Saturday, January 15, 2011

Let Bygones Be Memories !

The great thing for me, but not for you, is that with my increased senility, I'm able to write about things several times over as if they were for the first time.

Having just watched "50 First Dates" (for probably the 6th time but who knows !) I feel like I can identify with the character played by Drew Barrymore, swapping car crash for old age to explain the onset of my short term memory loss.

I say all this because I think I've posted about aspects of THIS post before, hell probably the whole post word for word. But in my world, it's as new, fresh and honest as a Lb/Dem manifesto promise.

Speaking of such things, here is a wee joke I read yesterday on Twitter and apologies to all those outside the UK who may therefore not get it....and to all those inside the UK who may get it but still not think it's funny.

Man at Lib/Dem conference : "I'd like to buy a copy of your manifesto."
Lib/Dem lacky : "I'm sorry but we've sold out."
Man : "I know but I'd still like to buy a copy of your manifesto."

Boom, boom. That's probably my first and last political joke.

Ok where was I ? Oh yes, The Tremeloes.

What ? Oh sorry, I turned two pages of notes there.

After my somewhat pompous and depressing previous post, I went for a walk. It was a lovely warm sunny afternoon and I guess I still felt guilty about eating at the Golden Coral the previous evening but for whatever reasons, I plugged in my record player, strapped on my headphones and went walkies around the park.

It was awesome (to use the local idiom) to feel the sunshine on my face and the warm tarmac beneath my feet. Quickly going back inside to put on some socks and trainers (!), I set off again with a spring in my step (Air Jordans) and a smile on my face (Colgate Spearmint).

After a few pleasantly melodic tunes from "Take That", a popular UK beat combo, I was at peace with the world and ready for the next album to hit me. Being "The Greatest Hits Of Val Doonican" it didn't so much hit me as quietly sneak up behind me in carpet slippers and plant a wet kiss on my bald head.

Val Doonican, in his day, was to rock music what Colonel Saunders was, in his day, to low cholesterol. He could out croon Perry Como, out sweater Andy Williams and his songs were down the middle of the middle of the road. If he wanted to up the tempo and go a bit racy, he'd invite guests like Roger Whittaker, John Denver and Matt Munro onto his shows. He was so laid back he always finished those long running and very popular weekly tv shows by singing from a rocking chair !!

This style allied to his soft Irish brogue made him a winner with the pearl set and basically any woman over a certain age. And everyone, man or woman, from Ireland.

Growing up, as I did, in Norn Iron, I was fed on a diet of Val Doonican, Doris Day, Ruby Murray and so on. The genre was a mix of crooners and a special brand of country & western where the west rarely went beyond Donegal. The songs had all the typical American c&w lyrics of broken relationships, wife beating husbands and loving but lonesome cowboys but without the sliding guitars and hillbilly accents.

I hated it all but it wasn't in my nature to swim against the flow by being a fan of The Rolling Stones or Bob Dylan. No the best I could manage in my mini musical rebellion was to follow The Tremeloes (see, I'm on that page now) who were from Dagenham and so a pretty dodgy lot as far as my parents were concerned.

Back in those Dansette days when records were an inch thick and played via a knitting needle and granddad's ear trumpet, chart topping groups rarely came to Norn Iron. It would be like performing in Afghanistan now and, well they just didn't. As a result and to have some sort of live music during the weekly Fri/Sat dances, we invented showbands.

A showband was a collection of musicians somewhere between the size of a typical pop group and a small orchestra. There could be 10-15 or more male and female members in a showband and they always included a brass section to beef up the sound. The better ones, like the Miami Showband and The Royals could faithfully reproduce any current chart songs and were very popular on the ballroom circuit.

Here is a booking letter for a smaller showband showing that money wasn't exactly being thrown at them once it was split across the band members.

Before I left school and Norn Iron in 1970, I had a chance to finally see The Tremeloes locally in concert and was well impressed that just 4 people could sound so good. And so loud. Looking back it was probably a case of alcohol (literally), a very small hall and loads of screaming teenage girls that combined to make me think they were loud. And good. But after listening to showbands, they were magic.

So as I walked around the park listening to old Val warbling away about donkeys, goats and motorcars, I was taken back to my hometown of Ballymoney and the sounds of the late 50's and very early 60's before The Beatles burst on the scene and everything changed. The main music store had one speaker outside (stereo hadn't been discovered yet) and would be blasting out Alma Cogan and Ruby Murray songs at an unsuspecting public. And a young me.

I think this is why I still love ballads so much and here is one of Val's from way back then. He doesn't appear in the video but his unique voice still takes me back over 40 years when we'd gather around the tv to see what colour sweater he'd be wearing and wishing someone would hurry up and develop 3D.


3 comments:

Daphne said...

Ohhhh - - lovely post! Both very interesting and very, very funny. I like the Tremeloes too, of course - - and I have always liked Val Doonican and I am prepared to say it in public.

Jennyta said...

Val doesn't do it for me, I'm afraid. Now Queen - that's another story! :)

rhymeswithplague said...

Help me understand what is funny about the joke.

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