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THE SWINGING SIXTIES: GROWING UP IN LONDON

Reaching the ripe old age of a teenager in 1964 in London town, meant great times, although at that period in my life, I was unaware of anything different. To me London was a great place to be. Simply, Britain had for the first time, shrugged off the influential USA and Paris, and became the musical and fashion capital of the World. For the first time since WWII, people had a bit of money and spending power suddenly became a reality! In 1967, the year I left school, a few of us went out in our school lunch hour for a walk in order to alleviate the boredom we had experienced that morning. Who should be waiting for a cab? None other than Paul McCartney and his then girlfriend Jane Asher. We spoke to him for about 10 minutes. He was a really nice guy. We asked him how George Harrison was, as he had just married his first wife Pattie. Paul winked and said he was fine. We then asked him how he felt about the music press writing off the Beatles. ‘Revolver’ had been their last (and my favorite) album. Paul said The Beatles had a new album coming out in the next few weeks, and it would be like nothing else they had made. He said this would show all their doubters that The Beatles were still a band to be reckoned with! He was right, it was like nothing else they had done before, it was a huge success; it was called Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band!

I got my first job in London’s West-End, working for a photographic retailer in fashionable New Bond Street. I used to check all the equipment before it went on sale for technical performance and my workroom was situated adjacent to the film library. There was only professional video in those days, so customers would buy a 16mm cine projector, and rent films from my employer. A lot of rock/pop and film stars used to visit us. Some were really nice people and always said ‘hello,’ such as Joan Collins, Herbert Lom and Danny La rue. Regular customers were the Bee Gees. We worked in the basement and there was little air to say the least. I remember the Bee Gee’s drummer Colin Petersen asking my mate and I how we could possible work in these stuffy conditions. He said it reminded him of something out of a Charles Dickens novel, he wasn’t wrong!

I remember Robin Gibb actually buying a lot of equipment from us and then he came to me and asked me if I knew how to write a cheque! He was then 17, one year older than me. The Bee Gees had just had their first ‘number one’ with Massachusetts. I’d opened a bank account the previous week, so showed Robin what to do. I remember the amount was virtually what I earned in a whole year! I earned the grand total of 8 pounds 10 shillings a week then! His brother Barry was stuck up to say the least, hopefully he grew out of it!

London then proved itself to be the new fashion capital. We had the legendary fashion designer Mary Quant design a piece of clothing to make all men and young boys very happy – the mini-skirt! It was a magic time, as tights/panty hose had not been invented then. So you had thrilling time of girls wearing mini skirts AND stockings… bliss or what! Then Mary Quant went and ruined it by bringing out tights! Oh well, it was heaven while it lasted!

The West-End was a great place to be. It was so vibrant too. Vidal Sassoon suddenly suggested people should get their hair styled, not cut. While I felt Carnaby Street was highly overrated, it brought in the tourists which was good for the city. I remember walking along Saville row, just off Regent Street, and seeing lots of people standing around. I looked up, and there were people leaning out of office windows, standing on roofs etc. I could hear a ‘thud-thud’ from a base guitar, and the sounds of drums. I realized I was walking passed the Beatles’ Apple headquarters. I did not know at the time, but the Beatles were performing live for the last time, recording part of their album ‘Let It Be’ on their office roof!

I then went to work for the good old B.B.C. in 1969 as a film projectionist. I worked at various locations. At the Television Centre at White city, I used to watch the pop stars recording their music for ‘Top of the Pops.’ Great fun! One time, a few of us asked the then music director who were his favorite band or singer. He replied he would not answer that, but he did say by far the most musically talented people he had worked with were The Beach Boys. He indicated very little rehearsal was needed as they were so good. I also remember The New Seekers, who were playing Melanie’s ‘Look What They’ve done To My Song Ma.’ The orchestra just couldn’t get it right, and everyone was in fits of laughter! Clarence Carter, who was blind, was there trying to sing his hit ‘Patches.’ It was a disaster! But overall, great memories.

So there you are, when I look back, I now realize what a great period the ‘Swinging Sixties’ were!

Ian Jennings

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