You meet some interesting people on holiday. A couple of years ago I got chatting to a man who’d spent the latter years of his life in banking. But then it turned out he’d run away from home aged 15 and joined a travelling music troupe! It was both a sad and amazing story. Faced with being sent away for adoption by a mother and stepfather who no longer wanted him around, a chance meeting with some musicians changed his life.
As a budding teenage guitarist John Culley was offered the chance to join them on a tour of Europe. Off he went, playing in cities across France, Germany and Italy, and having the time of his young life. He never looked back. Those of a certain generation will remember Geno Washington & the Ram Jam Band. It was this group, popular on the university circuit in the 1960s, that he went on to join for a taste of pop stardom. When it all fizzled out he went into banking and these days lives a very comfortable and quiet life on the Isle of Man.
The Simon Park Orchestra
In another quiet corner of rural England there lives a man who achieved even greater success on the music scene, a No 1 hit! Like John, I met him while on holiday. At first he didn’t let on to his past, just that he’d been a musician and composer. Now in his 70s he said that these days he spent most of his time writing for a motoring magazine. All I could gather wast that his name was Simon.
Being curious as to who this former musician/composer might be I managed to track down his full name from the motoring magazine he wrote for. Typing it into google the first entry I came up with was ‘The Simon Park Orchestra’.
Ring any bells?
To my amazement the next entry was a YouTube link to a an episode of Top of the Pops back in 1973 with Noel Edmonds introducing the year’s most unlikely hit – Eye Level by the Simon Park Orchestra! And there was a very youthful Simon, aged about 28, conducting.
As anyone who was around in the 70s will remember, the very hummable tune ‘Eye Level’ was the theme tune to the hit TV detective series Van Der Valk. It was Simon’s good fortune at the time to be asked to record it. It came straight in at No 1 and stayed there for 4 weeks!
When I emailed Simon to tell him he’d been rumbled he replied saying ‘Aaargh! I’ve been dogged by that wretched tune for 47 years. You may well understand why I prefer to forget it!’
Well as a lifelong music fan I’m still in awe of meeting someone who’s had a No 1 hit and been on Top of the Pops. It really made my holiday!