PC 110 That reminds me (2)

My introduction to classical music was gradual and subtle – staying with my grandmother in Bath and having to listen as she practised that ‘Arrival of the Queen of Sheba’ over and over again for instance! You might have thought I would have developed an aversion to it, such is the repetitive nature of someone practising, but I didn’t and came to love the sound. And it’s the sound I love; I read erudite critiques of pieces of music and wonder where the writer’s imagination has been. Not where mine has been.

And then along came Cliff Richard.

The first record I bought was his single called ‘Living Doll’ in 1959 and that was closely followed by Adam Faith’s ‘What do you want?’ I didn’t have a record player so had to borrow a school chum’s; and that wasn’t big enough to play a 12 inch ‘long playing’ record – ah! The impecunity of youth!

And then along came Elvis (Do I need to write ‘Presley’?).

My grandmother didn’t like this ‘crooner’ but boy did we. He shook the teenage world with his songs and brash antics and our memories are unsullied by subsequent binges ……. and drug abuse ……. and an early death. At boarding school we opened the windows in the winter months after evening ‘prep’ and played ‘O So Mio’ or ‘Love me tender’ at full volume ……. and wondered about life and love.

And then along came The Beatles ….. and the Rolling Stones.

In the holidays I went home, went to the odd party and heard The Beatles for the first time. I can still picture the cover of one of their first LPs ‘With The Beatles’.

The Beatles

In 1968 my UK-based regiment went to Cyprus for a month of ‘adventurous training’, a mixture of training in the mountains of this Mediterranean island and canoeing, hiking, sailing, shooting and rock climbing. Towards the end of our time, the Commanding Officer asked me, the most junior officer, to be in charge of the Rear Party. My only task, hardly onerous, was to manage the ‘Rear Party’ consisting of four soldiers and ensure the Regimental freight was dispatched by the RAF on time. Sadly it meant I had to spend an extra 14 days waiting for that flight; ‘ah!’ I hear you sigh. Why am I telling you this? Because ‘Hey Jude’ by The Beatles will be forever associated with Gail, the daughter of an officer permanently based in Dhekelia, the Sovereign Base Area on the island, whom I met at the Officers’ Club.  (Tea & toast?)

Then there was an American duo that created some lovely ballads – Don & Phil Everly. One of their famous hits was ‘Ebony Eyes’. Today I went on to YouTube ……. and there it was ……. and I put the cursor over ‘play’ ……. and I found myself singing along …… about Flight 1203 ……. my Ebony Eyes ……the words just came tumbling out of me as if it was yesterday. Ingrained somehow!

Another influence of my generation was another American called Buddy Holly – all clean cut and glasses. He sang about Peggy Sue, True Love Ways, Everyday and Crying, Waiting, Hoping …… and then he was killed in an aeroplane crash in 1959 at the age of 22 …… and became a legend in the process! Ritchie Valens was another rising music star on that plane, causing Don McLean to refer to it as ‘The Day the Music Died’ (American Pie).

The Day The Music Died

Here in Britain black & white television was becoming more common and a ‘Top of the Pops’ programme, with live acts performing their songs on television, established itself in the rhythm of our lives – it was mandatory viewing at The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. In our Company ante-room we all crowded around a small TV, waiting with baited breath for Pans’ People, a dance group of 6 lithe women whose costumes were obviously deliberately designed to set our imaginations running.

The first musical I really loved was Evita, the story of Eva Peron and that song ‘Don’t cry for me Argentina’ still  runs around my head on occasions. As does ‘The Music of the Night’ from Phantom of the Opera, the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. Michael Crawford, its first leading actor, recalled how some months before he was taking singing lessons on a Saturday morning when the tutor’s front doorbell rang. Telling Michael to practise his scales, he left him upstairs and went down to open the front door. It was Andrew Lloyd-Webber, who was working on bringing ‘Phantom of the Opera’ to the stage. He immediately asked whose voice he was hearing. On being told it was Michael Crawford he exclaimed ‘I think I have found my leading man for ‘Phantom’!

In Germany in the mid ‘70s I went to my first Rock concerto in Dortmund, in Germany, a group called Santana. I was just ‘going with the flow’ with chums and don’t remember finding the ground moved, but I did get completely hung up on the slow guitar introduction of Samba Pa Ti. Years later on my way to see my soon-to-be in-laws, driving down a laurel-banked road, the radio played it, taking my mentally back to Dortmund.

I developed no real passion for one particular type of singing or music over another, just loved some, and conversely didn’t get on with others. Singers whose voices and the songs they have sung I have loved, in no particular order, range from Francoise Hardy and her glorious “Tous les garçons et les filles de mon âge”, Carly Simon’s ‘I’m So Vane’, Jennifer Rush’s version of ‘The Power of Love’ and anything by Neil Diamond. I had all of his LPs up until the demise of my record player (!) and loved his ‘Jonathan Livingstone Seagull’ and ‘Stones’ LPs. I even saw him at the Wembley Arena one evening. And then, sadly, his voice was past its best and no one told him. I bought a recent CD and played it once; enough!

Another collection

Sometimes you need a good belter to lift your mood. In the immediate aftermath of my first divorce, in my lower ground flat on Cavendish Road in Clapham, London, nothing better to lift your spirits than ‘You’re the Best’ by Tina Turner.

All the LPs eventually went – cassettes didn’t really do it apart from in a cassette player travelling on business. Gradually my taste has evolved and the music of Ottmar Liebert (Thank you Jonathan H for the introduction!) and voices of individuals like Enya, Celine Dion, Adele and Enigma fill my rooms. Even more recently Angus & Julia Stone’s songs have tugged at the heart strings.

Occasionally I think “Why don’t I have any recordings of ……?” (Barry White and Demis Roussos for example) and it’s soon rectified by a cheap purchase through Amazon. Or you watch a drama on television and love the accompanying music and wait until the end of the credits to catch the artist …… and go on to Amazon …… for instance the Israeli singer Asad Avidan ….. but don’t ask me what the drama was!!

Mere scribbles, mere memories

Richard 18th November 2017


3 thoughts on “PC 110 That reminds me (2)

  1. Great piece, I was hoping to find out MUCH more of Gail! Spotify is pretty good for collecting favourite music on, and its free! Eddie


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