Popular music that helped me through the 1950s

It was on Friday 14th November 1952 that the British singles music charts were first published – but I knew nothing about it!  It was not until Friday 23rd October 1953 that I really ‘hooked into’ popular music of the day.  I kept notes and I played records – and I was told by my parents quite often to ‘turn that noise down’.  Sometimes I did as they asked!  Below are the records for the first 8 years that I made sure I heard who was holding the number one slot on the Friday nearest that magical first date above

1953 – Frankie Laine with ‘Hey Joe’ [2 weeks]

1954 – Don Cornell with ‘Hold My Hand’ [4 weeks]

1955 – Jimmy Young with ‘The Man from Laramie’ [4 weeks]

1956 – Frankie Laine again, this time with ‘A Woman in Love’ [4 weeks]

1957 – Paul Anka with ‘Diana’ [9 weeks starting on 30th August]

1958 – Connie Francis with ‘Carolina Moon’ with ‘Stupid Cupid’ on the flip side of the double ‘A side’ [6 weeks from 26th September.

1959 – Bobby Darin with ‘Mack the Knife’ [2 weeks]

1960 – it’s a new decade and Roy Orbison has ‘Only the Lonely’ at number 1 for 2 weeks

Let’s just roll forward 40 years to the 23rd October 2000 and we find U2’s version of ‘Beautiful Day’ holding the top spot – for me another special number.

So that’s me – do you have musical memories like this?  I’d love to know if you have.

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The first man to fly up, then fly down – and live.

It was on Sunday 22nd October 1797 that André-Jacques Garnerin carried out the first known parachute descent with a silk parachute at Parc Monceau, Paris.  Before he began his ascent the parachute resembled a closed umbrella with a pole running down its centre with a rope running through a tube in the pole that connected it to the balloon.  He rode in a basket attached to the bottom of the parachute.

At a height of around 3,000 feet (1,000 m), he cut the rope that connected his parachute to the balloon. The balloon continued its flight skyward while Garnerin, with his basket and parachute, went in the opposite direction!   As it fell the basket swung violently.  Then it landed – bumping and scraping as it did.  Then the basket stopped and out climbed Andre-Jacques Garnerin – the first man to descend safely and climb out uninjured!

This was just a beginning and Garnerin went on to stage regular tests and demonstrations at Parc Monceau in Paris. In 1798 he announced that his next flight would include a woman as a passenger. Although the public and press were in favour, he was forced to appear in front of officials of the Central Bureau of Police to justify his project.  They were concerned about the effect that reduced air pressure might have on the organs of the delicate female body and loss of consciousness, plus the moral implications of flying in such close proximity.

However – after further consultation with both the Minister of the Interior and the Minister of the Police – the injunction was overturned on the grounds that “there was no more scandal in seeing two people of different sexes ascend in a balloon than it is to see them jump into a carriage.” They also agreed that the decision of the woman showed proof of her confidence in the experiment and a degree of personal intrepidity.

We’ll come back to the result of that next year!

A king that changed England

Anne became Queen of England on Wednesday 8th March 1702 and, on Sunday 1st May 1707, under the Acts of Union, two of her realms, the kingdoms of England and Scotland, united as a single sovereign state known as Great Britain.  Seven years later, on Wednesday 1st August 1714, she died in Kensington Palace in London.

Let us roll forward now to Saturday 20st October 1714.  By the terms of the Act of Settlement, at her death Queen Anne, who had no surviving children, was to be succeeded by her second cousin; George, Elector of Hanover who was to be crowned King George I on this day in Westminster Abbey.  However, the service was less than smooth!

George could not speak much English so the ceremonies had to be conducted mostly in Latin as his ministers could speak no German!

He was also not a choice of most people in the country and, on the Coronation day, banners mocking the new king were displayed throughout the country. When loyalists celebrated the Coronation they were disrupted by rioters in over twenty towns in the south and west of England. In addition to this, the Tory aristocrats and gentry absented themselves from the Coronation, and in some towns they arrived with their supporters to disrupt the Hanoverian proceedings.

Things were happening across parts of Britain on the night before the coronation.

In Taunton one Francis Sherry said that “on the morrow we must take up Arms against the King”.

In Birmingham a local rioter, John Hargrave, said they must “pull down this King and Sett up a King of our own”.

In Dorchester rioters attempted to rescue an effigy of the Catholic James Stuart, who had a strong claim to the throne, that was to be burnt by Dissenters and asked: “Who dares disown the Pretender?”.

The Anglican clergy mainly kept a low profile but at Newton Abbot the minister removed the bell-clappers so that the bells could not be rung in celebration of the Coronation.  All in all it was a very unusual Coronation.

During George’s reign however, the powers of the monarchy diminished and Britain began a transition to the modern system of cabinet government led by a prime minister. Towards the end of his reign, actual political power was held by Robert Walpole, now recognised as Britain’s first de facto prime minister.

George died of a stroke on a trip to his native Hanover, where he was buried.

1920s music and some rather good performers

Paul Samuel Whiteman was an American composer, orchestral director and violinist as well as being the leader of one of the most popular dance bands in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s.  Bing Crosby and Al Rinker had been together in a Jazz band in Spokane, Washington while in college. However, the band was so popular that the two dropped out of college and drove Rinker’s Model T to Los Angeles where Rinker’s sister, Mildred Bailey, who was a Jazz singer, was working. Shortly after their arrival in Los Angeles they landed a gig on the vaudeville circuit, as a vocal act. Some members of Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra caught their act and recommended them to Whiteman. Nothing appears to have happened.

Don Clark was a former member of the Whiteman band and, in 1926, offered the two individuals that were waiting & hoping to join Paul Whiteman the chance to make their first record.

They said ‘YES’ and, on Monday 18th October 1926, accompanied by Don Clark’s Biltmore Hotel Orchestra in Los Angeles, Bing Crosby and Al Rinker recorded “I’ve Got the Girl”.  The song was recorded using an electrical, not acoustic, microphone and “I’ve Got the Girl” was released on a 78rpm disk as Columbia #824-D. On the flip side was Don Clark’s instrumental version of “Idolizing”. Two months later Bing and Al joined the Whiteman Orchestra in Chicago, where, on December 22nd 1926, they cut their first records with Whiteman — “Wistful and Blue” and “Pretty Lips”.

I think it’s safe to say that the ‘rest is history’.

I was sitting in Switzerland and watching things in Mexico.

It was Friday 18th October 1968 and four of us were having an evening drink or two by a lake in Switzerland.  We were on a product training course across the border in France but staying in Switzerland.  The Mexico City Olympics was on the television and the men’s long jump was about to begin.  I had done some long jumping at school and Pete’s son was a school high jump champion.  Alan and Chris were good at drinking beer!  We had been watching ‘our man’ Lynn Davis – the then reigning Olympics long-jump champion – but his first jump was poor – almost a foot shorter that the women’s champion had achieved!

Bob Beamon had come close to missing the Olympic final, overstepping on his first two attempts in qualifying. With only one chance left, he had re-measured his approach run from a spot in front of the board and made a fair jump that advanced him to the final.  When the final stages were beginning, and Bob Beamon was preparing for his first leap, Alan said ‘he don’t look very good; beers all round guys?’  We said yes and turned to the TV screen.  Beamon got ready, set off down the track and took off.  It looked pretty good but Alan returned with the beers and they now took precedence – although we all did watch his leap.

My beer was almost empty when the announcer called out the distance for the jump, 8.90 m (29 ft. 2½ in.)  Bob Beamon was unfamiliar with metric measurements and didn’t realize how far he had jumped.  It was when his teammate and coach Ralph Boston told him that he had broken the world record by nearly 2 feet, Bob’s legs gave way and an astonished and overwhelmed Beamon suffered a brief cataplexy attack brought on by the emotional shock, and collapsed to his knees, his body unable to support itself, placing his hands over his face.

In one of the more endearing images of the Games, his competitors then helped him to his feet.  Lynn Davies told Beamon, “You have destroyed this event,” and in sports jargon, a new adjective – Beamonesque – came into use to describe spectacular feats.

We also came to our senses and called for another round of beer to celebrate!

I can but hope!

In 1948 the Grey Walls Press in London published a book, edited by S. L. Locker, called ‘The Nature Diaries and Notebooks of Richard Jefferies’.

For Saturday 16th October 1878 Richard is in Surbiton, Surrey and records a fascinating scene: ‘Wasp and very large blue-fly struggling, wrestling on leaf.  In a few seconds the wasp got the mastery, brought his tail round, and stung once or thrice; then bit off the fly’s proboscis, then the legs, then bit behind the head, then snipped off the wings, then fell off her leaf, but flew with burden to the next, rolled the fly around, and literally devoured its intestines.  Dropped off the leaf in its eager haste, got on third leaf, and continued ‘till nothing was left but a small part of the body – the head had been snipped off before.

This was one of those black flies – a little blue underneath – not like meat flies, but bigger and squarer, that got to the ivy.  Ivy in bloom close by, where, doubtless, the robber found his prey and seized it.

Now, I spend a reasonable amount of time in my garden, and watch all kinds of birds and insects, but have never seen anything like this.  Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m watching and writing in 2017.  The book was published in 1948 and this recorded event took place in 1878.  Do you think that if I watch in my garden in 2018 I may see something similar?

A new coin replaces the old 10 bob note

It was Tuesday 14th October 1969 and a new 50-pence coin sparked confusion among the British population. The seven-sided 50p coin had come into circulation to replace the 10-shilling note but had received a mixed reception.  It was the third decimal coin to be introduced into the British currency – a currency that was scheduled to go totally decimal on Monday 15th February, 1971 – day to be known as D-Day!

The British public had already got accustomed to the new 5p and 10p coins that had been introduced in 1968. Today’s new arrival was made of cupro-nickel and was, according to Lord Fiske, the chairman of the Decimal Currency Board, the only heptagonal coin in circulation in the world.

However some shopkeepers, bus conductors and members of the public were complaining that, in spite of its distinctive shape, it is too easily confused with the 10-pence coin or half crown.  One Londoner told the Evening News that he had accidentally left a 50p coin in a saucer full of 10ps as a tip for a waiter.  “Fortunately the waiter was dead honest and told me. But I suspect there’ll be a lot of cases where that doesn’t happen,” he said.

The Decimal Currency Board had stockpiled some 120 million 50-pence coins at banks around the country ready for this day’s introduction of the coin, making it the largest ever issue of a new coin.  Lord Fiske said the reason for this was to replace the 200 million ‘ten-bob notes’ as soon as possible and added that the issue would eventually save the Treasury money.

He said that “the note is being replaced primarily on economic grounds. A 10s note has a life of some five months and the costs of distribution and withdrawal are comparatively high. Although a 50p coin will cost more to produce initially, it should have a life of at least 50 years and the metal will subsequently be recoverable.”

None the less, many people were unhappy with the new addition to their purses and pockets.  There was also still three coins left to come – the 2p worth 4.8d, 1p (2.4d) and half pence (1.2d).  No doubt we’ll come to these in due time.

George Orwell writes from Marrakesh about chickens and hens

Wednesday 12th October 1938: George Orwell writes to Jack Common who was looking after his cottage:

‘I hope the hens have begun laying. Some of them have by this time, I expect, at any rate they ought to.

We’ve bought the hens for our house, which we’re moving into on Saturday. The hens in this country are miserable little things like the Indian ones, about the size of bantams, and what is regarded as a good laying hen, i.e. it lays once a fortnight, costs less than a shilling. They ought to cost about 6 pence, but at this time of year the price goes up because after Yom Kippur every Jew, of whom there are 13,000 in this town, eats the whole fowl to recompense him for the strain of fasting 12 hours.’ 

I think I would be very happy to be offered a British chicken!

In writing this I have discovered something new (to me) about George Orwell – he was actually named Eric Arthur Blair!

Chris Tarrant – a man of many rolls

Christopher John Tarrant was born on Thursday 10th October 1946; was educated as a boarder in Choir House at the King’s School, Worcester where he represented the school at hockey and cricket. He briefly became a researcher for the Central Office of Information before becoming a newsreader on ATV Today.  It was in 1974 that things progressed. For 8 years between 1974 & 82 he hosted the ITV children’s television show Tiswas.  Two years later – in 1984 – he joined Capital Radio and was host for 20 years.  He is probably best remembered, though, for his 16 years on the ITV game show ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire?’

In March 2014 he suffered a stroke at 39,000ft on a work flight from Thailand to London.  Doctors at Charing Cross Hospital, London, told him he’d had a stroke, and did emergency surgery to remove a blood clot from his right leg. Chris recalls: “They were brilliant. I’m always aware that if I hadn’t gone I could be in a wheelchair. What happened makes me want to enjoy my life. I take medication and pills. I keep pretty active.  I’ve got a big rambling estate in Berkshire so I walk around hills as I can’t stand the gym. I think I’m mentally fit, too.”

What does the morning bring forth for Queen Victoria & Albert?

Yesterday evening we left Queen Victoria, her husband Albert and their ‘team’ settling down to sleep after far from exciting food yesterday.  So what did Wednesday, 9th October 1861 bring forth for the Royal couple?  Queen Victoria tells us that…

It was a bright morning which was charming.  Albert found, on getting up, that Cluny MacPherson, with his piper and two ladies, had arrived quite early in the morning; and, while we were dressing, we heard a drum and fife – and discovered that the newly-formed volunteers had arrived – all indicating that we were discovered.  However, there was scarcely any population, and it did not signify.  The fat old landlady had put on a black satin dress, with white ribbons and orange flowers!

We had breakfast at a quarter to nine o’clock; at half-past nine we started.  Cluny was at the door with his wife and daughters with nosegays, and volunteers were drawn up in front of the inn.  They had all assembled since Saturday afternoon.

We drove as we did yesterday.  There was fine and very wild scenery, high wild hills, and no habitations.

We’ll leave the pair now as they enjoy the Scottish landscape,