Be Very Afraid


They really did try their best to scare the shit out of us kids in the 1970s. If we weren’t being warned about getting locked in old fridges, drowned in dirty canals, crushed by farm machinery, blinded by fireworks, or catching Rabies, we were being told not to talk to strangers.

That last one seemed to be the most deathly important of all — for reasons we didn’t quite understand as kids – and clearly no expense was spared in the making of “Never Go With Strangers” a 1971 film that was shown in schools. It’s an epic of the scary safety film genre complete with animation, special effects, and a huge cast of creepy-looking men.



Though it is a well-meaning attempt to talk to young children about a difficult subject, some of the script is almost surreally funny (even in context) with lines like “People like this might be a bit odd in the head”, “That’s a lovely cape you’re wearing” and “There’s not even a baby donkey in the field” — personally I’d have run a mile if some strange man had complimented my cape and offered to show me a baby donkey.

With all these apparent dangers you’d think we lived in a state of perpetual terror locked in our bedrooms, but like most parents my mother let us go out on our own unsupervised and out of contact with her from quite a young age (no cell phones then either of course). I don’t know when or why that changed but you couldn’t make “Never Go With Strangers” in the same way now because those kids wouldn’t be out on their own. One very sad statistic in this article is that in 1971 80% of 9-year-olds in the UK walked to school alone, by 1990 that number had dropped to only 9% and now it’s even lower, despite there being no rise in the number of child abductions — though you wouldn’t know that from the pitchfork-waving hysteria about paedos, predators, and kiddie-fiddlers in the British tabloid press these days. Even the smiling old man who winked at you in the street when you were a kid would be suspect now.

Despite my mother’s apparently laissez faire attitude to our safety she still had her moments of terror. I can vividly remember an instance of her “losing” me for a few minutes in a crowd of shoppers on Kensington High Street one Saturday afternoon, and the panicky, tearfully relieved tone in her voice when she found me made it clear how awful those few minutes must have been for her (a feeling I know myself now with my own kids.) Then she spanked me and said “DON’T EVER DO THAT AGAIN!!!” — that’s 70s parenting for you.

Download: Fear Of The World – ABC (mp3)

Secondary Modern(ism)



This is wonderful, like a segment from an avant garde Blue Peter with the kids making music with tape recorders instead of sticky-back plastic and old Cornflakes packets.

My music teacher at school was into Glenn Miller rather than John Cage so lessons were more In The Mood than experimental sound pictures.

(Discovered at The Belbury Parish Magazine)

He’s the Leader of the Band


This David Essex classic owes an awful lot to Bowie’s “Rock and Roll Suicide” but it does have more interesting production, especially that heartbeat/piano intro. Which makes me wonder what Ziggy Stardust would have sounded like produced by Jeff Wayne.

Download: Stardust – David Essex (mp3)

Photo: Dude (1972) by Mick Rock

Violent Playground


A lot of the attraction of adventure playgrounds for kids was the feeling that they were places to do what you wanted. Even when there was an adult present we still made the rules, which is why this old video of the Notting Hill adventure playground often resembles outtakes from Lord of The Flies. Though the video is labeled “late-1960″ it looks much later in the decade than that judging by the clothes.



I played in adventure playgrounds in Fulham and Holland Park when I was a kid — and think we made it to the Notting Hill one too — so this is a real nostalgia overload for me. So much so that I couldn’t see a lot of it through the sentimental tears that were filling my eyes, soon as I saw those two boys walking down the street eating bags of chips I was a puddle, and the little boy saying “If my mum wins at the bingo we might have a holiday” is heartbreaking. It’s also a reminder that Notting Hill wasn’t always so posh and desirable.

I belong to a Facebook group for people who grew up in Fulham and whenever someone mentions old playgrounds everyone starts grumbling about this faceless, shadowy organization called “Health and Safety” who are apparently dedicated to ruining children’s fun, unlike in the good old days when we were free to get tetanus from a rusty old swing. Sounds like one of those imaginary Daily Mail bogeymen to me. Maybe they’re right, but watching this video it doesn’t look like things have changed all that much, though the equipment looks better made and there seem to be more grown-ups present.

Download: See Emily Play – Pink Floyd (mp3)

Remember, remember



FOR GOD’S SAKE GIVE THE KID A PENNY BEFORE THEY KILL US ALL!!!!!

Serenity now



At the moment life seems to be a constant stream of things that need doing or worrying about: Kids starting new schools, house painting, deadlines to meet, career decisions to make, what to have for tea. I’ll be glad when this summer is over and life can get boring and routine again.

This sublime performance by the Capital Children’s Choir from London really helps with the stress levels though. If this doesn’t soothe your savage breast you might need to see a doctor.

No Ball Games



There were “No Ball Games” signs on my estate too which we ignored just like these kids, and if I had a penny for every time some old lady told me to “get yer hair cut!” I’d have enough to buy a quarter of cough candy. I’m surprised none of them deployed the deadly weapon that was “I know where you live, I’m telling your mum!”

Nice Chopper!

Playground Twist



On the one hand this is lovely and nostalgic — I’d forgotten all about 1-2-3-O’Leary — but on the other hand I kept waiting for the creepy music to start and the kids to corner a helpless villager in an old graveyard, their chanting getting louder and louder to drown out the man’s screams.

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The sentimental musings of an ageing expat in words, music, and pictures. Mp3 files are up for a limited time so drink them while they're hot. Contact me: lee at londonlee dot com

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