FOR GOD’S SAKE GIVE THE KID A PENNY BEFORE THEY KILL US ALL!!!!!
This song was very popular in my Primary School playground where it mutated into a chant you’d sing to taunt some kid you suspected of fancying another girl at school. You see, back then being attracted to someone of the opposite sex was something to be embarrassed about. What young fools we were.
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.
I remember when Elvis did this song on Top of The Pops we were talking about the show at school the next day as usual and I asked my mate Graham — who lived in Chelsea — if he’d seen it and he said “Yeah, and Chelsea don’t want ‘im either!”
The opening titles of this got me all misty-eyed and wistful and I wasn’t even that big a watcher of the show at the time. This might sound silly but it’s the coats they’re wearing, especially the green Parka with a fur-trimmed hood that Sam has on. Seeing that just whisks me back to the school playground with a veritable Proustian rush. If he had a black Adidas sports bag too I’d be a blubbering wreck. Never had a paper round myself though.
Terrific theme song by Renaissance who had a hit in 1978 with this lovely tune.
I don’t wish to offend any Welsh people and I’m sure that there have been several famous battles fought in Wales (mostly against the English I bet) but I must admit that when I saw this book my first thought was of the old playground jokes about the shortest books in the world — like Italian War Heroes, The Biafran Book of Cookery, The Irish Book of Knowledge, and The German Joke Book.
There was also English Fine Cuisine so we were pretty much equal-opportunity offenders back then.
Here’s someone from the book Famous Welsh Singers which isn’t very long either but is full of quality.
Download: Chills And Fever – Tom Jones (mp3)
One year some naughty boy played this over our school tannoy system on the last day of term, and it still reminds me of the pure joy of running out of the school playground on that day to the freedom of the summer holidays. The girls up on stage look like they’re having the time of their lives too, just watching them gives me a big smile.
We all know the Lord of The Flies cliche about boys being little more than savages beneath a thin veneer of civilization, and anyone who has gone to an all-boys school knows that this is pretty much true. My comprehensive was no different, a pressure-cooker of raging hormones and cruel adolescent power games where the strong mercilessly preyed on the weak, the bookish, the different, the short-sighted.
Not surprisingly our tastes in reading material leaned toward the violent and nasty, and if it had a sprinkling of smut in it too so much the better. There was a sort of underground lending library system at school with certain parent- and teacher-unfriendly books being passed from one kid to another, often with the “good” pages marked for easy reference. Popular reads were Richard Allen’s Skinhead books and Jaws by Peter Benchley, but it was The Rats by James Herbert that was the must-read book we all couldn’t wait to get our hands on. I remember that it had such a cult, talked-about status at school (and a controversial reputation elsewhere), that when I finally got a copy passed to me I felt like I was handling radioactive material and immediately hid it in my Adidas bag until I got home.
Published in 1974, The Rats is a gruesome novel about London being terrorized by giant mutant rats with a taste for human flesh, and is full of lurid descriptions of people being attacked and killed in very, very nasty ways:
But as he stood, one of the larger rats leapt at his groin, pulling away his genitals with one mighty twist of his body. The tramp screamed and fell to his knees, thrusting his hands between his legs as if to stop the flow of blood, but he was immediately engulfed and toppled over by a wave of black, bristling bodies.
As you can imagine we — pardon the expression — ate this up with glee. A tramp had his knob bitten off by a rat! That bloke had his eyes chewed out! They ate a baby! I read it again recently (well, skimmed would be more accurate) and while I wouldn’t exactly call Herbert a good writer he’s an effective and efficient one; the story motors along from one horrific scene to another with no distracting subplots, and the only chapter that doesn’t have any bloody carnage in it has a sex scene instead — x-rated, vividly-described sex of course (chapter eight if you’re interested) — so the book managed to get our adolescent blood pumping into more than one organ. No wonder it we loved it so much, it was if it had been written by a committee set up to produce a book just to satisfy our particular bloody and lusty imaginations.
It’s been claimed that, under the schlocky horror, The Rats is actually a damning portrait of the run-down, dysfunctional state of London — and England — in the 1970s, and reading it again with grown-up eyes I did think that if you took away the killer rats you’d have a social-realist polemic. There are lots of angry references to slum neighbourhoods in the East End, dirty canals, neglected bomb-site wastelands, people living in poorly-built “concrete towers” with stinking rubbish chutes, and at one point the dustmen go on strike forcing the Army to be called in to clear rubbish from the streets which actually happened during the Winter of Discontent in 1979. The rats may have been mutant freaks but the novel makes it clear that they bred and thrived in a city one character curses as “Dirty bloody London!”
So if a teacher had caught me with it and asked me why I was reading such junk, I could have replied “Actually sir, it’s a devastating critique of the social, political, and environmental conditions in London today” — and he probably would have given me a clip ’round the ear and confiscated the book.