Just returned from 7 nites at Pontins holiday camp at Pakefield, Lowestoft, Suffolk, my favorite camp as all food and electric is included in the price, and the entertainment is of a high standard. Also the camp is attractively laid out, unlike some others.
This was actually two holidays rolled into one. My mother and I booked some time ago for a Turkey and Tinsel Gold break - these are early Xmas/New Year celebrations for the over-50s, but they have other Gold (over-50s) breaks thruout the year.
Then we added on Ritchie Gee’s ‘Wildest Cats In Town Xmas Rock’n'Roll Party’ at the same camp, making it a Friday-Friday break of 7 nites.
We kicked off with a record hop (they didn’t have ‘discos’ in the 1950s!) on the Friday night in the Prince’s bar, and my mother at 93 enjoyed watching the dancing even though she found the music the entire weekend rather too loud. Having been listening to rock’n'roll for 43 years, always at much too high a volume, it explains why a lot of rockers like myself have gone partly deaf!
I met up with a number of friends at the Rock’n'Roll weekend, including Paul Harris who provides some of the photos for Tales From The Woods magazine (we had our photo taken together), also Paul Sandford, local Battersea Teddy boy Tommy Hogan and Terry from West London (one of the few black Teddy boys - a really great guy!) Also Frank Walker, still rockin’ and boppin’ at 72, and Mark from Welling in Southeast London (note to Post Office: it ceased to be in Kent in the 1960s!)
Saturday nite we enjoyed the excellent German band the Lennerockers with their great music, including a rocked up ‘Jingle Bells’, their fantastic pianist and, of course, lots of on-stage gymnastics.
Then it was one of my favorite British bands, who I’ve been following for about 36 years now - Crazy Cavan & The Rhythm Rockers from Wales. It has been tradition ever since they used to appear at the Fishmonger’s Arms in Wood Green in the 1970s, for Teddy boys and Teddy girls to climb on stage and bop, sing along and generally go mad during some of their numbers, and this was no exception. A Confederate Flag was held up and waved on stage - in Europe it represents rock’n'roll/Rockabilly music from Dixie.
A lot of very young kids joined us on stage - in fact they were bopping thruout Cavan’s set, including one young lad in a little Teddy boy suit. Good to know the future of 1950s rock’n'roll and rockabilly will live on for future generations. My mother was shocked that a tiny baby was in the hall being deafened by the loud music - but that’s how new generations of rockers are born, they hear the music in the womb and thruout their childhood, and become hooked well before reaching their teens.
I couldn’t persuade my mother to climb on stage during ‘My Little Girl’s Got a Motorbike’ to join in the melee, and sing her alternative words to this self-penned Cavan favorite: ‘My Granny’s Got a Souped-up Wheelchair’. She was content with looking manacing in her Teddy girl suit and slashing the upholstery in the Reception lounge with the flick-knife hidden under her velvet collar, reliving the time she slashed the seats at the Gaumonts and Odeons when Haley’s ‘Rock Around The Clock’ was shown. (Only joking, mum!)
Johnny Burnette’s son, Rocky, from the USA closed the Saturday nite’s proceedings. He also told a long-winded joke about how the fairy got on top of the Xmas Tree. Basically Santa Claus had a very bad day, and when a fairy knocked on his door with a Christmas Tree and asked where he wanted it, he told her exactly where to shove it! (Note: Santa Claus is still considered ‘pc’, but the British ‘Father Christmas’ must now be referred to as ‘Person Mid-Winter Festival’ so as not to offend non-Christians and women!)
Other bands I saw over the weekend included The Sundowners, The Rhythm Boys, The Rhythm Aces and I just caught a few numbers from The Rat Pack. Missed Porky’s Hot Rockin’. All the bands were up to the usual very high standard.
During the final record hop in the main ballroom, they played a track which at first I thought must be an alternative Sun take of Jerry Lee’s version of ‘Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee’. The rockin’ piano, complete with glissiandos, sounded just like Jerry. But the vocal sounded more like his piano-playing, singing cousin Mickey Gilley. So I asked the DJ if it was Jerry or Mickey, and it turned out to be a relatively new group. Unfortunately I forgot the name almost as soon as he told me (old age!) but it was High something or other - two short words. It sounds just like a wild Sun original - dare I say it, even better than Jerry Lee’s Sun track of the same name, and that’s very good.
It was quite a contrast in dancing styles when we switched over to the over-50s Turkey and Tinsel Golden break on the Monday evening. There are basically only three dances in 1950s-style rock’n'roll - The Jive, where couples actually dance together, The Bop, where mainly guys take over the dance floor, and The Stroll, a sort of line-dance which mainly girls do to the slower rock’n'roll numbers.
During the Gold over-50s week we had all styles of dancing - in fact almost every song was a different dance - waltzes, quicksteps, tangos, line dancing - you name it, they did it. Also freestyle to the late night discos. The volume was way way down for both the records/CDs and the ‘live’ music.
On Monday also a group of pretty, and a few not so pretty, girls and boys arrived, mainly in their early 20s. These were the Pontins Bluecoats. These lads and lasses work very hard, and most smile so hard their faces must ache. One handsome young lad was called Sunbeam, presumably because of his ever-present smile. Apparently at least one of the elderly ladies dreamt about him all nite, as he told her not to the next night. (The laundry bill for bed linen is getting too high already with all these incontinent pensioners, let alone giving them wet dreams as well!)
The Bluecoats not only organize the quizzes, bingo and other daytime entertainment, but they partner singles in the dances in the evening, then rush to change into costume for their very professional shows, well up to West End or cruise ship standards. With no music hall anymore, it is only on talent shows like the X Factor, cruise ships or holiday camps that young wannabees can get their feet on the ladder of success.
One young lad was the campest thing I’ve seen since the fairy fell off the Xmas tree. He was also very good looking, but the best male singer was a plumper slightly older guy who was also acting manager of the Bluecoats. I thought it was a very welcome change that not all the dancers/singers were slim models with pretty faces. There were quite a few plumper girls and boys, and most of these were the best singers.
Monday night we had a 1960s show from the Bluecoats, which also included many pre-Beatles numbers like Helen Shapiro’s ’Walkin’ Back To Happiness’. Also ‘Da Do Ron Ron’ and other songs in that black-girl group style, ‘Shout’ and Orbison’s ‘Oh Pretty Woman’. All done very professionally.
There were two cabaret acts every night, and the earlier one on Monday I’d seen before. A unique Day-glo puppet show, which included an Al Jolson medley and ‘Please Mr Postman’. Very good, and very funny.
Tuesday the Wentham Brass Band played a selection of secular Xmas songs and carols, which we were invited to sing along with. I’m sure mum was singing: ’sleep in Heavenly pee’ instead of ‘Heavenly peace’ during ‘Silent Night’. This reminds me of when Lily Savage, believe it or not, played the Virgin Mary in a nativity play. She screamed at the Three Wise Men in her Liverpudlian accident: ‘Frakincense, gold and myrrh! Fat lot of good they are to me with this thing pissing itself in the manger all day and nite. A big supply of disposable nappies would have been a bloody sight more useful!’
Having seen The Searchers on the cruise ship in September, at Pontins we had another 1960s group - The Ivy League. They did their own hits, plus some pre-Beatles songs and other 1960s hits. They covered songs from George Formby, Lonnie Donegan, The Searchers, The Kinks and The Mavericks, among others. Very good.
Wednesday we had Mickey Zany, a local comedian, followed by the Bluecoats Xmas Show. In the finale Captain Croc, the Pontins mascot, appeared on stage dressed in a Santa Claus outfit. My mother couldn’t understand what a crocodile had to do with Christmas. Presumably to scare the kids out of their wits: ‘if you’re not good, instead of Father Christmas coming down the chimney and leaving you presents, a big green crocodile will come down and gobble you all up for dinner!’
Thursday was the quiz final. I’d managed 21 out of 25 in the first round, and won a box of chocolates and two bottles of wine. Unfortunately in the Final I changed two of my answers (always fatal) and so missed the free holiday for two by one point.
Then we met Derek and Peter, our friends from nearby Norwich, and had a drink in the ballroom and a chat with them, and Peter beat me in a game of ten-pin bowling.
Every evening Annie’s Trio played for about an hour. They are excellent, I’ve seen them many times at Pakefield. But British singers just don’t understand hillbilly slang. In ‘Blanket On The Ground’ Annie always sings ‘Just because we are married doesn’t mean we can’t sleep around.’ Of course it is that Dixie expression ’slip around’ which means something quite different. Basically, Annie is singing that married people can still be promiscuous, whilst ’slip around’/’slipping around’ apparently means a surreptitious sexual rendezvous, as when courting. The phrase is unknown in UK, hence the confusion. They’d drop dead in shock if you sung Annie’s line to the above song at the Grand Ole Opry!
The early cabaret on Thursday was The Temple Brothers, an excellent Everly Brothers tribute act. I saw the real Everly Brothers perform at the Royal Albert Hall last year, but the Temple Brothers were really just as good. They did a wide selection of Everly numbers, including ‘Ebony Eyes’ all the way thru, and some of their uptempo numbers to which we all danced. The only bad thing about their act was their 1950s-style wigs which looked very plasticky. Get some decent switches, guys, or just perform in your own barnets! But a great tribute act - catch them if you get a chance.
The final Bluecoats show was a 1940s show. It was excellent. Strange to see guys in their 20s or early 30s playing Flanagan and Allen, and the hairstyles weren’t exactly 1940s, but the costumes were great, as was the singing, with 1940s war-time posters all over the stage.
Building up to the finale they brought in the flags of the various major nations of the British Isles - so we had the Welsh flag and ‘When You Come Home Again To Wales’ followed by songs for the other countries. It amused, but delighted me, that the Irish republican tricolor was used instead of the St Patrick’s Cross or the Loyalist 6-counties Red Hand flag (Ulster is 9 counties, the British stole 6 of them). So the almost inevitable jingoistic ending was rather incongruous when the Irish Republican flag was waving thruout Land of Hope and Glory, Rule Britannia and the finale, during which everyone was told to stand, God Save The Queen.
Of course I remained seated, as did my mother who was busy getting her coat on. I’ll stand for The Red Flag, for The Internationale, or for the socialist anthem England Arise! by Edward Carpenter. Even for the European anthem. But being a republican, and not really believing in ‘God’, I’m damned if I’ll stand for God Save The Queen which praises everything which was rotten about Britain and its imperialist past. In any case, if it was a 1940s show it should have been God Save The King.
But other songs near the end of the show were much more appealing. ‘We’ll Meet Again’ brought tears to my eyes (thinking of my departed life-partner of course), and I always get the words wrong to ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’. Apparently it is NOT ‘There’ll be Messerschmitts over the white cliffs of Dover tomorrow, just you wait and see.’ People seem to get upset when I sing that, I wonder why?
A great week, and we’ve already booked up for next July. The Wildest Cats In Town Weekender followed by Pontins Summer Gold break. Keep smiling, Sunbeam! Keep mincing around, you-know-who! Keep rockin’ all you Wildest Cats in Town!