November 16th 1979. My eleventh birthday. Subbuteo was the big thing. It had replaced Action Man and those Airfix soldiers, the ones that came in boxes of 30; British Commandos, Japanese Infantry or German Paras.
My earliest memory is watching Top of the Pops (TOTP) with my dad in 1973. We had just got our first colour television, rented obviously, and the Sweet were performing ‘Blockbuster’.
People who saw Bowie perform ‘Starman’ the year before always say that it was them who the Dame was pointing at when "he had to pick on someone". I feel the same way with Steve Priest. Pointing at the screen was big on TOTP in the 70s.
My dad was never a big ‘pop music’ fan, he preferred Frank Sinatra and the queen of his homeland, Shirley Bassey. Not baco-foil brickies inventing the riff to the ‘Jean Genie’, but whenever I hear ‘Blockbuster’ I think of my dad reading the Evening Argus and wondering what the hell is going on.
November 17th 1979. ‘Setting Sons’ by The Jam is released. By now, they are a firm fixture on TOTP. Spearheading the mod revival, taking their energy from punk and their clobber from the Small Faces. (Not that I had any idea who the Small Faces were in 1979). ‘Eton Rifles’ was a playground anthem, a legion of 11 year olds in army surplus parkas with Smash Hits badges and Woolworth trainers chanting "Hello, hoo-ray, cheers then mate, I'm eating trifles... eating trifles". We all bought the 7" with our £1 pocket money and watched Paul on a Thursday night at 7.30pm.
Keith Cadby had ‘Setting Sons’. He lived two doors up. He was in his late teens, my mum used to cut his hair, and his brothers. He had a job in Waitrose, and lots and lots of records and he lent me ‘Setting Sons’. I've still got Keith Cadby’s copy of ‘Setting Sons’, so if you’re reading this Keith, I'm sorry I never returned it, but if it makes you feel better, It changed my life...
From the moment the phone rings at the start of ‘Girl on the Phone’ I know this is different from my other LPs. This isn’t ‘A Night at the Opera’ or the Grease Soundtrack, this has short sharp songs that whizz by before you realise they have finished. They have swearing. Swearing! In 1979, swearing was still nowhere to be heard on the TV or Radio. This was only 3 years on from the infamous Bill Grundy incident with the Sex Pistols, when people kicked the set in disgust. This was a new world, my world, inside my headphones on my Boots own brand record player. All ten tracks clocked in at just over half an hour. Half an hour I instantly repeated, again and again.
It is my ultimate Desert Island Disc. It has nearly a lifetime of emotions tied up in it. I still like to drive my son to football on a Saturday morning playing ‘Saturday’s Kids’, we've all had a ‘Private Hell’ and we all know a ‘Smithers-Jones’. Me and Setting Sons, we are as thick as thieves.