All That I Remember
Listening Notes to accompany the album
All That I Remember
by Bill Nelson
As 'All That I Remember' is such a personal, autobiographical album, I've assembled this track by track guide to the stories behind each piece of music. I hope that these notes will add an extra dimension to the album and enrich the listeners appreciation of it.
1: ‘All That I Remember.’
This piece serves as a kind of 'overture' to the album. It sets a mood of gentle melancholy with solo guitar and brief orchestral interludes. It has a light, jazzy feel with the guitars working in (sometimes unusual,) harmony, suggesting Les Paul and other jazz guitarists who made an impact on my young life.
2: ‘The View From Lantern Hill.’
Lantern Hill is situated in the coastal town of Ilfracombe in Devon where, in the 1950s, my parents, my brother Ian and myself spent a memorable holiday. It was quite a long drive to get there from Yorkshire. We stayed in a rented upstairs flat right on the harbour where on one side of the living room there were windows looking out onto the harbour itself, and on the other side were windows looking out to sea. My father had a Bolex wind-up cine camera and I can vividly remember him filming a large sailing boat tossing about on the waves from the ocean side window.
Ilfracombe is also where the photograph on the cover of my 'Diary Of A Hyperdreamer Volume One' book was taken, (with Ian and myself and a steamship in the background.) Lantern Hill itself is surmounted by St Nicholas' Chapel, (built in the 1300's,) which doubles as a small and quaint lighthouse, hence the name 'Lantern Hill.' I have an old photograph of my brother Ian standing with Lantern Hill in the background which evokes sweet memories coupled with a degree of melancholy.
This piece of music is a richly textured orchestral piece, a sort of tone poem, which conjures up that holiday. The track features moments of happy, skipping lightness and other moments where the swell of the sea rises dramatically as the old steamship sails proudly from the harbour trailing clouds of smoke from its funnels.
Ian Nelson with Lantern Hill in the background. 1950s.
3: ‘Memory Time No 1: A Wakefield Adventure.’
This is the first of four 'Memory Time' pieces spread throughout the album. This one references my birthplace of Wakefield, where I also grew up. It was a rather different place back then, in some ways more pleasant if rather less modern that today's city. The piece combines electric guitar and orchestra, moving through a panorama of changing moods, each portraying aspects of the city, the Cathedral, the old 1950s bus station with its clock tower where members of 'The Teenagers', (a band I was in,) would meet to be picked up by the band's van to travel to that evening's gig. The grand Unity Hall is also evoked. (I remember seeing my father play there in his band when I was a very young boy.) Also Thornes Park is referenced where, in my infancy, my parents took me to hear brass bands perform. Later, in 1968, I staged Wakefield's first ever free rock concert with my band 'Global Village' on the park's bandstand.
My four years at Wakefield Art School, in the earlier part of the 1960s, was a time of adventure and discovery. I created an avant-garde score for a college production of Ibsen's 'Peer Gynt,' using a 'prepared' guitar technique rather like John Cage's prepared piano, threading nails and washers and pieces of glass through the strings and striking them with mallets then recording this to a domestic tape machine and reversing the direction of the tape across the playback head. It was a magic time.
A view of Wakefield Bus Station in the 1950s.
4: ‘The Wonderful Wurlitzer Of Blackpool Tower.’
Blackpool is a working-class holiday resort on the west coast of England, famous for its Tower and Pleasure Beach. My parents and I would holiday there quite often in the 1950s and into the early '60s. In fact, I went to Blackpool with my parents when I was only a few months old. The Tower contains a magnificent, gilded ballroom, built in 1894 and re-designed by the famous architect Frank Matcham in 1899. The ballroom has a wonderful Wurlitzer organ which is still in use today. In the 1950s it was played by Reginald Dixon who became a household name through his rendition of 'I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside,' a tune which became synonymous with the town itself. As a child, I would be carried between my two parents as they danced around the ballroom to the sound of the Wurlitzer, coloured lights playing around the waltzing couples on the dancefloor.
The Tower also has a permanent indoor circus arena, again designed by Frank Matcham, where I went as a child. The circus, in those days, had lions and tigers and elephants as part of its presentation as well as acrobats and clowns. The circus ring features, (and still does, I believe,) a spectacular climax to each evening's entertainment when it fills up with water and fountains erupt from out of the blue as a water ballet takes place.
Blackpool was also well known for its 1930s streamlined art-deco 'balloon' trams and seafront Illuminations, the latter which still exist though the former have sadly been replaced with less visually stylish modern versions.
My music on this piece attempts to recreate the Tower Wurlitzer organ sound, quoting from 'I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside' as the orchestra sets up a bright fanfare to match the gilded ballroom's magnificence. A section also hints at the Tower Circus and its various feats of derring-do and clownish mayhem.
Blackpool Tower Ballroom.
Blackpool Tower Circus water finale, 1950s.
Reginald Dixon at The Tower Ballroom Wurlitzer Organ. 1950s.
5: ‘Spacefleet: (The Golden Days Of Dan Dare.)’
The stylistic mood shifts as retro-electronics usher in this track which evokes the science-fiction hero 'Dan Dare, Pilot Of The Future' from the 1950s weekly children's comic, 'The Eagle.'
Dan was written and drawn by the artist Frank Hampson who is widely considered to be a genius in the field of comic-book illustration.
I was an avid reader of 'The Eagle' and followed Dan's adventures every week with great enthusiasm. 'Spacefleet' was the name given to the organisation which represented Earth in space and Dan was a Colonel in it, piloting wonderfully retro looking rocketships around the solar system. His Spacefleet uniform looked more like that of a World War 2 Spitfire pilot than the super high-tech outfits of current sci-fi movies, and his mannerisms were equally rooted in British 'stiff-upper lip-ism' and old-school jovial banter.
Dan's arch enemy was the Mekon, a little green alien with a huge brain who floated around on a kind of sky-scooter. The drawings that Frank Hampson made to depict the alien worlds was imaginative and filled with small details. As a young boy I would pour over these details, noting every technological invention with amazement. The stories were of epic proportion, lasting several weeks before concluding and their ingenuity, twists and turns were worthy of any modern sci-fi movie.
The synths that open this track are a kitsch evocation of the mysteries of space before the piece opens out into a widescreen orchestral panorama with electric guitars, suggesting the heroics of Dan and his pals amongst the planets.
Dan Dare 'pop-up' book from the 1950s.
6: ‘Memory Time No 2: The Rock n’ Roll Years.’
I shouldn’t underestimate the impact that rock n' roll music had on my early life. It, along with earlier swing band music, laid the foundations for the music I make today. This piece is a poem in sound to those late '50s and early '60s records, tunes that fired me up and made me want to play the guitar. In this piece you will hear lots of different references to that golden age of rock n' roll...
The track opens with a nod to Duane Eddy, (my first ever guitar hero,) with a quote from his '40 Miles Of Bad Road.' It then shifts gear into a rhythm guitar that contains echoes of both Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran. The lead guitar sound enters and brings in hints of Duane Eddy and Hank Marvin but also some of the slightly more 'outré' guitar instrumentals of the day such as those by 'The Fireballs', 'Peter Jay And The Jaywalkers', 'The String Alongs', 'The Spotnicks' and many others. The Farfisa organ sound brings to mind 'Johnny And The Hurricanes' and 'The Tornadoes', (whose hit 'Telstar' is briefly quoted at the end of the track, along with a line from Duane Eddy's 'Because They're Young' which was the first single I ever owned.) It's a fun track!
In the UK in the '50s and early '60s, electric guitars came mostly from Europe or England. American guitars were thin on the ground due to import restrictions. My first electric guitar was an Antoria, made in Japan, which my father bought me for Christmas. I was thrilled to get it, (even though I dreamt of owning a red Fender Stratocaster like Hank Marvin's.) Later on he bought me my iconic Gibson 345, a big step up from the Antoria and a very expensive purchase for him. From a humble schoolboy band, through various local pub and club bands, to psychedelia, blues and rock, and on to Be Bop Deluxe and way beyond...it's been an amazing trip.
A drum roll and swelling strings usher in this seasonal orchestral piece which recreates some of the gentle magic of childhood Christmases and those long-ago, snow blessed days that seemed to be commonplace back in the 1950s.
Christmas Day mornings were always filled with the miracle of the living room floor being filled with glittering gifts. My brother Ian and I would be in a state of great excitement as we knelt in our dressing gowns to discover what Father Christmas had left us: Train sets, Dinky Toys, Meccano outfits, Model kits, Ray Guns, Board Games, Toy Soldiers, Forts and Adventure Annuals. (The swash-buckling heroes of some of those annuals are referenced in the more epic sections of this track,) but also Christmas Carols and the sound of tinkling baubles under shining lights hanging on the Christmas Tree. All this, along with the colourful paper trimmings and balloons that festooned the house, bring back the warm wonder and sweet innocence of childhood.
8: ‘Strolling With My Father.’
My Dad was much older than my Mum and I wish I hadn't lost him when I was relatively young. (He passed away in 1977.) I'm now, (arguably,) more mature and would have liked to ask him about his life and deeper thoughts, had he still been here to chat with. But youth takes things and people for granted, only to regret it later when they are gone and it's sadly become too late...
As a boy, I enjoyed a relationship with my father that was a happy one, despite his occasional bouts of bad temper. My childhood years are full of pleasant memories of times when he and I would bond in different situations, walking or helping him to fix the family car.
He was a musician, a saxophonist, and his love of big-band swing brought music into my life. He also had enough faith in me as an amateur guitarist to buy me my Gibson 345 guitar when I was still only in my teens, a very expensive purchase. That guitar has become well known to fans of my music over the years.
My parents bought a holiday chalet at Withernsea in the early 1960s where we would spend most weekends during the summer months. Dad and I would go off to nearby Hull and explore the second-hand junk shops in search of old radio parts which Dad needed for his electronics hobby. (His home workshop was akin to a mad scientist's laboratory.) We would usually, on these jaunts to Hull, call in at a well-stocked model shop where he would buy me a model aeroplane issued by the Revell or Monogram company, or an American custom car or hot rod kit issued by AMT, which I would patiently assemble back at the chalet in Withernsea.
Dad and I would also get up quite early and go beachcombing, looking for unusual shells and bits of driftwood. It's these times, whether walking in search of electronic gizmos in dusty junk shops, or breathing the clear, fresh air of a stroll on the beach, that I've tried to capture in this piece. It has a light, jaunty, jazzy feel, with electric guitar being the dominant component, a slightly cheeky, buoyant mood which contains something of the curiosity and humour my father possessed.
Dad and I in Bridlington, 1950s
Dad playing his Grafton Acrylic Alto Sax
9: ‘Scale Model. (Assembly Required.)'
As mentioned in the previous note, building model kits was a great passion of mine as a boy. My first model kit was a speedboat, bought from British Home Stores in Wakefield for me by my mother. I got glue all over it, in all the wrong places, but it was a start. I soon progressed to model aircraft, World War 2 planes such as Spitfires and Lancaster bombers, and a strange vertical take-off airliner called a Fairey Rotodyne. Also American planes such as B52's and Superfortresses. Later, I became passionately interested in the American custom car and hot-rod scene and built many kits produced by the AMT, Revell and Monogram companies who offered models of these exotic cars. My bedroom became filled with these completed kits, aeroplanes hanging from the ceiling on fishing wire, model cars filling every horizontal space and shelf.
There was a rather expensive model kit I dreamt of building...an American hot-rod Model-T Ford in a very large scale, produced by the American Monogram company. It came in a beautiful red colour with cream bucket seats and heavily chromed engine parts. One Christmas, I was thrilled to be given it as a special gift from my parents and couldn't wait to assemble it. It took quite a while to build the kit up from its component parts, but it looked great when completed and I proudly gave it pride of place in my collection.
The music on this track reflects something of the logical process of assembling each part of a model kit, bit by bit. It also touches on the sound of that era's guitars and pop music structures. An upbeat piece filled with the joys of assembling a scale model.
A 1960s Monogram 'Big-T' hot rod kit fully assembled.
A rare Airfix model kit of a Fairey Rotodyne vertical take-off aeroplane.
10: ‘Reighton Sands.’
When I was quite young, (before I had long trousers,) my parents took holidays at Reighton Gap on the East Coast of Yorkshire, at an old wooden bungalow owned by good friends of theirs, Herman and Ada Ackroyd. The bungalow was a wooden clad affair with a sun lounge at the front. It had a wonderful 'between the wars' feel about it and had probably existed since the 1920s. It was situated on the cliff top, above a steep ravine which led down to the sea and the clean, wide beach that lay at the bottom.
We spent many a happy hour or two on that beach, building sandcastles and paddling in the more shallow waves. The beach had a few old concrete blockhouses at that time, military gun posts from World War 2 that had long since been abandoned. Covered with seaweed and barnacles, they provided exciting adventures for a young boy's imaginary game play with his his toy boats.
At the bungalow, the only entertainment on an evening was a game of dominoes, noughts and crosses or solitaire. I don't recall the place having electricity, only gas light. Nevertheless, it seemed an idyllic location with fresh air in abundance and the beautiful sound of the waves as you drifted off to sleep at bedtime.
In more recent years I've re-visited Reighton Gap. The Ackroyd's bungalow is sadly long gone, as are the Ackroyd's themselves, but the area is really not all that much different, in essence, from what it was, in the '50s, (though it's filled with static caravans now.) The old ravine still cuts its way through the cliff down to the sea, and the beach is as wide and beautiful as ever.
The music of this piece tries to evoke those long-ago times on Reighton Beach when my family and I would be temporarily freed from the worries and concerns of our home life. It does this through the drifting echoes of guitars and seagull's cries, the sounds that lulled me to sleep back then.
Me and little Ian at the bungalow at Reighton Gap, 1950s.
Me sitting outside the bungalow at Reighton Gap, 1950s.
Mum, Nan, Aunty Sal and myself outside the bungalow at Reighton Gap.
11: ‘Memory Time No 3: Eagle, Beezer, Topper, Beano.’
In the '50s and '60s, my father worked as manager of a shop in Hunslet, Leeds, called R. Broughton And Son. It was situated in Waterloo Road. Dad was the shop's manager. At that time, Mr. Broughton junior, whose first name was Harry, had taken over the business from his father. Harry enjoyed going 'out and about' to visit customers, installing their radios and televisions. As a result, Harry Broughton entrusted the day to day management of the shop to my father, Walter Nelson and Dad would travel from Wakefield each day to manage the shop in Hunslet.
On Saturdays, my mother and I would get the bus from Wakefield to Leeds and have lunch in the basement canteen of Lewis's department store on The Headrow. After shopping we would then catch a tram to Hunslet and Waterloo Road to meet my father when he finished work at Broughton's.
Alongside radios and televisions, Broughtons also sold Dinky Toys, Hornby Trains, Meccano and Tri-Ang toys. I was always allowed to choose a Dinky Toy to take home with me. In fact, Dad would usually bring me one home every week, even when Mum and I hadn't been to Leeds on some Saturdays. Of course, at Christmas, I was treated to various toys from Broughton's, including Hornby train sets and Meccano sets. My first two-wheeler bike came from there too. But my father, every Friday night, would bring me a selection of weekly comics, Dandy, Beano, Beezer, Topper, Eagle, Radio Fun, Lion, Wizard, Hotspur, etc, which he bought from a little Hunslet newsagent's shop, located at the Swan Junction end of Waterloo Road.
Getting these comics was a great gift for me because Dad didn't buy just one or two comics but a huge pile of them. I can remember the smell of the paper they were printed on, the smell of the ink and the anticipation I had when opening them to read their contents. Some contained adventure stories, focused mainly on words with the occasional illustration, stories about World War 2 heroes with titles like 'I Flew With Braddock.' Others had more of a strip cartoon approach with funny tales of oddball characters in silly situations. And some, like 'The Eagle', had amazing cutaway drawings of ships and aircraft showing their inner structures and workings. And, of course, 'The Eagle' carried those epic stories of Dan Dare and his chums.
There was also a great space-themed weekly comic called 'Rocket' which carried nothing but sci-fi and fantasy stories. Edited by WW2 flying ace Douglas Bader, it didn't stay in publication for very long and copies are incredibly hard to find today, but I loved this one just as much as my Eagle comics. To be honest, I loved them all.
Comic annuals were also a feature of my boyhood. All the major weekly comics published a special annual at Christmas time, the perfect gift for many children in the 1950s. The Eagle annuals were a special treat as they contained a Dan Dare story which was quite different from the ones in the weekly comic. The Beano annual carried fantasy stories of 'Jimmy And His Magic Patch' (a boy who had a cloth patch sewed on his short trousers that could magically whisk him back in time,) and 'Jack Flash, The Flying Boy From Mercury' who had small ankle wings and could zoom around the sky helping his Earth schoolboy chums catch crooks and rescue people from all kinds of perils. (I had a particular affinity with Jack Flash as I had dreamt of being able to fly since first hearing about Peter Pan.)
Then there was General Jumbo, a boy who had an entire army of toy soldiers which could be controlled from a radio unit attached to his wrist. And the 'Tin Fish' was a strip about a boy who had a mechanical swordfish in which he could ride beneath and above the waves.
So, this piece is a paean to those weekly British comics with their epic, heroic adventures, tales of wonder and imagination, their funny characters and situations. It features an orchestra and electric guitars, the latter with a variety of textures.
The No1 issue of 'Rocket' comic.
'Jack Flash' from an old Beano annual of the '50s.
12: ‘When Boys Dream Of Guitars.’
It's pretty clear to me now, that, somehow I was destined, (or doomed,) to fall in love with the electric guitar. This came about by a strange process of fate. My younger brother Ian had been given a cheap toy guitar for Christmas, which he was probably too young to fully appreciate at the time. I managed to pick out the 'Third Man Theme' on it, and my father's ears pricked up. He had unsuccessfully tried to teach me to play the saxophone when I was just eight years old, but it hadn't taken and he'd given up on the idea of me becoming a musician. But he realised there was something going on with me with that little toy guitar.
So, he bought me a slightly bigger toy guitar, an 'Elvis Presley' Selcol guitar, made of plastic with a picture of Elvis on the headstock. He taught me three or four ukulele chords on this toy guitar, (which only had four strings,) and saw the beginnings of a chance for me to become a musician like himself. Later, he bought me my first proper guitar, an acoustic archtop 'Zenith' model by Ivor Mairantz, which, to this day, I wish I still had. I'd heard Duane Eddy's 'Because They're Young' single and the small flame of guitar became a fierce blast. I progressed from the Zenith acoustic to an 'Antoria' solid body guitar and from there to my beloved Gibson 345, all of which were gifts from my father. Dad could be extremely critical of my musical abilities but, my mother tells me that, in private, he was very proud of me and didn't want me to get a 'big head' from too much praise. She also says that Dad thought I had an affinity with jazz from early on.
Well, this track pulls together various facets of my guitar playing from that time and this...and, if nothing else, is a reasonable excuse to set the strings in motion! Clean and overdriven tones abound, wilder approaches, and more melodic ones too. Building to a nice climax and a reflective coda.
A Selcol 'Elvis Presley' toy guitar, exactly the same as the one I had.
This is exactly the same model of Antoria guitar I had, with the one difference in that mine sported 3 pickups instead of two. In all other respects it is identical.
A 'Zenith' archtop acoustic guitar (like my own first 'proper' guitar.)
It carried a certificate inside which was signed by Ivor Mairantz, a well know guitarist in the 1940s and '50s, who endorsed the instrument.
13: ‘The Ilfracombe Steamer.’
As with the track 'Lantern Hill', this track is inspired from the holiday in Ilfracombe that my family enjoyed in the 1950s. It focusses specifically on the old steamboat that plied its way around the coast at that time. Sounds of the sea and seagulls, the rattle and throb of the engine's pistons and the grandeur of the sea. All wrapped up with orchestra and guitars, bringing a romantic vibe to play with French horns and strings. E-bow taking the lead in places, chiming guitars taking the tune out.
Bill and Ian Nelson in Ilfracombe in the 1950s.
14: ‘Memory Time No 4: A Dansette Fantasy.’
A Dansette record player was the dream of most youngsters in the late 1950s, as it was of mine. When I got my own record player and the permission to play the records I wanted to hear in the privacy of my own bedroom, it was like a door opening into another world. This is a one of those tracks which attempts to evoke the guitar records of my past, (and future,) with various twists and turns. It has a quote from 'Tuxedo Junction' as a coda, a tune which has resonances, from Glenn Miller to Chet Atkins, for me.
I had many of Chet Atkins' albums as a teenager, he was one of my favourite guitarists and his music crossed many boundaries, always beautifully and immaculately played. I can't begin to approach the technical excellence that Chet displayed in everything he recorded but the spirit of his playing definitely infected my own. Another early guitar hero of mine was Scotty Moore, who was Elvis Presley's original lead guitarist. He took Chet's fingerstyle technique and applied it to rock n' roll in stunning fashion.
Chet Atkins 'Workshop' album.
A Dansette record player.
15: ‘Heading For Home In A Hillman Minx.’
In the 1950s, my father bought a second-hand Hillman Mix saloon car in black, its number was MUM 333, (which would be a sought after private plate today.) It was only the second car our family had owned, the first being a pre-war Jowett. I was with Dad when he went to buy the Hillman from a second-hand car dealer near the Hunslet and Sturton area of Leeds. The dealer's location was in Pontefract Road and I can remember driving there in the Jowett and Dad doing a part-exchange for the Hillman. The Hillman seemed a very modern car compared to the 1936 Jowett, (the Hillman was actually an early 1950s model, '51 or possibly '53,) but the old Jowett had served us well, despite its age. I remember us trying to get to Whitby in it and it breaking down on the North Yorkshire Moors. A passing AA patrolman, riding the motorcycle and sidecar combinations that were standard AA fare in those days, stopped to assist us. Dad joined the AA there and then and we were soon on our way again.
The Hillman often took us to Reighton Gap, to the bungalow owned by my parent's friends. I have a few photographs of the family posing by the car, taken at Reighton. Dad was very fond of that car and had fitted it with various accessories. The music I've written for this track suggests the proudness my father felt about the car as we trundled along the country roads from Reighton Gap back to our home in Wakefield after a holiday at the bungalow. It features a big orchestral arrangement with electric guitars and a brass band in full flow.
A 1936 Jowett like the one owned by my family.
My younger brother Ian and myself with the Hillman Minx at Reighton Gap. (1950s.)
Dad poses proudly in the Hillman Minx at the rear of the Reighton Gap bungalow. (1950s.)
16: ‘As If It Were A Moment Ago.’
And so we come to the conclusion of the album with a sweet and lyrical guitar-based instrumental featuring a panoramic string orchestra. The memories of my past, as a boy within the bosom of my family, really do seem like only a moment ago and yet, this year, as I hit my 68th birthday, those days are truly at a distance. So, yes, this piece portrays something of a yearning for a gentler, more innocent time but also resigns itself to the fact that those days are now far behind me, only misty memories and faded photographs remain.
There is much that has been left out of this album, my time at Art School, the games we played as children, Dad building our first tv set in the back garden outhouse, riding my first two-wheeler bike around Eastmoor Estate, boyhood crushes on slightly older girls, a whole raft of things to inspire further musical portraiture.
I have, of course, used other autobiographical themes as the starting point for individual songs and instrumentals on several other albums, but they've mostly been scattered here and there, rather than making up a cohesive whole. The potential definitely exists for an 'All That I Remember Volume Two.'
Perhaps, one day, I might locate all the various tracks that deal with my personal memories and gather them together in a compilation, adding in this album plus a 'All I Remember Volume 2' to make up an epic box set, a life captured in sound. Whether such a time-consuming task becomes possible remains to be seen. But for now, I hope you have enjoyed this little glimpse of my younger days, captured in music.
Bill Nelson...July 2016.
My Mother on Reighton Sands, 1950s.
My schoolboy band, 'The Cosmonauts.'