2020 vision

So, here we are in 2020. What will this new decade bring? Will it be the Roaring Twenties, as it was 100 years ago? Or another Jazz Age? That would be nice.

More seriously, though it can be foolish to make predictions, I imagine much of the decade will be – or should be – dominated by the climate emergency and mankind’s faltering attempts to tackle it. We are not helped in this by the current fashion for populist political leaders who play fast-and-loose with the truth to suit themselves and their selfish interests.

An aside here for pedants, like myself: I know the First Century began with year one and so the first decade was to year 10, the second decade from 11 to 20, and so on, meaning the new decade does not really start until 2021. But after two thousand years, conventions grow and change – sometimes, not always, it is best to go with the flow (yes, Mr Byrne, that’s you).

To be honest, it was only in the last week or two of 2019 that I realised we were about to enter a new decade. I think this is because decades have not been such a big deal since the turn of the 21st century.

In my lifetime we have had the Fifties, the Sixties, the Seventies, the Eighties, the Nineties and then, err… Did someone say the Noughties? Does anyone really like or use that name? And, as for the 2010-19 decade, I don’t recall ever seeing a name attached to it.

The 20th century was the same: the first decade was known, at least in Britain, as the Edwardian era, and the second decade was so dominated by the Great War that no name seems to have been attached to it.

Besides, the labels for decades are arbitrary and only capture a small part of the time period. For more on this read my blog about the Sixties which, I believe, for most people was nothing like the cliches portrayed in TV documentaries.

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The last sunset of the old decade seen from our house (image: Graham Brown)

Anyway, for Kathie Touin (Mrs Brown) and I the decade just ended was hugely significant because it was when we moved to Orkney, nearly 10 years ago in April 2010 (more about that later this year). Suffice to say we made the right decision and are very happy here – with our Border Collie, Roscoe, who turned 11 in 2019.

And the year just ended? The highlight of 2019 has to be the release of Kathie’s new album of music, Facing The Falling Sky (see my previous blog). Let me say again, it is a super collection of songs produced in a novel way.

Since my last blog it has been included by DJ Steve Conway in his 8Radio show Conway’s Christmas Gifts – 17 albums he loves and would gift to a friend. He selected, among others, Kate Bush, Paul Weller, PJ Harvey – and Kathie!

Travel in 2019 took Kathie and I to Arizona in February to see the in-laws and I made two trips to Edinburgh, one in May on my own to see Gretchen Peters in concert then again in November with Kathie.

I failed to write a blog about the second Edinburgh visit so here’s a summary. The trip was originally planned because Kathie wanted to see guitarist Steve Hackett in concert. After booking tickets we spotted that, two nights later, Mark Lewisohn (an expert on The Beatles) was presenting a show to mark the 50th anniversary of the release of the Abbey Road album. So we booked that as well.

Both shows were great, we even got into the Steve Hackett meet-and-great before the concert.

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Kathie & I meeting Steve Hackett, a gentleman (image: Graham Brown’s smartphone)

Mark Lewisohn spoke (with musical and archive clips) for nearly three hours about Abbey Road. You might think this sounds overlong but if, like Kathie and me, you are a fan of The Beatles it was fascinating at every turn.

We kept up The Beatles theme by taking a day trip by train from Edinburgh Haymarket station (opposite our hotel) to Glasgow Queen Street. Then a short bus ride to the wonderful Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum to see an exhibition of Linda McCartney photographs.

Linda McCartney was a fantastic photographer with an eye for detail and an unusual angle or take on a subject. Her subject matter ranged from international superstars to intimate family portraits. The exhibition, Linda McCartney Retrospective, finishes at the Kelvingrove on 14 January but transfers to the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, where it is on display from 25 April to 31 August.

I would highly recommend a visit and allow plenty of time, there are lots of photographs to admire and you will not want to rush past them.

Our big holiday this year was an 11-night stay in Austria, split between Vienna and Salzburg. I should have written a separate blog entry about this but on return from the holiday we went straight into a hectic period preparing for Kathie’s album launch and the blog was never written.

We had a wonderful time – the people were friendly and helpful, the food was excellent, the cities seemed cleaner than those back in the UK and there was evidence of Mozart everywhere (he was born in Salzburg and lived in Vienna).

Highlights of our trip included the wonderful paintings in Vienna’s Albertina and Kunst Historisches Museums; seeing the River Danube and the fairground wheel from the Third Man film; a brief visit (for me) to Austrian broadcaster ORF; the Spanish Riding School (I went once, Kathie went twice); seeing Mozart’s Requiem performed in the beautiful Karlskirche, Vienna; cathedrals in both Vienna and Salzburg; looking down on Salzburg from the castle, Hohensalzburg Fortress; our Salzburg river trip; and our Sound Of Music coach trip. (NB: lots of pictures coming soon – promise – on my Instagram feed).

Ah, yes, the Sound Of Music coach trip. I was not a big fan of the film but before leaving home a friend said we should do this – I think up until then I was not aware of the film having been shot around Salzburg. When we arrived in the city I thought, why not? And we booked the trip.

It was four hours or so of great fun, travelling in and around Salzburg and then out to the beautiful lakes in the mountains which we would not otherwise have seen. Our tour guide was friendly and enthusiastic, without being pushy, and as the coach travelled between stops we all sang along with the soundtrack of the film.

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Julie and me – a stop on the Sound Of Music coach tour (image: Graham Brown)

I found myself curiously moved by the music. I have been a fan of musicals since living in London – when my parents came to visit they would inevitably want to go to the West End to see a musical and I also came to love them.

But somehow the Sound Of Music was associated in my mind with seeing the film as a youngster when it seemed very unfashionable compared to the pop music of the day that I was listening to. All that changed on our coach trip, perhaps I was emotional thinking of my late parents on that day, but for whatever reason I was hooked.

Incidentally, on that afternoon out we also spotted a Bristol Lodekka. Most of you will have no idea what that is, I imagine. It is a double-decker bus, of a type that regularly came past our house when I was a child on Eastern Counties’ Peterborough to Cambridge service. Sometimes in the summer holidays Mum and I would take the bus to Cambridge for a day out. The one in Salzburg was being used to transport tourists.

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A Bristol Lodekka – in Salzburg (image: Graham Brown)

They were called Lodekkas, I understand, because the lower deck was step free once you were on board. The person to ask all about this would have been my Uncle David, an expert on buses who has had books of his historic bus photographs published.

Sadly, David (Burnicle) was one of the folk we lost in 2019. He was always engaging company and lived an inventive, loving and productive life – though, of course, that does not make his passing easy for his family. Here he is as a young man, a photograph taken in the year I was born…

http://www.hhtandn.org/relatedimages/1537/hartlepool-lads

Many, probably most, of us will have suffered loss of some sort in the past year – just in the last days of the year came the unexpected death of Neil Innes, one of Britain’s most talented, funny and modest songwriters. To his family the loss will be greatest. Thankfully, his wonderful music will live on.

Who knows what will happen this year and who will still be standing at the year’s end when the Earth’s cycle has taken us around the Sun one more time?

So in 2020 let us enjoy life whenever we can; celebrate each other’s creativity and foibles; spread love to family, friends and to those we don’t know, in our own country and abroad, of our beliefs and of others; and let us work for a better world.

Graham Brown

P.S. Here’s Kathie’s New Year blog…

https://kathietouin.wordpress.com/2020/01/01/farewell-and-thank-you-to-2019/

To find out more

My (so-called) Instagram account – https://www.instagram.com/grahambrownorkney/

My blog: The Sixties – https://grahambrownorkney.wordpress.com/2012/03/13/swinging-sixties/

My blog: Kathie’s new album – https://grahambrownorkney.wordpress.com/2019/12/17/facing-the-falling-sky/

My blog: Arizona February 2019 – https://grahambrownorkney.wordpress.com/2019/05/02/arizona-take-three/

My blog: Edinburgh Spring 2019 – https://grahambrownorkney.wordpress.com/2019/06/24/spring-into-summer-via-edinburgh/

Steve Hackett website – http://www.hackettsongs.com/

Mark Lewisohn website – https://www.marklewisohn.net/

Linda McCartney website – https://www.lindamccartney.com/

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelvingrove_Art_Gallery_and_Museum

Walker Art Gallery – https://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/walker/

Vienna – https://www.austria.info/uk/where-to-go/cities/vienna

Salzburg – https://www.austria.info/uk/where-to-go/cities/salzburg

Wikipedia: Bristol Lodekka – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bristol_Lodekka

Neil Innes website – https://neilinnes.media/

Back to Glasgow for the concert of a lifetime

The latest trip for Mrs Brown (Kathie Touin) and I took us back to Glasgow – for our second visit of 2018 – to see Paul McCartney in concert. Kathie had seen him before, many years ago in the States, but I had never seen Paul, or any of The Beatles.

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Our view of Paul McCartney’s brilliant Glasgow concert (image: Kathie Touin)

It was a fantastic, brilliant, wonderful, exciting, life-affirming concert. In fact, Kathie thinks it is probably the best gig she has seen. Ever. It must be right up there.

An idea has grown up in the last 20 or 30 years that John Lennon was the most talented songwriter of The Beatles, while Paul McCartney only created silly throwaway songs. It’s an argument that, I believe, is wrong – and it also ignores the claims of George Harrison.

Why has this idea come about? In part, I think, because John Lennon was murdered, at a relatively young age, and so people began to idealise him. To be clear, I’m not denying that Lennon wrote some great songs and that he was a force for good in the world, albeit that he was a flawed character (like the rest of us).

Also, this anti-Paul idea has grown because he has been regularly making music and releasing records for almost 60 years – any artist will produce some duff tracks in that time.

But take a look at this set list from the concert we saw – at the SSE Hydro on Friday 14 December 2018 – a concert that was just shy of three-hours long during which time, apart from the break before the encore, Paul McCartney never left the stage. I wish I had that much energy now, never mind at his age of 76…

Hard Day’s Night
Junior’s Farm
Can’t Buy Me Love
Letting Go
Who Cares
Got To Get You Into My Life
Come On To Me
Let Me Roll It (+ Foxy Lady)
I’ve Got A Feeling
Let ‘Em In
My Valentine
Nineteen-hundred And Eighty Five
Maybe I’m Amazed
We Can Work It Out
In Spite Of All The Danger
From Me To You
Dance Tonight
Love Me Do
Blackbird
Here Today
Queenie Eye
Lady Madonna
Eleanor Rigby
Fuh You
Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite
Something
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
Band On The Run
Back In The USSR
Let It Be
Live And Let Live
Hey Jude

Encore…
Birthday
Wonderful Christmastime
Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Helter Skelter
Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End

Had he chosen, he could have programmed another concert equally as long, with a completely different set list of his own great songs.

Actually, the sharp-eyed among you will notice that two of the songs in the set are not by McCartney – he played John Lennon’s Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite and George Harrison’s Something, starting the latter on ukulele, a favourite instrument of George’s.

And there was a dash of Jimi Hendrix’s Foxy Lady at the end of Let Me Roll It. Paul told stories and paid tributes during the concert to The Beatles and producer George Martin, but interestingly Hendrix was the only non-Beatle referred to.

Paul McCartney has a fantastic band to accompany him and one that he has now played with for 15 years – longer than The Beatles were together, though admittedly their time was more concentrated.

The band are Brian Ray (guitars and, when Paul is playing other instruments, bass), Rusty Anderson (guitars), Paul Wickens (keyboards and other instruments) and Abe Laboriel Jr (drums). Paul plays bass, as well as acoustic and electric guitars, ukulele, grand piano and upright piano. For some songs there was also a three-part brass section which first appeared in the middle of the audience before going on to the stage.

The sound was loud, of course, but crystal clear and perhaps for this reason I did not leave with ringing ears. The lights and big-screen projections were amazing, everything from photographs of The Beatles to an animated Sgt Pepper’s album cover.

Kathie – I must get her to write her own blog about the evening – thought it had a slight feeling of a farewell tour though it has not been billed as such and there are more Freshen Up tour gigs to come in 2019 in the United States.

Well, whatever, we will not get too many more chances to see the great man in action. So thank you, Sir Paul, for a wonderful evening – and for the great songs.

Some other highlights and happenings from our Glasgow trip…

Our flight to Glasgow was the first time, I believe, that I had flown out of Orkney in the dark – previous departures have all been in the daylight.

Orkney has wonderful wildlife but we are missing some of the more common sights from mainland Britain. So we loved spotting long-tailed tits in a Glasgow park, and magpies poking about in the street. Incidentally, a bird-expert friend of mine believes it will not be too many years before magpies are nesting in Orkney.

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HMS Graham – now the Army Reserve Centre – Glasgow (image: Graham Brown)

On a walk one morning we passed HMS Graham – a building, not a ship, which the plaque tells us was the headquarters of the Clyde Division of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and the Royal Naval Reserve from 1906 to 1993.

A little farther along our walk, and very close to Rangers’ ground Ibrox Park, we passed the Louden Tavern – clearly from its blue-and-white paint a Rangers pub but with heavy-duty doors and no glass or windows. Scary. I think I will stay away from Rangers v Celtic games.

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About to ride the Glasgow Subway for the first time (image: Graham Brown)

Just round the corner we came to Ibrox station and so my first ride on the Glasgow subway – a much simpler and quieter affair than the London tube. Instead of a maze of lines going in all directions there is an oval and you travel clockwise or anti-clockwise or, as it is described at the stations, on the inner or the outer circle. And the short trains are bright orange.

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War memorial in Glasgow Cathedral (image: Graham Brown)

Sight-seeing on our visit included Glasgow Cathedral, dedicated to St Kentigern, otherwise known as St Mungo, described as the most complete medieval cathedral on the Scottish mainland. As you might expect it is full of fascinating history, including an early King James Bible which went missing from the cathedral for many years before being found in an attic and put on display in time for the visit of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

Next to the cathedral is St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art which I have been recommended by a friend – “even if you are not religious” – but it was closed on the day we were there so is on the list for a return trip to Glasgow.

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One of the memorials in Glasgow Necropolis (image: Graham Brown)

Then, just up the hill from the Cathedral, is the Necropolis, a Victorian cemetery full of impressive, today we might even say vulgar or over-the-top, memorials. This is another on the list for a return trip so we can get a guided tour. But it is fascinating just to wander around, particularly in the atmospheric gathering gloom of a late December afternoon.

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Korean War Memorial on the approach to Glasgow Necropolis (image: Graham Brown)

On the way into the Necropolis there are some more recent, modest memorials including, unusually, one commemorating the men from Glasgow who were lost in the Korean War.

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Mural of St Mungo (image: Graham Brown)

The walk to the Cathedral from our hotel took us past some of Glasgow’s splendid murals including a wonderful, and enormous, representation of St Mungo. We spent time with our friends discussing how you would even begin to create something so enormous. There is a Glasgow murals trail, another idea for a future visit particularly as we did not see the Billy Connolly mural.

Our trip to Glasgow also included visits to the eclectic Hunterian Collection and the wonderful Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum – for more on my previous visit to Kelvingrove see my blog “Brief impressions of a trip to Glasgow”.

On this shorter Kelvingrove visit Kathie and I were lucky enough to catch a recital of Christmas music on the 1901 pipe organ. I made sure I visited Mary Pownall’s The Harpy Celaeno (1902), one of my favourite sculptures.

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One of Glasgow’s many splendid murals (image: Graham Brown)

And I found time to look at the temporary, and large, exhibition “Brushes With War” – drawings and paintings by men, and women, serving in the Great War, or First World War. It was a moving, at times sobering, insight into their experiences as they saw them, not how the authorities or official war artists saw them.

Naturally we tried some restaurants in Glasgow and all were good – Di Maggio (Italian), Bombay Blues (Indian), Hanoi Bike Shop (Vietnamese) and Mezzidakia (east Mediterranean). I would say the last two were particularly memorable, because they were a little out of the ordinary, the food was yummy and the staff were attentive.

And, of course, it would not be a visit to a big city without trying out the charity shops. Thank you to our friend who told us to visit Byres Road where we lost count of the charity shops we visited (see two previous blogs, “Mysterious books” and “The newest (and most addictive) joy of charity shops”, for more on this obsession).

So I was able to come home to Orkney with a dozen new (to me) CDs and a book. Ah, yes, a book.

I took with me to read on the trip a book of short stories by Joseph Conrad – I was set Conrad to read at school and did not get on with it. But he is considered a great author so I thought, “I must read him again.” Frankly it was hard work (I’m sure the fault is mine, not Conrad’s).

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A charity shop find – The Cornish Coast Murder, an excellent read (image: British Library)

So then I thought, “Life is too short, why not read books I enjoy?”. In one of the Byres Road charity shops I found “The Cornish Coast Murder” by John Bude, originally published in 1935, this was a 2014 edition published (for the first time since the 1930s) by the British Library. And jolly good fun it was too, something in the style of Agatha Christie, set in a Cornish village, as you might imagine, and with the vicar playing a key role.

So, that was our latest visit to Glasgow – lots to see and enjoy around the city, perhaps the best concert ever, and a signpost to future reading enjoyment.

Finally in this blog, may I wish you a peaceful New Year as we enter an uncertain year.

Graham Brown

To find out more

Paul McCartney’s Freshen Up Tour – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freshen_Up_(tour)

Paul McCartney’s Egypt Station album – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egypt_Station

And a track from Egypt Station, Come On To Me…


Glasgow Subway – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glasgow_Subway

Glasgow Necropolis – https://www.glasgownecropolis.org/

Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum – https://www.glasgowlife.org.uk/museums/venues/kelvingrove-art-gallery-and-museum

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelvingrove_Art_Gallery_and_Museum

Previous blogs

Our previous Glasgow Trip – https://grahambrownorkney.wordpress.com/2018/05/17/brief-impressions-of-a-trip-to-glasgow/

Charity shop books – https://grahambrownorkney.wordpress.com/2018/08/27/mysterious-books/

Charity shop CDs – https://grahambrownorkney.wordpress.com/2018/10/09/addictive-joy-of-charity-shops/

Back to vinyl? You’ll have to speak up, I got beans in my ears…

If you are a music listener you have probably noticed the “back to vinyl” trend of recent years. Fans of vinyl, or records as we once called them, say the sound quality is better than on a CD and the artwork is better realised on a larger platform.

However, despite having a large and still growing music collection, I think I will pass. Yes, I agree if an album has impressive artwork it does look better in the larger format.

But my experience is coloured by having to listen to too many scratched records in the past, and having to return to the shop faulty LPs which stick or jump. I am not about to return down that road. I was a late adopter for CDs but having made the change some years ago I am sticking with it (you can tell I am too old for the download generation).

Actually, I am not convinced by the argument that vinyl sounds better than CD – even assuming you have a scratch-free record. Yes, early CDs were thin sounding. This was not helped by the Eighties fashion for early digital recording and thin-sounding synthesisers.

But try listening to the re-mastered albums by The Beatles, released in 2009. The detail and depth is fantastic.

Or try any decently-recorded modern CD. Among my favourites are Gretchen Peters’ albums Hello Cruel World and Blackbirds – superb songs, beautifully played and sung, but recorded with care. I have said it before and I will say it again, if you do not know Gretchen’s music do yourself and favour and find some.

But back to vinyl. I am not going back in the physical sense, but I am open to a saunter down memory lane to the first records I purchased.

I believe my first single was She Loves You by The Beatles. I can vaguely recall that I had been given a record token, it would probably have been for my sixth birthday, and I went to the record shop with my mother and asked for The Beatles record. I was asked if I wanted their new one or their previous one and I plumped for She Loves You.

Looking at the chronology for The Beatles singles the new one which I rejected was I Want To Hold Your Hand, which had been released at the end of November 1963.

There were other records in the house when I was a child, some of which must have been bought for me by my parents or relatives. I seem to recall we had a single of The Thunderbirds TV series theme tune which, had I still got it, would probably have a reasonable financial value.

And among my parents’ records was an EP… ah, do I need to explain what an EP is to those who barely remember vinyl records? EP was an abbreviation for Extended Play. They were the same size as singles (seven inches) and also played at 45 rpm but, typically, they had two tracks on each side (achieved with finer grooves in the manufacture). LPs. you might remember, played at 33 rpm, and your record player allowed you to adjust to the required speed manually.

Anyway, my parents had an EP which I think had cover versions of current hit songs. One of these which sticks in my mind, or should I say ears, was called Beans In My Ears. No, honestly, it was. Various folk seem to have recorded the song, including Lonnie Donegan.

“You’ll have to speak up I got beans in my ears
Beans in my ears, beans in my ears
You’ll have to speak up I got beans in my ears…”

But, strangely, I did not seem to buy or request any more of my own “pop” singles until 1967 when I bought or was given Daydream Believer by The Monkees and then 1968 when I got The Monkees’ next single Valleri and Lazy Sunday by The Small Faces. I cannot recall why there was a gap in my single-buying, nor what prompted me to start again.

I must say though I had good taste. Lazy Sunday is a wonderful single, a clever song, well produced, which does not sound old even in 2016. And The Monkees music has stood the test of time far better than might have been imagined at the time when they were struggling to break away from being a pretend band in a silly (albeit great fun) TV series.

There were other singles bought at a later date – Rod Stewart’s Maggie May, for example. My copy had Maggie May as the B-side, the original A-side being Reason To Believe before DJs flipped it over. What do record companies know?

I also remember buying Wizzard singles – the band’s singer and composer Roy Wood is a much under-rated figure in British music – and David Bowie singles.

Gradually albums, or LPs, became the focus of my record buying. The first serious as opposed to novelty album I bought was A Nod’s As Good As A Wink To A Blind Horse by The Faces (released November 1971), and the second was The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars by David Bowie (released June 1972). Curiously, both these albums bear long titles that are usually shortened in everyday use.

Blowing my own trumpet, again – though it is not an instrument I ever played – I think both of these albums have stood the test of time well, Ziggy in particular as we all know. But A Nod’s As Good As A Wink features an energetic band, Rod at his best before he went all mid-Atlantic, and three of the album’s nine songs, among my favourites, sung by the much-missed Ronnie Lane.

When I married Kathie Touin and she moved from the United States to our small flat in West London I had to make some space for her possessions. As it was, she had to leave many of them in the USA. So it was that most of my LPs went to the Oxfam charity music shop at Ealing Broadway. A friend pointed out that some had a financial value but I did not have the time or inclination to sell them myself and I knew that the Oxfam shop – because it specialised in music – would get a decent price for items of value.

I did keep some records. I think I have those early singles by The Small Faces and The Monkees though I cannot see them right now. They could be buried in the back of my office cupboard (make a note, Darling: future project – sort out office cupboard). But I definitely kept about 40 records that currently reside upstairs in Kathie’s studio control room, mostly, I think, records I did not have on CD, or that I knew I would not easily replace, or that had exceptional artwork.

They include The Faces’ Ooh La La, which had a front cover picture of a man in a top hat which you could animate by hand, the Captain Beaky album (now virtually unobtainable) and a 12-inch single I Spy For The DTI, recorded to promote the offshore radio station Laser 558. I no longer play them but I do look through them now and again.

Earlier this year after my father died I had to clear my parents’ house and decide what to do with their music collection. I kept a number of CDs but, realising that it is impossible to keep everything, donated the other CDs along with the records to local charity shops.

However, for sentimental reasons I did keep one record, an EP as it happens, called Christmas At Home With Nina And Frederik. The tracks include Little Donkey, a sweet Christmas song which I remember fondly from childhood, and Mary’s Boy Child. The latter was a hit song when my mother Mary was expecting me in 1957 and led an aunt to correctly predict I would be a boy.

Graham Brown

To find out more

Gretchen Peters website http://www.gretchenpeters.com/

Wikipedia: The Beatles discography https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Beatles_discography

Wikipedia: Beans In My Ears https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beans_in_My_Ears

Wikipedia: Lazy Sunday by The Small Faces https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lazy_Sunday_(Small_Faces_song)

Wikipedia: The Monkees discography https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Monkees_discography

Wikipedia: Maggie May https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maggie_May

Guardian article celebrating Roy Wood https://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2016/nov/08/roy-wood-wizzard-the-move-glam-rock-pop-genius

Wikipedia: Ziggy Stardust… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rise_and_Fall_of_Ziggy_Stardust_and_the_Spiders_from_Mars

Wikipedia: A Nod’s As Good As A Wink… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Nod_Is_As_Good_As_a_Wink…_to_a_Blind_Horse

Wikipedia: Ooh La La by The Faces https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ooh_La_La_(Faces_album)

Offshore Echos on Laser 558 http://www.offshoreechos.com/Laser/Laser%20story%20menu.htm

Wikipedia: Nina & Frederik https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nina_%26_Frederik

Smelling the roses of Lancashire and Yorkshire

Who Knows Where The Time Goes? A song by Sandy Denny. And in these parts time has been evaporating at an alarming rate. I’m about to depart on another trip and I still haven’t blogged the previous one. So here goes…

Here are some impressions of a recent trip to the north of England to visit friends in Bolton and to meet my father in York. Don’t worry, I will not give you a blow-by-blow account of what we did every day. That would be like the old days when neighbours made you sit through slide shows of their holidays – though I do have some photographs to share!

In the centre of Manchester we visited both the Whitworth Art Gallery and the Manchester Art Gallery (formerly the City Art Gallery). The highlight of the first, for me, was a special exhibition of The M+ Sigg Collection of Chinese art from the 1970s onwards.

M+ Sigg Collection at Whitworth Art Gallery (image: Graham Brown)
M+ Sigg Collection at Whitworth Art Gallery (image: Graham Brown)

I had not thought about modern Chinese art before and, if I had, I might have imagined there was not much because of state control. But this collection had some really striking artwork – a giant sculpture made up of Stone Age axe heads, photographs of a man gradually being covered in calligraphy, some self-portraits of heads that almost literally leapt off the wall, photographs of naked human bodies made to look like geographical features and much more. I loved it – and I don’t normally like modern art.

Hence, at Manchester Art Gallery, I knew I would enjoy their display of Victorian paintings, one of my favourite eras. It is many years since my last visit and I had forgotten that Auguste Charles Mengin’s 1877 painting of Sappho – of which we have a framed poster at home – is in the collection. Edwin Landseer’s 1849 painting The Desert, of a lion, is another favourite, and reputedly formed the basis of the illustration on Tate & Lyle’s Golden Syrup which has remained unchanged since my childhood.

The following day was less artistic but equally life-affirming. Blackpool! For those of you outside the UK, this is perhaps England’s most famous seaside holiday resort.

We began with a trip to the top of Blackpool Tower, opened in 1894 and more than 500 feet high. The views across Blackpool, the coast and beyond are truly spectacular.

Back down on the ground we explored the Comedy Carpet, a fabulous collection of jokes, catchphrases, comedy scripts and humorous song lyrics, all laid out in granite letters set in concrete on the pavement (sidewalk, Americans) between the tower and the sea.

Blackpool's Comedy Carpet (image: Graham Brown)
Blackpool’s Comedy Carpet (image: Graham Brown)

My favourites included the Dad’s Army script leading up to the famous “Don’t tell him, Pike!” – it shows how well crafted the whole sequence was – the lyrics to Benny Hill’s Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West), a wonderful Ronnie Barker monologue and some of the shorter entries: “If you don’t laugh at the jokes, I’ll follow you home and shout through the letter box” (Ken Dodd) or “Eeeh… In’t it grand when yer daft?” Not sure who spoke that last phrase – well, that is part of the fascination of the comedy carpet, you are left to work out some of the answers for yourself.

There was another I thought particularly suitable for Kathie Touin (Mrs Brown, a dual US/UK citizen): “I’m half British, half American. My passport has an eagle with a tea bag in its beak.” Turns out that was Bob Hope.

And perhaps my favourite… Stan: “You know, Ollie, I was just thinking.” Ollie: “What about?” Stan: “Nothing. I was just thinking.”

Our day in Blackpool also included a ride on a tram to Fleetwood, past the Fishermen’s Friend factory, a ferry ride from Fleetwood across the River Wyre, the illuminations and, of course, we had fish & chips and bought some seaside rock.

We spent a quieter day in Port Sunlight, on the Wirral peninsula near Liverpool, a model (in the sense of good, not small) village created in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by William Hesketh Lever, the soap manufacturer, for his workers. It sounds very paternalistic, patronising even, in this day and age, but some architecturally beautiful homes were built in a lovely setting of gardens, trees and flowers. On a sunny day, like the one we enjoyed, it is lovely to walk around.

Part of the Port Sunlight War Memorial (image: Graham Brown)
Part of the Port Sunlight War Memorial (image: Graham Brown)

Port Sunlight also boasts the Lady Lever Art Gallery – more Victorian paintings of the kind I love – and in the centre of the village a spectacular and moving war memorial, showing tableau of various groups of servicemen, designed by Sir William Goscombe John and unveiled in 1921.

Unexpectedly we also stumbled across some music history. The Port Sunlight Museum contains a display of photographs of pop stars who played at venues around the village, including, amazingly, The Beatles. A taped interview, recorded for hospital radio, made just after Ringo joined the band and just before they became huge, is available to hear – how young they all sound. Ringo’s first public show with the band was at Hulme Hall, Port Sunlight on 18 August 1962 – Kathie Touin proudly stood next to the plaque marking this auspicious occasion.

Kathie Touin with the plaque marking Ringo Starr's first appearance with The Beatles (image: Graham Brown)
Kathie Touin with the plaque marking Ringo Starr’s first appearance with The Beatles (image: Graham Brown)

Over in York the first four days centred largely around historic transport: Yorkshire Air Museum, the National Railway Museum, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway (a heritage or preserved railway) and the Scarborough Fair Collection.

It was a beautiful sunny day for the air museum visit as we strolled between buildings and displays. There are many historic aircraft to see, of course, both indoors and in hangars. There are also exhibitions that bring home the danger and fear of serving in a World War Two bomber – such aircraft were once based at the museum’s home of Elvington. And the museum has historic buildings, such as the control tower, and a splendid canteen with large model aircraft suspended from the ceiling.

The railway museum in York – free entry – will easily take a whole day of your time. There are fine restored steam locomotives including world-speed record holder Mallard, Winston Churchill (which hauled the statesman’s funeral train), an enormous Chinese steam locomotive (built in Britain), the beautiful maroon streamlined Duchess of Hamilton; carriages used by the Royal Family; and a hall full of railway memorabilia stacked high to the ceiling.

There was a bonus for me as well – I briefly went outside onto the museum’s viewing platform overlooking the main railway line just outside York railway station, seconds before the steam locomotive Tornado went past in the rain.

North Yorkshire Moors Railway: LMS Black 5 Eric Treacy and LNER A4 Sir Nigel Gresley (image: Graham Brown)
North Yorkshire Moors Railway: LMS Black 5 Eric Treacy and LNER A4 Sir Nigel Gresley (image: Graham Brown)

The North Yorkshire Moors Railway is another grand day out – we drove to the railway’s terminus at Pickering and then took their steam trains along the line to its end at Grosmont, then on, still behind a steam locomotive, over regular Network Rail tracks to the historic seaside town of Whitby.

It was a wet day but somehow it doesn’t matter if it rains when you are travelling on a relaxed, journey, lazy even, between atmospheric brick-and-wood stations, watching the scenery, listening to the rhythms of the steam locomotive and of the carriage wheels.

Almost opposite Whitby railway station is a fabulous fish and chip restaurant called Trenchers. Many folk from the train headed straight there and so there was a queue but it was well worth the wait – the food was fabulous, the decor pleasant and the staff engaging.

A quick explore of Whitby found the town making much of its Dracula connections (Whitby features in the Bram Stoker novel). You can even buy Dracula seaside rock. It’s black, of course.

We spent another nostalgic day at the Scarborough Fair Collection. This is well worth finding, tucked away near Scarborough on the site of a holiday camp.

Inside are Wurlitzer organs – two of them being played live for a tea dance while we there – self-playing dance organs, vintage fairground rides (which you can ride on), old cars and motorcycles, traction and showmen’s engines and, once again, enthusiastic and helpful staff.

I was interested to discover a showman’s engine called The Iron Maiden, nothing to do with the heavy metal group, it acquired its name when it featured in a cinema film of the same name in 1962. Before that it had been known as Kitchener. As it was built in 1920, originally as a road haulage engine, I can only assume it was named after Earl Kitchener, a hero of British Empire and Britain’s Secretary of State for War, who drowned near Orkney in 1916 when HMS Hampshire sank (I am on the Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project committee).

On a day in York itself we took in York Minster – what a beautiful building – and three of the finest coffee shops I have ever visited: Bennett’s (next to the Minster), Cafe Concerto (just around the corner) and Harlequin (in the Shambles, where we had a lunch of super home-made food).

Finally we visited the National Trust’s Beningbrough Hall for a relaxing day out. The weather was good so we were able to sit in the gardens and admire all the plants and vegetables we are not able to grow in Orkney.

In the house I was struck by the Royal Family portraits on display, loaned from the National Portrait Gallery – an informal painting of Her Majesty The Queen with the Duke of Edinburgh, The Queen Mother, Prince Charles, William and Harry was particularly striking.

We returned from York for a relaxing weekend with our friends back in Bolton before flying back to Orkney.

But there was time for two more notable transport sightings. At York railway station, while we waited for our train to Manchester Piccadilly, we saw a Class 91 locomotive named Battle Of Britain Memorial Flight with an imaginative paint scheme.

Boarding FlyBe's The George Best at Manchester Airport (image: Graham Brown)
Boarding FlyBe’s The George Best at Manchester Airport (image: Graham Brown)

And two days’ later our flight from Manchester to Edinburgh was on a FlyBe Dash 8 named The George Best. For young or non-UK readers, he was one of Britain’s most famous footballers, best known as a player with Manchester United and Northern Ireland.

Next stop for us in Arizona to see Kathie’s folks so guess what my next blog is likely to be about? Over and out.

Graham Brown

To find out more

Wikipedia: Bolton

Whitworth Art Gallery

Whitworth Art Gallery: M+ Sigg Collection

Manchester Art Gallery

Blackpool Tower

Wikipedia: Blackpool Tower

Comedy Carpet

BBC News: Comedy Carpet

Port Sunlight Village

Wikipedia: Port Sunlight

Yorkshire Air Museum

National Railway Museum

North Yorkshire Moors Railway

Scarborough Fair Collection

Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project: blog

The Day I Met An Avenger – or – Happy Birthday Patrick Macnee

Parental advisory: contains strong language (but not until near the end).

In a few weeks’ time it will be five years since my wife Kathie Touin and I moved to Orkney – it hardly seems possible, the time has flown by.

Some of you will know that before Orkney I worked at the BBC – in fact, I spent nearly 24 years working in the BBC Press Office.

Frequently people who I met outside work – hairdressers, for example – would say, “Oh, you must meet lots of famous people.” They were always a bit disappointed in my answer that no, not really, I work in the corporate Press Office so we deal with press questions about BBC policy. At evenings and weekends as the duty press office we field press enquiries about everything from EastEnders to Radio 1 but that does not involve meeting the stars.

By this time the hairdresser would be losing interest. Saying that I saw famous people about the place was not quite what they wanted to hear. Frankly, it might have been easier to say yes, I meet lots of famous people but I can’t talk about it.

Diana Rigg and Patrick Macnee in The Avengers (image: BFI)
Diana Rigg and Patrick Macnee in The Avengers (image: BFI)

Recently I have been watching old black-and-white episodes of the TV fantasy crime adventure series The Avengers, on the True Entertainment channel, and this got me thinking about famous people I have met. More of that later but – spoiler alert – I can tell you it was sadly not Diana Rigg.

Most of the famous people I met I interviewed when I was working in English local newspapers in West Norfolk (Lynn News & Advertiser) and Peterborough (Evening Telegraph). My time in Rugby and Corby did not throw up much excitement.

My interviews included a clutch of DJs: Ed Stewart (post-Junior Choice, “there is life after the BBC,” he told me – and I discovered he was right), Mark Wesley (anyone remember Radio Luxembourg?), Mike Read and Anne Nightingale. Somewhere I have a photograph of Annie and me, I must find that to show you.

I also spoke to stunt motorcyclist Eddie Kidd – I remember seeing how frightened his partner looked just before his display – and Richard Noble who, at the time, held the land-speed record of 633.468 mph.

Once I interviewed the then BBC Director-General, Alasdair Milne, on a train as part of the launch of BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.

I also spoke to a few music stars, including the soul band Odyssey (my main memory is that they were really pleasant people) and the band Rich Kids which included Midge Ure and, recently ex-Sex Pistols, Glen Matlock. Looking back, Midge Ure was the particularly helpful one with the PR focus – in the same way that Paul McCartney was in The Beatles (sorry, I didn’t meet any of the Fab Four).

And I interviewed a famous Sixties soul singer who was a favourite of my News Editor (boss) at King’s Lynn – the singer’s name is lurking in the back of my mind and I’ll probably remember it after I have posted this blog.

But I do recall that at the North Norfolk Roman Catholic shrine of Walsingham I shook hands with the then Archbishop of Westminster, the highly respected Basil Hume.

And, chillingly in retrospect, I spoke on the phone to Jimmy Savile. I was visiting Stoke Mandeville Hospital to report on the progress of a local man who was a patient and, while I was in the hospital office, he happened to ring up. I was put on the phone to him and, knowing I was from the Peterborough Evening Telegraph, his opening gambit was “How is the Peterborough Effect?”, an advertising slogan of the time.

Once on a film set in West Norfolk I interviewed a most gracious older actress. This is awful – I am not sure of her name either. Not sure? Let’s be honest, I have forgotten. But I can picture her still, walking elegantly through the French doors of a country house during filming on a summer’s day.

But let’s move quickly on to a memorable day when I was sent to the Nene Valley Railway at Peterborough. It is a steam heritage railway which was, and probably still is, used frequently by film crews because of its relative proximity to London. Remember the James Bond film Octopussy, when he drives along railway tracks? That sequence was filmed at the Nene Valley Railway.

Anyway, on the day of my visit, sometime around 1985, a pilot episode was being filmed for an American TV series called Lime Street, about two insurance investigators played by Robert Wagner and John Standing.

And, yes, I got to meet both of these gentlemen though, of course, the photographer and I had to wait some time before we were admitted to Mr Wagner’s caravan.

But what made the day really special for me was the guest star in this episode – Patrick Macnee, who I loved as John Steed in The Avengers when I was a child.

I still enjoy his performances today and I’m heartened to read on Wikipedia that today, 6 February, as I write, Patrick is celebrating his 93rd birthday. Happy Birthday, Sir.

I also liked his character John Steed’s Bentley car, of late Twenties vintage I would say – ancient now but only about 35 years old when the programmes were being made.

This car was similar to the Bentleys which won the Le Mans 24-hour race five times from 1924 to 1930. I was fascinated by them – I’m not sure if I had my interest in the cars as a result of The Avengers, or whether it was because of a book I read as a child about someone entering a vintage Bentley in the Le Mans 24-hour race years after their heyday.

Inevitably the day’s filming at the Nene Valley Railway was slow and interrupted and, after I had formally interviewed Patrick Macnee, I found myself standing on a platform chatting to him while he waited for the rain to stop so he could continue work.

His persona was polite and helpful, and not a million miles from his on-screen role in The Avengers. I should emphasise that I do not mean he could not act – I saw him in The Avengers recently playing a double with a very different personality. He was, I think, simply a polite and gracious man.

Two stories stick in my mind. He spoke about a recent media report about his friend Angela Lansbury in which they had disclosed her age. He was outraged they could do such a thing to “a lady”.

And – this is where we get to the bad language – the subject of This Is Your Life came up. I should explain, for younger readers, this was a TV show in which the presenter, carrying a large red book, would surprise a famous person and whisk them off to a studio to relive their life, complete with guests and reunions.

I established Patrick Macnee had been the subject of This Is Your Life and said something like: “That must really throw you, when they jump out with the big red book.” 

I will never forget his reply.

“Dear boy, fucked up my whole day, I was just going for lunch at the time.”

Postscript

Re-discovered! Bruce Carter's book Speed Six!
Re-discovered! Bruce Carter’s book Speed Six!

Since writing this blog I have finally re-discovered my childhood book about the Bentley going to Le Mans. It is Speed Six by Bruce Carter, and seems to have been published in 1953 which would make the storyline a little more credible, if still fanciful. I must have read a 1960s paperback edition. But – here is the exciting news – I’ve found a 1970s edition on eBay which should be on its way to me in Orkney.

To find out more

True Entertainment channel is available in the UK on Freeview channel 61 (except Wales), Freesat channel 142, Sky channel 184 (+1 on channel 261) and Virgin Media (channel 189). The Avengers is being shown at 11.00am and 8.00pm on weekdays. 

Patrick Macnee website: http://www.patrickmacnee.com/

Wikipedia on Patrick Macnee: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Macnee

Wikipedia on The Avengers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Avengers_(TV_series)

Wikipedia on Lime Street: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lime_Street_(TV_series)

Nene Valley Railway website: http://www.nvr.org.uk/

Your mother should know

Hipsters of a certain generation will recognise “Your Mother Should Know” as the title of a song by The Beatles which featured in their much-criticised-but-fun-in-a-silly-way film Magical Mystery Tour.

To be truthful this blog has little to do with the song, other than providing a snappy title, but for those who do not know the song – can this be possible? – here it is:

This year marks 12 years since my mother passed away but I still regularly recall, and use, her choice sayings. I thought I would recall a few here for your entertainment. Who knows, you may be able to make use of them?

Hot as hen muck

This is a great Anglo-Saxon sounding, descriptive expression.

In the main, I do not know where my mother got her sayings from but I do remember her once telling me this one came from her mother, or my nanny as I knew her.

You can use this expression if you are describing a hot, stuffy room or building – “it’s hot as hen muck in here”.

Queen Anne’s dead

My mother was a generous, sympathetic person who generally thought well of others. So this saying is slightly out of character, though she would use it in a light-hearted way.

You can use this expression if someone tells you some news that everyone already knows about – “Queen Anne’s dead, you know”.

Pride rises above pain

I suspect that back in the early 20th century this expression was used by many women, and not just my mother. It has that feel about it.

You can use this expression if you see a woman, for example, walking along the street in uncomfortable shoes which she clearly believes makes her look fashionable – “pride rises above pain”. These days you could use the saying about men’s fashions as well. Low-slung jeans anyone?

All round Dogsthorpe to get to Peterborough

Here is an example of my mother not always suffering fools entirely happily. Peterborough is a large English city on the borders of East Anglia and the East Midlands. Dogsthorpe is a suburb of Peterborough which, before the ring-roads were built, you might have driven through on your way to the city – but not all around the side streets.

You can use this expression if a person takes ages to tell an overlong anecdote, with many diversions. Rather like my blogs, you might think – “he’s the sort of person who would go all round Dogsthorpe to get to Peterborough”.

You don’t want to start from here at all

We’re all familiar with conversations about directions. Trying to describe how to find a pub or a restaurant, or a house, to someone on foot, on a bicycle or in a car, can be frustrating. What seems obvious to us can be difficult to get across.

You can use this expression when giving directions and you realise it would be much easier if only you could start from a different location – “of course, you don’t want to start from here at all”.

I hope you have found this selection of sayings amusing and even useful. Please feel welcome to add comments to this blog if you have favourites from your family.

Graham Brown

The Swinging Sixties – really?

Groovy! (image courtsey of freeimages.co.uk)

It’s a familiar theme on British TV documentaries, so often portrayed and referred to that we assume it must be correct in all details: the Swinging Sixties.

This was the time when all the music pouring out of Radio Caroline and other pirate radio stations was hip, revolutionary and exciting, there was free love, the girls were beautiful, though the men wore dodgy outfits, everyone had flowers in their hair, people took mind-liberating drugs, joined protests against the Vietnam War and generally rejected authority.

But was it really like that in the UK? I suspect the truth is that a minority lived the kind of life portrayed in these documentaries, while some folk enjoyed some aspects of this lifestyle – mostly listening to the music – and for some people these revolutionary times just did not happen.

Here’s a question. Which act had two UK number one hit singles in 1967, staying at the top of the charts for a total of 11 weeks. Well, must have been The Beatles?

In fact it was Engelbert Humperdinck, not the classical composer of that name, but a ballad singer who you might think would have been more at home in the early Fifties, or at least in Las Vegas cabaret. If you are too young to remember here he is on YouTube…

His big songs that year were Release Me and The Last Waltz, the first of these keeping The Beatles’ Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane off the top slot.

Of course, if you are too young to remember Engelbert you will get a chance to see him in all his glory as the unexpected choice to sing the UK entry into this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Azerbaijan. Isn’t life strange?

Engelbert wasn’t alone in flying the flag for middle-of-the-road music in 1967. Other UK number one singles that year included Petula Clark’s This Is My Song, Nancy and Frank Sinatra singing Somethin’ Stupid and Long John Baldry’s Let The Heartaches Begin.

Of course just hearing the latest fab, groovy and hip music on the radio might not have been so easy if you lived outside the south-east of England. The signals of the pirate radio stations would not have reached Wales or the north of Scotland, possibly not even some inland areas of England.

But back to 1967 – the year often highlighted in TV documentaries about the Sixties. I’d like to tell you about a fascinating second-hand book I bought recently for £2.

Published in 1967, the so-called year of flower power, it is called Celebrity Cooking. It contains favourite recipes of the famous, along with potted biographies. You might think such a book would feature, say, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Jimi Hendrix and the like. Well, no. Val Doonican, Max Bygraves and Liberace, yes.

The book has some great recipes and the biographies are fascinating. But it is also notable in two respects which tell you something about life in the Swinging Sixties.

Firstly, in the acknowledgements the book’s compiler says: “A big ‘thank you’ to the many wives who patiently wrote out their husband’s favourite recipe.”

So, not of all these grand men were cooking their favourite recipes? There’s a surprise. I suspect very few of them were doing so. The book is, in fact, a book of favourite dishes.

Secondly, the potted biographies alongside each contributor are very polite and deferential. How about this one, for The Earl of Avon?

“Formerly Sir Anthony Eden – Distinguished former Prime Minister of Great Britain 1955-1957 noted for his handling of international affairs and impeccable elegance in dress. As Prime Minister his term of office was cut short by ill health. With Lady Avon, a niece of Sir Winston Churchill, he winters at his home in Barbados in the British West Indies.”

What a wonderful Prime Minister he must have been and how sad his term was ended by ill health.

But wait a minute. Isn’t this the Prime Minister who took Britain into an ill-advised military invasion of Egypt after the Suez Canal was nationalised? A war that was organised while the British public were being misled?

No, not that war, you’re thinking of Tony Blair and Iraq but I admit there are similarities. The names of Blair and Eden will forever be associated with disastrous intervention in the Middle East, whatever else they did during their careers.

The flamboyant pianist Liberace is also featured in Celebrity Cooking. His biography says: “America’s piano-playing idol. Mothers all over America swoon when Liberace, in his sequined outfit, appears playing soulfully, Chopin or Gershwin, on his candelabra-bearing piano.” Even in 1967 that description must have been a bit of a stretch.

Their recipes? For the record, Lord Avon chose chicken liver mould – that would be a gift to today’s comedy writers – and Liberace’s choice was stuffed squab or baby pigeons.

There is only one person featured in the book who could be considered, as we might say now, “cool” and that is Dusty Springfield.

But this book is about the famous, the rich, the powerful. What was life like for ordinary people in 1967 in the UK? I suspect it was not as it appears in the Sixties documentaries.

Free love and the pill for all? Yes, the pill became available on the National Health Service in the Sixties and abortion was legalised in 1967. But I suspect many young women would not easily talk to a GP about that sort of thing back then and clinics may not have been available outside big cities. For many women sex was probably scary, with uncertain consequences. What if you became pregnant? That was likely to bring shame on your family, and may lead to your baby being taken away for adoption.

How was it in 1967 if you were black? I expect you faced routine racial discrimination. I was at secondary school from 1969 to 1976 and, like my classmates, had passed the Eleven Plus, an exam which singled us out for the grammar school stream. But amongst this supposedly bright and educated group our attitudes to black people were shamefully archaic.

And how about being gay, say in 1967? As it happens it was the year that the Sexual Offences Act decriminalised private homosexual acts between men over the age of 21. It was a big step forward but growing up as a homosexual was not easy for most people in the Sixties, and for many decades to come.

Yes, the Sixties were a big influence on our lives today and started many movements – black consciousness, equality, improved contraception, gay rights – that have blossomed over the following decades.

But I expect many young people – particularly in small towns or remote areas – lived ordinary lives of sexual fumbling, perhaps scared to be gay, perhaps prejudiced against black and gay people, perhaps facing bigots as a matter of course.

Hopefully, they were at least able to enjoy some of the great music from the Sixties.

I’d be interested in your thoughts.

P.S. My next blog will be about my recent to Southern California. Watch this space.

To find out more

Radio Caroline still broadcasts today via satellite and the internet. You can even get an app for your iPhone. They play a great variety of music. I’ll return to this in a future blog but meanwhile give them a listen: http://www.radiocaroline.co.uk/

The image at the top of this blog is courtesy of freeimages.co.uk: http://www.freeimages.co.uk/