MIXTAPE: Bob Fischer | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Words: Bob Fischer

Did you grow up in the 1970s and ‘80s? Was your childhood marred by Worzel Gummidge’s terrifying selection of changeable heads and a nagging feeling that nuclear war was imminent? Come and see the Scarred For Life show, it’s essentially a support group for us all. I’ve spent years mulling over the disquieting nature of my formative memories, so it’s been incredibly therapeutic to host this show with Stephen Brotherstone and Dave Lawrence, writers of the brilliant Scarred For Life books, two huge volumes examining the pop culture of those particular decades in alarmingly fine detail.

The live show looks at everything from Doctor Who to Blake’s 7 to Threads. We’re sometimes even accompanied by the Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water, from the horrific 1973 Public Information Film about childhood drowning. I know it all sounds rather dark, but honestly – there are lots of laughs, and we’re bringing the show to the Customs House in South Shields on Thursday 23rd June. In the meantime, here are some little musical nuggets from the Scarred For Life era to put you in the mood…


Dave and Toni Arthur – Tam Lin
Toni was a fixture of children’s TV when I was tiny, on Play School and Play Away. But she’d already had an astonishing folk music career with her husband Dave, and their 1971 album Hearken To The Witches Rune is steeped in the occult. They researched it by joining the Wiccan coven of 1970s
King of the Witches’ Alex Sanders! It’s a stark and scary album, and has their incredible take on this 16th Century Scottish ballad about a young man kidnapped by an Elfin queen.

The Settlers – The Lightning Tree
Down in the meadow where the wind blows free…” anyone who grew up in the 1970s will recognise this brilliant pop folk song, the theme to the ITV children’s drama, Follyfoot. It’s essentially a show about unwanted horses, but the song alone gives it a weird, dark edge. Singer Cindy Kent is now the Rev Cindy Kent MBE! And I think banjo player John Fyffe still runs the Dunstanburgh Castle Hotel, near Alnwick. I’ve never been, but if you’re passing then buy him a pint from me.

Ronald Duncan and David Cain – October
In the Scarred For Life show, we look at vintage material that would now be considered wildly inappropriate for young children. There’s no better example than this 1968 album, The Seasons. Discordant electronic bleeps – made by the Radiophonic Workshop’s David Cain – accompany the austere nature poetry of Ronald Duncan. “
Like severed hands, the wet leaves lie flat on the deserted avenue…” Amazingly, this was intended to be played to five year-olds in school music lessons.

Telltale – Autumn’s Really Here
From a wonderful 1973 Rainbow album I bought for £1 in a Stokesley charity shop…that’s Rainbow as in Bungle and Zippy, not Ritchie Blackmore. These old kids’ albums have some beautiful folk gems hidden on them, and this is a gorgeous, wistful number written and sung by Fluff Joinson, whose band Telltale pre-dated Rod, Jane and Freddy on the show. Honestly, it’s worthy of Vashti Bunyan.

Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick – Lord Of The Dance
Who remembers singing “
They left me there on a cross to die” at the age of four in their school assemblies? Me. And I wasn’t happy. It’s remarkable how many ancient-sounding hymns were written relatively recently: this was penned by Sydney Carter in 1964, at the height of Beatlemania. Carthy and Swarbrick’s take is from their 1968 album But Two Came By, and is the definitive version for me.

Art Garfunkel – Bright Eyes
So many people have told us this is their ultimate 1970s ‘trigger’ music! It’s incredibly touching – and again, I have memories of singing it in school assemblies. Yes, “
following the river of death downstream”, with Mrs Mulhern on the piano! It’s from Watership Down, a bleak rabbit-based animation that caused not a ripple of controversy in 1978…but there was an absolute furore when Channel 5 showed it on Easter Sunday afternoon in 2017. And that’s the whole ethos of the Scarred For Life show, right there.

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