Tag Archives: heroes

In Living Colour

We take it for granted nowadays, but there was a time when watching colour television was a real treat. It was like having a cinema in your front room, and an invitation to come and watch the World Cup Final was definitely one not to be missed.

Azteca Stadium, Mexico City

Azteca Stadium, Mexico City

This was the lucky position that I found myself in, in the summer of 1970, as Brazil were preparing to play Italy in the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. Both teams had played great football, particularly Brazil, to get to the final, and the experts were predicting a feast of skilful action. They certainly got that right with Pele, Jairzinho, Carlos Alberto and the other Boys from Brazil becoming household names for their brilliant, exciting play. It was an unforgettable moment, and seeing them in glorious colour left a mark that has never faded.

My friend Caro, whose brothers played football with me and my friends, invited us to watch the game on her family’s new, colour television. During the days leading up to the game it was, I remember, the only topic of conversation as we discussed what might happen. It was an exciting time and the tension increased as Sunday approached and bold forecasts about scores and scorers were made. Most of us went for Brazil and Brendan, a good friend and a more than useful centre-half, even suggested that Brazil would win 4-1.

‘Yeah, sure,’ I said ‘in your dreams!’

Mid-summer’s Night was warm and bright as I headed up to Caro’s house and entered a maelstrom of excitement. There was noise and activity everywhere as boys arrived and her Mum and some neighbours made popcorn in the crowded kitchen. In the front room a large television dominated a corner, and the game was the only subject on everybody’s lips. Most of the boys were there when I arrived and I sat on a sofa with Eddie and Paul. Others were seated on chairs, pouffes and cushions while Brendan had parked himself on a beautiful Chippendale chair a few feet from the television.

Italy & Brazil - colourful greats

Italy & Brazil – colourful greats

We were glued to the television as the transmission from Mexico ‘went live’ and we were transfixed – and momentarily rendered silent.

The bright, yellow jerseys of the Brazilian players contrasted with the blue of the Italians and the luscious green of the pitch. I had never seen anything like it and couldn’t help but smile at my good fortune. A chorus of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ went up as the commentator named the teams while the camera panned about the packed stadium. It was brilliant and, unable to contain our excitement, we started cheering. We shouted and nudged each other in anticipation, with Brendan’s grin as broad as Dublin Bay. He raised four fingers on one hand and one on the other. ‘Remember, boys, 4-1.’

The game started and we were enthralled by the wonderful play, and cut and thrust of the exchanges. Brazil, with their fantastic technique, probed the Italian defence constantly in what was a meeting of giants. The game flowed back and forth before Pele broke the deadlock and scored the first goal with a decisive header. We leapt about like salmon, as the room was suddenly a cauldron of noisy hysteria. The television picture was so real and the noise in the room so loud, that for a moment, I thought I was actually at the match. It was a fantastic atmosphere.

Popcorn - vital sustenance

Popcorn – vital sustenance

But it was too good to be true and the Italians equalised a few minutes before half time. A morgue-like silence hung in the room and smiles were replaced by deep frowns. This was not meant to happen, and only Brendan seemed happy with the score. We sat back at half-time and talked excitedly about what we had seen. It was infectious and we grabbed handfuls of warm popcorn when the bowls made their way around. Just past the hour, Brazil scored again, 2-1. The room was like a madhouse with popcorn falling like snow before we settled down and willed the inevitable Brazilian victory. A third goal soon followed and it was Samba-time in the noisy room – at least that’s what Caro’s mum called it!

In the dying minutes Brazil began a move that went the length of the pitch before their captain, Carlos Alberto, crashed in a fourth goal. We all jumped up again but Brendan fell backwards on his chair and a horrible, cracking sound split the air. After a few moments of uncomfortable silence he stood up and found that the back of the expensive chair had snapped off like a dried twig and now lay flat on the floor. He was mortified but Caro’s mum shrugged and told him not to worry about it.

Game from a throne

Game from a throne

In the days and weeks that followed we played football and imagined being our heroes. We argued over being Pele, Rivelino or Carlos Alberto but Brendan never had any trouble about who he was. And now, whenever I see replays of that famous fourth goal I often wonder where I might find The Chairman.

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There’s a Starman…

It started off as nothing more than a spin around South London, but by the time we were finished it seemed as though we had been on a pilgrimage. The heavy, slow-moving traffic didn’t intrude, giving us more time to talk about our musical hero whose untimely death had left his millions of fans stunned and heartbroken. David Bowie may have gone to the great gig in the sky and, as we sang along to yet another of his songs, it was with a mixture of pleasure and pain that was both equally uplifting and sad.

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School of Stars

School of Stars

The day was bright and cold and it was my first time in London since Bowie’s passing. My cousin, who lives in Dulwich, had sketched out a route that would take us to some of Bowie’s haunts from his early years. It was a plan that would allow us time to listen to his music and discuss his unique cultural contribution. We had often done this, usually late into the night, but with the great man’s passing it seemed more like a duty and something we just had to do. As he started the car and we moved off he clicked on the music player and the sound of Station To Station. ‘You drive like a demon,’ I said, getting the first laugh of a memorable day.

David Jones was born on 8th January 1947 at 40 Stansfield Road in Brixton where he lived until he was seven when his family moved to Bromley. He went to a local junior school before arriving at Bromley Technical High School for Boys (now Ravens Wood School) in 1958. And it was her under the guidance of teacher Owen Frampton, the Head of the Art Department and father of guitarist Peter, that Bowie’s creative side began. He was a superb dancer and played saxophone with Peter Frampton in a school band called The Little Ravens.

Hunky Dory

Hunky Dory

And it was here in 1962 that he received a punch in the eye from his friend George Underwood, that left him with a frozen pupil. Bowie had taken George’s girlfriend Carol and the unfortunate result gave Bowie a unique look that fitted perfectly with his soon-to-be-famous image. George went on to become very successful in the art trade and was involved in designing the album covers for Hunky Dory and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. My cousin turned up the volume on John, I’m Only Dancing as we passed the old school where rock legends once learned to play.

After leaving school Bowie worked for a time as a commercial artist and continued his musical journey by playing in different bands. One was a group from Margate and they performed as Davy Jones & the Lower Third, but he left after recording a few singles that failed to make an impression. Later he made the first of the many changes that he became famous for when he dropped Jones for Bowie. This was because another Davy Jones, from Manchester, was becoming famous as the lead singer with The Monkess and Bowie did not want to be confused with him.

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Soon we were near Beckenham where Bowie moved to after he left school. And that was when we had to stop because of major roadworks. I would normally be unhappy at sitting in traffic but now was fine as we listened to, in particular order that I remember, Space Oddity, Let’s Dance, The Jean Genie, Suffragette City, Life on Mars, Oh! You Pretty Things, Changes, Starman, Rock n’ Roll Suicide, Rebel Rebel and Diamond Dogs. ‘It’s a magnificent collection of songs,’ I commented, realising that there so many more to follow.
‘I’ve always loved Queen Bitch,’ my cousin said ‘Mick Ronson’s guitar playing was a thing of beauty.’
And who was I to argue!

Bowie outside Haddon Hall

Bowie outside Haddon Hall

In October 1969 Bowie moved into Haddon Hall on Southend Road. He lived in the ground floor apartment and painted the ceiling silver to remind him of the night sky. He married Angie Barnett on the 19th March and the large house (now sadly demolished) soon became home to his band The Spiders from Mars. Bowie loved parties and over the next three years while they lived there it was one of the most popular ‘party houses’ in London. And it was here that most of the Ziggy Stardust music was first heard before it was taken into the recording studio.

Where it all began

Where it all began

Close by is The Three Tuns pub on Beckenham High Street where he had played his first gigs in 1969, and there is a red plaque on the front of the building (it is now a Zizzi restaurant) in his honour. ‘And, a lady called Suzi Fussey, who worked in a hairdressers across the road from the pub, gave him the haircut that was associated with all things Ziggy Stardust,’ my cousin added, slowing the car before briefly heading off to Brixton and the end of our trip.

We walked to the memorial on Tunstall Road, opposite Brixton Underground Station, where a small group of Spanish fans were taking photographs. I took their camera and happily snapped off a few photographs before taking my own shots. The memorial was a spontaneous reaction to Bowie’s death and the local council has now protected the painting and comments behind a sheet of heavy, clear plastic. It works, and as my cousin and I stood there in quiet contemplation one of the Spaniards turned up the sound on his mini player and we smiled and sang together, each one of us knowing that as long as we believe ‘We can be heroes, just for one day’.

Bowie memorial in Brixton

Bowie memorial in Brixton

Words and wishes on Bowie memorial

Words and wishes on Bowie memorial

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Art, david bowie, London