Monday, 15 August 2011
THE IMPRESSIONS AND A YOUNG SHEPHERD’S BUSH MOD’S FORGOTTEN STORY
By chance I happened upon a record fair on Saturday at the Shepherd’s Bush Village Hall. Much of it was overpriced tat but in a green plastic crate marked “Soul/Disco”, and nestled next to Lionel Richie, War and 1980s Motown LPs with garish artwork, was The Impressions Big Sixteen. Sixteen lessons in understated lilting soul music as immaculate as the cut of Curtis, Sam and Fred’s one-button suits, released on His Master’s Voice in the UK in 1965; all of which I already own at least once, most as singles, but not on this actual album. It was on sale for the not unreasonable sum of £20, but in these austere times and with no new music on offer, expensive enough.
Its condition was only marred by the black biro of one Jeremy Pearce. I recall, many moons ago, mentioning to my mother the practice of writing names on record labels and record sleeves. I was shocked people would deface them in such a way. She explained her friends did it in the 60s when taking records to parties at friends’ houses. Jeremy had gone further than that, not only writing his name but adding “This is my most valued possession. Respect it as such please”. I liked Jeremy immediately. Being hip to The Impressions in mid 60s London marked him as a man of discerning taste and referring to their LP as his most valued possession, well, he would’ve been the one of the faces in my book. My first thought was he’d given it to a girlfriend as a dramatic romantic gesture but the testiness of the message makes the party option more likely.
I thought about buying it. Not only because it’s a marvellous record but because of Jeremy. It felt sad to see something he loved abandoned in a village hall sharing a crate that also had a section marked “Depeche Mode/Erasure/Pet Shop Boys”. But I was on my way to QPR around the corner and if you’ve ever experienced the cramped conditions at Loftus Road you’ll know they aren’t conducive to taking care of anything valuable, plus I was hoping for moments of wild celebration as QPR scored their first goal back in the top flight of English football after a 15 year absence.
Watching the game I kept thinking about that record and its history. Being born a mile away I’m biased, but I’ve always considered Shepherd’s Bush as Mod's birthplace. A short walk from the village hall, across the green, stood the Goldhawk Road Social Club (it’s still there, now renamed the Shepherd’s Bush Club), the legendary haunt where local boys The Who cut their teeth on soul and R&B covers, and where Ready Steady Go recruited 100 Faces to showcase the latest mod dances and fashions to the nation early every Friday evening. In the mid-80s on the corner of the green was Sneakers, now regarded by many as the mod club of that generation, which I went to a couple of times as a wide-eyed teenager. Jeremy would have gone to the Goldhawk and one night after seeing The Action cover “Meeting Over Yonder”, “People Get Ready” and other Impressions songs there, he nipped home on his Lambretta en route to a party down the Kitchener Road, and picked up the original versions on Big Sixteen. He liked The Action better than other groups but preferred to go directly to the source. His fellow mods duly treated the LP with sufficient reverence if its current condition is anything to go by: no scratches, no finger prints, no bends, only tiny surface marks where it has been carefully removed countless times from the inner sleeve.
By this stage, having created a whole life for Jeremy, I felt terrible for not rescuing his record. The fair ended at five o’clock and the match was due to end about five to. I’d never make it. Now, the only upside in seeing QPR get thrashed 4-0 at home by Bolton Wanderers was it meant I could slip away a few minutes early. I ran through the streets, huffing and puffing, giving myself a stitch, but got there in time and the LP is now mine. I can’t help but wonder what happened to Jeremy Pearce and how he became parted from his most treasured possession. If you’re reading this Jeremy I’d love to reunite you with Big Sixteen but if not, I promise to look after and respect it the way you wished.