There are certain moments in time in the course of your life when you become aware that something has changed. This was one of them.
The day the world Rocked
It was sometime early in 1963 and I was sitting in Tony Humm’s bedroom as he sat me down and told me to listen to this. I had never seen Tony so animated and excited about music; he usually only got this worked up over snakes. We were not ones for playing a lot of music. Tony was my animal-collecting friend and track bike-making friend not a music buff.
I am a collector as I have previously explained. It isn’t just music and musical memories I collect. I collect anything that appeals to me. I had what was loosely called a museum at home. It has fossils and minerals that I collect with Billy. It has shells which I collect with my mother. It has butterflies, moths and insects that I collected with Jeff and Clive. It has birds’ eggs that I bought in a jumble sale. It has miscellaneous objects, such as a mammoth’s tooth, a hippo’s tooth, a pair of antlers and the top of an American Indian totem pole.
I also collected animals. Some of these were wild animals that I collected with Tony others were tame. At one time I had two thousand mice with the full range of colours, forty hamsters, forty guinea pigs, a rabbit, a crow, a couple of gerbils and some stick insects. I made money out of breeding them and selling them to the pet shop. I also had a bit pit I had dug in the garden. I had sunk an old porcelain sink into it as a pond and placed rocks and plants around. This was my wild animal sanctuary.
Tony and I would head off into the surrounding countryside on the track bikes we had made from old bikes we had salvaged out of the ditches. We had painted these old rusty frames up with garish gloss paint we had liberated from our parents’ garages so that they were decorated in stripes and stars. They were the first psychedelic bikes and were obviously a precursor of Ken Kessey’s Magic Bus – Furthur. (Perhaps me and Tony invented psychedelia?). We clutched an aluminium milk pail with lid into which we were to put our finds. We waded in ponds for frogs, toads, and newts. We waded up streams for sticklebacks. We lifted up old corrugated tin in search of slowworms, lizards, grass snakes and voles. We took our spoils back and released them into my pit, or kept them in aquaria. The sticklebacks always faded and died no matter what we did.
But that day in late March it was pouring with rain and we hadn’t gone out collecting. Tony took me up to his room and did something that changed my life. Unbeknownst to me, for I had allowed my interest in the charts to wane, Tony was tuned in.
‘Listen to this,’ Tony instructed. He placed a black vinyl disc on his Dansette and put it on 33 RPM and carefully manually lowered the needle on to the rim.
I sat there with no great expectation.
What came out of those crappy speakers set in the front of that Dansette changed my life for ever. I also believe that it changed the whole world in a way that nothing before or after has managed.
For obvious reasons Tony had played the first side. Not just because it was obvious running order but because that was the track with most impact.
Thus it was that the first Beatles track I ever heard was ‘I saw her standing there’ and it blew me away. I was gob-smacked. It was like nothing I had ever heard. It was raw and exciting. It wasn’t like 1950s Rock ‘n’ Roll. It was somehow more modern.
Somehow ‘Love me do’ had passed me by. I had allowed the trite Pop of Bobby Vee, Fabian and Bobby Rydell to drift over my head. I’d been content with the old Rockers. But this was so vital and alive. It felt like it was my music – music produced for my generation. Old Rock ‘n’ Roll was brilliant but it was from someone else’s time. This was mine!
Tony never struck me as particularly hip and yet he had latched on to ‘Love me do’ and had actually purchased the ‘Please Please Me’ album on the day it was released. I was listening to it just a few days after that and my life would never be the same.