Monday, June 13, 2011

My J.R. Hartley moment

I can remember most of the plays I was in at college but "Lunchtime Concert" by Olwen Wymark has slipped my mind. It was directed by Tim Evans who lives Out East nowadays and occasionally chides me on Facebook about forgetting it. The other day I was walking past French's Theatre Bookshop so I popped in and asked the young woman behind the counter, probably a drama student, if she could look it up. She looked and said it was out of print. "It was published in 1969," she said with the air of one for whom this may as well have been just after the Relief of Mafeking.

"I know," I said. "It was around that time I was in it."

She looked at me and tilted her head to one side, as one would with a very old person. "Aah," she said. "Have you tried Abe Books?"

I can imagine her meeting her boyfriend in the pub after work. At some point in the evening, when the conversation really flags, she might say "do you know, I had this old bloke in this morning and he was trying to find a script to a play he was in in 1969. Can you imagine that?"


  1. I hope you ROARED "I Know..etc" in a loud theatrical style, like Brian Blessed, Patrick Stewart or Simon Callow or similar.

    Anyway you can get the ancient parchment from Amazon, as I'm sure you know, in case you still want it.

  2. I know... we can't help going round thinking that, to the current generation, the 60s or 70s still seem as bright and modern as they did to us at the time. But that would have been like you going into a store in 1969 asking for the script to a play you were in in 1927!

    However, despite the maths, I *still* can't help believing that 1969 wouldn't seem as old-fashioned to them as 1927 seemed to us. Am I being naive?

    I have this feeling that something happened around the 60s/70s that constituted some kind of (urgh) "paradigm shift" dividing history into "the olden days" and a kinda standardised modern time. I'm not talking about any kind of new age aquarian idea. Just a stylistic thing. Maybe partly to do with materials science. But probably more to do with rock'n'roll than the space age.

    It's happened before with particular aspects of life. Like when the modern "suit and tie" became more-or-less fixed as a concept back in the early 20th century. Lapels and ties might expand and contract subtly, but mens' formal wear became, to a large extent, standardised at some point, after centuries of mad variation. In the same way, casual wear, hairstyles, music and popular entertainment haven't *deeply* progressed much since the early 70s. Sure, the equivalent of lapels and ties have varied, but the underlying structure and style has struggled to come up with anything truly new. And it's clear that a current band of 20-year-olds could look and sound *exactly* like classic-era Rolling Stones and not seem in the slightest anachronistic.

    So yeah, maybe - probably - I'm deluded, but I do actually think that 1969 doesn't sound as quaint to today's kids as 1929 did to you in 1969.

  3. @ DC Cardwell: weirdly, for no apparent reason, I was thinking of posting exactly the same thought on the Word blog, but you've expressed it perfectly. I presume it's to do with technological advances...

  4. I think the obvious thing that links 1969 and 2011 in a way that 1969 does not link with 1927 is, erm, rock and roll music. Most of the worthwhile young groups one encounters today echo the classic rock era, be it traces of Grateful Dead or Leonard Cohen in their songs and more importantly they wear checked shirts. Unlike 1969, when a chap from 1927 was more inclined to wear spats and a boater and urge Maud, in song, to 'come into the garden'. That's why us old geezers are not quite so square, but old nonetheless.

  5. I am the Tim Evans OUT EAst. I have to correct David again. At the time David was a star in his 3rd year at college and I was an unknown fresher. Both David and I acted in it. The Director was a woman whose name escapes. We rehearsed over the Xmas holidays and young Hepworth kindly allowed me to billet at his palatial flat in Wood Green. His lack of recollection of all this is deeply worrying and can only be explained by his prolonged listening, at the time, to YES albums.

  6. Further to these thoughts, does anyone feel a certain pained mixture of emotions at the fact the things we loved forty years ago are still seen (by many music fans, at least) as "hip"? On the one hand, we can get away with appearing a little less old-fashioned than our parents and grandparents did to us. But on the other hand, the fact that the younger generations haven't really managed to come up with anything novel since the 70s is rather sad and not the way we wanted it to be. We thought the kids would keep on forging ahead with wondrous new music that would make our music seem embarrassing, but it didn't happen.

  7. I think there's a whole area that the youth has brought to the world since the 70s! rap, hip-hop, 'urban' music etc. Don't get it myself but you can't deny it's way different from what us old folks were listening to back in the day. However I still can't get used to the modern use of the R & B tag - as far as I'm concerned R & B should be played by 4 sweaty blokes from Canvey Island.