I woke up this morning thinking about Tommy Steel.
Tommy Steel of ‘Little White Bull’ fame.
i don’t know why I thought of Tommy, he wasn’t a great hero of mine, though he was a constant in my formative years.
His music was always on the radio and he would be on TV regularly.
Well, I use the term relatively as we only had two channel’s back in the swinging sixties and they were Black and White, started at 1700hrs and ended with the National Anthem at 1000.
I don’t think he (Tommy) was great favourite of my Mum and Dad’s either?
They weren’t heavily in to music though they did have a Decca record player that played their small collection of singles and on Sunday mornings in particular they played them over and over again.
Anthony Newley (idle on Parade) was a great favourite of my Dad’s though he also played Nat King Cole’s ‘Mona lisa’ a lot whilst my Mum was a Frank Ifield fan and his picture was pasted on the back of the Pantry door for years.
Later he was replaced in her affections by ‘The Batchelor’s’ an Irish group with a lead singer Con Cluskey whose voice was as flat as a board and then by the Walker Brothers.
Bringing up a family of four on my Dad’s wage (most women didn’t work in those days) was all consuming and if it weren’t for the extra money he ‘Fiddled’ we wouldn’t have survived.
‘Fiddling’ was a polite word for stealing.
He was a scrap metal merchant and there were a range of stunts they used to pull to get extra money.
One of which included melting lead pipe on a corrugated iron sheet over a bonfire and letting the molten lead run into a bucket. Once half full, a 56 Lb iron weight would be put in the bucket before filling it to the top with more lead.
This increased the weight of the lead and made for more profit.
Their lives were hard.
Four Kids to feed and a house to run they had little time to relax and I don’t remember a day when they just sat down and did nothing.
In the mid Sixties we moved from Withywood to Sea Mills.
In Withywood we lived on the main road through a big council estate with hundreds of other families just like us. Opposite were the O’Connors and the Whites. Irish Catholic families with almost 20 Kid’s between them. The whole estate was full of working class families with loads of kids who all went to Four Acres Junior School the same as us. (Mr Edwards was the head master at the time).
When we moved to Sea Mills we thought we had won the lottery it was so posh.
Every house had a garden with a Privet Hedge around it and we even had a fully grown tree in our garden which meant we could climb it without asking anyone’s permission.
Opposite there was a green where we played British Bulldogs in the Summer and made a Snow man in the Big Freeze of 1963 that lasted for weeks.
Tommy Steel wasn’t trendy enough to appeal to us young kids though he was better than some of the offerings that lingered like a dying breed through the early 1960’s. Refusing to go quietly, the old guard clung on till the mid sixties when at last they were resigned to the history books.
Ronny Caroll, Alma Cogan, Perry Como,Petula Clark, Franky Lane and Johnnie Ray were all swept away on the Mersey-beat tidal wave.
We would get some music from the radio but there wasn’t a lot of choice.
The Light service didn’t do Pop Music we had to wait for the arrival of Radio Luxembourg.
My Brother and I huddled under the bed clothes at night desperate to hear the latest release from one of the new band’s that were coming out of Liverpool as the volume faded in and out.
What a revelation Radio Caroline was and then of course, much later, Radio 1.
The BBC radio did play music but it tended to be a bit dated.
I think there was an agreement with the musicians unions that live music would be protected, so we had to suffer the Billy Cotton band show or watch Sunday Night at the London Palladium (which had its debut on the new commercial ITV channel in 1955) in order to get a fix of Pop music.
This is the Uk top 20 for 1961.
In the early sixties The Beatles had taken the world by storm and the ‘Beatle Cut’ was all the rage.
Up until that point all the singers and film stars had their hair brushed back off their face’s like Elvis but the Beatles came along with their hair brushed forward in a ‘Fringe’ that could be shaken about and our whole world changed.
They had long Hair!
Well, it touched their ears and some even touched the collar of their shirt, but by the standards of the day that was outrageous.
Given we still had conscription in 1960 hair style’s for most of us were military to say the least. Short Back and Side’s was the order of the day at most barbers.
I remember my brother and I marching in to Mr Bowell’s Gentleman’s Barber shop on Sea Mills Square clutching half a crown each and asking Mr Bowell for a ‘Mod Cut’.
“Certainly young man, hop up in the chair”. Said Mr Bowell before setting to work with the clippers.
When he’d finished we were aghast to see we both had a short back and sides.
“Mr Bowell, thats a short Back and Sides” . We said tearfully.
“Thats right son, that’s all we do here”. Said Mr Bowell.
Poor old Tommy didn’t quite have the right hair style to be fashionable. A bit Like Joe Brown (and the Brothers) he too was a transitional figure that we tolerated cause he was better than the old guard but not as good as the new.
So why did I wake up thinking about Tommy Steel?
I Think its because I’m in a transition period myself.
I’m at a point where thing’s are changing and unlike the 1960’s its not all for the better.
I’m at a time of life where the established order is vanishing. People who were a constant, things i took for granted (as always being there) are disappearing.
My pier group is shrinking.
At the end of 2016 so many of the people I grew up with (or at least were around whilst I was growing up ) died and its uncomfortable to realise that those ‘Young Gun’s’ are now ‘Old Fart’s’ and soon to be ‘Ex-Old Fart’s’ at that.
I’m still thinking about the future but its on a shorter time frame.
The next ten years will probably be the last ones where I’m able to do what I want rather than doing what I’m capable of.
I need to make the most of it.
I’d like to grow my hair long and wear tie dyed T shirts, paisley scarves, loons, parka jackets and loafers. Instead I’m doomed to Long Johns, Fluffy Slippers and Adult Pampers.
So I need to do a bit more travelling.
Grasp every experience I can whilst I’ve got the chance. Make the most of every opportunity.
My new years resolution was to ‘Do more Stuff’ and thats what Im gonna do.