1977 to 1978

I was in the top of 4 streams in my final year and struggling at the bottom...sititng with a bunch of shitheads who didn;t like me and gave me a hard time. Through this year the Gavin Smith et al gang that I'd been in turned against me - I tried hard to get back in with Smith's lot - ended up getting friendly with a new lot - raymond Gray, Colin Mitchell and Andy Willis. It's no surprise that all these kids were outsiders Colin and Andy had joiend the school mid term and Raymond had few friends was a bit weird to be truthful - but I liked him, he was a good friend.

Early in 1978 I started paying more attention to music. Two things stand out - having the Plymouth sound Top 30 on in the car driving to/from trips to seaside or Dartmoor, and the tape recorder we were allowed to play with. Me and my sister put on little plays at first which mainly comprised of faking phone in shows. None of these tapes survive, which is probably a good thing.

There were videos on Saturday Morning Swap Shop too - Hot Legs by rod stewart was a particularly alarming example in January 1978. I hated it even then. Terry wogna doing the Floral Dance on TOTP was embarressing. Figaro Brotherhood of Man; Wishing On a Star, rose royce, Love is Like Oxygen, Sweet; Mr Blue Sky, ELO; Smokie For A Few Dollars More;

In February - Yellow Dog Just One More Night; Bee Gees Stayin' Alive Feb; Abba Take A Chance On Me; Kate Bush Wuthering Heights; Gerry Rafferty Baker Street; Blondie Denis; Eruption I Can't Stand The Rain; Brian & Michael Matchstalk Men And Matchstalk Cats And Dogs - a family singalong favourite

But I also used the tape recorder to record music from the radio. Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights" was a record that stands out - very odd sounding. Everyone took the piss out of it at the time, including Little & Large, but is held up as a classic today.
There was a of rubbish around in 1977/8 - punk was passing me by completely - hot chocolate, showaddywaddy, ELO, Darts, Stayin' Alive soundtrack came out the back end of 1977 - so we had that inflicted upon us through most of 1978, and there was Grease which came out in 1978 - and a string of hit records by Olivia Newton John and unknown greaseball John Travolta: Summer Nights, You're The One That I Want, Hopelessly Devoted To You, Sandy.
most of the girls in my class seemed to be Bay City Rollers fans - they wore the scarfs and tartan stuff - though I still wasn't really driven by music by then...and I was never aware of the teenage girl stuff - my sister was too young, although that would soon change as she would increasingly get into bands like ABBA, The Carpenters, The Dooleys and Brotherhood of Man.

I think that the main catalyst for kicking off my obsession with music was my mother's tape recorder. She had this old style machine which had a mic attachment which had to be held to the speaker of the radio. Early on my sister and I used to use it record little "skits" we made up - a pretend radio phone in show or a little play we made up. Eventually I used it to tape songs from the radio - except my music tastes were rather limited so I struggled to find things to record. This rapidly changed though - the more I listened to pop music the more I found I liked it. One of the first songs I remember recording was Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights" and I don;t think I even liked it that much back then.
Early finds were Blondie, Supertramp, Queen, none of that hard core punk stuff for me, at least not aged 10 and 11.
Gradually I found my taste got wider - in 78 even began to pick up on such New Wave luminaries as Elvis Costello, Sham 69....

An extension to the taping little skits came around that time when our mum gave us a large bag of clothes for dressing up in. As they were mostly women's / girl's clothes I used to end up playing female parts and putting on one of the little dresses. I remember looking at myself in the mirror at myself in this little girl's dress with puffed sleeves; the dress was light yellow, the flared and frilly hemmed skirt sitting just above my schoolboy's bruised and scratched knees, though not hairy legged back then, and with a face still feminised by youth, could probably have passed as a girl but for my haircut and tomboy stance. My sister said I looked like the butch girl at school forced to put on a dress for Sunday best, and not really liking it much. Once my dad cottoned onto what was happening the bag disappeared pretty quickly though I never thought there was any thing deviant in this, as it was OK for girls to dress up as boys, so why not the other way round?

Blondie got into the charts quite a bit in 1978. Denis in the spring, and through the summer, Prescence Dear, Picture this, Hanging On The Telephone.
Kate Bush's follow up "The Man with the child In His eyes" arrived - the first i knew about it was my dad doing a rendition of it after ariving home from work one day.

Also in 1978 - The Police Roxanne, I Can't Stand Losing You; YMCA, village People, and particular favourite, Just One More Night by Yellow Dog.

While I studiously ignored the films of the moment - Stayin' Alive and Grease, I did go to the cinema to see new film Close Encounters of the Third Kind - a film about UFOs - something I'd been interested in for a few years now.

It was 11 plus year - my parents had been hot-housing me on this for a while. I was pretty good at them by now but still worried about i'd react in actual exam conditions. It was also time for choices to be made, and I never really engaged with this issue properly, although why should i, i was only 11! but this is the world we live in - your life must be sign sealed and delivered as a small child. I had vague ideas about being either a policeman or an engineer...but my parents more or less made the important decisions that concerned me - and i sailed through oblivious.

One of the decisions was that I should put Sutton High school down as my first choice of secondary school. Devonport was reputed to be the best school, but this was largely based on it's good sports reputation, and sutton's sports reputation was poor, but academically was better than Devonport High.

this was my third period of unhappiness - conflated by my friends turning against me, and sitting with the dunces in Miller's class, the instituionalised bullying encouraged by Miller in class....and now extremem uncertainty in my immediate future. A make or break chance to go to a good school or a shit one like Prince rock where I would have my head smashed in the toilets - or stabbed in the playground.

What I didn't know, and learned years later was that my parents had decided if I failed the 11 plus they would send me to private school. In a way I wish I'd failed and had this chance. Oh hum....that's probably why they didn;t tell me...I think they would have struggled to fund in tbh.

Musical roads narrowly avoided:

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