‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – The Build-Up to Christmas. Winter and Christmas Parties at Harehills County Primary School in the 1960s. – Cup of Tea Tales
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – The Build-Up to Christmas. Winter and Christmas Parties at Harehills County Primary School in the 1960s.
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Hippy Attempt on the Summit of Mount Snowdon. What Foolish Things We Did as Students!
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Ashworth’s Sweet-Shop, Harehills. Sweets, Victory V Lozenges, Sweet Cigarettes and Other Delights We Have Lost Over The Years.
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – A’ Levels, the Final Year at High School, Planning to Leave Home, Getting into College and Growing Older if Not Wiser.
- David’s Bookshelf Issue 5
My first memory of listening to music was on our radio at home. This largish piece of furniture was wooden, had valves that glowed hot and dials that magically tuned in to radio frequencies, something that is still a mystery to me today. My favourite programme was Children’s Favourites, which ran from 1954 until 1984, and it had a range of songs that have stuck with me all my life. These included Nellie the Elephant, They’re Changing Guard at Buckingham Palace, The Owl and the Pussycat, The Laughing Policeman, Sparky’s Magic Piano and many others. Mum and my brothers got to know the songs by heart and we would all join in.
As we got a little older, our tastes changed. Having a big brother helped as he became interested in what was called pop music. This was basically any music that wasn’t classical or wasn’t the music that the adult generation would listen to. Its origin was from the black music of blues and gospel in the USA and took a new turn when Elvis, Jerry Lewis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry and their ilk took off and led to a revolution of youth in the States.
Hearing the more up-to-date songs was not easy and often meant trying to tune in to the pirate radio stations, such as Radio Luxembourg and Radio Caroline. We had a friend near our house in Gipton Wood Crescent who had a crystal radio set and he could sometimes pick it up, but my brother was listening on the home radio. He heard an advertisement for an offer to buy a transistor radio for 50 pence. This was a relatively small sum, and he had a paper round so he could afford it. He sent his postal order off and waited for the day when the parcel arrived. I remember standing around watching as he opened it. Inside was a red plastic, quite modern looking and light, transistor radio. Transistors replaced valves and allowed electronics to be made cheaply, much smaller and lighter. Added to this was the arrival of plastics, and a new world of personal listening opened up. It worked with batteries and was portable, which was high tech in its day. This allowed it to be carried around and contributed to noise pollution in public, which carried on until the advent of the Sony Walkman. The reception was better and we could listen to the pirate radio stations and we started to get an insight into what young people were listening to.
We had the Dansette record player and my brother started buying singles. The first I can remember was House of the Rising Sun, by The Animals, released in June 1964. This was a traditional folk song, but they gave it a hard and very different edge. The band looked hard and mean. Eric Burden’s voice was gruff and distinctive and so different to the smooth crooners. I went with my brother to Varley’s at Harehills and he returned with the record, turned the player to 45 rpm and listened to the song. At this time, there were listening booths in record shops. Even Varley’s had one. Vallance’s in Leeds had a row of them and you could listen to records before you decided whether or not to buy them.
I was captured. This was what teenagers did, and it was different from Lonnie Donegan, the Shadows, Cliff Richard, Adam Faith, Tommy Steele and similar artists that were popular. The English stars just emulated the American ones, but this was about to change. My brother was just 14 at the time and I was almost ten. He started going to the youth club at St Wilfrid’s, and there he heard even more. He kept up to date and even my mother started listening to and singing hits from the radio. The big change came just as I moved from primary school to Roundhay School, which was fortuitous for me. By 1967, pop music became accepted and Radio 1 started. Tony Blackburn moved from the pirate stations and hosted the first show for the BBC. From then on, pop was heard on radios and trannies and cars were equipped, so that car travel meant listening to and joining in with the popular hits. Even TV got into the act. Top of the Pops (1964), Juke Box Jury (1959) and Ready, Steady Go (1963) were compulsory listening for the young, or young at heart. My brother’s taste was maturing and, in 1967, he bought The Piper at the Gates of Dawn by Pink Floyd. I loved it and I still feel that it is a great album. I still have my brother’s mono version in my record collection, but I might have to return it if he reads this. I loved See Emily Play, which was their first real hit and I have loved almost everything they have done since.
I was bought a small portable reel-to-reel tape recorder the next Christmas, and I recorded Son of a Preacher Man by Dusty Springfield off the radio. The song was quite raunchy at the time and I loved it. Being just thirteen, I started borrowing my older brother’s clothes and his music. Piper at the Gates of Dawn followed me to youth clubs and was terribly manhandled. The same fate happened to a number of his records when he went to university and I still have a copy of his Easy Rider Soundtrack, but the best tracks won’t play and the needle just jumps. Sometimes he would come home and wonder what had happened to his things, and a few altercations took place. I know we used to fight like cat and dog over all sorts of things. His clothes were quite trendy and I remember wearing his black, shiny PVC coat on many occasions.
As I had part-time jobs at this time, I started to buy records for myself. Singles were cheap, particularly if you bought ex-jukebox ones. I was quite into the Small Faces and got most of their singles. Steve Marriott had one of the greatest soul and rock voices of all time. I am afraid to say the very first single I ever bought was Young Girl by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. Nowadays, I am sure such a song wouldn’t be allowed. The first album I bought was The Who Sell Out in 1967 and this was fabulous and had the hit I Can See For Miles. The songs were separated by jingles The Who had produced. A later album I bought was Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma. Andrew had bought a Saucerful of Secrets and I had helped wear that out the previous year and it was with great anticipation that I placed the pristine first side of the record on the mono Dansette record player with the compatible cartridge. The needle arm was so heavy that I am sure it almost cut a new groove in the plastic. It makes me laugh when people are buying LPs again because they feel they have a better sound. I just remember the clicks and scratches that marred even a new record after a couple of plays. Ummagumma was quite heavy-going and I like some, but not all of it. Granchester Meadows is my favourite track still.
My brother had bought most of the Beatles’ albums, and Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited and The Freewheelin Bob Dylan and Al Stewart’s Love Chronicles. I had given them my usual carefree handling. Occasionally, one would be used as a Frisbee, but I hoped he wouldn’t notice. I believe even more disagreements and skirmishes resulted and sometimes he would try to stop me from leaving the house wearing some of his trendy gear. As time went on, I did have some of my own. Who could forget Loon Pants, tie-dye shirts, Budgie Jackets and clogs from Boodle Am when the shop was, I seem to remember, upstairs in one of the arcades in Leeds? Was it County Arcade? I believe there was also one near Leeds Uni. I know it became posher and moved to a flash store on Victoria Street. Oh, those were the days!
There were others who also influenced my musical taste. One from Roundhay School, Douglas (Duggie) Rae was really into the Blues and he had an excellent collection of stuff like Dr John, Captain Beefheart, and Blodwyn Pig, which I wasn’t particularly interested in, but he played me an album that changed my taste and that was from a band called Led Zeppelin. He said they were a bit like the Who. Communication Breakdown and the other tracks on their first album opened my eyes to heavy metal.
Another friend was a couple of years older than me and we met at one of the two youth clubs we regularly attended, St Edmunds at Roundhay and the Methodist Club, just a little further up the road. He lived at Harehills, and his house had a cellar that he used as his trendy pad. I loved it. Dark, damp, but an almost adult-free zone. He also loved music, and he set up the cellar with a sofa, chairs, and a sound system. Some of the first albums I heard played were Led Zeppelin 2, Crosby Stills and Nash, Threshold of a Dream and the best of all, In the Court of the Crimson King. My life changed for ever. Music was something I would spend the rest of my life loving, needing and feeling. My enthusiasm for music came from my experience in these formative years. I guess I was just lucky to have been a teenager when British rock took over the world. Bands were masters at their instruments and they saw themselves as artists that could change the world. They did, in a way, for those of us around in this period, but the heady days of belief have greyed and disappeared like my hair. Records were fantastic, but even better was seeing our gods play live. Venues opened up, and Leeds Poly, the Town Hall, Leeds Uni., Queens Hall and many others provided inexpensive opportunities, and I, like my friends, took advantage of them. 50 pence for tickets in 1969, but I have paid over 200 pounds in recent times. I will recount some of those halcyon experiences in the next Cup of Tea Tale. Let the music play on!
Some of you may be interested that my latest novel, A Trembling of Finches, is a thriller set in Leeds. I am sure many of you will recognise the places that form the setting for the novel. It is available to order as a paperback from Amazon and as an eBook on Kindle. The link below will take you to where it can be ordered.