At a very early age I became obsessed with pop music, utterly totally obsessed. I was lucky as this was the early 1960s and there was a lot of good music to obsess over.
By the time I was 11 years old I was rarely seen without my transistor radio in hand, held to ear, or hidden under my pillow at night listening to Radio Luxembourg, the only real source of pop music.
Discovering and listening to music back then was hard.
Thanks to the BBC Genome project here’s what was on the Saturday Club nearest my ninth birthday August 18th 1962, and its not pretty.
MR. ACKER BILK AND HIS PARAMOUNT JAZZ BAND
THE BROOK BROTHERS
THE JEFF ROWENA SIX
TOMMY SANDERSON AND THE SANDMEN
ARTHUR GREENSLADE AND THE GEE-ME
Saturday Club was the only “pop” show on the BBC radio at the time and we’re five years from the launch of Radio 1 and two years from the launch of Radio Caroline – with terrible reception where we lived.
The top five singles for that week were as follows
01. I Remember You – Frank Ifield
02. Speedy Gonzales – Pat Boone
03. Guitar Tango – Shadows
04. Things – Bobby Darin
05. I Cant Stop Loving You – Ray Charles
However 1962 is a pivotal year in pop music, as in October The Beatles release “Love Me Do” and nothing is ever quite the same again. It only reaches the lower end of the charts but by next year the roll call on Saturday Club will look very different.
Saturday Club August 23rd 1963
SHANE FENTON AND THE FENTONES JOHNNY BEV
Tm: BACK 0′ TOWN SYNCOPATORS
TOMMY SANDERSON AND THE SANDMEN
Shane Fenton will go on to bigger things when he changes his name to Alvin Stardust…
This year is also pivotal as it’s also the year I purchase my first record, a Beatles EP
I follow this up with a Christmas present of The Swinging Blue Jeans “Hippy Hippy Shake” – a UK no. 2.
However looking back there was one main influence outside of all others that exposed me to musical forms I might never have discovered at such an early age. That influence? My brothers record collection.
My brother was nine years older than myself and we shared a small bedroom in a two up, two down council house in South Wales. When I was 9 he went to university among that initial wave of post war working class kids escaping via the local grammar school. He left our home as I would later, but most importantly he left his record player and his record collection.
He also left some Steinbeck novels, Kerouacs’ “On the Road” – I loved the trashy Pan paperback cover – and the Communist Manifesto. But that’s another story.
My brother liked folk, blues, jazz and rock and roll and he left me examples of all to sample in his absence. So between the ages of nine and thirteen my musical tastes were expanded way beyond what I ever would have known via the radio.
He had a original 78rpm copy of Elvis Presleys “Heartbreak Hotel” which I played to death until it was broken after he took it to a party. The only other 78s I remember are Jackie Wilsons “Reete Petite” and Buddy Hollys “Peggy Sue”. There was also a 45rpm of his “Everyday” and an EP by the Platters “The Fabulous Platters”.
So far so fairly normal but it was the other records from his collection that really made a mark on me. First there was Bob Dylan’s “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” and later “Bringing it all back home”. I never thought Dylan “sold out” as I never saw him as a pure folkie. He always seemed above and beyond any labelling and with “Highway 61” and “Blonde on Blonde” he showed he could be any style he liked.
Along with the Dylan I was left some jazz and blues records. One became a favourite that I still play to this day. The Modern Jazz Quartet’s track “Odds Against Tomorrow“, the theme from the film of the same name.
The version I knew was from an EP of live performances and I still have the original, along with another from the MJQ “At Music Inn“. These two records introduced me to the sound of the vibraphone, an instrument I always love in jazz especially Milt Jackson, Bobby Hutcherson and Gary Burton.
Later on he also loaned me another lifelong favourite. “Under Milk Wood” by Stan Tracey. The spooky brooding opening track “Starless and Bible Black” sets the scene for this jazz suite based on Dylan Thomas’s play for radio.
So, big thanks to my brother for putting so much excellent music my way at such an early age, ensuring my musical tastes have always been wide and varied, and forming an obsession that has lasted all my life.