Earlier this month, 1966 was one of the featured years on an edition of BBC Radio 2’s “Pick of the Pops”. I’ll be specific: it was on Saturday 6 August, and the broadcast is available, here, until 6 September 2022.
It’s well worth a listen. There are many highlights, including #1s by Small Faces (“All or Nothing”) and The Kinks (“Sunny Afternoon”), which were coming down the chart, and The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby”, the first single that I was given as a birthday present, on its way up the chart. Among the artists whose releases didn’t make it to #1 that summer are Bob Dylan (“I Want You”), The Lovin’ Spoonful (“Summer in the City”), The Beach Boys (“God Only Knows”) and Dusty Springfield (“Going Back”, or, more accurately “Goin’ Back”). The last of these, written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin is my favourite recording by Dusty, and hearing it in the context of the rest of that week’s hits made me even more reflective than usual.
The lyrics are all about looking back on childhood things (colouring books, skipping ropes) and “the things I learned so well … in my youth”. A succession of memories flew up during the song’s 3 minutes 31 seconds, from the first time I first heard it (on a compilation tape I bought on a day trip to Romsey in the late 1980s) through to the most recent time I heard it on the radio.
It was the first Sunday in April, sat in the car sometime after 5am, a dark sub-zero morning, waiting in line for the Car Boot Sale that I wrote about in this piece (“I tried it once and I didn’t like it”). Radio 2 was playing an old recording (from the 1990s it sounded like), Elton John talking about the music he loved. Introducing “Goin’ Back” he said that it’s the song he wants to be played at his funeral. Good choice.
I do not have a funeral playlist, but there have been memorable choices at some of the services I have attended. In January 2020 I learnt that my cousin’s wife, who had died a few weeks earlier, was a big fan of Cliff Richard. At the crematorium, as her coffin headed towards the flames, we were treated to Cliff’s 1963 #1 “Summer Holiday” (“We’re going where the sun shines brightly / We’re going where the sea is blue”). Many years ago, at a weekday mass which turned out to be the funeral mass for someone I had never met (a retired postman who was a big Elvis Presley fan) the coffin was carried out of the church to the strains of the 1962 Christmas #1 “Return to Sender”. I know that at least one of my friends wants her memorial to end with Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run”.
There are around 30 CDs scattered around the car. Most of them are in the correct jewel cases, and most of them stay in the car at all times. “The Best of Dusty Springfield” is one of these. I played it one Tuesday evening in April, while doing the “The Tuesday Minicab Service”, ferrying the children to and from their extracurricular activities. It was a pleasure to hear a few songs that I had not played for at least a decade, building up to the final track, “Goin’ Back”. But, wouldn’t you know it, my favourite song on the CD is the only one that skips. It wouldn’t play properly beyond the first 45 seconds.
All of these things went through my mind listening to that “Pick of the Pops” from 1966. I only heard part of the show live. I went back and listened to it properly the following day. I knew that Dusty Springfield had died in her late 50s but wasn’t sure of her exact age. I looked it up and worked out that I was, to the day, the same age she was when she died.
Something similar happened in July. We caught part of a documentary about the Beatles on TV one Saturday afternoon (23 July 2022, to be specific again). One of the interviewees was Andrew Gold. He was talking about a Beatles performance in a private house that he attended when he was a teenager. We assumed that it was the same Andrew Gold who went on to have hits in the late 1970s with “Lonely Boy” and “Never Let Her Slip Away”. My son is a fan of his 80s release “Thank You for Being a Friend” (not a UK Top 40 hit) and asked for some more information about him. We looked him up: born 2 August 1951, died 3 June 2011. I was, to the day, the same age that Andrew Gold was when he died.
Earlier this year, after the death of cricketer Shane Warne, I wrote this piece “Dead at 52, and a list”. I have enough material for a similar piece, about people who died at 59. On Sunday 7 August, when I was exactly the same age as Dusty Springfield when she left the scene, I took this photo, commemorating her time at a school here in West London.
When I return to the subject of “Dead at 59” I will post a link here, but until then it would probably be better to follow the advice in the final verse of “Goin’ Back”: “live my days, instead of counting my years”.