The school wavered between being conservative Christian and outright fundamentalist; there were rules in place to banish every vice that might be imagined, and even some vices that had never even occurred to most of us. Television viewing was strictly monitored, though how one could have found much to lead one astray in the evening viewing of the three British television channels of the 1970s was a complete mystery, perhaps there were hidden meanings in the anodyne family programmes of those times. Once a housemaster flew into a fit of rage upon discovering that a group of us had watched an episode of the 1970s crime series, ‘The Sweeney’. With schoolboy bluntness, we concluded that he must have a dirtier mind than any of us because there didn’t seem much in the adventures of the characters that would have caused offence to most ordinary working people.
The one single vice that was tolerated was listening to pop music – there we could outfox any of the staff, whose lack of worldliness meant they rarely paid attention to the lyrics of songs.
Standing at an open air bar drinking gluhwein, those schooldays were conjured up by a sequence of songs audible for hundreds of yards around.
The Bay City Rollers was the first of three from 1975, “Bye, bye baby”. ‘Rollermania’ had been a big thing amongst some of the girls at the time, not that we were ever allowed much contact with the opposite sex. Les McKeown and his band, with their short, tartan-trimmed jeans, sang about an extra-marital relationship,
“Should have told her I can’t linger,
there’s a wedding ring on my finger”.
We couldn’t watch ‘The Sweeney’, but the housemaster never gave a thought to what the songs were about, particularly “Lady Marmalade”, the second in the sequence. “Voulez vous couchez avec moi, ce soir?” seemed to pass clear over the heads of staff on duty in the recreational area. The song could not have been much more explicit, but not once was there any query about it being played.
The third of the three from 1975 was ‘Going to Barbados’. Its opening words are instantly recognizable and it would aways have seemed an innocent song, something to which our puritanical staff could have taken no exception. Only in more recent years did someone point out that there were words in the song that had meanings to which the housemaster might have raised very strong exception.
For eight or nine minutes, memories from those months some thirty-five years ago came flooding back. Moments and incidents long buried were evoked by ordinary pop songs.
The mug of gluhwein was finished and it was time to return to 2010. What fools the school staff had been, did they not realize that their narrow worldview only survived while they could completely control our lives? As soon as there was a moment of freedom, the shackles were shaken off and, even in school, the most severe rules could never crush the imagination.
I’m not a skier but the music sounds great Ian, I particularly like Typically Tropical and ‘Barbados’……Your Dad used to let us watch The Sweeney though….
Yeah, and my dad was hardly a radical liberal!
“Je t’aime” – ecstasy in its day.
Didn’t you know that back then ITV was a en of iniquity. We were allowed to watch Blue Peter, but Magpie was banned. Did I miss much?
That was Den of Iniquity by the way.
Not hen. In case you were wondering.
Fresh air made you lively Ian…
Maudlin mood induced by gluhwein, more like.
quite like the idea of a hen of iniquity!
Yes Blackwatertown….you missed Jenny Handley if you were a boy………..Mick and Doug if you were a girl….!!!!! Not quite Valerie Singleton and Peter Purves though……
Wasn’t the world an innocent place!
Gawd they’d have a caniption if they could hear some of the lyrics today! Even I have the odd shudder and I’m not even going to get started on the gyrations in video clips.
Voulez vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?
Go on. It could be a good bit more explicit.
It was French, Bock, and we were English working class it could have been the weather forecast for all that it meant to us!
The song that caused staff the most problems was Rubber Bullets by 10CC. This was banned for the line “we’ve all got balls and brains, but some have balls and chains”. At 12 years old I hadn’t noticed the words until a member of staff pointed it out ! Innocent times. God knows what they made of Relax.
It was your radio on which we used to listen to the stuff! You were a corrupting influence! Had it not been for your Sony (?) radio/cassette player I would not have been able to stand at the ski station at Angertal last Wednesday naming song after song – much to the astonishment of the people I was with.
Hitachi actually. I work with someone the same age as us, and we were listening to songs from the seventies last night, a lot of them were awful. I don’t recall the Sweeney incident but that may just be old age catching up with me.
The Sweeney moment was in Golan – so was pre-Dellar days – maybe late ’75. We had been given a day off for something (Queenie’s birthday?) I think you must have been there because we were room mates for two years.
I am surprised they never banned TopOf The Pops, I seem to remember someone laying on the floor in Dellar trying to look up the skirts of Pans People.
Top of the Pops was never the same after they left – were they followed by Ruby Flipper or Legs & Co?
It was a very weird school. I’ve a post somewhere about sneaking out to drink cider at Jay’s Grave.
I think it was Legs & Co. The first time I drank cider at school was on a day trip to Bude (probably a half term). I must have eaten a pack of Polos to try to cover up my breath. The coach used to make me feel sick at the best of times but that day it was a bad trip back. I’ve read the one about Jays Grave, I must have been in a different room at the time.
Did we not drink Skol that day?
I had forgotten that when I was moved up to Dellar it was to share with Ginger Stevens and one of the Moores – it must have been in that summer half-term before Damon left.
Possibly, lager still gives me a bad head. Was it Dave or Damon you went with. I would have been languishing in extension at the time. When in Dellar Ginger & I attempted to rob the confiscation cupboard. We unscrewed the hinges and took the door off, only to find it completely empty. The other incident I recall is the flying squad type midnight search for matches after the arson. Fortunately mine were well hidden otherwise it may well have been the bright lights in the face interregation.
Damon was there for the first half-term. Moving up was done strictly on age, which might explain your absence.
Were you not there when Ginger dropped the alarm clock from the window to attract the attention of one of the Dutch girls and then poured water over her when she came to investigate – incurring the wrath of Llewellyn, who came through the door to find Ginger sat in the window sill?
Can’t remember that. When I moved to Dellar Ginger was in the room opposite ours with Leslie Evans and Ian Bellis I think. Was it Ginger who was responsible for the Consort bean song?
Ah, right, he had been evicted by then. Perhaps the clock was the last straw.
I had forgotten the Consort song!
‘To Consort be the glory, great things they have done,
the Consort bean to name but one’.
Those beans tasted foul!
He called at my mum and dad’s place one day back in the 1990s, they are still where they always lived.
I must go to bed before being hit by a falling alarm clock!