Dec 31, 2010

ITEM:   Looking for some cheap reading matter just before Xmas I foolishly bought a stack of 20 Annuals from a charity shop. Seemed a reasonable deal at £1 each. I’d seen them in the window the previous week and was surprised that they were still there. Evidentally the kids of today are only attracted to stuff they look at on screens and have lost the ability to turn pages in books. So I stumbled out with my haul and across the road into my next port of call, the bank. As usual the queue was massive and as usual only two girls were serving. I dumped the stack of books on the wet salt and grit strewn mess that had once been a carpet. After five un-moving minutes I sat down upon 19 books and started to read the 1982 Victor Annual !!  I repeatedly dropped most of the books in the snow slipping and sliding back to the bank car park. Actually for perhaps the last 30 years my brother has given me an “ironic” Dandy or Beano Annual each Xmas (and I would retaliate with a Football Annual of some description). Annuals and Selection boxes represent Xmas just as strongly as Xmas trees and decorations.

ITEM:    Looking for free listening material isn’t hard these days. Although many people automatically relate “pirate” radio to pop music broadcast from boats there have been other types of unauthorised broadcasting. Today I’ve discovered the Radio Eric Website which has some fascinating stuff from land-based pirate stations like Radio Jackie etc who were still copying the 1960s offshore stations in sound and format in the 1970s and 1908s. Land-based pirates in the UK are still found in cities like London or Liverpool often specialising in urban music or reggae. There are less since downloading music from the Internet became such a straight forward way for anyone to track down their specific interests. I’ve lost interest in the radio but I do enjoy a number of Podcasts that feature music from the 1960s on. I wonder if there are there any podcasts that deal with the subject of Pirate Radio ? If not, why not ?  Sometimes mp3 copies of whole vintage radio shows are just too long/hard going/time consuming.

Radio Eric has numerous historical soundchecks here.

Here is a short piece of audio from 1982 about the “fun” to be had as a land-based pirate evading the law.

The USA had its share of land-based pirate radio stations and for a while even tried a ship-based station in the late 1980s called Radio NewYork International. The oddest American pirate Radio station must have been Radio First Termer which broadcast rock and other four letter words to the US armed forces from a brothel in Vietnam for three weeks in 1971 !!

ITEM:   To put things into perspective at this time of year I often recall what a friend once said. He had money trouble and a broken relationship. He despised his job teaching in an inner city school. His Xmas present to himself had been a Sunday newspaper. On the first day of the new term he surveyed the black cloud of gloom above his head and tried to find something in his otherwise bleak future that he could look forward to. All he could come up with was the new brand of toothpaste he had purchased the previous day and had yet to sample !!!

PS: Isn’t the Internet/eMail spam getting out of control ? A mere 4 hours after posting the above I had already received 18 spam comments for teeth whitening…….

Perhaps 5 or 10 years ago there was a time when I got the impression that most of the people responsible for the incidental music in adverts or documentaries were about the same age as me. Short extracts or instrumental breaks from 50s/60s/70s pop songs would appear in the most unexpected or inappropriate places. I would exclaim to the bafflement of those around me “That music is from Skinhead Moonstomp/Kites/Soft Machine Six” or whatever. Those days have passed now as more hippety hop music is used by a younger generation of admen.

There is one piece of music that continues to be (over)used. It comes from an LP I love recorded (and released) in 1977 . Although it featured reasonably high in the UK album charts and scraped in at the bottom of the USA album charts it never got much radio play and my friends at the time and the world in general showed a marked lack of interest. By 1978 the record had been forgotten by all but the singer’s loyal fans. The title track from this LP should have been a single. What was wrong with the marketing dept ?? It would have been massive. I refer in particular to the insistent drum-dominated instrumental break/riff that begins track one side one before the vocals.

So, although this song disappeared in 1978 after virtually no radio airplay it suddenly re-appeared about 10 years ago on the TV. It was used on a number of adverts or programme trailers and as a background to car chases or fast moving sporting events. It would crop up in science programmes on the Discovery Channel. Our local news programme used it regularly. I even heard it once on the BBC News Channel. The whole song was belatedly used in a couple of popular films you probably saw in the 1990s.  Also this piece of music was often messed around with. Sometimes looped and extended, sometimes slowed down, sometimes speeded up. Sometimes it sounded like the original. Invariably it sounded like it had been re-recorded by someone else. There is even an orchestral version. In all cases the music fades just before the moment when the vocal begins (or they start the instrumental again from the beginning). 

I’m sure you’ve guessed which tune I’m on about by now haven’t you ?

When I bought a Chrysler Sunbeam (1977-1982) in September 1979 I never expected I would still own one over 30 years later. At the time of purchase I also never expected I’d be returning to the dealer 2 months later to have the badges changed from “Chrysler” to “Talbot” when Chrysler UK was abandoned by struggling Chrysler USA and taken over by the French !! (Wasn’t Chrysler USA in a similar predicament recently when they were bailed out by Fiat ?) Anyway I loved the cars and over the years most variants passed through my hands apart from the 2.2 litre Lotus engined one. Ironically although only 2308 of those road-going Rally cars were made, survivors of them must now outnumber the more mundane 930cc, 1300cc and 1600cc models in LS,GLS or Ti guise that I used and enjoyed as second cars when they went through their “cheap as chips” phase. That is something that once happened to all cars when they were old enough to be “bangers” but not old enough to be “classics”. Rules/regulations/running costs preclude me from taxing and insuring more than one car at a time these days….

The Chrysler (later Talbot) Sunbeam history is not to be confused with Sunbeam Talbot cars from the 1950s and earlier. The car I owned was pretty much a Chrysler Avenger floorpan fitted with a (for the time) modern hatchback body. The Hillman Imp derived 930cc engines were underpowered and made the car tedious to drive with much gear-changing required on hills or on the rare time you may have foolhardily attempted to overtake an even slower vehicle on a motorway. The 1300cc powered vehicles were perfectly useable on the motorways of the time however and I covered 125,000 reliable miles in mine throughout the 1980s.

Although my “classic car” was by then an Opel Monza I couldn’t resist buying a low mileage 1980 Talbot Sunbeam 1.3 GLS Auto about 10 years ago. I drove it to the petrol station to fill it with 4* and then on to the garage for a fresh MOT. I’m ashamed to say it hasn’t moved since. Other projects and hobbies have taken what spare time I have. Today I opened the bonnet and was relieved to find that despite the recent -14 degree temperatures the antifreeze was still working. I stuck in another litre of neat antifreeze just to make sure. In the spring I might try to re-commission this vehicle although I must at all costs resist a sudden overwhelming urge to own a Talbot Sunbeam Lotus ………..

The car cover was frozen stiff so I haven’t taken a photo of my car. Instead here is a pic of a Sunbeam similar to mine apparently residing in the Glasgow Museum of Transport. The cars were originally manufactured in Linwood (Scotland’s only car factory). The car in the photo is a Mark 1. Mine is a Mark 2. Mark 2 models had larger, flush headlights which is useful info only for Train-spotters. Actually I can’t recall the last time I saw a Sunbeam being driven on the road, or a Viva, or a Mk 3 Cortina, or any vehicle from the 1980s or earlier for that matter ……

Happy Xmas

Dec 24, 2010

I’d almost forgotten about this Xmas tune…………

Patterns of Life

Dec 24, 2010

We met, we married a long time ago.
We worked long hours when wages were low
No TV, no Wireless, no bath…times were hard
Just a cold-water tap and a walk down the yard.

No holidays abroad, no posh carpets on the floor,
But we had coal on the fire and we didn’t lock doors.
Our children arrived. No bills in those days.
And we brought them up without any State aid.

They were quite safe to go and play in the park.
And the old folk could go for a walk in the dark.
No valium, no drugs and no LSD
We cured most of our ills with a nice cup of tea.

But if you were sick you were treated at once,
Not fill out the form and come back in six months.
No vandals, no mugging, there was nothing to rob.
We were quite rich on a couple of bob.

People were happy in those far off days,
Kinder, more caring in so many ways.
Milkmen and Paperboys used to whistle and sing.
A night at the pictures was our maddest fling.

We all had our share of trouble and strife.
We just had to face it..the pattern of life.
Now I’m alone and look back through the years.
I don’t think of the bad times of troubles and tears.

I remember the blessings, our home and our love,
We shared them together and thanked God above.

Harry Stanley

PS: It may not be Keats or Wordsworth or even Andrew Motion but it is written with feeling. I recently came across a faded photocopy containing this hand-written poem. I presume it was written by Harry, and not copied by him from some other source. If Harry did indeed write it then the chances are that if it ever was published it would have been in the local Church newsletter perhaps 20 years ago. Harry sang in the choir until he was well into his nineties and died in December 2008.

Here’s another forgotten character from comics-past. Alan Moore was never as famous as Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers or even Tommy Tomorrow of the Planeteers. He may only have made this lone appearance in Key Publications “Weird Tales of the Future” No 2 cover dated  June 1952. This short running (8 issue) anthology title is collected now due to the inclusion of weird stories (and sometimes covers) weirdly drawn by the weird Basil Wolverton.

Batman Postcard

Dec 16, 2010

Due to my habit of slipping newspaper cuttings etc inside books I do tend to stumble upon some odd things. This tatty Postcard dropped out of a NEL Batman paperback (which was probably the first place I ever saw a few of Batman’s Golden Age adventures in black and white one panel per page !).

The drawing pin hole evidentally signifies that this card was pinned upon my bedroom wall in 1966 !! Interestingly the reverse states that it was printed by Gerald G. Swan. He was of course famous in the late 1940s/1950s for pulp magazines and some extremely odd UK comics. Although I have a Wells Fargo book of his dated 1964 I am surprised his company was still in business as late as 1966 (although checking the Interweb I see he would only have been 64 years young then).

Suddenly it’s Xmas

Dec 14, 2010

I couldn’t be bothered to do another Xmas mix tape. Been there done that back on the 25th June. (!!??!!) It should still be there if you’re curious. Click on “xmas” in the left hand column. However I did find this old favourite of mine which is seldom played anywhere (and which hasn’t really anything to do with Kung Fu) …

Pandora Spocks

Dec 10, 2010

The under-rated comic actress Pandora Spocks (1933 – 1995) wasn’t on TV often enough. In fact she only appeared in 25 random episodes of the US Sitcom “Bewitched” between 1966 and 1972. Evidentally picked to play the part of Sam’s cousin Serena due to her remarkable resemblance to Elizabeth Montgomery many storylines revolved around the other cast members confusing the two with “hilarious” results.

Over the years Serena evolved from a short-haired squeaky-voiced snob into a long-haired mini-skirted “hippy chick” . In one episode she decided to become a pop star and sang the catchy “I’ll blow you a kiss in the wind” (originally by Boyce and Hart I believe). Having just seen the clip on YouTube I’m off to look for an mp3 version. There must be one somewhere on the Interweb……

After 1972 the only further sighting of Pandora I can find was on the cover of Playboy !!

PS: (un)surprisingly it didn’t take very long to find what I was looking for. I even found someone else who found Serena’s song to be “one of TV’s greatest moments” !!!

Serena (and others) – I’m gonna blow you a kiss in the wind (and others)

PPS: Well, it amused me anyway. Next week I’ll look for the RocknRoll numbers Lenny and Squiggy used to do in “Laverne and Shirley”. Then I’ll go for a lie down in a darkened room….

More Tape

Dec 5, 2010

In 1968 the average weekly wage was £23. If this tape cost a staggering 10% of the average weekly wage what would it cost in today’s money ?? There’s no wonder I endlessly taped over things. You can see why even the BBC re-used tapes rather than archive everything.

What was on the tape ?, I hear no-one cry. Side one contained surprisingly crisp mono copies of ELPs Trilogy and Focus’ Moving Waves recorded by the incredibly technical technique of dangling a microphone in front of a record player’s speaker. Side two contained some of the world’s worst recordings from the radio of Radio Atlantis, Radio  Caroline and Radio Mi Amigo International(though perhaps in mitigation neither were broadcasting at very high power at the time). Having wasted the best part of an hour transferring 15 minutes worth to mp3 file before giving up I may as well add them to my audio scrapbook and post them here for anyone who likes listening to radio static. 

Radio Caroline 1974

Radio Caroline 1977

The Amazing Three

Dec 1, 2010

You’ve heard of the Fantastic Four, but have you heard of the Amazing Three ? Me neither, until I picked up the Jackpot Annual 1982 in a charity shop. In fact I’d never heard of Jackpot either until I looked it up. It was a short-lived UK weekly comic published between 1979 and 1982 by IPC/Fleetway. As was the trend in those days, when it ceased it “merged” with Buster.

Many of the humour strips in Jackpot had diabolically “punny” titles. The Incredible Sulk, Robin Good, Angel’s Charlies, Milly O’Naire and Penny Less etc etc. As was/is the custom then/now the artists responsible for all those and the Amazing Three are not named.

PS: Click the above to enlarge.

PPS: I shouldn’t think that this Amazing Three is of any relation to the Japanese manga/cartoons of the same name.