It has taken me 25 blogs to get to the subject of music, the way people listen to music has changed so much over the years, there are so many different types of sound systems it makes my head spin. To be honest I am not really interested what system you have, it is the artist and their music that interests me. So what does the frozen northerner listen to in his very limited leisure time. Well, I suppose what I listened to in my youth will and still does have a strong bearing on what I listen to now. Kids in my school fell into two categories, if you had long hair you were listening to bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath etc. and if you had short hair (possibly with potential skinhead tendencies) you chose soul or reggae if chose soul it would in all probability have a heavy Motown influence. The chances of me having long hair were nil, so when a good friend of mine lent me a copy of Motown Chartbusters Volume 3 the die was pretty much cast. Once that glorious piece of vinyl had been eased out of that magical silver cover sleeve and placed it on that Fidelity turntable, a whole new world was about to open up and introduce me to likes of Stevie, Martha, Junior, Smokey, The Temps and The Tops. They were all there, singing motor city classics that made your feet tap instantly. No one caught my imagination more than Marvin Gaye, he looked so cool in a tux and with that red pocket square he was impossible to resist, furthermore he sang like a dream, either as a solo artist or in a duo with Mary, Kim or Tammi, he was the man and I loved his albums.
Then 1971 he released ‘What’s Going On’ an album way ahead of its time, this was not a record aimed at getting your feet moving, this was a serious disc dealing with serious issues such as social depravation and racial injustice. It changed the face of black music and would heavily influence performers like Stevie Wonder and Curtis Mayfield. To be brutally honest it took me years to really understand it, but now I regard it as seminal piece of work, which is right at the top of my music collection. Like any great album there are some standout tracks, although for me, none compare with Inner City Blues, a song that is as relevant today as it was 44 years ago. True, it may not be the happiest album you will listen to, but it is surely one of the best.
The recent death of Peter Dimmock has brought home to me just how far the BBC has fallen behind sky when it comes to presenting sport. Dimmock was a man of vision and was perhaps the first man in this country to seen the potential of televised sport. This was a time when the beeb reigned supreme, they covered all types of sport and delivered it better than anybody else in the world. Dimmock was the first presenter of the first programme totally dedicated to sport in the shape of Sportsview, a show that would have a profound effect on me and was probably the place where my addiction to sport really started to kick in. Sportsview showed sport not only from home but also from around Europe and sometimes events from even further afield. For a young child it was awe inspiring stuff, my parents realised too late, that this exposure to sport had opened up Pandora’s Box and no matter what they did the lid was never going to be put back on. I was smitten and a total lost cause, any hope of me achieving any kind of academic success quickly disappearing leaving my parents rather distraught to say the least. By the end of the 60’s the Corporation pretty much had it all, with regards to sports and were now at the forefront of any major sporting event, covering each occasion brilliantly by using the best commentators to describe and set the scene. Wolstenholme on football, Coleman on athletics, O’Sullivan on horse racing, Carpenter on boxing, the list was endless and these guys were peerless at their job. Even some of the younger guys that came along were good with people like, Lynham, Motson and Davies easily blending in. Who was the best I have no idea these guys were all so good at their job, but Motson’s commentary on the 1984 European championship semi-final between France and Portugal probably stands out for me, here was a man at the peak of his game totally unable to control himself during the extra time period. At this particular game he is not a commentator, he is just a fan revealing his passion and that is what made all these men so great, they weren’t just commentators they were also fans of their sport. The decision made a few years ago by the BBC to pursue different aspects of television led to the company dramatically cutting back it sports programme, has led to Sky Sports becoming the voice of sport. It has to be said that Sky does it very well and has some good commentators and pundits, although none of them would get a job at the BBC in its sporting heyday. I still love and watch any type of sport, but modern day commentators are just a bit too sugary for my taste, they are all about the money they can make and have no real feeling about the sport they are covering, which is why I long for the days of Coleman and co, those guys really cared.
This is a dangerous time of year for the frozen northerner, gifts will be plentiful and will come in all shapes and sizes, with every present being gratefully accepted. However, there is one area where there is cause for concern and that is in the underwear department. The frozen northerner is now 60 plus, so when it comes to buying or receiving underwear the age thing has to be taken into consideration. I am fairly certain that I do not look like David Gandy (which my wife tells me is slightly disappointing) so buying me briefs or budgie smugglers is completely out of the question. Men of my age should always wear boxer shorts, except of course when you are still participating in some type of physical activity, which hopefully you still are. Just because you are 60 does not mean you can’t be fashionable, but a degree of common sense must be applied with regard to the underwear. When it comes to boxers, keep it simple and buy plain white, if you feel the urge to have something with a bit of colour, then possibly light blue or pink but nothing else, no names on the waistband, no stripes or patterns and certainly no Christmas trees or Newcastle United logos, remember it is the festive season not the silly season. So where is one going to purchase these items of clothing, well, as with most clothing items it is all about what you can afford, if you are on a budget like me, then it will boil down to 2 companies Sunspel and Marks and Spencer. The internet is probably your best bet for Sunspel underwear, as it is bloody hard to find in the north east of England but please correct me if I am wrong. Marks and Spencer is easier, as they have many stores throughout the north east. For value M&S cannot be beat however, if you are feeling flush do try Sunspel because they are very good and are extremely comfortable. So the choice is yours, keep it simple and stick to plain white and if you are doubting my advice, think of that man in the southern comfort ad, that could be you wandering the house getting ready to go out, not a pretty sight at any time.
The Olympics games held in Mexico were special to me because they were first Olympic games that I can clearly remember. As a young lad, it was quite a novelty getting up in the morning for breakfast and watching events being beamed back to Britain by the BBC. The athletics portion of the programme is what we were really interested in and it was great when Hemery won gold in the men’s 400 metres hurdles and disappointing when Lillian Board took only silver in the women’s 400 metres. Elsewhere there was loads going on with Mexican students protesting, Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Lee Evans highlighting the civil rights unrest in the United States and Vera Caslavska taking on the Soviet Union only a short time after her country had been invaded. Vera who? You may be asking yourself but, this is a story about a great woman prepared to fight against the big red machine, whatever the consequences. In those games, Caslavska was a woman under immense pressure to deliver gold medals to Czechoslovakia, given the political unstability that was going on in her home country as a result of a failed attempt at Democracy. She took on the might of the Russian gymnasts and buried them winning 4 gold and 2 silver medals in the 6 events she had entered. One of the silver medals came in an event where she was clearly cheated and demonstrates just how tough she really was, while standing on the podium as the Russian national anthem was being played, Caslavska looked the other way, a move of defiance that was duly noted by the Russians. Despite being widely celebrated as the most popular female at the Mexico games, Vera was going home to a country where the authorities would take a dim view of her outspoken attitude, forcing her into retirement, alienating her from her sport and made her persona non grata in own country for many years. The fall of communism saw her rightfully return to gymnastics and gain the respect and honours that she fully deserved, you cannot help but admire this brilliant athlete who was prepared to lose everything for the sake of her beliefs. Her tally of 7 gold and 4 silver medals at the Olympics as well as her other numerous achievements at the World and European championships don’t go far enough to show just how great an athlete she was, would she have been as good in 1972 in Munich against Korbut and Turischeva, no one can tell you, but then again they did not have to put with the obstacles that Vera Caslavska had placed in front of her.
We are fast approaching the festive time of the year, which should be a fun time for everyone, the TV channels will have their Christmas programme all sorted and they will compete for the biggest audiences, among their biggest features there will be loads of blockbuster movies. Disney will be prominent throughout the holiday season showcasing legendary films such as Snow White, The Lady and the Tramp, Bambi etc. It may also show the scariest film of all time, Pinocchio, that’s right Pinocchio, forget Nightmare on Elm Street and the like, no film has frightened me so much over the years as this Disney children’s classic. My reward for being taken to see it as a young child has been endless nightmares that have stayed with me all the way to my 61stth year. Now I know that Walt’s cartoons all have happy endings with Cinders getting her Prince Charming and people like Cruella De Ville getting her comeuppance, but it is the trauma we have to go through, to get to the happy ending that worries me. The Pinocchio storyline is quite simple and is basically about a child that is rather easily led, who for most of film ignores the advice of his friend and conscience Jiminy Cricket. Failing to heed Jiminy’s advice sets Geppetto’s wooden child on a torturous path, where he encounters a string of unsavoury characters such as Gideon the cat, Honest John, Stromboli and perhaps worse of all, coachman. If the thought of being chopped up and used for firewood by Stromboli wasn’t bad enough, then the trip to Pleasure Island should be sufficient to scare the living daylights out of you. Lampwick might be great at drinking beer, smoking cigars and putting the 5 ball in the corner pocket, but who wants to be turned into a donkey, certainly not me. After that, escaping from the whale’s belly is fairly straightforward and as with all Disney classics everything ends well, with Pinocchio becoming a proper child with everyone living happy ever after. But I have to tell you the picture of those donkeys hee-hawing as they are sent to the salt mines or the circus still fills me with terror. Sleep is never a safe place for me especially with these two characters on the loose.
Modern day football strips tend to leave me cold, there is not a team in the land that hasn’t succumbed to the rampant commercialism that runs and ruins our national sport. It started with the sponsor’s name being emblazed across the front of the shirt, now, some also have them on the back of their shirts and just to stop any youngster using their socks for two football teams, each team now has the obligatory club badge on the socks. I yearn for the 60’s and 70’s, it was a much simpler time back then and so were the strips. This was a time when strips were seen at their best, it didn’t matter whether your team belonged to the old football league’s four divisions, the Scottish leagues or one of those gems that came from across Europe or South America. The Real Madrid 60’s home kit is without equal and it is no wonder that it was copied by Leeds, who wore it with aplomb till they decided to put those stupid number tags on the socks (a huge error in judgement). For some unfathomable reason it seems that if you wore a great strip it allowed you the honour of winning trophies, throughout the 60’s the European Cup demanded that you wore good kit, Madrid, Benfica, the two Milan sides, Man Utd plus the fabulous Celtic ‘67 team all wore strips that ensured you were going to win something big, hell, even West Ham looked wonderful when lifting the cup winners cup at Wembley in 65.The list is of these classic home kits is endless and it is nearly impossible to try and compile a list. But when it comes to away kits it is even harder, traditionally most away strips were pretty mundane, but in 1965 Inter Milan changed the rules when they produced an away kit that bordered on the sublime, sometimes worn with a hoop or diagonal stripe it changed away kits forever, Leeds had a brilliant blue and yellow number in late 60s, Man City had that superb red and black stripes outfit and Liverpool had that terrific white top with red trimmings and black shorts ensemble. But this was also an area where the Europeans excelled, with some of the Italian away kits awe inspiring. For me the greatest away kit belonged to Barcelona circa 75, just seeing Cruyff or Neeskens in that fantastic yellow top makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. So, below are few of my favourites, no sponsors in sight and very few logos, Enjoy this stellar kit being worn by some stellar players.
End clothing has decided to close it shops on High Bridge and open a larger store on Grainger Street, while this is great news for the retail market in Newcastle, the new shop lacks the cosiness of their old smaller outlets. I am not sure if this is a change for the better, however, this is probably the price you pay when you become successful. Its move to bigger and better things reminded me of a long gone shop that also went on to bigger things. In 1975 I walked into a little clothes shop on Shakespeare Street in Newcastle called Ricci, it was a pearl of a shop and over time posed a serious challenge to Marcus Price, which at that time was the leading menswear shop in the city. Ricci stocked loads of French and Italian labels as well as some good up and coming young British brands. It was new and fresh and quickly became a big hit with the frozen northerners, no visit to the Geordie capital on a Saturday morning was complete without a trip to this shop. As its popularity increased Ricci’s very clever owner Phil Walton, opened a larger shop on Hood Street as well as an excellent shoe shop on Grey Street, business boomed and throughout the eighties the shop went from strength to strength, Walton, as always trying to keep ahead of the game, started to develop his McKenzie range of clothing, this led to him closing his shoe shop and he changing the name of the other shop from Ricci to McKenzie. Although still successful, Walton eventually decided to close the shop and sell his products mainly through sportswear shops such as JD Sports. Since then the entrepreneurial Mr Walton has went on to become a highly successful businessman and a director of several companies. So why am I telling this tale, well, through the eighties Newcastle had loads of good small independent clothes shops, which, slowly one by one they have nearly all disappeared (apart from Leaf Clothing on Pilgrim Street and Union Clothing on High Bridge which has seen them all off and are both still doing well as I write this blog). In End Clothing we have a great independent shop that is quite rightly up there with the best in the country, let’s just hope it doesn’t lose that attention to detail that the smaller shops had and which is what I so crave. The guys in Ricci were, for the north-east ahead of their time and were seriously cool, I cannot turn back the clock, but boy do I miss that shop, so let’s just hope that End’s new store is a success, but manages to maintain the old stores charm.