When I was seven years old, I went out on my bike for a journey around the block, as I frequently did. I was under instructions not to cross any roads but my parents were happy for me to complete one lap on the pavements. At one point, I swerved, lost control and fell off my bike, crashing into a gatepost. Blood trickled from a cut near my right eye. A neighbour carried me to my home and an ambulance took me to hospital, where I had six stitches. During my recovery period, I sat on the sofa watching a lot of television. The Australian cricket team were touring the U.K. and I became hooked. A few months later, my Dad took me to my first match: The Gentlemen of England v. The Australians. Ossie Wheatley opened the bowling for the amateurs (“The Gentlemen”) and I thought his name was hilarious. My first match involved the entitled rich amateur players of England against the cocky gloating Australians. Despite that, my love of cricket hasn’t faded.
In 1975, I went to Worcester Teacher Training College and within a few days, I was at Nunnery Wood Secondary Modern School. The first two days were spent observing but on the Wednesday, I taught my first lesson. It was all to do with triangles so I asked the Third Year class whether or not they could think of any words that started “tri”. I was offered “triplane” and a child told me it had three wings. Somebody else said “tricycle” with three wheels. A joker put his hand up and said “trifle”. I scoffed at this, but he indignantly explained that a trifle has three layers. I never found out if he was a wind-up merchant, knowledgeable or just a bit stupid. Anyway, that was my first lesson and the start of forty years in the profession.
Does the first occurrence of a lifelong obsession have any significance? What was the first TV programme I watched? When did I lose my virginity? What was the first holiday I went on? What was the first book I read? Where did I first drive without anyone else in the car? What was the first record I bought? What did I say the first time I met Roo? How many runs did I get in my first game of cricket? What was the first gig I went to?
I know the answers to some of those questions. Does it matter? I think these questions matter to each individual but are of no interest to anyone else. This rather invalidates the lead-in to this post. Oh well.
The first gig I ever went to was to see The Edgar Broughton Band at The Assembly Rooms in Tunbridge Wells. I don’t know when this was but the incredible website http://www.marmalade-skies.co.uk tells me that it was probably around February 1970. I think the support acts were Jody Grind and The Third Ear Band. I can remember a big white piano played by Tim Hinkley of Jody Grind but my clearest memory of the gig is Edgar Broughton walking on stage and spitting on the floor. At the time “Out Demons Out” was the only song I knew and it reached Number 39 in the U.K. Charts. The song consists mainly of the band chanting the title while Edgar Broughton ad libs random phrases over the top of a heavy British blues band jam.
Sadly, “Out Demons Out” is not on the band’s eponymous third album but “Evenings Over Rooftops” more than makes up for that. The song starts with a strummed acoustic guitar and strings. The string arrangement was by David Bedford, later to be a member of Kevin Ayer’s band, The Whole World. It builds with drums, bass and wordless backing vocals. Edgar Broughton sings about a beautiful garden on a summer evening of fading light. Suddenly three birds take off and are joined by hundreds more. He can’t understand why the birds took off and the scene causes him to wonder how much longer he has to live. If it sounds like pretentious nonsense,
it’s a wonderfully evocative piece of poetry well it is. By the end of the song, his singing has got more manic and the intensity of the song has increased to such an extent that the events of that Summer evening take on a huge significance. It’s great.
“Piece Of My Own” is a wonderfully melodic song featuring tuneful violin and great harmonies. “Poppy” is a simple love song. In contrast “For Dr. Spock (Pts. 1 & 2)” is more haunting and threatening. Tony Blackburn hated what The Edgar Broughton Band stood for but he loved the single, “Hotel Room” and played it every day for a week. “Call Me a Liar” was the “B” side with a message that the planet is in “a bad bad way“. The album consists of a variety of musical styles, all rooted in blues music but transformed through the prism of late Sixties psychedelia. The cover of the album is horrible but reflects the vegetarian diet of the band.
The Edgar Broughton Band were originally from Warwick but, moving to London, they met Peter Jenner, later to become Pink Floyd’s manager, who arranged their contract with EMI’s Harvest label. They played a number of free festivals and became very popular with the Underground scene. Riotous behaviour by fans at their concerts led to many towns (but not Tunbridge Wells!) banning them. Before a gig in Redcar, Edgar Broughton gave some fans some red paint. When the paint was thrown around the venue causing significant damage, the band denied that they told anyone to throw the paint around. The band travelled to gigs in a small Morris van, driven by Edgar Broughton’s Mum and their equipment was carried into the venues by his Dad. “When most people were telling us to get our hair cut, Mum and Dad were saying ‘don’t you get your hair cut you’ll spoil your image’”
I wonder when Edgar Broughton got his first hair cut?