Birdwatching in the 1970s

birds-in-your-garden-1971Were garden birds so different back in the 60s and  70s?  A blackbird in 2017 seems pretty much the same as a blackbird in 1977 (or my memory of one) though an ornithologist may well beg to differ.

Take The Birds In Your Garden, an RSPB booklet from 1971.  Forty-six years on and it still does what it says on the cover, forming a perfectly usable guide for identifying and attracting garden birds.

Yet times have changed…
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This photo suggests the RSPB wanted to appeal specifically to suburban bird-watchers (I don’t think they were called twitchers then).

Our ideals of human habitation are clearly not what they were in 1971 though bird boxes cannot be so very subject to changing architectural styles.  I do recall some pretentious ‘heritage’ boxes in the 80s complete with pinnacles and turrets, suitable for the upwardly-mobile blue-tit perhaps.  The boxes above are perfectly in keeping with the pared down, dwelling-unit feel of the houses.

1973’s RSPB booklet, The Birds From Your Window was a rather more elaborate affair with a groovy font to boot:

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The illustrations, fine for identification purposes, are not a patch on those by Charles Tunnicliffe for his Wild Birds in Britain 50-card series for Brooke Bond in 1965:
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Brooke Bond birds: Waxwing, Long-eared owl, Long-tailed tit, Woodcock

The Birds From Your Window has pages on birds spotted by various well known people in their own gardens.  The choice of contributors – Humphrey Lyttelton, Joyce Grenfell, Robert Dougall and Peter Cushing – makes no concession to a younger audience though I was familiar with three out of four as a nine year old in 1973.  Peter Cushing proffers an elegantly written piece:

birds-from-your-window-peter-cushing-page

birds-in-autumn-winter-1975On to 1975, and Birds in Autumn & Winter is graced with a Tunnicliffe illustrated cover albeit without the decorative background detail which makes the BB cards so lustrous.

Fledgling tweets

I was only ever a casual bird-watcher through windows and on walks in the countryside around Guildford.  The birds were always so damned elusive though my Auntie Wyn was able to identify stray hoots and treetop twitters with casual ease.

My parents tried to interest me in a Surrey Bird Club membership as a Christmas present in 1973.  I didn’t make it to any of the club events but do remember leafing through their unillustrated magazine with its blue and green card covers.  Within, members crowed excitedly over rare sightings of exotic Scandinavian visitors or the occasional bird of prey in Cheam.

Winging it

I also recall a windswept trip to Pagham Harbour in Sussex in May 1978 with a Christian youth group.  This came just after the then Labour government’s introduction of the May Bank Holiday which fell on the coldest, wettest May day for several decades if not centuries.  Pagham too was cold and desolate.  We maybe heard the occasional screech across the mudflats but I don’t actually recall seeing a single bird despite long hours spent clutching binoculars in numb fingers.  A thermos of Heinz oxtail soup and white bread fish paste sandwiches (no crumbs for our feathered friends) helped sustain us through a long, grey day.

I think I went partly out of some misplaced duty to my parents.  As I shunned the numerous sporty events at least I could show I was relatively ‘normal’ by going on a bird-watching trip which was supported by a total of three boys out of over a hundred and fifty.  Well at least it was an outdoor activity…

The spirit of 1970s’ bird-watching is best captured by Martin Parr’s marvellous photos (again, Surrey Bird Club).  These are studies in English eccentricity where the camera is turned back on the middle-classes, patiently at leisure in the home counties.

birds-in-your-garden-bird-watchingFrom ‘The Birds in Your Garden’, RSPB 1971

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Scraps of Dr Who

Scrapbook coverAs this is the season of good will and indulgence, I hope you’ll indulge me just a little…

As a postscript to Dr Who: the 1970s’ Christmas omnibuses and from my 1973 scrapbook, I proudly present my very own cut and paste of the Radio Times cover for 15-21 December.

Nine years old and I can almost smell the Gloy golden gum…

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Scrapbook scrawl 1Scrapbook scrawl 2

Happy New Year!

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Dr Who 1970s’ Christmas Omnibuses

 

Dr Who at Christmas: the 1970s Christmas omnibuses: Part 2

Ken Dodd’s ‘We Want to Sing’, those slightly grim visits to children’s hospital wards fronted by Leslie Crowther… Christmas television wasn’t all a bundle of fun for a child of the early 70s.  

But the Dr Who Omnibuses certainly were.  From 1971-75, these glorified adventures became a fixture of my childhood TV Christmas as much as (well, rather more than) the Blue Peter Christmas appeal, Disney Time and All Star Record Breakers. 

Part 1 gave an overview of the tradition.  Here I’m recalling the stories which made up Christmas omnibuses for 1971- The Dæmons, 1972 – The Sea Devils and 1973 – The Green Death.


1971: Dr Who and the Dæmons
Tuesday 28th December,
4.20-5.50pm 

1.10 Grandstand – introduced by Frank Bough
3.55 Here’s Lucy
4.20 Dr Who and the Dæmons
5.50 National News: weatherman Jack Scott
6.00 Tom and Jerry

‘For the first time a complete adventure in one programme starring Jon Pertwee as Dr Who’  – Radio Times billing.

radio-times-christmas-1971

Spotting The Dæmons in Radio Times so completely unexpectedly just before Christmas excited me tremendously.  The anticipation of an hour and a half of my favourite story from my favourite TV programme totally out of the blue was a thrill almost beyond belief.  There was something amazing about Dr Who brightening a mere Tuesday too.

Even better, I’d missed episode two back in the Spring as it had coincided with our Whitson (rain and mumps) break at Lyme Regis in a bungalow which needless to say had no television.

Feature length fun

Note how the Radio Times billing, (which was accompanied by a Frank Bellamy illustration depicting the Master and the Doctor) highlights the omnibus’s feature film feel, encouraging the sense that it is a post-Christmas afternoon matinee treat for all the family to gather around and enjoy.

The 4.20pm start time (earliest ever for Doctor Who to date) meant I watched it with my parents almost throughout; in 1971, Christmas deamons-bylinewas still no more than a two day break from work for many people but this year Monday 27th and Tuesday 28th were Bank Holidays.

When it came to Dr Who, my father was fully signed up to The Daily Sketch’s maxim, ‘the children’s own programme which adults adore,’ dissenting only if it got ‘a bit too silly’ (Alpha Centauri was a bugbear).  He enjoyed and even admired the programme when he got the chance to see it and the relaxed schedule of Christmas offered an opportunity to really sit back and soak it all up.  My mother flitted in and out to prepare turkey sandwiches (well it was still the 70s) and slice Christmas cake as Azal ruminated on whether or not to sacrifice the Earth.

“A pleasing terror”

As drama dealing in the supernatural, Doctor Who relates to Christmas’ associations with darkness and magic.  This is especially true of The Dæmons.

The supernatural was a popular theme in film and television in the early 70s.  December 1970 had brought the unsettling Play for Today Robin Redbreast and it’s not insignificant that regular Christmas dramatisations of M.R.James ghost stories began in 1971.  Derek Johnston’s Haunted Seasons: Television Ghost Stories for Christmas and Horror for Halloween is an excellent account of this broadcast tradition.

Undoctored

The Dæmons had been the indisuputable highlight of Season Eight, or at least it was certainly seen that way at the time.  An expensive, location feel resembled British horror and supernatural films of the early 70s, meaning the serial lent itself extremely well to feature film format.

A reprise would remind audiences of the Master’s capture at the tale’s end, a storyline which would be followed up with the Doctor and Jo visiting an imprisoned Master in the following season’s The Sea Devils.

As a five parter, once titles and cliffhanger reprises were omitted, The Dæmons came in at just under two hours long, still a trifle longer than the average film.  Perhaps it was this, or the requirements of the schedule, which dictated a trim.

Approximately thirty-five minutes are lost to give an omnibus running time of ninety minutes.  So (forgetting cliffhangers and reprises) about a fifth of The Dæmons actual storyline has hit the cutting room floor.  I don’t think it has ever been revealed who decided what should be cut but Barry Letts must have had the final say.

The omnibus drew a very respectable audience of 10.5 million viewers, more than the average of 8.3 million who viewed the original showing.

ITV were showing a number of mostly children’s programmes in opposition.  As Thames viewers, we would have had The Charlie Brown Show, the always to be avoided Junior Showtime and radio-times-dr-who-daleks-jan-1972Magpie, none of which were competition for The Dæmons.

I still remember the sense of anticlimax when the final end credit of The Dæmons – ‘Directed by Christopher Barry’ – faded from the screen along with the ‘Dddrrrrrrrrrwwwrr!!!’

Still it was only four days to go before a brand new story began and in the meantime there was a Radio Times Frank Bellamy cover to study, depicting these strange ‘Daleks’ which, curiously, my parents were already familiar with.


1972: Dr Who and the Sea Devils
Wed 27th December, 3.05-4.45pm 

1.05 Grandstand – Introduced by Frank Bough
2.35 Screen Test
3.10 Dr Who and the Sea Devils
4.35 Thursday’s Child – 1/6 adaptation
5.05 A Collection of Goodies
5.30 National News
5.40 Tom and Jerry
5.45 Fifty Years of Music – or They Don’ Write ‘Em Like That Any More

‘The complete adventure in one programme starring Jon Pertwee as Dr Who’… ‘Now you can see again the whole of the Doctor’s struggle against the Master and the strange creatures from the bottom of the sea’ – Radio Times billing.

radio-times-christmas-1972Thump!  The Radio Times Christmas number lands on our doormat and I turn straight to the after Christmas listings and – yes!  As I had hoped, The Sea Devils is there.  At this point, my expectation of a tradition was established.

The billing is accompanied by a Frank Bellamy illustration and a caption bearing all the hallmarks of an enthusiastic but not very knowledgeable Radio Times staffer: ‘Time warp time – the Doc takes on the Master and the Sea Devils’.

No turkey  

Again, the choice of story is fervently the right one.  As Season Nine finale, The Time Monster was something of a damp squib: studio bound, experimental, too cerebral at times and a bit of a mess much of the time.

The Sea Devils was expansive, exciting, glossy, stylish, all round cracking entertainment.  With its flashy seafaring escapades, the most fondly remembered story of the 1972 Season ideally lent itself to feature film format.  And then there was that splendid swashbuckling swordfight between the Doctor and The Master.  Could that be a turkey sandwich Jon Pertwee is munching?sea-devils-byline

8.7 million viewers watched The Sea Devils in December, compared to an average of a little over eight million for the original Spring broadcast.

Meanwhile, Thames opted for an afternoon lineup of Looks Familiar (30s/40s nostalgia panel show) at 3pm, The Saint at 3.30, and at 4.25 Lift Off With Ayshea (Roger Whittaker, Olivia Newton John, 10C.C., and Frankie Stevens).

As a six-parter, an unedited transmission of The Sea Devils would have a running time of 2:30.  The omnibus clocks in at 1.40, representing a loss of approximately 50 minutes.

The Sea Devils omnibus was repeated again at 10.50am on Thursday 23rd August 1973 and again on Bank Holiday Monday 27th May 1974 in place of a cricket match making it the most exposed Pertwee story within his tenure.

Who on standby

In other repeats, Day of the Daleks appeared in a one hour slot on Monday 3rd September 1973 in place of the European Athletics Championships.radio-times-dr-who-three-doctors-jan-1973

It seemed as if Dr Who was becoming a reliable schedule filler.  As a child with no interest in sport, these totally ‘out of the blue’ reappearances had a magic of their own though why I was on hand to have seen them all, I cannot say.  It was almost as if, even in the middle of a summer morning, by wishing Dr Who were on, I made it happen.

After that breathtaking Christmas Sea Devils omnibus there would be only three days to wait for the new season.  My appetite had been whetted by the charismatic threesome adorning the New Year Radio Times cover.


1973: Dr Who: The Green Death
Thursday  27th December, 4.00-5.30pm 

1.00 Racing
2.30 The World of Jimmy Young
3.15 Penguin City – narrated by Peter Scott
4.00 Dr Who: The Green Death
5.30 National News
5.40 Tom and Jerry
5.45 Top of the Pops – Ten Years of Pop Music, 1964-74 with Jimmy Saville

‘A complete adventure in one programme starring Jon Pertwee as Dr. Who.  Deep in an abandoned coalmine the Doctor faces the hideous result of industrial pollution.  Now you can see once more the whole story of the terrible threat of the giant maggots’ – Radio Times billing.

radio-times-christmas-19731973 was the Christmas of The Goodies and the Beanstalk shown at 5.15pm on Christmas Eve on BBC-2.  But even The Goodies at their best was trumped by a repeat of my favourite Dr Who story to date.

Yes, the one with the maggots.  What lovely Christmas viewing to accompany a nation collectively munching on cold turkey sandwiches.

Radio Times this time features a two panel photo-strip to accompany the billing which shows Pertwee in close-up declaring: “The maggots are all over the place!” whilst in the second panel Jo and Cliff, clambering over rocks within sight of a giant maggot, exclaim: “…come on let’s get out of here!’

BBC-1 New Season!

The 1974 season of Dr Who began not on the first Saturday of the New Year (as had been the case on 3rd January 1970, 2nd January 1971 and 1st January 1972) but two weeks before that on 15th December 1973 meaning that The Green Death omnibus fell, somewhat inconveniently, between episodes 2 and 3 of The Time Warrior.

This inauspicious timing removed some of the impetus behind a repeat as curtain-raiser to a new season, especially as Jo Grant was now a Season Ten throwback having left at the end of The Green Death.  

Green Christmas 

The Green Death was by far my favourite story of Season Ten and my favourite Dr Who story to date.  I was thrilled that it, not, as I had feared The Three Doctors, was picked as the Christmas omnibus.  The 10th anniversary story featuring William Hartnell and Patrick green-death-bylineTroughton was of course a major landmark and had a pantomime whimsicality which lent itself well to Christmas.  But no, there’s nothing like a Welsh coal mine full of giant green maggots to brighten a Yuletide afternoon.  I suspect Barry Letts would have been especially keen to push for The Green Death as the serial aired many of his environmental concerns.

For all its high revulsion factor and ecological proselytising, The Green Death also had an unusually emotional storyline: the developing romance between Jo Grant and the young Professor Jones.  At the end of episode six, Jo accepts Cliff’s proposal of marriage, leaving the Doctor to drive off alone into the sunset.  This affecting side to the story and its tear jerking culmination makes for an appropriately heart-warming story for Christmas.

Galloping home

I vividly recall being so excited seeing The Green Death again that I could hardly tear myself away to go to the toilet (though you’ll be pleased to know I did).  I can remember galloping downstairs three steps at a time to get back to the sofa.

As a six-parter, The Green Death would have been 2.30 in episode format, so, approximately 60 minutes have been lost, unfortunately a more major incision than The Sea Devils’.

The audience was a healthy 10.4 million viewers, substantially more than the average of 7.7 million who viewed the original broadcast.

Thames gave us at 4.20pm Children of Eskdale, a re-showing of Barry Cockcroft’s acclaimed documentary and at 5.20pm Lift Off With Ayshea (Slade, New World and The All Night Rock Show sing ’20 Fantastic Sounds’).

The start of the new Dr Who season had still been marked by a Radio radio-times-pertwee-et-al-dec-1973Times cover (the pre-Christmas edition) which was perhaps not the best but at least Pertwee was centre stage.  So it seemed as if the Radio Times tradition was confidently continuing along with the omnibuses.  More than that, there was November’s brilliant Radio Times Dr Who 10th Anniversary Special to enjoy and the 1974 Dr Who Annual courtesy of Father Christmas.

Next week, I’ll conclude with a look back to the omnibuses of 1974 and 1975, Planet of the Spiders and Genesis of the Daleks, and speculate as to why the tradition ended there.


Dr Who 1970s’ Christmas Omnibuses Part 1
Dr Who 1970s’ Christmas Omnibuses Part 3

 

Created by Brian Clemens – ‘Thriller’

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Brian Clemens 1976

Brian Clemens died on January 10th at the age of 83.  His name is inextricably linked with television action-adventure and crime series of the 60s and 70s from Danger Man and Adam Adamant Lives to The Professionals.  Surely his most notable achievement remains The Avengers, a series so innovative and original it almost defines 60s cool.  Clemens himself was responsible for casting Diana Rigg as Emma Peel.

But for me, the name Brian Clemens is most closely associated with the 1973-76 ATV series Thriller.  Clemens created Thriller, wrote the majority of its 43 episodes and storyboarded the others, adding to his already prolific output.

Thriller had a number of good things going for it.  Each episode lasted seventy-five broadcast minutes (typically 65 minutes without commercial breaks), a very specific and unusual length for a British TV drama series.  That schedule-stretching extra twenty minutes seemed to symbolise the import of the series and, when well used, allowed room for a mood of mystery or menace to slowly develop.

Harpsichord stings

Even the shrill blasts of the ATV ident seemed to announce a deliciously terrifying seventy-five minutes was in store.

ThrillerThen there was Laurie Johnson’s doom laden opening music – creepy woodwind and those dreaded dissonant ‘ker-drrrrmmm!’ harpsichord stings accompanying a blood red framed, fish-eyed view of the locations to come – a forbidding old house (often with pillars) or bare trees clawing at a wintry sky.

The anthology format of self-contained episodes had the advantage of providing fresh actors in a new story each week.  It’s a shame that this flexible but reliable format has virtually vanished from television screens today.

Casts were stuffed with well known names – Dinsdale Landen, Peter Vaughan, Hayley Mills, Jenny Agutter, Jeremy Brett, Nyree Dawn Porter, Patrick Allen, Richard Todd, Patrick Troughton, Diana Dors, Tom Conti, Peter Bowles, Denholm Elliott to name but a handful.  To help sales to the States, American actors were planted in some episodes which could make for a slightly contrived feel.

Having seen the entire Thriller series on DVD forty years later, it’s a largely positive experience.  Unfortunately the series lacks the charm of The Avengers and there is a sense that the gin-and-jag world it portrays is a pretty corrupt place where seemingly anyone is prepared to kill, usually for money.

Some of the characters feel interchangeable but that could be down to box-set syndrome.

I don’t have a problem with the studio-bound sets which are actually pretty lavish by 1970s’ TV standards and were something of a hallmark of ATV.

Experiments with supernatural-themed stories work rather less well and the series feels on a firmer footing when these are phased out though Diana Dors is creepily enjoyable as evil nurse Bessie in Nurse Will Make It Better (1975).

I feel a little uneasy that a prevalent theme is a female menaced by a male (Clemens claimed audiences identify more closely with the vulnerability of a female lead) but my favourite Thriller, A Coffin for the Bride  (1974), turns the tables magnificently.

The series can descend into schlock, sometimes nerve-rackingly so as in A Killer in Every Corner (1975) with Max Wall’s first straight role as an obsessive shoe-polishing psychopath much talked about at the time.

When Thriller was sold to the States as a collection of standalone made for TV movies, the atmospheric original titles and music were excised to be replaced by truly terrible garishly coloured openers with generic music plastered over the top and some episodes renamed.  British TV viewers got to see these cheap and nasty versions when Thriller surfaced sporadically across the ITV regions around 1981 though many viewers would have missed these repeats altogether as there was little indication they belonged to the 70s Brian Clemens series.  Thankfully the Network DVD release restores the original fish-eye credits though the export versions are included as extras if you can stomach them.

Several Thrillers do stand out. Here are my two favourites.

The Eyes Have It

I missed the majority of Thrillers first time round.  Nine year olds were not the target audience (although, surprisingly, some episodes began as early as 8.15, well before the 9pm watershed).

But I did get to see one of the best stories, 1973’s The Eyes Have It on a 1975 repeat.   The sense of excitement at being allowed to stay up to watch this adult drama – and it felt exceedingly ‘adult’ – was immense and, that night, Thriller certainly did not disappoint.  A certain aura surrounded the series, handed down from parents and passed around in gossip at school and it felt great to at last be inducted into this exclusive club.

In 1975, The Eyes Have It thrilled and terrified me in equal measure.  The clichés of ‘glued to my seat’ and ‘unable to look away from the screen’ could not be more apt.  My childhood favourite, Dr Who, was moving into its Gothic period at this time which meant more realistic portrayals of the darker side of human nature in stories like ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ (Sarah being sadistically dangled high over the edge of a rocket’s scaffolding, Nyder’s cruelly complicit smile as the Daleks’ slaughter commences).  In many ways Thriller felt like a natural step-up and satisfied a need in me to be both chilled and excited in greater measures.

The Eyes Have It pre-credits teaser (a key aspect of the series) shows us a doctor murdered by strangers as a young woman stands by apparently unconcerned.  The killer waves his hand across her line of vision as she continues to smile.  Only then, after this unnerving opening does the camera pan to ‘Clinical Training Centre for the Blind’ and we’re into the title sequence.

A group of terrorists have infiltrated the school because its location offers an ideal vantage point from which to carry out an assassination.  The story is of how the blind students gradually become aware of what is happening and, despite the odds being severely against them, seek to overcome the terrorists.

The acting (Peter Vaughan, Sinead Cusack, William Marlowe, Denis Waterman) is very good and there are some wonderfully poignant scenes which stick in the memory, such as the students continuing life as usual while, unbeknown to them, the body of the doctor lies only feet away.  In another nail-biting scene, one of the students seeks help from a stranger only to realise from the familiar feel of his ring that he is one of the terrorists.  The precision of the storytelling and the sense of menace is almost palpable.

A Coffin for the Bride

Once you get over the slightly tacky double murder scenes at the start, this opens out into a thoroughly original mystery.  Michael Jayston plays Mark Walker, a charmer who makes a living out of marrying and then murdering wealthy women.  But his well oiled schemes fall apart when he meets the beautiful Stella Mackenzie (there’s a clue in her being a set designer…)

A Coffin for the Bride relies hugely for its effectiveness on a strong performance from its female lead and a young Helen Mirren is terrific.  I can’t say too much here for fear of spoiling your enjoyment if you’ve not seen it.  Suffice it to say that the ending is as devastating as it is completely unforeseen (well, by me, anyway though I do think Mark might have noticed those dentures before they are pulled out on him).

I played this story a second time and noticed a crucially placed lookalike figure in the background at the health resort.  Whether this passer-by is a purely incidental inclusion or a deliberate one, her presence acts as a subliminal decoy, steering you off the scent of what’s really happening and making the outcome all the more shocking. Subtle and clever.  I got as much enjoyment seeing A Coffin for the Bride for a second time just to enjoy the careful setting up of the story at each stage.

A Coffin for the Bride is reputedly Brian Clemens’ own favourite from the series.

The wrap-up

In some ways, Thriller reminds me of a traditional ‘good night out’ at a provincial theatre where thrillers have long been a production mainstay and always seem to star Gerald Harper or Christopher Cazenove.  The mood would be one of deadly melodrama threatening to burst through English middle-class self-restraint.

It’s quite rare to see anything approaching genuine psychological motivation in thrillers (Psycho, is a notable exception) and to an extent you have to accept the limitations of the genre to enjoy this collection too.  The thrills are indeed psychological but they stem from imposed plot devices rather than from characters of subtlety and complexity. Thriller takes a premise, setups a scenario which implies a certain endgame and then deliberately subverts that or, in some cases such as I’m the Girl He Wants to Kill (1974), simply plays it out relentlessly.

Thriller Box setYou can enjoy the sense of manipulation when it’s in the name of suspense – and suspense, Thriller delivers in spade-loads.

For all the thrills you could ever want, visit the Thriller website.

The entire series is available on DVD box set.

Lynsey De Paul – No Honestly!

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Singer-songwriter Lynsey De Paul died yesterday at the age of 64.

She was one of those early-mid 70s figures who always seemed to be ‘around’ whether as a Whodunnit panellist (I got her muddled with Anouska Hempel) or as a Top of the Pops regular and, I would imagine, the musical interlude in countless comedy and variety series, introduced as ‘And now, adding a little glamour to proceedings, it’s the lovely – Lynsey De Paul!’.  But that is how it was for many women in the 70s, set to play second fiddle to the men.

Like many young males at the time, I was probably a little in love with Lynsey De Paul.  As well as glamour, she had a cheekiness and a slight air of mystique as if willingly trapped in the femme fatale role she often chose for herself.   She was looking to be rescued by a knight in shining armour.  There was a definite coy sexuality at play too as some of her record sleeves show (1974 album Taste Me, Don’t Waste Me and 1975’s frankly tacky Love Bomb though chart success was proving a little more elusive by this time).  Her music often had a 20s/30s feel which wasn’t uncommon in the early 70s.  It was the way to go if you were pure pop rather than glam or prog.

Three Sugars

Today I’ve listened to the three songs of Lynsey De Paul’s which I remember best:  Sugar Me [1972], Won’t Somebody Dance With Me [1973] and No Honestly [1974].  It’s probably the first time I’ve heard all three in nearly forty years.

I’m quite surprised that Sugar Me was her breakthrough single as it doesn’t really seem to do a lot beyond that cutely, boppy feel. It comes and goes without leaving much of a trace, well maybe a sweet aftertaste.

Won’t Somebody Dance With Me (why never a question mark at the end?) took the period mood to greater lengths and appropriately perhaps, won an Ivor Novello Award.  Inspired by Gilbert O’Sullivan’s pre-pop style, it’s coyly enticing with a pretty melody sung in Lynsey’s demurely sultry voice and is easily the best of these three songs.  It also forms my most personal associations of Lynsey De Paul and a memory of a particular weekday afternoon around late 1973.  A friend of mine, Richard, had bought the single and wanted to play it to me after school one day.  He was hugely excited about it.  So we sat on the floor beside his sister’s record player, he put the needle on the record and the music played.  He was clearly in love with Lynsey and, I think, with the song’s air of fatalistic romance.

No Honestly was the theme to the London Weekend sitcom of the same name and is still insanely castanet-catchy.  I used to tune in just to hear the theme at the start and was disappointed when the ‘No’ became ‘Yes’ and a new, hugely forgettable theme, Yes Honestly, replaced Lynsey’s.

It’s been said that she wrote a song for the 1983 Conservative Election Campaign, or was it the Party Conference?  I’m hugely relieved to find there is no trace of it.

So these three De Paul songs will suffice for me though I’d swap Sugar Me for Storm In a Teacup (which she co-wrote) if it could be The Fortunes‘ version.

There are a couple of 2CD compilations if you want the full Lynsey.

Lynsey de Paul – 11th June 1958 – 1st October 2014


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