June 1970, the 13 year old JerryChicken is just finishing the end of his third year at Leeds Modern Grammar School, he’s probably in the middle of those mind numbingly boring but seemingly oh so important end of year school exams and as usual he doesn’t really care what score he gets or what sort of end of year report he gets because none of that stuff matters to the 13 year old JerryChicken, its not like he ever wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer or anything like that, in fact he doesn’t know what he wants to be when he leaves school and there are those who will tell you that he still doesn’t know what he wants to be at 55 years of age.
The end of the third year was the year that you got to pick some of your subjects for the fourth and fifth years and ultimately for your future employment, life, happiness and all the other shit that they tried to impress upon you back in those halcyon days when you left school at 16 years of age and walked straight into employment, hopefully in some form of “good, steady job” so your mum could tell all of her friends that you had a “good steady job”.
So what subjects did I pick for my future life enhancement ?
I didn’t so much pick my subjects as drop the ones I hated and looked at what was left.
So Chemistry went straight out of the window, that was the first subject to go, I drop-kicked the subject over the stands and out of the ground so much did I hate it, none of it made any sense to me, it was like algebra, but more complicated and I’d sat through three long years of staring at symbols and letters on a blackboard and wondering what I’d have for lunch that day, then copying Rodneys homework on the bus to school the next day.
Biology was another subject drop-kicked way out of the park, another subject that I had absolutely no interest in at all, not one spark of interest did I have as to why tree had green leaves and not blue leaves, or what the leaves were for, or why Soapy Luxton kept his first childs placenta in a bath of formaldehyde high on a shelf in the biology lab, it was a weird subject and I wanted nothing to do with it.
I tried to drop Physics too (can you see a pattern emerging) but they forced me to keep Physics for it was against their rules to not take at least one science subject, I eventually failed my O Level Physics, like I told them I would at the end of the third year.
Languages were another target of hatred, I didn’t want to speak German, so dropped it, didn’t want to speak Latin so never accepted the opportunity to take it up, they forced me to take French as it was against their rules to not take at least one language, I eventually failed my O Level French, like I told them I would at the end of the third year – can you see the pattern emerging yet ?
Music went, as did metalwork and woodwork and with them any possibility of me becoming a singing, recorder playing carpenter – so what was left, Maths (compulsory, I failed that too), Geography, Art, Technical Drawing, PE (they still forced us all to do Physical Education, really), and the aforementioned Physics and french, I’m sure there should be more on that list but I just can’t bring them to mind.
And all the while these agonising decisions were being played out to a wonderful summer of music, The Beatles had released their “Let It Be” album, Sam Kirkbride was introducing us all to the very strange Jethro Tull, a band which relied strongly on a man who stood on one leg and played the flute while obviously under the influence of very strong chemicals, maybe I shouldn’t have been so hasty in dropping Chemistry.
Pete Waters was trying to convince us that Deep Purple really were the ultimate in music, ever, nothing had yet been produced in 100 years that was ever as good as “Smoke on the Water” and we humoured him and went back to Mungo Jerry and wondered if we would ever be able to grow sideburns like that.
The England Football World Cup squad released their wonderful hit single “Back Home” and then wished they were back home when captain Bobby Moore was arrested for (allegedly) stealing a bracelet in Columbia, Norman Greenbaum kept the hippie ideal alive with “Spirit in the Sky”, Smokie Robinson, Elvis, Simon & Garfunkel and Jimi Hendrix would all have #1 singles in that year.
And all the while The Kinks were kept from getting a #1 slot by Chrisitie’s “Yellow River” which was obviously such a good song that we only remember it now for selling the concept of The Yellow Pages to us, “Lola” a song about a transvestite, the meaning of which clearly slipped right past the censor at the BBC although not completely past the censor at the BBC as the censor at the BBC thought it improper to sing the words “coca-cola” in the first verse and so asked them to substitute it with “Cherry Cola”, which Coca-Cola immediately went and released as a new flavour in the UK on the back of The Kinks wonderful promotion.
In Ray Davies’ biography he writes of the true story of Lola and of how the band manager Robert Wace had a brief encounter with him/her…
“In his apartment, Robert had been dancing with this black woman, and he said, ‘I’m really onto a thing here.’ And it was okay until we left at six in the morning and then I said, ‘Have you seen the stubble?’ He said ‘Yeah,’ but he was too pissed to care.”
Which reminds me of a story of my old boss Mike Melling, but thats for another time…