Remembrance of Things Past

Mostly about growing up the 1950s in Ilford, Essex.


[32] ‘Dedicated to the One I Love’

A continuation of my musical reminiscences, following [26] ‘All I want is Music, Music, Music, Music!’

More songs that I have loved and remembered, more or less in alphabetical order.

29. House of the Rising SunThe Animals (1964)

A traditional folk song about a tragic life in New Orleans, which became a classic pop tune of its time.

There is a house in New Orleans; They call the Rising Sun;

And it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy; And God I know I’m one …

Oh mother tell your children; Not to do what I have done;

Spend your lives in sin and misery; In the House of the Rising Sun …

30. I Can’t Stop Loving YouRay Charles (1962)

Because: Ray Charles was a great soul singer, one of the few totally blind singers to make a major impact in the world of Music. Another one is Stevie Wonder, known as Little Stevie Wonder when he was young!


31. I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles

Because: It reminds me of my father.

Wikipedia says that this is a popular American song from 1918. It is also popular with the fans of West Ham United Football Club. West Ham was not far from being our nearest football club. My father never mentioned any football allegiance, but one of my very earliest memories is of him singing this to me. (The link is to West Ham at Wembley Stadium.)

32. I’m not in Love10 cc (1975)

Because: I absolutely love it. Another love song I just can’t leave out, even though it’s 1975!


33. In DreamsRoy Orbison (1963)

I keep wanting to use the word ‘haunting’ for the songs I pick, meaning sad and evocative. Wikipedia uses the words ‘dark, emotional’ for Roy Orbison. He was a singer songwriter, with a powerful voice, always seen with trademark sunglasses. This is the best known of his darkly emotional ballads. (Or perhaps, ‘Crying,’ just as powerful, just as emotional.)

34. In the MoodThe Glenn Miller Orchestra

Beause: It’s a very early memory. Trombonist Glenn Miller led this orchestra, which entertained the troops through the Second War. Their tunes continued to be played after his death (Missing in Action in 1944.)

35. In the Year 2525Zager and Evans (1969)

Because: It was another classic, with prophetic words – more science fiction than pop. It topped the charts in America for six weeks. I suspect that he will be proved a bit inaccurate in his dates:

In the year 2525; if man is still alive; If woman can survive, they may find.

In the year 3535; Ain’t gonna need to tell the truth, tell no lie; Everything you think, do and say; Is in the pill you took today

In the year 4545; You ain’t gonna need your teeth, won’t need your eyes; You won’t find a thing to chew; Nobody’s gonna look at you.

In the year 5555; Your arms hangin’ limp at your sides; Your legs got nothin’ to do; Some machine’s doin’ that for you

In the year 6565; Ain’t gonna need no husband, won’t need no wife; You’ll pick your son, pick your daughter too; From the bottom of a long glass tube.

In the year 7510; If God’s a-coming, He oughta make it by then; Maybe He’ll look around Himself and say; “Guess it’s time for the Judgement Day.”

In the year 8510; God is gonna shake His mighty head; He’ll either say, “I’m pleased where man has been;” Or tear it down, and start again.

In the year 9595; I’m kinda wonderin’ if man is gonna be alive; He’s taken everything this old earth can give; And he ain’t put back nothing.

Now it’s been ten thousand years, man has cried a billion tears; For what, he never knew, now man’s reign is through; But through eternal night, the twinkling of starlight; So very far away, maybe it’s only yesterday.

36. JudyElvis Presley (1961) and …

37. Judy, Judy, JudyJohnny Tillotson (1963)

Just Because

38. Lady MadonnaThe Beatles (1968)

Because: I had to pick one by The Beatles. Nothing by the Beatles could be typical, so I just picked one.

39. Laughing PolicemanCharles Jolly (Charles Penrose) 1926

OK, this is the exception. I remember this as a children’s song, mostly from Two-Way Family Favourites. I hadn’t realized it was quite so old. Wikipedia describes it as a Music Hall song. (I am not old enough to remember Music Hall, but I do remember The Good Old Days on television.) I hated it then and I still do!

40. Little Drummer BoyBeverley Sisters (1959)

See: [9] Bedecked with Bay and Rosemary

41. LocomotionLittle Eva

One of those pop songs from the era when every new song could have its own dance.

42. Look Through Any WindowThe Hollies (1965)

Because: I am a great fan of the Hollies. It was hard to pick one of the Hollies’ hits. They had several, continuing into the seventies.

43. Major-General (‘Modern Major-general’s Song’ from The Pirates of Penzance) – Gilbert and Sullivan

See: [16] To Make the Punishment fit the Crime

44. Maria ElenaLos Indios Tabajaras

Because: Los Indios Tabajaras were two brothers, native to Brazil, who sang to their own guitar playing as early as 1943. They found success with just one record. It was given to me as a birthday present in 1963 and I love it. I still have it. The ‘B’ side, Jungle Dream is just as good.

45. Mary’s Boy ChildHarry Belafonte (1956)

See: [9] Bedecked with Bay and Rosemary

46. Mikado (‘A More Humane Mikado’ from The Mikado) – Gilbert and Sullivan

See: [16] To Make the Punishment fit the Crime

47. MiserereAllegri

Because: It’s a great piece of choral music. This one would come in my Desert Island six. I sneaked it in. There is absolutely no association with the fifties.

(Written in 1514. For three hundred years it was performed every year in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, but the music could not be written down, on pain of excommunication – so it was never sung elsewhere. Mozart at fourteen transcribed the nine-part harmony from memory! The Pope complimented the young Mozart and withdrew the ban.)

48. Muffin the MuleAnnette Mills

Because: my earliest memories of television come from this programme, which ran from 1946 to 1955, with its familiar signature tune. (For Children’s television, see: [29] ‘ Was it Bill or was it Ben?’ coming soon.)

49. My Old Man’s a DustmanLonnie Donnegan

See: [22] ‘Of Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax’

50. My Song is Love Unknown

Because: St Andrew’s Church and its choir were part of my early life so I have to include a hymn. I enjoyed singing them and still do. This is my favourite.

‘… Love to the loveless shown, that they might lovely be …’

51. The National Anthem of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Because: This used to be much more part of daily life, played at the end of theatre and cinema performances, and on closedown of BBC radio stations at night. (24-hour television and radio are relatively new.) In the early days, people would stand for it, even when played on the radio. [US readers will recognize the tune as: ‘My Country, ‘tis of Thee.’]

It has no official status as an anthem and use of additional verses is not standardized. Until the recent trend towards devolution, it was always accepted as the National Anthem at sporting events where teams represented England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, but various alternatives have emerged for these divisions of the UK.

52. Nellie the ElephantMandy Miller

A children’s song, familiar probably from Two-Way Family Favourites.

53. New York Mining Disaster 1941The Bee Gees (1967)

When the record was released, many people thought it was by The Beatles. It’s a disaster record, a bit like Ellen Vannin, written as if by the trapped miners, possibly inspired by the 1966 disaster in Aberfan.


54. Nights in White SatinThe Moody Blues (1967)

Because: I love the music of Justin Hayward and the Moody Blues. I don’t always follow the words of songs in full. This is obviously a love song with the drawn out cries of: “Cause I love you; Yes, I love you; Oh, how, I love you; Oh, how, I love you.”

I have to admit that until I wrote this blog post I always thought it was: Knights in White Satin! I led a sheltered life!

55. Nut RockerB Bumble and the Stingers. (1962)

One of the first two records I bought. A ‘jazzed up’ version of Tchaikovsky.

56. Oh My Darling, Clementine

An example of the songs we sang at school in Music lessons.

57. Old ShepElvis Presley (1956)

Because: I’m a softy for sad tales. One of the saddest songs ever written. (See also Two Little Boys.)

58. Orange Blossom SpecialThe Spotnicks (1963)

Because: At the time, its recording methods were revolutionary. Fast moving, instrumental. At a time when other electric guitars were connected to their amplifiers by cables, the Spotnicks used small radio transmitters. It gave their tunes an unusual tone.


59. Peggy SueBuddy Holly and the Crickets

Buddy Holly’s life as a singer was very short but after his death recordings kept coming regularly for years. Peggy Sue was a classic, but he had several others.

To end this post:

60. Dedicated to the One I LoveThe Mamas and the Papas (1967)

Reminiscent of several groups from the sixties and seventies, it reminds me of America, but mostly

Because: I like it, and because: This is Dedicated to the One I Love.



[26] ‘All I want is Music, Music, Music, Music!’

A mixture of historical and sentimental music.

My original plan was to do a sort of ‘Desert Island Discs’ and pick my six most memorable tunes. The list grew very rapidly. Here are some memories in the form of tunes and songs that remind me of the fifties and sixties. I tried hard to keep the list short but there are so many that just have to go in. Often one song represents many others by the same singer, sometimes several similar singers or groups. After a lot of thought, I let it expand to about just under 100, so it will take (at least) three posts.

In an ambitious attempt to confuse you, they are in (approximately) alphabetical order – with links to appropriate videos!

1.  Abide With MeEmeli Sandé

Because: This hymn is still always sung by the massed voices of the crowd watching the FA Cup Final as it has been for decades. (For US readers, it’s just a soccer match, but to us it’s as important as the Superbowl.) Even to the non-religious, it has a moving effect. This version, by Emeli Sandé, is from the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics.

2.  All in an April Evening – By Hugh S Robertson

Because: It’s one of my all-time favourite pieces of choral music. I sang it several times in the choir of St Andrews. We could only sing it in Lent and in the month of April, so it didn’t come every year. I don’t think I have seen it performed since then. (This version by the Glasgow Phoenix Choir.)

I have missed out many of my favourite pieces of choral and piano music, which became familiar in later life, so I am glad I could get this one in.

3.  At the HopDanny and the Juniors. (1957)

Because: It’s one of the earliest and best – fast moving Rock ‘n Roll.

4.  Autumn LeavesTemperance Seven with Whispering Paul McDowell (1961)

Like many of these. Because: I like it. From the early sixties – a sad, haunting jazz ballad, partly sung in French. One of several tracks I remember from one of their LPs.


5.  Baby LoveThe Supremes (1964)

Because: the Supremes [Before they were Diana Ross and The Supremes] and other Motown groups were part of growing up in the sixties.

6.  Barwick Green, a maypole dance from the suite: My Native Heath, written in 1924 by Arthur Wood.

Because: It’s the signature tune of the long running radio series, The Archers. [I don’t have space here to explain all the signature tunes. Maybe later.]

7.  Blue Moon of KentuckyElvis Presley

Because: I have strange memories of this tune. Before electronic music, heavy use of echo chamber vocal modification made this a sort of eerie tune, which I associated with the Science Fiction stories I was reading at the time. Released in 1954 as a single but I heard it on an LP.


8.  Blueberry HillFats Domino (1956)

Because: It was part of my early introduction to jazz music. Covered by many others but best remembered for this version.

9.  By the Sleepy LagoonEric Coates

Because: It’s the signature tune of Desert Island Discs.

10.  Calling All WorkersEric Coates

Because: It’s a very early memory of my mother.

Music While You Work was a twice daily radio programme running from 1940 to 1967, with uninterrupted light music (aimed originally at providing an even tempo to assist factory workers.) I can’t say that we ever listened to it but Mum always turned the wireless (radio) on as it ended so we heard this, its signature tune. She stopped work to listen to the next programme, ‘Mrs Dale’s Diary’, with a cup of tea. [I may do a post about Mrs Dale!]

11.  The Carnival is OverThe Seekers (1965)

A popular hit from the Australian folk group, featuring Judith Durham. Most of my choices seem to be sad songs!

12.  Catch a Falling StarPerry Como (1958)

Perry Como appeared singing on many television programmes. Representing other ‘crooners’ – like Andy Williams, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crossby. I can’t pick them all.

13.  Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom WhiteEddie Calvert (1955)

Because: I just remember it, particularly the glissando introduction. The Man with the GoldenTrumpet.

14.  Come OutsideMike Sarne and Wendy Richard (1962)

Because: It was the sort of silly little song we don’t get anymore. A cheeky song described by Wikipedia as: a ‘UK novelty chart topper.’ If you don’t know the song, listen to it.

15.  Concrete and ClayUnit 4 + 2 (1965)

Because: I like it – an unusual pop song, both words and music.

16.  Danny BoyEva Cassidy.

A sad, Irish song to an old Irish tune (Londonderry Air, or now sometimes Derry Air.)

Because: It’s a great song sung by a great singer but also because it’s one of the few tunes I remember playing when I had piano lessons at the age of six. This version is modern – not sure of the date but it’s after 1990. I can do that. It’s my blog.

17.  Danse Macabre – Saint-Saëns

Because: – we had a great Music teacher at our senior school. For the first year we sang together in the school hall. In the second year, when voices were breaking, we listened to music. He introduced several well-known of pieces of classical music, explaining them first and then playing them (on a very limited gramophone, before the days of record-players.) I will never forget this music or the story that goes with it.

Also Because: it’s the best piece of music ever written. (Yes, it is.) I still try to play it on the piano. (But, for sentimental reasons, it’s not my Desert Islands rescue choice.)

18.  Doctor Who Theme (original) – Ron Grainger and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop

Because: I like it and liked the original series – both much better than the revival series (apart from Rose Tyler and Amy Pond!)

In 1963 the Radiophonic Workshop produced electronic music before electronic music had been invented. This music had a futuristic effect, which has been severely diluted for the modern, revival series. I was a fan of the early Doctor Who but can’t understand the plot (if there is one) with the revival series.

19.  Does Your Chewing Gum Lose its Flavour (on the Bedpost Overnight)? – Lonnie Donegan (1959)

A comical song, similar in genre to My Old Man’s a Dustman.

20.  Ellen VanninThe Spinners

We saw The Spinners performing several times at Cheltenham Town Hall. They always included this song about the tragedy of the loss of the ship, Ellen Vannin, at sea. The ship was named after the Manx name for the Isle of Man. The group of folk singers were active from 1958 to 1989.

[For Non-UK readers: The status of the Isle of Man is complex. It is approximately equidistant from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland but does not form part of any of them, or of Great Britain, or the UK, or the EU. It’s a dependent territory and its occupants are British!]

21.  Ging Gang GoolieRobert Baden-Powell

Because: It reminds me of Scouts. It was written by the Chief Scout for Scouts to sing round campfires and I joined in once or twice as a Scout. So that it could used internationally, the words were not English. They were not any other language either! Feel free to sing along:

Ging gang goolie goolie goolie goolie watcha; Ging gang goo, ging gang goo;

Ging gang goolie goolie goolie goolie watcha; Ging gang goo, ging gang goo;

Hayla, hayla shayla, hayla shayla, shayla, oh-ho; Hayla, hayla shayla, hayla shayla, shayla, oh;

Shally wally, shally wally, shally wally, shally wally; Oompah, oompah, oompah, oompah.

[I hope to talk about Scouts in a later post, but I promise nothing.]


22.  Good Golly, Miss MollieLittle Richard (1958)

Classic Rock. His style was loud, almost shouting and he would play the piano, fast and loudly, while standing up.

His career oscillated between rock and evangelist gospel music.

23.  Good News WeekHedgehopper Anonymous (1965)

An unusual pop song, with strange words for a pop song. I always associate it with Concrete and Clay. I think they came out in the same week.

‘It’s good news week; Someone’s dropped a bomb somewhere; Contaminating atmosphere; And blackening the sky.

It’s good news week; Someone’s found a way to give; The rotting dead a will to live; Go on and never die …’

24.  Good VibrationsThe Beach Boys (1966)

The Beach Boys, California and surfing were part of the pop culture of the time. This tune marked the start of a new sound, which featured intricate, multi-layered recording with key shifts and choral fugues. ‘Wouldn’t it be Nice?’ was similar.

25.  Goodness Gracious Me!Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren

Because: It was funny and they don’t make pop songs like it anymore. I can’t explain it, you just have to listen to if you don’t know it. It features a well-known highly acclaimed actress, Sophia Loren, probably the only song she recorded, with the main lyrics: ‘It goes boom boody-boom boody-boom boody-boom; Boody-boom boody-boom boody-boom-boom-boom!’

26.  Hernando’s Hideaway – the Johnston Brothers (1955)

See: [25] ‘I know a Dark, Secluded Place.’

27.  Hit and MissJohn Barry Seven Plus Four

The signature tune to Juke Box Jury


To end Part One of musical reminisces, messing up the subsequent alphabetical order:

28.  Music! Music! Music! (Put Another Nickel In) – Teresa Brewer (1950)

‘So, put another nickel in; In the nickelodeon; All I want is loving you; And music, music, music’

Because: Teresa Brewer was such a fantastic singer, from before my time. I don’t know how I heard this song. I may not have heard it until much later, when I searched for her other entry, in the next part …

[Thanks to YouTube for all the links. You will appreciate that early recordings were heard and not seen. Any video associated with these links has been added later.]


[22] ‘Of Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax’

‘The time has come – to talk of many things …’

A collection of short topics today – some things that have disappeared – some that were already obsolete when we were young.


We had candles, Price’s Candles. The company was founded in 1830 and by 1900 had become the largest manufacturer of candles in the World. But, of course, the need for candles disappeared over the first half of the Twentieth Century with the advent of gaslight and electricity. When I grew up, we still had them in our house. We had the familiar box of plain, white candles in the cupboard under the stairs, perhaps with a battery operated torch, for emergency use. Candles and Price’s candles were the same thing to us. Just occasionally, we had power cuts and the candles were needed. You could buy them in shops. (There probably were some fancy candles available, and I definitely remember those great big church candles, but I’m not talking about those ones.)

The company, Price’s Candles, has had some trials since then. It no longer manufactures candles in the UK and is owned by a foreign company. In the United Kingdom, the need for candles is no longer as a basic light source – they have become artistic or aromatic (or for use on birthday cakes!)

Sealing Wax

446631_6-Piece Sealing Wax Kit

OK, like candles, sealing wax may still be available but I bet you don’t use it in your house any more. We always used to have some in a drawer, and I can even remember once or twice watching it being used. Historically, for hundreds of years, sealing with wax was the only way of guaranteeing the secure transit of your mail through ancient postal services, making sure that it arrived unopened. It could also function as a certification of authority, with great ceremonial seals.

The red tube of wax was a bit like a candle without a wick. You heated the wax over a candle and carefully managed where it dripped. Then the still soft wax would be pressed with an engraved die, marking a pattern on the wax as it quickly dried. You would press it firmly to make the seal with the impressed pattern. It’s why we talk of ‘signet rings,’ originally bearing the wearer’s initials or a more complex heraldic device. [If the ring had your initials, the seal would be stamped in reverse, in mirror writing. Perhaps early rings had reversed engraved patterns.]

I can remember my grandmother wrapping a parcel in brown paper. (Brown paper hasn’t changed much.) Then she tied it with string, knotted the string firmly, and sealed the knot with sealing wax. It didn’t actually have the family arms pressed into the seal, but it would have shown if the parcel had been undone.



We did have hot and cold running water – for some of the time, on most days (from our reliable but expensive immersion heater). But, just as we kept candles, we also still had an old, metal bath. [US: bathtub] Actually we had two, one full size and a smaller one. Maybe my parents had used them the past. We just kept them for many years. They did get used once or twice when we had power cuts (and candles!) They probably eventually became garden ornaments – as a sort of jardiniere, as was the fashion for other antique containers that had lost their usefulness. (Yes, there were other containers no longer used!)




We did not have a mangle at our house, but I do remember seeing them. We will come to washing machines eventually but primitive ones were starting to come into use in the fifties.

But we did have a washboard, a device which changed its function dramatically in the fifties!


Washboards, made of tough glass, had a rough shape to help washing clothes by rubbing against them. Around the mid fifties, they found a new use as musical instruments – strummed noisily but rhythmically. At the peak of skiffle, around 1950, there were about 50 000 skiffle groups in Britain, each one making music with a guitar, a double bass and a washboard – led by the famous Lonnie Donnegan, with hits such as ‘Rock Island Line,’ and ‘My old Man’s a Dustman.’ [Probably more about skiffle in another blog …]



Asbestos is a strange mineral, made of long, fibrous particles, loosely held together. It could be made into a soft type of material with many uses, particularly in insulation. To us, the word ‘asbestos’ was synonymous with fireproofing. It was widely used in oven gloves; lagging for hot-water tanks; protective suits for firemen; in chemistry labs in schools; and in buildings to stop fire spreading. [Yes, I said ‘firemen.’ If you think I should have said ‘firepersons,’ or ‘firemen and firewomen,’ you really can’t have been reading my blogs very carefully! We were not politically correct.]

We had known about asbestosis, the disease caused by inhaling asbestos, since the early Twentieth Century, but it took a long time to appreciate fully its causes and effects. There are several different types of asbestos and in the 70s, 80s and 90s legislation has gradually banned all forms for use in construction and other areas. Removing asbestos from buildings that already had it was a continuing, hazardous but necessary, occupation. It has become a thing of the past.

(It may seem strange to talk of inhaling a mineral substance, but it was similar to the story of coal, coal dust and smog. Pneumoconiosis was a serious problem for miners in the same way as asbestosis.)



You have to imagine a drum containing a liquid and pump, like a sort of bicycle pump, fixed across it. By hand pumping this, you could produce a smelly aerosol spray of fine drops of this liquid, which you would aim at flies, wasps or other insects. These devices, brand named ‘Flit guns,’ were very common and very widely used, spraying out the insecticide called ‘Flit.’ They were our only way of killing unwanted insects (other than trying to hit wasps with a tea towel!)

They contained DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane), which was then a very widespread worldwide insecticide. In the fifties, DDT was adopted in a campaign to eliminate malaria by killing mosquitoes throughout the World.

But it was discredited in the sixties, much as for asbestos and many other substances that had been used without thorough testing. It was shown to cause cancer and had had devastating effects on wildlife throughout the World, particularly birds. From the 70s and 80s, DDT has become effectively a banned substance.

The Flit gun also disappeared. We now have easier to use aerosols, with many other insecticides, which have not (yet) been discredited.



Mercury is a metal, the only metal to be liquid at normal temperatures. It is scientifically useful because its expansion and contraction makes it suitable for thermometers and barometers. When I was young, it was very widely used. For most everyday purposes, it was the only way of measuring temperature or air pressure. It was used everywhere in medicine. Doctors and nurses would take people’s temperatures by putting mercury thermometers under their tongues – mercury enclosed by very thin, fragile glass.

It was also widely used in dentistry as amalgam fillings (a mixture of mercury and other metals). I still have many fillings made from mercury.

Mercury has always been considered to be poisonous, but it is now seen as much more dangerous than it was then. It is no longer used in medicine and is not used now to make new thermometers or barometers. Dental amalgam fillings are not used commonly now and there is much dispute as to whether existing dental fillings are harmful. (Any possible advantage in removing amalgam fillings has to be balanced the danger involved in the removal process.)

Just for the record, we had a glass bottle in the chemistry laboratories at school. When the teacher was not there, we used to play with it, pouring it on to the laboratory surfaces and on to our hands. Then we would pour it back into the bottle. We just assumed it was safe! I seem to have survived safely.


My literary title is, of course, from The Walrus and the Carpenter by Lewis Carroll, from the book: Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, written in 1872:

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,

“To talk of many things:

Of shoes – and ships – and sealing-wax

Of cabbages – and kings

And why the sea is boiling hot

And whether pigs have wings.”

You have had a bit of History, Chemistry, Toxicology and English Literature. Next time, the lessons will be about (wait and see) …