Sgt Pepper

Chapter Twenty-One

1968-1 Itchycoo Park

Are you Fred?

Yes!

Are you Bunch?

Yes!

Come in! Come in then, everyone’s told me about you!

A tanned smiling face poked round the corner of door to the Music Room; I didn’t think of it as my Music Room yet.

The Music Rooms were two carrels jammed between the serenity of the chapel and the madness of the kitchen at the East End of the Boarding House at Archies on the Hull Road in York. Well, they were rooms if you could call a four-foot by eight-foot space a room. My Music Room had an abandoned tea-trolley in one corner, probably left there by Cook after being asked to make tea once too often, or even once, and a bench. It was the sort of wobbly, wooden bench that professional footballers on the maximum wage would have sat on in the 1960s. In the end, we decided it was less comfortable than the floor and Bunch would smuggle in sofa cushions for us to sit on. Today, however, sunlight beamed in through the narrow window at the end of the room. It was that preternaturally bright sunlight that we associate with an Indian summer and which leaves an afterglow in the memory. My record player was parked on top of the Tea Trolley, the record collection occupied the crockery area, and together they provided some class to lift the bareness of the room.

Wow, is that a stereo record player?

Yes.

Is that Sgt Peppers? And Are You Experienced? In stereo?

Yes.

You’ve got the albums in stereo?

They are all in stereo, of course! And you’ve really got to hear the effects. They are brilliant on Pepper and on Hendrix, especially on Third Stone from the Sun. Do you want to listen to them?

I love Third Stone from the Sun! What stereo effects on Pepper do you like?

Good Morning! Good Morning!

Good Morning? Good Morning? Why?

You know, that bit at the end where all the animals chase each other round the stereo. I used to play it every morning in my dorm when I got up. I woke everyone up in the dorm with Pepper last term!

What? You could play records in your dorm at Boarding School?

Yeah! Of course! Mind you, all of us were fifth formers, so that’s why we were allowed. It was such a great term last summer, despite the exams.

Tell me about it, bloody O-levels!

Yeah, awful!

So how did you manage to get a record player in here then, in the Music Room? It’s never had a record player before.

I asked that fat bloke…

Sweeney?

Yes… he said that I could put it in here, as long as I let anyone who had records use it as well.

What did you say?

Well I said that as long as I am in the room when they use my stereo then I didn’t mind.

And he agreed?

Yeah, and then Andy helped me set it and here we are, a Music Room for Pop Music!

Sweeney let you have the room, and then Andy helped you set it up?

Yeah! Why not? What’s so special about that?

I’ve been trying to get a place to play records here for five years! What happened, did Andy thrash you at Table Tennis and then feel sorry for you?

22-20 in the final set thank you! The whole house was watching by then so I figured it wasn’t a good idea to win; just let him know I could go close if I wanted to.

But he’s captain of the school Table Tennis team, and captain of most of our sports teams.

Yeah so I found out… Close call there! Is he a runner too?

Yeah, captain of the cross-country team. Why?

Never mind; still at least I am in the school Table Tennis team now.

When did all this happen?

On my first day here.

On your first day here! No wonder you’re famous.

Famous? What do you mean famous?

Well, I’ve only talked to three kids since I got back and they all said, “You’ve got to meet Fred”

Well everyone said to me you’ve got to meet Bunch, so we’re quits there! Bunch?

Sugar Pie Honey Bunch, he said with some reluctance.

Four Tops?

Tamla Motown!

We shared our first smiles.

What’s that under your arm?

Oh, three new singles I bought on my way back from the station. I haven’t a clue if they’re any good or not as I haven’t heard them yet; do you mind if I use your record player?

You haven’t heard them yet?

No. I’ve been in Nigeria all summer and I haven’t heard any new Pop Music.

We smiled at the shared incantation; three singles, two smiles, one friendship…

My kind of bloke Bunch, gets off the train, walks straight to the record store and buys three records he’s never heard before. Then has to get the bus to school carrying all his bags, as he’s broke. Brilliant!

And they won’t let me out of school again til next Saturday so I knew I had to buy them as soon as I got here or I’d go nuts waiting for something new.

I was impressed; this was a guy thinking ahead. And for all the right reasons.

So how did you pick them then if you hadn’t heard any of them?

Well, Small Faces!

Yeah, Obviously.

You like the Small Faces?

Sha la lee! Is it Itchycoo Park? Yeah? Put it on then!!

Bunch took over as though we had been doing this for years.

Great drums!

Over bridge of sighs

to rest my eyes in shades of green

under dreaming spires

to Itchycoo Park

that’s where I’ve been

Where’s Itchycoo Park then?

You bought the record!

You’re English!

I’m not a cockney though; may-tee!!

I tried, unsuccessfully, to drawl with a Cockney accent.

Stevie and the other little Faces went into the intricate kind of lead singer call and response with the rest of the group that Tony had pointed out that The Beatles were doing on From Me To You. It lifted the record and lead it into their incantatory belief in how it’s all too beautiful; the real title of the record after all.

What did you do there?

I got high

What did you feel there?

Well I cried

But why the tears there?

I’ll tell you why!

It’s all too beautiful

It’s all too beautiful! See it’s a hippy song! Fantastic.

Its not very RnB though is it? They’ve really changed haven’t they?

Yeah! But in a good way, they’ve gone progressive like the Beatles and Hendrix…

It’s all too beautiful

It’s all too beautiful

It’s all too beautiful

Listen, doesn’t that just make you really happy?

Bunch, who hadn’t even heard Itchycoo Park once yet, let out a warm smile.

I feel include to blow my mind

Get off; feed the ducks with a bun

they all come out to groove about

be nice and have fun in the sun.

We knew it was a hippy song because Stevie Marriott recommended feeding ducks in the Park, which we knew no one ever did. I was just back from two years in Germany and Bunch was just back from Nigeria, so we knew it was just a bit of hippy surrealism as nothing that they were singing about ever happened in real life. Itchycoo Park was really great stuff, and it was clearly lifting Bunch’s spirits as he listened to Pop Music again, even if Itchycoo Park was such a mad name. It was quite clearly made up by a hippy.

Actually you’d look like Stevie Marriott if you parted your hair in the middle.

And give up my Beatles cut?

Well they have!

Yeah, but it’s taken me five years to get it like this.

Well they are demons with haircuts here, so you’ll lose it anyway. Part it in the middle and you can keep all the hair on top. They never bother with the top. Anyway Mods are cool in York.

Bunch was going to get me looking like Stevie Marriot and thinking like John Lennon.

Hmm, maybe, I’ll have to think about it. You don’t have a matron though do you?

No, just old bald features; and he decides when you have to go and get your haircut.

In Germany the Barber came to the Boarding School and we had to line up in the corridor on matron’s work to get it all taken off!

What a nightmare…Oh hang on, listen to that;

Phased drumming marked the shift of the record to the second verse, with some great call and response again between Stevie and the other Faces, as though they were his mates playing down on their recce on a lazy Saturday afternoon. Doing the Lennon and McCartney thing of having lots of variations within a simple format.

I tell you what I’ll do

I’d like to go there now with you

You can miss out school

Bunch burst out laughing;

Miss out school!

I raised my eyes in agreement

Won’t that be cool?

Why go to learn the words of fools

“Why go to learn the words of fools”, echoed Bunch

“What does that mean?” I chorused in reply, wrongly as it would transpire when we finally decoded the lyrics.

We locked smiles as we shared thoughts in this tiny meeting place behind the chapel at school.

Brilliant; what other records have you got?

Traffic, he said triumphantly.

I froze;

Not Hole In My Shoe?

His smile faded.

The Small Faces locked into their mutually celebratory call and response again, reaching for the sky yet again just as our mutuality faltered and headed for tears.

What will we do there?

We’ll get high!

What will we touch there?

We’ll touch the sky!

But why the tears there?

I’ll tell you why!

Hole In My Shoe is a novelty record, why did you buy that?

I still haven’t heard it! Remember? Anyway I think Paper Sun is the best single so far this year.

Isn’t it just! What a brilliant hippy song. But Hole in My Shoe is so disappointing after that. What else have you got?

Spencer Davis Group!

Time Seller?

Yeah, is that OK? He asked hesitantly, is it their usual RnB?

It isn’t RnB, it’s completely different, but it is really interesting and it only came out yesterday, so brilliant choice!

I wanted to encourage Bunch’s blind purchases, after I’d inadvertently put him down.

It’s all too beautiful

It’s all too beautiful

It’s all too beautiful

It’s all too beautiful

We sang along to the uplifting chorus; just the tonic we needed before yet another week locked up in school. I had finally reach the status of a sixth former and my reward was to be locked up in a single sex school with our sister girl school miles away on the other side of town. In loco parentis; that way madness lies.

I feel inclined to blow my mind

Get off; feed the ducks with a bun

they all come out to groove about

be nice and have fun in the sun.

Feed the ducks with a bun!

Yeah, in Home Counties cardigans I bet; that’s really funny.

And groovy ducks,

So not Donald then,

Or Ebenezer!

I reckon its Stevie Duck!

Yeah!!

It’s all too beautiful

It’s all too beautiful

It’s all too beautiful

It’s all too beautiful

Hah!

Hah! Bunch and I were grooving with the spirit of the song and we weren’t inclined to stay quiet and observe the traditions of our 513-year-old school.

It’s all too beautiful

It’s all too beautiful

It’s all too beautiful

It’s all too beautiful

We put on Time Seller and admired its distinctive, original, string-driven sound, but it wasn’t the Spencer Davis Group of our youth.  They obviously missed Stevie Winwood, and, going by Hole in My Shoe, so did Traffic , even though it was only their second single. Bunch had gone with the brands, but it would be another few months before Traffic finally succeeding in getting it together in the country.

Are you going to let me play Hole In My Shoe?

Not whilst I’m in the room.

But it’s a Dave Mason song!

Exactly!

You know what, countered Bunch, I reckon Itchycoo Park is the real follow up to Paper Sun!

Yeah it is, isn’t it! I wish groups would learn to get it right…

Do you think we are actually going to get some new progressive groups then?

Lets hope so!

The Music Room had just taken its first tiny steps towards becoming the hippy HQ of Pop Music in the Boarding House for the next two years.

2 Comments

  1. August 29, 2009 at 9:43 am

    […] York University where, writing in Nouse during the Autumn, after its release a student asked “Are we going to get some new progressive groups now?” With Pepper The Beatles had created a trend, an artform and a demand and in 1968 everyone […]

  2. August 29, 2009 at 11:30 am

    […] What Would You Think? Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band […]


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