I went to cricket again on Friday night with Andy. There was a good atmosphere in the crowd. Almost everybody was watching the game intently and reacting according to their own inclination. For Andy and me that meant clapping enthusiastically as Delray Rawlings hit another six. For most of the people around us it meant singing songs. I didn’t mind that. It was good fun, it was good natured, it was a party atmosphere, it was enjoyable. I am not a curmudgeon who takes extreme dislike in other people’s pleasure. I’m very happy for other people to enjoy themselves as long as it doesn’t spoil things for me. Which it didn’t. In this case.
There’s always a “but”. Why is it that people do as they are told? A strange question for an ex teacher to posit, I guess. I spent 40 years wondering why teenagers didn’t do as I told them to. Every class was supposed to be replete with compliant children who unquestioningly complied with my instructions. Obviously, I like to think that those pupils who did as they were told, did so because they could understand that I was attempting to help them become better educated – to be better mathematicians and to have the skills needed to solve problems in adult life. No, the question is why is it that people at sporting events wait for someone on the P.A. to tell them how to enjoy themselves?
“Sweet Caroline” is not a good song. That’s a fact, not an opinion. It’s middle of the road pap, written by Neil Diamond who, for reasons known only to Robbie Robertson, was invited to perform at The Band’s farewell concert alongside the truly great artists of the time including Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Muddy Waters, Dr. John, Emmylou Harris, The Staples Singers and, of course, Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel. And Neil Diamond! How can anyone possibly put him alongside these greats, these immortals? “Sweet Caroline” is a forgettable pop song which happens to have a singalong chorus. So does “Sugar Sugar” by The Archies or “The Last Waltz” by Englebert Humperdinck but no one would consider making these the essential background noise to a sporting achievement. Now, at any sporting event, as soon as the person operating the P.A. puts on “Sweet Caroline”, everyone in the crowd stands up and belts out the lyrics of the song. Everyone apart from Andy and me, that is. It’s the Final of the European Championships today and even the England football team is encouraging the crowd to sing this rubbish.
More forgivable is “Hey Jude”. Nearly 58 years after its release on 28th August 1968, as soon as the P.A. starts playing the 3 minute fade out, everyone in the crowd stands up and sings along. Everyone except Andy and me. “Na na na na na na na. Na na na na. Hey Jude“. Presumably Paul McCartney’s epic song to his best mate’s son will endure forever or at least until the sun burns out and all life on Earth is extinguished. “Hey Jude” is a great song but its repeated use diminishes it. Again, that’s a fact, not just my opinion.
At cricket there’s a seven note melody, played on a trumpet, which is played several thousand times every game after which everyone in the crowd cheers. Everyone except Andy and me. If you have a view of 1498 people in a ground singing and dancing and having the best night of their lives whilst two 67 year olds sit glumly and miserably wishing they were anywhere but there, that’s not correct. We both love going but, being somewhat contrary, we refuse to join in just because we are expected to.
Why is it that everyone does as they are told? The person operating the P.A. wields enormous power. At Wembley, tomorrow night, this person will be able to make 75 000 people sing a particular song whenever they choose to. Why do people comply? Why do they fit in? What is it that makes people act in unison. It reminds me of one of my favourite parts from “Life Of Brian” when Brian says, “Listen. I’ve got one or two things to say. You’ve got it all wrong. You don’t need to follow me. You don’t need to follow anybody. You’ve got to think for yourselves. You are all individuals.” To which the a massive crowd replies, in unison, “Yes. We are all individuals.” Brian emphasises the point by saying “You are all different.” They reply “Yes. We are all different.” One sad voice pipes up, “I’m not.” Genius.
At major sporting events, there’s no lone voice in the crowd, piping up “I’m not different.” There’s no leader telling everyone to think for themselves. There’s someone on the P.A. expecting everyone to stop their conversation, to stop their appreciation of the sport that they are watching, to stop thinking for themselves and to join in with a pap pop song. Why?
National Service was introduced in the U.K. from 1949. All men, aged between 17 and 21 were required to serve in the armed forces for 2 years and to remain on the reserve list for three years. Coal miners, farm workers and anyone in the merchant navy was exempt. All four Beatles lived with the prospect of National Service. Ringo Starr decided that if he joined Dingle Sea Scouts, he could later apply to join the Merchant Navy and thus avoid National Service. However, after he ran away with a rifle, he was thrown out. He later got a job as a waiter with the Liverpool and North Wales Steamship Company. However, when he turned up to work one day, hungover from the previous evening’s drinking, he gave an insolent reply and was sacked on the spot. John Lennon considered training as a waiter so that he could get a job in the Merchant Navy. From 1937 it was decided that anyone born after 1st October 1939 would be exempt from National Service and all four of the Fabs had freedom bestowed upon them. Thus the future of human civilisation was assured. What would the world be like now if all four of The Beatles had been involved in the Suez Crisis or the Malayan Emergency or the Cyprus Emergency or against the Mau Mau Uprising or served in the Korean War as other National Service personnel were? Being allowed to express themselves rather than doing as they were told for 18 months was a huge influence in the formation of the musical, spiritual and conceptual ideas of their late teens.
The Misunderstood were not so lucky. Their name was, unfortunately, very prophetic and Rick Brown’s experience with the American draft saw the band’s creativity curtailed before it had time to develop. According to an article in “Classic Rock”, Rick Brown’s band, The Misunderstood, “were so far out on their own, so individual and innovative that you can only wonder at the set of circumstances that conspired to prevent them from becoming the iconic name that was surely their destiny.” Those circumstances could have been avoided if Rick Brown had been allowed to think for himself and act as an individual, rather than being forced to comply with the expectations that society placed upon him.
The Misunderstood were formed in Riverside, California in 1963, originally as a surf group called The Blue Notes. They changed their name to The Misunderstood and, in 1966, came to the attention of a British DJ who was in America, using his Englishness to pretend he was a Beatles expert. John Ravencroft’s ear was caught by The Misunderstood who were playing “the most unbelievable stuff I’d ever heard” at a gig to mark the opening of a new shopping centre. He arranged for them to cut a single in Hollywood’s Gold Star Studios but with neither fame nor fortune imminent, he suggested the group head to London. He said that the band could stay at his mother’s house but he forgot to tell her that. Guitarist Greg Tredway recalled, “John told us that his mom would be expecting us and that we could stay at her flat until we were settled. In fact she knew nothing about it. We stood in front of her flat for eight hours with with all our equipment whilst she called John back in the States to find out ‘what these four long hairs were doing outside’“. John Ravencroft’s brother, Alan, got them a record deal with Fontana records and after a sensational live performance to the press at the record company’s headquarters, they played at The Marquee Club, watched by Pink Floyd and The Move. Sadly, that was the end of the band as three of the band had work permit problems and, temporarily, relocated to Germany before being deported back to The States. Rick Brown, the lead singer and songwriter in The Misunderstood had been drafted and returned to the USA where he was forced by aggressive marine sergeants to crawl under live machine gun fire and race through clouds of poison gas whilst (unknown to them) he was tripping on acid. He was smuggled off the army base and returned to Britain where he shared a flat with Jeff Beck. The FBI caught up with him in London and he spent 12 years as a fugitive in India, living as a monk. I’m not making this up. After a disagreement with one of the monks, he travelled to Southern India where he met up with a friend who had uncovered a secret ruby mine and found some magical jewels (according to The Misunderstood’s website). This started a lifelong interest in gems and, after being granted an amnesty in 1979, he now works as a gemologist and jewelry designer in Bangkok. Glen Ross Campbell subsequently formed Juicy Lucy, who had a hit with “Who Do You Love” which had been the B side to The Misunderstood’s second single, the classic “I Can Take You To The Sun”.
“Children Of The Sun” is another fantastic release from Grapefruit Records and compiles their entire output from 1965-1966. It’s a 2 CD collection and includes all six sides from their first three singles, “You Don’t Have to Go” , “Who’s Been Talkin’ “, “I Can Take You To The Sun”, “Who Do You Love?”, “Children of the Sun” and “I Unseen”. In an early “Top Gear”, John Peel described “I Can Take You To The Sun” as “the best popular record that’s ever been recorded“.
This double CD includes all the Gold Star recordings that were made with John Peel in 1965 as well as some early songs from their days in Riverside. Their music is explosive, psychedelic, high octane, soulful, exciting, reflective, underground, electric and progressive.
John Ravenscroft changed his name to John Peel and, shortly before his death, he said “If I had to list the ten greatest performances I’ve seen in my life, one would be The Misunderstood at Pandora’s Box, Hollywood, 1966. My god, they were a great band!“