‘I Was a Child of the Sixties…’

As the sadly lost Nanci Griffith sang, going on to sing ‘When dreams could be held through TV’. Well, yes, TV was important to me – the small black and white set which took ten minutes to heat up and gave us two stations, as we sat, avidly, in the dark in front of a real fire in our house in West Lothian. But TV was much the lesser cousin to my over-riding passion, which was pop music. I was 13 in 1970, so my musical loyalties are neatly split by the beginning of the ‘70’s. If I am ever a contestant on ‘Mastermind’ my specialist subject will be ‘British and American chart music from 1965 to 1975’. In 1973 I started working in a record shop but by 1975 I went to university, and pop music faded a bit from my own personal chart of interests, being replaced by some more adult hobbies. Still, from the age of 10, pop music was my obsession, my raison d’etre, my first, my last, my everything. Until I was 12, my house lacked a record player, because my parents, truth to tell, weren’t all that interested in music of any type. So, music came from three sources – my transistor radio, under my pillow, a single earphone, a tiny plug, enabling me to listen to ‘Junior Choice’ rather than go to Sunday School. Then there was the TV, with ‘Top of the Pops’ the big moment of the week. On a Thursday, before getting on the bus home, I would get my copy of ‘Disc and Music Echo’, and in it would be listed the acts on the show that night. Then, more oddly, there was the big reel to reel tape recorder my dad bought. We recorded ourselves being daft and songs from the radio. I have one big tape that starts with the main theme from ‘Dr Zhivago’ – which was played at my dad’s funeral –  and then has Auntie Lizzie performing a song from the 20’s – ‘Let the Rest of the World Go By’ in her fine, churchy voice. If I shut my eyes, I can hear her still, though I haven’t had a reel to reel tape recorder for thirty years.

It was my teenage life, really. I still listen to 60’s music every day. I swore I would never become one of these sad old men who complains about the ‘music of today’ but I have. Like most people over 50 (well over, in my case) I couldn’t tell you about any hits of today, and yes, yes, it mainly sounds the same. Do they still have charts? For a while, they didn’t even have vinyl records, but now, of course, they are very cool. I am sure I could sell my original single of the Showstoppers ‘Ain’t Nothin’ But a Houseparty’ and buy myself a nice dinner, but that won’t be happening.

Nobody is going to ever make me believe that the ‘pop’ (is that still even a word?) of today holds a candle to what I was lucky enough to submerge myself in back when I was a boy. Let me give an example. The top twenty from mid-April 1967, around my tenth birthday had The Beatles, Manfred Mann, The Alan Price Set, The Seekers, The Four Tops and the Monkees in it and at number 1 was the sublime duet ‘Something Stupid’ by Frank and Nancy Sinatra. Now ok ok, there’s also some less memorable stuff in that chart but even in the lower reaches of the Top Forty there are gems – Harper’s Bizarre’s fabulous recording of ‘Feeling Groovy’ didn’t get beyond no 34, but there also, making its first entry is ‘Dedicated To the One I Love’ by the Mamas and Papas – imagine hearing that for the first time. Or ‘Penny Lane’ or ‘Purple Haze’. All in the chart that week. Imagine.

It was the soundtrack of my life, in a way that no music has been since. It is in the wind of summers real and imagined and punctuated Christmas every year in the form of the ‘Top of the Pops’ special edition (we didn’t do the Queen). And individual songs have special associations. Here is a story.

In August 1969, I went to stay with my father’s parents, Jeanie and Jimmy, in Menstrie, a tiny town in Clackmannanshire. I was 11. On Thursday 14th, Jimmy went out to play cards and Grandma Jeanie and I watched ‘Top of the Pops’. Jimmy came home before I went to bed, cheery; possibly drink was involved, I don’t know, but he had won some money and he gave me a half crown, that most useful gift from grandparent to grandchild, which was shortly to disappear as currency. He went to bed and, only shortly later, was found dead there by Jeanie. I knew what had happened but, probably usefully, I pretended to be asleep until my dad got there.

In all these 53 years since, one thing I remembered was watching ‘Top of the Pops’ and I remember that Zager and Evans were on, singing that definition of a one-hit wonder, ‘In the Year 2525’, which I loved, but I never heard it again without thinking of Papa Jimmy. Or ‘Too Busy Thinking ‘Bout My Baby’ by Marvin Gaye or ‘Si Tu Dois Partir’ by Fairport Convention. These three songs were on ‘Top of the Pops’ on August 14th 1969 and, when I hear them, I am carried back to a summer in Menstrie and I am young again, just a child in the ‘60’s.



  1. I’ve got 5 more ‘nails on my cross’ than you, but the overlap on popular music of the 60’s is a shared but intermittent entusiasm for me. One of the really great facilities on the modern ‘internut’ is the ability, on a whim, to revisit that music without all the kerfuffle of dragging out decks and amplifiers etc and dusting off the scratched vinyl still piled up in the spare bedroom. It can be like flicking a switch in time, but it is also redolent of a rather primitive artform in comparison with the more sophisticated progressive modern muisc of the 70’s and later (IMO) ….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I find music tremendously evocative. Like you, I’m most affected by the music of my teens. One of the joys of modern life is music streaming. Putting the whole side of an album was a ritual of youth (there was always a favourite side, usually ‘A’) but now we can pick snd choose virtually any song in history. I may select a few from the ones mentioned here later…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m in Dundee tonight for the Cockney Rejects, school tried and failed to knock that out of me. Present company excepted! Buzzing like an old fridge. Living the music of your youth is a great thing regardless of what your era is. Every chance I’ll miss the last train and have to fall back on my carbisdale training 😂


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