Remembrance of Things Past

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


[112] Rock Around the Clock

I wanted to do a whole blog talking about all the different ways of playing and recording sounds and video but this would be mostly things we didn’t have in the fifties that have come and gone since then. So I have truncated it a bit and added some other topics.


I want to start with Music, something we take for granted now, just streaming it automatically over the Internet. But of course we didn’t have the Internet then. Apart from actually making your own music (usually this would be playing a piano) there were only two or three ways you could hear a piece of music. For the youth of the fifties and sixties the music revolution came with record players so let’s look at records.



You may not even know what a record was. A Record was what we now call vinyl, a hard disc-shaped object with a spiral groove. If you rotated the disc a fine needle in the groove could pick up the recorded sound for playback and amplification by electrical means.

They had been around in various formats for some time but these were the standards of the Fifties:

[A] Singles were 10 inches (about 25 cm.) in diameter and were played at 78 revolutions per minute. (RPM) They lasted for about two and a half minutes. [You could turn it over for another song on the other side.] Most of the developing pop music was available as singles. They cost 6s 8d each through the fifties and sixties. (That’s about 33p but in those days that was a significant amount. Maybe you could afford one new tune a week.)

[B] Extended Play (EP) were 7 inches (about 20 cm.) played at 45 RPM. They were hardly ever used. Magical Mystery Tour by the Beatles is the only one I remember. They played two or three single songs on each side.

[C] Long Playing records (LP) were twelve inches (30 cm.) played at 33.33 RPM. (Now you may know them as albums.) They would have about ten tunes on each side (as you can see in the picture above) so might last for something less than an hour overall. An LP cost about £2 10s. (£2:50)

[I am talking about pop music. Classical music could have much longer pieces on an LP – perhaps a complete piano concerto as two movements each side.]

[D] For completeness I have to say that there was a standard of 16.67 RPM. It was obsolete then.


A Diversion – Clockwork Toys

I have just realised that you probably don’t know about clockwork. Many years ago, when we didn’t all have mobile phones, we had clocks and watches to tell us the time. They were mechanical devices without a hint of batteries or electricity. (I know, there are still clocks but we don’t need them. Every device including TV and ovens may have a display showing the time. Everything now works by electricity or batteries.) Clocks and watches were powered by what we called ‘clockwork,’ using internal springs that were wound up and allowed to uncoil slowly – with a complex escapement mechanism.


So from time to time you had to wind them up. Most clocks and watches needed winding every day but some would last for a week.


We also had clockwork toys, cheap metal things with a removable key to wind them up. The simplest ones were tin plated cars, which would actually move like cars for maybe up to a minute after being wound up.



Back to music. Records were played on gramophones. The amplification of the sound worked by electrical devices but I remember from my early school days that sometimes the turntable was powered by clockwork. The teacher would wind them up before playing us a tune. Gramophones were fairly simple. You loaded the record by hand, played it and took it off when it was finished. dansette

Record Players

The revolution came in the late fifties with the Record Player and the Dansette shown above was the standard model. I was given a Dansette for my twenty-first birthday. I still have it in the loft. You could load it with up to ten singles. As each one finished the next one would drop and play. So we could play ten consecutive different single pop tunes. It was almost like what we might now call a playlist.

The record-player could be set to play at four speeds but generally it was used at 78 RPM for singles. [It was generally accepted that LPs were too heavy, valuable and expensive to risk possible damage by dropping them. The multiple play option was only used for singles.]

Don’t laugh – but these record-players were called ‘portable’. If you imagine that records of twelve inch diameter were played you can get an idea of the size of this machine. They were big and heavy but you could close the lid and carry it by the handle that you can see on the right. No, it wasn’t that easy. You had to tighten two transit screws with a screwdriver first to avoid damage to the mechanism by shaking! People didn’t actually treat them as portable but you might very occasionally take one with you to visit a friend.

Later Changes

There have been many changes in the formats for providing recorded music.

Seven-inch vinyl singles playing at 45 RPM replaced the older 78s in the late fifties. (The earlier bigger 78 RPM records were not made of vinyl. They were heavier and more fragile.)



Then we had Cassettes, magnetic tapes that wound slowly from one spool to another, from the mid-sixties to the seventies. A cassette was about five inches long so it was easily portable in its plastic case. The cassette player was also much more portable than a record-player.

Without going into the precise history, these systems changed very slowly so we still had records all through the cassette era. Things like cassettes (and radios) were developed and installed first for cars – with push button controls that were easier when driving. It was never possible to play records in a car but a cassette player was generally available with the car radio.

After cassettes we had CDs, then DVDs, then iPods, then mobile phones of increasing sophistication, and now live streaming.



I have said a little about early Radio, the other way we sometimes heard music. It was very limited by today’s standards and a radio set was about as portable as the ‘portable’ record-player shown above. Ours was bigger and much heavier. The only radio services were from the BBC – the Home Service (pre-dating Radio Four,) the Light Programme (now Radio Two) and the Third Programme (classical music, now Radio Three.)


There was not much music on the radio and none of the developing pop music culture that was soon to emerge.

For us the high point of the week was Two-way Family Favourites.


Pop Music

Now is the time to talk about popular music or Pop Music, which arose from about the late fifties, helped by the new record-players but driven by the emancipation of youth. Boys and girls of sixteen used to be – boys and girls. The age of majority was 21 and adolescents below this age had little freedom or independence or money to squander on themselves. The culture of youth emerged gradually from the late Fifties.


We had Skiffle Groups from the mid-fifties, typified by Lonnie Donnegan and Tommy Steele, They made music with a tea-chest bass, an acoustic guitar and a washboard.


Rock ‘n Roll, also from the mid-fifties came with Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley and The Comets. This was the pre-cursor of modern so-called Pop Music.


From 1960 we had all sorts of different dances like the Twist, immortalized by Chubby Checker, the Locomotion from Little Eva and many others.




[Acoustic and Electric Guitars]

It was a time of rapid change in music and one of the technological changes that helped the development of Pop Music was the electric guitar. An acoustic guitar is a plucked instrument. Even with a plectrum it is much quieter than a violin. It is shaped with a large sounding board to magnify what little sound is produced and it’s usually played sitting down.

The electric guitar, which came into its own with Rock ‘n Roll, picks up the tiny sound and amplifies it electrically (in much the same way as a record-player amplifies the sound made by its vibrating needle.) The guitar was connected by a cable to large powerful amplifiers although modern guitars don’t even need cables. It was much louder and made a different sound but it was so much easier to use than the acoustic version.

[The Spotnicks were an instrumental group from Sweden who, in the early sixties, produced an unusual sound with Orange Blossom Special. They were ahead of technology with cable-less guitars but it was not perfect and produced an unusual sound.]

Pop Stars and Pop Groups

I am going to have to name names. Some were short-lived. Some lasted for decades. In the late fifties and sixties the British and UK pop worlds were different with some overlap. Often a massive hit would be covered the other of the Atlantic from its origins.

In no particular order here are some Early Rock ‘n Roll and other popular music artists from the Fifties, some American and some British – Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Gene Vincent, Tab Hunter, Pat Boone, Bobby Darrin, Paul Anka, Neil Sedaka, Connie Francis, Buddy Holly, Pat Boone, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Johnny Tillotson, Cliff Richard, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Bing Crosby and Harry Belafonte.

[This includes some that may have been called Rhythm and Blues or jazz or easy listening ballads.]

A few more from the Sixties – The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Searchers, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Freddie and the Dreamers, The Hollies, Cilla Black, The Shadows, (Cliff Richard’s backing group but also an instrumental group in their own right,) The Moody Blues, Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel.

There were many others. Apart from a few singers they were all men.

Radio Luxembourg

Apart from the BBC radio we could hear popular music on Radio Luxembourg. This was broadcast from the tiny country of Luxembourg and you have to remember that radio then was not the quality that we get now from FM radio (or digital radio.) It used Medium Wave at a wavelength of 208 metres (1439 K Hz) and the signals had to travel the distance from Europe. We could only hear it after dark when the signal bounced off the ionosphere to the UK. [That’s enough science. You can look it up yourself.]

From the early Sixties, Radio Luxembourg effectively broadcast continuous pop music from records to its audience in the UK – from about sunset to around 11:00 pm. (In those days we were a more 9-to-5 society. Television stopped before midnight. Pubs closed at 10:30 and people went to bed. We didn’t have discos, nightclubs or entertainment continuing after midnight. Luxembourg did continue to the early hours of the morning but it changed to slower easy listening, ballads and jazz.)

Unlike BBC radio, Luxembourg was a commercial radio station with frequent adverts. Most famous to our generation was the voice of Horace Batchelor advertising his Infra-Draw method of winning on the pools. It was a statistical method, which almost certainly did not work, but he kept trying to sell it. We would hear the same advert again and again we all heard him repeating: “Horace Batchelor, Department One, Keynsham, spelt K-E-Y-N-S-H-A-M, Keynsham, Bristol.” I think that everyone of my age knows that Keynsham is near Bristol and knows how to spell it!


Pirate Radio

After the effective monopoly of Radio Luxembourg Pirate Radio sprang up in the mid-Sixties, notably Radio Caroline. These channels broadcast pop music from ships moored in the North Sea in an attempt to evade legislation. Unlike Luxembourg they could broadcast in the daytime.

The Marine Broadcasting Offences Act of 1967 removed the other pirate stations from the air and soon after that the BBC bowed to the demand for pop. Radio 1 started to broadcast pop music from 1967. (At the same time the other channels were renamed as 2, 3 and 4.)


Early television did not add much to our opportunities to hear pop music. I have covered Sixties television including Juke Box Jury, the Six-Five Special and Top of the Pops. In those days, as you will read below, pop music was just the sound of the music from records. Accompanying video performances did not exist.


Recording Moving Pictures

There was nothing like the ability to record or play videos then. Your only realistic options were to see Television live or go to the cinema. (A few programmes were repeated a day or two later but most were just broadcast once.) When video recording did come in we had a war between the different emerging standard formats. Betamax and VHS both came in the mid-seventies and they kept on in parallel through the nineties. (It’s Video Home System according to Wikipedia but I have never heard of this. It was known as VHS.) Both were cumbersome systems using tape reels much bigger than cassettes. Betamax was generally considered to be a better standard but VHS won the war. Betamax disappeared.

As well as using these tape systems to record from television you could hire pre-recorded tapes of films sometime after their general release in cinemas. This was a more common use and video hire shops sprang up in most towns. These have now disappeared with Internet downloading as the easier method.

VHS continued into the Twenty-First Century but was itself made obsolete by another new system – Video CD. (Compact Discs) Then we had DVD, Blu-ray and eventually modern systems and mobile phones!

The ability to record your own video came a bit later with camcorders. Again there were various recording systems, generally using cassette tapes later transferred to VHS so that you could actually display them on your TV screen. Camcorders were originally much larger than cameras but I won’t go into details. They are obsolete now with mobile phone apps producing excellent quality video recording.


There are a few more unrelated topics I want to cover in this blog, which is more or less the last one.


Please note that I am not attempting to say what is right or wrong. I’m just saying what it was like then. Standards were different. I am making the usual sweeping generalizations based on what little I saw of the world then.

We see people with disabilities all the time now and in sport the Paralympics covers many disabilities. But to consider the Fifties and Sixties we have to put things into perspective. Medical technology and expertise then did not provide much in the way of helping those with disabilities. Their quality of life was worse and their life expectancy was much worse. Babies with severe disabilities simply did not survive at birth – or were not particularly encouraged to survive the first few hours.


It won’t surprise you that we talked about things differently. Those with Down’s Syndrome were called mongols (the term used originally by John Langdon Down) until 1965. [Since 1975 the term Down Syndrome is also used.] Those with Cerebral Palsy were called spastic, a word generally used among children as an insult, but it was not until the mid-Nineties that the Spastic Society renamed itself as the charity Scope. Those with Learning Difficulties (also known as Intellectual Disabilities) were mentally subnormal or mentally deficient or Educationally Sub-Normal. (ESN)

[Words such as idiot, imbecile, cretin and moron, previously used for severe intellectual disabilities, had already descended to use as general playground insults.]

We had never heard of Dyslexia or ADHD.



Wheelchairs were simple and cumbersome – and not electric! They could be pushed or the occupant could turn the large wheels by hand. One of the reasons we didn’t have wheelchair athletics was that we didn’t have athletic wheelchairs. Crutches were not much more than wooden sticks. They were made to fit under the shoulders and aid walking.

That was about all the technology to help those with physical disabilities. But in general you didn’t see disabled people out and about or in work environments.

Homes and Education

This is, of course, an over-simplification but children born (and surviving) with severe disabilities were not considered the responsibility of their parents. They were taken away to various Homes (institutions under health or social security authorities) and we didn’t see them. Their only education came from such institutions. There was no attempt to educate them in the general school system.

claybury_mental_hospital_or_london_county_lunatic_asylum claybury-hospital-tower-from-claybury-park


Mental Health

Mental health problems were largely treated in psychiatric hospitals and the severely affected were held in old Victorian asylums. There was one at Claybury, shown above. All we ever saw of it from school (Ilford County High School) was a distant view of its tower.

Wikipedia tells me that it was the fifth London County Council Asylum, opened in 1893 when they were still called Lunatic Asylums. From 1893 to 1918 it was called Claybury Asylum, from 1918 to 1937 Claybury Mental Hospital, and from 1937 to its closure in 1995 Claybury Hospital. As schoolboys we had less complimentary names for it with visions of lots of ‘mad’ people being locked up.

[‘Mad’ is another word that has virtually disappeared because of its pejorative connotations. Now we talk of mental disorder, mental illness or psychiatric disorder.]

The word ‘asylum’ implies that the patients were there for their own protection and that was partly true. To a large extent we didn’t know how to treat those with mental problems so they were kept in institutions. There was also an element of protecting society at large from the actions of mental patients.

It was not until the Eighties that we moved to a system of community care and most of the old mental hospitals were eventually closed. At the same time Homes for children disappeared with increasing use of foster care and the education system moved to including most children with disabilities.

(You will have read about Dr Barnado’s and the Home near to ICHS at Barkingside when I talked about Wimbledon.)

It is not always easy to survive without the care provided by these psychiatric hospitals and we now have the situation where a large proportion of our prison population have mental problems. (Yes, I know, it’s a sweeping generalization. I am not an expert.)


We had a similar hospital near Gloucester, Coney Hill formerly the Gloucester Second County Lunatic Asylum. It also had a tower, which could be seen from a distance. It opened in 1883 and closed in 1994.


Just a few things I missed out when looking at Holidays [US: Vacations] earlier.

We also had some holidays at a Butlin’s Holiday Camp at Clacton. It was very similar to the fictional Maplins as portrayed in the Eighties sitcom ‘Hi-de-Hi!’ The Clacton camp was open until 1983 when due to package holidays and changing tastes, it was closed and sold. It was reopened as a theme park called Atlas Park, which lasted a year. The land was then sold and redeveloped with housing.


When I was a little older we sometimes went to Southend-on-sea for the day. It was (and presumably still is) a typical seaside resort with its promenade, fruit machines and ice-cream. From Ilford station it was the only such place near enough for a day-trip. Its main attraction was its pier, still the longest in the World. There is a train running the length of the pier – over a mile!

Later still, in the mid-Sixties, I had some walking holidays using Youth Hostels. We walked across Dartmoor one year and did Mid-Wales another year. In those days their bedrooms were primitive dormitories with bunks. You were expected to use your own sheet sleeping-bag. You had to cook your own meals in a shared kitchen and you might be asked to do chores such as cleaning before leaving the next day. Some were more primitive than others and one or two in Wales did not have electricity.


Professional Wrestling

Somehow, in all my blogs about Television and Sport I have missed out Professional Wrestling. I have been saving it for later.

Let me start with Kent Walton, who used to be a disc-jockey on Radio Luxembourg. His voice was known to us all from his commentaries of professional wrestling on ITV from 1955 to the late Eighties. At its peak in the Seventies it was shown on Saturdays between the half-time and full-time football results and had viewing figure over ten million.

(That was when we had no football coverage on radio or television and all the league matches took place at the same time.)

There were rules but some wrestlers managed to get away with a lot of cheating out of sight of the referee. There were many familiar figures. Some were ‘goodies’ and some were ‘baddies’. It was entertainment and it was never quite clear how much the results were ‘fixed’ but the general opinion was that most bouts were fixed in some way.

The biggest of the heavyweights were Big Daddy, (Shirley Crabtree, 1930-97) definitely one of the goodies, and Giant Haystacks. (Martin Austin Ruane, 1947-98) shown in the two pictures above.


Here are two more – Mick McManus (William George Matthews, 1920-2013) and Jackie Pallo (Jack Ernest Gutteridge, 1926–2006) who often fought each other. McManus was the typical baddy.


Not quite finished. Two more to come.




[88] Christmas Comes but Once a Year

I am going to do a mixed post, partly about Christmas but also a reflection of a year of blogging. It’s more or less a year since I started.


I have done some memories of Christmas in [7] Christmas Preparations, [8] Christmas Day, [9] Christmas Carols and [10] Christmas Traditions. The first two are general memories of the festive season – when cooking a full Christmas dinner was a much more significant task than today. You may find more about our primitive kitchens and cooking in [68] Cooking with Gas and [76] Cooking Part 2

You will know how much Music can bring back memories – especially if you have read [26] Music (1), [32] Music (2) and [34] Music (3), which list my favourite musical memories, so you will understand why Christmas Carols concentrates on the carols we sing at Christmas. We still start our family Christmas family by listening to the carols from Kings College Chapel, Cambridge as we drive to visit relatives.

The last Christmas Blog is more of personal blog, concentrating on our family traditions. Even before Christmas proper we now always have to see the film It’s a Wonderful Life, although I suspect that this tradition may have started later than the sixties. (The film is much earlier.)

I could now add Miracle on 34th Street and many of the familiar Christmas pop songs. Rocking around the Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee was an old favourite.

As early as [3] The Church I wrote about the part that religion, particularly the Church of England, has played in my life, and of course this comes to the fore at Christmas. The series about St Andrew’s, only just starting with [81], will show other close connections with the Church that are gradually disappearing. It’s hard to explain but I like the words of hymns, Christmas carols and Bible readings partly because of the archaic language which we no longer have. Younger readers may not understand why it used to play such a dominant part in our lives. [15] Highlands School (1) and [16] Highlands School (2) in much the same way show the part religion used to play in schools.


[21] Review and [50] Half a Century looked backwards and forwards about this blog and I feel much the same now as I did when writing them. I would like suggestions from readers about possible topics but don’t seem to get them. Comments are always appreciated, preferably on the blog rather than Facebook. (When I post a link on Facebook with a picture I get many comments about the picture, generally points in the blog, which the Facebook viewers have not read.)

From the WordPress site and its apps I see the statistics about this blog and so far I’m up to 15000 hits. I put in lots of Tags and so some of these hits come from searches. It can be quite amusing to find what people look for.

What people see in Facebook is not predictable but posting on Saturday seems to get the most views. Very few actually follow the blog so I share each new post on several Facebook groups about the fifties and sixties. Most are now getting two to three hundred hits. The few comments I get have all been very positive. (I have been amazed at the spam comments. So far I have about 350 genuine comments, of which about half are my own internal cross-references. But over 800 spam comments have been automatically removed for me.)

I can still see at least another twenty topics that I am working on and expect to keep going at one a week for a few more months. After [69] Elizabeth Martha about my grandmother you can expect some more personal memories about Mum and Dad; there are several about St Andrews to come; and I have basic subjects not even started!


The Gospel of Saint John

I will end with the first words of this book of the Bible that somehow remind me always of Christmas. They are part of the traditional Service of Nine Lessons and Carols, where they form the last of nine ‘lessons’ (readings from the Bible). It’s the part I like best.

It’s a very philosophical (or theological?) passage and I can’t claim to know what it means. Perhaps it’s meant to be mysterious rather than literal. (The Church has argued for centuries about the precise definition of the Trinity of God.)

Here, firstly, is modern version, from a New Testament by J B Phillips:

At the beginning God expressed himself. That personal expression, that word, was with God, and was God, and he existed with God from the beginning. All creation took place through him, and none took place without him. In him appeared life and this life was the light of mankind. The light still shines in the darkness and the darkness has never put it out.

A man called John was sent by God as a witness to the light, so that any man who heard his testimony might believe in the light. This man was not himself the light: he was sent simply as a personal witness to that light.

That was the true light which shines upon every man as he comes into the world. He came into the world – the world he had created – and the world failed to recognise him. He came into his own creation, and his own people would not accept him. Yet wherever men did accept him he gave them the power to become sons of God. These were the men who truly believed in him, and their birth depended not on the course of nature nor on any impulse or plan of man, but on God.

So the word of God became a human being and lived among us. We saw his splendour (the splendour as of a father’s only son), full of grace and truth.

I can’t see this as either meaningful or mysterious.

Here is what I think of as the original version, the original Authorized Version (also known as the King James Version.) Perhaps the meaning is even less clear but the language is so much better.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The same was in the beginning with God.

All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the light, that all men through him might believe.

He was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of that light.

That was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.


You may take this passage how you like and you may draw your own conclusions about why I put it here. Perhaps it’s just because it reminds me of Christmas when I was younger.

To me Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without it.


[66] ICHS – Part Two


I have many more (mostly good) memories of my seven years at ICHS. While I will try to look at things roughly by years, I also have to look at specific topics and subjects, so it will be a bit rambling. Yes, I know, it’s always a bit rambling!

As now, the school’s curriculum was split into three chronological periods. I will compare things fifty years ago with modern day ICHS, where many basic points seem unchanged.

Curriculum for the first Three Years

ICHS now teaches the following subjects for the first three years: English, Mathematics, (General) Science, History, Geography, French, Music, Art, PE and Games. So far it’s the same as back in the sixties.

Spanish or German is chosen in the second year as a second language. Well, when I was there we all had Latin as a second language from the Second Year. Spanish or German came later as an option. (Not for me. I think I took Additional Mathematics instead.)

They also now have Food Studies, Design Technology, Information Technology, Philosophy and Ethics and PSHEE, none of which came into our education at any time. The nearest thing to Food Studies would have been Domestic Science (more or less cooking) a subject taught to girls only. (See [20] Sex Discrimination.) Design Technology and Information Technology didn’t exist as subjects but we had Woodwork. Instead of Philosophy and Ethics we had Religious Instruction or Religious Education (RI or RE).

Parents could exclude children from RI and from daily assemblies. Ilford had a significant Jewish population and about a fifth of our class had their separate Jewish assembly and religious education. No one then ever indicated any other religion or opted out of Christian (Church of England) teaching.

If you remember [60] Young and Innocent you will understand that Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (which I had to look up) and, in particular any education about sex, simply did not exist. Anything in these areas would be left to parents, who would probably say nothing.

[I have been juggling with possible timetables on a spreadsheet. I can make the First Year add up to 35 periods, as it must, but I’m not sure what happened in the Second and Third Years. We added Latin so somewhere we must have lost five periods. Maybe Art and Woodwork were just for one year.]

The First Year

We were the post-war ‘Bulge,’ which caused some problems. (See [46] The War) Until we arrived, ICHS had worked on a four-form intake but when we came they had to take six classes of 32. Initially, there was no attempt at streaming so that the first year could be used to sort us out. Classes were named from the form teacher. I was in 1J and I always assumed that Mr Jermy was in his first year of teaching. He was learning what it was like to be a form teacher. I have no idea what subject he taught!

(Some Facebook chat about ICHS suggests that Mr Jermy taught Mathematics, so he probably did. That means that he almost certainly taught us Mathematics. I can’t remember everything!)

They say that ‘boys will be boys’ and inevitably there were those among us who tested the limits to see what we could get away with. But Mr Jermy did learn to cope. We were more or less kept under control and we all survived the first year.

There were also other pupils who suggested that 1L was the class for those expected to form the ‘A’ stream, with the others being generally mixed. As one of the top pupils from Highlands I was disappointed not to be among those in 1L. It was said that Highlands was not one of the better streaming schools and so their pupils were not expected to do so well. I felt the challenge to prove myself capable of doing well. (I suppose I was a bit of a swot. I have always liked learning.)


At the end of every year term we had formal examinations in every subject. Marked papers were returned to us. As well as a percentage score, everyone was given their position out of 32. (Always exams in first and third term, not sure about middle one.)

We had reports, which we took home in a sealed envelope. The report listed every subject with a very short comment, the exam result and position. Then there was a section marked ‘Conduct.’ Dad was always much more interested in our conduct and expected ‘Good’ or ‘Very Good.’ Sometimes it was only ‘Fair.’

Second and Third Years

I remember the transition to the next year, which was unusual because of the bulge. From the Second Year onwards we would always be in streamed classes by ability (and in some subjects, in sets, over-riding class streams.) But for the bulge year this would be difficult. Nobody wanted to be put in the bottom stream of six streams. They invented a new structure with 2A, 2B and 2C for the top three classes. The rest went into 2X, 2Y and 2Z, which were treated equally. We were all called into the Hall and class lists were called out. I went to 2A. Classes for our cohort kept to this structure as we moved up to the fifth form.

I can’t remember all the names or details of teachers but my old Latin dictionary has been useful. This was also pocket-sized, like the hymn book, always carried round with us and my receipts for School Fund were stuck in the blank pages at the end. One for April 1960 is signed by Mr Cully, so he must have been the form teacher in the Second Year. I think he taught History. That’s about all I remember of him. He probably taught us History.

Unfortunately the teacher for the third year just put his initials ‘JE’ on the receipts. I think he was Mr Evans and taught Geography

[It was only long-standing teachers who seemed to come with established nicknames. The headmaster was ‘Harry’ and his deputy was ‘GAT,’ which we all assumed, wrongly, was from his initials. My older brother assured me that it came from an allusion of him with his gown, which he always wore, looking like Batman. I will come to a few other nicknames later but Mr Jermy, Mr Cully and Mr Evans did not have nicknames.

Our respect for authority meant that we always called teachers ‘Sir’ and referred to them as Mister. But when the boys talked about teachers Mr Jermy would become just Jermy.]


From the Second or Third Year some subjects (Mathematics, French and Latin and, later Physics and Chemistry) were taught in sets rather than streams. So, for example, 2A, 2B and 2C had Mathematics lessons at the same times but were taught as 2 Set 1, 2 Set 2 and 2 Set 3.


I am going to end this post with a look at all the subjects we only did in the early years.

I can’t say I remember much about Religious Education. We were growing to the age where we questioned things and no longer took what the teacher said as necessarily true. So belief in God was beginning to waver. Lessons were still effectively stories from the Bible. (Religious Education meant Church of England education. We were never told anything about other religions.)

It was the subject where pupils had little interest and teachers found things like discipline most difficult. I can remember quite well-behaved boys testing the teacher with a bit of messing around and I think several teachers did not last long.

It was one of the first subjects to disappear. It may have been an option for GCE but I don’t think anyone did it.



In today’s world, where Health and Safety concerns permeate life, it may be hard to believe how we did woodwork. With just the supervision of a single teacher, a class of 32 were let loose in a room equipped with hammers, saws, planes, chisels and other pieces of equipment. At the front of the room there was a circular saw and the only safety measure was that we were sent outside when this was in use. (Facebook chat suggests that the teacher may have been Mr Noakes. The name is familiar.)

There were no serious accidents but I do have a line across one thumb, which many years ago was a blood-marked line following over-vigorous use of a chisel.

We learned to measure accurately and to construct in the old-fashioned way – with dovetail and mortise-and-tenon joints and strips of wooden dowel. Measurements were, of course, sixteenths of an inch, not millimetres!


I have to squeeze in Art, which stopped in the lower school. To be honest I can’t remember whether we had one, two or three years of Art. It was more or less a single drawing or painting in a double period every week but we did learn some of the techniques – light and shade using highlights and vanishing point perspective.



Music was a subject that we only did for two years. I wish I could remember the name of our music teacher because it was a subject I enjoyed. I did have the advantage of having had a short period of piano lessons. (See [44] Boars and Antelopes, Craneflies and Earwigs.) We had Music in the School Hall where the teacher could use the piano that lived there for assemblies.

There was no attempt to teach us to play music or to read musical notation.

For the first year we sang. We had song books with the words – usually the sort of song with several verses and a repeated chorus. I suppose the books had the music (or perhaps we just picked up what the teacher was playing.) To be honest, I have no idea whether we sang in tune but that was not the point of the exercise. We enjoyed singing heartily.

There were familiar English folk songs like Barbara Allen, Scarborough Fair, Clementine, Heart of Oak, Early One Morning and the Lincolnshire Poacher; and sea Shanties like the Drunken Sailor.

The Second Year marked the beginning of puberty for most boys, when voices broke. Our music teacher felt that with our changing voices boys would be self-conscious and less keen to sing. So there was no more singing. Instead he played us classical music on an early record-player.

He picked pieces that he could use to illustrate musical topics and would explain everything about the piece before playing it, so that we had something to listen out for. Some of them told stories through music, like Peter and the Wolf.


Danse Macabre

I am sure that you all know that Danse Macabre is an artistic genre, dating from the Fifteenth Century, portraying by analogy the universality of death, showing a personified Death calling those from all walks of life, typically the Pope, an emperor, a king and a labourer, to dance among the graves – to remind us of the fragility of life and its vain glories. (To be honest, I have had a little help from Wikipedia.)

Camille Saint-Saëns wrote a song in this genre for voice and piano and later re-worked it for an orchestra as a piece of music that I will always remember from our music lessons. It uses various instruments and musical tricks to paint a picture of the dance of Death.

I can’t recount exactly what the teacher described to us, but here are some notes, again helped by Wikipedia. The legend is that at midnight on Halloween Death calls the bodies of the dead while he plays the violin. (I will say something about Halloween in a later blog.) The music starts with a single note repeated twelve times for the chimes of midnight. The solo violin is tuned down a semitone so that it can use two strings to make a harsh dissonant sound to call out the dead.

There are then two themes, played on separate instruments through the orchestra, gradually becoming more energetic. After a direct quote from the Gregorian Dies Irae, it returns to its two themes in a full orchestra crescendo.

The ending represents the cock crowing at dawn (with an oboe) and the skeletons scuttling back to their graves. As in another piece by Saint-Saëns (Fossils from the Carnival of the Animals) a xylophone is used to indicate the rattling bones of the skeletons.

This is still, definitely my favourite piece of music, and it always reminds me of that lesson. (More about music in [26] Music (1) and the two follow-ups.)


Although I have lots to say about ICHS, it’s going to be a series with unexciting titles and few pictures. More to come …


[44] Boars and Antelopes, Craneflies and Earwigs

I am going to do a series of more personal blogs about people and places I knew and I will start by looking at my first house. Well not actually the first. I was born in the county of Berkshire and moved to Ilford at the age of one – I have no idea where this information comes from. Memories of this house are a bit hazy and I have checked with my siblings for help. Fortunately, Google Maps and Street View can show something of the location now.

The House at Boar Close

Up to the age of eight I lived in this house in Boar Close to the North of Ilford. It’s still there. Before the creation of Redbridge it was in Ilford but the postal address was Chigwell. We liked that. Chigwell sounded much posher than Ilford. You didn’t have to see Birds of a Feather to know that. [Postal addresses depended on the location where mail was sorted, so you could even have a postal address in another county. It may not be so obvious but the same is true of postcodes – The Isle of Wight is part of Portsmouth according to postcodes.]


The house has had a major upgrade since the fifties. It did not look like the photograph above when we lived there! The windows are new and so are the bricks. It used to be just dirty white concrete. And it had a proper outside porch. (The picture isn’t very useful but you can see the general size of the house.)

It was a Council house. (I suppose we were a relatively poor family with six children on one income.) The front door opened into a hall and behind that was the kitchen. The room to the right extends from front to back of the house. We just called it ‘the other room.’ We probably ate in the kitchen, which functioned as a kitchen and dining room. But, as young children, we had our tea before Dad returned from work and had his meal.

There were four brothers when we moved there and two younger sisters were born in this house. I remember assembling in the bedroom the day after the youngest was born, talking of possible names. (But I have no memories of the births, or of my mother being pregnant. We had no concept of pregnancy. Babies were ‘found under a gooseberry bush’, or ‘the stork brought them’. We knew that wasn’t true but we had no other ideas.)

So there must have been three of four bedrooms upstairs, with a bathroom and probably a separate toilet. The girls had a bedroom, as did we three younger boys. Presumably, our older brother had his room.

The Garden

            The back garden was mostly lawn. To me that meant grass liberally spread with daisies, buttercups and dandelions – they were part of the natural flowers. We used to play with daisies and buttercups.

To the left of the back garden we had a coal bunker (of course) and an outside toilet, which we used. (To be honest, I don’t remember one inside but the house probably had two toilets.)



I have shown a map of the area now, marking the location of our house. The map does not cope well with our street because it was not accessible to cars. As I remember it, the whole street was Boar Close, although the map shows one end as Hart Crescent. It was all grass, with sections each end where cars could be parked. It looks much the same now. There are cars parked at the ends. They used to be empty – no one in our street had a car! (There was a short period when Dad had a car – as something to do with his work.)

We knew all the other children in the street. We played outside together with no apparent supervision from parents. We kept generally to our street but sometimes went round the block – Ferne Close, Arrowsmith Road and the Lowe.

The plots in which houses are built are generally back-to back but the South side of Boar Close was unusual. (It still is. You can look on Google!) Our back garden had a tall wooden fence which backed directly on to a road. The map show Hursley Road behind us but when we lived there this road had no name – and no houses. Sometimes we sat on this fence. The narrow road had no houses on the other side, just an empty plot of land.

It’s strange how selective the memory is. I remember sitting on the top of top of that fence looking down on our back garden and seeing just sun-baked earth where there should have been grass, with wide cracks – the sort of thing you see in a drought. It must have been a hot summer. I also remember at other times, thick snow in the same garden, which we rolled up to make a snowman.


Walking to School

I have shown another map to get an idea of our ‘school run.’ We walked along Hart Crescent and turned left somewhere to get to roughly the star on the map. Grange Hill School did not last long and it has left virtually no traces on the Internet, but we must have crossed Manford Way. Now it’s a busy road!



I don’t remember much of my life there. I can’t place where our local shops were and I have no idea if we ever went to Church. But I do remember the piano. We had a piano.

I must have shown some desire to play the piano because at about the age of six I was chosen from four brothers to have piano lessons. I learned some basic tunes but, much more important to me, I learned to read music.

I was not a good student. I did not practice. I did not do scales at home. So after less than a year the lessons stopped.

[I tried to teach myself about 25 years later when our son started to learn. Now I can play a few things, badly and very slowly. But I can read music, which has helped me to sing in various situations. I wish I had practiced more now!]

What really surprise me is that my selective memory has retained the address of my piano teacher. I am not completely sure of the number but it was Clinton Crescent. I wasn’t sure but it’s on Google Maps, a bit further West than the two maps shown above. I probably walked there and back.

Other Memories

There is so little I remember of this house. It will surprise you that some of my clearest memories of the very early days in this house were of craneflies, earwigs, wasps and spiders!


CranefliesTipula paludosa – we call them Daddy Longlegs in the UK, but colloquial names vary internationally. Wikipedia suggests that names in the US are regional – including mosquito hawk, mosquito wasp, mosquito eater, gallinipper, gollywhopper and gollynoogle. I have seen one emerge from a pupal case in our back lawn so I suppose that suburban gardens provide suitable habitats. I remember them in summer and early autumn evenings coming into the old house. The children did not like them. They are not the cleverest of insects and cannot be persuaded to go out of windows. Many of them met untimely deaths brought about with a rolled up newspaper. It seemed to me that when we moved to our next house, the craneflies almost disappeared. We just saw them occasionally. They were no longer a significant pest.


I don’t remember earwigsForficula auricularia – with the same distaste as the others in this list, just as curiosities. They were fairly common in the garden. They just didn’t seem common at all after the move. Perhaps we didn’t play outside so much.

[I turn again to Wikipedia. The common earwig was introduced into North America in the early Twentieth Century and has spread widely, from the southern and southwestern parts. There are also several other species native to different parts of the United States.]

No pictures of wasps or spiders – you know what they are. I remember far too many wasps coming into the house every summer, much more often than I saw them after moving on to our next house. We used to put a little water into the bottom of an empty jam-jar (with some jam to attract them to their watery graves.) We caught a few but there were many more that came into the house. Wasps are a bit cleverer than craneflies. Sometime they could be persuaded to fly out of an open window or door.

My sisters went to bed before us. They would come straight down again if there was a spider on the wall. I have never liked spiders indoors but I am gradually getting a bit happier with them.

These are my main memories of life up to the age of eight, when we moved.

Unlike many eight-year-olds, I knew something of what the animal called a ‘boar’ was, and I also had an idea of what the word ‘hart’ meant. I have no idea why the road at the end of Boar Close was called The Lowe!


[34] ‘Everything I Do …’

My tour round the music which reminded me of the fifties and sixties started with [26] ‘All I want is Music, Music, Music, Music!’ And [32] ‘Dedicated to the One I Love’. This post completes the alphabet and completes the series of initial reminiscences. Please let me know if any of the links fail.

Peter_paul_and_mary_publicity_photo61.  Puff, the Magic DragonPeter, Paul and Mary (1963)

Because: I like it and it was typical of several other folk singers and groups in the sixties – Joan Baez, Julie Felix, The Seekers, the New Seekers, … Sometimes they did children’s songs. I could have picked ‘Going to the Zoo.’

62.  Reach Out (I’ll be There)The Four Tops (1966)

Because: it was on one of my first LPs, bought for my first record-player. More Motown.

63.  River Deep, Mountain HighIke and Tina Turner (1966)

A Phil Spector production, with his ‘Wall of Sound’ method, using large numbers of backing instruments and vocalists. Re-released and covered several times. The voice of Ike Turner was not used in the recording.

64.  Rock Around the ClockBill Hailey and the Comets (1954)

Because: It started Rock ‘n Roll in Britain. This has to go in.

65.  Robin Hood (Theme Tune)

See: [17] ‘Feared by the BBC, Loved by the ITV’

66.  RunawayDel Shannon (1961)

Because: It represents many similar songs about young love. I could have picked Bobby Vee or Bobby Darin.

67.  The Sound of SilenceSimon and Garfunkel (1964)

At the risk of repeating myself, I couldn’t possibly leave out … Simon and Garfunkel – a great pair of singer/songwriters, both of whom were just as great after they separated. Almost unaccompanied, with a little guitar. Of course, I could have picked: Bridge over Troubled Water, or many others.

68.  Stranger in Paradise – from Kismet (1955)

Because: I think this was one of my mother’s favourites so it has to go in. The tune is copied from the Polovtsian Dances by Borodin, from the opera, Prince Igor.

69.  Stranger on the ShoreAcker Bilk (1962)

Because: it’s a haunting melody, the kind of tune I like.

In 1961, the BBC ran a five part serial called Stranger on the Shore, about a French teenager visiting England as an au pair. Its signature tune, played on a clarinet by Acker Bilk, was renamed as Stranger on the Shore and issued as a single. It was the best selling record in Britain of 1962 and stayed in the weekly pop charts for over a year. It was also the first British single to top the US charts. For most of his career, Acker Bilk led and played with the Paramount Jazz Band.

70.  A Summer Place (Theme Tune) – (1959)

Because: It’s a great tune – a timeless, slow orchestral classic – what we used to call ‘easy listening.’ I never saw the film but the tune was often played on its own.

71.  TelstarThe Tornados (1962)

Because: I chose to buy it. My other first purchase, with Nut Rocker. Both were big hits. This one was very early electronic music.

It is important to know that Telstar, launched in 1962, was one of the first artificial satellites put into orbit round the Earth, giving us instantaneous transatlantic telephony and television (before the Internet). Now we call them just satellites. There are thousands of them. Part of the fame of this record came from its choice of name.

72.  Thank You for the MusicABBA (1977)

Because: I can’t leave out ABBA, even though they first appeared in 1973.

73.  There’s a Hole in My Bucket!Harry Belafonte and Odetta (1959)

A sort of children’s song, a bit like ‘I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.’

The attraction of this song is its cyclic nature. As a child, you need to know how it will end to appreciate the build-up. Taking out the repetitions:

There’s a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza; There’s a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, a hole.

Then fix it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry, …

With what shall I mend it, dear Liza, dear Liza? …

With a straw, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry, …

But the straw is too long, dear Liza, dear Liza, …

Cut it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry, …

With what shall I cut it, dear Liza, dear Liza? ….

With an axe, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry, …

The axe is too dull, dear Liza, dear Liza, …

Sharpen it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry, …

On what shall I sharpen it, dear Liza, dear Liza? ….

On a stone, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry, …

But the stone is too dry, dear Liza, dear Liza, …

Then wet it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry, …

With what shall I wet it, dear Liza, dear Liza? …

Try water, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry, …

In what shall I fetch it, dear Liza, dear Liza? ….

In a bucket, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry, …

There’s a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza, …

74.  Two Little BoysRolf Harris (1969)

Whatever else is true of Rolf Harris, he was a great painter and a great singer. Some of his songs were unusual – Tie me Kangaroo Down, Jake the Peg. As a lover of sad songs, I cannot forget this song and the wonderful story it tells.

UnchainedMelodySingle75.  Unchained melodyRighteous Brothers (1965)

The 1955 Prison film, Unchained, is almost unknown, but its theme tune was a great success for the Righteous Brothers and others (including Jimmy Young, the well-known DJ). The only song to have sold over a million copies from three separate acts – this version, Robson and Jerome (1995), and Gareth Gates (2002).

Its powerful words talk of love and separation without hope of meeting again;

Oh, my love, my darling; I’ve hungered for your touch; A long, lonely time.

Time goes by so slowly; And time can do so much; Are you still mine?

I need your love; I need your love; God speed your love to me.

I know I have said this before, but I couldn’t possibly leave this one out. (I may say it again later.)

76.  Walkin’ Back to HappinessHelen Shapiro (1961)

I could have chosen Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers or Millie as examples of very young, solo artists. She was fourteen when this was recorded.

77.  We’ll Meet Again – Vera Lynn (1943)

Because: We grew up not long after the War, near enough to hear and see references to it. Vera Lynn was still a fond memory to many people. I could have picked ‘The White Cliffs of Dover.’

78.  When I fall in LoveNat King Cole (1956)

Because it’s a fantastic love song, and because I couldn’t possibly leave out Nat King Cole.

79.  When I Leave the World BehindTeresa Brewer (1957)

Because: It reminds me of my grandmother. I don’t know where it came from but she had a record of this when she lived with us. And it’s a fantastic song. Super words:

I know a millionaire; Who’s burdened down with care; A load is on his mind.

He’s thinking of the day; When he must pass away; And leave his wealth behind.

I haven’t any gold; To leave when I grow old; Somehow it passed me by.

I’m very poor, but still; I’ll leave a precious will; When I must say goodbye.


I’ll leave the sunshine to the flowers; I’ll leave the springtime to the trees;

And to the old folks I’ll leave the mem’ries;  Of a baby upon their knees.

I’ll leave the nighttime to the dreamers; I’ll leave the songbirds to the blind;

I’ll leave the moon above; To those in love

When I leave the world behind; When I leave the world behind.

To be honest, the need to blog about music arises from the need to include this one. You can play it at my funeral.

80.  Whiter Shade of PaleProcul Harum (1967)

Because: It was a classic from the sixties, massively popular. One of the few records that emerged with meaningless words – but they sound poetic enough to almost mean something. Everyone had their own theories.

81.  Who Would True Valour SeeJohn Bunyan

See: [15] “Who would true Valour See …”

82.  Who’s Sorry Now? – Connie Francis (1958)

Because: I used to love Connie Francis, who was popular through the fifties and sixties. Representing many female singers from earlier days – Doris Day, Alma Cogan and others.  Che Sera Sera was another possibility.

83.  William Tell OvertureRossini

Because: It was the signature tune to The Lone Ranger. From 1957, televised pop music was the Six Five Special every Saturday evening at … 6:05 pm, just after the Lone Ranger.

84.  With a Song in My Heart

This is a late addition. I have so many references to Two-Way Family Favourites, so I looked up its signature tune. An essential part of Sunday lunchtime on The Light Programme, later BBC Radio Two – not forgetting the Billy Cotton Band Show. (Maybe in another post …)

85.  Ying Tong SongThe Goons (1956)

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

On the ‘B’ side: ‘I’m Walking Backwards to Christmas.’

86.  You don’t have to Say You Love MeDusty Springfield (1965)

Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien came from a folk group who called themselves The Springfields. She went solo in the late sixties and had several hits. Famous for her long, blonde hair and make-up, featuring heavy eye-shadow.

87.  You were made for MeFreddie and the Dreamers (1963)

Because: it is typical of its era. Also representing Gerry and the Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas and others. Not quite boy bands!

88.  Young LoveTab Hunter (1957)

Because: it was one of about six that came with the record-player by brother was given. Typical very early pop, not Rock ‘n Roll. The first pop music to be heard regularly in our house.

I have to end with two, which are too late for the fifties and sixties. You will have seen already tunes that remind me of my mother, my father and my grandmother. Here is another one that reminds me of someone in my life.

89.  Bright EyesArt Garfunkel

From the film ‘Watership Down’ in 1978. A sort of requiem.

And finally:

90.  Everything I do, (I do it for you) – Bryan Adams

From the film, ‘Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves’, (1991) over the closing credits.

Just Because … Because everything I do …


This blog (all three parts,) has involved a lot of work. I could have put in hundreds more. Please let me know if any of the links are wrong!

There may be more music in another post …


[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.