My very first concert was to see Jimmy Ruffin at the Floral Pavilion in New Brighton. We were massive Motown fans and couldn’t quite believe that he was really playing in our little Northern English seaside town. Marvelous Mum went for the tickets and managed to get almost front row. So, so, so exciting. I will never forget the magical moments before he came on stage, and the anticipation of waiting. My best friend from school and I were all glammed up, platform shoes, mine were red with a yellow heart, wide wide flares, and a cheese cloth smock, blue eye shadow just like we were shown in Jackie magazine, we were the bees knees. It was wonderful, singing our hearts out and having the time of our lives.
Since then I have have been lucky to see lots and lots of live music. I bunked off school to queue for tickets for the Faces at the Liverpool Empire back in 1973. In those days if you wanted to see a band you had to stand in the street with everyone else and make your way slowly to the box office, hoping supply wouldn’t run out before you got there. We were ok, I got the tickets and started a life long love of both Rod Stewart and the Faces. I have seen Rod lots of times since, and was at Manchester Belle Vue to watch the Faces just before they split up, another amazing night out. I think the coach load of Scottish boys sitting behind us really added to the fun. Most recently I went with my best friend to the MEN to see Rod, I was delighted to hear him sing songs from the Faces days, and for a couple of hours I clearly was 15 all over again.
I also saw Sweet in a night club in my home town, they were a massive band with a number one hits, quite why they were appearing over the Bingo Hall in downtown Seacombe I have never understood. This was an amazing night, up until the moment that the dark interior of the night club was flooded with light. About half way through the set, the band were rocking, all heads, including the band turned to the source of the light, which was the exterior door to the club, flung wide open and the bright lights beyond illuminating the dance floor in front of the stage. It was one of those moments, frozen in time. It must have only been seconds, but felt like hours, when I realised the reason for the open door and the light. My Mother was standing there, in her car coat, scanning the crowd and pointing to her watch. With the eyes of the whole gig upon me I stood up and went to the door. ‘How long is this going on for?’ she asked ‘I am fed up waiting in the car for you’. To say I was embarrassed would be an understatement. I think I shoved her outside and shut the door to have the conversation. I did walk back in, but didn’t quite feel as happy as I had done before. Mothers!!
My love of bands and pop stars got me in a few scrapes in teenage years, never more than the infamous trip to see Stardust being filmed in Manchester. Imagine if you can a 16 year old me and my mate. We love David Essex and notice in Dad’s Daily Mirror that the sequel to That Will be the Day, is being filmed in Manchester at the weekend, and they want extras!! No matter we had never been to Manchester in our lives, that we had no idea how to get to the venue, we were going to be in a film!! Very careful attention was paid to getting ready. My brand new feather cut hair was perfect. I chose a brown (I kid you not) skirt and cream top, that was rather tight, American Tan tights and brown brogues completed the look. My friend decided on her lovely black flared trousers with a red t shirt and yellow jacket, after all we were going on camera.
We got a train from Liverpool Lime Street early on the Sunday morning heading East towards Manchester. I love start of the journey from Lime Street as the railway track cuts through high sandstone walls through the city. On reaching Piccadilly Station we stepped out onto the concourse expecting to see a signpost to the venue, don’t know why we thought that, we just did. Of course that didn’t happen so we asked lots of different bus drivers until we found the right bus and jumped on. In those days the buses were the old Route-master type with the open platform at the back to hop on and off. On reaching our destination we excitedly saw lots of young people across the road. In my rush to get off the bus I slipped and landed on the road in a heap. Disaster, I had cut my knees and more importantly my tights were in holes. I can’t be in a film with holes in my tights, what could we do? Sundays in those days meant no chance of a shop being open, we had to improvise. Luckily under the black flares my friend had a pair of tights so we decided to swap. But where could we do it. No visible toilets, we were struggling. I spotted a police station and in we walked. I announced my fall from the bus, a bit dramatically, and soon several rather young PC’s gathered round to look at my legs, and my tight t shirt too. A bowl was produced with warm water, and cups of tea offered. We thanked them and used the toilets to swap the leg ware around. Assuring the bobbies that all was now well we made our way to the venue.
As we approached we could see the queue was reducing so joined at the end. We saw stars arriving in very ordinary cars, Keith Moon waved out of the window and Ringo was meant to be in the car with dark windows. To say we were excited was an understatement. Gradually we crept nearer the entrance. Eventually we were there, 4 hours after leaving home, we had made it. Thanks to the Daily Mirror for telling us of this wonderful opportunity we were about to be film stars. Well, that was until the man at the gate said the hope dashing words, ‘have you got your tickets girls?’ Tickets!! tickets!! the Daily Mirror definitely did not mention anything about tickets, and we most certainly did not have tickets. With a wry smile the man at the gate turned from us to the people behind, the people clutching their tickets. So, we never did get to be in Stardust, my lovely brown skirt and cream top were never immortalised on film, and we no choice but to head to the bus stop for the journey home.
To my friends credit she didn’t blame me, we had had an adventure and we laughed most of the way home. We went to many other gigs together, but always made sure we had tickets!
The love of concerts is something my daughter has clearly inherited from me and even though she is not yet 20 I suspect she has seen nearly as many live acts as I have. We went together recently to see The South, members of the former Beautiful South, who she has grown up to listening as I sang along in the car. It was a great night, even hubby was on his feet singing and dancing along.
Lets not underestimate the power of live music. Ipods, itunes, downloads, MTV all have their place, but actually being in the same space and hearing music being performed is an amazing experience. Even when it isn’t great, pub bands, and famously the crazy Elvis impersonator in a pub in Birkenhead around 1994, who was less like Elvis than I am, all have merit. It is the people who set out to entertain, and people wanting to listen. that makes the magic. Or not in the case of Elvis!!