Rubber Ball – Bobby Vee
…bouncy bouncy, bouncy bouncy…
This Pop Life series started out as a one-day-at-a-time Favourite Songs Of Me but I realised after a while that the songs which had an actual story behind them were a lot more interesting and got a lot more reaction from people than simply “great songs” which were just that, and about which I had little to add other than “isn’t this great?”. Not that I won’t be adding the odd great song – c’mon, this is My Pop Life after all…. But now it means that the songs aren’t necessarily my favourites, or even songs I like that much, but they’re big songs from big moments in my pop life one way or another. And this one – Bobby Vee’s Rubber Ball – is the first song I can ever remember hearing on the radio. Portsmouth 1961. I’m at my nan’s with my mum. My grandad is there too – my Dad’s parents. And I knew some of the words to this song at the age of 3 and a half. Not that surprising given the lyrical content, and I’m certain that I was unaware of the actual meaning of the tune, of an elasticated love affair – no I’m sure I thought it was about a ball, a rubber ball indeed. A bouncy rubber ball.
My dad was brought up in this terraced house, on Manners Road not far from Fratton Park in Southsea. His dad Frank ( large white-haired man) had been a batman in the Royal Navy and fought in two World Wars, and his mum Pauline I remember as a sharp little smiley lady with a bun. I don’t think we had the radio on much in our house, but we must have done – how else would I have known the song ? Grandad’s house had a coal stove, a poky kitchen and a front room which was never used and showed no clues as to the diocese of the people therein, and thus served its purpose and its name. Upstairs in the bedroom where we stayed occasionally there was a mysterious bowl and jug arrangement on the large dark dresser, and actual china chamberpots under the beds. Both remnants, I realised later in life, from a time before proper plumbing. The furniture was heavy and brown, the curtains mustard-coloured with accompanying net. Incredibly, my mum must have been 24 years old, my dad 25.
The song itself is as bouncy as you’d expect, was co-written by Gene Pitney in the Brill Building in Manhattan, and has no particular lasting hold on my affections, except that it alone can conjure this reasonably clear picture, like a sepia snapshot, of my dad’s parents and my young mum and dad in Pompey, in early 1961.