Tuesday, 24 July 2007

The Swinging Sixties

A good friend of mine, a former museum marketer, lives in Liverpool. Although retired she still keeps her hand in by taking on projects, one of which is The Beatles Story.

I am reminded just what an influence the group had on my adolescence and subsequently on my broader interest in music.

Like many youngsters I was brought up on the knuckle-rapping schedule of convent piano lessons (even though I was not of the Catholic faith). The Nuns were strict, some more so than others. There were competitions to demonstrate one's skill and each year, examinations to prepare for. If I recall correctly I rose to the lofty heights of Grade 5, theory and practical, but I was never going to be a concert pianist.

The value of a musical education is that it grounds one in musical theory and provides an ability to read music.

Come the Sixties and the advent of bands such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Merseybeats, Searchers ...the list is endless, my musical tastes broadened considerably. The teens are naturally rebellious years and the music of the time matched those inclinations.

When I got to boarding school I teamed up with a fellow boarder whose father owned a wood working business and therefore had some affinity with the manual arts. I by comparison, clearly did not.

My previous attempts at producing kidney shaped coffee tables in the high school woodworking class drove my tutor to distraction. One of the three legs was always shorter than the rest and discretely cutting it down to size seemed to extentuate the problem.

Motivation is a great thing and having heard the Merseybeat for the first time I determined that I wanted to build and play bass guitar.

The body of said instrument was cut out on the maintenance man's bandsaw. The guitar neck was a piece of straight grained oregon hewn from an old rugby goal post. Most guitar necks have steel reinforcing rod down their centre. Mine did not. This was to cause problems later as the neck had a habit of bending alarmingly once the four guitar strings were tightened (a good friend of mine from those days, Max Hayton, is pictured posing with the instrument in question).

Quite by chance I discovered I was a good drummer. Using knives at the school dinner table enabled me to learn the rhythmic rudiments and the school music master Trevor Nalder noted that I had some talent in that direction. I was invited to audition for the role of drummer in the newly formed school dance band - the rest is history as they say.

The photograph of my first group clearly demonstrates the influence of The Beatles, right down to the haircut. One could buy a plastic Beatle wig if truly desperate but fortunately I blessed with hair that naturally resembled Ringo's and I had the nose to suit.

Last year I finally got to hear one the Sixties groups I had idolised, The Searchers, perform live.
The music was just as good as it ever was. A toe-tapping beat and simple lyrics that epitomised that carefree decade.

..... and was it really 40 years ago today that we first listened to Sgt Pepper?

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