I've been thinking of doing this for ages now: songs that first made me sit up and listen to what was coming out of the radio. Obviously I can remember the hits that everyone else was listening to, as well as more kiddy-friendly fare like the dozen records Junior Choice trotted out every week, but these are the ones that really stuck with me and had some bearing on the music that I would come to love later in life. I think I'll split it over different posts rather that do it all in one. Besides, I need to get my hand back in to blog posts as I've had two, yes, count 'em, TWO!, people over the past couple of weeks tell me I don't post enough.
So, Part 1 in a Ken Bruce Tracks of My Years style series is:
Pink Floyd - Another Brick in the Wall Pt.2
The last number one single of the 1970s and first of the 1980s then. I don't seem to recall that there was all that much of a fuss about the Christmas number one when I was growing up. If there was then this surely must have ranked alongside Rage Against the Machine's protest no.1 from a few years ago, and Mr Blobby, as one that the bookies probably didn't see coming.
I think what first struck me about this song was, like everyone else, the "We don't need no education" refrain. I was eight, going on nine at the time and while I wasn't much of a fan of school, probably viewed it as a necessary evil. So who were these people who were telling me that they didn't need no education? At the time I thought they were some of those punk rockers I'd heard about. People said these punk rockers were troublemakers. How wrong I was in Pink Floyd's case. But there was something about that vocal performance and those horrible-sounding kids that made me think that these people were to be avoided at all costs.
Then there was the video. The band didn't appear in it themselves, of course. That mixture of panning camera shots of a pre-regeneration London, animation, those ruffian kids again and the teacher led me to be even more fearful of this band of punk rockers. Who were these people? Why didn't they want us to see them? Were they so disfigured by years of being evil that their faces were a diabolical mess of vein and pus with bulging eyes? I didn't know. I don't think I wanted to know.
And those kids, they sounded hard, didn't they? What with their 'fort cont-roal' and everything. And according to the video they lived in council flats. No good ever came of anyone who lived in council flats. Not if a kids' show at the time, The Latchkey Kids, was to be believed.*
Coming back to that teacher, that bloody teacher**. This band were so evil they thought it was okay for their song to be depicted by this horrible teacher pushing these poor schoolkids into a mincer while his eye turns into a magnifying glass. A mincer! Kids in a mincer! That could be me! No, no, no, Pink Floyd, with your weird name, please spare me the mincer.
Anyway, this song, despite it being evil incarnate, stuck with me. And I didn't even know what 'dark sarcasm' was. It might be that I like being scared out of my wits, I always have and probably always will***. Of course now I know that the producer, Bob Ezrin, knew exactly what he was doing by giving it the standard disco beat with Nile Rodgers' style rhythm guitar guaranteed it tons of airplay. Good job he did because a near bankrupt Floyd were desperate for the cash that a hit single could knock on to sales of a double album.
Now fast forward to the mid-1980s. Settling down to watch Saturday teatime telly and on comes Mike Read's Pop Quiz. One of the team captains is this guy called Dave Gilmour (before the law was changed in 1988 and everybody had to address him as 'David'). Well this Dave guy was incredibly well-spoken, nicely turned out, was witty and quite handsome. Can you imagine my surprise when it turns out that this Dave bloke was a member of Pink Floyd? What had happened to his punk mohican? Where were the safety pins? Why wasn't he snarling? Of course, that was before I knew about the band, who ended up as one of favourites. But that, my friends, is a story for another day.
*Now I know that the kids in the video aren't the kids in the song. The kids in the video are stage school kids, as evidenced by the girl in the 'Number 32' top who walks like a trained dancer. My wife is convinced that one of the kids is Terry Sue Patt who played Benny Green in Grange Hill. I'm not so sure.
**Who, I think, bears an uncanny resemblance to BBC arts editor Will Gompertz.
***Some music still frightens me. Check out Black Mass from Delia Derbyshire's band White Noise. While Black Sabbath's eponymous track is the sound of suffering and is immensely disquieting, even to a 44 year-old.