Archive for the ‘A Musical Journey’ category

Discovering Roots Music

October 23, 2018

Here at last is the eagerly awaited (by me anyway) second part of what I’m calling A Musical Journey.

2. Discovering Roots Music

The first time I set foot in a folk club was a week or two after my seventeenth birthday. Until then my taste in music had been largely shaped by the UK charts, pirate radio, and television programmes such as the BBC’s weekly ‘Top of the Pops’.

A blurry distinction is often made nowadays between folk songs and traditional songs, especially by those in America (Japan too) where any singer-songwriter playing an acoustic guitar can and will be labelled a folk singer. This isn’t the case in England where folk songs are more often thought of as having been handed down over generations by the common people and not possessing a known composer.

I was a bit surprised to find the late American ‘folk singer’ Dave Van Ronk also went along with this way of thinking about it in his memoir The Mayor of MacDougal Street. He writes that for about two hundred years up until the 1950s the folk singer was someone who passed on songs learned within a community. And so, crucially, “the word ‘folk’ describes a process rather than a style.” It wasn’t until Bob Dylan and the singer-songwriters of the 1960s that there was a bit of mixed up confusion about the definition. In a recent interview, Tom Rush (who was one of those ‘60s singers), reiterated that for him ‘folk’ means the traditional songs handed down by ear from generation to generation.

That’s enough pedantry about ‘folk’. I’ve usually gone along with the ‘folk means traditional’ camp but there is a grey area too. Nowadays I’d probably call it all roots music anyway for want of a more precise term. Or perhaps: ‘local music from out there’ as it’s found all over the world in every culture, played on many different musical instruments (or no instruments) and sung in numerous different languages.

The folk club I first went to didn’t have any policy about what was or wasn’t folk. Almost any kind of music was acceptable if there was room for the performers to fit onto the small platform that passed as a stage. It wasn’t much like other folk clubs of its time either as there were probably more singer-songwriters than traditional singers on its weekly list of guest artists. And, if anything, the sedate image of the UK folk club where everyone sits in rows of chairs listening to the performer in respectful silence was held in some contempt at the club where I was a regular. The noise from the bar and the largely standing audience also made sure the unaccompanied singer would have a pretty hard time of it.

It was named the Jacquard Folk Club and it congregated on Thursday evenings in the back room of a pub in Norwich. The club was run by two brothers, Tony and Albert Cooper. Tony was fond of organising and had previously been involved with a jazz club in the city, while Albert was a fine classically trained singer who had also developed a repertoire of blues and contemporary songs. The establishment of the folk club gave him a regular venue to belt out these songs every week in his stirring and powerful voice usually accompanied by a 12-string guitar plus harmonica and double bass.

As a folk newcomer and a refugee from the pop scene (although I maintained an interest in that as well) I was listening to many of these songs for the first time and it was a revelation. I was being initiated into the world of largely American roots, blues and Civil Rights songs as a teenager in an English pub: not by the original artists of whom I was mostly unaware but by a local resident singer.

Beer was another discovery. As folk music was frequently played in the back rooms of pubs it was almost obligatory to sample the delights of English bitter. I had long seen people getting so excited about the stuff that they couldn’t guzzle down enough of it so imagined it must have an amazing taste – like strawberries or the cream soda of my childhood. It was therefore with a mixture of puzzlement and slight disappointment that I sipped my first pint. All rather warm, flat, bland and lacking in real tastiness. I soon got used to it though.

Sandy Denny

Sometimes I gave a bit of help at the club on Thursdays and once found myself attending to the needs of Sandy Denny who was the guest that evening. She was just a year older than me but appeared infinitely more composed and confident. I offered to buy her a drink and she immediately called for a large whisky. This was in the days when she toured the folk clubs of England on her own as a singer and guitarist. I was to see her again more than once (albeit from a distance) when she became a member of Fairport Convention who went on to invent folk-rock. She left one of her fingerpicks behind after that first visit to the club and I kept and returned it to her the next time she came back. A few years later she was dead at the age of 31.

Norwich and the surrounding Norfolk countryside was already home to its own remarkable traditional singers such as Walter Pardon and the fisherman Sam Larner. They became and remain a huge influence on younger generations of singers but I was oblivious to their contribution until many years later and didn’t even listen to their recordings until the singers were long gone. A local singer I also discovered far too late was Peter Bellamy who eventually became a favourite – but not until I was living in Japan and rediscovering the roots I’d left behind. When I lived in Norwich he was once pointed out to me by someone in the street as a famous folk singer and appeared as a long-haired figure walking in front of us, no doubt on his way to the shops or perhaps to the library to research some archive field recording.

It was the visiting Americans who often made the biggest impact and there were plenty of them touring England at that time to play an extensive list of venues such as folk clubs, pubs, and sometimes concert halls. One evening Jesse Fuller was the guest in Norwich and I was able to see close-up his vaudeville-style one-man-band show with 12-string guitar and fotdella (his own invention, a kind of foot-operated percussion bass) along with the kazoo that he hummed into on songs such as his classic ‘San Francisco Bay Blues’. He was almost seventy at that time.

Among the numerous other renowned American singers and musicians I was able to see on their visits to Norwich – some of them more than once – were the New Lost City Ramblers, Clarence Ashley and Tex Isley, Bill Monroe, Doc Watson, Bill Clifton, Hedy West, Paul Simon, Carolyn Hester, Tom Paxton, and Judy Collins.

Of all the American guests who came to England during the 1960s the one I listen to most often nowadays is probably Hedy West. For a long while the Georgia singer and banjo player was underappreciated and her recordings out of print. A revival occurred after her death and is rightly continuing. When I was still a teenager she came to Norwich and through her Appalachian songs and ballads I was able to visit a world I had only glimpsed in novels by Carson McCullers. Her unadorned vocals and banjo accompaniment have something of the same appeal found in the great traditional singers and sanshin players I was to discover years later in Okinawa.

There was no shortage of rising stars on the UK scene either including singer-songwriters Al Stewart and Roy Harper, and on one memorable occasion, for me at least, there was a visit from Scottish duo the Incredible String Band.

By early 1967, when they came to Norwich, the Incredible String Band had already released a debut album and must have been at work on its follow-up The 5,000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion which came out to much acclaim later that year. It contains the song ‘Painting Box’ with these lines that resonated with me at the time:

“My Friday evening’s footsteps plodding dully through this black town / Are far away now from the world that I’m in”.

The departure of Clive Palmer meant the original trio were now a pair: Mike Heron and Robin Williamson. Their performance that night was probably the first time some of their exotic-looking instruments had been seen in these surroundings, though what seemed to some like hippy psychedelic eccentricity would, a couple of decades later, be routinely accepted as an exploration of ‘world music’.

Mike Heron (right) and Robin Williamson of the Incredible String Band in 1967. (Photo: BBC Photo Library/Redferns).

I don’t recall too much of what they played that night but do remember very clearly the subsequent misunderstanding about accommodation. Heron and Williamson had thought they were booked into a hotel but that wasn’t the case and instead I was asked if I could put them up for the night. I was eighteen and living with my parents, so the pair came back there to spend the night. They must have slept in the same bed in my sister’s vacant room. She had married and left home a few years before.

Listening to Incredible String Band albums now, the vocals on their recordings don’t seem to have impenetrable Scottish accents at all but Robin Williamson’s was enough to confuse my mother when they made their brief stay in our house. After a night possibly spent sleeping in his trousers Williamson came downstairs and asked her if he could borrow an iron to smooth out the crumpled garment. She didn’t understand his accent and he ended up miming the ironing action before all became clear. I think everyone I knew imagined the ISB were destined for bigger things – world domination was on the cards – but despite a longish career the early successes of the first few years were never quite replicated in later days.

On the night that the ISB played the folk club in Norwich a small man with a northern accent appeared with a guitar and asked if he could play. He went on and performed to a very enthusiastic response. This turned out to be Michael Chapman. He almost stole the ISB’s thunder with his songs and guitar skills and a couple of weeks later was booked to play as guest at the club. He soon became a regular visitor to the area and his second album Fully Qualified Survivor contained ‘Postcards of Scarborough’ a song that to this day brings back many memories – even though I’ve still never been to Scarborough.

Chapman soon became a fixture on the folk circuit and went on to a long career with numerous albums. In the 1990s I finally ran into him again in London when I went to see him play at a small club and he was just as good as ever. During the break he introduced me to a white-haired man in the audience. This was Wizz Jones who had been another regular guest a few decades before at the folk club in Norwich.

All this exposure to the likes of master guitarists such as Chapman meant there came a time when as a young man I decided to have a go myself. At least to learn a musical instrument rather than just listening to others playing them, and so it was that I bought a guitar. The guitar style I admired most and tried to emulate was the fingerpicking I’d listened to on recordings of Elizabeth Cotten best known as the composer of ‘Freight Train’. She played left-handed in an inimitable and seductive style of her own. I didn’t achieve anything to rival that but did have some fun trying.

This foray into the guitar world didn’t lead to anything much but for a very brief period – perhaps only a few weeks – a ‘band’ was formed along with two friends and we called ourselves the Unreliable String Band. The USB (as no-one called us) performed an extremely short set comprising some poetry-reading accompanied by guitar (it was a thing back then), a couple of songs, and a sort of ragtime guitar instrumental. The first song we learned was Bob Dylan’s ‘Drifter’s Escape’ chosen because it could be played with only two chords. After a couple of appearances at local venues we called it a day.

Paul Simon at the Jacquard Folk Club, 24 August 1965.

Paul Simon was a still relatively unknown solo singer-songwriter who lived for a time in London and played the folk club circuit around England. He very definitely didn’t call it a day. Before going on to achieve lasting worldwide fame he played to an audience of sixty or seventy people at the Jacquard Folk Club on an evening in August 1965. I was there that night to see him give a remarkable performance with just his voice, acoustic guitar. and a handful of original songs. They included ‘The Sound of Silence’ and his then current single ‘I Am a Rock’.

In Japan audiences enjoy listening to musicians talking in between songs – sometimes endlessly – and regard the chatting, explanations and anecdotes as an integral part of the live experience. This was obviously not the case in Norwich that night when Paul Simon’s not especially detailed account of how he came to write one of his songs was interrupted by a heckler who urged him to “stop the preaching and get on with it”. Simon did just that and blasted everyone away with the rest of his songs and performance.

If anyone eclipsed Simon in my early discoveries in roots music it was Bob Dylan, of course, about whom so much has been written that there is nothing much more to be said. I was a bit late to the party, not discovering his songs until the release of his fifth album Bringing It All Back Home but I soon put that right by catching up with all previous recordings. If it was Dylan who helped draw me into folk clubs and folk songs he was also the one responsible for leading me away from them again with his leap into electric guitars, surrealist lyrics, and rock music that went beyond anything I’d heard up until then.

I didn’t see him live until 1978 when I was among a crowd of more than 200,000 for ‘The Picnic at Blackbushe Aerodrome’ in Surrey. (The previous year I had another first when I saw the great Leonard Cohen in concert in Leicester). I went down by train to London and then on one of the many special trains put on solely to convey people the rest of the way to Blackbushe. I missed the friend I was supposed to meet and spent the whole day on my own listening to all the music culminating with Dylan and his band who played for the best part of three hours. It was completely worth the discomfort of spending the early hours of the next morning on Waterloo station waiting for the first trains and the stinging watery eyes from lack of sleep that occurred when I eventually arrived back home. I’ve seen Dylan at least ten times since then, and the last was in Osaka at a much smaller venue in March 2010 when I was able to stand closer to the stage than ever before.

But as I have already said, it was Fairport Convention who invented the English version of folk-rock by playing traditional songs on electric guitars, bass and drums. I witnessed the unveiling of this phenomenon with their concert at the Royal Festival Hall in London to promote their Liege and Lief album which came out at the end of 1969. (Nick Drake was one of the support acts that evening). As the curtain went up on Fairport a new era of English roots music was born.

The next time I saw Fairport was not until their annual Cropredy Festival in 2001. The band Brass Monkey played at the same festival that year and I was able to speak briefly with member Martin Carthy who I had met and interviewed in Japan a few years before. My move to Japan, perversely, meant I was going to rediscover English roots music after a long hiatus – and many other kinds of music too.

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A Question of Musical Upbringing

March 16, 2018

Here is the first part of something I’m calling A Musical Journey. It’s about the music I grew up listening to a very long time ago. 

1. A Question of Musical Upbringing

I always thought the first record I ever bought was ‘A Teenager in Love’ – the cover version by Marty Wilde. Or else it was ‘Whole Lotta Woman’ by Marvin Rainwater. I still remember buying both of them.

‘Whole Lotta Woman’ was released in 1958 and reached Number One on the UK chart. I never imagined I’d be looking it up decades later – or that I would ever listen to the song again. Having done so I realise it’s not to my taste at all now, which is a relief as I hope this shows I’ve developed a bit in my musical appreciation since I was a child. ‘A Teenager in Love’ stands the test of time only a little better and there were three different versions of it in the charts in May 1959. The song is full of longing and the lovelorn angst of the teenager (and pre-adolescent) and it suited the mood of an eleven year old boy very well.

But wait. Lonnie Donegan released his single ‘Jack O’ Diamonds’ before either of those so that clinches it. I definitely remember buying that one as well because the B side was called ‘Ham ‘N Eggs’ and it’s not something you can easily forget. At that tender age I imagined ‘Jack O’ Diamonds’ was an original penned by Lonnie himself but years later discovered it was a Texas gambling song popularised by Blind Lemon Jefferson in the 1920s.

The first time I bought an LP, as we called it, was a bit later when I acquired How Do You Like It by Gerry and the Pacemakers. The title was a canny combination of the Liverpool singer’s first two hit singles: ‘How Do You Do It’ and ‘I Like It’. Ever since I started thinking about it (and I haven’t really thought about it at all until now) I regarded it as an album of its time containing those two early hit songs plus a lot of uninteresting filler tracks. In fact, a quick search reveals neither of those songs was even on the album, though Gerry’s third hit ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ was. This is memory not history.

One thing I’m sure I’ve got right is being given a fearsome dressing down by my mother for buying that Gerry and the Pacemakers record. This was not because she preferred Freddie and the Dreamers but because she had already bought a copy to give to me for Christmas and had been keeping it a secret. It’s a telling off that I still recall and was delivered for my selfishness and impetuousness in not being able to wait and see if I was going to be given the LP as a present on Christmas Day. One of us had to go back to the record shop to ask for a refund.

Years later I saw Gerry with his group (possibly all different members) when they played a nightclub in Leicester in front of a fairly disinterested and certainly inebriated audience. How Do You Like It isn’t very good anyway. Definitely nowhere near as exciting as any of the albums by The Beatles. I now have just three Beatles albums – Revolver, Sergeant Pepper, and Abbey Road – and never need to play any of them or listen to any other Beatles songs as they are all so deeply ingrained in my consciousness. The Beatles made a huge impression and their brilliance and inventiveness seemed to come out of nowhere.

Willson’s was the shop where I did most of my early record buying. It was in the centre of the city where I grew up and very close to Norwich Castle. The ground floor was a general music store selling instruments and sheet music. The records were kept upstairs in a fairly small room. Two young female assistants worked behind the counter. They would play any record if you asked them. The only albums I clearly remember buying, though there must have been a few, were With the Beatles and, before that, The “Twang’s” the “Thang” the second album by American guitarist Duane Eddy.

Eddy played electric guitar instrumentals with a characteristic deep ‘twangy’ sound frequently accompanied by a wailing saxophone and vocal whoops and yells from his group The Rebels. His big hit (not on the album, so I bought the single) was the theme from the American high school film Because They’re Young which had an orchestra playing behind the twangy guitar. It was the best thing he ever did. I don’t think I saw the movie but have always liked high school films and it’s a taste that continues to this day.

My purchase of With the Beatles at Willson’s was not without its problems. This time it was the LP’s second side, as the first track, a cover of Chuck Berry’s ‘Roll Over Beethoven’, got stuck after a few seconds and to my great dismay wouldn’t play properly. The next day I took the record back to the shop and before I could speak the assistant said: “Side two, track one?” A whole batch of them had the same defect and a replacement was immediately produced and popped into a paper bag.

Gene Vincent

There were other shops in the city where I used to listen to records and sometimes buy them. There was a department store just a few minutes walk from Willson’s where records were sold on the top floor. This was a much bigger space and contained a number of listening booths along the wall opposite the counter. In the early 1960s it would still have been much more common to buy singles than albums. I often went to this store with a friend on Saturday mornings and would ask the assistants to put on a single to listen to in one of the booths. This happened so often that I was once asked slightly menacingly if I was really intending to buy anything.

Most of the records we listened to were American pop songs. Often these were covered by British singers so there were at least two different versions of the same song to choose from. The record labels and their colours and sleeve designs stick in the mind. MGM had a yellow label, London was black with a stripy paper sleeve, Pye was purple. Then there was Top Rank with a picture of a man banging a gong and whose artists never seemed to make the charts. The guitarist Bert Weedon was one of those but I loyally bought all his records.

One of the singles I bought after sampling it was a song called ‘Tell Laura I Love Her’ and this was the cover by Welsh singer Ricky Valance. It was a controversial song at the time because of its subject matter which was thought to be in bad taste. The title quoted the last words of the song’s young hero who took part in a stock car race to impress his girlfriend but died from his injuries after being pulled from the twisted wreck of his crashed car. Doom-laden melodrama was dangerous but also a big seller.

My sister, ten years older, had her own record player which was an antique thing with a handle on the side to wind it up when the music slowed down. There was also a container for the needles that had to be constantly replaced as they wore out. In general I didn’t care a lot for her music collection which contained an unfeasibly large number of songs by ageing crooner Donald Peers who sounded far too straight and conventional for my burgeoning radical tastes. Bob Dylan and the Sex Pistols were still some years in the future though.

Guy Mitchell’s ‘Singing the Blues’ was another song that got frequent plays on my sister’s record player but she eventually made the local newspaper and had a moment of fame when Bill Haley came to England on tour and played a date in Norwich that she went to see. He was all the rage before Elvis Presley upstaged him with more daring rock ‘n’ roll but my sister’s photo got in the local paper as she had somehow been the first person to obtain his autograph.

My father had his own record collection and all of them were breakable 78s which sometimes fractured into several sharp pieces when he absent-mindedly sat on them. He liked sentimental songs and stirring marches. ‘Blaze Away’ was a particular favourite with its opening line that he often sang along to: “We’ll make a bonfire of our troubles and we’ll watch them blaze away”.

I was influenced by at least one of my sister’s records.  This was an album named The “Chirping” Crickets and it was a revelation as all the songs were good, right from the opening ‘Oh, Boy!’ to the end: even though (or perhaps because) all the tracks were short and it was all over in less than half an hour. It seemed long at the time. It was the first inkling I had of just how brilliantly exciting pop songs could be. And it was my discovery of Buddy Holly who may already have been dead by the time I listened to the Crickets album on the large radio gramophone in our family living room.

The other shining stars among a lot of tacky pop were the Everly Brothers and I first listened to them on regular Saturday night visits to the Firs Stadium where speedway meetings were held most weeks. Speedway was big then and reputed to be the most popular spectator sport in the UK after football. My parents and sister were all speedway fans though my father eventually stopped going as he claimed the races were no longer competitive and had become more like processions.

The Everly Brothers: the epitome of cool in 1960

Music was played loudly over the public address system. It also blared out between each of the heats that made up a speedway meeting and there seemed to be an unusually large number of American country-flavoured pop songs among those on the playlist. The Everly Brothers rivalled Buddy Holly in popularity and surpassed him in coolness and sophistication. As a result, I bought the first ever single released on the new Warner Brothers label. This was the duo’s song ‘Cathy’s Clown’ and it became a big hit in England in 1960. Despite this great musical revelation I don’t recall ever buying another record by them.

The package tour was another great British institution. These were concerts that toured the country showcasing a number of different artists on the same bill. In Norwich they usually took place at the Theatre Royal. Frequently, the headline act would be an American star who was touring the UK and the rest of the show would be made up with British pop acts, sometimes with a local group kicking things off. There was also an MC who came on stage to introduce each of the musicians.

The MC sometimes had a hard time of it. I was at one of these shows when an American MC came on between each act to tell jokes and fill in some time before he introduced the next artist – in this case Gene Pitney. The audience were eager to see Pitney and didn’t take kindly to any delay so some of them started hurling abuse at the MC. He was ready for it and barked back at one young woman: “Lady, you’ve got a kind face. The kind I’d like to run a truck over!”

Sometimes there was a double bill of two American stars. One of these was the visit to the city of Freddy Cannon and Gene Vincent. I was just twelve and Cannon was the one I was more interested in as he had had a couple of big successes with ‘Way Down Yonder in New Orleans’ and ‘Tallahassee Lassie’ which began with lines enough to make a modern listener shudder:

Well, she comes from Tallahassee / She got a hi-fi chassis  / Maybe looks a little sassy / But to me, she’s real classy

He was due to top the bill that night with Vincent ending the first half of the show. However, when we got to the theatre a notice outside announced that Freddy Cannon was ‘indisposed’ and so Gene Vincent would take over top billing. The rumour went round that Freddy was the worse for wear and was being plied with strong cups of black coffee and walked around the car park at the back of the theatre to try and sober him up. If so it didn’t work.

It’s strange now to think I was disappointed not to see Freddy Cannon because Gene Vincent has, over time, become the far more remembered, almost legendary performer for many British people. That night he came on stage looking moody and rebellious and with a severe limp – he nearly lost his balance and fell at one point. He may have been wearing a metal support on his leg which had been broken just a few weeks earlier in the car accident that killed Eddie Cochran. With a hint of defiance he sang what he said was his soon to be released single ‘Pistol Packin’ Mama’. His record company had refused permission for him to perform it live before its release but Gene was having none of that.

Brenda Lee: Little Miss Dynamite

The other big American star I saw at the Theatre Royal was Brenda Lee or ‘Little Miss Dynamite’ as she was known, because she was only 145 centimetres short. After the show I waited outside the stage door to get her autograph, along with a handful of other fans. She kept us waiting for quite a while but eventually came outside and obliged. I thought she was great and both her singing and her behaviour seemed very mature at the time. She was still seventeen years old.

It was also the time of the instrumental guitar group and while America had The Ventures (amazingly still popular in Japan today) it was The Shadows who ruled England with hits such as ‘Apache’ that seemed to stay in the charts forever. Again, I saw them at the same theatre and was on the front row for this one. They seemed pretty wild to my young eyes and I squirmed in my seat when rhythm guitarist Bruce Welch looked directly down at me with a challenging mixture of contempt and disdain.

At school everyone had to play football whether they liked it or not. Most did and so it became a big part of our growing up. Going to see the local professional team was also a rite of passage but none of my family were interested in football and so it was a friend of my sister’s who initiated me by taking me to their stadium when I was around eight or nine years old.  It turned out she was also interested in music but with a more sophisticated taste than us and was a bit of a fan of Frank Sinatra.

Every summer our family went on holiday to North Wales where we would always stay for a week in the same bed and breakfast place in the town of Llangollen. Dad drove and it took him all day to get us there. We would start early in the morning and finally arrive at our destination in the late afternoon – sometimes early evening –depending on how often we got lost or made stops along the way. My father’s sight was poor in one eye and my mother sat next to him and acted as navigator with a special route map on her lap. My parents had never been abroad so Wales was the closest they came. Its appeal was the mountains that were so different from the flat land of Norfolk and all of us enjoyed visiting the ruins of numerous castles.

As a football fan I took the opportunity to take off on my own during these holidays and went to Wrexham to have a look at their ground and to Chester where I managed to watch a pre-season friendly. On one occasion we all took a trip to Liverpool where I went off to pay a visit to Anfield. As a fan of The Beatles it was obligatory to seek out the Cavern Club, though it was daytime and I only saw the outside of the building. By this time The Beatles were already famous and so I must have been a teenager. It may well have been in Liverpool that I bought The Beatles’ Twist and Shout EP.

Llangollen itself was famous for the annual International Eisteddfod. This was held for a week in a large field but also in various other venues around the town and was notable for its choir contests and performances, especially by the Bulgarians and the Welsh. I wasn’t particularly interested in the choirs and not at all in the classical music but the whole spectacle was quite thrilling not least because much of it was held outdoors in large marquees erected in the field. The sheer power of all the united singing voices was impressive, but at the end of the day I was still more excited by pop music.

If it was ‘A Teenager in Love’ that initiated me into the world of lovelorn youth and unrequited love it was another song around the same time that was really the soundtrack of summer. The American Jerry Keller recorded his own composition ‘Here Comes Summer’ in 1958 and the following year it made number one in the UK chart. It was the only hit he ever had and prefigures my own penchant for watching high school movies. The song’s narrator – presumably Jerry himself – can’t wait for the school holidays so he can spend more time with his girlfriend. Jerry sings of grabbing his girl and holding her tight, but he’s a gentleman too and doesn’t want to coerce her so he sings: “If she’s willing, we’ll go steady right away.” He anticipates swimming every day and moonlit walks in the park, and hopes the sun will “shine bright on my happy summer home”.

In Norwich the summer sun rarely shone as brightly as it did in Jerry Keller’s song. I was eleven when ‘Here Comes Summer’ became a hit so girls were still just something to dream about in some future life that seemed a long way off. Neither could I have imagined that several decades later I would be listening to the Japanese song ‘Natsu Tourai’ by Osaka band Soul Flower Union. This is a different song in almost every way and about as far from Keller’s adolescent simplicity as it’s possible to get – though both refer to moonlit evenings. I helped translate the lyrics into English for the band’s CD booklet. Its title means ‘Here Comes Summer’.