Telstar (August 1962)

Play this while you read ….

Listening to the radio on an August Sunday evening, while Mum irons in the sitting room. She is waiting for Sing Something Simple, its opening verse in sickly sweet harmony: ‘Sing something simple/ As cares go by / Sing something simple / Just you and I’.

We seem to be grouped round, very close, all five of us. I am sitting high up to the wooden bureau which then stood on the back wall. Perhaps I am drawing or writing and the blue and white radio with its plastic round dial and padded plastic blue back is standing on top. Before Mum’s programme comes on, we catch the end of another, hear a record being played. This music begins like some mistake, crackling and buzzing as if the clumsy tuning dial on the radio has been nudged but eventually and incongruously a tambourine or hi-hat is tapping somewhere, electric guitars are labouring up a scale to a climax and the main tune begins to a galloping drum beat, instantly hummable on guitar and electric organ: da-da dah, da-di-da-di-da-dah.

Dad is trying to explain that the opening buzzing and hissing really is a satellite relay tuning in and I believe it – maybe he does too – and my thoughts are off into the air as the melody repeats itself, urging upwards in later sections which twangle in a more unearthly fashion and – despite a horrible earthen, earth-bound lurch to a higher key later – the climactic growling male voice – ah-ah-ahh, ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ahh – sends me away into a faux modern state of mind.

I’m not sure I am envisaging anything you’d call space – its blackness, cold and starry – but something far looser, more ill-defined, one place sending messages across distance to another; long empty spaces, but spaces more my familiars.

The clouds moving in a procession across the big sky to the northwest of our red-roofed house. The width of the darkened fields opposite the house. The canal’s black water. In places, the ripple of stars.

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