Category Archives: 1973 Diary Entries

Closing down the 1973 Diary

As I was putting the 1973 away in its safety deposit box at the bank* (one day, when this blog goes into stratosphere mode *cough* it could be worth millions?!) I discovered this page which I had not mentioned at the start of the year

It shows my exam results for June 1973. Results which strangely suggest that History was my best subject which will (again) come as a surprise to my wife, whilst Geography was my worst subject, which won’t.

Yes, I really did write (Har! Har!) next to RE (Religious Education) in 1973, demonstrating a certain disdain for the subject even back then.

As I keep on saying, I feel disappointed that many of my diary entries haven’t jogged my memory to a greater degree than they have. I’m also disappointed that I never felt it necessary to go into any greater detail all those years ago. Not just because it may make this blog a little less repetitive, but it might just feel nice – 36 years on – to have a few more specific reminders about my teenage self. What were the defining moments? How did I get from there to here? Hey, I’m 51, I’m bound to look back and wonder aren’t I?

Anyway, that’s 1973. Hope you liked it.

Having taken a brief advance look at the 1974 diary I’m sorry to have to report that next year’s entries will be somewhat ‘scant’ by comparison.

*ok, so I threw it back into the keepsakes box in the basement

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1973 School Reports Part 2

You know, in retrospect it may have been more enlightening if I had presented the February and July reports together so that every subject teacher’s bi-annual comment could be compared to each another? Anyway, here are my July 1973 Reports which prove a certain levels of ongoing inconsistency


Same old green cover, except this time my form master HAS remembered to fill in the date

 
“Not yet making full use of” my “abilities” eh? Are you a Master or Mistress by the way – you’ve failed to strike one or the other out. Yes, this is me reporting my report. I am docking 9 points from Mr Trotter for his lack of attention to detail, and another three for his handwriting which appears to have deteriorated since my previous report.

 
Faulty punctuation? Thats’ not true at all.

 
10th out of 31 in my History class eh? Working conscientiously too? Is this really my report?

 
I wonder if by “physical geography” he means finding my way to the classroom for each lesson? Isn’t it peculiar that I can lack in effort here and yet be deemed to be working conscientiously elsewhere.

 
I know Mr Whatmore must’ve prayed for me. That was a waste of time, wasn’t it Mr Whatmore?

 
I did “not do myself justice” in French eh? Je suis gêné?

 
Bitch did it again writing “work” when she means “worked”, thus making her comment about MY lack of concentration irrelevant surely?

 

February I was a star. July I became a disappointment. Story of my life.

 

“38%” & “much work is necessary”. No shit.

 

This is the report that made me laugh the loudest when I read it 36 years later. Not necessarily for the the “did not know the basic definitions of economics” remark, as funny as that was, but more for the “His answers also included attempts at humour, but I have advised him to refrain in the future“.

As I’m sure all readers of EFA70sTRO will attest, I took Mr Robins’ advice completely to heart.

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1973 School Reports Part 1

I always thought that my old school stuff had been discarded into the sands of time. I hadn’t set eyes on my old reports or certificates for years and just figured they’d got inadvertently thrown away during one of my house moves.

However, whilst staying with my Dad in England earlier this year – helping him celebrate his 80th birthday – I was thrilled and excited when I saw the contents of a folder he handed me one afternoon. He’d been sorting out some papers of his own and found all kinds of things from when I was at school and college.

That night I took the folder to bed with me and read the entire contents. Certain things surprised me in retrospect – don’t they always? – but most everything else had me laughing and guffawing into the wee small hours.

None moreso than the collection of my old school reports. It felt selfish not to share them with my loyal Efa70’sTRO readers…

February 1973 Reports


The reports were handed to every pupil at the end of every February and July. Each teacher wrote something about each pupil and then our form master would compile them all into green folders (as shown above), stapling them together before handing them out.

 
The yellow form was the overall report by our form master. Here,  Dave Trotter, obviously hadn’t bothered to properly read what my other teachers had said… if this is indeed “an encouraging report” then I’d hate to have seen other kids’ remarks?!

 
Focus on that word “concentrate”… it will appear again and again…

 
“Keen” eh? In History? Really? That will make my wife laugh.

 
“More concentration” is required…..

 
 “He is working with interest and intelligence” in Religious Education. Hahahahahaha!

 
“More all round effort is required”. It’s French. I rest my case.

 
“A good understanding” of Economics. That might be useful later in life. If ONLY I would participate eh?

 
“must be prepared to make a continuous effort…” You mean like making an effort to write “worked” instead of “work” in the grammatical structure of the sentence? Ha!, Mrs Flint, Ha!

 
I remain constantly amazed at my educative success in Physics. As I recall though, Mrs Prugar who taught us the subject was a bit of a “hottie” so maybe I paid more attention by default?

 
I am improving in Technical Drawing eh?…. hmmmmmmm

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December 31st 1973

“Went to Southampton with Nig – bought a pair of Trousers”

Flares? Baggies? Cargo pants? Jodhpurs? Loon pants? Bellbottoms? Jeans? Culottes? Turn-ups? Patch-pocket?

What did I buy?

Why must my memory be such a breech?

(See what I did – badly – there?)

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December 28th 1973

“Bort Deke Leonard’s Iceberg in Southampton – FANTASTIC!”

I said I was going to buy Deke Leonard’s meisterwerk back on October 18th, so I certainly took my bloody time about it!

I hope certainly Deke remembers to pick up his guitar before sadly flying into relative rock obscurity?!

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December 27th 1973

“Bort Brain Salad Surgery – not very good but alright”

Wha??

Doubtless buoyed by “christmas money” I went out and bought Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s new opus – released a mere month earlier – only to get it home and immediately deem it “not very good, but alright

Do I sense dissatisfaction setting in with progressive rock gods Keith, Greg & Carl? (I use their first names here to deliberately suggest certain levels of abundant familiarity). “Not very good, but alright“? Wow, talk about fence-sitting.

Let’s take a look at the evidence shall we?….

There’s no doubting “Brain Salad Surgery” was ELP’s most ambitious and flamboyant project to date.

H.R.Giger in 2008 - is it just me, or is he starting to morph into one of his own paintings?

It started with the unsettling album cover, an admittedly fantastic piece of airbrushed work by surreal artist H.R.Giger. It is said that Giger was so flattered Keith Emerson had asked him to design a cover for the band, he painted the piece in just two days – in actual 12″ x 12″ size – including all the incredible detail as well as coming up with the now-distinctive ELP logo.

There was much talk in 1973 of phallic imagery at play with the cover, which, to be honest I never saw then, nor do I see now. Instead all I see is some kind of artistic pre-cursor to a massive selection of sci-fi movies where a human being is taken over by robots, or at least some kind of mechanical device. (Indeed, Giger’s notion was that of a “mechanical woman”)

With excess being the mandatory name of the game for most Prog acts in the 70’s, the sleeve was not a straightforward one. It expensively and expansively folded out, over and over, to present the buyer with a selection of images, the most frightening of which were actually those of the band themselves. Greg Lake apparently trying to pass himself off as some kind of pre-pubescent Donny Osmond.

“Brain Salad Surgery” remains one of my favourite album covers of all time. Not because of all the die-cut nonsense – which, as I found out to my horror, was easy to rip or tear – but for H.R. Giger’s stunning artwork. Indeed, it took me on a multi-decade journey of appreciation for Giger’s output, including (but far from limited to) the set and creature design he did for the “Alien” movie franchise.

As for the music itself, I’ve since come to realise how my initial reticence came about. This album contains both some of ELP’s finest moments… and some of their very worst.

It opens with some of their very worst. Never a good idea.

Track 1 is an adaptation of William Blake ‘s timeless hymn “Jerusalem“. (So bad there’s not even a recording of it to link to on You Tube!) In their infinite lack of wisdom, Manticore Records decided to release this track as the single, only to find it banned by the BBC, who rightly argued it was in ‘poor taste’. I could wax lyrically about just how bad this adaptation is, but probably not without copious levels of family-unfriendly swearing.

Side 1 Track 2 “Toccata” makes up for the weak opener. It is an almost-psychedelic take on Argentinian composer Ginastera ‘s 1st Piano Concerto, with Emerson’s sound effects and Palmer’s electronic drums to the fore throughout. It would prove to be a live favourite, essentially because it automatically lends itself so well to visual excesses on stage.

Still You Turn Me On” is one of Greg Lake’s trademark sugary-sweet love ballads. However, I’ll admit to having a soft spot for this one, despite the distraction of lyrics such as
Every day a little sadder
A little madder
Someone get me a ladder

Benny the Bouncer”  is another throwaway piece of nonsense that the band habitually littered their albums with. (Think “Jeremy Bender” on Tarkus or “Hoedown” on Trilogy). Once again, no link to an original recording of the song, but there IS this marching band version from 1983! (My wife will like this clip having been in the flag corps for such events)

The rest of the album is filled up with one grand ELP ‘epic’. Or, rather, isn’t. “Karn Evil 9” is a ‘suite’ of three ‘impressions’, the first impression split into two parts, resulting in…. yep, four tracks.. um, all of which appear to have very little to do with one another.

Despite this – and despite the band drafting in maddeningly-dodgy lyricist Pete Sinfield (he of the PFM & King Crimson connection) – this thirty-minute musical montage contains (in my humble opinion) 26 minutes of some of the band’s finest work.

Karn Evil 9 – 1st Impression, Part I” closes side 1 of the album., but it’s “Karn Evil 9 – 1st Impression, Part II” at the start of Side 2 which most people will recognise. Why?…

The opening lyric, “Welcome Back my Friends to the Show that never Ends….” has become an iconic statement ever since, even reaching the hallowed portals of the White House! (OK, OK…. so Martin Sheen’s President Bartlett character actually muttered it in an episode of  TV’s The West Wing).  Plus, the ensuing music – perhaps, if you will, the ‘riff’ – has been used over and over again in TV shows, documentaries, commercials and more.

Karn Evil 9 – 2nd Impression is a meandering go-nowhere instrumental featuring drums, bass and piano with Emerson briefly interpolating an old number by influential jazz musician Sonny Rollins. For me it is the thorn in Karn Evil 9‘s side

Karn Evil 9 – 3rd Impression” finds the band returning to a war theme, something they had done so well on Tarkus a few years previous. With a somewhat hokey “man vs machine” concept (to tie in with the cover art) this cut is over-the-top ELP at their most extravagantly bombastic. The battle runs for over 9 minutes with Emerson’s electronics, Lake’s loud vocals and Palmer’s computerised drums all fighting one another for centre stage, the latter even finding time to include a 70’s/Prog-rock staple; the extended drum solo.

As with most other ‘concept’ albums/pieces I mostly managed to ignore the storyline running rampant through “Karn Evil 9”, preferring to just concentrate on grooving along with the rhythms and soundscapes on offer.

There’s no doubting that this album was the last ELP studio album I had/have any real fondness for. Even in retrospect I can see why my review was mixed. 50% of this album is great, the rest is utter pants.

I suspect too that my musical tastes were already subtly diversifying and – let’s face it boys and girls – there’s only so much ELP one person can take isn’t there? There were, however, still a couple more ELP releases to come that I wouldn’t shun. One was an earwormy single, the other an utterly ludicrous triple live album… both of which, I am sure, will be highlighted in future EFA70sTRO posts.

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December 25th 1973

“Crismis Day – Got a guitar”

Evil child that I was, I always hunted for – and invariably found – my wrapped Crismis Christmas presents many weeks before Santa’s big day. Of course, as a result of them being wrapped I was not always 100% sure of the gifts inside but the size and shape of the packages was usually a giveaway.

However, I can honestly say that my parents genuinely surprised me with this guitar. (I later found out Dad had hidden it by hanging it inside one of his work suits, itself inside a suit hanging bag, at the back of their wardrobe)

This guitar was a half-sized model which – rather than learning to properly play – I instead posed with in front of whichever mirror I could find. Yes, I would adopt clichéd poses with it. Yes I would pretend I was a rock star and mime along with hits on it. I’d be a liar if I said otherwise.

Dad – with some considerable hope – also bought me Bert Weedon’s Play in a Day tutorial book in the vain hope that I would actually read it and learn how to properly bang out tunes on the guitar.

Instead I merely limited myself to bashing out the opening chords to Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” – or *ahem* variations thereof – imagining myself to be a kind of folksier Richie Blackmore. I also taught myself the irritatingly repetitive riff to Cream’s “Sunshine of your Love” as well as “the Status Quo riff”

Not whole songs I hasten to add, just the riffs. I could amuse myself for hours by doing this, as well as wildly improvising, creating noises with the strings (by rubbing bottles, pens and any other implements to hand over them) and messing with the tuning knobs. I was practising to be an avant garde savant.

As time progressed it was inevitable that the guitar would fall into less and less use. I remember that when I left home and moved into my first flat the guitar had become more of a repository for record label promo stickers than anything I picked up and played. I think the thing got damaged during – and was consequently thrown away – my next house move.

Years and years later – in the early 90’s – a girlfriend of mine decided that I needed a guitar so likewise bought me one as a Christmas gift. Again it was a nice surprise. This time the bonus was a complete set of guitar lessons with a local teacher. I opened the guitar bag and hefted this – now full sized – instrument out, popped on the strap, stood up and…..immediately played “Smoke on the Water”. This wasn’t going to end well.

It didn’t. The girlfriend & I broke up before I had the first lesson, and as she was paying for them I didn’t feel it prudent to push the point during our break-up negotiations.

Thus, the world can squarely blame her for England not having a “second Nick Drake” to fawn over.

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