I jointly dedicate my song today to my dear friend, Barbara Cross who lives in Alicante in Spain and my Great nephew Lewis Forde who lives in Cleckheaton in West Yorkshire. I was also requested to dedicate a song to Dale O’Hanion who lives in Waterford but comes from Carrick-on-Suir. Barbara, Lewis and Dale each celebrate their birthday today. Have a smashing day, you three. Love from an old man and an old uncle.
Today’s song is ‘A Teenager in Love’. This song was written by Doc Pomus and partner, Mort Shuman. It was originally recorded by ‘Dion and the Belmonts’ and was released in March 1959. The song reached Number 5 on the Billboard pop charts. In May 1959, the three different versions of song held positions in the British Top 20, the other two versions being by Marty Wilde and Craig Douglas. The song is considered by many music critics to be one of the greatest in rock and roll history.
The song was covered in 1965 both by ‘Bob Marley and the Wailers’ and by Lou Christie. It was also covered by ‘Simon and Garfunkel’ in 1970 in their final show as a recording duo at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in Queens, New York City. Others to cover the song included: The Fleetwoods: Helen Shapiro: Connie Stevens: Sha Na Na, along with many others.
I remember my teenage years well. I was always a hopeless romantic who fell in love with every good looking young woman I ever dated, but as I never had the slightest intention of ever settling down into marital domesticity with any of them before I’d entered my thirties. My relationships during my teenage years would usually last a couple of weeks before I ended them. Such frequent break-ups never caused me any heartache, but there were some occasions (thankfully few) when the boot was on the other foot and she dumped me before I had chance to end with her. This experience never sat easily with my masculine pride and overflaterd ego.
On those few occasions when the girl in question ended with me before I had the opportunity to end it with her, it felt exactly like getting sacked by your employer minutes before you handed in yoiur notice!
You see, I always dreamed about one day travelling to America and this was a dream that would never materialise if I got saddled with a wife and a family in my early twenties, as did all the other eligible males in England during the 1950s. Hence, a sequence of important phases would always be negotiated in all my teenage relationships which both served my immediate needs of gratification and my long-term intentions of remaining single until I attained the age of thirty at the earliest.
Initially, I would find a girl who attracted my interest in her. Next, I would ensure that I asked her out. They rarely refused, even if they already had a steady boyfriend. Such a situation wouldn’t put me off asking them out on a date, unless of course, it was a mate of mine that they were already seeing regularly. For any young man who lived on the estate to play dirty with a mate’s girlfriend by stealing her behind his back was considered to be ‘beyond the pale’ and would break one of our sacred codes of gentlemanly conduct. Such underhand behaviour would mean immediate expulsion from the gang. The guilty party wouldn't be allowed to re-enter the gang for least one year. In the meantime, he would experience total ostracization, and if he spoke to another gang member before his year’s ban had expired, he’d simply be ignored and receive no extended courtesy of reply.
Usually, by the end of my first date with a new girlfriend, I would have fallen madly in love with her,and she with me. We'd invariably share an intensity of feelings that would have been too strong for any Romeo and Juliet to ignore. By the second date, she would probably start thinking of engagement rings, wedding dresses and babies 'behind my back' and in direct contravention of our initial understanding.
I needed tyo remember that while I was able to stop myself becoming besotted with her, I could never prevent her become besotted with me! Whenever I noticed this emotional bond start to develop, I would instantly respond to the warning signs and immediately take fright, swiftly followed by ‘flight’. This meant that I would usually date a young woman for three occasions maximum and then end our relationship before it went any farther. I could see the obvious risk of continuous contact once our emotions began to entwine with physical feelings of desire. It was okay if the physical desire between us was felt by each of us, so long as it remained devoid of any emotional attachment. However difficult my feelings were to manage I always found my physical feelings for an attractive young woman much easier to cope with and control than any developing emotional attachment. I didn’t want anything to prevent my dream from coming true, however beautiful and tempting a catch the young woman might prove to be. Once I saw the danger signs of expected emotional commitment loom large, I knew that if I didn’t end the relationship before the week was out, that I’d soon be in danger of being wed before I was twenty, let alone thirty!
Were that to happened, I knew that I could forget about my dream of ever travelling to Canada and America when I reached the age of twenty-one. In short, I valued my freedom too much ever to allow myself to get and remain emotionally attached to any young woman, however attractive in look they were or whatever else they offered as an inducement for me to settle down.
That, however, was not the norm for teenagers in the late 50s. These were the days when most young men and women would be married by their age of majority (21 years old), and it would not be unusual for young married couples to be parents twice over before they were 24 years old.
The late fifties reflected the tail end of pre-war values which had prevailed for the best part of a century. It was a time when the main aspiration of a young woman was to find herself a respectable young man to marry and start a family with before she was considered ‘to have been left on the shelf’ and became ‘an old maid’. As for the type of occupation to fill in the few years between leaving school and getting married, young women from the working-classes would be content to work in a factory, the mill or a shop, while those ‘who felt a bit above themselves’ would train to become a typist, an office worker, or train as an apprenticed hairdresser for five years. As for the possibility of university entrance, such was left to the grammar school and private school pupils who came from the wealthier middle and upper classes of society, and who tended to live down south and never up north!
Being a teenager in the late 1960s, however, was so much different than being one today is. The 1960s ushered in the age of rock and roll, mini skirts, free love, cannabis and the contraceptive pill. I must confess to never having tried cannabis or the contraceptive pill, although I did try all the rest that was doing the rounds. In America, hippy communes were popping up all over the place and it was not unusual for teenagers to become members of all manner of cults. I can even recall hearing about a hippy/free love community much nearer home in the Holmfirth area, and I once toyed with the notion of paying it a visit but decided against.
In an age where young people still read books, out went the reading of classical literature and in came literary musts like the unexpurgated edition of ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ by D.H.Lawtrence in 1960 and ‘Last Exit to Brooklyn’ in 1964 by Hubert Selby Jr. While Lady Chaterley was to have a steamy affair with her gamekeeper, Hubert Selby Junior’s look at lower class Brooklyn in the 50s dealt with all the taboo subjects of the time such as drug use, street violence, gang rape, homosexuality, transvestism and domestic violence. Both ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ and ‘Last Exit to Brooklyn’ were the subject of an obscenity trial in the United Kingdom, besides being banned in other countries. Farther down the library shelves of compulsory reading for the young person were books like ‘Portnoy’s Complaint’ in 1969 and ‘The Female Eunuch’ in 1970. The former book by Philip Roth (Portnoy’s Complaint) was filled with numerous masturbation scenes, whilst the latter book by Germain Greer (The Female Eunuch) was the forerunner to the Women’s Liberation Movement that mushroomed across the ocean and led to bra-burning feminists parading in masses. The choice offered to males and females at the time seemed to be 'burn in hell' or 'burn your bra'.
No longer did it remain fashionable for young men and young women to dress like their parents, hold the same values or share the same life expectations; or indeed, be like their parents in any shape or form. The young were now part of an ‘all round’ group in society whereas their parents were simply regarded as being outdated ‘squares’.
Over the successive decades of the 80s and 90s, the gender, the looks and the mannerisms of male and female became so intermingled that it would take a university degree today (of which 50 per cent of the population apparently have one), to be able to distinguish between Adam and Eve. No longer could it be assumed that just because it wore a dress or a pair of trousers, had waistline hair, strutted their walk in stilettoes or shook their derrière as they walked, bumped and grinded on the dance floor whether they were either male or a female? God only knows what the Nudist Camp off Brighton Beach made of it all?
Today, whether one is heterosexual, homosexual, bi-sexual, trans-sexual, pansexual or any other kind of sexual, the only thing that remains common between man and woman is that sex will always have a valuable part to play in their relationship/relationships?
To tell the truth, I’m glad I’m not a teenager today in 2020. I would simply find the situation too confusing. I wouldn’t have the faintest idea whether to make my courting moves from the front or the rear of the person whenever seeking romantic engagement!
Love and peace Bill xxx.