Saturday, October 24, 2015

Living in the past

Let's go back 45 years to September and October 1970. At school, I was in a class named RE1 - Remove Express 1 - where I and 30 schoolmates would try to do in three years what most people required four years (O levels). My form master was Mr Roger Perry, who lived in a neighbouring street to mine. History, a subject which hadn't greatly interested me until then, was taught by Mr "Sam" Houston; this year we had an experimental syllabus about American history, so my lack of interest in the middle ages was not a handicap. English lessons were split between a regular teacher (Mr Camp? Don't remember) and a visiting American, 'Bud' Stillman. 

Over the summer I had become greatly interested in writing poetry - "The Mersey Sound" had become my constant companion, and I had also become interested in Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Gregory Corso. Stillman was well aware of these poets and was, as they say, the right man in the right place. At first, he was very encouraging, but as time went on, we had some disagreement and I ceased to be his pet.

At the same time, a professor from the University of California, Davis (UCD) came for a sabbatical at Bristol University. I have no idea now what his subject was; I don't remember if I ever met him. But he did have a family which included a 14 year old daughter (and maybe one other?); she had three things going for her: she was female (naturally), American and Jewish. Thus I was deputised to look after her. The family lived at the 'other end' of Henleaze Road, near the Downs on one side and near Robert on the other side; their home was about a fifteen minute walk from mine.

I tried to make her my friend but there seemed to be no spark whatsoever between us. Apart from several chats, the only extra-curricular activity that I remember was taking her to a Jethro Tull concert at the Colston Hall on 4 Oct 1970, when they were touring the 'Benefit' album. I recall writing a song for this girl, entitled "Mebbe Debby" (ie maybe Debby will ...), which was a rock'n'roll song in the style of Little Richard or Chuck Berry. I have a suspicion that I wrote in on piano. No words survive. The song told of the non-relationship between us and probably was very derivative, both lyrically and musically.

Musically, things were to change in November 1970, but more of that in a few weeks' time.

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