time to move because my sister had just completed her O levels and got a job in London. It was almost as easy for her to commute to Trafalgar Square from Tunbridge wells as it was from Southgate. My Dad had always dreamed of moving out of London to Kent and this was the perfect opportunity for him. It was a good move and I still resent him for it because I was suddenly whisked away from all my friends in North London and left to make new friends in a new town. It took me over a year to make friends – thank the Lord for Andy’s friendship which has endured to this day. Peter and I used to visit each other in the holidays and on one occasion in Southgate, we met up with Gooj. I was pleased that after this meeting, I received an invitation from him to stay. I don’t remember when it was but I’m going to hazard a guess that it was late August 1967, soon after I received his postcard.
His parents were very friendly and welcoming when I arrived. They were very middle class, and quite forward thinking politically. On one of the days that I was there they had a small party for their friends which mainly took place in their extensive back garden. Gooj and I were excused from this and we went for a walk to the local park. On the way back we were close to his house when we saw a boy on his bike. He was probably about eight years old and he was riding on the pavement which was perfectly safe and not annoying us at all. For reasons that I can’t really understand I went “BOO!” very loudly to him at which point he fell off his bike and grazed his knee, bursting into tears. There could be many reasons why I was so nasty but all of them point to some deep rooted unhappiness within myself. Fifty three years later I can still see the incident very vividly in my mind. Gooj gave me a strange look. We helped the boy up – I may have apologised but I can’t remember – and we took him back to Gooj’s house where his parents were very kind and put a bandage on his knee. Gooj lied to his parents about what had happened and told them that he had swerved to avoid us. After I left Gooj’s house the next day, I never saw him again. I often wonder if my career in teaching is a very long apology to that poor little boy. Not my finest moment.
Obviously that incident left a huge impression on me but there’s one other thing that I remember from my stay in Grange Hill. On the Wednesday evening, Gooj’s Dad insisted that we stay up late to watch “Man Alive” on BBC. This was a current affairs programme and ran from 1965 to 1981. I had never seen it before. It was not the sort of thing that we watched at home. I sometimes think that this was the launchpad for my political awareness. I have no idea what the particular programme was about but some of the issues covered in 1967 were homosexuality, homelessness, weddings from different social classes, divorce and working class celebrities. Here are the opening titles.
The music for “Man Alive was written by Tony Hatch who worked closely with Petula Clark as well as writing many theme tunes for TV series including Neighbours, Sportsnight, Emmerdale Farm and Crossroads.
“Venus And Mars” is my favourite Wings album. Most people would scoff at that because “Band On The Run”, released two years earlier is generally considered to be Wings’ masterpiece. It doesn’t really matter which is better because this is a Paul McCartney album so it’s full of well crafted, inventive and melodic songs. To my mind there’s not a weak song on the album. The album starts with the lovely Paul McCartney title song before segueing into “Rock Show” which is a brilliant rocker. Two songs in and we’ve had up-to-date versions of “Yesterday” and “Long Tall Sally”. Brilliant.
I am a bit of a sucker for a romantic Paul McCartney tune. “Somedays” from “Flaming Pie”, “For No One” from “Revolver” and “Love In Song” from this album are among many fantastic tunes which allow Paul McCartney to display the soulful and melodic aspect to his genius.
“You Gave Me The Answer” shows yet another side to Paul McCartney’s genius. Possibly not to everybody’s taste but in the spirit of “Your Mother Should Know” and “Honey Pie”, “You Gave Me The Answer” has one of those tunes that you can’t get out of your head. I have heard it said that these songs are pastiches and I guess that if a pastiche is a work of art that imitates another, that description is correct. To me, these are not imitations, they are genuinely original musical pieces that other people can copy if they want. Paul McCartney is not in the business of imitating – he uses many different styles to showcase his talent.
“Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” from “Abbey Road” is always much maligned but the remastered version on last year’s release highlights some excellent musicianship. Sure, the lyrics are silly, but they’re not trivial – it’s about a murder! In the same spirit, “Magneto And Titanium Man” is better and has a great melody, excellent vocals and wonderful harmonies. Again, not to everybody’s taste, but I happen to love it.
The lead single from the album was “Listen To What The Man Said” and I think that this is one of Paul McCartney’s most Beatle-y song. It got to Number One in the USA charts and Number Six in the UK. There’s great saxophone from Tom Scott who was the leader of L.A. Express who backed Joni Mitchell’s “Court And Spark”. Dave Mason (ex Traffic), Denny Laine (ex Moody Blues) and Jimmy McCulloch (ex Thunderclap Newman) also feature on this song.
The last song on the album is the theme from “Crossroads”
That’s the end of my argument that “Venus And Mars” is a wonderful album. The range of styles is incredible; the melodic quality is as good as Paul McCartney has ever displayed; the playing is excellent and his singing is sublime. One of his finest moments.