Hits and memories: 7
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Déjà Vu, (1970, Atlantic Records)
There’s a special place in my heart for all the mutations of CSNY – ensemble and solo. This album, though, takes me all the way back to a bedroom in Stanmore – not mine, but Amanda Block’s, who lived down the hill. We met through a mutual friend when I was hanging outside my house (quite possibly sitting on our front wall, which, as a younger child, I’d sit astride pretending it was a horse, with string tied round one of its pillars as de facto reins). I was 14. Manda was 15 – a bit of a local legend already.
Poor old Jacky Bluestone didn’t stand a chance; Manda and I became inseparable. That peachy bedroom was the HQ for much hair blow-drying, intricate applications of Mary Quant Jeepers Peepers make-up (available in three complementary shades per box), and eyebrow-tweezing, all to a predominantly 1970s American/West Coast soundtrack – Steely Dan, The Doobie Brothers, Chicago, James Taylor, The Beach Boys...
We no doubt picked up on these via Manda’s elder sister, the perennially glamorous Suzanne, who’d fled suburbia to marry 70s-moustachioed Merv in San Diego. Manda and I visited them once, and we came back looking like sun-bronzed barrels on legs, having eaten our body weight in corn dogs, Baskin Robbins ice-cream and properly big Macs.
I can never hear ‘Layla’ by Eric Clapton without it evoking a night at Suzanne and Merv’s friend’s place, sitting on cushions in a vast loft room under a light haze of marijuana smoke, with the music pumping out of massive quadrophonic speakers. I was too young and scared to try smoking a joint, but have no doubt I experienced a reasonable level of contact high.
Our flights to and from Californ-I-A, courtesy of the ‘bucket’ travel shop tickets we’d ‘saved’ 25 quid on, are a whole other horror story. My mother features quite strongly in the denouement.
Manda was that cool girl at the Stonegrove Jewish Youth Club I’ve mentioned in the first of these posts. She was going out with a hairdresser, David Marks (who, while no oil-painting, was very funny, and quite the catch at the time – especially in those heady Vidal Sassoon days). She had a perfect (natural) blonde bob thanks to him, and her dexterity with a Carmen heated roller.
It’s the 50th anniversary of our friendship this year, and, but for COVID-19, we would have been celebrating together in Bath, where Mrs Ward now lives with her third (and best) husband, Will.