I think I was on holiday - that's when I first remember music for the first time I'm sure, yes on holiday in the 1960s as a child - or was it?
Most of what I presume to be my early holiday memories are at Withernsea, usually on the beach [embarrassing photos; skinny me with national health prescription glasses] or at night in an old caravan with my sister Jean and Alan her husband - or was he still her boyfriend then? [hissing gas mantles, lighthouse beams crossing the window regularly in a counting-sheep sort of way]. I recall Alan laid next to Jean one evening, on those uncomfortably narrow seats that you had in old caravans, impressing me with his ability to transfer cigarette smoke from his mouth to Jean’s, which she would then puff back out for him. Or were those just memories of day’s out, or trips, rather than holidays per-se? Many of them may well have been at Hornsea I guess, which may just have been the place the Gibson clan had travelled to for centuries, possibly since we were hunter-gatherer Gibsons. Proper holidays came much later.
So I think it must be Hornsea that gives me my earliest musical memory; it looks like a French film-noir in my mind. A hot sunny day so bright and over-exposed that all the detail is bleached out of the picture, but one part of the memory is vivid - the soundtrack. Throughout my childhood, and even in to adulthood, the musical soundtrack to my life has been very important to me - almost above all else at times, but particularly the 1960s. That's what the 1960s was - MUSIC - it was everywhere, and it was joyous. Never has a period in history been so rich in the quality of its popular music, and in my life.
I suppose it must have come from a jukebox in a coffee bar, or a milk bar, where I was being treated to an ice-cream - so rare an occurrence that when one appeared we took photos [see photo of the young Gibby clutching an ice cream wafer sandwich on Drainside] or maybe the music was just 'in the air' as we walked along the front. I don’t think it could have been on the car radio because we never had a car; although Dad was licensed to drive any vehicle on the road since his time in the war, he didn’t actually need a car because our world was so small then. About two square miles around a nucleus of 33 Richmond Terrace [Drainside] would probably have contained all his movements from one year to the next, and consequently mine also. Our house, i.e. the one I was born in, in the upstairs front bedroom, was built facing the Cottingham Drain, which ran past our house only about 12 feet from the front door. Across the drain was the old Moor’s & Robsons’ brewery, which probably accounts for a lot, but more of this later…circa 1976.
But hey - memory alert-memory alert! I may have been in Mr Lowsley’s car. Neighbours of ours on Drainside included the Lowsley’s [further west along towards the iron bridge and the big orange Brook Bond Tea tin sign on the house that used to be a shop] I think Mr Lowsley had a car and that’s how we - I think I was with his sons - got to the bleached out/over-exposed destination sur-la-mer. I seem to remember liking the small scrawny brother, but do I remember an older one as well, who was a bully?
'Help' by the BEATLES was released on 23rd July 1965, shortly after my fifth birthday [was it a birthday treat that seaside trip?]. Although I remember it as a bright exciting up-beat song, that now takes me back to that very moment every time I hear the first few chords, it was actually written by John Lennon in the depths of despair [according to that great Beatles book Revolution in the Head, pp.122-121]. But for me that first hearing of 'Help' was a seminal moment. So my first real musical memory was around the age of five.
I do have some early memories of school that have some music in them, but they are very vague, thin memories.
I can remember walking towards Clifton Street Infant School - my first school experience apart from Fig Tree Gospel Hall Sunday School, and all of the school were singing 'All Things Bright And Beautiful', which remains my favourite hymn.
This was not my last school by a long way as I went from Clifton Street Infants to Blundell Street Juniors, and then to Brunswick Avenue Juniors all in the space of four or five years, with more moves in the 1970s. Oh aye - I can also remember being in the nativity play as one of the wise men I think… 'Myrrh is mine its bitter perfume…' or something like that.
I am the youngest of eight, and that would have been nine, as Leslie Gibson - who would have been my nearest brother - was born in 1958 but died after just a few days, and was the inspiration for me being the only one of my siblings to have a middle name. There were four boys and four girls, and my siblings cover a very wide span of years, me being born in 1960 and the eldest – Enid, born way back in 1938, 22 years my senior. Consequently so much of the music I remember as mine was actually hand-me-downs really [like my clothes], but that one Beatles track is my first confident musical memory. In retrospect the BEATLES seem to have a lot of tracks on my sixties soundtrack, but then again they would, wouldn’t they?
Sister Jean, who was working at Smith & Nephew’s at the time [excellent bee-hive hair do] and brother John both listened to ELVIS [see 1970s - playing old singles etc.], ROY ORBISON, GENE PITNEY and CLIFF RICHARD, so some of their music would have been playing in the Gibson household even before I was born. None of my family was or are particularly musical. Mum and Dad certainly weren’t as they both were far too busy looking after us lot, and the males of the Gibson line all found their entertainment in their respective pubs; they all went to separate pubs - Dad to Burn’s Head, Granddad to County Hotel, Arthur to Smokey Joe’s etc.
There was a radiogram in the house though, as with most households with no telly, the radio was the first evening entertainment, although Jean can remember that as a girl she supplemented the excitement of the radio by running round tracing the pattern of the carpet in the ‘middle room’. The middle room was the second room you came to from the ‘front passage’.
The first was the ‘front room’ [deceptively simple] where the telly and the budgie were, oh - and where the fireplace that the hamster [or was it a guinea pig?] used to run up was as well. The only other room on the ground floor was the kitchen, complete with a ‘range’, a pantry and a coal-house under the stairs. The kitchen was at the end of the passage, beyond the door to the middle room. Outside was the very dark, very cold, very outside toilet, but the less said about that the better - the only music in there was people whistling and the rustle of the Hull Daily Mail.
In the middle room was our very posh radiogram of circa 1960 - same as me. Big - or it seemed so then – veneered, rounded corners, woven speaker cover, very spacey 1950s splayed legs and sliding door with ornate flowery central brass handle, which revealed the creamy coloured turntable bit when slid open. It sat underneath the back window and probably had a ‘doily’ on top. All their records would have been played on this. But hang on, I think I can remember sitting on my mothers knee [‘having five minutes’] in the middle room listening to the radio with her. Was that 'Listen with Mother', and does that count as music? It must have been pre-school, so 1963-64’ish. Was that on the old radio or the radiogram?
I can also remember being in front of the radiogram on the floor with a girl - probably being a bit physical - or was I to young? No, I definitely remember being erm, - amorous with her, and she was possibly my first love, and lived across the drain on Cottingham Terrace I think. I may be getting this all wrong - so any ladies of my age reading this please - no offence intended and I hope I didn't mentally scar you for life. Her house was on one side of an arched entrance to a small court, one of two courts that sat in between the rear of their terrace and the court housing that led off Raywell Street [think the court was called Minerva Place].
Hmmm girls, My only memories of girls from the 1960s are the aforementioned young lady - who may have been Jill? I recently discovered a photograph from Blundell Street School showing her, and also a present that I was to give to her - another photo, this time of me with 'for Jill' written on it in my early handwriting. Another girl was from a family that took over Auntie Phylis's house that was near the house that was a shop, with the big tin sign etc., with whom I was even more 'adventurous' down the back alley to our houses, and there was another… but I can’t remember her name, but she lived far-far away, must have been at least three streets. Probably Little Reed Street, which is now mostly taken up with that furniture store where you pay nothing for three years then pay with interest free credit and 'the offer must end on Sunday' - that has been going for years.
And what about telly - TV THEMES? What about 'Andy Pandy' and the 'Woodentops' etc., they all had theme tunes – so does telly count? Yes, and laying on the floor in the front room watching telly, looking up far too near the screen, my head on my hands my elbows on the mat, although only Sunday evening seems to ring a bell. THE AVENGERS, SUNDAY NIGHT AT THE LONDON PALLADIUM with that little Spanish puppet mouse, I still have little plastic models of him, he was called TOPO-GIGIO!. There must have been musical guests, but I have no memories of those. Jean says the telly appeared in the very late 1950s and was rented from ‘Telebank’.
You fed the coin meter on the back of the set and built up vouchers or stamps as you went along, which you could then use to buy new sheets or curtains when you had enough. Although similar in design to the radiogram, the telly was annoying because it went off when the two-bob had run out; right in the middle of important bits - Emma Peel having a judo fight in her leather suit for example - although that's possibly remembered for slightly different reasons now. This led to there always being a pile of coins on top of the telly. Everything seemed to run on a slot meter then.
The nearest siblings to me in terms of age were Denise, Anne and Colin - who sadly died in 2005. Their music being in the house would account for my knowledge of 1960s pop, which is probably more than it should be for someone of my age. I think I must have had it etched subliminally into my mind during my childhood. From early 1960s rock & roll through to the ‘beat’ groups and Mersey sounds to the Brit-pop rockers like THE KINKS and THE SMALL FACES. The Small Faces with pretty little Steve Marriott were Anne’s particular favourite [why didn’t we keep those scrap-books of hers?] whilst Colin’s were predictably the ROLLING STONES. I can remember things were a bit crowded at Richmond Terrace and Colin and I sharing a bed for some time. At the foot of the bed hung his duffle-bag, which always had his set-square from his technical drawing class poking out of the top. Then it was gone, and so was he, as he married in 1968, aged 17, and obviously was unable to sleep with me anymore. I think Denise was a MOTOWN fan, which accounts for all the excellent ‘Motown Chatbusters’ LPs that I played at our next house, but that’s the 1970s.
Someone must have been a MONKEES fan as well. When you got to the landing at the top of our stairs there were two adjoining doors on your left, which at first sight appeared to be matching cupboard doors. If you opened the left-hand door there was a sharply rising spiral staircase that led to the attic room. I remember it painted yellow I think; someone [granddad?] used to keep hens up here, complete with home made incubators apparently, probably a left-over from wartime. On the far wall were life-sized posters of the Beatles, and possibly the Monkees. The Monkees poster may have been one of those made up of a mosaic of 'chewy cards'; a section of the picture featured on the reverse of the cards, which you got inside packets of chewing gum, and other sets included 'The Man From Uncle' with Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, and possibly 'Joe 90' - although that may have been later. When joined up the cards formed a large picture if you got the full set. All of these were purchased from the newsagent on the corner of Liddell Street and Rodney Street with my 'tanner' pocket money, which soon raised to a 'three-penny bit', probably my favourite coin ever.
Other gems in the attic, that would today send people rushing to the Antiques Roadshow, were Beatles guitars [tacky red and white plastic and nothing remotely like guitars - more like Ukeleles] and BEAtles carry-all’s. These were supposed to be airline bags, and were navy blue with zip-tops and shoulder a strap, for British European Airways that were part of the huge Beatles merchandising goods. These were all played-with on a large mattress or two that remained from when my brother John and his wife lived up there.
But before I go prattling on endlessly about music in the 70s, what about clothes and music? The two things seemed inseparable at times, as if clothes were a badge indicating what you listened to. And where does it come from - is dress sense one of those things you acquire or is it inherited I wonder? If it was inherited then I would appear to have been in mixed hands, judging by the old photographs of my family in thier finery.
An atmospheric shot of my uncle Ron from the 1938 (below) shows him as the 'spiv' he was in his twenties – ‘Oxford Bags’ with creases so sharp you could cut yourself on them, and immaculate in every way from the top of his Brylcreemed head to the tip of his brogues. His suit probably went straight back to the pawn‑shop on Monday until it was rescued again next payday, ready for another weekend session. He was also known as a gifted snooker player, and I can imagine him stalking the tables like a Sculocoates version of George Raft at the many snooker clubs in our neighbourhood; the Cobden Hall perhaps, or maybe his favourite ‑ the Palladium Rooms beneath the New Theatre. Another slightly later family photograph shows Auntie Gertie in fine fettle, in a striking Ava Gardner type pose at the seaside (Hornsea of course, where else? ‑ we didn't know they had sand anywhere else but Homsea). I suppose all of this must have filtered down to me in one way or another but how it manifested itself in the young Gibby is an entirely different matter.
In the beginning we were so poor we had no clothes, and ran around naked in the house until our fifth birthday, then Dad bought us a flat‑cap so we could at least look out the window - tell that to the kids of today, and they won't believe you ... Not quite the truth, but not far off in our case. The lack of new clothes and the means to buy them in much of my childhood has left me with little interest in fashion, which sort of remains the case to this day; clean, tidy and fairly neutral is enough for me. Born in 1960 somewhere between Elvis and the Beatles, and the youngest of nine, there was always music in our house. This excellent grounding has left me with a varied knowledge of many styles and periods of music, some of which had minor effects on my so‑called dress sense later on in my teens. In my early youth clothes were just something you threw on as you sped out in to the sun and onward to adventures in bombed buildings, down drain banks and up in old brewery store rooms ‑ no one had a thought for fashion, and it was never pushed upon us by the media because ‘the media’ hadn't been invented yet. Needless to say, stripey t‑shirts, tan shorts and plastic sandals or canvas sannies' were the order of the day. These were supplemented with anoraks in inclement weather or balaclavas if you were really unlucky. The anoraks were only ever worn by means of hooking the hood over your head as well - only girls put their arms in the sleeves, and what was the point of that?
I have no sense of being aware of clothes or fashion until my teens, by which time music (courtesy of the Beatles, Elvis etc) had become inextricably linked with fashion. Merchandising and image promotion had become all‑important with the advent of the British version of bubble‑gum pop. I suppose this really kicked in when David Bowie and his early band ‘Hype’ brought theatre into rock performances with his scarves, gold lame and dramatic costumes. It was these performances that were watched by an envious Marc Bolan who accidentally took the idea one step further on 25 March 1971. As he was gearing up for a performance of ‘Hot Love’ on Top Of The Pops his assistant hastily daubed two spots of glitter on his cheeks as a joke; the shock wave was felt throughout TV-land as millions of pubescent kids reached for the Gloy Glue and tubes of glitter and Glam Rock was born. I have to say that all of this did nothing to make me want to go clothes shopping. Although a fan of Marc Bolan at the time, and even more so of David Bowie, I still couldn't see myself in gold lame, or gold anything for that matter. I suppose also that we never really had the luxury of choice in our house and I had only just escaped from hand‑me‑downs, and they were not always from older brothers.
I have no memory of how it started, but fashion must have crept up on me in a small way somewhere around 1973 or 1974. Photographs from around then show me in clothes that could have been described as vaguely fashionable I guess. Sadly the fashions of that period were atrocious and I defy any male of my generation to produce a photograph that shows them looking anything but daft. My musical tastes being so varied that I never really followed any trend, happy just to have the music. Often we wore strange amalgams of bits we had picked up on elsewhere. Two of my slightly older sisters had boyfriends who were almost Mods, then Suede‑Heads etc. and their image must have played a part; I remember them leaning nonchalantly on the laid back seats of their scooters, or at the door of their Ford Escorts outside our new house on Bransholme. Consequently, a very trendy Gibby can be seen in an early 1970s photo wearing a Ben Sherman shirt, Fair Isle jumper, Stay‑Press trousers, brogues and a Levi Jacket ‑ oh ‑ and just to set the look off, a camouflage fishing hat. Well I was only 13. The late 1970s saw a more mature look ‑ cheesecloth shirts, wide denim trousers (not jeans) and waistcoats. Musically, new friends at Bransholme High School had introduced me to many new sounds. Alongside David Bowie, T Rex and Slade I was now a fan of Glen Miller’s big band swing, George Gershwin's American orchestral pieces, Scott Joplin's syncopated piano rags, and Django Reinhart's Hot Club jazz guitar, as well as classical favourites such as Chopin and Rachmaninov. Somewhere amongst this complicated fusion a common denominator emerged ~ GUITARS.
One musical performance at a school concert featured an older pupil Doug Smelt playing a tune by Santana called Samba‑Pa‑Ti, which blew my mind – and my ears, as I was behind him playing rythm guitar. The sound of his Fender Strat set against the school Hammond B3 organ turned me on to a whole new scene. Since then I have acquired a love of most guitar music and have developed an affinity for Blues music, which remains my favourite style and that which I play myself since learning the guitar from the age of about 15 onwards. This led to many visits to record emporiums such as John Sheridan's on Anlaby Road or Shakespeare Brothers in Paragon Station to buy up old LPs. I soon caught up with late 1960s classic guitar bands such as Free, the Stones, Cream, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck etc., and this in turn led me to seek out larger concerts. I was lucky enough to catch some groups before they disappeared, such as Led Zeppelin who I saw at the Knebworth Festival in 1979 supported by a strange mixture of bands as diverse as Chas & Dave and Fairport Convention.
The discovery of beer around 1974 ‑75 also played a part in my musical choice, and as a real bonus there were places you could get beer and listen to guitars ‑ hurrah! Rock night at Tiffany's was a must on a Monday night, straight from the Spring Bank Tavern and its excellent juke box (remember them?). Other favourites were gigs at the Lambwath on Barham Road, Bali-Hai in George Street and the New York Hotel on Anlaby Road; all were usually visited once a week or more. My favourite fashion items then were Levi Jacket, Levi Jeans, Doc Marten boots or trainers, and a shirt or t‑shirt, which were all acceptable at the aforementioned venues. This wardrobe dominated the period and with few exceptions remained my staple dress until very recently. Generally speaking, if it requires a tie or a suit ‑ I don't really do it, although one exception was the 1980s when I was nearly fashionable during my ‘black’ period. During this time I visited Spiders nightclub for some years dressed in black Levi jeans, black suit jacket (sleeves rolled up of course) black pointed suede shoes and a black shirt or t‑shirt. I shuffled around the dance floor arms flailing and bumping into all the other darkly dressed folk blissfully numb after eight pints of Tetley's and several rum & blacks, before falling out in to Cleveland Street for a 'carpet-burger' from the van outside, and the long walk home to Bransholme. The music thudding in our ears then was the Smiths, the Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen and Frankie Goes To Hollywood. The rest of the 80s was t-shirts with slogans and then back to Levis and shirts. I did have a short phase of wearing some of my Dad's gear that I borrowed from his old wardrobe - usually thin ties and an overcoat. The 1990s was spent discovering more guitarists and re‑visiting 1960s music I had only half heard the first time as a lad. My ‘fashion’ remained unaffected and unchanged as it is today.
Now in my middle years (eek) I have an amazingly varied taste in music but it is leaning towards any music with soul ‑ real, heartfelt music created by real people, whether that is Folk, Blues, Rock, Jazz or even a Brass Band I don't really care. As long as it moves me I appreciate it. As for my fashion trends, well since about 1989 what you see is what you get. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes – the 1970s ...
© Paul Gibson 2009