Saturday 12 May, 1979; FA Cup Final: Arsenal 3 (Talbot, Stapleton, Sunderland), Manchester United 2 (McQueen, McIlroy)
I don't remember where I was when this game was played, but I certainly didn't watch it at the time. A shame, as it was one of the better finals. And Arsenal won, of course, so that makes it even worse. But don't worry, I'll go on to miss even more important games and goals before we get to Moscow in May. I'd given up on football by then, you see, so for the next few years, I only have discographies and charts to navigate my way through the years.
1979 starts well; 'Hit me With Your Rhythm Stick' hits the number 1 spot on January 27th. Ian Dury and the band, who'd appeared wearing munipal donkey jackets when they'd performed on Top of the Pops the week before, celebrate their chart-topping feat by donning tuxedos. It's knocked off the top spot by the sublime 'Heart of Glass'. The song seemed to be everywhere for the rest of the year, but it only stayed at number 1 for four weeks. I picked up the 12 inch single version recently. It still sounds astonishing. 'Sunday Girl', a mauve vinyl copy of which I use to be the proud owner, follows its fellow Parallel Lines cut to the top on May 26. Two weeks earlier, and we could have had a decent number 1 in place for the Arsenal players to lift the FA Cup to. As it is, they have to be content with 'Bright Eyes' by Art Garfunkel. You can't win them all...
It's a good year for chart music. Gary Numan has number ones with 'Are Friends Electric?' and 'Cars', the Boomtown Rats hit the top with the epic 'I Don't Like Mondays'; a song I couldn't stand at the time, but which sounded majestic when I heard it recently on Smooth FM. Even Cliff weighs in with the classy and (as some of us were brave enough to admit even at the time) irresistable 'We Don't Talk Anymore' which is number 1 for four weeks from August 25th. Then there's a date that I can order my life around. 'Message in a Bottle' goes to number 1 on September 29th. The Police will have another number one in December with 'Walking on the Moon', but they've still to have their first chart topper when Toby and I go to see them at Hammersmith Odeon on Sunday 23rd September. I mention it because it was my very first gig. The Police were supported by a punk band called The Straps whose lead singer was, with the inevitable logic of the time, called Jock. Or at least that's what I thought. But it seems that I'm confusing this visit to Hammy Odeon with one I made in March the following year to see Stiff Little Fingers. There's evidence right here. And here. So the support for the Police must have been a band called Fashion. Sadly, I can't find any evidence to corroborate this, so you'll just have to take my word.
The Straps: Bob doesn't get to see them supporting the Police...
The unverifiable support act out of the way, the Police take the stage. It's a big night for them, on the cusp of huge success as they are, and they only have two fairly skimpy LPs from which to select their set. Consequently, there are quite a few extended jams and guitarist Andy Summers is wheeled out with an inflatable doll to do a quasi-music hall routine on a song called 'Sally'. We're right at the back of the stalls, but we still pick up the buzz that's runnning through the hall. The Police won't play many gigs this small again, so we catch them at a good time. The bus ride home seems memorable too, as if it marks some rite of passage; coming home late on a Sunday night like grown up people do. It's a weird, to quote an album title of theirs, synchronicity, then, to open our window recently and hear the distant strains of 'Message in a Bottle' wafting towards us from their reunion concert at Twickenham rugby ground; the band sounding as far away as that concert now is in time.
Somewhere in that other distant time, Michele Bayer has a party, so that brings along another first. Her Dad is a pretty cool fellow; not only is she allowed to have her friends over to wreck the house, but he has a vintage jukebox too. It's another England v. Poland type evening. The promise of glory - in this case, getting drunk and getting to know a pretty girl - is unfulfilled. England, with its limitless propensity for shyness and poor tolerance of beer, always lets you down.
And yet it could all have been very different. Somewhere in 1979, in a woodwork class, I'm making Yeski Marten (Shirley Maclaine in The Apartment) laugh. She's our age but has always seemed at least two years older than the rest of us. She's mature in every respect (Caspar once groans "let me drown in your breasts" as she walks past him...); intelligent, pretty and worldly-wise. She has a shuffling, listless walk that oozes sulky boredom. It's as if she just can't wait for this dull expanse of school time to be over so she can get on with doing something worthwhile. Like being an actress, perhaps; Yeski Marten wants to be an actress. Every heterosexual male in our year fancies her, so she probably stands a good chance. And, right now, I'm being funny and making her laugh and no one cares the slightest bit about woodwork. Yeski is laughing because of something I have said and with the casual spontaneity of those who are unrepressed, she links her arm with mine. Involuntarily, I move my arm away. And Yeski Marten isn't laughing anymore. The moment's come and gone; past the door I didn't open, the arm I didn't link. It could all have been so different...
November comes and with it the first two contemporary LPs I remember buying; Setting Sons by the Jam and The Specials' first album. I still have the Jam but the first 2-Tone LP is long gone. I'd pinched the first single from Woolworths too; my copy of 'Gangsters' allowed to be spirited from me as thoughtlessly as I'd whisked it unseen from the singles rack. I still have 'Eton Rifles' though, the 'razzle' in my own thieving pocket, the second prize.
I spend a lot of time at Caspar's house in Hampton Hill. We write songs there, him playing stand-up piano, me on an acoustic guitar. They tend to go like this:
When I saw you outside Woolworths
And the moonshine struck your hair
My heart began to palpitate
So I thought you were a chair
You threw me out the window,
You poo-pooed on the lawn
You covered me in excrement,
Boiled beef, stew and carrots..
Moonlight is you my sweetheart...
As I said, it was a great year for music.
Much of it is plugged on The Kenny Everett Video Show. David Bowie, who is becoming the latest obsession, appears on it performing 'Boys Keep Swinging'. In the video he's helped to perform the song by three 'female' backing singers. By the end of the performance, they are all revealed to have been Bowie himself. Apparently the single had been selling really well until the video was screened. But the song's playful gender uncertainties were made more overt and sinister when visualised and consequently hit an awkward nerve with the public, thus stalling the single's progress. Not even Bowie's appearance in a brilliant skit with Everett, who's dressed half as city businessman and half as stockinged and suspendered pin up, seems to be able to undo the damage. "I fought two world wars for young boys like you", Kenny rants as he chases the Thin White Duke around the studio in his high heels, wielding an umbrella. "They never gave me one..."
Bowie appeared on the Radio on 20th May, playing two hours worth of his favourite songs; Lennon, Lou Reed, Link Wray, Elgar, Glass, Danny Kaye. Again, the memory is at fault; I thought it was on Capital radio, so spend hours searching and come up with nothing until I find out that it was broadcast by the BBC. It was the first programme in a series called Star Special and offered a fascinating insight into the man and the eclectic nature of his taste. I could only find a transcript, not a music file when I looked on-line. Reading through, it's reassuring to note that Bowie looks as scrambled in print when he DJs as I sound on my podcasts. I may not have been able to track down a music file of the show, but I did come across these - not what I was looking for, but perhaps some even more fascinating clips of Bowie being interviewed by 12 of his fans on Capital Radio in February of the same year.
The year ends on a high; indeed the decade ends on a high. Bowie, the man who's cast the longest shadow over the 1970s is on hand to see those ten years off. In the minutes leading up the new decade, Kenny Everett plays the video reworking of Bowie's earlier hit; 'Space Oddity'. It's captivating stuff. Bowie sings over a stripped down reworking of the song from a padded cell. It's his own John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, ushering in the new "realist" Bowie;as if he's singing 'the dream is over' to the decade that's just gone. And maybe it was. But for me, copying photos of Bowie into a sketch book, it should all have been about to begin.
L.U.V. on y'all,
Hear Bob read extracts from his diary of the 2007-08 season, "The Road to Moscow"!!
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