‘Our Tune’

Taking a little bit of a break from Valérie Čižmárová this time (yes, it’s hard for a fan, I know!) in view of the latest chance discovery, actually in the process of looking around for any lyrics ‘out there’ for Valérie’s ‘Oči nelžou’…and anything else to do with it, for that matter, let me take this opportunity to introduce to GOTGE readers perhaps a fresh face – Liberec’s Hana Ulrychová.


In that ‘Classic Year’, musically speaking, of 1973 in Czechoslovakia, Hana covered Manfred Mann’s hit from that other ‘Classic Year’ of 1966 (actually the final Manfred Mann release with Paul Jones as the Lead Singer) ‘Pretty Flamingo’, as ‘Sladký pták mládí’ (‘Sweet Young Bird’), the original tune having been composed by Mark Barkan (who, with a surname like that, could possibly trace his origins to somewhere around the former Czechoslovakia, since if one feminises the name to ‘Barkanová’ it looks like that could be a name in real life), with Czech-language lyrics by Hana herself, accompanied by Gustav Brom’s Orchestra and Choir (Orchestr zasl. um. Gustava Broma & Sbor Gustava Broma), the record produced by Hana’s brother, Petr Ulrych.

Back in the sands of time, BBC Radio 1 used to have a feature called ‘Our Tune’, which recalled a sometimes tear-jerking romantic memory associated with a given tune. Please read on to discover why I have entitled this post ‘Our Tune’.

In the Summers of 1979 and 1980, just after finishing at Belper High School (it was actually as a result of having seen a flyer in the Sixth Form Common Room, previously alluded to in the GOTGE Blog) I worked as a Volunteer on the archaeological dig at Crickley Hill, just outside Cheltenham, Gloucestershire – an experience that probably marked the beginning of my adult life, since I timed the coach trip down to Cheltenham for the first of those two Summers to shortly after my eighteenth birthday on 19th July 1979.

During the evenings some of the diggers would make their way through the country lanes from Ullenwood Civil Defence Centre (which has now, unfortunately, been demolished to make way for an ultra-upmarket residence and complex that looks like it could be a lair for a James Bond villain!) where the digging party were housed, to the nearby pub, The Air Balloon at Birdlip. In the second Summer there one of my favourites of the time, Bad Manners’ ‘Lip Up Fatty’ was a regular play of mine on the pub’s jukebox, showing that the ‘Ska ‘n’ B’, as Bad Manners described their music, that was a half-and-half mix of Ska and Blues, relates to three artists whom I have featured on GOTGE.





During those two Summers on the dig, I confess that I had a ‘would-they-or-wouldn’t-they?’ mini-romance with a young lady from the town in the North-West of England, Oldham (probably more from my viewpoint!) with whom I shared a lot of musical tastes – both of us being heavily into the 1960s revival that was then in full swing and both of us having gone there with the intention to dress to impress in 1960s revival outfits! In total contrast to Bad Manners’ ‘Lip Up Fatty’, her jukebox favourite was the aforementioned ‘Pretty Flamingo’. In that context, I suppose that both ‘Lip Up Fatty’ and ‘Pretty Flamingo’ could have been ‘Our Tune’. The video below accompanied by ‘Pretty Flamingo’ shows some very evocative scenes of ‘Swinging London’, the spirit of which was clearly being re-visited in Hana’s 1973 cover.

There have been a few reunions lately of the former Crickley Hill diggers. Below, you will find the reunion Blog (over on the ‘other side’, Blogspot) highlighting the Blog entries specific to me. We have had a reference to my nickname at school of ‘Seedy’ on GOTGE recently. While I was on the dig at Crickley Hill, due to a sky blue hooded training top I wore on the dig with ‘TRAINING’ embroidered on the front, my nickname was ‘Training’. Below is what would be called a ‘selfie’ nowadays, in that top, but I don’t think the word existed even as recently as 2011, when I took this on my first Crickley Hill reunion…using a little old first-generation digital compact camera – from the days when they didn’t make any noise at all when one pressed the shutter button, which was really weird. The Air Balloon would be somewhere down in a dip in the woods in the background.


This was perhaps my first encounter with the former Eastern Bloc, since one may spot a photo of me next to a ‘Dmitri’. On one of the Wednesday nights during the dig season, with Thursday being ‘our weekend’, there would be a huge party and dance in the Refectory going on all night – and sometimes well into the Thursday! I clearly recall going on a hitch hike to Oxford with Dmitri on the Thursday following the Wednesday Night Party and him, being from the Soviet Union, thinking that because the UK was a free country one could literally help oneself to anything one liked at a supermarket in Oxford and it was the biggest job for me to explain to him that it didn’t quite work like that! We returned to Ullenwood Civil Defence Centre around four o’ clock on the Thursday afternoon and the party was still going on! One may also spot a reference to my own  ‘career’ in Pop Music, (such as it was!),  as the Harmonica Player in the Below Average White Band!







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