The Girl Who Said Hello the First
Dale Hawling was never one of those boys who went through a phase of detesting the fair sex.
And if ever proof was needed that puppy love can be as agonisingly painful as its adult counterpart it came in the shape of Dale’s adoration, as a fantastically skinny nine year old, of a young blonde girl of about his age with a strong London accent whom he met through no fault of his own in the midst of that most mythologized of decades of recent times.
It was the year of ’65; and he knew this to be an absolute fact thanks to certain songs which, even when played in the early 2010s, took him violently back to the time of his love for little June Cassidy.
And each and every one of these tunes, such as the Fab Four’s “We Can Work it Out” and Pet Clark’s strangely bitter-sweet “My Love”stemmed from that most totemic of years when Pop started mutating piecemeal into Rock; and London was in mid swing with Carnaby Street as its trendy epicentre.
She announced herself to him with a radiant smile one afternoon while they were both attending classes at their local swimming pool soon after asking him whether his name was Dale. After he’d confirmed to her that indeed it was, she confessed her reason for having so unexpectedly entered his world:
“My mum knows your mum”, she chirpily informed him, before explaining that her mother Maryanne had become friendly with Dale’s own mother Jean through their mutual attendance of a sewing class in what would have been a local education centre. She then turned to her friend and, still smiling, more or less reiterated what she’d told Dale:
“My mum knows his mum”.
But if she was overwhelmingly friendly during that initial meeting, she was never so pleasant again, but the more Dale was ignored, the more he adored. And on one occasion, he may have tried to attract her attention by swimming ever so close to where she was sitting on the edge of the pool with a friend, only to get caught up in the splashing of her feet; but he could have sworn she smiled to her friend at this point, and he clung to the hope that this smile indicated some kind of affection for him.
But such hope was forlorn, for she never spoke to him again, and he was driven to distraction by her indifference, even to the point of looking up her mother’s name in the telephone directory. And oh with what joy he saw it clearly written there, Maryanne Cassidy, and it restored some kind of control to him, so that the intensity of his love was somehow mitigated thereby.
In fact, it consoled him to realise that should he so desire, he could call her, and speak to her, but what would he say? After all, they weren’t friends; in fact, she didn’t even seem to like him, so he let it go, and in time, his love receded.
Yet he carried its memory far into adulthood, despite the fact that were she still alive, she might have grandchildren of the same age she’d been when she’d so enchantingly introduced herself to Dale in that totemic year of ’65:
“My mum knows your mum!”
So Lovelorn in London Town
By 1974, Francis Phoenix had grown heartily tired of the old hat tackiness of Glam Rock, convinced as he was that Modernist outrage had nowhere left to go. So, instead his devotion started to centre on the more refined corruption of the golden age of Modernism of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, and especially its leading cities as beacons of revolutionary art, luxury and dissolution. They included the London of the Yellow Decade, Belle Époque Paris, Jazz Age New York, and most of all, Weimar Republic Berlin.
At some point in ‘74, he started using hair cream to slick his hair back in the style of F. Scott Fitzgerald, sometimes parting it in the centre just as his idol had done, and to build up a new retro wardrobe.
These went on to include a Gatsby style tab collar, which he wore either with striped collegiate tie, or cravat or neck scarf. Over this, he might wear a short-sleeved Fair Isle sweater, a navy blue blazer from Meakers, and a belted fawn raincoat straight out of a forties film noir. His grey flannel trousers from Simpsons of Piccadilly typically flopped over a pair of two-tone correspondent shoes.
There were those cutting edge artists who appeared to share his love affair with the languid cafe and cabaret culture of the continent's immediate past. Among these were established acts, such as David Bowie and Roxy Music, and newer stars such as Steve Harley of Cockney Rebel, and Ron and Russell Mael from L.A band Sparks, who’d recently come to Britain in search of Glam Rock glory. Some of Roxy’s followers even went so far as to sport the kind of nostalgic apparel favoured by Ferry himself, but they were rare creatures indeed in mid-seventies London.
As for Francis, he wore his bizarre outdated costumes in arrogant defiance of the continuing ubiquity of shoulder-length hair and flared denim jeans. In 1975, he even had the gall to go to a concert at West London's Queen's Park football stadium dressed in striped boating blazer and white trousers, only to find himself surrounded by hirsute Rock fans. The headliners were his one-time favourites Yes, whose "Relayer" album he'd bought the year before; but his passion for Progressive Rock was a thing of the past. He'd moved on since '71, towards a far deeper love of darkness and loss of innocence.
But there was nothing even remotely dark about the time he fell in love with Marianne, a Dutch girl while sitting Spanish "O" level in June 1974 in Gower Street, Central London. She didn't look Dutch; in fact, with her tanned complexion and long dark brown hair, she was Mediterranean in appearance.
It was probably she who approached Francis, because he was so unconfident around girls in those days that he'd have never made the first move, and in all the time he knew her, he didn't have the guts to tell her how he felt. So, once they'd completed their final paper, he allowed her to walk away from him forever with a casual "I might see you around", or some other cliché of that kind.
For about a week, he took the train into London and spent the days wandering around the city centre in the truly desperate hope of bumping into her. One time he could have sworn he saw her staring coolly back at him from an underground train, possibly at South Kensington or Notting Hill Gate, just as the doors were closing. Typically though, he was powerless to act, and simply stood there like a lovesick fool as the train drew away from the station.
In time, his infatuation faded, but certain songs – such as "I Just Don't Want to be Lonely" by The Main Ingredient, and "Natural High" by Bloodstone – would continue to recall for him those few weeks in the summer of '74 which he spent in hopeless pursuit of a woman of whom he knew quite literally nothing.
It wouldn’t be long before he’d forsaken his absurd super-square twenties style image; nor before he’d look back at his failed attempt at romance with Marianne and wonder if she’d been slightly repelled by his appearance. By this, he meant the vast expanse of white forehead that has been revealed by his having so severely slicked his hair back with hair oil or brilliantine. Once he stopped doing this, his romantic appeal started to swell by degrees…but this didn’t return Marianne to him. She was lost to him forever, and whether he ever fully recovered from her loss is open to debate. The chances are…he never did.
Night Out at the Little Ship Club
In the summer of 1975, Able Seaman Chris Pinnock spent a week on a ship in the Pool of London, a stretch of the Thames lying between London Bridge and Rotherhithe, as part of his service with the Royal Naval Reserve. Halfway through, he decided to make his way alone to a nearby club known as the Little Ship, which he knew for a fact to be hosting a discotheque. He was eccentrically dressed for the times, in an open neck shirt worn with striped boating blazer, and white trousers and shoes, an outfit that, combined with a head of dyed blonde hair and angelic, almost childlike features, made him a striking figure in the drab London of the mid 1970s.
And oh how he loved to dance! And he specially loved to dance alone to one of his favourite music forms, which was Soul, for Soul it was still known in ’75, as opposed to Disco.
The latter he came to associate with a heavily commercialised form he saw as closer to Pop than pure Soul. For him, this was epitomised at its best by the Bee Gees’ soundtrack to “Saturday Night Fever”, for which he had a lot of respect by virtue of the sheer quality of the song writing, and at its worst by various novelty Disco tunes.
Once he’d had a drink or two, and hit the dance floor possibly with a cigarette smouldering in his slender almost feminine hand, Chris Pinnock was in his element. But within a short time of his having done so, the up tempo songs gave way to a long series of slow tunes, and he began to scan the departing dancers for a partner.
Soon his unfeasibly long-lashed blue eyes fell upon a slim girl with a head of bobbed curls of a beautiful yellowy blonde, who was frantically shooing her friend away in order to make room for Chris, and he walked up to her and asked her to dance. She agreed, and they danced, wordlessly, for what must have been a full half hour, until, exhausted, Chris’s pretty companion informed him that she had to rejoin her friend, which she did, leaving Chris at a loss as to what to do next.
The bond had been broken. But then, as they’d not exchanged a single word despite having been intimately locked together for aeons, there’d barely been a bond to begin with.
A short time later, Chris spied his recent partner at the bar, talking to her friend, and he acted cool towards her, as she did him, and they made no effort to approach each other. The moment was gone.
Perhaps Chris then returned to the floor to dance alone as he’d done earlier, lost in a narcissistic reverie, almost as if he was a Mod, resurrected from the London of the sixties, when peacock males were supposed to have been more interested in their beautiful images than any romantic experience with a woman.
But Chris was no Mod from the mean streets of sixties Shepherd’s Bush; no, far from it…he was devastated. So much so that later that night, while a power boat was ferrying him out to his ship in the glittering Pool of London, he announced to one of the officers onboard, a tall languorously elegant man with a charming, approachable manner with whom he’d a passing acquaintance:
“I’m in love!”
“That’s good news,” the officer graciously replied.
But if he’d divined the condition of the handsome sailor’s soul, he’d have spoken differently. Yes, Chris Pinnock was in love, but his love was nowhere to be seen, and he’d returned from his night of dancing desperate to be reunited with the slim blonde angel he’d held so close for a blissfully brief thirty minutes, only to lose her forever.
But that was Chris Pinnock, and he’d be back on that disco floor again before too long, risking his heart again before too long, dying a little of his solitude again…before too long. And oh how he loved to dance.
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