In 1968 a group of 30, 11 year old boys sat in alphabetical order in a grim classroom that hadn’t been remodelled since the school was built in 1931, images of Tom Browns Schooldays sprang to mind, fagging, caning, cold baths and the making of us is what we feared, these would be our formative years and the education we would receive would tide us well for the rest of our lives, or so the theory went.
Directly in front of my desk sat The Milky Bar Kid, so called because he looked like The Milky Bar kid off the TV, we weren’t sophisticated in our choice of nicknames, Chris Kirkbride became Sam, The Milky Bar Kid and for the rest of his natural life we all still bite our tongues not to call him Sam again, its like he’s using a false name when he expects us to call him Chris.
My own surname could be shortened to Kitch and so no imagination was required for my moniker, Patrick Stewart was christened within a few days as Neddy because of his long face, a predilection for eating hay and standing outside in the rain for long periods of time simply staring at the ground. Nobby Knowles was so called because, well no-one knows why really and Chris Davidson became Dog-Dirt Davidson for the rest of his life simply because shortly after our first term started he trod in some dog dirt on the way to school, simple things pleased simple minds even though we were among the educational elite and primed for a white collar life (where did it all go wrong?).
Musically in 1968 there was so much going on that our class of 30 reflected the whole spectrum of musical genres which thrived and developed during that period, only one year prior we had experienced “The summer of love” and in Newquay my father had scoffed and scorned his way through the whole holiday at the hippy’s and beatniks who made the town their own that year before finally he relented and let me drag him into one of the new-fangled hippy “boutiques”, a dark and dingy shop basement which smelled of something that perhaps wasn’t quite legal and where he bought me a long sleeved cotton t-shirt with an American football style logo screen printed on the front, and so I joined the hippy movement and slowly over the next few years I grew my hair and the periods between my father tying me to a chair for the “Razor Comb of Doom” became longer and longer until finally my hair lapped over my ear lobes and started to cover my shirt collar slightly, and then sideburns appeared, these were exciting times, I’m getting excited just remembering hair again.
But back to the kid sitting in front of me, Sam The Milky Bar Kid, for Sam The Milky Bar Kid had a taste in music that only he appreciated but that eventually through dogged persistence he would persuade all of us that it had some virtue, for Sam The Milky Bar Kid was a Tamla Motown fanatic and specifically he sincerely believed that the sun shone out of Diana Ross’s pert backside, and he may have been right, suffice to say that within that first year at the academy for teenage boy development he had convinced most of us of the merits of this imported American genre and we too became disciples.
I chose The Four Tops as the first video and indeed Sam The Milky Bar Kid may have done too but I suspect that his male singing band of choice would have been The Temptations however this is my blog and I much prefer “Do What You’ve Gotta Do” as one of the most sublime tracks of that era, of our youth, hell it still sounds fresh today and its still on all of my playlists when I shove the earphones in my lug’oles and in my mind I spin and point to the audience whilst wearing a ridiculous cat suit and not feeling stupid at all, in the style of a Motown popular vocal combo of the 1960s – ’twas a magical era for our musical development and I for one am glad that we were the chosen generation for this for the generations that followed have been served up cold dishes of musical shite by comparison – can you imagine being a teenager in the 1980s and 90s, my god they deserve our sympathy and its beholden to us to educate them in our ways.
And then one day something strange happened to Sam Kirkbride, his hair appeared to be growing unfettered by visits to a barbers shop and rather than coming to school clad in a parka he started to wear an afghan coat that smelled like a swineherds coat would do after it rained, in short Sam The Milky Bar Kid, in the period of a few short months, turned into Sam, The Jethro Tull fanatic, gone were the Diana Ross posters in his bedroom to be replaced by Catweazle standing on one leg blowing on a flute, it was the strangest thing to witness and his musical tastes have never been right since, his Facebook page listings of the gigs that he is spending his pension on these days is testament to that.