Those were the days…

Whenever I look at this image, my mind goes back to those guitar-playing days of my youth. And in case you are wondering – this is not Buddy Holly although he is a pretty good lookalike. This is Mike, a brilliant musician, sadly no longer with us, who I played with, recorded with, and shared a flat with forty and more years ago. Yes, really!

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I got my first acoustic guitar in the days of Joan Baez, Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Peter, Paul and Mary, The Kingston Trio etc. I played their music plus Negro Spirituals and Gospel. The first album I bought was of the guitar legend Chet Atkins. I played finger-picking folk style, and then bought a semi-acoustic Hofner and started being a rhythm guitarist too.

I met Mike when we were both at Cambridge University. Cambridge was at the centre of new developments in every facet of life including the introduction of Christian rock music into church services. A bunch of us got involved under the awful mouthful of a name: ‘the 20th Century Church Light Music Group’.  We played the music of Sydney Carter, Geoffrey Beaumont and others who re-wrote new tunes to old favourite hymns and wrote entirely new music. We performed and led services here and there.

Fast forward 2-3 years and back down in London, the group (now associated with multi-faceted performers including dance and theatre) changed its name to Reflection and created its own record label ‘Reflection Records’. We released an album titled ‘The Present Tense’ of Sydney Carter’s music.  We sold several thousand copies. Other albums followed. Mike was the producer and the ring master.

I recall days in recording studios, concerts in central London, a series of performances over Christmas in the East End of London, a live performance on BBC radio on a Sunday morning (scary). I ran the record sales for a year or two, packing up records and dispatching them to mail order clients, quite often overseas including the USA. Slowly over the years we all went our separate ways and married and had children, but the flag continued to fly and the concept of course continues and is now mainstream. And despite Mike not being with us anymore the website is still up there on the net (click here) as a memory and as a listing of what he achieved and of which I was privileged to be a small part.

Those were the days….. That acoustic guitar still sits in the corner of my study. I can see it as I write. I haven’t touched it in years. I wonder if it’s still in tune…

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About LensScaper

Hi - I'm a UK-based photographer who started out 45+ years ago as a lover of landscapes, inspired by my love of outdoor pursuits: skiing, walking and climbing. Now retired, I seldom leave home without a camera and I find images in unexpected places and from different genres. I work on the premise that Photography is Art and that creativity is dependent on the cultivation of 'A Seeing Eye'. I'm not averse to manipulating images to produce derivatives that may sometimes be far removed from the original.
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16 Responses to Those were the days…

  1. Great blog post. Interesting to hear about your days as an “indie” band! Yes, back then people like yourself were into the DIY ethos and independent meant that you didn’t depend on major record labels. The tag of indie music evolved from the days when independent bands and labels represented an alternative way of doing things and was probably most noticed through the early punk era. I can remember when NME had an independent chart! Bands that featured in the indie chart might only have sold 500 copies to appear at number one! Since then the idea of indie music has been appropriated by major record labels as a genre that encompasses virtually any band that has a couple of guitars. It’s nice to hear about your days as a musician and to be reminded about a time when people had to make a real effort to get music out and available to their audience. It wasn’t as simple as uploading a song onto itunes! I’m sure many young people might find it hard to believe all the work that went into releasing an independent vinyl album! You made it sound easy but perhaps you are not wanting to blow your own trumpet too loud. It’s nice shot of your friend Mike and no doubt that image is from days of chemical photography. Great stuff 🙂

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks so much for your comment. I’m not sure whether ‘Indie’ had even been invented in about 1970! Certainly our music was not something any label wanted to pick up. Although subsequently there was another label devoted exclusively to Christian rock music. Most of the sales were by word of mouth, but over three years or so we sold 12,000 albums spread over 4 or 5 releases (I found an old newsletter last night with that info in it). Hard work certainly. My involvement became increasingly peripheral as my medical career was at its busiest in terms of hours worked

  2. athyfoto says:

    …”… the introduction of Christian rock music into church services.”
    AHA!! so it’s all you’re fault! 🙂
    Only joking, honest, I like the picture, a lot, the likeness is amazing. That was a nice trip down memory lane Andy. My memories of Church music are far more on the traditional side. I was a boy soprano (until the inevitabel happenned) in the Church choir, as was my Father, as a school boy before me and I still love the massive sound of a Church organ. The list of artists you made chimes with me too, particularly Woody Guthrie’s name jumped off the page at me. I have none of his recordings, only seen and heard him on the occassional TV documentary and the like, and I remember his son Arlo performing at Woodstock, “Alice’s restaurant” . . . . . .enough already!!

    Anyway, thanks for sharing this with us, great post!

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks for commenting. I have to plead slightly guilty to the charge. I too grew up in a house full of music. My other was a singer and my father was a church organist. I started to learn the Piano at an early age. I inevitably ended up in choirs of all sorts right through Uni. I recall being in a choir that performed the Messiah in Southwark Cathedral around 1970. Vidor’s Toccata remains one of my favourite pieces of music from any genre.

  3. Great post Andy. Thanks for sharing and giving us a little look into your past. A true artist you are. I think you should pick up that guitar.

  4. Len Saltiel says:

    That is a great look at the music scene back then. I have always wanted to play the guitar and took lessons when I was a kid. I discovered that I had no talent and gave it up. Glad that you were able to be part of the experience. I agree with Edith that you should give that old guitar a try. Great post Andy.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks Len. It’s extraordinary how many of us seem to have had similar experiences back in our teenage years. The 60s and 70s were fantastic decades to grow up in We were so lucky

  5. oneowner says:

    I have no musical talent either, but that hasn’t kept me from playing. For sure your guitar is out of tune but for $10 (US) you can get a decent tuner and you’re good to go. Tune up! Great photo, by the way.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks Ken. I picked the guitar up as recommended by several of you and only had to tune the top E string. Strummed a few chords – the wife looked at me in a very strange way!

  6. Great post Andy – i would add to the other comments, get some new strings, fit them, tune the guitar, leave it for a week or so to settle down, then get stuck in!

    I too have a guitar gathering dust {plus a mandolin and melodeon) though for me it’s just a year or so since I was active – perhaps it’s time to get back to the music.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks Paul. I tried a Harmonica once or twice too. All strings intact on the guitar, picked it up last night and only had to tune the top E string. Strummed a few chords. It felt rather good actually.

  7. It is a very good portrait of your friend. Thanks for sharing the story, Andy.

  8. ehpem says:

    Hi Andy, very interesting to read this. I am watching my son try to make a career in music so this is particularly interesting. There are many parallels, though he is not breaking ground with a whole new genre (not that I know of anyway, or not yet). If only he were studying something else as well, as a safety net…

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