Spinning the child: A brief introduction

Once upon a time, not so long ago, everyone seemed to be singing to me, or about me. Records made for children or even by children seemed to be everywhere. On Top of the Pops, Clive Dunn sang about his childhood, or maybe his grandad’s; on Cheggers Plays Pop, Madness sang about their school days; on the radio show Children’s Choice, Terry Scott, Allan Sherman, and Tommy Cooper were singing as if they were children, about naughty little brothers, dysfunctional summer camps and suicidal fathers, whilst on Play School and Play Away, the songs of Julia Donaldson and Derek Griffiths were encouraging me to pull a funny face, and touch my heads, shoulders, knees and toes.

Every week on the Top 40 it seemed that children had made records about how much they loved their grandmas or their mummies, usually in a musical style that felt like it was designed for my young ears. Some children even had their own TV show pretending to be the pop stars of the day whilst others appealed to me in song to ‘just say no’. The ancient-sounding songs of Bagpuss seared themselves into my memory whilst The Muppets sang songs about women with tattoos, saving time in a bottle, and sitting halfway down the stairs. Rolf Harris and Jimmy Savile hosted prime time Saturday night TV shows that featured music, children, and music for children, whilst the films of Disney, ITV’s A handful of songs, and a pile of my dad’s rock’n’roll singles fleshed out the soundtrack to my childhood.

The music I heard not only amused and entertained me, but told me something about the wider world, about other cultures and other lives, about what my parents listened to when they were children, and about other childhoods. Even as a youngster, I realised that the child singers of ‘Long haired lover from Liverpool’, ‘Grandma, we love you’ or ‘Just say no’ probably did not write the songs they were singing, or even agreed with the sentiment, so, I quickly understood that the music that was being made just for me, my music, broadcast on shows that were targeted at people just like me told me more about adults than it did about children. As I grew up and became nostalgic for the music of my childhood, I had questions about what I had heard and seen. My answers to those questions

form the posts of this blog.