I don’t think I could ever have been described as a ‘trendy’ teenager, but it’s now nearly 40 years since I made my stand against 1970s fashion and turned up at school one day with my hair greased back and sporting the most drainpipe pair of trousers I thought I could get away with (it was a chemistry lesson, I recall, and about the only time I ever made an impression on that subject). Since then, and depending on popular perceptions of anyone who showed an interest in popular culture of the past, I’ve been dubbed a Teddy Boy, Greaser, Rocker, Fifties Throwback, Demob Kid and any number of less publishable names. But that youthful feeling that what contemporary culture had on offer simply didn’t appeal has deepened and broadened into a fascination with the music, clothes, films, TV, books, architecture, design, humour and social history of Britain and America from the 1930s to the 1960s – what I can comfortably deem Midcentury. Fortunately for my maturing years and receding hairline, the current vogue for the style of that period focuses on the ‘vintage’ aspect rather than just youth culture, so this Blog is my attempt to share some of that experience, and the enjoyment it has brought me, with both those for whom, like me, it has defined their life, and those just dipping a toe into the vast ocean of 20th Century culture. I don’t pretend for a minute that it will be definitive or authoritative – for every aspect I’ve dabbled in, there will be an expert out there – but my aim will be to paint on as broad a canvas as I can, and steer the visitor towards some of the people and sources I really rate.
So that’s the background, what other vital statistics do you need? The name’s Clive, born in 1962, raised in Hertfordshire, started work in London at 17, have since moved around the UK a fair bit, and put down roots in Gloucestershire but still with strong links to the capital. Morris Minor owner, occasional actor and singer, inveterate book and music buyer, dabbler in medieval history, rubbish at sport, apart from the longbow where I’m just mediocre – but that’s all the stuff I aim to be writing about. Married to Jane who fortunately shares most of my passions and indulgently tolerates the ones she doesn’t.
And I’m a great believer that everyone should have their own obscure claim to fame – the more tangential the better. So, what better for a blog on midcentury popular culture than my proud claim that my Nan, whilst working in the Waltham Cross branch of Sketchley’s in the late 1950s, used to get a young bloke called Harry Webb coming in to have his stage clothes dry cleaned. There’s a little article in the Waltham Cross Gazette, underneath a much bigger photo of my late aunt’s wedding, reporting that he’d been awarded a recording contract with EMI under his stage name of Cliff something. Wonder what happened to him….