In 1968, Mr Bryant (my English teacher who thought my name was Mauve), asked us to write an essay about our hero. I chose Alan Knott, the great Kent and England wicket keeper who had just started displaying his incredible skills at the highest level. I think I might have misunderstood the concept of a hero because I started my essay with an apology for choosing such an unlikely person for a hero. I probably thought that the expectations were that I should choose Winston Churchill. Actually, it was a pretty good choice and even now, when Jos Buttler fails to dive far enough to take a miraculous catch, I will always say “Knotty would have got there.”
Despite my inflated view of my own ability at cricket, I think I knew deep inside that I would never ape Alan Philip Eric Knott’s abilities. Looking back at my career choices, it would never have been possible for me to be a professional cricketer. I’m happy that I chose teaching but I guess that if there’s anyone else whose career I envy and whose job I think I could have done, it’s Bob Harris. I’m sure I could have grinned toothily at a camera and enthused about The Sutherland Brothers And Quiver. I know I could have been quite happy travelling to Nashville and cosying up to up-and-coming country music stars. I certainly could have spent many happy hours preparing playlists for my radio programmes. I’ve been practising this my entire life.
After I’d met Roo a couple of times in 1991, I sent her a cassette tape compilation. Nowadays people refer to this antiquated concept as a Mix Tape but I prefer to think of it as Mick’s Tape. I’d just got “Hymns To The Silence” by Van Morrison and I wanted her to know about my obsession with the Irishman. I didn’t think she would like the nine minute monologue of “On Hyndford Street” and so, for the first track on the tape, I chose the lovely “Carrying A Torch” which seemed to me to be more accessible than most other songs on this great album. (I don’t know whether to start the next sentence with “fortunately” or “unfortunately”.) Fortunately, I had no idea what the phrase “carrying a torch” meant but Roo did. Thirty years later, there she is, sitting six feet away, trying to find another house for us to move into.
I’ve always loved to make mix tapes or, more recently, mix CDs. It’s important to start with something upbeat and, preferably, by a well known artist. The long songs should be placed near the end and fast and slow songs should alternate throughout. I’ve forced hundreds of mix compilations on friends over the years and I understand that for most people they are considered to be a thoughtful, but unwanted gift.
One person who is the exception to this and who always tells me that he loves my compilations is a friend of mine called Graham. I worked with him at Brays Grove School in Harlow where he was the only person I could discuss music with. On the other hand, he is ten years younger than me and loves David Sylvan and Japan so we don’t have too much in common. But he’s a great guy and I was pleased to get a text from him this week saying that he will be in Brighton for a few days. We are meeting for a few beers in six hours time and I’m looking forward to listening to his pearls of wisdom.
I sent Graham a Spotify playlist a few days ago but I didn’t really prepare it properly. I need to imagine that I am Bob Harris and I have a one hour radio programme tonight in which I will be playing the best new music released this year. I need to give it some thought. I’ve just looked at the new albums I’ve bought this year and 18 are by Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr or The Beatles, 14 are by Neil Young and 19 are psychedelic sounds from the late Sixties. On the other hand 16 are albums that have been released in 2021 and there is some fantastic music amongst them all. So, to mark the occasion of meeting up with the one true fan of Mick’s Tapes, here is my Spotify playlist consisting of the best new music released this year.