Making Plans For Crackerjack



Though it’s undeniably silly I hope that XTC were well chuffed with this. Getting played by John Peel or appearing on Top of The Pops are nothing compared to having your song performed on a great British television institution like Crackerjack. I would have retired happy after this.

A friend of a friend of mine worked on Crackerjack in the early 1980s and got a group of us tickets to see a show. We had a bloody marvelous time, Stu “Ooh, I could crush a grape!” Francis was the host then and Depeche Mode were on performing “Monument” (apparently, I’d forgotten). Every time we shouted CRACKERJACK! the Boy Scouts sitting in front us turned around and gave us funny looks as if they were thinking “What are these old people doing here?”

I still have the ticket.


We didn’t get Crackerjack pencils but the bloke we knew on the show got us copies of Depeche Mode’s A Broken Frame album signed by all the band. Like a fool I later gave mine away to my girlfriend, it wasn’t a great album but really wish I hadn’t done that now. Wonder if she still has it.

A Girl’s Own Room


My sister’s room was next to mine, but non-sister girl’s bedrooms were still mysterious places to me. According to the pop music of the 1970s boys sometimes didn’t leave them alive.

Download: Angie Baby – Helen Reddy (mp3)

A Room of Your Own


I shared a bedroom with my older sister until I was 11 years old and I used to dream that if I had my own room the walls would be painted Chelsea blue with a big white number 9 (Peter Osgood‘s number) on one of them. Sadly, when the glorious day came that I got my own room after we moved to a bigger council flat it didn’t live up to that fantasy and turned out to be a tiny box room with ugly orange wallpaper. But I didn’t care, it was mine!

Having the freedom of your own bedroom is a big deal when you’re a kid because your life is dictated to in so many other ways — what to eat, what time to get up, how long to stay out — and while you might not get to pick the furniture, how it’s arranged and what’s on the walls are about the only way you can stamp your personality on your environment at that age (like making the David Bowie bin on the book cover above). Personal space is even more at a premium when you live in a small council flat and have a sibling.

I wasn’t a solitary kid but I was perfectly happy to be on my own and the room was my very own Fortress of Solitude where I could daydream and let my imagination bloom. I had really bad hayfever in my early teens and spent a lot of hot summer days alone in my room with the curtains closed to ease my sneezy and red-eyed misery caused by the pollen-rich air outside. I think I basically “missed” a couple of summers that way, and though it makes me sound like I was some adolescent Marcel Proust I didn’t write an epic novel but I did draw a lot, read piles of comics, and listen to the radio, often while drowsy from anti-histamines. To this day getting woozy from medicine still gives me a Proustian rush back to my shady bedroom.

Once I got later into my teens the room became an even more important refuge, somewhere to go with all those confused thoughts and raging hormones (if you know what I mean). I’d moon in frustration over some girl I didn’t have the nerve to ask out, stew about how unfair life and the world was, and draw rather gloomy pictures. It was also where I spent nearly every week-night listening to John Peel, which is probably what I’m doing in this photo.


See what I mean about the wallpaper?

Even though it was small a lot of big things happened in that room. It was where my life-defining love of pop music and graphic art developed; where I first heard about the deaths of Ian Curtis, Elvis Presley, and John Lennon; where I first heard songs like “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and all the other classics that would define my youth. It was also where I got a girl’s bra off for the first time.

I left home in my mid-20s after I graduated from art college and moved into a flat with some mates. My mum finally got rid of the horrible wallpaper, painted the walls blue (10-year-old me would have been very happy) and turned it into a storage room full of junk and boxes. Whenever I went home I’d peek in there and it looked so different I struggled to imagine all the days and nights I’d spent in there and what that room had meant to my youth. All I had was the ghosts of memories of that tiny little space where I became me.

Download: In Your Room – Bangles (mp3)

Picture Post


The whiff of nostalgia coming off this photo is as strong as the smell of grease and vinegar probably was in the air.

That lovely little chip shop is glowing with fuggy, frying-tonight warmth, and the kids are a perfect lost-childhood vision of anoraks, jumpers, and bikes, looking so happy with what is probably their Friday night treat. Then there’s the boy sitting on the wall wearing on his feet what we called “basketball boots” that you used to get in Woolworth’s. They were like cheap, generic Converse hi-tops in an era when we didn’t know what Converse were. I spent a large part of my childhood in those so seeing them is really the icing on the memory cake — or the batter on the sausage.

This record makes me glow almost as much as that photo does, some sublime Latin Soul from 1972.

Download: Under The Street Lamp – Joe Bataan (mp3)

Un Film de Gerry Anderson



This actually sounds better in French and goes with the romantic visuals, though Troy and Marina should probably be smoking.

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

What’s it all about?

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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