WW's desert island discs #1

The strength of the desert island discs format is candour. Well, near candour anyway. Guests on the show seem to end up giving something away about themselves that you did not know before. Music to me is precious. Faced with the prospect of never hearing music again or losing a leg, I would amputate the leg myself with anything that came to hand and give it over, pronto. Although, to be honest, I have a very reasonable memory for tunes, and usually have one buzzing around my head at all times.

My earliest memories consist of "Val der ree, val der ra" whirling around my head, because, sadly, 1954 was a bad year for music, when I was born. The big hit of that year was the Obernkirchen Children's Choir with "The Happy Wanderer", a phenomenon in the true sense; it was less than a decade since the end of WW2, and the song was in the charts for six months of 1954. It was the best-selling sheet music of the year - and I have a copy!

To do the whole lot of Desert Island Discs in one go would not do the format justice, so for now, here is number one. This does not mean it is my favourite, or even that I like it now particularly, but it contains for me, more memory than a HAL 9000 memory stick. This song takes no choosing, it was the first single I ever bought, or that was bought for me, and cost, I think, 6/8d. For the embryos who read this, that means six shillings and eight old pence, equivalent to about 34p now, but in those days it would buy a small semi-detached house in a nice street, and still leave enough over for a fish supper. Cliff Richard was at one time head and shoulders above his peers. It was Cliff and the rest. While John and Paul were busy listening to Little Richard and Buddy Holly 78's, Cliff's presence in the British music scene of the early sixties more or less blotted out the competition. At least that was the way it seemed to a six-year old Weasel. The highlights of my movie experience were The Young Ones and Summer Holiday. These guys wore the kind of suits that looked as if they had been designed by NASA, out of some weird shiny material. It was in fact mohair and silk, and the suits were known as 40 Guinea suits. When the Shadows moved and did their trademark walk, it was as if a wormhole had appeared in the fabric of the space-time continuum. Everybody had an orgasm. Women had to be mopped up after wetting themselves and men melted with envy. Here first, is a clip that gives a sense of the look, and the energy of the Shadows:

At the age of ten I practised being Hank Marvin in front of mirror. I did not have a Fender Strat or a Burns double six, so made do with a broom handle stuck into a plastic flight bag. But I got the moves. The moves were the important thing.

Pop music is about the moment. It is about that moment when you shiver with anticipation when you get a brand new piece of vinyl in your hand, or some sheet music. It is about yearning to have and share in an identity, which is why it is so immediate and why it is assimilated by youth.

And so it was in 1960, that I got home and put "Nine Times Out of Ten" on my mono, auto-change record player and played it until the metal parts of the player got too hot to work anymore. Years later, I met Cliff and the Shadows and interviewed them for a radio show. There was plenty of time to do it and they were all great. The one and only time I forgot to switch the tape recorder from "pause" to "record".  I had to ask Cliff to do it all again, and he did, and was so courteous and relaxed about it. Meeting Hank and talking with him was probably the only time I nearly lost my professional demeanour. There is nobody in the World who would cause me to gibber like that these days. As I said. It is about the moment, a moment, an individual and personal moment.


T. P. Fuller said...

These teen-agers and their milk bars, where will it all end? I don't like the look of that Richard fellow, either. Too subversive. What they need is a bloody good haircut and two years of National Service. That'll sort 'em out.


Spartan said...

l was in the very fortunate position of having access to a jukebox. lt was at my Nanna's pub where l did seem to spend most of my childhood.

The man who looked after the jukebox used to leave tokens for free plays. When he got to know me he used to leave me loads of them on the strict understanding that l used them when the pub was closed. My Nanna let me go downstairs to the pub to play the jukebox whenever l wanted.

He also left all the records that had been changed with updates. So, from the beginning l didn't buy any singles and this being the case l can't remember what my first one was. l do remember The Stones were quite favoured as l liked the rebellion. Played Peter Greens Mac a great deal too.

Happy Days!

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Ever noticed how every rock star has a jukebox? I sometimes bought the ones they removed from the machine, and you had to find a little piece of plastic to go in the hole.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

TP, I used to get into big trouble for hanging around coffee bars. Teddy Boys used to go there.

Spartan said...

This is indeed true WW. Have worked on many a Rock-Ola, Seeburg and Wurlitzer plus many other makes. Also pintables were wanted by rockstars ... prob still do. My mate worked in London restoring these machines for customers.

Some makes of jukebox did not need the middle taking out of 45's but most did. l always used a centre piece adaptor on my deck.

Strangely enough l've just had someone ask me to look at an old pintable. The circuit diagrams were amazing. They came in one sheet and were about 3ft by 9ft! Unfortunately 99% of owners threw them away because they couldn't understand them!!!!!!