Going Back – Goldie

Goldie and the GingerbreadsWhilst all-female rock bands during the 1960s were generally being ignored Goldie & The Gingerbreads were signed to Decca Records in 1963. The band consisted of Genya Ravan (vocals, percussion and sax), Ginger Bianco, (drums, percussion), Margo Lewis, (organ, keyboards) and Carol MacDonald, (guitar, background vocals). In the UK the band went on to tour with The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Beatles, Manfred Mann, The Yardbirds, The Hollies and The Kinks. The band became resident in the UK for a 2 year period and through their hard work and determination managed to secure a minor hit in 1965  “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat”  that reached No. 25 on the singles charts. Although extensively touring North America the band failed to achieve similar success in the U.S. where they were generally viewed as a novelty. When “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” was released in the U.S. a recording of the same song by Herman’s Hermits was also released with great fanfare the impact of which fatally undermined the chances of them achieving a hit single in their native U.S.  A lesser known fact is that Goldie of Goldie & The Gingerbreads (Genya Ravan) was the first person to record the song “Going Back” which was written in 1966 by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. Over the years “Going Back” has been recorded by many artists, although it’s the Dusty Springfield version most people take as the authentic benchmark.

The Goldie version, which was produced by Andrew Loog Oldham (manager and producer of the Rolling Stones 1963-1967) was withdrawn a week after its release following disagreements between Gerry Goffin and Carole King over lyrical content. To give the lyrics of the song more potency lead singer Genya Ravan, born Genyusha Zelkovicz April 19th, 1940 in Poland, arrived in the U.S. during 1947, accompanied by her parents and one sister. They were the only family members to survive the onslaught of Hitler’s Holocaust.

1000 miles from home

Devizes Road Cemetery

Devizes Road is a busy artery shuffling vehicles to and from the heart of Salisbury. Houses lined like lego on both sides with intermittent shops, occasional commercial garage and the oblitory public house that seem to have seen better days. Frustrated drivers sound their horns as they navigate the obstacle of illegally parked cars, radios and banter from builders, a young tired couple argue intensively whilst their offspring peers out from the relative safety of his pushchair absorbing the chaotic sounds.  Built before the advent of mass car use it takes little to bring Devizes Road to an halt, especially when large delivery trucks thunder down towards the city centre ladened with commodities from faraway lands to be sold to ever demanding consumers.  Eight brand new cars vibrant and shake like charms on a Pandora bracelet as the truck carrying them slows down. The big beast stops. Its tremors burst along the footpath and cause vibrations under my feet. An elderly resident steps out from her home, closes the wooden gate behind her, looks up at the sky and with no expression slowly walks past me. Opened in 1856, with its small chapel it would only take a flicker of an eye to miss the cemetery on Devizes Road, which is closed to full earth burials.

Upon entering its gates one is suddenly embraced by the mythical silence cemeteries bring, which is coupled Devizes Road Cemeterywith a feeling of unease and humbleness. So many stories of love, loss and sadness. Husbands, wives, children to their journey’s end. An elderly lady is attending a grave, she is the only person I come across.  A childs windmill is spinning, weathered, standing slightly askew, pinned down near a small grave.  Sitting amongst the scattered, ageing and often crumbling memorials are new headstones, sand coloured, identical in size and shape. Maybe 30 of them shattered around the site each inscribed with a crucifix, reference number, name, rank, date of death and if known date of birth, “34593 Edward Daniel Curtin,  Army Medical Corps, 11th April 1915 Age 21. Second Lieutenant Goodyear….also his son Leonard….”  Whatever one things about the cause, process or purpose of war the sacrifices these people have made is beyond calculation. As I walked through the uneven grounds, taking care and pausing to read the inscriptions, trying to imagine the impossible, their fleeting lives, fears, the horrors that they must have witnessed. Towards the rear of the cemetery I find 4 distinctively different headstones marking the resting places for Ulrich Helma, Adolf Dolejš, Antonin Plocek and Richard Hapala. I was intrigued given their foreign names to discover more and so a small journey began.

On the night of the 1st and 2nd July 1941 Ulrich Helma, Adolf Dolejš, Antonin Plocek and Richard Hapala were part of a six-member crew and RAF squadron tasked with carrying out a bombing raid on the port of Cherbourg, northwestern occupied French. Whilst the team was led by Ulrich Helm, an experienced pilot amassing 18 11401044_852209188190430_5873817122638950119_nprevious air raids the remainder of the crew were young rookies. Their target that night was the Prinz Eugen, a battle cruiser, which had arrived in Cherbourg after leaving the ill fated Bismarck that had been sunk. According to reports there was at least one direct hit, which crashed through the deck of the ship preventing its from leaving port until vital repairs were undertaken. Returning to British shores after their mission the British Royal Air Force picked up the returning plane on radar defence and made several attempts to contact the crew, but with no success. The plane’s identification, friend or foe system, which was designed to make home stations recognise incoming friendly aircraft was malfunctioning. The plane was considered hostile and shot down. The stricken plane crashed at Lower Park Farm, southeast of the town of Mere, Wiltshire. The entire crew consisting of Sgt. Ulrich Helm (pilot), Sgt. Anthony Plocek, (copilot) P.O Richard Hapala, (navigator), Sgt. Adolf Dolejš, (radio operator), Sgt. Jaroslav Petrucha, (leading scorer) and  Sgt. Jaroslav Lančík, (rear gunner) died. Ulrich Helma, Adolf Dolejš, Antonin Plocek and Richard Hapala were buried in a Devizes Road Cemetery, Salisbury.

They were all members of  No 311 (Czechoslovak) Squadron RAF, which at the end of world war 2 was disbanded as an RAF unit and became part of the reformed Czechoslovak Air Force. That day I walked back home, along Devizes Road opened up my laptop and pieced together this story. 4 brave men who escaped the tyranny of hate spreading across their homeland 1000 miles away in what is now known as the Czech Republic.  In these turbulent times we live where we can casually dismiss  the suffering of others through the flick of a TV remote we can also easily forget the sacrifices of people like Ulrich Helma, Adolf Dolejš, Antonin Plocek and Richard Hapala who laid down their lives for a better Europe and indeed a better world.

The Handsel Sisters

The four Handsel sisters were of Danish origin who had moved to Wilton, Wiltshire at the same time of  an outbreak of smallpox in 1737 killed 132 people.  The local people became convinced that the sisters were responsible for the deaths and accused them of witchcraft and an alliance with the devil. Without an official hearing the sisters were taken to Grovely Wood, murdered by being bludgeoned over the head, and buried a little way apart from each other so that they could not conspire against their murderers. There are four gnarled beech trees associated with the sisters; because either the trees were planted to mark their graves or they mysteriously grew on top of the unmarked graves to remind the locals of their dreadful deed. Sightings of the sisters have been reported over the years. There is a hollow at the back of the largest tree where people leave offerings.  Grovely Wood is one of the largest woodlands in southern Wiltshire. It is situated on a chalk ridge above the River Wylye to the south of the village of Great Wishford, within the Cranborne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

WaitsSwordfishtrombones

IMG_0369I first came across Tom Waits in the early 80s. Some corny Saturday evening pop quiz was polluting the airwaves on TV. A giggling teenage wanna be pop star panelist was shown a snippet of Waits and asked a question. The lost expression was magnificently matched with Waits who sounded like a saw mill misfiring. Its was an interesting time to be introduced to Waits who had recently married Kathleen Patricia Brennan. Waits would later describe his relationship with Brennan as a paradigm shift in his musical development. After releasing the Heartattack and Vine album in 1980 Waits would release Swordfishtrombones in 1983. Swordfishtrombones marked a sharp turn in Waits musical direction. Not only was it the first album he produced for himself, but the paradigm shift Brennan had brought started to bear fruit with abstract musical structures replacing his hallmark piano. The track playing that Saturday evening was In the Neighbourhood. It was the start of a musical journey, which has stayed with me to this day.

Reclaim Project

RECLAIM exists to challenge the homogeneity that exists in the leadership profiles across UK society. In politics, economics, media, culture and sport, a recognisable working-class presence is rapidly disappearing. For more information just click hereo-RECLAIM-PROJECT-900-1

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