The Beatles – Yellow Submarine

Until my early teens we had very little music in the house, we very much a Home Service, and its successor, Radio 4, household.  We didn’t have a record player or gramophone until I was around 8 or 9.  While a TV was bought just before I went to school in 1965, so I ‘didn’t feel left out’, I only remember being allowed to watch ‘educational’ programmes and certainly not music.

Austin A40 mkI

I don’t remember having listened to popular music before one of our regular trips to Cornwall; Mum originates from there.  It would have been the summer of 1966, we had gone down with my cousin from Canada – Mum was one of seven and four of her siblings were to emigrate to Canada; moving away was part of Cornish life – many of my grandparent’s generation had emigrated to Australia.  There were five of us in a tiny Austin A40 (picture Wikipedia Commons) with masses of pre-war suitcases, neatly wrapped in polythene on a roof rack that made the journey from Mansfield to Penzance in the days before motorways.  One of the brackets of the roof rack broke off around Cirencester in the Cotswolds and the rest of the journey was spent with my Mum, my cousin and myself (for short periods) holding onto the roof rack from the passenger side-clipped window.

Eleanor_rigby_single_usaWe stayed with my aunt; I think that she had moved to Penzance at that point from her previous home in Newlyn.  Unlike us, she had a record player and a radio in the car and bought singles – unsurprisingly she had bought The Beatles’ ‘Yellow Submarine’ which was a double A-side with ‘Eleanor Rigby’ – the former was played a lot more though.  I remember signing along and thinking it hilarious to change the words to ‘Jar of Vaseline’ and ‘Tub of Margarine’ – how the adults must have laughed.

As had been the case in previous visits, I was allowed to go in the car with my aunt.  Oddly, I associate ‘Yellow Submarine’ with rows in the car – they were something that never happened at home. By that stage, I think that she was with her second husband with whom she seemed to have had quite a volatile relationship, there seemed to be a row every time we got in the car. She had divorced a year or two before, her first husband had eventually and painfully ‘come out’ in days when homosexuality was still illegal.

Despite the early exposure to The Beatles, they were never a band I listened to much – I think that I only ever bought ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ and ‘Back in the USSR’ – the latter was oddly a song that was always played at parties of the group of friends that I was part of in the late 1970s, linked to a church youth club.  The reasons for it being ‘our song’ were never clear though.

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More recently, both A-sides featured in Beatles ‘sites’ seen in a visit to Liverpool – the former outside a community centre in Penny Lane where we were told on a bus tour that Lennon stayed and looked out at this bizarre yellow construction.  It was utter nonsense, of course, ‘facts’ for the gullible tourist, as the history of the song demonstrates.  The Eleanor Rigby bronze statue in Stanley Street is much more tasteful and genuine – designed and made by the entertainer Tommy Steele, who is a renowned sculpture artist as well – it wasn’t even mentioned on the tour bus commentary as the less than magical mystery tour strangely by-passed the area around The Cavern.

 

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Grimethorpe Colliery Band – Pel Mel

Some of my earliest musical memories are of brass band music from the annual Nottinghamshire Miners’ Rally in Mansfield; there was a procession to Berry Hill Park which went past the end of our street. From the corner I was allowed to watch the miners ‘marching’ up the hill coming from collieries from all over the country, but I would guess predominantly from the Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Yorkshire coalfields.  Many came with their brass bands; it was part of the tradition.  Mining is part of our family history too – my paternal grandmother’s side of the family had come down to the Nottinghamshire coalfield in the late 19th century from that in County Durham, parts of the family having originated from the coalfield north of Newcastle.  My middle name is even from one of the pits the family worked at in Northumberland.

The Youtube video below is sadly silent as it is gleaned from old cine-flims, but evokes the era

I assume the annual rally came to an end after the 1984-85 strike when Nottinghamshire miners carried on working – not that it did them much good, Thatcher’s Government closed the pits there and everywhere else in the country.  Most of the Nottinghamshire mines had been closed before the 1990s were out – of the 24 pits in the county in 1984, 19 had been shut before the end of the millennium; the last, Thoresby, had its final shift in July 2015. Leaving Kellingley, near Pontefract, as the country’s last remaining coal pit – but that is due to close before 2015 is out.

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The Clipstone headstocks (source)

I’ve no idea whether I saw Grimethorpe Colliery Band play whilst they walked up Berry Hill Lane towards the park, but they may well have done – they came to prominence in the early 1970s, winning the Granada TV Brass Band of the Year competition in 1972, which the footage below is from.  The excellent film ‘Brassed Off’, with the sadly missed Pete Postletwaite, gave a semi-fictionalised account of Grimethorpe’s unsuccessful struggle against closure.  1972 would probably have been one of the last Notts. Miners Rallies that I saw – we moved from the house I had grown up in, opposite the brickworks and quarry, a year or so later. Hearing brass band music always makes me feel quite nostalgic both in terms of my own childhood but also of a lost industry and the heritage that went with it.