Having recently watched the brilliant film "Stan and Ollie" regarding the decline of Laurel and Hardy and their UK Tour, Mrs Bob and I ventured North to the Fun Capitol of the World that is Blackpool.
As a kid this was a paradise for fun and frolics, the temple of mirth and merriment. It was the late fifties when the factories closed down for two weeks and the workers made their way to the coast. "Are we there yet?, I can smell the Sea!!" and for sure there was no better sight than that first glimpse of the sea for this City kid upon arrival. As you got to the beach the smell of suntan lotion and cigarette smoke became all pervasive and our family of parents plus four kids, would waddle like Emperor Penguins through the masses, desperately seeking a square yard of sand in which to huddle, smother ourselves in Amber Solaire and lay our holiday eggs so to speak.
Of course being the 50's all my memories were in black and white
Fast forward a few years to my teens, the swingin 60's, I visited Blackpool a couple of times but this time as part of a touring group, as did some other Brummie groups of the day,
sometimes we would pass each other on the road in our lipstick covered vans and all give each other a wave or the 'V' sign, (in the English sense) depending on what you thought of them, followed verbally by "Wankers!".
If you were in a bigger band you didn't wave back.....van snobbery. Its hard to conceive that The Beatles and the Rolling Stones were amongst the more famous bands doing the same thing...but only to each other of course. It was a rite of passage.
We did all the piers and clubs around the UK coast and once a year we would de-camp to Wales where a promoter would put us up in a farm house and we would go and lie on the beach, travelling to various Welsh gigs throughout a 10 day period. We would see the posters for us as we approached the various seaside towns and it gave you a lift because you knew there was always an energetic crowd egging you on, enjoying themselves which was a great reward to any band. It was a fun time and I had as much fun as I could get.
These days you could have the beach to yourself. Sadly most of those venues have long since closed too. Blackpool is quite shabby today and maybe it was just as shabby back then but I never noticed. Tribute bands up the ying-yang...Urrgh! Its weird but it felt like a Stephen King Movie where I was in two different realities and my past was fading away in front of my eyes. It was nice to revisit if only for a day but I felt as if I was in black and white to others Social attitudes and expectations have changed so much though and rarely would a child above 2 be happy with a bucket and spade, they'd be looking for the USB port. "Where's the controller Daddy?"
and now some gossip...
JOHNNY NEAL - Back in Action??
Now I'm not one who likes gossip but I hear that Johnny Neal could be thinking of doing a small gig in Brum. Well thinking is not good enough if you ask me. I know that there are several musicians of the day who would be delighted to get up and knock out some songs with him and they have even discussed it....but this is only gossip. Johnny had a great career in South Africa after his days in rock and roll Birmingham. He returned to Birmingham a few years back where he rightly should be. With his band The Starliners he graced the stages of the UK for a long time until getting a cabaret gig in SA which turned out to be a winner when he wrote and recorded a song that topped the charts there.
There is one thing for sure and that is if you were a cool dude way back in the 50's and 60's there's a chance that you might have become a fuddy duddy, stick in the mud sort of guy 60 odd years later, playing golf. Well I'm pleased to say that my worries are unfounded and today he still looks the business.
|Johnny Neal copyright Maggie Neal|
OK you folks, I'm off to the Swimming Pool. Pastie and hot Bovril afterwards!!