My song today is ‘Move It’. This song was written by Ian Samwell and was recorded by Cliff Richard and the ‘Drifters’ (the UK band that would later become ‘The Shadows’). Originally intended as the B-side to ‘Schoolboy Crush’, it was released as Richard's debut single on 29 August 1958 and became his first hit record, reaching Number 2 on the ‘UK Singles Chart’. It is credited with being one of the first authentic rock and roll songs produced outside the United States. The record was described by ‘All-music’ as being ‘Presley-esque’ and by Cliff Richard himself as "my one outstanding rock 'n' roll classic".
I was nearly 16 years old when Cliff first released this song. The song title reminds me very much of a foreman who supervised us at ‘Bulmer & Lumb’ Textiles’; the Cleckheaton mill I then worked at. His first name was ‘Frederick’ and he was a bit of an officious jobs-body.
Frederick supervised around eight male mill-hands whose jobs essentially involved bringing and shifting whatever was required to keep the spinning, weaving, twisting, and winding departments in the mill fully operational and their female operatives happy. Mostly, we would cart empty bobbins and shift full ones from one mill department to another and clean the machines during the lunch break of the female operatives.
During the early 1960s, working practices and the ambitions of the working-class were far more limiting than they are today. As a rule, unless a working-class girl or boy was clever enough to pass the exam for Grammar School at the age of 11 years, going to university was reserved exclusively for the middle and upper classes. In fact, not to put too fine a point on it, Great Britain still had a deeply divided class system which operated from the cradle to the grave and in which everyone had a place and ‘everyone knew their place!’
Upon leaving school, working-class boys went to work in the factories or the textile mills or went down the mines like their fathers before them. In fact, it was far more common for a son to follow their father into both the type of work they would eventually do and often the same place of employment. Men would invariably stay working for the same employer for over thirty years until they retired and were presented with an inscribed clock to celebrate a lifetime’s loyalty and service to the same employer! The luckier boys might serve a five or a seven-year apprenticeship in carpentry, engineering, plastering, plumbing, decorating, or becoming a bricky. Only the boys who came from better-off homes, where the parents were not financially dependent on their child’s wage to supplement the family income could afford to let their son follow an apprenticeship that would guarantee them a good wage when they were fully skilled, but only paid a peppercorn rate of pay while the young man learned his trade on the job.
If a working-class man was very lucky, the most he could ever aspire to in the mill, mine or factory was that of ‘foreman’ or a ‘deputy’; and even then, working-class foremen tended to be ‘working foremen’ on weekly wages, while middle-class foremen were salaried and paid monthly, and their functions were devoid of performing manual work and restricted solely to supervising manual and other workers below them!
Frederick was our ‘working foreman’, and because of the dictatorial mannerisms he displayed to all those males he supervised, all thought him to be a ‘Little Hitler’ while the younger lads like myself called him by his Christian name, but would always add another ‘r’ and include a silent letter ‘p’, Freder(p)rick! This enabled us to publicly insult him without him ever knowing and enable us to call him a ‘prick’ to his face without him ever suspecting anything untoward, except the unusual way we would emphasise his Christian name.
The carts we pushed back and forth all day long were very heavy (twice our body weight) and almost the same height as we were. Whenever we paused for a breather occasionally, should Frederick see us, he’d immediately yell out, “Move it, boy! Move it! The bloody machines won’t fill themselves!” Upon receiving our orders, we would yell back, ‘Gotcha Freder(‘p’) RICK! Gotcha Freder(‘p’) RICK!” as we acknowledged his rudely-issued order with a wave of our hand. As we carried on pushing the heavy carts with our shoulders raised and faces down, we would be smirking as we softly repeated in a muffled voice, ‘Move it, FrederPRICK! Move it, FrederPRICK!
Today’s song reminds me of our officious mill working-foreman. If only Frederick knew that we would still be alive twenty years after his old clock (he had worked a lifetime to earn) had stopped; if only he knew that we are still going strong while he is presently ‘pushing up the daisies’ (an old Yorkshire colloquialism for being dead and buried), he’d turn in his grave, while we yelled back at him in synchronisation, “Move it, FrederPRICK! Move it, man!”
Love and peace Bill xxx