My song today is ‘Blue Bayou’. This song was written by Roy Orbison and Joe Melson. It was originally sung and recorded by Orbison in 1961, and who had an international hit with his version in 1963. It later became Linda Ronstadt’s signature song, with which she scored a Top 5 hit with her cover in 1977. The song has since been recorded by many others. The song also appeared on Orbison's 1963 full-length album ‘In Dreams’.
This song was released in 1961 when I was aged 19 years. At that age, I was a fearless young man. I had dodged death at the age of 11 years after a large wagon had run over me and wrapped my twisted body around the main drive propeller shaft, leaving me with a damaged spine, a punctured lung, a crushed chest, and other life-threatening injuries. I spent nine months in the hospital and almost three years of being unable to walk.
Near to our house on Windybank Estate was a mile of inundated grass hills and fields called the Cunniver. Walking one mile down these fields was the quickest way of getting to Cleckheaton on foot; cutting a good mile off the traditional walking road to Cleckheaton. As a teenager, much of our time was spent down the Cunniver.
Towards the bottom was an area that brought one out onto Moorside. Nearby was a mill and a large tank of water beside it. During the hot summer months (and these were the years when the summers were always roasting hot and the winters were bitter cold), a number of the young men and young women from the Estate would walk down the Cunniver and swim in the large water area belonging to the mill. The water was deep, and the colour was closer to the shade of grey, but it was cool and refreshing.
I am not quite sure if we went to cool down in the water from the warmth of the sun, or to swim about for fun? Or to see the young women strip down to their bra and knickers before jumping in? All that I can recall was that males and females under 16 were not allowed and would be shooed away by the older water bathers if they showed up.
I do not know how daring this activity would be assessed as today, but I guess that swimming in private water in the high heat of summer would be considered dangerous and illegal, whilst stripping down to bare underclothes for a group of young men with testosterone levels ready to burst, and nubile women up for a laugh and a bit of fun and hanky-panky might be considered somewhat tame, given all the porn young eyes are now used to.
Whenever I hear today’s song, ‘Blue Bayou’, my mind goes not to the slow-moving streams and blue waters of Louisiana in the United States of America which are found in low-lying areas, but instead, I recall the low-lying area of the Cunniver basin in Moorside, Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire, and the grey mill water we swam and larked about in during hot summer evening; or was it the young women in their undies that I remember most of all?
Love and peace Bill xxx