Home > Chapters > 3 – From Mama Mia to Malcom Mclaren

3 – From Mama Mia to Malcom Mclaren

The long dry summer of ’75 passed in a blur. Exploration of new surroundings and anticipation of a new school in the September were the main culprits. The favourite place for just plain messing about was behind the other flats to ours. There was an old football pitch with some tiered spectator stands and even an old wooden structure that used to be some sort of covered seating, but the whole place was derelict and totally overgrown with weeds and huge clumps of bushes, It was a great adventure ground for kids. Sometimes I would amble into Guildford town centre, just to have a look around, although this meant walking the entire length of Woodbridge Road, which seemed endless. There was an upside to this epic trek though, if only out of morbid curiosity. I had found a hobby model shop selling Airfix kits in Swan Lane, which was a narrow alley way that joined the parallel roads of the High Street and North Street. The shop was also just a few yards further down from The Seven Stars public house, which had been the second target of the Irish maniacs the previous autumn. I felt strange being so close to a place associated with such horror.

School was altogether more daunting. In Cheltenham I’d passed my 11+ exams and had just finished two years at the Grammar School there. On moving to Guildford, I learnt that I would be going to the Woking County Grammar School for Boys, which was only about 5 or 6 miles away and took around half an hour on the public transport bus I had to catch. It never even crossed my mind why I wasn’t attending the Grammar School in Guildford. Acceptance of situations was a part of my life and so off I trudged every morning,  to the bus stop at the far end of Stockton Road. Another seemingly endless walk.

I was placed in form 3M, the M denoting ‘Magnanimously’ from the school motto of ‘Justly, Skillfully, Magnanimously.’ The Headmaster was obviously very astute at character determination when he put me in that particular form. It was a fairly strict school, steeped in tradition and history. The teachers were all male, mostly elderly, usually wearing the trademark flowing gowns over their tweed or corduroy suits with patched elbows,  and always addressed as Sir.
As educations go, mine was a fairly enjoyable one. I spent the rest of 1975 settling in and finding my feet in my new environment and soon started making some friends. And all the time music was inveigling its way into my life, from a multitude of sources, teasing my aural synapses with veiled hints of harmonies the future held in store.

Confusion that Christmas saw my sister and I both receiving a single from the parents. Single, as in a flat round piece of vinyl, seven inches across, which when played at 45rpm on a record player produced music of some sort. Except the one I unwrapped was ‘Hold Me Close’ by David Essex, and hers was Slade’s perennial ‘Merry Christmas Everybody.’ I think it was maybe the look on our faces that prompted dad to sheepishly admit his tagging error.

The actual Number 1 in the charts at Christmas was Queens all time classic, Bohemian Raphsody, but even that was not enough to convince me of their ability and worthiness, besides, I really didn’t understand what they were on about. I was still clinging to the last vestiges of my comfort zone and saw in the birth of the year that would prove to be the turning point in my musical life, bopping away to ‘Mama Mia’ as ABBA enjoyed a resurgence in their popularity with the New Years Number 1.

And so began 1976, with a bunch of clean cut Swedish warblers, and steadily regressed from there. I reveled in such delights as Slik’s  ‘Forever and Ever’, The Brotherhood of Man’s Eurovision success of ‘Save Your Kisses For Me’ and more ABBA with ‘Fernando’ and ‘Dancing Queen’. And if that wasn’t enough to turn an impressionable young lad into an anorak wearing nerd, I also had to endure the melodically challenged Telly Savalas talking through ‘If’ and suffer the Ooh-Arrr’ness of The Wurzels ‘Combine Harvester’. My descent into pop purgatory was almost complete.

The final straw came out of an act of  impulsive desperation, and was almost as embarrassing as my encounter with the guitar demigod. There was to be an auction at School during one of the lunch breaks, run by some older boys to raise funds. The room was packed when I got there but I managed to squeeze my way to the front just in time. The next Lot was a bag of 4 LP’s which would be ideal to start off my meager record collection. Surprisingly nobody bid for them so I started it off with the ridiculously low bid of 5 pence. I almost won it there and then until the eagle-eyed auctioneer spotted another bidder at the back of the room who must have been signaling his bids because I never heard him. The price kept going up, but I eventually wore the other bidder down and I won for the bargain price of 75 pence! I quickly paid up, and clutching my prized new possessions protectively to my chest, I squeezed back out of the crowd, very pleased with myself. I was now the proud owner of  four of K-Tel’s finest pressings! The exact albums escape me, but after browsing their website for reminders, titles such as ’20 Dynamic Hits ’, ’22 Greatest No. 1’s’ or ‘Christmas Disco Party Hits’ ring a few alarm bells.

I was in as deep as I was going to get and my only hope was Malcolm Mclaren.

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