Tuesday, July 10, 2012

1979: Kinda cool and inspired

I won't need to tell you that girls were (are?) always so much more mature than boys. So when the most understated sophiscated girl in our class revealed that her current chart favourite was Rickie Lee Jones' Chuck 'E's In Love, it came as no surprise. But it changed things for me. And I loved her for it.

Being as immature as I was, girls were all grown-up and sensible, tutting at 14-year-old you from a great height and calling you 'sweet' when you wanted to be - as much as you could be at 14 - desirably bad.

This particular girl had been at primary school with me. Then I'd moved on half way through and she's moved to the States. We were near a very large IBM, and a lot of Americans lived our way, and lots of Brits went that way. On her return, as the first year of senior school started she was in a different league.

She'd seen things we'd not see for years, done things we'd not do for years and had a different outlook on life that made ours seem incredibly small town. She once lent me the controversial (I now know) Little Red School Book she'd brought back with her from the States, a tiny tome that included advice on all things from boring teachers to heroin addiction to masturbation. Needless to say I devoured it. I didn't hide it very well, either.

I got home from school one day to find my grandma beside herself and my mum demanding an explanation as to how such a thing came into my possession. She'd never believe it came from this girl, whose parents she knew, so I just told them someone lent it to me, which was true. I don't think my grandma had ever seen such filfth, though she was no stranger to Harold Robbins, The 50 Shades Of Grey of its day. Only that girl would have such a book.

Though not aloof in the least, she was a cut above. Mature, womanly, funny, practical, clever and interesting, she was everything the other girls in the class were not, though they didn't dislike her for it. In fact, she was quietly popular. I kept in touch with her for many years, and now I think she lives exotically in Thailand. She just wouldn't she?

So when I hear Chuck E's In Love with its Joni Mitchell influences and summery feel, I think of her, Diane Keatonesque, equally at home over here or over there, and me, listening to a song that wouldn't ordinarily have been on my radar and realising that there was so much more to music if you took the time to listen to it properly. I thank her for that.


  1. How lovely. What a warm, fond memory. I have to say that I've never heard of the Little Red School Book, though, and I feel immediately inadequate.

    That said, I had access to all my older sisters' stacks of 'Cosmo' back issues, which had genuinely ground-breaking (then) articles on orgasms and What You Should Demand In Bed From Him (ie, orgasms). That pile of well-thumbed mags made me very popular among my friends for a while (around 1974-78, since you ask.).

  2. I'm not sure the LRSB was properly available here, but that made it all the more daring.

    We used to make a beeline for the Jackie problem pages at my cousin's house. Not to be missed.