Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Far Far Away


The recent death of Davy Jones of The Monkees - formerly of Coronation Street, Manchester, England- draws another sad veil on golden memories of Seventies British childhoods.

The quality of The Monkees output - no matter what qualifications have been drawn upon their formation and early years - holds strong to this day. Forging beyond even the great lead vocals of Jones himself on tracks such as A Little Bit Me A Little Bit You, Valleri, The Poster, Daddy's Song, Dream World, Love To Love, Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow), She Hangs Out, Someday Man and Daydream Believer stands the magnificent and once-thoroughly derided cult movie Head. The last TV special from 1969 however - Thirty Three and a Third Revolutions Per Monkee as featuring Julie Driscoll and the Brian Auger Trinity, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and Fats Domino - may remain beyond the critical pale for some considerable time to come.

Other spectral reflections of a Sixties and Seventies UK Lost World I have recently revisited with heavy heart include two superb television documentaries on British glam rockers Slade and The Sweet. The former's extraordinary chart success was somewhat stymied around the time of their own 1974 motion picture Flame - also now well regarded in hindsight - though ironically some of their most critically admired material of all is from this specific period such as the singles Far Far Away, How Does It Feel and Thanks For The Memory.

The change in musical dynamics for The Sweet in turn from bubblegum music to teenage hard rock would arguably be sourced to the 1972 single Wig Wag Bam which reached number 4 in the UK charts. Top of the Pops footage of this particular track on youtube is accompanied by an hilariously filthy yet precise public commentary on their sexual appeal to the teenagers of Britain that alas must remain unrepeated on this particular blog. It might have been nothing more than goofy teen pap but the audience in this specific clip certainly seem to be having the time of their bloody lives that is for sure.

I have also recently read the superb 1996 history of British professional wrestling by Simon Garfield as covering all the legends of yore such as Mick McManus, Mike Marino. Kendo Nagasaki, Jimmy Saville, Jim Breaks, Brian Glover, Bobby Barnes, Catweazle, Giant Haystacks, Steve Logan, Big Daddy and glam-rock crossover Adrian Street who even appeared in the Pasolini film The Canterbury Tales. Haystacks is long remembered by the population of Northern Ireland in particular for his nonchalent attempt to break the spine of legendary local television presenter Jackie Fullerton live on Ulster Television during the late Seventies while the book presents loveable stage Yorkshireman Les Kellett as a real life figure of awe and dread.

Another view into times long gone recently was watching the 1968 movie Up The Junction - as recently referenced in my post on The Wednesday Play and with a soundtrack by Manfred Mann. It starred Suzy Kendall, Dennis Waterman, Adrienne Posta, Maureen Lipman, Alfie Bass and Liz Fraser. As no doubt influencing both the late Seventies Squeeze hit single of the same name, and certainly Pulp's Common People, the movie has one particularly incredible scene where Kendall and Waterman's stereotypical cultural personas - as grounded in upper class Chelsea and then-working class Battersea - clash and then intertwine whilst standing in the ruins of the latter's terraced home.

So reminscent of an old London friend who recalled his East End father scorning his decision to live in trendy Shoreditch with the adjoiner "It took me twenty years to leave the place - why do you want to go back!" Or indeed the Belfast poet John Campbell's recollections of the Sailorstown district in the 1982 collection Saturday Night in York Street- a now totally extinct residential district close to the equally derelict Half Bap and Little Italy areas where the late comedian Frank Carson grew up:

"Sailorstown, is this it?" said the young boy to his dad/"Stretching all around you" said the father to his lad/"It's the greatest district. Finer people you won't meet"/"Ack Da", said the wee buck, "all I see's a dirty street".

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