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Date: 16/01/16

Alan Haven - "Image" (1965)

I suppose that over the course of nearly fifty years, one can't be at all sure anymore what is an actual memory and what has been imagined, or even fabricated outright. Anyway, this is the story of one tune from the 1960s and how I recall hearing it.

I've mentioned more than once about my involvement with Brymbo Steelworks Football Club, an association which started - albeit tenuously - from a very early age.

Picture this: it's about 1966 and the club have been drawn away to Ellesmere Port. This may have been in the old Welsh Amateur Cup, as clubs from the English side of the border took part in that from time to time. Anyway, I would have been about four years old, and I can't imagine what let my mother allow me to accompany Dad to the game. After all, it would mean travelling on the team bus, and the team and committee would be bound to call somewhere after the game and there was no telling what time we would be back. Still, allow me to go she did.

If my old man was to be believed subsequently, we won 5-0 and - in response to a home supporter telling him that we had a good team - he claimed to have replied, "Yes, and we'll bring the first team next time!". I wasn't remotely interested in the game at the time, but I do have a memory of wandering around behind the goal we were attacking.

After the game, it was all back on to Tecwyn Price's coach and off we went. I don't remember where we actually stopped (I suspect it was in Chester), and we headed for some sort of working-men's club. They wouldn't let me in of course due to my age, despite Dad's mild protestations that I wouldn't be any trouble because he was with me. That cut no ice with the hatchet-faced old puritans on the door, and so there was nothing for it but to get the key off Tecwyn and head back to the bus to await the revellers. Not that this bothered my old man, as he was almost completely teeotal, and regarded the pub culture of his colleagues and friends with a degree of amusement which bordered on scorn.

The coach had a radio - a fairly rare thing even on luxury coaches at that time, I think - and to pass the time, Dad turned it on. Now, late at night in the mid-to-late 60s, pop music radio in Britain was largely a desert punctuated by the semi-derelict edifices of a BBC which had still not come to terms with the fact that that nice Mr. Churchill was no longer running the government. The best one could hope for from the Light Programme was to catch a not-fleeting-enough earful of the BBC Northern Dance Orchestra trying to play Eve Of Destruction, or some such surreal experience. That - and the infamously fading Radio Luxembourg - was it.

But there were still - just about - the 'pirate' stations which had set up in international waters to beam wall-to-wall pop at the starved youth of Olde Britannia, and it may have been that Dad and me between us managed to find the one station of that ilk which was receivable round here, namely Radio Caroline North broadcasting from a ship moored not too far off the Isle of Man. However it came about, I have a memory of the tune you're about to hear (if you click on the video thingy down there, of course). It would certainly tie in with Caroline North, as the record in question was used as a theme tune by Caroline North DJ Bob Stewart.

(That having been said, I have to confess that it is equally possible that I heard the tune at some other point at that time, as another memory I have associated with it in my mind is of going past the ABC cinema in Shrewsbury on a Saturday evening, heading back to the station after spending the day visiting my brother and his first wife. Either way, it's a tune I associate with a town/city centre late at night.)

I suppose before going any further with regards to the music, I had better finish off my story. Eventually, the lads emerged from the club and made their way back to the coach where - in an attempt to make amends which didn't need to be made - I was heaped with chocolates and sweets by the players. We made our way back home and - for the only time that I can recall ever going that way - we passed through the tunnel which ran through Brymbo Steelworks at that time (more about which, see here), before me and Dad were dropped off on High Street, leaving us with the long trudge up The Blast and home. We got in at about half past midnight on Sunday morning, and although my mother was waiting up with only a metaphorical rolling-pin in her hand, I'm sure poor Dad got a fair dose of 'down the banks' once I was safely packed off to bed. I know that she laughingly referred to me as a 'dirty stop-out' for weeks afterwards.

Anyway, back to the choon. Image was an American composition which - in its original arrangement and release - had been a minor hit for Hank Levine And His Orchestra in 1961. In 1965, the English jazz organist Alan Haven picked it up and it was released on Fontana. Although it never charted, its use by Bob Stewart led to it being re-issued two years later, and its success on the nascent Northern Soul scene led to a further re-release in 1971, in both cases not troubling the chart compilers any more than the original had.

Nonetheless, it is a quintessential Swinging Sixties sound (although I've never held any great love for the sound of the Hammond organ, either then or in its mercifully temporary revival at the hands of The Charlatans and Inspiral Carpets more than two decades later; the instrument seems to set up what one might call an unsympatheric oscillation in my frontal lobes), which - for me, at least - will always conjure up memories of a night-time adventure in a small boy's life.

A black and white photo of Alan Haven at the organ

Alan Haven
Musician
b. 1 April 1935, d. 7 January 2016