I fell in love with music at an early age. My young ears listened appreciatively to chart hits that my parents played on a reel-to-reel tape recorder. These included Sacha Distel’s This Guy’s in Love with You, Chris Montez’s The More I see You and The Green Green Grass of Home by Tom Jones. My real love during these formative years was, however, The Beatles.
My dad, owner of the aforementioned tape recorder, was a bit of a home audio buff. He constructed a stereo record player from a kit (catalogue above), which he tested out with a James Last album. I remember being almost mesmerised at the way individual instruments came through the separate wooden speakers. I got to appreciate my dad’s efforts even more when he bought the Beatles’ album A Hard Day’s Night, which was played frequently.
With the soundtrack to my childhood provided by Radio One and Top of the Pops, I went on to be a pretty clued-up kid on the pop music scene. I knew my Dylan from my Donovan, my Honeycombs from my Honeybus, and my PJ Proby from my Billy J Kramer. I loved the wacky weirdness of the fashions and the hairstyles, and, even at that young age, I became thoroughly absorbed in this fresh and vibrant culture that was all over the (rather limited) media of the day. Then, as now, some acts had gimmicks and traits that they hoped would make them stand out from the crowd. I GAWPED at PJ Proby’s ponytail. I MARVELLED at Arthur Brown’s blazing headgear, and I GASPED at Sandie Shaw singing in her bare feet.
Of course, at that young age I assumed that everyone on the planet appreciated pop music in general, and The Beatles in particular, as much as I did. Radio DJs enthused over the latest releases and the audience on Top of the Pops looked to be having a gas as they got down and got with it every Thursday evening. The charts were awash with songs about love and peace, and young people were growing their hair and then wearing flowers in it. The world, to my innocent eyes, was one big pop festival.
Of course, I knew that there were squares from the older generation who didn’t appreciate the sound of a tinny transistor belting out the latest hits on the bus or down the caff, but they were yesterday’s news. One night, though, I discovered at first hand that not everyone was as hip to the groove as I was, and I witnessed one man demonstrate, rather dramatically, that pop music just wasn’t his bag.
I was at the theatre with my mother, grandma and two brothers to see the king of the Curly Wurly ads himself, Terry Scott in pantomime. I do not remember which tale we were watching, but I can date the trip, and all because of that great wonder of the age, pop music. On a pre-show visit to the shops, my older brother bought the Jethro Tull single, The Witch’s Promise, which, my research tells me, was released in January 1970, so that pins down the year (I bought a plastic gun).
Inside the theatre, the panto got into full swing and after the interval there came a musical interlude in the form of a short live set by a pop group whose name is lost, but I’d never heard of them anyway. As the band prepared to play, a cast member, possibly Mr. Scott himself, asked the audience “Do you like pop music?”
Virtually the entire audience squealed the affirmative, but I was somewhat dismayed when a man who was seated in the row directly in front of us responded with a hearty cry of No! When the guy on the stage assured us that we could do better than that, he repeated the question and again, amid the chorus of approval, the man in front yelled the negative. Who was this pompous party-pooper, I wondered, and what did he have against my favourite genre of music?
The stage lit up and the band started playing the first of their three numbers. Amid the screams of the audience, the objector from the row in front rose from his seat and, in a state of high dudgeon, physically hauled his young son by the arm towards the aisle, uttering angry excuse mes as he went. His wife and another son followed and they stomped out of the theatre, not to return.
I wasn’t too concerned about the father, but I did feel sorry for his children who, I imagined, were being deprived of a world of wonderful and exciting music. The incident left a lasting impression on me, and I have a vivid recollection of the bespectacled father dragging that boy out of his seat. This incident made me appreciate even more that I came from a home that belted out enough pop music to give Radio Caroline a run for its money.
I learned that day that not everyone shared my passion for pop music, and that, in the words of The Kinks, It’s a mixed up muddled up shook up world.
By the way, The Witch’s Promise sounded great on my dad’s stereo.