I have been conducting some family history research lately and reflected on some of the formative moments of my life. We’ve all had them. Those watershed moments that change everything. Something from left-field that you never bargained on but you know that from that day onwards life will never be the same. This can be good or bad, of course. But we tend to wax lyrical only about those good moments. Perhaps when a young impressionable mind is jolted sideways and your life is changed forever.
I was 14. A youngster full of uncontrollable emotions and nuances I didn’t know how to spell. Every second of school was a potential time-bomb of experience. I’d hang with the good guys, and then knew just enough of the bad guys to use as insurance and stay out of trouble. I’d try my hand, my luck, no chance. Oh well.
The interesting kids hung out in the Art Room. The Hipclique would congregate at lunchtime around a new (then) Dansette purloined from the Music Room and listen to LP’s with psychedelic covers. Nodding to the music. Nodding sagely. All tie-less shirts and braided hair. I fell in love with a girl two years older than me. She was lovely. Very pretty, hippy skirts,…..braided hair. Everyone loved her so I guess my unrequited love was in good Hipclique company.
Jim was edgy though. My age, in my class, he straddled good guy/bad guy with an ease that kept everyone friendly and tense. Jim operated above his level. The older guys dug Jim. If Jim dug you then there was a good chance you could make it with the older guys too. But then again, we didn’t really have Jim’s natural cool.
Jim brought an LP to school one day and, whilst I was trying to impress elsewhere, held court in the Art Room. Afterwards in class, he picked me out, “Hey Al, you need to hear this.” I looked questioningly at the trio on the cover. A black guy centre I didn’t recognise and two white guys. There was a lot of fuzzy hair. I took it home. Curious.
We had an old Bush record player that was the family entertainment. It rang to the chimes of Jim Reeves and …..Jim Reeves, I think. My Mum’s favourite.
As usual our evening meal was ready as we sauntered in from school. I asked if we could listen to this record that Jim had leant me while we had dinner. No problem. My brothers sat around, chatting about the day, Mum checking in. I dropped the stylus on to the opening track and stood back.
What happened next sent a shockwave up my spine. Life changed. I can remember shouting to halt the conversation and telling everyone to stop and listen. LISTEN TO THIS. I / we had NEVER heard anything like it. Popular music in our house flitted from the Beatles (cheesy period) to Jim Reeves to Rolling Stones (Chuck Berry covers period) to Jim Reeves to the Beach Boys (fun fun fun)to Jim Reeves.
It was 1967….I was 14….and during the first 30 seconds of that LP my life changed…..
Jim became a life-long friend.