There are different towns and cities around the world which are immediately associated with music. San Francisco, New Orleans, Nashville, Liverpool. You will not find Bletchley on this list but Bletchley plays a vital part the modern day history of popular music. I will explain more but first allow me to tease you.
No, Vera Lynn did not sing at Bletchley Park, it was far to secret to allow The Forces Favourite anywhere near.
Bletchley, let me expand into Greater Bletchley aka Milton Keynes.
What do Michael Jackson. David Bowie and Freddie Mercury all have in common ? (Apart from the fact that they are all dead.) They all played at The National Bowl in Milton Keynes. Sad that this location has fallen to become nothing more than the venue for a weekly car boot sale.
Cliff Richard filmed the video for Wired For Sound in Central Milton Keynes. Were the video to be filmed today I doubt the production company would be able to afford the high parking charges in Central Milton Keynes and where Cliff previously skated through an underpass the route would be blocked by the tents of homeless rough-sleepers.
But - But - But - Cliff Richard performed at Bletchley Leisure Centre. I know, I was there listening to him.
In 1713 John Radcliffe was elected Member of Parliament for Buckingham. Radcliffe School in Wolverton, North Milton Keynes takes its name fromer former MP. In the 1980's the school's steel band The Radcliffe Rollers were a musical phenomena. How these amazing teenagers did not achieve world fame I do not know. I wonder what happened to the band members ? I actually wrote The Radcliffe Rollers into my book The Fantasies Of A Geriatric DJ.
Satus Quo may have opened Live Aid at Wembley on 13th July 1983 with a 1.9 billion worldwide audience singing Rocking All Over The World but they also played at Bletchley Youth Centre.
Wilton Hall was during wartime Britain part of Bletchley Park. If Vera Lynn did sing there the performance is still covered by The Official Secrets Act ! Not so the all electric sound of Chickory Tip and their very early Moog Synthesiser who performed their hits Son Of My Father and Good Grief Christina at Wilton Hall.
Legend says that Elvis Presley never came to England. He did and I can prove it. There is a road named after him - Presley Way on Crownhill, Milton Keynes. OK, let me take my tongue out of my cheek and continue the story.
In more recent times Rod Stewart played at Stadium MK. Before Wimbledon FC defeced to Milton Keynes the site of Stadium MK and Asda Supermarket was in part home to Rollers Disco. What a place that was, teenagers dancing to disco music while wearing roller skates.
Billy J Kramer, Britain's very own rock and roll star, came out of retirement to play at The White Hart pub on Whaddon Way. Billy J Kramer of Little Children and Listen Do You Want To Know A Secret fame entertained a packed pub. The White Hart, where a school now stands, at the junction of Whaddon Way and Shenley Road. The pub was managed by a friend of mine, Gordon. He roped me into helping, my job was to look after Billy J.
Michael Crawford who gave such a stunning performance in Phantom Of The Opera for a time lived in Milton Keynes relatively close to where Milton Keynes Development Corporation had its headquarters in Wavendon.
Did Elvis Presley really make it to Milton Keynes ? To Crown Hill ? If he did he most certainly would have gone to the studio of an amazing station on Crown Hill, Horizon Radio, great station. They had a mobile unit called Black Thunder. Radio stations in Milton Keynes come and go but one came in 1978 and is still broadcasting today ! Radio CRMK - Cable Radio Milton Keynes. based on Fishermead it broadcast along a cable network into homes on the new city estates. It is still broadcasting today, broadcasting to the world on the internet. Guess what I am one of the stations's DJ's !
All of this is great and a lot of fun but we have three mega icons of music, two of which come from Bletchley, which I now want to share with you. The two Bletchley icons of music alone should rightly lift Milton Keynes to a similar status enjoyed by San Francisco, Nashville, New Orleans and Liverpool.
Someone once said to me the reason why good songs are no longer written today is because they have already been written. Makes sense. The good songs were recorded on vinyl, if it aint vinyl then it aint music. True ? The decline in the standard of popular music came with other systems trying and failing to take over from vinyl.
What does the word groovy mean ? As in Groovy Kind Of Love, originally recorded by The Mindbenders then covered by Phil Collins. Groovy - cool, happy, uplifting. Groovy comes from the grooves on a vinyl record.
What does it mean to be square ? Being square meant you did not like, did not understand the music and its surrounding culture. A vinyl record is round, the opposite of round is square. It is, isn't it ?
On Water Eaton Industrial Estate, in Bletchley of course, there was a company Stylus Supplies Mountings Limited which produced the needles or stylus to put into a record player in order to extract the groovy music from the vinyl. Just where would popular music have been without Stylus Supplies Mountings Limited ? Stuck in the groove I am afraid. But it didn't happen did it ? Music blasted from the production line of Stylus Supplies Mountins on Water Eaton Industrial Estate Bletchley, Milton Keynes.
Turn the volume up to eleven ! In Queensway, Bletchley there once was a shop owned and run by a Mr Jim Marshall. A music shop. Sadly it is long gone but Marshall Amplification, Marshall Amplification in Bletchley, continues to dominate world music. Let's see what Mr Google has to say about Jim Marshall.
James Charles Marshall, OBE (29 July 1923 – 5 April 2012) known as The Father of Loud[ or The Lord of Loud, was an English businessman and pioneer of guitar amplification. His company, Marshall Amplification, has created equipment that is used by some of the biggest names in rock music, producing amplifiers with an iconic status. In 2003 Marshall was awarded an OBE at Buckingham Palace for "services to the music industry and to charity".In 2009 he was given the Freedom of the Borough of Milton Keynes for his work in the community. I met Jim Marshall several time, he was so generous towards schools, young people and music projects.
Without Jim Marshall and his Bletchley based Marshall Amplification where every single volume nob goes up to not ten but eleven, pop music the world over would not have been the same. Yes, it would have been played and it would have been listened to but it would not have been so good. It would not have been the same.
If you are ever in Los Angeles go to Hollywood and The Walk Of Fame, you will find there a star given to Jim Marshall and Bletchley's Marshall Amplification.
If it aint vinyl then it aint music ! The very first seven inch vinyl record I spent my pocket money on was African Waltz by Johnny Dankworth. One of my favourite TV programmes as a kid was Tomorrow's World, the theme tune from which was played by Johnny Dankworth. Johnny Dankworth and his wife Cleo Laine what an amazing singer she was, lived in Wavendon almost next door to the headquarters of Milton Keynes Development Corporation. In their back garden they set up WAP - Wavendon All Music Plan which is now The Stables Theatre an international icon of music.
So Bletchley, so Milton Keynes we have a special place in the music world. a place those of us who live here can rightly be proud of. Perhaps we should all follow Jim Marshall's example and turn the volume to number eleven. If we play the music loud enough and the right people get into the grove Milton Dreams may actually become The City Of Milton Keynes after all.
City Of Trees
Maggie Came To Milton Keynes But The Queen Came To Bletchley