Another musical influence.
The product of the finest Secondary Modern, my dad didn’t have a scrap of formal musical training but is clearly very musical – and a voracious collector of interesting, musical recordings. Our childhood soundtrack was Billy Holiday (some American imports), Johnny Kid and the Pirates, Odetta, Cisco Houston and Woody Gurthrie, Martin Carthy, Memphis Slim and Mickey Baker. But it was also Tomita, Honegger and Shostakovitch. There was a favourite performance of Shostakovitch’s Fifth Symphony he’d recorded from the radio the night Shostakovitch died. The performance started with someone announcing the composer had died. This was followed by gasps in the audience as the orchestra played the opening bars of the first movement (this was long before the days of rolling news and Twitter). On Sunday mornings, he would wake us up with the bands of the The Grenadier and Coldstream Guards. With my mum, he took us to hear Bob Stewart (dulcimer player), Leon Rosselson and other great, live folk performers (as kids, Jenny and I cut our teeth as live folk musicians, playing in Watford’s Pump House). I remember one or two acts staying with us before the show – including a man who played the bones and a Pearly Queen who showed us how to play the spoons. Bunny Nunn, who ran the Pump House, taught me to play the saw.
Before long, my sister Jenny and I were half-inching records from my dad’s treasured vinyl collection and playing them on our own record player. I’m afraid there was a lot of scratching involved (not of the hip-hop variety) as we consumed all those sounds, jumping from record to record and dropping the needle on our favourite sections.
In the late 1970s, my dad was manager of a carpet shop which had half-day closing on a Wednesday. A favourite Wednesday afternoon treat was to drive around Watford in his car, with Mancini’s Elephant Walk blaring at full volume, laughing ourselves silly as everyone around us seemed to be moving in time to the music.
Now in his seventies, my dad is still very much alive and well. And he’s still finding the odd thing and sending it my way. In fact, I have a DVD on my desk from him right now, with the words ‘Moog’ on it – something or other he’d spotted on TV and had taken the trouble to record for me. What a fine fellow!