Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Bag a bargain!


Just a quick update to say that my novel 'A Suitable Young Man' a nostalgic tale set in 1950s Lancashire is available at a special promotional price of 99p in the UK see http://tinyurl.com/qy9yth7 or 99c in the US see http://tinyurl.com/mbalje5

Sorry promo prices only apply to the UK and the US.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Songs for the Memories

Front cover and one of the three discs

My lovely hubby recently bought me a 3-CD set called ‘Number 1 hits from the ‘50s.’ It’s great value at only £3 especially as they’re all the original artistes. And, oh, what memories those songs have brought back! There’s a wide range of songs covering everything from the ballads and instrumentals of the early 1950s, through to rock and roll and ending the era with Cliff Richard. Here are some of my memories stirred by the songs.

In 1954/55, Johnnie Ray and Frankie Laine were big stars. I was about fifteen or sixteen then and some older friends took me to see Johnnie Ray on stage, though I can’t remember the venue. He was famous for hugging the microphone and actually crying during his rendition of ‘Crying in the Rain.’ These same friends also took me to see Frankie Laine at Belle Vue in Manchester. He had such a powerful voice singing songs such as ‘Woman in Love’ that it filled the arena. Although she’s not mentioned on the CD, about the same time, I went to see Ella Fitzgerald at the Manchester Free Trade Hall. I will never forget her rendition of ‘Every Time We Say Goodbye,’ which she sang unaccompanied.

Just listening to The Platters singing ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’ and The Dreamweavers singing ‘It’s Almost Tomorrow’ now brings back vivid memories of smooching with a boy I fancied at a somewhat seedy dance club in Horwich called the Fling. Here’s an excerpt from ‘A Suitable Young Man’ in which my heroine, Kathy, gives her impressions of the Fling.

Intimate would have been a kind description of the Fling. The dim lighting softened the dinginess and shabbiness and chairs were scattered around its perimeter, interspersed here and there with a dilapidated sofa. She’d been able to make out several couples necking there. The music, though, was something else. The pulsating repetitive sound of ‘Rock Around the Clock’ and others by Bill Haley and the Comets, some she’d never heard before, sent her senses racing and her feet itching to bop. When the music had slowed right down and the record, ‘Earth Angel’ sung by the Crew Cuts, came on, the lights dimmed to almost blackness. Bodies welded together, arms twined round each other, cheek bonding to cheek, becoming mere silhouettes, only the occasional iridescence of moth-like pale colours illuminating the scene. The atmosphere was faintly decadent, almost dangerous, and she was stirred in a way she couldn’t put a name too.

And Bill Haley’s ‘Rock Around The Clock’ never fails to get my feet tapping. Memories of bopping to that and others such as ‘Razzle Dazzle’ ‘Shake Rattle and Roll’ are vivid even if I no longer have the energy or the breath to bop!

Which brings me neatly to the advent of rock and roll. Unless you lived through those times, you have no idea of the impact that rock and roll had on the youth of the 1950s. After all the ballads and big band sounds of the 1940s and early 1940s that our parents loved, it’s no wonder that we appropriated the rock and roll sound for our own and that there were riots at cinemas showing the movie ‘Rock Around The Clock.’

Nor should anyone underestimate the effect that the introduction of Elvis Presley caused. With his smouldering good looks, quirky smile, gyrating hips and provocative movements, especially in such numbers as ‘All Shook Up.’ Not listed on the CD but equally memorable was his first big hit ‘Heartbreak Hotel.’ Here’s another excerpt from ‘A Suitable Young Man’ that sums up the moment.

Suddenly Nick hit a clear signal and a moody voice rang out in the cosy room, a voice that seemed to jerk from phrase to phrase. The dark bluesy voice sang of finding a new place to dwell in Heartbreak Hotel with a sob on the last two words.
Joyce sat up higher, intrigued. She’d never heard anything like this before, not even when Johnny Ray had toured Britain the previous year. ‘What’s that, Nick?’ she asked as her brother’s hand poised over the dials, not daring to touch them now in case he moved it off station.
‘I don’t know,’ he admitted. ‘It could be Radio Luxembourg or that American Air Base you get some times.’
‘Sounds like cats on the lavvy roof to me,’ harrumphed Mary.
‘Mam!’ exclaimed Joyce, still trying to listen to the fascinating sound coming, for once, clearly from their old wireless.
Nick, too, was silent, listening as the sobbing voice dipped and crescendoed. When the song finished, brother and sister sat in stunned silence apart from Joyce’s whispered, ‘Wow!’ Then the announcer, an American, came on to say ‘And that, folks, was the rockabilly singer Elvis Presley’s new record, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, now storming up the Hit Parade.’
‘Who did he say it was?’ asked Joyce, still bemused.
‘Some bloke, American by the sound of it, Elvis Presley.’
‘He’d have to be American with a name like that,’ Mary commented.

A similar effect came with Tommy Steele’s ‘Singing the Blues.’ Guy Mitchell had released a version of the same song but it was version by the tow-haired young Tommy Steele with his marked South London accent that became a hit in the UK.

The 1950s ended with Cliff Richard singing ‘Living Doll.’ With his own swarthy good looks, he was seen as the UK’s answer to Elvis Presley.

Many more tracks evoked a whole host of memories, such as Eddie Calvert’s rendition of ‘Oh Mein Papa’ which was one of the first records my Dad ever bought for our new radiogram but I stuck with the memories special to me.