My song today is, ‘Bad to Me’. This song is credited to Lennon-McCartney. In later interviews of his life, John Lennon said that he wrote it for ‘Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas’ while on holiday in Spain. It became one of the first occasions a Lennon–McCartney composition made the US Top 40 recorded by an artist other than the Beatles. ‘Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas’ released their recording of the song in 1963 and it became their first Number 1 in the ‘UK Singles Chart’. The single was released in the U.S.A. the following year, and was a top-ten hit there, reaching Number 9.
I was preparing to go and live in Canada, the year when Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas released this song in Great Britain, and whatever happened prior to my journey abroad, I was determined that nothing would prevent me fulfilling a dream I had held since my early teenage years to live in Canada for a few years and travel around some of the American states. I needed to get all my wanderlust out of me before I was ready to settle down to married life back in England, and I knew I would fulfil this dream so long as nothing bad happened to me.
What could possibly happen to me, you might ask, that I would consider as being ‘bad to me?’ As a lifelong romantic whose greatest teenage flaw was my capacity to ‘fall in love’ with every beautiful; girl I dated, I had to make sure that I never stayed in love long enough to want to get married to anyone. Once I realised that I needed the regular experiential boost of ‘falling in love’ more than I wanted to ‘be in love’, the only way I could achieve this was to never date any girl longer than one month or to end our ongoing dating contact before I started to become emotionally attached to her (or whichever came first).
This system seemed to work for me, and it was something I could live with at the time. My ‘let out clause’ (which I rationalised at the time), was that if I told every girl on our very first date that I had no intention of getting serious with her or any young woman or getting married before I was thirty years of age, then it could not be said later that I had not been upfront with them. This would then free me to travel abroad at the age of twenty-one years after having honestly declared my clear intentions. I made it known to every young woman that any dating by me and the relationship we shared was one of being strictly regular dancing partners who were determined to have fun in the process. Anything else that occurred would be by mutual consent.
You have to remember that I was in my late teens in 1960, and this was a time when the foremost thought on the mind of almost every young woman in the land was to be married by the age of twenty to a decent and honest man of similar age and to have started their own family before they were twenty-one. When this did not happen, the parents of the young woman would fear two things. Their first fear was of their daughter being ‘left on the shelf’ and becoming an old maid who would never give them grandchildren, and their second fear was that their daughter might shame the family name and become pregnant before she got married, thereby denying herself of the pleasure of wearing a white wedding dress to signify her purity as she and the groom were marched down the aisle. Thus, much parental emphasis was placed upon waiting for one’s wedding night before indulging in full sexual intercourse.
We lived in a very sexually discriminating society in 1960; a society where women were very much regarded as being second-rate citizens to their menfolk. There was even a common phrase at the time (that was so absurd, thinking about it now), which said, ‘the girl went and got herself pregnant’ (as if she had initiated the act of sex and brought about the consequence of conception on her own!) Fathers would tell their sons in 1960, ‘There are two kinds of women, son; the kind you marry and the kind you sow your wild oats with, but don’t marry!”
Thus, the game of ‘chess courtship’ most common in 1960 involved maximising each move the couple made. A young woman dating a young man she fancied might think, “How can I get him to give me the most (i.e., marriage) while offering him the least before our wedding night? The young man might have his mind on the same thought trend while pursuing the opposite objective to the young woman. This was a dangerous game that went on between the sexes that only the destiny of the moment determined. One side of the equation involved the nature of testosterone-driven young men needing to offload while bursting to explode, and the other side would witness nubile women in the heat of their most passionate moment ensuring that their partner did not corner and capture his queen and ‘checkmate’ her. The courtship game has always been one of ‘cat and mouse’ throughout the centuries, and it was as dangerous to play in 1960 as it had ever been. But, however dangerous the courtship game proved to be, the sexual desire of the couple often placed the danger of the lover's moment as a secondary consideration. Whenever the sensual stakes were too tempting to resist, the lover's chess game would be played to the inevitable end.
At the time, the only source of birth control which a young man or woman had access to was ‘Durex’ which was commonly known as ‘a Johnnie’ or ‘a French letter’. It would be 1961 before the oral birth control pill was introduced. When the contraceptive pill was initially available on the National Health Service it was a godsend to British women who wanted no more children and who welcomed the opportunity of regaining the control of their own bodies. However, the medical establishment was not quite ready to embrace free love in 1961, and when the Pill was first introduced it could only be prescribed to married women. Also, the only place that a male could safely ask for the alternative of ‘something for the weekend’ was at his barber’s shop, and few young men of single status would have the nerve to ask, even if they ‘were on a weekend promise’. I have always wondered why males used to get their hair cut so frequently at the barbers in my youth, and now I think I know!
Also, Roman Catholics like myself usually considered ‘a French letter’ to be more unnatural and morally repugnant to use than ‘the withdrawal’ system. In truth, neither offered the couple 100% protection at the time and to the detriment of many Roman Catholics, the latter required a discipline which was frequently forgotten about in the passion of the embrace and the heat of the moment.
This period in my life is the era that today’s song reminds me of.
Love and peace Bill xxx