We are pleased to publish Part Four of the memories of Roger Perry – memories of now more than half-a-century ago – of his days at Fleetway Publications working on Girl, Eagle, WHAM! and other titles…
Of Braces and Bin Fires
If you’ve already read Part Three of Eagle Daze, you’ll have read about some of the practical jokes and antics at 96 Long Acre that helped (or hindered, depending on who was on the receiving end) the working day. My mention of the studio’s in-house artist Bert Fielder, prompted Eagle speech-balloon-letterer Derek Pierson to recall this story…
Bert had the habit of going over to the Odhams canteen at the bottom of Drury Lane with Keith Motts for his lunch and on his return he would get out that day’s copy of the Daily Mail, open it upon his drawing board, rest his head on his elbows… and fall asleep! Well of course, Mr Nasty himself [Max Clifford] had spotted this habit of his and with malice aforethought had had a cunning plan!
Bert sat on a typists’ chair at his desk and used to loosen his braces while snoozing. This was all the incentive Max Clifford had needed, so he gently hooked Bert’s braces over the back rest of the chair, placed a small piece of lighted paper in Bert’s waste bin and called out “fire”!
Naturally Bert jumped out of his skin and Max had thought it hilarious, not considering Bert’s age or how he might have hurt himself trying to jump to one side.
Well, word got to Ron Morley and Brian Blake and they took Max to one side and had a word in his ‘shell-like’, and I can only think a subdued Max had been encouraged to quietly offer an apology.
One Last Look at History Re-Writes
Talking of Max, we’d had more pop star visitations to our Long Acre offices thanks to him – one of these being by a then relatively unknown Welsh solo artist whose name had been Tom Jones (which I had felt at the time as being a bit farcical).
Two years earlier – in 1963 – Albert Finney and Susannah York had appeared in a “sexually-active” romp similarly named and when one realises that the singer’s true full name is Thomas Jones Woodward, then perhaps my initial scepticism had been justified. For the entire time Jones was with us, to his own accompaniment of noisily clicking and snapping fingers, he’d sung “It’s Not Unusual”. The “click – click – clicking” had been so mesmerising that I’d unconsciously picked up the rhythm while releasing the shutter mechanism on the camera – click, click, click, clickety, click.
I’m not quite sure when this incident took place, but the Tom Jones’ hit “It’s Not Unusual” came out on the Decca label in early 1965 and it became an international best seller chiefly through the efforts of the offshore pirate radio station Radio Caroline, who had promoted it profusely. Jones’ first single “Chills and Fever” had been released in late 1964, but got nowhere. Based on my online researches, one can only deduce that with Jones’ accompanying rendition of “It’s Not Unusual” as he went from office to office and being introduced to Shirley, Anne and Linda, the occurrence of this visit was most likely confined February 1965.
I dare say that Jones’ “cockiness” had been due to his sudden elevation to stardom, but he was not someone with whom I readily had “warmed to”.
Jones’ visit had been followed just seven days later by the much quieter and rather more well-established solo artist Donovan (of whom I have spoken of in Part Three). He’d shown up still carrying his guitar (although in his case, Donovan hadn’t “dinged” a single solitary note from the instrument nor had he uttered even a hint of a tune all the while he was with us… but then, perhaps the carrying of his guitar had given him all the confidence he had needed).
At times, it’s very difficult to say with any accuracy as to when these visiting artists had come and gone. In the case of Tom Jones, modern online web research has offered some clues, but no definitive date. But one visitation helped me put paid to my ongoing bugbear about Max Clifford’s re-writing of his life story, which I first highlighted in Part One of this series.
In WHAM! Issue number 49 dated 22nd May 1965 – I found indisputable proof that Max was still working at “96 Long Acre” up until around 17th April,1965 which was when the comic would have been sent off to the printers (contrary to his claims that he’d been working at EMI for some years).
In the issue is an image of our chum Max with the six members of “The Quiet Five” giving the appearance of entering the room via the window and stomping all over Max’s desk. As I have said before, it could be argued that the picture could have been captured any time, but then there’s this…
“In 1964, the Vikings manager, John Smith, amalgamated them with The Quiet 5, taking their lead vocalist Patrick Dane and bassist Richard Barnes, along with the name. Dane left some time later, before the Quiet Five had recorded anything. Despite their name, there were six members, John Howell (organ / vocals), Kris Ife (guitar / vocals), Richard Barnes (bass guitar / vocals), Roger McKew (lead guitar), Ray Hailey (drums) and John “Satch” Goswell (saxophone). During their time together the Quiet Five released a handful of singles and managed to get into the Top 50 of the UK Singles Chart in 1965 with a song written by Ife, “When the Morning Sun Dries the Dew”.”
The piece written up in WHAM! says:
“The Five are a London-based group who we reckon have got a great future ahead of ’em. That’s our verdict after hearing their first disc “When the Morning Sun Dries the Dew”. It’s great!”
Of course, Max might not have written this article anyway, particularly given sub-editor Brian Woodford’s previously-mentioned less than appraisal that “Max quite literally couldn’t write his way out of the proverbial paper bag.”
Woodford – now living in Boise, Idaho, sent me the following email shortly after Clifford’s book came out:
“You do know,” said Brian, “that Max is still peddling the story that it was he who had discovered the Beatles way back in 1962?”
How many times, I wonder, has Clifford tried to hammer home the “alleged fact” that he’d “joined EMI in October 1962? Was this so that he could say that he had been in the right place at the right time; that he could not only say that he had been responsible for bringing one of the world’s most well-known groups, The Beatles, into the public eye, but that in doing so, he could create a plausible (but false) corner stone for his growing public relations and media-sensationalism business?
Hmm. As they so often say, if a lie is told often enough then people will begin to believe it. Mind you, it’s a good thing that there are still one or two around who don’t.
Interestingly, I see that he admits to this unhealthy habit himself. A profile of Max on the BBC website notes he has admitted he would lie to the media if he chose and that bald statement is backed up in his own biography where it states:
Max’s inventiveness was as versatile as it was prolific.
Let’s Hear It For the Girls
The Art Department wasn’t where all the fun and games originated from at 96 Long Acre. At the other end of the corridor where I had shared an office with Shirley Dean, Anne Littlefield and Linda Wheway, there were also the occasional eyebrow-raising incidents.
The three girls – delightful as they all were – were as different as chalk and cheese (with the odd cherub thrown in for good measure)… I shall leave it for you to work out which was which! I shan’t say too much about them as their own actions – plus the occasional comment made by one or other of them – will speak for themselves.
For example, not too long after they became very much a part of my working day, the blockbuster film The Great Escape had filled cinema screens up and down the country. Steve McQueen had become the UK’s latest heart-throb for every girl in the land – every girl, that is, except for Shirley, who announced one day that Steve McQueen was no different from any other lorry driver! Uh Huh!
Anne was a fine, strapping girl who supported a tan one normally only ever saw in “Coppertone” ads. As far as we could work out, Anne – the daughter of a police constable – had spent nearly all her spare time on the tennis court. I never ever saw her eat anything other than yoghurt, fresh fruit and fresh vegetables. She had the sexiest arms I’d ever seen – and most likely have ever seen since.
The third of this trio was Linda, a little dolly-bird affair with whom I fell in love at least once a week (that was when I wasn’t lusting after Anne) – probably all due to her back-combed ‘Busby’ hairstyle and the shortest of extra-short mini-skirts. Linda was what one might call – er – moderately scatty. The following tale is not too far out from the ordinary…
One Friday morning, Linda had arrived at the office somewhat on the late side. She got a bit of a wigging from Shirley who, as chief Sub was Linda’s boss. On top of that, Shirley was also the NUJ’s FOC (and for those who have absolutely no idea as to what I’m talking about, I’ll just mutter out of my mouth: “Union matters”, touched on in my reply to comments on Part Three – and that “FOC” stands for “Father of Chapel”).
We found out that Linda was off to Scotland later that day – like lunch-time – and her lateness had been entirely due to having had to wash through a dozen pairs of panties! (Can you believe that?) When she arrived, the said unmentionables were still soaking wet so, one by one, Linda had gingerly laid each pair onto the bulbous tops of the piping-hot radiators.
At around 12.30, she sped off to catch the 1.00 p.m. Edinburgh Express and, by the time she was way past North of Watford, Shirley spotted that Linda’s knickers were still embracing the bulbous hot radiators.
The first question on the quickly assembled agenda was: “Do we leave them where they are, in which case they would be there for all to see for the next ten days, or do we actually do something with them?” Then through some extraordinary form of telepathic resonance (perhaps the psychic resonance emanating from Madge Harman two doors away down the corridor was catching – I’d hoped and prayed that it might be), the second question that popped into our minds instantaneously: “Was Linda going to do anything about replacing the forgotten articles whilst staying with her friend in Scotland?”
(Dear Readers, I really need to point out here that Linda had never divulged as to whether this “friend in Scotland” had been male or female… Sorry – back to the story!)
After a good deal of debate, Shirley summed up the majority feeling which was that Linda probably wasn’t all that bothered and therefore wouldn’t. Then we went into a fairly in-depth discussion as to whether she was actually wearing any at that precise moment. I pointed out that as there were twelve pairs here in the office, then hers would have made thirteen… and so probably wasn’t. I made a mental note to move my desk.
(Dear Reader, perhaps you are beginning to realise that as I had been amongst these girls for many years already that no longer was I being regarded as ‘male’ and therefore it was quite natural to have been included in these “all-girl-discussions”? Anyway, I digress – back to the story).
Anne came to the opinion that the office cleaner might spirit them away and that the best solution was to place them into one of Linda’s drawers for safe keeping (that, my Dear Friends. would have been a typical Ron Morley joke). The next question was: Who was going to do the honours?
Shirley visibly shuddered at the thought and stated categorically that in no way was she going to go anywhere near them! On hearing this, both Anne and I had glanced at each other with a ‘knowing look’ – for only a month or so earlier, Shirley had confessed to us all that she never went to bed at night without first pulling on a pair of white cotton gloves – the reason being that she no longer could bear to touch the naked flesh of her husband!
Anne skitted about the room giving one the impression that she was limbering up for a top-notch match at Wimbledon’s Centre Court and saying at the same time that she hadn’t much fancied the idea of touching Linda’s “up-close-and-personal-items” either. I on the other hand had been quite keen on the idea – I had been going through periodical fantasies of having my hands placed upon Linda’s panties and, although I would rather have preferred the owner of the said garments to have been in residence while I did so, even second best was OK by me!
While lovingly removing the first pair, an idea had sprung to mind. I reached behind me for my Sellotape dispenser and seconds later, yellow-with-white-embroidered-edging had been affixed centrally to the huge eight-foot by eight-foot sheet of Mr Pilkington’s finest that had enabled us to view over Endell Street. Next to come was a pair in a pretty shade of sky blue, followed by pink that had supported a red embroidered heart just to the left of centre – I hadn’t yet gathered enough nerve to check whether the heart had intentionally been placed at the back or the front.
Shirley was so convulsed in mirth that I’m quite certain that she was close to dampening her own pair of unmentionables.
Anne, who obviously had a great deal more control over her bodily functions, stood close to the office door with hands on hips and offering such suggestions as: “Move the blue pair over to the left an inch or two” and “the white with yellow daises could go down just a fraction.” Now you could be wondering as to why I have laboured in telling you this story. The reason is that it didn’t quite end there.
Exactly opposite our office window on the other side of Endell Street was another pretty ancient-looking office block inside which had housed the new and rapidly expanding Sun newspaper. I have no idea as to what editorial department it had been, but the occupants would surely have been totally blind not to have seen Linda’s array of knickers. After hoisting the sixth or seventh pair, we became aware that faces had begun to turn in our direction and taps upon shoulders were encouraging others to sit up and take notice.
It wasn’t too long before the room opposite had become jam-packed with every face offering a wide grin; the occasional raised arm supporting a thumbs-up sign; and clear indications of ribald jokes being banded about. It was only when Anne had called out that she’d spotted a couple of photographers with massive lenses edging their way towards the front that the three of us had felt it prudent to leave the room until all the fuss had died down. Perhaps it was fear on my part, but there had been a certain reluctance to scan the pages of the Sun newspaper over the following days and weeks!
Do You Want Wafers With That?
Moving on… How about it if I spoke to you about our mid-morning and mid-afternoon mugs of tea with biscuits?
Twice a day – at eleven in the morning and then again at three-thirty, each department had their own snack break facilities to provide mugs of tea or coffee. Packets, pots and sachets of all the necessary ingredients were supplied by the company and, fresh each day, one or more bottles of milk were delivered to every department by Express Dairies. In regard to our own little group, it had been Anne who had done the honours in the morning, and Linda had carried out the afternoon run – please take note that neither Shirley nor I had stooped so low as to get involved in these subversive chores.
On the day I have in mind, I’d decided to remain at my desk during the official lunch hour, rather than head out to the nearby pool which as I related, I often did, as I had quite a number of ‘cut-outs’ that needed preparing for a pop feature that Sally Brompton had put together. I needed the peace and quiet of being on my own for a while.
I’m one of those people who likes to lick his lips continuously when a high amount of concentration is needed, and it wasn’t too long before it came to mind that I really needed something to drink. The afternoon’s supply of milk had looked exceedingly inviting… and before anyone could say “antidisestablishmentarianism’, a good two-thirds had slipped welcomingly down my gullet. “I’ll nip across the road later on and get some more,” I promised myself… but of course it hadn’t happened because very soon, I was once again engrossed in white-lining.
Before I knew it, it was time for the girls’ return and I just knew that when Shirley spotted the now almost empty bottle, some snotty remark would be forthcoming. Then a thought came to me.
When using Process White Paint, clean water must be used otherwise the whole operation becomes a total nonsense. The job entailed carefully painting a two or three mm wide white line around the item being retained and then placing a series of white crosses on those bits I wanted removing. My water jar had started out clean and crystal clear, but over the previous sixty minutes or so, the liquid had taken on a remarkable resemblance to…. well, to milk, actually. It had been a simple matter of pouring the contents of one container into the other. Voila! It was, if I may say, the perfect ‘solution’.
As the clock’s hands eased themselves into the quarter past three position, Linda went off to the ‘ladies’ to fill the kettle (hopefully with water) and had made herself busy preparing the afternoon’s brew. It wasn’t too long before our place-mats were supporting our own personal mugs and containing the hot steaming brew. I muttered “thanks” but had kept my head down in the hope of giving the impression that I was far too busy at that precise moment to take a welcome sip.
Shirley was the first to take a gulp from her mug, spluttered, and had spat all the entire contents of her mouth out into the metal waste-paper bin placed beside her desk. “Good… God!” she croaked.
Linda, who was just about to place Anne’s mug onto her cardboard ‘beer mat’ had spun and looked accusingly at Shirley. Anne too had become interested in this sudden lowering of Shirley’s usually high standard of composure. I was naturally interested is seeing what was going to happen next.
“Linda!” wheezed the hapless Shirley as she dabbed away the remnants of liquid from her cheeks with a Kleenex tissue. “Your coffee is getting worse and worse!”
“It’s not coffee,” retorted the emotionally-dented Linda, “it’s tea!”
Roger outlines the downfall of Hulton Press, publishers of Eagle and Girl, office moves for the editorial staff involved and his first forays into the world of British pop music photography…
Roger traces the emergence of Maxwell Frank Clifford…
Roger’s brushes with 1960s music stars, the perils of hand lettering and the inexplicable appeal of Pussy Cat Willum
• Bert Fielder is profiled in Eagle Times Volume 28 Number Two
Our thanks to David Slinn for providing imagery and information in the creation of this feature