January 5, 2012
It started with a girl – it always did. She’d be about 16, I was about 6. She was different from all the other girls on the estate. A free spirit. Like Julie Christie in Billy Liar (only chubbier)
She was always with a boy. The boy always had an LP tucked under his arm. The cover had a photo of two guys, a short one wearing a scarf and a taller one with curly hair. The boy looked a bit like the taller one in the photo. He always wore a long raincoat and a scarf. He was from the posh estate and was called Timmy.
I needed that LP to impress the girl and to look like the boy. I wheedled and pleaded for it until my mum finally gave in and bought it for me. I played it endlessly on my sister’s red dansette, learning the words to every song, singing along to The Boxer, Cecilia and The Only Living Boy In New York. One of the men had the voice of an angel. So did my six year old self (lost it when my voice broke, unlike Artie – lucky bugger to be blessed with that voice).
The girl eventually went to university (not many did back then, especially from pre-fab council estates) and subliminally I must have associated the LP with a different world, one that was out there. Like the album cover of Freewheeling that my sister had in her record collection, it evoked possibilities.
In later years I was embarrassed by it. Hid it at the back of my record collection, somewhere south of Sex Gang Children. Then I recently saw the BBC4 documentary about the making of Bridge Over Troubled Water and the floodgates opened. I could appreciate the harmonies, the melodies and how it was born out of close friendship, love even, between two young men. How it came out of a more radical, less cynical and a more innocent time. How it still sounds great today.
There, it’s out. Now I feel better. And the girl? Well she lived on a kibbutz for a while, became a teacher, settled down and eventually married a man with money rather than a poet. But I still remember the sixteen year old. I wonder if she does.