Bloody Scruffy Hippies and Tunes You Could Whistle To

“Woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head, made my way downstairs and drank a cup then looking up I noticed I was late, grabbed my coat and grabbed my hat, made the bus in seconds flat, made my way upstairs and had a smoke then somebody spoke and I went into a dream …”

An intriguing story of everyday life, the lyrics from Lennon and McCartney’s “A Day In The Life”, pleasant boys always turned out well, wrote songs that you could whistle to even without the need for the psychedelic drugs that were required in order to write the tunes in the first place, The Beatles were the popular music phenomenon of the 1960s that even your dad liked, nay even your grandmother liked and our grandmother, dear old sworn allegiance to the Irish tricolour Elizabeth Atkinson, loved The Beatles and took her four grandsons to see both of their films at The Lyceum in Burley as “her special treat”, she screamed louder than any of the teenage girls in the audience.

My father was a Club Crooner, no not a Nightclub Crooner, a Working Mens Club Crooner, the sort of person who, if the concert secretary stood on stage with a microphone in hand and started to say “Tonight we’re going to have a “Members Entertain” night…” would only get to the end of the word “Tonight…” before my dad would be on stage to snatch the microphone and burst into the first line of “Lady is a Tramp”.Yet even my father, sworn 1940s crooner that he was, dedicated to the cause of enlightening the world of the tunes of Sinatra, even he would freely admit that The Beatles “Were quite good, you can whistle to most of their tunes”.

Towards the end of the 1960s my father even started to get trendy, well as much as he could in his formal sales office job anyway, he discarded the formal dark suit with narrow lapels, narrow not in a trendy way but narrow in that way that “Utility Suits” were cut in the 1940s, and started to wear coloured suits with wide lapels, he grew sideboards like John Lennon but kept his side parting and short back and sides, an interesting social comment but slightly trendy non-the-less and he admitted to admiring Joe Cocker and his cover of “A Little Help From My Friends” mainly because Joe Cocker was from Sheffield and whilst my father said he “could barely sing” he at least “had a go”, which was nice.

Yet my father’s concession to 1960s trendy-ness had a line in the sand that he refused to cross and just on the other side of that line in the sand stood The Rolling Stones.

Where The Beatles were nice boys, well turned out and the sort who you’d talk to across the driveway if they lived next door, Mick Jagger and friends were “bloody scruffy hippies” who “made a right bloody racket” when they sang their white-boy-blues and this divide was illustrated perfectly on the day that I bought a fan magazine at Cayton Bay.

On the fateful day I had a half crown pocket money burning a hole in my short trouser pocket, a young eight year old on holiday at Wallis’s Holiday Camp who had read all of the comic holiday specials that our mother had bought for us and seeking for further reading material I visited the newspaper kiosk at the main entrance to the camp site, a small wooden hut stuffed full with womens magazines and the days papers, staffed by a bored teenager on a summer holiday job.

“Yes ?” the bored teenager asked of me as I stood in the doorway of his wooden hut emporium.

“Just looking” I replied, and indeed I was, just looking in vain as it happened because I’d already read all of the comics on display.

There was a Beatles fan mag there but I’d read that too, and a Dave Clark Five fan mag but I wasn’t into drummer based vocal bands at the time, besides, they wore cuban heeled boots and my dad said they were “big girls blouses” because they “wore high heels”, so none of that in our caravan thank you very much.

And then finally after ten minutes of “just looking” I spied The Rolling Stones fan mag right up on the top shelf along with all of the dirty magazines that I wasn’t supposed to look at, “Don’t look up there” my mother would say, “that’s where the pure filth is” and she say it in a way that you just knew that it was worth taking a very quick sneak peek every time you walked past the wooden kiosk.

I rushed back to our caravan with my rolling Stones fan mag and as I walked in through the tin door my father caught sight of the rolled up colour special in my grubby little hand and asked what I’d picked with my half crown pocket money, I unfurled the glossy magazine and showed him.

His face was a picture, I can still see it now, I may as well have bought one of the Razz-Mags from the top shelf, full frontal cover page and everything.

I was marched straight back to the wooden magazine hut with immediate effect, my father leading me by the ear in best cartoon style whereupon the hapless teenage newspaper emporium guardian was given the bollacking of his life for selling “This innocent eight year old boy THIS bloody filthy magazine” at which point a small group of small old ladies gathered around to watch the scene, joining in now and again with “Oooooh thats awful” and “What did he do Mildred ?” and “That teenager sold this young boy one of those filthy magazines off the top shelf” and “Eeeeeh thats terrible that is, ought to be ashamed of himself”.

After five minutes of bollacking from my father there was quite a crowd gathered around the wooden hut and a hanging from a lamp-post was getting to be quite a possibility when the teenager grabbed half a crown out of the the till, snatched the Rolling Stones fan mag from my sweaty mitts and gave my father his, my, money back.

“I should bloody well think so too” my father called out over his shoulder as we stamped away leaving the teenager to deal with fifty old women who by now were all shaking their umbrellas at him.

So there you are Rolling Stones, you never got to be The Beatles because you never wrote a tune that your father could whistle to.

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