In 1980-81, I worked as a community service volunteer at a special school at Cranleigh in Surrey. The work came with board and lodge and £10 a week pocket money.
I shared a lodge at the school gates with two housemates who were preparing to be monks. There was no television in the house in which we lived, no radio, and only an elderly portable record player on which to play the handful of old LPs they had. Their conversation was often esoteric religious stuff; not much in it to interest a 20 year old with no religious background. The best moments were when they got out their Woodstock records and talked of times when it seemed that the world could have been a good place.
The pocket money didn’t go far, even in 1980, not that there was much to spend the money on. The only diversions were a pint at the local pub and occasional visits to the cinema to see things that were even half interesting.
Slowly, I began to buy odd records of my own. These were greeted with scorn and derision by my housemates, who preferred the rock music of the 1960s. I still laugh at memories of them singing their own words to Blondie’s Atomic. They were good blokes, just from a generation before the rough edgedness of punk.
Hazel O’Connor’s Breaking Glass was among the handful of records I bought. The album came from the film of the same name, a film that tracked the meteoric rise and fall of a fictional rock star. The rock star’s fall comes with deep depression, and the angst and melancholy of the music express the pain of being unable to communicate from behind a wall of darkness.
The film was shown at the cinema and I bought the album at a record shop. I played it, again and again and again. The lyrics still come back with little attempt at recall. Will You? a track released as a single the following year, expresses a sense of complete inability to put into words what it was you wanted to say.
Having seen the film and bought the album, I remember travelling to Brighton on a bus with my luggage in a Sainsbury’s carrier bag to see her play in Brighton a trip that must have cost at least a week of my money.
Remembering the concert being at the Brighton Conference Centre, I was surprised to discover it was at a venue called Top Rank. Furthermore, an internet search brought the suggestion that before Hazel O’Connor took to the stage that evening the support band had been the then unknown Duran Duran.
Was my memory failing? Had I imagined the large venue with tiered seating behind the large open area in front of the stage? Had I excised Duran Duran from my memory?
There was a sense of relief in finding reassurance that the my memory was not entirely faulty:
November 26, 1980 – Top Rank, Brighton, UK (cancelled)
However, of Hazel O’Connor playing at the Conference Centre, I can find no trace.