A few weeks ago, there being about 200 channels of utter rubbish on the cable TV, I spent an hour or so listening to the radio.
Specifically, I was listening to a BBC Radio 2 programme featuring news stories and, more importantly to me, music from 1970.
Incidentally may I just digress and say that, as a person who works on, at and with computers, how nice it is to be able to write “programme” with the correct spelling for once?
The hour long broadcast was, basically, a reworking of Auntie Beeb’s early 80’s offering “25 Years of Rock”. It may in fact have been exactly the same thing shorn of its opening titles and the closing credits spoken over the instrumental bit of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well”.
I taped the original, along with the rest of the series from the 1963 episode (because I wasn’t really interested in the previous 9 years) onwards, in 1980 and it is still in a box in the garage – I’ll look it out and if it hasn’t rotted away from old age will let you know when I have the answer.
The news items were genuine recordings from the sound archives, delivered by a gentleman (who my friend, Mike V, will no doubt know the name of – he knows stuff like that!) with an awfully stilted “BBC English” accent.
Such an accent sounds funny these days but I found it quite pleasant that I didn’t have to struggle to pick out words mumbled in some obscure regional dialect which is more usually the case since the BBC Governors decided that “diversity” in its presenters was a good thing!
I have to say that the reporting showed a particular bias towards “the Establishment” on a couple of occasions!
Firstly, the report on the run up to the General Election of 1970 featured an interview with a girl who had turned 18 on election day and was thus able to vote – the very first time 18 year olds had been eligible. To say that it was patronising in the extreme doesn’t do it justice – the suggestion was made quite blatantly that no-one of that age could POSSIBLY know enough to make an informed decision on such important “grown-up” matters!
I have a personal clear recollection of my Father’s take on that issue:
“If you’re old enough to be sent to war and die for them, you’re certainly old enough to vote for the buggers!”
I don’t know how typical that view was at the time but it clarifies the remark he made in his “war memoirs” where he described conscription as “the brutalisation of legal infants”!
The second slightly more amusing interview was with an Isle of Wight resident who didn’t think that the 1970 Pop Festival being staged there was an appropriate sort of event for that island. In other words “Not In My Back Yard”!
I gained a mental picture of him – retired, middle to late sixties in age, right wing Tory, pillar of the Golf Club and “anti” everything that was being done differently to how it had been done in his day!
He referred collectively to the youthful, drunken, dope smoking participants as “the Young” as though they were a litter of puppies. He did concede that two-thirds of them were “good, respectable Young” while the remaining one-third (presumably the ones supplying the drink and drugs to the rest) were described as “delinquent Young”.
Despite the fact that he probably wasn’t more than ten years older than I am now I still felt that I wanted to give this pompous guardian of the establishment a good hard slap and I REALLY hope that some of the “delinquent Young” found his house and pissed on his prize Geraniums!
Alas, I can never know.
However, let’s leave the news reports alone for a while and get onto the really good bit – the music!
From the opening track of “Ball of Confusion” by The Temptations, through “Fire & Rain” by James Taylor, “All Right Now” by Free, “Question” by The Moody Blues and many others to “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel, I was mesmerised!
By the way I do know (before one of you points it out) that the tracks I listed are not in chronological order – that was just the order they appeared in the broadcast.
Anyway, taken as a whole, the musical part of the programme got me thinking about whether there has been a year since that has contained quite so many songs that I really, REALLY like.
I have a book (yes, another one!) that lists a “Top Twenty” singles chart for each month from January 1954 to March 2001 in both the UK and the USA.
Looking at the twelve monthly offerings for 1970 in the UK I have so far located exactly TWO tracks that I would most definitely NOT include on a CD for playing in the car – which proves my point about that year because I’ve also checked out the other years between 1963 and 2001 and they EACH include dozens of songs that I don’t like.
Oh, all right then!
The two I wouldn’t touch with the proverbial barge-pole are “Two Little Boys” by Rolf Harris, the first Number 1 of the 1970’s, and “All Kinds of Everything” by Dana, perhaps the most sugary and sickly piece of Eurovision tat ever!
This is not to say that everything else is perfect – there are, for example, an Engelbert Humperdinck and a couple of Elvis Presley numbers from that year that are pretty terrible but they don’t QUITE make me scream and clap my hands over my ears the way the other two I named do.
So many of the hits of 1970 evoke specific memories that detailing them will have to wait for the project I have in mind for mapping my life through my musical favourites of the time.
I would however like to give a couple of brief samples of the sort of thing I mean.
To begin with: “Question” – I recall vividly sitting on my little Honda 90 motorcycle on its stand outside the Hall of St John’s Congregational Church in Ipswich where my friends from the 3rd Ipswich Boys Brigade Company and I were having a charity 24 hour table tennis marathon.
I had nipped out for a cigarette at about 2am and had left the door open to let some refreshing night air in. We had been playing a lot of different records quite loudly to help keep us awake and “Question” was the track that happened to be on at that moment.
And then we have “Bridge…..” – same old Church Hall but this time the Youth Club “Disco”. We’d had a bit of a struggle to get this organised thanks to some strenuous objections by the reactionary old farts of the “Men’s Fellowship”, some of whom must, I think, have been related to that guy in the Isle of Wight!
When this song came on at the end of the evening I found myself dancing with the Vicar’s daughter, whose name totally escapes me. I think she fancied me but I wasn’t interested in her in the slightest.
She wasn’t going to let that stop her.
“Everyone else is snogging” she whispered to me, “I’ll be embarrassed if we don’t too!”
So, just to be polite, I obliged.
She put a great deal more enthusiasm into it than I did but I learned two things during that dance.
Firstly, even seventeen year olds have Blood Pressure and secondly it IS possible under those circumstances for the human male to breathe through his ears for over three minutes at a time!
And even now when I hear that song I find myself holding my breath to see if I can still do it.
The sentence above was intended to be the end of this piece but on listening to the broadcast again on BBC i-player I realised that something important had not been mentioned above.
Back at the beginning of May – the 4th to be precise – I published what even I thought was a rather good Shaggy Dog story about a sequel to War of the Worlds. I should have put that aside for a few days and instead have commemorated a rather more important anniversary that took place that day.
I refer, as at least one of my readers will have deduced already, to the 40th Anniversary of the events at Kent State University, Ohio. This was the day when the US National Guard opened fire with live ammunition at Students protesting on campus against the Vietnam War, killing four of them!
This, of course, is the kind of behaviour which the US Government always condemns in other countries (especially those with oil reserves) sometimes to the extent of going to war with them and regrettably the whole matter got buried in the more newsworthy Watergate scandal later.
So, better late than never, and with the strains of “Ohio” by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young ringing in my ears, this piece is dedicated to the four “Martyrs” who did not ever get to hear most of the wonderful music produced in 1970.