My Pop Life #234 : I Remember You – Frank Ifield

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I Remember You   –   Frank Ifield

When my life is through
And the angels ask me to recall
The thrill of it all, then I will tell them
I remember you, ooh

 

I was born in June 1957 in Cambridge.   I don’t have the date of my Christening but I am told by Dad that it was in Downing College Chapel.  There is a photograph of the family outside, with most of his family, and Mum’s sister Valerie.  The older lady next to mum is their landlady in Cambridge who was very happy when told that Mum was pregnant “It’s been a long time since there were children in this house”. 

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Grandad & Granma Brown holding Helen’s hand, Mum tucked behind, behind her Pam and Pauline. Tall guy is Reg, married to Pam, then Horace with the moustache my other Grandad. The lady next to Mum is their landlady, and in front of her is dear auntie Jessie, then it’s Dad holding me and Mum’s sister Valerie next to him!

Dad had four sisters, Pauline, Pam Jessie and Mollie, all older than him.  Mollie wasn’t there.  Mum had one sister, Valerie, who Dad had walked out with before Mum.  Valerie turned out to be gay many years later, after a marriage to Uncle Keith (see My Pop Life #49).  It’s quite remarkable to see that many people travelled from Portsmouth to Cambridge.  Peter, Pauline’s husband was taking the photo.  Mum’s mum, nan, Ruby wasn’t there. No idea why.

I turned one year old in 1958 and dad graduated in English from Downing College and we all moved back to Portsmouth.  My first memory of childhood was related earlier in My Pop Life #12Rubber Ball, at my dad’s parents in Manner’s Road,  Fratton.  This current memory comes from at least a year later when I was around five years old.   We lived in a terraced house in Hyde Park Road, Southsea – the front door stepped right out onto the street – if you turned right it went up to Commerical Road, if you turned left which Paul and I always did it went to the bomb debris.  There was a small garden at the back.

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These are Dad’s sisters Pauline and Jessie and their families. Mum & Dad are standing at the back.  Me front central (it’s my blog!) Paul is looking down in front of Dad’s parents. Somewhere in Portsmouth I imagine.

I remember very little about this period of my life.  Paul would have been born just after I turned two years old.  I cannot but wonder where he was during this story.  Perhaps he was asleep upstairs in a cot ?  He would have been three.  Later I recall us playing down the street in the bomb debris site left over from World War 2 – yes even in 1962 there were these bombed out houses, piles of brick and rubble and we loved messing about there, pretending to be soldiers or explorers.  Of course they were dangerous, but it was a different time. Kids just played outside unattended for hours.

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Wendy was a cousin who lived with Nan. She’s holding Paul. We’re all sitting on Dad in the back garden.

The bombing of Portsmouth on the 10th January 1941 is recalled in this People’s History of the Second World War.  My Mum’s dad Horace was a volunteer auxiliary policeman in Pompey during this time and was often scouting on the roof of the Guildhall for unexploded bombs.  Portsmouth was a major target for the Germans because it was and still is the headquarters of the British Navy.

One day there was a very heavy prolonged bout of rain and water started to come into our house, via the ceiling.  Lots of water.  Pots and pans were placed under the drips which became steady streams of water.  It was incredibly dramatic.  Eventually there was so much water coming out of the ceilings of the house that Mum and I went into the garden, where it was still raining, but less wet than inside!   Maybe it was a burst pipe?!?

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I started going to the local school aged 5.  Cottage Grove Juniors.  We had a gill of milk every day which is an ancient measurement equal to a quarter of a pint.

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I’m assuming that I’m in school uniform here, carrying Paul. Is that evidence of the flood on the wall?

We drew. We played. We sang.  We learned things.  Then one day there was a medical alert.  Some children in the class had worms. In the early sixties one of the panic illnesses for children was worms.   They’re a gastrointestinal parasite which comes in various forms, tapeworms, hookworms, others.  My mum collected me from school one day and they explained, or gave her a note.

When we got home Mum explained to me that when I went to the toilet, I wasn’t to flush, because she wanted to check to see if I had the parasite.  I have absolutely no idea how she could tell but at the age of five you just agree.  Later I went upstairs to the bathroom, did a decent enough poo and pulled the chain automatically without thinking.  When I came onto the landing Mum was waiting there, livid.  “Why did you pull the chain?”  she demanded.  “Sorry mum I forgot” I cried, expecting a clonk.  CLONK.  I got a fourpenny one around the side of my head which toppled me over and straight down the stairs to the first landing.  I cannot remember if it hurt.  Mum was absolutely horrified.  She came and gathered me up and we went to the kitchen where some form of treat was administered.  She felt guilty and scared.  Checked me for cuts bruises and breaks.  Nothing.  Then she said “Let’s go and see Watch With Mother shall we?”  This was strange because now I was at school I always missed the programme, which went out at 1.30pm every afternoon : Andy Pandy, Bill & Ben and Rag, Tag & Bobtail.  I’d watched it all through nursery.  It felt like another treat.

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The television was in the front room and we walked down the corridor and I sat on the settee.  Mum put the television on.  It took a while to warm up.  Then a white dot and there, in black and white, was Andy Pandy.  You could see the strings on the puppet but it didn’t matter.  Andy looked like a girl and had a strange crooked smile.  I watched it, with mother.

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Andy Pandy and Teddy

I can clearly recall the feeling of being treated suddenly with kid gloves.  She was attentive and careful, and I realised that she hadn’t intended to knock me down the stairs.  She was hugging me.  I was grateful.  I didn’t really know what had happened but it felt significant.

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Bill and Ben and little weed

We watched Bill and Ben, the Flowerpot Men after that.  “flobalob” they said to each other, “flobalob“, accompanied as ever by Little Weed.  I think she was a dandelion, and an early example of sexism for a five year old boy.  There were plenty of others.

The street we lived on – Hyde Park Road – doesn’t exist anymore.  It, and the bomb debris sites further to the south were all demolished and blocks of flats built there.  I will ask my Dad if he can remember the street name and area.  It was Southsea I think.

*Correct – Dad remembered the street name.

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The song “I Remember You” by Frank Ifield was one of Mum’s favourites that year.   He was an Australian who moved back to the UK from Sydney and this was the second biggest seller in the UK that year, 1962.  Written by the great lyricist Johnny Mercer (and about Judy Garland apparently) with Victor Scherzinger’s music it has a country flavour and a continually interesting melody, which features hints of Ifield’s yodel, all the rage at the time.  Love Me Do by The Beatles was released in 1962 and got to number 17 in the charts.  When Frank’s tour got to Liverpool Brian Epstein approached him to put the band on as support and thus it was that The Beatles’ first few gigs outside of Liverpool were supporting Frank Ifield in Peterborough & other places.  There is a bootleg of them singing this song out there.

Hands up who remembers The WoodentopsSpotty Dog ??

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Goodbye.   Say goodbye children.

 

 

My Pop Life #68 : Desafinado – Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd

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Desafinado   –   Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd

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As an entry point into Brazilian music I could’ve done worse – Stan Getz‘ two samba LPs, first with Charlie Byrd & then with Luis Bonfa – Jazz Samba and Jazz Samba Encore!  Stan followed these with a full-on collaboration with the great Joao Gilberto and his wife Astrud (Getz/Gilberto) and these 3 records are among the finest pieces of music recorded anywhere at anytime.

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It is some tribute to Getz, born in Philadelphia to jewish Ukrainian parents, that one cannot really discuss bossa nova without including his contribution.   These three LPs are graced by the compositions and piano playing of the peerless Antonio Carlos Jobim, the man who breathed a new life into samba and Brazilian music at the end of the 1950s in Rio de Janeiro, along with composers Luis Bonfa, Vinicius De Moraes and Ary Barroso.

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The first bossa nova song most people heard was Joao Gilberto’s whispery delicate reading of the Jobim/Moraes song Chega De Saudade (too much longing, often translated as too much blues) which appeared on Joao Gilberto’s first LP in 1959 where it was the title track.   This stunning LP also contains the first recorded versions of Desafinado and E Luxo Só. 

Stan Getz  was blowing his Selmer Mark VI tenor saxophone in Denmark and Sweden, Poland and Germany on the run from morphine addiction and his first wife Beverly Byrne with whom he had 3 children when Chega De Saudade was released in 1959.  He was by then already married again, to Monica Silfverskiöld of Sweden which would also prove to be a tempestuous marriage.   He returned to the US in 1961 and hooked up with guitarist Charlie Byrd, just returned from a US State Department tour of Brazil and was soon recording Jazz Samba, which is in my top five LPs of all time.  It was recorded in the legendary All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington D.C.  in one day (where my hip-hop play Sanctuary D.C. was performed in 1988).   Jazz Samba is simply perfect.   Actually only two of these songs are written by Tom Jobim, but one of them is the classic Desafinado.  Stan Getz blows that horn so sweetly in place of the words that I usually prefer his versions of these beautiful songs.

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I purchased this LP at some point in my early 20s when I was expanding my musical horizons like jet plane taking off, suddenly there was too much music everywhere.  But the bossa nova rhythms, the instrumentation and Getz smooth clear tone hooked me right from the start.  My the time I reached 30 years old I was living in Archway Road and I decided to learn the song on my silver Boosey & Hawkes alto.  This involved learning one small phrase at a time – and we’re in 1987 at this point, so it’s a record player with the needle being lifted oh-so-carefully off the groove, since it’s my favourite LP and all, and being placed oh-so-carefully back about 20 seconds earlier to try the phrase again.  It took hours, days.  I was patient, because I could, eventually, play it.  What unbridled joy.  The little flourishes, the afterthought notes, the lovely sweet tone and tempo were all mine.  I decided to busk it, packed the horn away in its battered old velvet-lined case and headed down to the South Bank.  Did I take a boombox with me to play over ?  Hmm don’t think so, but it’s possible…but in any case the saxophone would have been way louder than the boombox would play.

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I positioned myself at the South Bank side of Hungerford Bridge on the Thames and unpacked the horn, leaving the case invitingly open for spare coins to be carelessly dropped into.  And started to blow.  How many times did I play it ? Plenty.  Round and round I went.  Desafinado is about 6 minutes long.  A few coins, a few 10p pieces, a few 20p pieces, plenty of copper.  Then one chap enthusiastically drops a 50p piece in (yes, it was quite a lot of money in those days) with “that was perfect ! thank you, well done”…. Pretty soon after that I packed up, my bottom lip was getting sore because I rarely played for that long – I was an actor after all, not a musician and I was dabbling in my ghost career, the one I’d left behind at the fork in the road when I was 25 years old.  But I’d done it, cracked the tune to the appreciation of someone who knew it, and liked my version.  At which point my desire to continue playing it evaporated.

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Stan Getz, Joao and Astrid Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim made Getz/Gilberto in 1964 an impossibly good samba LP with most of the songs written by Jobim.   At this point the bossa nova craze peaked in the US and Astrud Gilberto became a star after her rendition of Jobim’s The Girl From Ipanema.

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There’s a film to be written about this period, as Astrud Gilberto left her husband Joao to have an affair with Stan Getz, and he stopped playing bossa nova and returned to cool jazz.   But in a happy footnote, Gilberto and Getz made one more LP together in 1975 after the dust had settled called The Best Of Both Worlds.    Once again they play bossa nova, including the wonderful Jobim song Águas De Março (see My Pop Life #191).    The vocals are performed by Heloisa Buarque de Hollanda (Miúcha), Joao’s new wife and sister of Chico Buarque.   Slightly out of tune ?  Not at all.

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Incidentally, Desafinado was a hit single in the US, Getz’ cover really spearheading the bossa nova craze which swept up Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Andy Williams in its warm embrace, but the single version is only 3 minutes long.   I’m a huge fan of the 3-minute pop song, but in this case, I’m afraid that simply won’t do at all.  Here is the unoriginal, the wordless, Desafinado by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd.

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Stan Getz, Joe Byrd, Charlie Byrd for the Jazz Samba sessions 1962

My Pop Life #35 : Right Said Fred – Bernard Cribbins

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Right Said Fred   –   Bernard Cribbins

…Charlie had a think and he thought we ought to take off all the ‘andles, and the things what held the candles;  but it did no good, well I never thought it would…

All right said Fred, have to take the door off, need more space to shift the so-and-so.  Took the wall down, even with it all down we was getting nowhere and

so

we

had a cuppa tea

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The song is genius.  I must have first heard it sometime in 1962, when it came out, and then every year after that.  It was played on the radio a lot, and particularly on the Children’s Favourites Radio 1 Saturday morning show which was DJ’d by Ed “Stewpot” Stuart from 1968 to 1980.   I think it was called Junior Choice and it played pretty much the same selection of songs every week – at least that’s my not-to-be-trusted memory.  They were mostly comedy gold, like this song, which concerns 3 gentlemen trying to remove a large piano (although it’s never acknowledged as a piano) from an upstairs room in a small house.   They do not succeed, but drink a lot of tea.   It has a marvellous selection of sound effects as the piano and the house are slowly demolished, and a particularly enjoyable spring sound, like a kind of musical punchline punctuation.  Not used enough in music that spring.  Written by Ted Dicks and Myles Rudge, and performed with gentle comedic charm and wit by the great Bernard Cribbins, it is my very favourite ‘novelty song’.   Saturday morning we heard them all – ‘My Brother’, ‘Three Wheels On My Wagon’, ‘Nellie The Elephant’, ‘The Runaway Train’, ‘Puff The Magic Dragon’, ‘The Ugly Bug Ball’.    Charlie Drake, The New Christy Minstrels, Mandy Miller, Mike Holiday, Peter, Paul & Mary, Burl Ives.   What a treasury!   Tommy SteeleLittle White Bull, and of course Rolf Harris who was molesting children for most of his career as it was revealed in a childhood-shattering court case last year.  Now filed alongside Saville and Glitter – those who abused their fame and their access to fans for decades.  Featured image

But Rolf can’t tarnish my Children’s Favourites LP.  I bought it when I was in my late 30s, nostalgic for those clever songs whose lyrics I knew off by heart even after all these years.  Later in the 1970s came The Wombles, brilliantly narrated by Bernard Cribbins with musical accompaniment by Mike Batt, in between were TV favourites The Magic Roundabout, Crackerjack, Hergé’s Adventures Of TinTin, Thunderbirds, Star Trek, an embarrassment of riches :  one day I’ll write something about Do Not Adjust Your Set which had the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band playing every week.

Thank you for indulging a Junior’s Choice.  Makes me smile every time.   Time for a cuppa tea.