28 Sep

I remember as a young child mum always had the radio on in the background, BBC Radio 2; Jimmy Young, Pete Murray, Terry Wogan.  “What’s the recipe today Jim” would squeak from the transistor swiftly followed by the Carpenters.

In those early years, the sound of music playing was comforting, and homely, if the radio was turned on, the house was alive, and happy.

The Radio 2 playlist of the early seventies was brimming with icons, and could sashay from Tony Bennett to Glen Campbell just pausing briefly for Dusty Springfield.  It was wonderful, stellar, but safe!

At the age of eleven I started to yearn for music that wasn’t so safe.  I had taken to listening to Radio Luxembourg at night on my petrol blue plastic handheld radio.  I had one of those ghastly one ear headphones, and although the reception was chronic, the music crackled with energy and danger and an allure that nothing currently being played on Radio 2 could ever offer me or my one ear.

We had recently moved to a different part of the country and having not started my new school yet, my only friends that Summer,  were the voices that serenaded me through that lump of bright plastic.

Little did I know. that popular music was about to change forever and that my yearning for music with a bite was about to be answered in spades.

Then like a gift from the Gods, perfection arrived in the shape of a surly, swaggering leather clad Yank named Chrissie Hynde!  I cut out every picture of Chrissie and the band I could find from Disco 45, Smash Hits and every other teen and music magazine. I plastered the cuttings on my bedroom wall which soon began to take on a Joe Orton feel to it.    I scoured the newsagents every week for articles on The Pretenders.  It didn’t matter how small the article was, whether it was black and white or if it was just the lyrics to their latest single, it still got glued to the  floral wallpaper, every addition to the gallery was treasured.

I joined the Pretender’s fan club, sat back and waited for the newsletters to arrive, when the membership card came I made sure it was placed on the cupboard by the side of my bed. Member 364, I was part of an exclusive number of fans, well you could almost say friends of the band.

I went looking for a Pretenders t-shirt, but I couldn’t find any, even in cosmopolitan Guildford!.  Well this just wasn’t good enough, I went to the local branch of  Woolworths and I had one made.  It was red with the “The Pretenders” emblazoned across my chest in blue glitter.  I knew people were eyeing it with envy when I walked down Fleet High Street, The county of Hampshire had never seen anything as cool as me in that t-shirt.

Top the Pops, an already vital part of my week became ridiculously intense, and if the Pretenders were booked to appear on a particular night, I would sit studying Chrissie’s every movement, every vocal inflection.

Chrissie was singing directly to me of course, she knew I was sitting there on the Art Deco sofa mum had dragged back from an auction, absorbing every word that she mimed.  I had my very own one to one concert !

The new decade began and the first new number one hit of that decade was Brass in Pocket by the Pretenders.  I was beside myself, not only had Chrissie made it to the top of the charts,but the group had made a promotional video for the single.  I was mesmerised, Chrissie played a waitress in the video, obviously the absolutely coolest waitress ever to grace the screen!  Dazzling  in traditional waitress attire, but every inch the rock star.  Men were in awe, but Chrissie had them in the palm of her ‘rockstar’ hands.

Having been blessed with only an older sister who left home when I was four years old, I had been brought up basically as an only child.  This had contributed to me having and extremely over active imagination for company. I actually spent half my life existing in a fantasy dimension.

The music video, was perfect for the fantasist inside me that I was barely containing.  As I walked to the bus stop to get the school bus every morning, I wasn’t Angela Collings,  Catholic school girl in the suburbs heading into another day of exercise books and Bunsen burners.  Oh no, I was Chrissie Hynde, swaggering about the café in leather and eyeliner and the women in the café were falling like flies (I always edited my videos to suit my proclivities).  I was far too young to settle down though, they were welcome to fall at my feet, it was their problem if they couldn’t see I was a free spirit. I was a rock star, and far too cool to commit to anyone!

These musical related fantasies continued for my entire teenage, I was just extremely lucky that the era I grew up in, happened to be packed with phenomenal music, and the music video was exploding onto the music scene  Every single release had to be accompanied by a fabulous video, usually moody gems that showcased the artist and the song .  The emergence of the Vh1 channel ensured that the marketing and image on the silver screen conveyed was as important as the quality of the product it was selling.

I spent those years in a haze, one minute I was walking through the West End with the Pet Shop Boys, the next I was rescuing a beautiful heroine from a comic book with A-ha, at one point I even ran away from home with a stroppy teenage Pat Benatar, even though she looked old enough at the time to have teenage kids of her own!

The next time I really fell in love with a musician it was of the male species.  Morrissey, the lead singer of The Smiths.  The lyrics, the image, the humour and the quiff, he had it all.  He was singing to me too,just like Chrissie he understood me too.

I bought the 12 inch vinyl single of ‘Shoplifters’  in HMV, it was the limited edition, it came in a carrier bag proclaming “shoplifter” in big, bold black letters!  I carried this around Guildford for three hours, swinging it ostentatiously.  Everyone would see how ridiculously cool I was.  Chrissie Hynde had proclamied it first “I’m special, there’s nobody else here like me”, she had known it all along.

I can’t help thinking, and I know I am generalising here, that the joy I had from the perfect partnership of music and imagination has been lost.  I know there are a lot of young people out there who are inspired by music and making inspiring music.  But the passion for popular music does not seem to hold the sway that it held over my generation.

Even the beauty in buying the music has been lost, no glorious record sleeves, nothing to hold in the hand and marvel at.  No lyric sheet inserts, no cryptic messages on the run off grove.  Just a song title on an ipod.

Individual songs listened to rather than albums purchased.  Yet the magic of a good album was always the tracks that were never released as singles, they were your secrets, only you knew how good they really were, you never shared them with the masses, only discussed them with other fans of that artist and asserted that they all could have been singles they were that good!

As they walk to the school bus, do today’s generation fantasise about being in Grand Theft Auto or World of Warcraft, is this their new inspiration?  I can’t help feeling slightly sorry for them.  I am glad I had Chrissie to accompany me on my journeys.

The Radio 2 playlist is now packed with the edgy musicians of my youth, and I have a confession!  Every now and then when I am driving I tune in and it starts all over again.  I’m not driving down the A5 passing through Lichfield on the way to Nuneaton.  No, Tracy Chapman knows where I am, I’m in a fast car, speeding out of small town America, lover in the driver’s seat, impatient to fly away, coz we gotta make a decision leave tonight or live and die this way!  Oh bollocks, the traffic lights have changed to red in Tamworth!Image


  1. Geoff September 28, 2012 at 10:22 pm #

    Another great read Ange xxxx

  2. TiggerATD (Amy) September 30, 2012 at 2:37 am #

    I had my own wall in homage to Pat Benatar and at one time one for David lee Roth lol. OH how much they pissed off my parents who had no understanding of my music obsessions and great concern for the condition of their walls!

    • angelacollings September 30, 2012 at 3:40 pm #

      The walls of my bedroom were totally wrecked, probably looked demented! x

  3. Sue Edmonds September 30, 2012 at 7:55 am #

    Only you Angela, only you. Thanks for the memories :o)

  4. Mark September 30, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

    oh how this has taken me back……. A-Ha, Pet Shop Boys, Duran Duran, Blondie, Yazoo, Visage, T’Pau, Voice Of The Beehive, Swing Out Sister……….Smash Hits, burning my Farahs ( that took us 4 weeks to pluck the courage to nick from The Co-Op in Wigston ) whilst ironing them infront of Top Of The Pops, sniffing butane at Church Nook to New Order on my Walkman, wish Frankie.went to Hollywood with ME !! ………..thanks Ange xxxx

    • Kieran York September 30, 2012 at 5:03 pm #

      Angela, I love your posts. I love your blogs. Always informative, and always entertaining. And always – great humor. Kieran

      • angelacollings September 30, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

        Oh thank you so much Kieran and I always, always so appreciate the feedback xx

    • angelacollings September 30, 2012 at 5:28 pm #

      Oooooh Voice of the Beehive, they were fab. LOLAGE Mark I can just see you doing all of that, and in Wigston too xxxxxxxxx

  5. Kev October 2, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

    My friend sent this to me today (on the anniversary of my Moms passing) and it bought a big smile to my very teary face……thank you

    • angelacollings October 2, 2012 at 7:46 pm #

      Oh Kev this has made my day, that you so much, so glad it gave you a smile xxx

      • Kev October 4, 2012 at 6:48 pm #

        it really did, it took me back to me yoof! Once again thank you for making me smile on a day when the sun wasn’t going to shine xx

      • angelacollings October 5, 2012 at 10:59 pm #

        Pleasure xxx

  6. Denise Knowles October 4, 2012 at 3:27 pm #

    Once again Angela
    Excellent, took me back to my walls being covered with posters of Hendrixs and Led Zep. When I brought Woodstock 3album costing £7.50 ( a weeks wages ) I walked up and down Bradshawgate in Leigh making sure all the shopper knew I had a copy, before going home. This blog, as brought back lots of memoires for me.
    Love it. xx

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