The CD of my life – Richard Harris – “MacArthur Park”

11 May

Incessant reminder: this is part of an apparently unending series of songs that, whenever I hear them, unlock “boxes” containing vivid memories of (often trivial) events in my life.

And, while I really only have room to mention one song in the title above, you get an added bonus this time of two others that are keys to the same box for exactly the same reason.

Also, rather weirdly, I have to say that those 3 songs are themselves in a locked memory chamber which is opened by a key word. And that word is…… SALAD!

OK. Let me stop being cryptic and take you back to the summer of 1968. I was then aged 15½ and still feeling quite grown up and “worldly” following my Mediterranean cruise earlier that year. My sister was half a year away from being a teenager and already regarded me as impossibly “un-cool” but we had one thing in common – an interest in the music of the day.

Following the lamentable demise of most of the “Pirate Radio” stations the easiest way to get a summary of what were the most popular songs of the week was to listen to Alan Freeman’s “Pick of the Pops” on BBC Radio 2 on a Sunday afternoon.

Author’s note: at this point I am tempted to insert a digressive rant about the undemocratic and ageist actions of the reactionary old farts comprising the government of the day in outlawing those radio stations.  I will, however, spare you that because I note that the current lot still have that nonsensical notion of “We’re politicians; therefore we obviously know what you want better than you do” – so I’ll save my debunking of THAT ludicrous idea for a separate article!

Anyway, “Pick of the Pops” had one BIG disadvantage as far as we were concerned – it happened at Sunday teatime!

“So what?” I hear those of you belonging to a more relaxed generation asking.

Well the simple fact was that my father had decreed that, while he did not object to us listening to the programme, the radio had to go off when we sat down at the tea table. I like to think that the snarling reluctance with which my sister and I switched off the old mains radio just as we were about to hear the all-important Top 10 influenced him to relent but there were two other factors that MAY have had a bearing.

The first of these might have been his realising (after some subtle hinting to that effect) that he was after all the person who introduced me to the concept of music radio when he told me about the test broadcasts of Radio Caroline in April 1964. The second may have been down to my somewhat cheekily asking why my sister and I had to put up with “The Today programme” every weekday morning during breakfast!

Whatever the reason, somewhere during the summer 1968 he did, indeed, relent and we were able to hear the entire chart as a way of ameliorating the awfulness of the meal itself.

Why so?

The answer as I mentioned earlier is “SALAD”! Every week without fail from the week in late spring when the ingredients first became available until the autumn when they stopped our Sunday tea was exactly the same!

Lettuce (of varying quality), Tomatoes, Cucumber, Beetroot (sliced and soaked in vinegar)and Spring Onions were always there, occasionally supplemented by Celery or Radishes. And never, EVER was the monotony of all that vegetable matter broken by anything remotely tasty such as Ham or Cheese.

So I hope you can see how something as ordinary as the ability to listen to a few Top 10 songs proved a glorious distraction from the almost taste and calorie free mass of cellulose that had to be consumed each week.

And the song mentioned in the title of this piece (probably because of the weirdness of its lyrics AND its performer)is the one that most recalls those awful “salad days”. You can find it here:

The other two songs which trigger the same thoughts for me are the rather dramatic “Eloise” by Barry Ryan – and “Elenore” by The Turtles which is actually in my list of all-time favourites.

And to this very day when my wife or anyone else serves up a salad I can guarantee that MY plate will contain things like Coleslaw, Couscous, Cheese and Olives in large amounts and very, VERY small amounts of the ingredients that I listed above.

Funny how little things like that can scar you, isn’t it?


1 Comment

Posted by on May 11, 2012 in CD of my Life


One response to “The CD of my life – Richard Harris – “MacArthur Park”

  1. Vincent

    May 13, 2012 at 9:25 am

    Richard Harris’ “McArthur Park” (full version) is the disk that is ACTUALLY on the turntable of my Rock-Ola Sybaris, on EVERY record on my channels. This is because at 7’09”, it is LONGER than all the others!


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