This is the sixth CD set curated by Jon Savage and I was very excited to see that it covers the years from 1972 to 1976. From a personal point of view, these were the years when everything changed and I went from being a schoolboy, required to wear a cap even though I was nearly 18, to starting my 40 year career as a teacher. In the meantime, there were four years at College and during that time I made many friends and even more mistakes. Musically, these years were as varied as it was possible to get before Year Zero reset most new music to be defined by its relationship to the British punk movement of 1976/77. Hard rock, progressive rock, glam-rock, New York punk, power pop, pub rock, krautrock and more. All these styles are well represented on this fabulous collection of 44 songs. Since these years were so formative for me, I’ve tried to place the release of each of these songs (most were U.K. singles) within my own personal history.
Disc 1 Track 1 Easy To Slip by Little Feat. January 1972. When I first started my ‘A’ level course in September 1970, I was told that I should be studying for three hours a day, outside of lessons so that’s what I did for the next two years. It never occurred to me to not do as I was told. In those two years, my lifetime habits were formed and it’s probably why, even now, I still feel guilty if I have a self-indulgent day without achieving anything. It’s too easy for my standards to slip. My “Mock” exams took place in January 1972 and I revised hard. By candlelight. This wasn’t because we were too poor to afford electricity but because strikes by The National Union of Mineworkers meant that, for many days of the winter, power cuts lasted for six hours. Having recently moved from Tunbridge Wells to Sevenoaks, I was firmly ensconced in my new bedroom with all my notes and a huge supply of candles. Maybe it was the absence of music to play during these long dark hours that embedded these moments deep into my memory.
I never really “got” Little Feat, but listening to this brilliant song, I’m definitely going to explore them some more. I think that the funky soulful Southern feel to the music seemed a long way from Jackson Browne and Neil Young and that made them sound a little too alien for my taste. This was the opening song on “Sailin’ Shoes”, often regarded as a classic. I used to have it on a cassette tape but can’t remember ever playing it.
Disc 1 Track 2 Do Ya by The Move. April 1972. Nobody in my family had ever been to University but I have never felt that it was a huge achievement for me to be the first. When I was 12 years old, I was moved from London to deepest, darkest Kent and placed in a boys Grammar School where I didn’t know anybody and told to work hard. I did as I was told. I was good at Maths and okay at other subjects. I drifted into ‘A’ levels taking two Maths subjects and reluctantly adding Physics because I wasn’t allowed to combine Maths and English. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life; everyone else was completing UCCA forms to apply to University, so I did the same. There was little financial commitment from my parents as all fees and a maintenance grant were paid for by Kent County Council. I had no idea where to go but Southampton University looked nice and wasn’t too far. Travelling by train for an interview, getting to the campus and mixing with people I didn’t know was a real adventure for me in April. I ended up chatting for hours to another boy there and saying goodbye at Waterloo Station, never to see him again. It seemed like a real adventure for me, merely to move out of Sevenoaks for a few hours. This is how small-minded and protected I was.
I’ve always dismissed The Move as a lightweight pop group but I’ve just finished a book by Clinton Heylin, ostensibly about “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, called “The Act You’ve Known For All These Years”, in which The Move are represented as one of the most interesting psychedelic bands of 1967. Joe Boyd is quoted in the book as saying that they were very similar to Pink Floyd with long extended guitar solos and feedback. However, this sound was never captured on record. “Do Ya” was the B side of their last single, “California Man” and was later a hit for ELO. It was written by Jeff Lynne, a member of both The Move and ELO. It’s got a great grungy riff, reminiscent of The Who and an excellent lead vocal.
Disc 1 Track 3 End Unkind by Grin. April 1972. When my friend Neil died, over ten years ago, Roo and I went to the funeral and met up with a number of his friends, whom I hadn’t seen for over 30 years. One of these was a great guy called Jim, who was very quietly spoken and had excellent musical taste. One day, in the Easter holidays, he and Neil got a train to Sevenoaks and I picked them up (in my Dad’s car – a rust coloured Ford Cortina Estate) and we drove to Maidstone where we had a sublime hour trawling through the second hand records in the market. I think Jim bought a Doors album, Neil may have got “American Spring” and I bought the first, eponymous, Grin album which was made when Nils Lofgren was 19 years old. He had played one of the lead guitars on “Southern Man”, the centrepiece of Neil Young’s “After The Goldrush”.
I have never heard Grin’s second album, “1+1”, an aberration which I find perplexing. It was split into a slow side and a rockin’ side. “End Unkind” really grooves with slightly maniacal singing from the precocious 20 year old who would continue to play with Neil Young as well as being a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band from 1984.
Disc 1 Track 4 School’s Out by Alice Cooper. April 1972. I always found Applied Maths quite tricky to understand. Give me an equation to solve and I was happy. Actually applying my abstract thoughts to the real world was quite hard. Possibly that’s the story of my life. However, after practicing on several previous test papers, I learned that internal assessment papers were predictable and at the end of the Lower Sixth, I scored top marks in the school at Applied Maths. This is no false modesty: I genuinely found the questions difficult but my revision process was well organised. Unfortunately, it meant that I had to go up on stage at Prize Giving Day, a ridiculously formal occasion with more fur lined gowns than you’d ever come across in your nastiest nightmares. I chose to be awarded “The Human Zoo” by Desmond Morris, which seems quite a witty choice now but I guess the irony was unintentional. As a result of this over achievement, in my Upper Sixth year I was invited, with about ten other boys, to take an extra Maths ‘A’ level called “Higher Maths”. This was my first exposure to matrices and such were the vagaries of modern maths curriculum innovations, in the Seventies I would be teaching matrices to bottom set Year 10 classes within five years. I agreed to start this, mainly because it took place whilst the other boys were taking part in Community Service. (It can’t have been called that because ” Community Service” sounds like a punishment given to young offenders.) The idea of actually talking to grown ups in Tonbridge was too scary for me. So, I agreed to start studying the Higher Maths ‘A’ level course but after a couple of months I was struggling. Apart from the fact that I wasn’t clever enough, I think the teacher (whoops, sorry, “master”) was a little out of his depth and I guess he was teaching it for the first time. A bit like the first time I taught Further Maths 15 years later when I learned more from my students than they did from me. Anyway, I asked if I could stop Higher Maths and Mr. Symes agreed. The brilliant thing was that he didn’t tell anyone else so that by 1:30 every Friday, I had no lessons. All the other Sixth Formers were leaving school to carry out shopping for pensioners or dig gardens in Tonbridge Castle or whatever it was that they did. This meant that I could leave school without looking like I was skiving when, in fact, I was going home. This lasted throughout the whole of my last two terms at school in 1972.
School was definitely out early for me on a Friday and that feeling of release was perfectly captured by this classic song which cleverly puns “principles” with “principals”. A shame there was no equivalent British pun for Headmaster.
Disc 1 Track 5 I Hardly Know Her Name by The Wackers. May 1972. Mr. Tucker taught me Physics for five years from my Third Year until the end of my ‘A’ levels. He had a car with registration FGT. I forget what the numbers were but, being witty Grammar School boys, as soon as we spotted FGT, he was nicknamed Fat Gut Tucker. He was more portly than fat, but for us, who were all fit sporty specimens, he was fat. Secretly, being rather overweight myself, I sympathised but never admitted this to the Adonis’s in my peer group. Actually, I didn’t really sympathise. I loathed Fat Gut Tucker because, in the Third and Fourth Years, he shouted at us all for no good reason. I only got the second top grade at Physics ‘O’ level, so I was put in the bottom of three sets for Physics ‘A’ level. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I found that my teacher was going to be FGT. Several years later I played a cricket match for The Old Juddians against a teachers XI and FGT was playing. Afterwards, we shared a beer and he was delightful company – funny and self-effacing. I didn’t know that about him when I started my ‘A’ level course but over two years I started to gain some respect for him. He was a real character. He told us that he preferred short sleeved shirts so whenever his wife bought him a new shirt he would cut the sleeves off. I can see him now, miming the cutting of a shirt, saying “Snip Snip Snip”. Another well known phrase was “Details Later” which was a way of deferring unnecessary course content. It’s a phrase I still like to use. He was the most organised teacher I ever had and I spent 40 years trying to live up to his standards of methodical student-centred teaching. His notes were exemplary and he taught us how to use the syllabus to revise. Thanks to his expertise, I only needed to revise about two thirds of the syllabus because the paper allowed some choice and I only needed to answer Questions 1 and 2 from Section A and Question 5 from Section B. How do I remember that? Details later. As a result, I obtained a grade B. And that’s when ‘A’ levels were hard, not like now. There was no way that I was that good at Physics; I had a good teacher who probably, in his own overweight, shouty, idiosyncratic way, was an inspiration. In May of my Upper Sixth year, we had the Physics practical. It counted for 20% of the marks. The actual experiment wasn’t marked – just the write up. It involved something to do with balancing a metre rule and placing weights at different distances from a fulcrum. I had to draw a graph and the results were perplexing as they were all grouped together in one corner with a huge empty space on the graph. After 90 minutes, with half an hour to go, I realised that I had mixed up millimetres and centimetres. My results would be meaningless and there wasn’t time to repeat the experiment. I took one accurate reading and extrapolated (or guessed) the other results, producing a graph that looked like it could have been genuine. I got a grade A for that practical but not because I was a good physicist but because Fat Gut Tucker had taught me how to present the results of a practical. To this day, some people that don’t know me very well, and hardly know my name, may think that I have an eye for detail. The truth is that I’m prone to catastrophic gaffes which I have to desperately attempt to rectify.
While I was making up the results of a Science experiment, The Wackers released this fantastic single. They were Canadian but in thrall to The Beatles, naming themselves after a term often used by Scousers, and making brilliant pop songs in the style of The Best Group In The World. Their second album, “Hot Wacks”, is a gem waiting to be explored.
Disc 1 Track 6 So Far by Faust. June 1972. Obviously my ‘A’ level exams were important but 1972 was an Ashes year and the Lords’ Test Match, a few days after my last exam in June, was unmissable. Going to an Ashes Test Match at Lord’s now, involves lots of planning and expense. You have to register an interest and join a mailing list. You have to apply at least six months in advance and be prepared to spend over £100. I can’t remember how much I paid for the ticket but an inflation calculator tells me that an equivalent price in 1972 was £7.50. I can’t believe I paid that much – it was probably 75p. More interesting than the cost of the ticket was the availability. Graham and I just turned up at the gate on the morning of the match and went in. There wasn’t a convoluted application process because fewer people attended Test matches in those days. I don’t think there are any more true cricket lovers now than in 1972 – it’s just that these days, a lot of people like to go to a big occasion or they like to sit in the sun, drink lots of alcohol, talk loudly to their friends and occasionally glance at the game. Spoken like the true curmudgeon that I am. By the end of the first day, England were 249/7. These days, some teams score that in 20 overs. This is how far the game of cricket has evolved.
At the same time that I was taking my ‘A’ level exams and Bob Massie was taking 16 wickets for Australia, Faust were inventing “krautrock”. I’ve never understood that term. I always imagined that calling a German person a “kraut” would be so rude as to verging on racist and yet the term seems perfectly acceptable. There’s no way that I would have considered listening to this song, the title track from their second album, in 1972 when I was listening to The Eagles, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Tim Buckley but now, nearly 50 years too late, I can hear how good it is. Blimey! Next thing you know, I’ll be listening to Focus.
Disc 1 Track 7 Slow Death by Flamin’ Groovies. July 1972. In 1970, Graham and I were in the 5th Form and the school gave us the opportunity to go to the Sevenoaks Indoor cricket nets for coaching. Colin Page later went on to successfully coach Kent very successfully but he could do nothing to stop me swiping everything across the line to leg. After our hour was up, the Sixth Formers had their session and there was always banter between us at the changeover. This escalated to such an extent that one day we thought it would be funny to cut the shoelaces of a gangly Upper Sixth lad. Next day all hell broke loose as he ratted on us to the Deputy Head. I always assumed that this prank was the reason I was never made a prefect two years later but it could have been my lack of personality. In the Summer of 1970, I found myself batting at Number 8 in the school First XI against a man’s team, Tonbridge 2nd XI. We were soon nine wickets down when in strode the Sixth Former who had ratted us out, to join me at the crease. We put on about 70 for the last wicket and I ended up 60 not out, by far the highest score I ever made at school. Next year, even though I was not as old as most of the rest of the team, being in the Lower Sixth, I was made vice-captain, presumably on the basis of that one innings. The following year I was captain which really challenged my sullen introspective nature. Personally, it was an excellent experience for me and I started to feel valued and respected. Whether or not it was the best thing for the team is another matter. We won a few games but lost more. After we took our “A” levels, we still had to come into school until the end of term in July. Our school days experienced a slow and lingering death. In July, on my last day at Judd, I passed a student whose name I forget but he was really cool. He had lots of hair, an offhand attitude to everything and managed to look fashionable despite having to wear school uniform. As we passed, he nodded imperceptibly at me which was my cue to tell him how the School First XI had recently won a game of cricket. He had no interest in sport, obviously; he was too busy smoking dope and listening to Frank Zappa.
Actually, this boy/young man was so cool, he may have been listening to The Flamin’ Groovies, if only for their name. This is a magnificent song with a circular guitar riff, insistent beat and words which describe the deadly and deafening effect of heroin. The BBC banned the song because it mentioned morphine. The song was produced by Dave Edmunds at Rockfield Studios and the failure of this song caused the band to temporarily cease to exist until they resurfaced in 1976 with the outstanding “Shake Some Action”.
Disc 1 Track 8 One Of The Boys by Mott The Hoople. 28th July 1972. Freed at last from school, a long Summer beckoned before I started at Royal Holloway College in October. Ten weeks of freedom, chilling out with my mates, drinking beer, smoking dope, camping and listening to great music. There was no compulsion to do anything except enjoy being 18 and released from the unrelenting authority of school. If only that was true. In reality, I did none of the above and got a job at NPI, a financial company, in Tunbridge Wells. They were computerising their system and employed a number of students for a six week spell to help. One Saturday, two days before I was due to start, I played cricket for Edenbridge Cricket Club, attempted to hook a bouncer, missed the ball completely and had my nose broken by five and a half ounces of a cricket ball. I don’t remember being in too much pain but I do remember one of the so-called adults in the team, peering down at me and asking if my nose had always been that shape. It’s a line I try to repeat whenever the possibility presents itself but I’ve yet to find anyone else who thinks it’s a funny (or appropriate) thing to say. I was taken to hospital and was told to come back on Tuesday when the swelling would have gone down do that they could “re-set” my nose. That sounded like a good idea until I realised that this meant breaking my nose again. I contacted NPI and they told me to start a week later. The work there was varied but I wasn’t very good at understanding exactly what they wanted me to do. The very helpful boss there (who, it transpired, had been at school in North London with my sister) told me that I was thinking too deeply about it. This was the first time I had ever used a calculator. More importantly, it was the first time since 1966 that I had ever talked to a girl. There were three boys and three girls working together and I used to walk around Tunbridge Wells at lunchtime with one of the girls and chat to her. She let me know that she had a boyfriend and nothing untoward happened, but, apart from my friends’ girlfriends, this was a unique experience for me. As far as she was concerned, I was just one of the boys.
Which brings me on to the B side of “All The Young Dudes” which I’ve never heard before. It’s brilliant. A great riff, wonderful vocals and produced by David Bowie.
Disc 1 Track 9 When My Baby’s Beside Me by Big Star. August 1972. Memory is a funny thing. I can remember all sorts of things from this year but the most significant day would have been the day I got my A level results. My life would have been completely different if I had not got into University. My results meant that I was to go to Royal Holloway College to study Maths but I have no clear recollection of receiving my results. I still have the slip of paper which, I guess, came through the post, but as to “an explosion of joy”, I have no memory. Ironically, if my results had been worse, I could have got into Royal Holloway to study Maths with Computer Science. If I had emerged from studying in 1975 with an IT degree, I might well have had an alternative career which, in theory, could have been very lucrative. I did take one IT module in my Second Year but it was too late to swap courses. I wasn’t very good at Maths at Degree level but I did have programming ability. Who knows what might have happened?
Jon Savage, in his excellent sleevenotes, describes this song as “an explosion of joy”. Co written by Chris Bell and Alex Chilton, and taken from Big Star’s magnificent first album which failed to sell more than 10,000 copies, the influence of The Beatles is clear
Disc 1 Track 10 She Means A Lot To Me by Smyle. October 1972. As my parents drove me to Royal Holloway to start my College life, I was numb. I wasn’t excited or fearful or happy or worried. I was in total confusion as life’s currents washed me towards a life away from home comforts into a life where I had no ability to cope. All I knew was that I was in room A101 and I think I imagined staying in my room by myself for as long as I could. My first disappointment was to see two other names on the door of the room. Hugh was a friendly guy from Merthyr Tydfil who liked to talk at length and had good musical taste. Oliver was from Wigan and was friendly enough but he soon turned into an alcoholic and was eventually “sent down” after breaking into the Union Bar to steal beer. There’s a line in Brideshead Revisited where Cousin Jasper advises Charles Ryder that he will spend his second year at Oxford shaking off the friends he made in his first year. That is, more or less, what happened to me except it was friends I made in my first week that I found I had nothing in common with. Luckily, they felt the same way and so I had no trouble in “shaking them off”. Hugh had got the bus from the Station to the Hall of Residence on the first day with a bloke called Francis and when, a few weeks later, I abandoned my new acquaintances and met Francis, I felt much happier. Through Francis, I met Allen, Jimmy, Dom and many others. One of the issues about starting somewhere new was having the opportunity to re-invent myself. It was possible (but mistaken) to pretend to be something that I wasn’t . Trying hard to fit in during those first few weeks, just to survive, meant that I became uncomfortable with a persona that wasn’t really me. I had to make a conscious effort to smile in those days, even when I was confused and miserable inside.
Smyle were a Dutch group who based their music on The Beatles and “She Means A Lot To Me” was released in a plain white sleeve with one small logo on it because the record label, Polydor, were hoping that people would think the song was a Beatles bootleg.
Disc 1 Track 11 Wishing Well by Free. December 1972. Having played football in Grovelands Park, at St. Paul’s Primary School and Minchenden Grammar School, I was forced to play rugby when we moved to Tunbridge Wells and I went to a boys Grammar School. Eventually, I forced my way into the First XV (that’s posh rugby-speak for the First Team) only to lose my place after seven games due to an injury suffered from a collision in training with the boy who subsequently took my place. When I went to Royal Holloway College in 1972, I was picked for the College First XV only to break my leg in December when we played Brunel University. The broken nose earlier in the year didn’t really hurt but a broken leg was different. I walked off the pitch unassisted and watched the rest of the game sitting on the cold wet grass. My new team mates kindly took me to hospital (once the game had finished) and they had to wait while a plaster cast was fitted on my right leg. When I got back onto the team coach, I was the proud owner of a new set of crutches. My inability to walk the mile from the Hall of Residence to College made me, temporarily at least, very popular as a number of people offered me a lift in their car only for one or two of my new friends to magically appear and ask if there was room in the car for them too. I didn’t mind because they wished me well, especially Francis and Hugh.
Francis’ room mate was a big youth from Stoke-On-Trent called Allen who was a fanatical follower of Bob Dylan and he also loaned me some of his Free albums, which I had not heard before. “Wishing Well” was their last single to enter the charts, reaching Number Seven. It has a menacing, two-part riff.
Disc 1 Track 12 Full Circle by The Byrds. January 1973. Just after Christmas, at home in Sevenoaks, I had the plaster removed from my leg and felt free from the restrictions of crutches. I dreaded going back to College. My first term had involved forming loose friendships with people I didn’t really like. This was remedied towards the end of term when I became friendly with Hugh, Francis and Allen but the term was blighted by my broken leg. I had formed a friendship with a girl named Iris, who would subsequently prove to be the most able mathematician in the year, but an evening spent together was an unmitigated disaster as my naïveté and fear of talking to girls proved to be a lethal combination. By the time it was time to start the new term in January, I had travelled “full circle” and was back where I had been in October.
“Full Circle” was the title track from The Byrds’ reunion album. It’s a bit insipid musically but lyrically describes exactly how I felt in early 1973. It describes how a circle can take you flying in a new direction but eventually leads you back to where you started in the first place. It was time to start again.
Disc 1 Track 13 Blockbuster! By The Sweet January 1973. Maths lectures in the first year mainly took place in the Main Lecture Theatre. Over 100 students attended which nowadays would not seem a large number but, at the time, seemed impersonal and intimidating. I started attending lectures with Allen, who sat at the back of the theatre with a friend of his from school called Jimmy. They both had girlfriends; they were tall handsome youths with an advanced sense of humour and they engaged in non stop banter with two beautiful girls who sat with them. Mandy and Kath. Forty years later I met Kath at the wedding of Dom and Theresa’s daughter: Kath and Theresa were good friends. Unsurprisingly, she remembered Allen; she remembered Jimmy; she had no memory of me.
I was forgettable, just like this terrible, overplayed, overrated, glam rubbish from Sweet.
Disc 1 Track 14 Vicious by Lou Reed. March 1973. Vicious? Blimey. You should have seen Hugh play football. There was a field at the back of the Hall of Residence where a lot of us would play football. Did I say that, having been at a boys Grammar school, I was now in a male Hall of Residence over a mile away from the nearest girl? So, the boys would often go for a kick around. We’d pop out, in our normal clothes and shoes. For a kick around. Like normal. Who changes into football boots for a kick around? It wasn’t a proper game. Just a few boys kicking a ball around. That’s not how the mad Welshman, Hugh viewed it. I don’t think he’d ever played team sports so he’d probably never made use of his football boots. He wasn’t very good at kicking the ball but fouling someone who was recovering from a broken leg by smashing his vicious, barely used, heavy Welsh boots into my shin seemed to be a specialty.
Poor form from the Valley boy but a great song from “Transformer”.
Disc 1 Track 15 Avenging Annie by Andy Pratt. March 1973. On occasions, in lectures at Royal Holloway, I abandoned my new friends Allen and Jimmy and chose to sit next to a lovely girl called Daisy, who was a good friend of Iris. One of the lecturers, called Dr Cohn, was a bully. A bit like Fat Gut Tucker in the Third Year. He liked to humiliate students – think of Jeremy Paxman in “University Challenge”. Once, a boy with a huge unruly mop of blond hair, who liked to tell everybody that his nickname was “Bubble” (luckily, not Boris), dropped his ruler on the floor and bent down to pick it up. Before he could manage that, Dr. Cohn roared at him, telling him to leave the ruler and demanding that he answer an impossibly complex mathematical question. On the occasion that I sat next to Daisy, she drew Dr. Cohn’s attention, possibly because of her good looks and imposing figure. He asked her yet another ridiculous question and, to help her out of her predicament (or so I thought), I whispered to her, “Say you don’t know”. She looked at me incredulously. “I can’t say that”. I was clear with my good advice. “Just say you don’t know”. On one of the rare occasions when a beautiful girl did as I suggested she spoke out clearly. “I DON’T KNOW”. Well, Dr, Cohn nearly died on the spot, he was so apocalyptic with rage. He spent one sixtieth of the time allocated to the lecture, reducing Daisy to a mixture of humiliation and tears. Any thoughts I had about she and I getting together were rapidly put to the back of my mind, never to resurface just in case avenging Daisy materialised and took her revenge on me.
Andy Pratt has released 29 solo albums but is best remembered for “Avenging Annie”, the first song he ever recorded which snuck into the Billboard Top 100. The song is a powerful feminist statement about responding to misogyny and abuse and describes the revenge meted out by the partner of an abusive outlaw. Robert Christgau described it as “an astounding tale of feminist revenge in the twilight of the counterculture”. Sadly, it’s still relevant 47 years later.
Disc 1 Track 16 Yang Yang by Yoko Ono / Plastic Ono Band. April 1973. It was around this time that I became good friends with Jimmy, and his girlfriend, Jane. Jimmy was studying Maths and Computing and Jane was studying History. They had been at school together with Allen and his girlfriend, Sara, who was still living in Stoke-On-Trent. Allen went home every weekend to see Sara and his weekends started to last from Thursday lunchtime to Tuesday morning. In the end, he failed his First Year exams and he started his degree again in Stoke, eventually gaining a PhD and teaching at Staffordshire University. Jane was a very complex character. She looked like Julie Driscoll, with short blonde hair and exotic eye makeup. She suffered from depression so much that she eventually deferred her Third Year, returning to Royal Holloway after Jimmy had left and even then was diagnosed as being too ill to take the exam so was awarded a de facto degree. Her depression meant that she relied heavily on Jimmy as a bedrock and then attracted emotional waifs and strays of different kinds to surround her and validate her. These tended to be males who were attracted to her vulnerability without being a sexual threat to her, due to their innocence and weakness. For this sort of person she was alluring, mysterious and emotionally attractive. I was that sort of person. I had no interest in anything other than a deep friendship and a wish to communicate with a girl about our innermost thoughts. Was this a betrayal of my friendship with Allen? If you’re someone’s friend, should that preclude you becoming emotionally dependent on their partner? For a few more years, Jane and I talked to each other a lot, often exchanging letters in the holidays. She was the first girl that I had a strong relationship with. There was never any suggestion of her relinquishing her commitment to Dave. I never fantasised about that. If I’d been less naïve, maybe I might have done, but if our relationship had moved even slightly in that direction, she would have stopped talking to me. I’m guessing that Jimmy didn’t know that I’d been writing to her but he found out in the Eighties, after they got married and when he went through her possessions after she had committed suicide. I’ve lost touch with Jimmy, Allen and Sara and, in my darkest thoughts, it’s because Jimmy felt that I betrayed him.
I wish I could explain to Jimmy how far removed I was from the machismo and extreme masculinity that Yoko Ono was railing against in this terrific song from “Approximately Infinite Universe”.
Disc 1 Track 17 Editions Of You by Roxy Music. June 1973. A lifetime friendship started in the Summer of 1973 when I started playing cricket for the College. The mainstays of last year’s team included Dom whose straight drive was a work of beauty and whose friendship and generosity have been a constant source of happiness and appreciation for nearly 50 years. Our friendship didn’t get off to a great start when, after a highly athletic and exhausting bout of fielding, I nearly pulled off a remarkable solo effort – a one handed catch, having run 50 yards at high pace and put in a dive worthy of Frank Dufficey. (I may have exaggerated slightly in the last sentence.) Anyway, as the ball just evaded my fingertips, I wasn’t greeted with applause and encouragement from my new team mates. Instead a chorus of “5p” echoed around the ground. After the game, Dom insisted that I pay a 5p fine for dropping a catch. I told him that next time, I wouldn’t bother trying if it was going to cost me money.
“Editions Of You” includes fantastic solos from Eno (synthesiser), Andy Mackay (saxophone) and Phil Manzanera (guitar).
Disc 1 Track 18 Search And Destroy by Iggy & The Stooges. June 1973. My first year at Royal Holloway College came to an end in June. I had passed the exams but I hardly seemed to understand any of the content. Every lecture was a plethora of meaningless algebraic gobbledygook which I copied from a blackboard. I simply had to memorise lots of the proofs and regurgitate it all under exam conditions. To be honest, I couldn’t cate less about Maths by this time. I was slowly developing the vestige of a personality, freed from the expectations of school and my parents. I had more important things to learn than Maths. My drinking ability was rapidly improving; I’d started to play squash; I’d made some friendships, a few of which would last a lifetime. In contrast to that, I finally rid myself of my room mate Oliver who, at the end of term, was so drunk that when accosted by Security, he begged to talk to me. I was summoned from my room and I helped carry him along a glass plated corridor. As he struggled, he kicked out and forced one of the Security guy’s arms straight through the floor-to-ceiling window. Poor Oliver. Searching for happiness and destroying a window.
A good, angry song sung by the world’s “forgotten boy”, as James Osterberg described himself on this song from “Raw Power”, which was a prototype for the British punk music scene that would materialise two years later.
Disc 1 Track 19 48 Crash by Suzy Quatro. July 1973. I still hadn’t passed my driving test in 1973 – that would have to wait another year. Francis and his beautiful girlfriend, Mary, came to stay for a few days with me at my parents’ house and the day before they were due to leave, they asked me if I’d like to join them for their week’s holiday in Cornwall. I agreed and it was a glorious week. Beautiful weather, deserted beaches, great beer, fantastic company. I was very flattered to be asked and I was beginning to realise that maybe I had some value after all. At one point, Francis asked me if I’d like to drive their hire car, a white Hillman Hunter. I hadn’t passed my test but was keen to take the wheel. After reaching 80 mph down a long stretch of a straight but narrow Cornwall B road, I wasn’t invited to drive again.
Luckily we didn’t crash. Also, luckily, we never heard this clichéd glam rock anthem on the car radio.
Disc 1 Track 20 Trash by New York Dolls. August 1973. My Mum was Australian and met my Dad when he was posted to Sydney in the war. Arriving in England in 1947, she and my Dad occasionally went back to Australia for a holiday. The last time they did this was in the Summer of 1973 after I had got back from the blissful week in Cornwall. My sister had recently married so I was left by myself for a couple of weeks in my parents house in Sevenoaks. Every time I look at a sink to this day, I’m reminded of my Mum’s instructions to “keep the sink clean at all times”. I did this but also had a party every night, inviting all my school friends as well as new College friends. Sex, drugs and rock’n’roll were the order of every night as I slept through every day. Hang on, that’s not right. I worked in a factory, tidying up a yard, taking out the trash, listening to “Band On The Run” and not seeing anyone for two weeks.
“Trash” was the first single that The New York Dolls released. Lyrically, it concerns hookers, rent boys, junkies and thieves but demands that we treat them with respect as human beings. Musically, it straddles glam rock and punk rock in an exceptionally appealing style.
Disc 2 Track 1 Girl From Germany by Sparks. June 1974. This is strange. According to Jon Savage’s choice, there were no great singles released between August 1973 and June 1974. That’s the whole of my Second Year at Royal Holloway College, Christmas Day in Stoke-On-Trent with Allen and Sara, my failed date with Jerry and finding out that I loved programming and missed my chance to become a rival to Bill Gates. More important than any of this was Dom’s 21st birthday celebrations just before this track by Sparks was released as a single. After tea and cake in his room, we all ventured to The Barley Mow in Englefield Green. Several pints of Courage Best were consumed which meant that unfunny things suddenly became hilarious. A Yorkshire lad, who was a half decent cricketer, stood up to make a point, somebody took his chair away and he sat back down on the floor. My, how we all laughed at his pain. Looking at a mounted deer on the wall of the pub, someone remarked “that antelope must have been going at a helluva speed” and the hysteria seemed to last for hours. On the way home, a lad called Arlo, who owned a flatbed truck, drove back by himself to our Hall of Residence – about a mile away. Halfway home, while going at about 40 mph, he was shocked and angry to find me knocking on the driver’s side window because I thought it was a jolly jape to sit on the back of his truck without telling him in order to get a lift home. Of course, it was a boys’ only night; there were no girls there – not even any German ones. Apparently, Theresa was outside the pub, peered in and decided that not even her growing love for Dom could force her to endure the company of such a lot of tossers.
I’ve always understood the appeal of Sparks because they are a clever band who made intricate, challenging records. However, I’ve always lumped them in with Talking Heads as a band that appealed to the head rather than the heart. It’s a funny song which describes the singers reaction when introduced to his German girlfriend and they imagine the sound of stormtroopers on the front garden. Clever, but not terribly appealing.
Disc 2 Track 3 The Man Who Couldn’t Afford To Orgy by John Cale. July 1974. I’ve never been the outdoor type. For many of my colleagues in the teaching profession, there’s nothing better than escaping into the depths of the wilderness, erecting a tent and spending seven nights sleeping on a hard ground eating cold baked bans from a can and stale bread. I’ve never really seen the attraction myself. The only time I ever went camping was with Francis and Brian to Scotland in 1973. We drove in Brian’s Ford Anglia to Sunderland where we stayed overnight with his parents and played golf during a three hour downpour. We then drove to Dumfries and came back via The Lake District. It was very pleasant to be away with a couple of mates, drinking weak beer, walking up a few hills and sleeping uncomfortably. We had one year to go in Higher Education. None of us knew what we wanted to do. None of us had girlfriends. It wasn’t a case of not being able to afford to orgy but simply a case of not knowing where to find one. Not in the Scottish Lowlands, that’s for sure.
How would you pronounce “orgy”? I pronounce it with a soft “g”, like “gorge”, but John Cale sings it with a hard “g” to rhyme with corgi. The seductive singing of Judy Nylon (an American avant-garde artist), urging John Cale to take a chance with her, is meant to be a good thing, but the very unavailability of anyone like Judy Nylon in my life made this song a frustrating listen.
Disc 1 Track 21 Andy Warhol by Dana Gillespie. August 1974. Before I went on holiday, I visited the Citizen’s Advice bureau in Sevenoaks, offering to volunteer when I got back. On my return, I took a call in my parent’s kitchen from someone offering me an opportunity. I apologised but said that I actually needed some paid work. I was told that I would be paid £15 a week for three weeks if I would lead one of the centres of the Sevenoaks Holiday Playscheme. I replied “Where do I sign?” Within a few weeks I was confronted with 70 children aged between 5 and 11 expecting me to entertain them for four hours a day for three weeks. I had a large number of volunteers, mainly mothers of the children that attended, but I was expected to organise painting, dancing, rounders, football etc. It’s astonishing now, to look back on how this came to pass. I had a brief interview with someone from Sevenoaks Council but there was no such thing as a Police check or anything like that to ascertain whether or not I was suitable or had any relevant experience. To be honest, I was out of my depth but my naiveté and inability to assert myself probably made attending good fun for the children. In my later life, everything would have been planned to the nearest millisecond but, in 1974, I let things happen on a whim. I probably did have to tell a few kids off but I have no recollection of anything other than a hard working but blissful three weeks surrounded by happy children. I repeated this activity for the next three years and was, from 1975, joined by someone called Tim, who had many more imaginative ideas than I did. But that reply “Where do I sign?“, changed my life. I found that there was something other than playing cricket that I actually enjoyed. I’d had other holiday jobs – postal worker, factory work, farm work, office work but they weren’t pleasant – a bit like being in a Geography lesson, listening to Mr. Whitehouse, just waiting for the lesson to end. Working with children was fun and I decided that I wanted to be a teacher because all children were delightful, funny and gave me lots of appreciative feedback. And so the next 40 years of fun, laughter, cheeriness, positivity and delight were mapped out.
The song “Andy Warhol” was written by David Bowie for Dana Gillespie, who recorded it in 1971, but her version remained unreleased until August 1974. I first heard it on “Hunky Dory”, David Bowie’s brilliant 1971 album. The lyrics are a bit obtuse but seem to address the issue of blurring the lines between life and art and how Andy Warhol wanted to make his whole life a work of art. A bit like my teaching career, then? Maybe not.
Disc 2 Track 2 You Really Got Me by The Hammersmith Gorillas. September 1974. Having been to Scotland and subsequently discovered my vocation at The Sevenoaks Holiday Playscheme, I went to stay with Francis for a couple of days in Coventry before the start of my Third Year. Over the previous couple of years, I had written the occasional letter to John, my childhood friend who was at Warwick University but with whom I had lost touch. I worked out that he was living less than a mile from Francis and one afternoon, we paid him a surprise visit. He was very pleased to see us, invited us in, and played us the first Help Yourself album. We later met up with him and another friend from school, Howard, who now had so much hair that I didn’t recognise him. We supped a few beers in The Earlsdon Cottage, one of the best pubs in the world and left. I didn’t see John again for 30 years. I think we realised that we had, at that time, gone separate ways, especially in terms of the ways in which we liked to relax and chill out. I don’t think I understood very much about his lifestyle. I didn’t “get” him.
The Kinks really were a fantastic group, inspiring much pop, glam and punk. The release of this version of “You Really Got Me” was timed to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the release of the original version by The Kinks. Jesse Hector, the lead singer with The Hammersmith Gorillas, abbreviated the name of his group to The Gorillas and, with success eluding him, he became a cleaner at The Royal Geographical Society.
Disc 2 Track 4 Hey Joe by Patti Smith. November 1974. At around this time, I started another lifelong friendship with Steven and Katherine. Francis had a new girlfriend, June, who shared a room with Katherine. Steven and Katherine both studied Maths and met each other on their first day at College in 1974 when they were in the same tutorial group. They married a few years after leaving Royal Holloway and I was their “Best Man”, giving the world’s most insipid Best Man’s speech. As a thank you for being best man, they gave me an album, “Easter” by Patti Smith.
Patti Smith never lacked passion and emotion on her records and this astonishing version of a song whose authorship is in doubt (either Billy Roberts, Dino Valenti or traditional) is one of her most fiery performances.
Disc 2 Track 5 Third Uncle by Eno. November 1974. I took seven different courses in my Third Year at Royal Holloway. One of them required me to write three essays on “The History Of Maths” and, for the first time (apart from my programming course in The Second Year), I found a part of the course that I loved. I wrote 5000 words on “The Moral Problems Of Scientific Research”, another 5000 words on “Isaac Newton” and 2000 words on “The Genesis Of Trigonometry”. I realised that researching an article and writing about it was something that I was good at and in November 1974, I started writing. The inability of the limited and narrow outlook at Judd which wouldn’t allow me to study English ‘A’ level alongside my two Maths A levels was something I would still feel bitter about nearly 50 years later.
Brian Eno’s approach to writing was slightly different and, possibly, more interesting. “Third Uncle” is from the album “Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)” and his approach to lyrical composition was to record the backing track first, singing nonsense syllables. He would then turn these syllables into words. The words on this track mainly consist of a list of things including tins, pork, legs, sharks, John, cliffs, Mother. By contrast, there’s no denying that, musically, it’s extremely exciting. I called my essay on Isaac Newton, “The Marble Index” because that’s how Wordsworth described a statue of Isaac Newton. It’s also the title of a Nico album, produced by John Cale who became a friend and collaborator of Eno.
Disc 1 Track 22 #9 Dream by John Lennon. December 1974 (I’m not quite sure why some of these songs are out of chronological order on this set). Francis’ girlfriend, June, studied English and she was friendly with a girl on the course called Paula. I tagged along with Francis to many social occasions, got chatting to Paula and, watching a film at The Film Society in December, we started holding hands. For the next three months, we were going out together. Except that she had a boy friend back in Solihull. Over Christmas, we wrote to each other and it was my first experience of waiting for the post fearing there would be nothing, but experiencing ecstasy if a missive arrived. We enjoyed each other’s company and we “made out” without ever taking things further. I was happy and confused. I really wasn’t sure what the “rules” were and retreated into myself, possibly denying any strong feelings, thus dooming the relationship from the beginning. I guess I treated it all like a dream.
This is a single from John Lennon so, of course, I love it. In reality, I find it a bit dull. Once his muse changed from his mother to Yoko Ono, his creativity suffered and he became less essential.
Disc 2 Track 6 Kings Of Speed by Hawkwind. March 1975. By March of my Third Year, my relationship with Paula had finished. This was not of my choosing and I took it badly. Being rejected and ignored never went down well with me and was the source of much confrontation in classrooms over the next 40 years. If I’d been more experienced, less naïve or more assertive, who knows how my life would have turned out? Looking back now, it seems that my hopeless attempts at getting a girlfriend were the actions of an emotionally stunted 14 year old, not a mature, wise 20 year old.
The lyrics to “Kings Of Speed” were written by Michael Moorcock and, maybe, if I’d been given that advice at the time, my relationship with Paula would have lasted longer. Hawkwind are an unfairly dismissed band; this is an unruly but exciting rocker.
Disc 2 Track 7. I Don’t Mind by Dr. Feelgood. March 1975. Over Christmas 1974/75, I had made two applications for life after College. One was to the VSO so that I could teach overseas and the other was to Worcester College of Education for a Teacher Training course. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. My Mum was aghast that I may end up in a foreign country working for nothing. I didn’t mind what I did and was prepared to take the first offer than I received. Francis and Brian also applied for teacher training at Worcester although, in the end, Brian decided against teaching. After an interview at Worcester where I proudly talked about my membership of Sports teams – rugby, cricket and darts (!) and how I was treasurer of the tenants society (withholding funds due to a rent strike(!)), I received an acceptance letter on the day before the VSO approval came through the post. How tenuous are life’s decision junctions?
Dr. Feelgood were a brilliant band. I went to see them in 1977 in The Winter Gardens in Malvern. Wilko Johnson’s guitar playing and stage presence were phenomenal.
Disc 2 Track 8 After Eight by Neu. June 1975. I turned 21 in June 1975 and I had a corridor party which included a keg of Black Label beer and a crate of brown ale along with 10 French loaves and pate. No expense was spared. 22 people attended the party which took place in and out of eight rooms on the corridor which gave access to our rooms. According to my diary, I had at least eight pints. After that, who knows? Neil, who wasn’t at Royal Holloway brought his new girlfriend, Zoe and this was the first time that I had met her. I generously let them sleep on the floor of my room while I slept in my own bed. By this time, I had taken all my exams and had only ten days left at College. I was very pleased that all my friends had come to the party and it was an affirming evening. It’s interesting that, of people who came to the party, I kept in touch with 16 of them after we had all left and six of them are still good friends.
There was absolutely no way that I would have ever considered listening to Neu in 1975. “After Eight” is taken from an album called “Neu! 75” which is split into two distinct sides. Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger had not been able to agree on a way forward for the band, so Side One consisted of songs written by Michael Rother in his keyboard-heavy, ambient style. “After Eight” is from Side Two which features single-chord songs with a pounding motorik beat, all punctuated by Klaus Dinger’s sneering vocals with incomprehensible lyrics. Looking back now, it’s clear to see yet another precursor of punk.
Disc 2 Track 9 Red Temple Prayer (Two Headed Dog) by R. Erickson & Bleibalien. July 1975. On July 11th, I got the results of my degree. I was awarded a 2.2. Of all the people that I knew, 1% failed, 15% got a pass degree, 25% got a 3rd (3% in 2017), 24% got a 2.2 (17% in 2017), 24% got a 2.1 (55% in 2017) and 10% got a First class degree (25% in 2017). Standards were much higher in my day……
Rocky Erickson was the founder member of the 13th Floor Elevators who released three albums between 1966 and 1969. In 1968, Rocky Erickson was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and he was given electroconvulsive therapy at Houston psychiatric hospital, against his will. In 1969, he was arrested for possession of a single marijuana joint in Austin and to avoid a ten year prison sentence he pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. He remained in Rusk State Hospital in Texas until 1972 and he recorded “Red Temple Prayer (Two Headed Dog)” on his release although it wasn’t released for another three years. The word “bleibalien” is derived from two German words, “bleib” meaning remain and “allien” meaning alone. I’m struggling to find a connection between this song and my feelings in July 1975. I certainly didn’t have visions of children nailed to a cross, as depicted in this song but I suppose there was a feeling of being alone after three years of intense social pressure, friendships and failed attempts at finding a girlfriend.
Disc 2 Track 10 Roadrunner by Jonathan Richman. August 1975. Two years on from my great holiday with Francis and Mary in Cornwall, I had another holiday there in the Summer of 1975 after the Playscheme had finished. This time, I went with Steven and Katherine along with Steven’s sister and two of their friends. It was a lovely holiday and it was interesting to go on holiday with three people I’d never met before. It was, I think, a sign of some growing up that I had done, that I was able to manage this without falling out or, more likely, retreating into silence. On the way home, I ended up doing a lot of the driving which everybody was thankful for but it meant that, as the chief road runner, I had a whole seat to myself while the other five were squashed together like sardines.
“Roadrunner” is a classic song, released in 1975 but not a hit for two years, and I never tire of it. I have three different versions, and it was a great pleasure to listen to the song, thirty years later, driving up Route 128 with Roo, looking for a “Stop and Shop”.
Disc 2 Track 11 Say It Ain’t So by Murray Head. October 1975. On the first day at Worcester College, we were told that we would be starting a teaching practice at the start of the following week. It was a very good idea to do this so quickly because several people found out that it wasn’t for them and dropped out early and didn’t waste a lot of time. I spent two days observing and on the third day, I taught the first part of a lesson on triangles to a Third Year (Year Nine) class. I told them that a triangle had three sides; a triplane had three wings and a tricycle had three wheels. What other words could they think of which started with “tri”? Some smart ass put his hand up and said “trifle”. I tutted and, in a resigned voice, asked him why he thought this had anything to do with three. “It’s got three layers” was the reply. Oh dear.
Murray Head is an actor and singer. He had a hit with “Superstar” from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, “Jesus Christ, Superstar”. He had a leading role in the film, “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and he wrote this epic five minute mini-symphony which lambasted greed and corruption in the UK in the mid Seventies. Thank goodness we have moved on since then. The phrase “Say it ain’t so, Joe” was first heard in the 1920’s when fans of baseball star, Joe Jackson (rumoured to have taken bribes to help his team lose), found it hard to believe that a hero could be so flawed. Say it ain’t so, Boris.
Disc 2 Track 12 Radioactivity by Kraftwerk. February 1976. Having survived a week at Nunnery Wood Secondary Modern in October 1975, I was given the most wonderful full teaching practice between January and April 1976. It was at a small rural Grammar School in Ledbury, Herefordshire. A few weeks before my arrival, a teacher was signed off with a long term illness and I was handed two full classes to myself, 1L and 2S. Normally, a student teacher shared classes while the normal teacher observes but I was let loose on these two classes without any interference. The ‘L’ meant that it was a Large class of 28 pupils and the ‘S’ was a Small class of 20 students. The school was housed in an old country mansion where some of the rooms were not big enough to fit more than 20 children in. It was a marvellous experience. The Head of Department was a great guy, really helpful and he had time for me whenever I wanted to chat to him about my lessons. This didn’t exactly prepare me for teaching at a Comprehensive school in Harlow but it was a memorable experience nonetheless.
In December 1975, an electrical error in a nuclear power plant in East Germany, caused a radioactive leak. In January 1976, a fire in a nuclear power plant in Czechoslovakia caused another radioactive leak. Kraftwerk were not only ahead of the times with their musical style, but were much more in tune with the zeitgeist than I was, even when I was preparing a lesson on Critical Path Analysis.
Disc 2 Track 13 Final Solution by Pere Ubu. March 1976. As my teaching practice progressed, I knew that I wanted to become a teacher and, being keen to guarantee my future, I applied for the first job I saw advertised. If I had had better advice, I would have waited for a plum job but, in fairness, I knew that I wanted to teach in a Comprehensive School. My own schooling in a boys Grammar School and my sense of fairness meant that I was strongly opposed to selective education. I applied for a job at Netteswell Comprehensive School in a town called Harlow that I’d never heard of. I was invited for an interview but when I got to Liverpool Street, all trains had been cancelled. I phoned the Head, and we arranged that I would get the Underground to Epping and he would pick me up in his car. On the way from Epping to Harlow, we chatted informally about many things, most of which he interrogated me about during the subsequent interview, especially my attitude towards the Comprehensive system. He was a very clever bloke – he snapped me up as quickly as he could – I wasn’t to know that Maths graduates looking to teach were rare. He was also clever in getting me into the school when there were no pupils there. My teaching practice at Ledbury Grammar School was no preparation at all for teaching at a Comprehensive School in a New Town. My first term’s teaching was a disaster as I was completely out of my depth, not having any behaviour management skills apart from looking completely out of my depth and hoping that these classes would magically shut up and listen, just for once. I don’t regret working there at all. I was in my twenties, there were lots of other cricket lovers there, the job was hard but it was fun and I made some good friends. The relief at getting the job was immense. Getting a job as a teacher was the final solution to the problem I had encountered four years ago when wondering what on earth I would do with my life.
Pere Ubu are still making albums and in 2019, they released their 19th studio album. “Final Solution” was their second single. The only constant presence in their lineups has been David Thomas, who I first heard as a guest vocalist on Jackie Leven’s marvellous “Defending Ancient Springs“. Their music has been described as blues-influenced avant-garde garage rock.
Disc 2 Track 14 Blitzkreig Bop by Ramones. June 1976. One of the main reasons for choosing to study at Worcester College was the use of continuous assessment in the course. This was the first Summer since I was ten years old that I didn’t have exams and the relief was tangible. It was 1976 and the Summer was long and hot. There were two or three cricket matches every week and the Union Bar (The Dive) was a welcoming place. In fact this bar remains the only drinking establishment that I have ever been able to turn up to without having previously arranged to meet anyone. I knew that I would meet someone that I could chat to. Saturday nights, in particular, were brilliant. Francis and I had moved into a wonderful flat, ten yards from the College entrance and directly opposite The Crown And Anchor which not only served beautiful beer and had a garden that backed onto the River Severn but also sold the best chicken and mushroom pies it had ever been my fortune to consume. Which I did in vast quantities. This was the last summer after 17 years of learning. It was time to celebrate.
Although the term “blitzkreig” has Nazi associations and the song references shooting people in the back, the song is much happier than that, being based on The Bay City Rollers’ “Saturday Night” and celebrating the good times.
Disc 2 Track 17 X Offender by Blondie. June 1976. At Worcester College, Francis had met a First Year girl called Jess, whose boyfriend, Rob (who wasn’t attending the College), supported the same football team as he did. He formed a friendly and entirely appropriate relationship with Jess and the three of them would, on occasions, travel North to watch the team. I went with them a couple of times. Francis was also frequently driving back to Royal Holloway to maintain his relationship with June. I would sometimes accompany him on one of these trips. I once went with him to Holloway to see Steven and Katherine and spent the night asleep in his A40, parked in the College car park. Towards the end of the year, Worcester College Students Union started arranging discos which took place about ten miles from the College grounds. To achieve a good turnout, they organised several coaches to ferry students there and back. After the first couple of these, most people I knew didn’t want to go again but Jess said she wanted to go so I went with her. Once again, I’ve had to look up the expression “made out” because that’s what Jess and I did at several of these discos and, more shamefully, on the coach on the way home. The fact that I knew her boyfriend, Rob, who was a good guy, makes this behaviour more difficult to defend. He wasn’t a student at the College. Nothing ever followed from these evenings and there were no strong feelings either way, just two people who enjoyed a snog. Jess, Rob and I remained friends for a few years afterwards and I went to their wedding where Francis was best man.
I technically wasn’t a sex offender on these occasions but it seems like a moral offence had taken place, if not a legal one. The girlfriend of Blondie bassist, Gary Valentine, had become pregnant when she was 17 and so he was charged with statutory rape. When he and Debbie Harry wrote “X Offender”, they changed the story to one about a prostitute falling in love with a police officer who arrested her.
Disc 2 Track 16 Cherry Bomb by The Runaways. June 1976. Between 1976 and 1988, I had no relationship with a female. A young man’s twenties and early thirties are normally the most sexually active time but due to all the things I’ve previously mentioned, I was determinedly single. I started work in an all male Maths department in Harlow, there were no single women on the staff as far as I could ascertain and I played rugby and cricket in all the times that I wasn’t preparing lessons or marking books. I found a funny, sociable, male environment to fit into. There was the occasional dance with the wife of one of my team mates at a cricket club disco, one of whom kindly opined that the reason that I wasn’t married was because I was “married to cricket”. Allen and Sara came to visit on one occasion and I asked one of my mates, Bill, if he’d like to come with me. Sara assumed that Bill and I were a couple. But all this only happened after one further dismal attempt at finding a girlfriend while I was at Worcester College. Jess had a friend called Jenny and I became good friends with her. She was intelligent, intense, funny, friendly, quiet and articulate. We had one evening out together when my clumsy attempt to put my arm around her was quickly rebuffed. I didn’t know how to initiate things and I wish I’d seen all those films where the bloke says “I would really like to kiss you now” because that always seems to work. I don’t know if that would have worked with Jenny in 1976 as I never saw her with anyone else and even when she came to see me in my flat in Harlow, there was no mention of anyone else. I know that any man whose advances are rejected assumes that the girl is gay, but the thought did occur to me. Jenny was a staunch feminist and had very left-wing views on which we agreed. The last I heard of her, she went to work abroad. And that’s the last of my stories of failed attempts to find a girlfriend. I’ve never thought about this but I’m guessing that if I’d had stronger feelings towards Iris, Jerry, Paula, Jess or Jenny, I would have analysed less and acted more. Whether or not this would have been more successful is seriously doubtful but it appears now that my shyness, which was borne of a fear of rejection, was more overwhelming than any feelings of desire.
I think that, maybe, Jenny would have liked “Cherry Bomb” by The Runaways (although seeing the 16 year old, Cherie Currie, wearing next to nothing on a Top Of The Pops performance wouldn’t have gone down well). Ostensibly, a “cherry bomb” can mean a young girl about to lose her virginity but this song is an aggressive use of word play, whereby any man thinking his luck was in was likely to receive a bomb.
Disc 2 Track 18 Horseplay (Weary Of The Schmaltz) by Eddie & The Hot Rods. June 1976. As far as Jon Savage was concerned, the Summer of 1976 was a brilliant time for new releases and he has included eight songs on this set. For me, it was the end of 17 years of education before I started work. I was about to move to Essex.
Canvey Island is not the nicest part of Essex but is home to Dr. Feelgood as well as Eddie & The Hot Rods. “Horseplay (Weary Of The Schmaltz)” was the “B” side of a cover of “Wooly Bully.”
Disc 2 Track 15 Max’s Kansas City ‘76 Pt 1 by Wayne County & The Backstreet Boys. June 1976. The Velvet Underground released a live album recorded at Max’s Kansas City which is in New York. Confusing. This song by Wayne County, who was born Jayne Rogers, namechecks Patti Smith, The New York Dolls, Blondie, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, The Heartbreakers and Dee Dee Ramone.
Disc 2 Track 19 Keys To Your Heart by The 101’ers. June 1976. The 101ers were the last of the pub rock groups, led by Joe Strummer and this single was released just before The Clash played their first show.
Disc 2 Track 20 (Don’t Fear) The Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult. July1976. A gentle sounding song, with profoundly disturbing lyrics, “Don’t Fear The Reaper” reached Number 12 in the Billboard Top 100. Here is what writer Donald Roeser said about the song. “It’s not about suicide, it’s about accepting death rather than bringing it about yourself. Don’t be afraid of it (as opposed to actively bring it about). It’s basically a love song where the love transcends the actual physical existence of the partners.”
Disc 2 Track 22 Train, Train by The Count Bishops. August 1976. Two years after this haunting blues song was released, this British group transformed into The Bishops, appearing on Top Of The Pops with a version of “I Want Candy”, four years before Bow Wow Wow took the song into the UK Top Ten.
Disc 2 Track 21 Heart Of The City by Nick Lowe. August 1976. My Dad had six siblings and three of his sisters used to come to the house and visit every Bank Holiday. One of them is still alive, aged 102, and going strong. For Christmas in 1976, I asked them to buy me “So It Goes” by Nick Lowe. The B side is “Heart Of The City”. Often regarded as one of the purveyors of “Power Pop”, Nick Lowe was one of the few artists who managed to maintain credibility with the punk audience whilst simultaneously remembering that a good melody is intrinsic to music’s appeal.
There are plenty of clichés which can be associated with a self indulgent reflection about past times. Socrates said that “The unexamined life is not worth living“. George Santayana, a Spanish/American philosopher said that “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it“. Svetlana Boym has said that outbreaks of nostalgia often follow times of upheaval. He cited The French Revolution, The Velvet Revolution and the Russian era of perestroika. The global pandemic has also caused me (and, I believe, many others) to become nostalgic for the past. The word nostalgia is derived from two Greek words, nostos (homecoming) and algos (pain or ache). The first historical references to nostalgia were from doctors treating Swiss mercenaries for homesickness. Thus, nostalgia can be seen as a yearning for a home. This post has been very nostalgic and nostalgia comes in two forms. “Restorative nostalgia” is when you feel like things used to be better and you long to relive the past. “Reflective nostalgia” is when you feel wistful about how things used to be, but you maintain a sense of amused acceptance. Anyone suffering from restorative nostalgia is likely to do anything they can, including violent acts, to recreate the past. “Make America Great Again”, springs to mind. Such people are unlikely to describe themselves as nostalgic but rather as seekers of truth and tradition. By contrast, anyone who has reflective nostalgia likes to imagine parallel universes, they love details and cherish shattered fragments of memory, which can be ironic and humorous. Reflective nostalgia allows longing and critical thinking to sit alongside each other. I have attempted to take an accepting look at four of my very formative years, wallowing in some of the details of my memory without attempting to recreate any feelings or opportunities that may have passed me by. The pandemic has given all of us cause to think back to easier times and I hope that by reflecting on past times and accepting my place in it, the future will be happier.
The journey from “Easy To Slip” by Little Feat in 1972 to “Heart Of The City” by Nick Lowe was profound. The musical journey was back to basics, back to a simpler more exciting sound. For me, the journey was the reverse. By the time I started my first teaching job in September 1976, I had grown up from the naïve little boy studying for his A levels to a sophisticated teacher ready to inspire a generation. And then, on my first day at Netteswell Comprehensive, I taught Naomi Addison and reality kicked in….