While I haven’t done one of these since November last year, I’m sure you remember the idea! However, just in case……
Sometimes when I hear a particular song it will bring back startlingly clear memories of a place, time or event. Conversely something else might make me think of that event and I’ll find myself humming or singing the associated piece of music. It doesn’t have to be a song I like and the memory doesn’t have to be a particularly happy one – it’s the association of the two that I’m recording for posterity.
Towards the end of 1987, having not long returned from the Barclays Bank Trust Company Senior Taxation Course that I told you about last October, I received some unpleasant news!
Let me just set the scene – in January 1983 I was transferred from Norwich to Chelmsford and we moved house in the April (one day before our elder daughter was born – but that’s another story)!
It was a great time with a young family (younger daughter was born in 1985) at home and a great team of friendly, sociable people at work. And, yes, I include the management in that description; you won’t hear me say THAT very often!
Anyway, I had been promoted once while there and after successfully completing that Senior Course my envisaged career path would have been an Assistant Manager position in a couple more years. This could well have involved another office move but this would include a fairly substantial pay rise and I would also have the option of saying “No thanks” if it was either an unpleasant location or the Manager was known as a Right Bastard!
What actually happened, roughly a week after I returned from the course with my enthusiasm for the job recharged was that the bloody company announced a batch of office closures and Chelmsford was listed as one of those to go!
So, instead of the ideal scenario listed above what I actually GOT was: No promotion; no pay rise; no option to say “no” to the move AND an office where the manager was a Right Bastard!
Which is why, from the beginning of March 1988 until we actually moved house at the end of May, I was commuting daily from Chelmsford to Cambridge in the family Vauxhall Astra – a journey of roughly 55 miles each way.
This daily journey was not as onerous as it was to become a few years later simply because, while the M11 (on which road roughly half of the journey had to be driven) had been in existence outside of London for a few years it still didn’t go anywhere but Cambridge and so few people used it that it was like having one’s own personal motorway at that time.
Nevertheless, that still left over 25 miles of over slightly more stressful driving with more normal levels of commuter traffic on each trip and I really came to appreciate the car’s sound system.
As BBC radio was going through one of those periodic changes where Radio 1 was playing stuff that was too new for my taste while Radio 2 was still transmitting the sort of stuff my parents would have listened to – so those stations were ruled out straight away!
What I took to doing instead was to leave Chelmsford each morning listening to Chris Tarrant on Capital Radio (which was well within my radio’s range when I set out) until such time as the signal faded away near the entry point to the M11 near Stansted Airport. And at THAT point I would reach into a little box on the passenger seat and select a C90 cassette to plug into the player on the dashboard.
Regular readers may, incidentally, recall my previous mention of that radio programme as the source of the little May Day rhyme that I quoted on this site back on 1st May 2009 – “Hooray, Hooray, the First of May; Outdoor sex begins today!” I think I mentioned the circumstances under which I heard it there too – so I’m just being consistent!
I did, at that time, own a few actual “cassette albums” but mostly these would be the sort of hand-crafted mix tape that everyone of that era owned. That is to say they were carefully recorded on a radio/cassette player from that weeks’ “Pick of the Pops” chart show and/or the earlier years’ chart show hosted by that creepy Saville pervert!
There was a knack (which I sometimes was able to find) of turning off the “record” button just before the DJ talked over the end of the track with his inevitable banalities and as a result some of the songs had rather abrupt endings but it was a good way of collecting tracks that I otherwise would never have gone out and bought.
My favourite one of these home-made tapes eventually got to stay almost permanently in the cassette player in the car and some of the tracks got to become calming mantras either to help me prepare for my day with my new snide, self-serving boss or to help me unwind afterwards.
It will not surprise you to learn that chief among these “relaxers” is the track given in the title of this piece which comes from The Beach Boys beautifully hippy/eco-warrior album “Sunflower” released in 1970. If I am ever under stress and happen to have heart rate and blood pressure monitors attached I would like to see just how far those readings would fall when this song gets played to me. Trust me – it would fall quite a lot!
Here, as is my custom with this series, is a YouTube link to it:
I don’t know whether it was by accident or design but the next track on that tape was also a Beach Boys favourite that has a similar effect on me. It is “Country Air” from the 1967 “Wild Honey” album so here’s a link to that one too:
I only recall one other track on that tape and that was “Synchronicity II” by The Police. I found that to be far from relaxing but if you listen to the story in the song you get an idea how I felt working at that particular office. I am not putting a link on here because I don’t want to spoil the mood but suggest you look for the official video on YouTube – it does, I think, demonstrate exactly how Sting came to get the role of Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen in the film “Dune”!
Anyway, that’s the story – I now have an 8 gigabyte USB stick from which to play my “car music” and the other day random chance played BOTH of the two Beach Boys tracks mentioned within about three songs of each other. I was instantly transported mentally back to 1988 and the nearly empty M11 as if no time had passed.
I presume that my box of cassettes is still stashed away in the garage somewhere – I must dig it out sometime (if the tapes haven’t rotted away by now) and see what other little gems were on it.