There is nostalgia, that looking back at the past, yet sometimes it becomes cloudy, slightly misty with forgotten memories. So I dreamed up No-Lostalgia, a what if nothing was lost, that the past was all intact, no political nonsense of erasing events, no raising the profiles of dignitaries to bury their failures. Then when it is obscure, being able to use imagination to say, what if, what if time does not exist.
You see I was born at a time of huge change, March 1945.
No need to dwell on what was passing, but more on what was coming, perhaps by default is still coming, like an embryo still growing.
My life as a child was a fabulous place for snatching ideas, looking for characters, understanding why I love baked beans on toast. But as a life it was utter rubbish, filled with negatives, holes in shoes, and no cuddles.
Yet from it I can extract No-Lostalgia, no lost memories, like the peering out of my aunts bedroom window from her flat in Deacon Street in East London. There in the early morning I recall watching a man with a long pole that had a hook on it, extending it up towards the gas street lamps, hooking onto an extended arm on the street lamp, pulling it down, and turning the street lamps off. I recall they had no electric lighting, inside the flat gas lighting with small gauze covered filament's that glowed bright at night. Those memories are no longer realities, they were 65 years ago, now they are nostalgia, in time it might just become lostalgia.
Then came the 60's.
How pleased I am that I lived in an era where music was influencing the world. I saw The Everly Brothers in 1960 at The Royal Albert Hall, Mahlia Jackson at The Royal Albert Hall in 1964, The Beatles in 1963 & 65 at The Astoria Finsbury Park London, & The Odeon Hammersmith London. Then there was The Mods & Rockers Ball in 1964 which had just about everyone including The Rolling Stones. We had tea and biscuits at The Mount Royal Hotel with Sonny & Cher was it 1967.
It was during that period of time I married. We had two children. I also started to write songs. Here are a few.
https://youtu.be/WHDgjya4mH4 PARIS TUNES 1967
https://youtu.be/GKbZI21Z4xQ ALL BOXED UP 1969
https://youtu.be/oJZHvgiIHkU IS IT GOD 1968
I had lots of ideas, lots of reel to reel recordings, could not afford to make demo's. I wrote IS IT GOD about the hypocrisy of racial barriers, about a black mans heart being used in a white man in a heart transplant in South Africa.
It was in 1968 we went to The Middle Earth, an off beat club in a warehouse basement in Londons Covent Garden. We had gone to see Captain Beefheart & his Magic Trouser Press band. Miriam and I were dressed like Sonny & Cher. It was a dark smokey dive, just a huge warehouse, a low level stage to the right, and a DJ area at the far end. The DJ that night was John Peel from pirate radios Radio London, infamous for his Perfumed Garden radio program. It was Captain Beefhearts first performance in London, and had been set up and financed by John Peel, and should never have happened, the mad Captain had no permit to play a gig in the UK. His gruff voice is a reflection of the late 60's rebellion, though at the time that could not be seen. Flower Power was still tripping in and out of the charts, while Motown was thundering close behind with The Four Tops Reach Out.
When Nina Simone was in the UK in 1968, I contacted her manager with the idea it would suit her style, I believe she was staying at Londons Dorcheter Hotel, he invited me to send the demo to him. Well several weeks passed by, I had no idea if he had received that demo, it was my only copy. Impatient I contacted him, was very surprised at his ultra friendly manner, I explained my worries about the demo. 'Oh no problems, Nina has been playing it on the piano, it's there now. Look we are in a hurry, I must go. I will pop it back in the post to you tomorrow, bye.' I was mortified, have always said to myself as booby prize, 'She was playing it.' Why was I so impatient!
I did try to sell my songs to Apple in 1968, I sat in a passage with others at the offices of Apple attached to The Beatles Apple Shop in Baker Street London, with its psychedelic external wall mural. Soon to be the venue for the recording of Get Back up on the roof of the building. With great excitement, as we sat on the floor in the passage, we saw John Lennon come out of one of the offices, he waved at us all giving sarcastic advice as he flew past, 'Don't drink the water in there, it will stick in your throat.' Little did we know The Beatles were falling apart, the following year it was over.
Perhaps the 60's ended in style, Woodstock, Man on the Moon, and the end of The Beatles.
So here I am John W Townsend, alias Knick Nak Paddywack.
Let me open the door to the years ahead, in words, music and poetry, but before I do, let me take you back to 5 march 1945, where it all began.
THE REFLECTIONS and RECOLLECTIONS of A BOY CALLED JOHN.
The second world war was in its last months, the years of its terror had already turned into expectation of greater things, which was just what happened on the 5th of March 1945, into the world arrived John William Townsend, son of William and Mable. No wonder Winston Churchill was breathing a sigh of relief. Loughborough General Hospital would never be the same, it’s imposing wooden doors will always stand as a symbol, of what? That something great happened here, but the meaning of what it was, well was not quite clear back then, but we will get there in due course, if I remember the way. It was a few months staying at an Auntie Flo and Uncle Tod's home, which was at the rear of Diss and Sons, their leather goods shop at 10 Market Street Loughborough. His birth in this part of the world was only because of the evacuation from London, during the Blitz, of children and pregnant women. Even though the war was all but ended, somewhere here roots were planted, yet soon it would be back to London, and so it came to be, six months old he was on the move again. Away from Loughborough, that market town in Liecestershire, to the busy heart of London, 9 Greenwood House south east London. The world was still on the move, the troubles had escalated, Japan had invaded America. Now the horrors were to take a new more terrifying steps, just when it should have been over. At 8.15 am on the 6 August 1945, an Atomic bomb was dropped by the Americans on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, the world would never escape its horror, and John was too young to know that a child his age, born at the same time as he, may have just perished. It was to a ground floor flat, this number 9 Greenwood House, in South East London. One that John may like in time, but we will come to that later. It was here that John found other roots, and was charmed by things new. Here he grew up with the South Eastern Railway line running past his front door, high along a steep embankment. Its route ran past the courtyard of Greenwood House, the noise of the steam trains was an allure unlike any he had known. It was here when John was three year’s old, that the trains became so much more interesting, he could stand at his door and watch in amazement. One day a very slow moving goods train caught his attention, its smoke and noise inviting him like a powerful magnet as it paused on the embankment. He wandered from his doorstep towards the railings, looking up at this steaming beast, then as it moved, he moved along the courtyard, looking up at it all the time, his eyes transfixed slowly following as it puffed its smoke into the air edging forward, and he kept taking another few steps, then another few steps. Every inch the train edged forward, he edged a few more steps. First, passing one block of flats, then another, then yet third. Suddenly his dream ended as the came to an end, a wall. The train moved out of sight from the courtyard, slowly even its sound disappeared. John's attraction ended, he looked around, lost. What could a three year old do, he had never been here before, he was lost in a place he did not know, and yes he bawled his eyes out, but, before he was reunited with his mum, he had messed his pants and was in a sorry state. It was also there at 9 Greenwood House he used to pedal his three wheeler tricycle all around the courtyard, sometimes with a little girl as a passenger, she lived next door. Often she would hitch a ride impressed by his wheels. One sunny day, busy burning the rubber, pedaling to impress, he was showered with water, thrown over from a top floor balcony of the block next door, his mum was furious. She stormed into that block, found the culprit, then gave a mouthful like John had never heard before, right impressed with Mum he was. Such was the way of life around Greenwood House. At this age of three, his parents had a tandem bike, it was complete with a sidecar for John to further impress. Every so often, on a Sunday, they would cycle out to the Kent countryside, which from South East London was on the doorstep. There he was sitting in his enclosed sidecar, passing buses, trolley buses , trams and lorries the lot, it was a most creative, imaginative environment to be in, seeing the world from a different view, who can say what its impressions were. When he was four, he spent some afternoon's in the local nursery, then at other times, he joined his Mum, she had a part time job in a workman's cafe. He was often seen sitting on the cafe counter, watching the beans on toast, and the cups of tea being poured. March the 5th of 1950, his parents took him out, they went to the cinema, it was somewhere near Trafalgar Square, a small place full of cartoon characters. They saw a Disney cartoon. Later they had planned a birthday party when he arrived home. However things did not seem to go that way, the front door window was smashed, the front door was open, and the birthday cake had been half eaten; even more the present they had bought John was gone, a pocket watch just like his granddad had. Things changed rapidly when April 4 1950 arrived, he became a brother to his sister Maureen, then things were all change, no more rides in the sidecar. Soon, London got the boot, it was on the move again. This time to the rural reaches of another number 9, 9 Letchworth Close, Carpenders Park, Oxhey, the time and year, the spring of 1952. A new house, his own bedroom, and as well as that, farmland, that lay at the top of the garden, loads of it, as far as the eye could see, not to mention that the house had a garden!. That place was magic, he was always out, sometimes in a friends house watching their television, programs like, ‘‘The Lone Ranger’’, were always a favourite. like that sidecar he once sat in, now, playing in the fields at the back of the house, there was again the creative, imaginative environment. It was there he and several other kids found a Cow about to give birth. John and a friend ran to the farmers house to tell him. what a thrill to have a ride on his tractor as he followed their directions to where the cow was. Then being there, that experience of that calf being born, it was an impact like no other, magic, nothing like this had ever been seen by him. This calf, in a skin like sack, with blood and fluid everywhere, its legs folded, almost looking as if it were dead. then seeing the Cow lick her baby. Then as the sack around the Calf fell away, the Calf began to struggle, it was trying to stand. However, those Cows were one day to cause John's Mum no end of a problem one bright August morning of '54. John's Dad had gone to work, his Mum had just put her morning washing out on the line, then he and his Mum headed to the local shops. Perhaps 45 minutes later they returned, his Mum was upstairs and had looked out of a bedroom window, 'What is all this caper!' she shouted. What she had seen was that our back garden had been invaded by Cow's, ten or more, grazing. They had also entangled themselves in the white sheets on the washing line, another had a nightdress half in its mouth, his Mum ran down the stairs shouting her head off, 'John we have Cows everywhere in the garden.' For John this was exciting, he rushed to take a look. They had trampled down the small rear fence and were enjoying whatever was on offer, even if it were sheets etc. John's Mum began nervously shooing them out of the garden, at the same time trying to grab a sheet from around one Cows neck. They gradually moved, and mooed as they did, though the nightdress stayed firmly in the mouth of it's new owner. Slowly they left the garden, which for John was a bit of a shame, not everyone keeps cattle in their back garden. Wow that was exciting. It was not long after that, that John had two rabbits, calling them Bella and Thumper. The cruel reality of life was to hit him in the months that followed. it was 1954, Bella and Thumper became parents to six babies, the chicken wire run grew much bigger, as the babies grew bigger. He was having fun life here was great. Then his life was suddenly going to take a horrible shock. One Sunday morning, he stepped from the kitchen door, just to catch sight of his dad wringing the neck of one of the now, fully grown younger rabbits. Shocked he stepped back into the house, filled with anger and confusion. later that afternoon, on the dinner plate was rabbit, boiled potatoes and greens, he left the room in tears, somethings are just not right, no matter which way you see it. later that day, he wandered to the top of his garden, tears streaming down his face. He looked around then without anyone seeing, he let the remaining five grown up babies escape into the farmland at the top of the garden. Then he made the wire appear to have been lifted to make it look like they had escaped, he also left their hutch door unlocked. His father was furious, but so was John. Then two days later he decided that Bella and Thumper should also have their freedom. The magic of this house had gone, so before his dad came home from work, he took Bella and Thumper to the top of the garden there he let them hop into the grassy expanse of the field. As he did he said 'Goodbye have a happy life.', tears filled his eyes, but a thrill arose, he would always recall and remember that day, he gave them their freedom. When his dad found out he was annoyed with him, then later said sorry for what he had done, he never ever realized what an impact that would have, only the freeing of the remaining ones helped John to remove those tears. I often wonder how your new life begun amid the field’s the forest the golf course beyond. Bella and Thumper my treasured friend’s I hope I gave you a life that has carried on and that your family grew strong. It was then all change again; 1955, a move from this place on the edge of the countryside, which was loved and hated at the same time by John. His Dad could not afford the train fares into London where he worked, so without asking anyone we were all told we are moving, yet again. It was a shock the day he was leaving 9 Letchworth Close, John had so many friends there, it seemed like kid coming on 11 had to keep growing up in the hard lane. All he knew was they were heading to a place called Burnt Oak in Middlesex, well it sounded a bit country. The real deal was different, rows and rows of houses, a massive council estate that never seemed to end, nothing like where they had come from, and here it was 123 Goldbeaters Grove, Burnt Oak. A huge Oak tree right outside the front of the house, there was a garden, but no fields. The house was so small and dark inside, he felt himself hating the house, his Mum said aloud 'I do not like this place.' But Dad was adamant, 'Too late now, we have moved, this is our home.' So this was it, an ugly dark house, with a black iron stove like fireplace, John was shocked. Here is where you can almost hear the radio cry from The Billy Cotton Band Show , and the man himself shouting , “Wakey , wa----key”, every morning, life had taken a few steps backwards, Mum was not well, she started talking aloud to herself, as if arguing. It was November 1956, John was in the Woodcroft School Christmas play, Cinderella. There he was dressed in one of his Mum's dresses performing the role of a lifetime as an ugly sister. No one came to see him, Mum was with his sister, and his Dad was at work. March 1957, there was a spiky chill in the cold, damp air of a Monday morning . John's feet shuffle across the linoleum flooring of the passage, this is his cold home, 123 Goldbeaters Grove, Burnt Oak, Middlesex. No room to swing a cat, not that the cat would like that. “ Hi Gypsy, going out? “ and the cat exits in a hurry as John opens the back door, whoosh, the cat is gone like a bolt of lightning from a cloudy sky. Gypsy was not an at home Cat, she was a streetwise tabby, who no cats messed with, nor dog's come to that, several times she had chased dog's out of her pathway. John was now at a new school and his Mum was going into hospital, his sister just disappeared from his life, he was told she was in a nursery in Wimbledon, miles away, his Mum was too ill. Since moving to Goldbeaters Grove life had changed, it was all wrong. His new school, Barnfield Secondary Modern, was a threat, but since the days of Bella and Thumper and family in crisis he had toughened up. It was here at school he met John Nicholas, they built up a friendship that was for John the greatest gift he could have had. Everyday at 6.45 am, Dad was already on his way to work, he leaves early to catch the cheap workman's ticket into Kings Cross London, he travelled from Burnt Oak station on the Northern Line underground. John has to get up not long after, ready for his school, Barnfield Secondary Modern, not sure about the modern bit, it was like a prison. he hates the place, like no one can really understand. He is a tubby lad, who takes the stick for it, his school nickname is Fatso, which does little to encourage, yet allowed him to find his own way in life, he was not thick, but thick skinned. It was September of 1957, his Mum was back at home after several months in hospital, she seemed well, life appeared to be fine. His sister was home, she was at Woodcroft School. It made such a difference now his mum was home. Most mornings she was already up and busy hanging washing out on the garden washing line. Come rain or shine, the line was always dancing, with a various assorted entourage of clothes. It was either that or the fire guard around a blazing fire, was drying the weekly wash, bit by bit, each garment continually turned, with vapors of steam rising, in John’s eyes it was like the clothes were on fire, it fed his imagination. The job of having to constantly turn them seemed to be a habit of Mum's, and those vast volumes of rising steam, crawled with wisp like fingers all over the mirror above the fireplace, he would like a weird display, it was like a different world. Most mornings it was “ Oh ! “, as John declares when he sees that the stove like boiler in the kitchen is not alight. This cast iron, black monolithic object was a standing boiler that heated water from the small solid fuel fire beneath. It would be hand pumped into the bathroom, when hot enough, and if you could wait long enough, do not bother. So, no fire, then there is no hot water. So it was boil a kettle or have a cold wash at the sink in the bathroom , you have a choice John, winter or no winter . He opts for a cold wash and heads for the tiny bathroom, just as his mum comes in from the garden, “ John are you ready? Do you want some toast ? “, she calls out . “ No mum , i'll just have a drink thank you . “, he calls from the bathroom. By 8.15 John is on his way to school. he will stop off at his friend John Nicholas home in Mostyn Avenue, it was on the way to school. His friend John understood him, his Mum was unwell with MS. The two of them had another friend, another John , John Sarson, almost like an elite club. John N is a loyal pal , never uses that nickname Fatso, however like our John, he is more inclined to be picked on, but he also cares not, that is life, school life was like that, you are not allowed to be who you are, even your own age group, 12 year old's toughened up or fell down, the other kids shun you if your different, and they were different, being fans of The Goon's, with conversation to match, it was as I said, an elite club. So on the way to school they would often meet John S . He is a bit tougher than them, stands up for himself, a bit of a leather gear merchant, mad on motorbikes. If he says John Fatso, it was acceptable, not liked, but our John knows he means nothing, just copying the others. As they walk, they talk , have a laugh rendering Goonish outbursts of 'He's fallen in the water.' John S finds it hard to understand these two idiots, but wants to. However one day when our Johns shoelace broke, he and John N decided to bury it with a small service, John S was getting uptight about being late for school but we did not care, the lace was buried in a dignified manner. A 140 double decker bus rolls past, if it were raining they might have caught it for a penny fare. John has a new pair of shoes, they make him feel more confident, happy, shoes were always noticed, a bit symbolic, give you bounce in your stride. John Sarson remarked about them, those small things were important when you had little, especially when you only had old clapped out shoes, with homemade cardboard instep’s that get wet in the rain, because your shoes have holes in. John S say's his dad wouldn’t get those type , says he will, “scuff them. “ but he likes the shine on them, 'Smart.' Then the conversation drifts into all manner of directions, as it always did. Soon school looms like a caged prison, its enclosed iron railings beckoning. Once through those Iron gates, you could only look out, you were inmates. John N leaves for his class , our John and John S go off to their class, they were in the same one. For our John it was the beginning of another, miserable day , “ Hi Fatso”, “Here, be our goalie, never get through you.” Never the how are you . He seldom replied to their words, what was the point , the nickname said it all. Once in the school's clutches, the teachers were alright, some fair. However some had reputations like god invented them to be feared, “Boy!” , they would shout. Some teachers really had quite classes, our John liked those classes, it was in there that he found something special, there was where he found his own space and time. One teacher who eked fear, a Scotsman with a broad accent, Mr. Alecker , he took maths, then some other times he would march these boys into the hall for singing lessons, had some idea of school choir. Sometimes he would bellow out about the appalling sound we made, insisting that the boys open their mouths 'Wider, wider.', as he did putting his fist up to their mouths to see if they were open wide enough to get his knuckles in between their teeth. He thought that the width of the mouth had to match the width of his fist, “Now we are getting somewhere.”, he would enthuse as he raised the stakes venturing a clutch of keys in his clasped hand, shouting 'Wider, wider.'. Then at his lead at the piano they would all sing , “Mud, mud, glorious mud , nothing quite like it for cooling the blood .“ Well, it made us all wake up. Another teacher Mr. Taylor was the English and music teacher, he gave extra tuition to classmate Tony Randall , who years later played guitar with , The Tornadoes, after the hit, Telstar reached no. 1 in the charts in the early sixties. He played a fair guitar, had a reputation around the school with it, he sparked our John's interest in music, but then you never managed to find the right way up. It was also in English that John would drift away, find his space, his place. Essays would give him an open passport to be or not to be, here, or in there, buried with those words. He could dream of who he would be, if he were ever a choice, which seemed so unlikely here. Yet sometimes that moment shone. On one occasion he chose a essay subject, 'What would I be like when i am sixty’, hey, now that was a very thought provoking subject, more so when it’s 48 years away, as well as in another century, this was 1957, not 2005. Part of his essay said, ‘‘I will be a well known newsreader on the BBC News’’, he also wrote, ‘‘Men would be living in space, on a huge space station.’’ You see his imagination was all so much to do with the BBC radio’s input, he not only listened to The Goons, he also listened to the BBC radio show 'Journey Into Space'. School was the name of the game , play John, you have no choice, enjoy it while you can. when he arrived home from school, most times the radio was on , from it came the sound of Bye, Bye Love of The Everly Brothers, might be heard, he would sing along with it, make out he had a microphone and live the part. For him these sounds were so very important, soon he will be a 13 year old, by 15 he will be leaving school, he might even be living a part of his life just like Journey Into Space, or ‘The Goon Show, it will be a part of his life forever, whatever. Even if in the corridors of memories, they become buried treasure, they are never forgotten, there is No Lostalgia in Nostalgia, there are only layer’s of an Onion, life is like an Onion. Layers of an onion been growing inside of me like all those words spoon fed on by The Goons Henry and Minnie Crum amid those radio waves telling me to be never marooned just look ahead at what then I could not see just believe. The evening tea time was a treat, sometimes egg and chips and a slice of crusty bread, with a lump of butter. Chips were a luxury, they did not happen often, but when those times arrived it did hit the spot, hmmm! Nice big fat chunky chips with salt and Vinegar. Tonight it’s up to bed early and switch on the Crystal Radio set, which his Dad had bought him. Johns favourite is on, everything went quiet for, ‘Journey into Space’ It was silence as he listened beneath the bed cover to Mitch, Lemmy, the sounds of the airlock doors, along with ethereal music to match. Thank you dear Charles Chilton and the BBC, thank you, this radio program was the food of imagination. That was also true of the Eagle comic, this is where school had no hold, where brains were made to work, minds ran overtime and everything seemed right again. Then after awhile, by the time the program had ended, or Dan Dare had been read, John's mind was like, Huey “piano” Smiths , Rocking Pneumonia, ready to believe anything. Why not? the Russians put a Sputnik into space , so why not John , well maybe he could be like Dan Dare, meet the Mekons, then again come to think of it, maybe he was really just a Ying Tong. A Ying Tong piddle aye foe , fed at all times by The Goons, Sellars , Milligan , Secombe and sometimes Bentine , all were teachers of The Ether World University. Through that little Crystal radio John,s brain cells were unlocked in a way that school had no password to enter, wherever and whatever, this was his world, and so it was, ladies and gentlemen this is the silly twisted world that kept John going, “He’s fallen in the water “ “You silly twisted boy” “ Shut up Eccles, shut up.”. Poor John S, he never did understand Goonish humour, the crazy banter was a mystery to him , Minnie and Henry Crum, Major Bloodnot , and not to miss the high pitched voice of Bluebottle and Oh! Eccles, it was all too much for John S to understand those moments that made the other John's laugh, and more so they did it when he lost his rag and became annoyed. so they did it all again, because he kept coming back for more.
Soon the 60's will be here.