There is a old saying, if you can remember the 60s then you was not there, it was that time of
my life that was pure magic, and like many others of that time I was a teenager in love.
It was the years of the mini shirt, knee length boots, and the famous bee hive hair style, polo
neck sweaters, and the DA hair cut. We had a coffee bar
in town called the
Whiskey a Go Go, it was a place that was packed to the rafters with teenagers sipping their
frothy coffee or a bottle of coke, and of course, the juke box was playing the top tunes of the day, simple
pleasures. Sadly the Whiskey a Go Go has long gone but I can still see that coffee bar in my
mind and the sounds of 'Sweets for my Sweet' coming from the juke box when I walk passed the
area in town where it used to be. Also you could see all the top groups at the time at the local
dance hall with a support band on a Saturday night for ten bob, a skin full of red barrel,
followed by a fish a chip supper and still have change out of a pound note, happy times.
The old saying about the swinging sixties was I suppose related to the flower power hippy
brigade, with most of them living in cloud cuckoo land. All that puffing and popping must have
given inspiration to many of them as they performed their individual type of ritual
often wonder when I see a girl in a little world of her own dancing around her hand bag if this
is a throw back to those hippy days.
It was in the early sixties that I had just started work at a large hotel as a commis
across the market square was the town's dance hall and on each Saturday night we had many of
the up and coming groups performing on stage at the hall; The Swinging
Blue Jeans, Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, The Bachelors, The Animals, with their hit
'House of the Rising Sun',
Eden Kane, and loads more such as the Barron Knights and the Rocking
Berries. But I suppose the
one that caused a real stir was Mr. P. J Proby, as all those that went to
see him saw him finish his act by
splitting his pants on stage. It was only a few days ago that I was telling a retired police
inspector about that night and he said that at the time he was one of the
bobbies on the beat that was required to escort Mr. Proby back to the hotel due to the fans that came to
My personal involvement in a band lasted for two years. I was the drummer for the
Countdowns, a local band. We were asked to be the supporting group for the Shadows, but the
hours that I spent in the kitchens had to come first, happy times.
Often if the groups were not traveling back to London, they would stay in the
hotel over night
and as a young commis chef that was always on the early breakfast shift, it was often possible,
with the help of a nod from the hall porter, to be in the right place at the right time.
On one occasion after I had finished cooking breakfast, the head waiter said
" you are
requested in the restaurant, that over paid groupie lot wants to thank you for their
breakfast." That groupie lot as he had described them was not in
Frank's, the head waiter's, top ten. Vera Lyn
might have been but not the Barron Knights as it turned out to be.
In those days on a Saturday night and after the dance hall had closed we all headed off to a
fish and chip shop in the town. This was the place that all the local groups met and you always
knew which groups were in already because the street would be littered with old vans and cars
full of drums and equipment. By the early hours the place was heaving as it had a very good reputation for its fry
you entered the premises you were led into an area at the back, and laid out in three small
rooms was an arrangement of odd tables and chairs. The tables were covered in a plastic table
cloth that could easily be cleaned and so relaying the tables for the next punters that were
waiting to enjoy a fry up in the early hours of the morning. The menu was
simple you started with chips, and added to this any item that could be fried in oil, old oval plates were used to
convey the delight of this fry up and I suppose after a few pints of red barrel it seemed a very
welcoming sight. One trick that we soon learnt off those that must have been to this to
establishment many times before was to ask for a dessert spoon as your meal
arrived, this was not so you could eat you mushy peas with out dropping them on the lino, no you slid the
spoon under your plate so that all the excesses oil ran down to one end of the plate.
It was, I
suppose, our little contribution to healthy eating.
I suppose now after forty odd years have pasted. the magic of being a teenager in the sixties
has never gone away, the music, the dress and hair styles that gave that time of my life so
many happy memories. Over the last few years I have met and become friends with a few of
the legends of that era. One that is top of my list is Joe Brown and when he did a summer
season in Hunstanton my wife and I went out to dinner on many occasions with Joe and the
Bruvvers. Going out to dinner we always seemed to finish up at the only place that would feed us at
the unearthly hour of almost midnight, the local Indian restaurant. Long have gone the plates of
greasy fry ups, but in their place spicy concoctions of chicken in a mouth burning curry sauce,
washed down with not red barrel but tiger beer; that at least if drunk in large quantities will
help in cooling down the mind blowing chili and lime concoction that Joe seemed to like and
made sure that you at least tried a good spoon full. This always seemed to bring a smile to his
face as you reached for the tiger beer. It has long been a theory of mine that bands of the sixties that are still doing the circuits have
had to adapt their eating habits as the years have passed them by, greasy egg chips and mushy
peas have given way to spicy foods of many nations. The food may have changed but not the
music and the memories that these sixty groups are still playing, because for the music of that
magic era there will never be a substitute.
So if there is a knock on the door and on opening it you find an ageing pop star ask him in and
grab the frying pan and some oil not for a greasy fry up of the sixties but to fry up a spicy
dish in the pan.
Take a frying pan of good size put this on the stove on a good heat, add to this a drop of
olive oil, when the oil is fairly hot add half a leek that has been slice into thin slices, also
add half of a large onion, again this must be sliced thin. Take a red pepper, cut
it in half and
remove the seeds and again slice thinly and add to the pan. It's best if all the ingredients
are prepared before hand, once the leek, onion and pepper is in the pan stir them gently
so they all start to cook at the same time. Its now time to add your chicken, this is very finely sliced and once in the pan must be
stirred in. Now for the spicy bit, when you feel that the chicken is cooked add a good
pinch of paprika and stir well in and to this you add fresh cream to make the sauce.
Season with salt and pepper to your taste, the spicy chicken in paprika should be served
on a plate of hot long grain rice. The best way to serve this meal is to turn the lights down low, crank up the gramophone
and pop on an old 45.