On My Radio

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Writing my latest column for the Canterbury Times, I was reminded of just how great radio was in the Eighties. I would always take a transistor radio out with me on family trips, lest my world be bereft of music. I can remember travelling home from my grandparents’ home in Eastbourne, on a grey and rainy Sunday afternoon in 1983. Our Hillman Imp didn’t have a car radio (unsurprising when I tell you that whoever sat behind the driver had to hold onto the driver’s door whenever we turned left, to stop the door flinging wide open!), so I spent the journey waving my little yellow radio around, in an attempt to catch snippets of the Top 40, in between blasts of loud, crackling interference.

Later on in the decade, in the summer of ’85, I was listening to Laser 558 whilst my parents, brother and I lay sunbathing on the beach at Camber Sands. Our trips to the Sussex coast would always be almost military-like in their preparation. The picnic would be made the night beforehand, so that when we got up early the next morning “to make the most of the day”, everything could be whisked away into a giant coolbox, and packed into the car with the rest of the day’s paraphernalia, including windbreaks, beach mats and the obligatory frisbee, as quickly as possible. It is that swift departure which I blame for a ‘slight oversight’ one sunny, June day. You see, it was only as we were basking in the sunshine, listening to the pirate radio station, that the day’s significance became apparent. Yes, it took a DJ wishing all the dads a Happy Father’s Day, for Mum, my brother and I to realise we had forgotten something! We hadn’t forgotten completely – the cards and presents were at home – but the lazy haze of summer had got the better of us. Dad’s reaction to our shocked faces, and hastily muttered apologies, had simply been “I wondered when one of you would realise”.

So, to say “Sorry” again, but also as a “Thank You” for introducing me to their ‘High Tide And Green Grass’ album before I had even reached double figures, here are The Rolling Stones with ‘Paint It Black’. Enjoy, Dad…

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Long Hot Summer

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My love for Summer is no big secret. As a rule, if the sun is shining and the temperature’s rising, I am happy. Perhaps that is why my childhood memories of the Summer Holidays are so cheery. In them, the sun was always shining, and I was always smiling (although my parents will beg to differ about the reality of these memories!).

One of my favourite summers was in 1983, during which we took a fortnight’s holiday to Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset. Rather aptly, The Style Council’s “Long Hot Summer” was in the charts. This, along with the likes of KC & The Sunshine Band’s “Give It Up”, Wham!’s “Club Tropicana” and Paul Young’s “Wherever I Lay My Hat”, provided the soundtrack for both my holiday and my summer. I had taped the charts off the radio the previous Sunday, painstakingly attempting to stop recording before Tommy Vance spoke over the end of the songs. During the seemingly never-ending journey from Kent to Somerset, in Dad’s khaki green Hillman Imp (suitcases tied precariously on the roof-rack), that C90 cassette was played continuously. Due to the fact that the car radio was unable to pick up a signal for longer than a few seconds, it also became the background music to our holiday sightseeing. In my mind, Glastonbury Tor, Cheddar Gorge and Wookey Hole all feature alongside tracks such as The Kinks’ “Come Dancing” and Eurythmics’ “Who’s That Girl?”. Little wonder then that any one of these songs can evoke such vivid memories for me.

My favourite track during that holiday, but one not often heard today, was Roman Holliday’s “Don’t Try To Stop It”. Hope you enjoy this video as much as I do, as it causes me to recall family midnight swims in the camp site pool, during the long, hot summer of 1983.