For my second #SaturdaySong I thought I’d go right back to where it started for me. Well, in a sense, anyway. I had started taking an interest in music from a very early age, as my Mum was a pretty good pianist and used to get me to sing along with her. Before my voice broke I was a passable boy treble, and performed on occasion for guests. No one would ever ask me to do that now! Although Mum’s repertoire was mostly light classical – I recall Santa Lucia being a favourite – my interest was much more aligned to pop music, and by the time the Beatles burst onto the scene in 1962 and reinvented the pop music world I was a firm fan. However, in those early days we were restricted to what was played on the radio – which was extremely limited! It wasn’t until the pirate stations began broadcasting that things began to look up. But it was a while before we had any kind of music player at home, and we used to take every opportunity to hear pop tunes on the radio and on TV – usually just the odd one in the midst of a variety show. This is a far cry from today’s ubiquitous music, and is very difficult for anyone who wasn’t around then to comprehend. The thought of listening on my transistor radio under the bedcovers to a late night broadcast from Radio Luxembourg takes me back to me youth, but my daughters just never understood what I was talking about!
As I mentioned in my post The Listening Booth earlier this year, the humble record player came to the rescue. My parents were a little late coming to that party, but they eventually did get one in 1966 or 1967 and my lifelong love of building my record collection began. Like most of us, I guess, I can still remember the first record I ever bought, and that is my song for today: Eve Of Destruction, by Barry McGuire. In that previous post I described this as having been ‘a massive number one hit’ but in researching this post I found that in fact it only got as far as number three here in the UK, although it did reach number one in the USA. Funny how our memory can create images that then become firm beliefs, isn’t it. The song was written by P.F. Sloan, who was a prolific writer of pop hits in the sixties, and was a protest song against the Vietnam War. It was recorded in July 1965 and was released at once, becoming an instant hit.
McGuire started his singing career in the New Christy Minstrels, who you may well remember for their song Three Wheels On My Wagon, which was a regular choice on the old BBC Light Programme’s nod towards children, their Saturday morning show Children’s Favourites, hosted by ‘Uncle Mac.’ Today, that sounds a bit creepy, but this was the time before 1970s DJs started their laying on of hands! McGuire had a few other minor hits, but this song remained his real claim to fame. He became a born again Christian and devoted his musical life to making records in tune with his beliefs – nothing wrong with that but it did take him away from mainstream attention. As far as most of us are concerned, this song is his musical legacy.
The more alert among you will have spotted that this song was a hit a year or two before we had a record player at home. In those days, once a record had dropped out of the charts it was very difficult to find, and usually needed to be ordered from a specialist record shop – remember them? However, in Dover, where I was born, we had a covered market which was open six days a week. One of the stalls there sold secondhand records, and for the princely sum of 2s 6d (12.5p in today’s coinage) you could choose from their huge selection of recent hits. This is where I bought my copy of this song, and many others in the ensuing years. They cost about one third of the price of a new record, so if you were prepared to wait you could build a big library with your pocket money!
This doesn’t get played very often nowadays, as it was very much a product of its time, but I think it still stands on its merits. McGuire had an instantly recognisable growling voice, once described as sounding like Johnny Cash gargling ball bearings. Take a listen:
Or, to make the point that this was an anti-war song, try this:
And as a special bonus, and a little light relief, here’s the New Christy Minstrels song I mentioned:
I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s trip through the cobwebs of my musical mind. See you next Saturday 🙂