I’m unsure when I first heard this album. I think Robbie or Steve may have introduced me to it—I certainly remember arguing with Robbie about The Visitation. If that’s correct then I probably first heard it around 1975 or 1976. But that doesn’t matter, this article is about the album and my relationship with it and Johno.
In the summer of 1976 I found myself in permanent employment for the first time. As with most of my life I can only mark time by remembering a piece of music and finding the dates that surround it. I know I started work in August or September 1976 because I remember hearing Blinded by the Light by Manfred Mann’s Earthband playing on the radio. The long hot summer of 1976 is entwined with memories of time spent at New Brighton and Derby swimming pools, games of Crown Green Bowls and evenings in the pub.
One evening was spent at the Black Horse in Wallasey Village. To be honest, I don’t know if this was 1976, 1977 or slightly later again. The significant point is that Johno was on his motorbike and, at the end of the night, ferried everybody home, one by one. This is a very early recollection of him but it certainly wasn’t the first time I’d met him. I think, by then, we were already good friends. The memorable journey on his bike to New Brighton, via Liscard Village, may have been earlier. Memorable for me because I thought we were going through the front of an oncoming bus on Rake Lane; memorable for Johno because he thought we were coming off as we negotiated the roundabout in Liscard Village.
The late seventies are full of memories of Johno for me. I can still see him singing Ali Baba’s Camel in the Alpine Rooms in Liscard. We played squash regularly at Leasowe Leisure Centre, passing a house which often had a motorbike in the front room. “May you never have motorbikes in your front room” was often Johno’s parting shot to me. We drank gallons of tea and ate rejected chocolate bars supplied by my farther (Roundtree Lion Bars being a favourite). And we listening to music.
Lots of music, often including An Electric Storm. I think Johno already knew it but, again, I’m uncertain. His favourite line was from Here Come the Fleas—”Be quiet in there, a man can’t even hear a good steel band going”. I think he was also impressed with the slapping and “hurr” noises in My Game of Loving.
Rob Johnston passed away on Monday 27th December 2010 at 19:50. He’d been suffering from a terrible illness that took him very quickly.
Please seek the album out and listen to it. Listen to the sonic dynamics in the recording (something you can even feel from an MP3 copy), listen to the humour in the music. Listen to the sweet melodies carefully, painstakingly, crafted by David Vorhaus, Delia Derbyshire at al. And if you can, imagine a friendship that took a simple, soft route into my life and, sadly, drifted away just as easily.
May you never have motorbikes in your front room.