Comment: Music through the ages

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PRAY do tell, o’ how may mere strands of mortal DNA fashion an image of such celestial loveliness. For surely this angelic perfection is beyond earthly realms.

Yep, through an alcoholic haze when viewed through beer goggles even the most seasoned old trout could assume an allure of lustful desire, or so it seemed on the local disco dance floors of the 1970s.

And conversely, through the pince-nez of a flagon of white wine no doubt inadequate male specimens could induce knee trembling longings of motherhood, in otherwise quite rational females.

Dearie me, for those who haunted the Bletchley dating/mating venues of that era no doubt such names as Peaches, Tramps and Austens bring back memories best forgotten.

And so swiftly on to an earlier Bletchley era. A time before the moral meltdown of the so called Swinging Sixties – where instead of a racket which would seem to afford white noise the status of melody, the music was provided by dance bands, and string quartets. In earlier articles mention was made of the Royal Engineers concert party The Giggles, which during WW1 provided entertainment throughout the district. But the Royal Engineers also had an orchestra, which entertained at many dances, even, once, in the motor shed at Holne Chase.

Venues included the Temperence Hall and the Co-op Hall.One soldier who frequented many at the latter was Bob Ramsdale. He was billeted in the same street and his landlady had to scold him for spending his money and keeping late hours. He promised to reform but old habits returned and she said he should put the devil behind him. Bob said he had, but the devil pushed him in.

Another soldier of WW1 was Tommy Papworth, who during the course of his military duties succumbed to shell shock. A few years after the war he began a fruiterer’s business at 64, Aylesbury Street, but in his leisure time he became renowned for his Papworth Trio, which, formed in the late 1930s, consisted of himself on piano, Cliff French on violin and Joe Underwood on drums. Another locally renowned group was the Rhythm Dance Band which, following the break up of the dance band in which he played violin, was formed by William Burnham of 57, Tavistock Street.

As during WW1, during WW2 dance bands provided an important medium for raising morale, and one of local repute was formed by factory worker and accomplished pianist Vera Stapleton, of 69, Duncombe Street. Throughout the war she was well known for the entertainments she staged in the town, and even after her marriage after the war her Rhythmic Dance Band would continue to take bookings.

During the war Temperance Hall was the venue for many community activities of which the warden, Mr Mort, reported he found it easier to get people to dance than listen to lectures. Public dancing on Tuesday nights drew a welcome attendance of about 40, but a talk and discussion held on Wednesdays attracted only around ‘12 interested and 12 disinterested persons’.

As for the Thursday music appreciation class, this was a fiasco, in contrast to the whist drive on Fridays which proved a huge success. Several years after the war such apathy was again encountered, when while trying to recruit members to their group of string musicians Mr and Mrs Ronald Finch, of Tylers, Little Brickhill, enrolled only three members at a meeting at St Martin’s Hall, none of whom came from Bletchley. By now, as a legacy from the wartime days of Bletchley Park, Wilton Hall had become a popular venue for dances, and would remain so even when rivalled by the advent of disco nightspots.

But what became of the disco dance queens of the 1970s? Nowadays, their idea of a good night’s entertainment is probably a chippie tea and a box set of Emmerdale