Monday 11 March 2019


Our world is peppered with sub-cultures - and how wonderful that this should be the case. Diversity in life-styles indicates the health of a developed and civilised society. We can find good meaning by following our own interests - be it caravanning, cycling, gardening, darts, singing, listening to music, or whatever. The now rather quaint word 'hobbies' is what I grew up expecting to find I followed as an adult. I would have the interests that gave meaning to my leisure-time.

Yet, it's so easy to take this for granted. After all, the fact is that in our nation we cannot all find such fulfilment. In the sixth most prosperous country on the planet, millions cannot afford to enjoy the fruits of diversity. Most hobbies need financing. And so many don't have the spare cash - in-work poverty is a descriptor that has entered the lexicon since 2010 when the newly-elected neo-liberals declared war on the welfare state and introduced the Austerity programme to cut drastically the size and scope of the state and its governing responsibilities. Some don't have any cash at all. If you don't have two coins to rub together, forget diversity and sub-cultures. And if you only have a few coins, your leisure-life is sadly diminished.

But some keep the focus within a sub-culture whatever tribulations life brings and develop an awesome knowledge of that territory. Pete Richards - my brother-in-law from my first marriage - is a retired award-winning publican living in London who excels within one particular field. If he were to appear on Mastermind, his specialist subject could be something like 'Progressive Rock Music - 1965-95'. Or more recent manifestations of electronic heavy metal, Scandinavian style. He was already well into this musical world when he arrived, aged 15, with his mate, Garry Strudwick, all the way from south Wales, to share the delights of the Reading Pop Festival in August 1975.

Reading Pop Festival - 1975 - Headline Acts and More

He had lost his sister, Glynis, in March the year before. Today - Sunday March 10 - is indeed the 45th anniversary of the fatal crash which saw the Triumph Herald she was driving wrapped round a lamp-

post on the A412 just outside the centre of Slough. We were on the way back home from the railway station having dropped off our friends, Peter and Julia Bush. Don't drink and drive. Glynis died; I survived.

Rob and Glynis Donovan - Paris - Summer of 1973

By the summer of 1975, I had passed my driving test at the third attempt in as many months. After telling me I had passed, the examiner smiled and said: 'Remember, stay alive in '75 and for a long time after. Drive well.'  And now, still shell-shocked from the trauma of '74, I found myself in my mid-twenties with the responsibility of looking after two teenagers for three days at my first rock festival. They both knew heaps more than I did about the acts we were set to see. It was all a bit of a blur for me, that long weekend. All the more so since, having arrived early in my new car - a silver-grey Vauxhall Chevette, registration JMO296P - and having parked so carefully we came back that Friday evening after the last act to drive home to Iver in Bucks, full of the thrill of it all, to find ourselves trapped in an endless sea of cars. We were going nowhere - until Sunday night when the concert was over. Doh!!!

Reading 1975 - a sub-culture shot

Cars are not made for sleeping in - and festivals need sanitation, as we see below.  

Sub-cultural experience that goes with the territory - the toilet block at the Reading Festival in 1975. That young bloke looking towards the lens could almost be a double for Pete Richards

Pete grew up and just like his mum, May, always valued the new love in my life, Louise, from the time they first met her. That takes some grace. Louise and I had fallen in love in March 1976 and were married in July that same year.

Rob and Louise Donovan outside the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford - MA ceremony - Summer of 1977 - the Oxford MA is unearned; it cost around twenty-five pounds and came automatically as an entitlement seven years after graduation, I think. 

In recent years, Pete Richards has been a member of an online FB page called In Rock We Trust (IRWT) - and guess who else is a member? Garry Strudwick, Llanelli taxi driver, now retired. And more recently, me. I accepted the invitation to join the sub-culture. Now let me say straightaway I can't spend the time I would need to for full membership status. I pop in and out. But my access to this world has given me musical insights and pleasure that I would not have otherwise enjoyed. Thank you, Pete!  - and here's one more reminder of Reading 1975 when Rob, Pete and Garry soaked up the atmosphere:

Reading Festival - 1975 

I will close this thank you and tribute post with a story and an introduction to a really great piece of rock music by the group called Groundhogs. The tale centres on one of their best songs: 'I Love Miss Ogony'. Tony McPhee plays guitar on the track with Pete Cruickshank on bass and Clive Brooks on drums. Martin Rushton as engineer completes the gifted quartet. Tony McPhee also wrote the lyrics that glower in their insight and mordant quality. Judge for yourself :

The days that you're gone, I can't stand the silence,
The hours that you're here, I can't stand your presence,
The starlight that shone from your eyes in the beginning,
Now blinds me with hate for you and all women,
The ties that should bind I want to cut into pieces,
The paper I signed collects dirt in it's creases,
But while you're away I can't stand the longing,
I detest being tied down but I love the belonging.

It's strange how this change in our relations brings you nearer,
It's weird how I fear for our position is much clearer,
I understand that it's underhanded to want to detest you,
But every time you're here then I'm filled with a need to hurt you,
It's only one thing that stops me from committing murder,
And that's the thought of losing you and I can't go no further,
('Cos) I love you miss ogyny.

Shocking - and powerful. Gifted writing.

It was February 15 last month that Pete Richards posted on IRWT the You Tube video of this groundhog's track. He wrote:

'Loved this album - scary guitar on this track. This was in my sister's album collection along with other classics. I always remember she fell backwards off her beanbag laughing when I asked her why he was liking and then disliking Miss Ogyny. Didn't realise the track was written about misogyny but I was only twelve.'

I left this comment online:

'Pete, I reckon it could take a lifetime to really get to understand who Miss Ogyny is. I love the story of your sister, Glynis, falling backwards off her beanbag laughing. Miss Ogyny needs a sense of humour once she cottoned on to how far the odds are stacked against her.'

Pete replied:

'It was at the flat in Iver so actually I'd have been 13. The days when your vinyl lived in tea chests. I'd heard the album a few times but eventually got the courage to ask about the lyrics to the track. The aftermath of the question was so funny that the eventual answer to my question made sense and is something I've never forgotten :)'

Here's the YouTube video for you to savour:

Such talent in this sub-culture. The Groundhogs are still touring, occasionally - and the only surviving original member in the present line-up is: Tony McPhee. The fans still love them - and remember what they gave, back in the 70s when some of those fans were in their teens. This is a subcultural attachment for life. Listen to these voices:

Mike Johnson - 4 years ago - 'There will never ever be a time of such great music memories as the 60s and 70s gave us …..

Andrew Purcell - 2 years ago - 'Loving the fact that our American friends dialled into this album. Love it and having met him (Tony McPhee) in a pub gig in Birmingham UK he should of been on a much bigger stage!'

Peter Maxwell - 1 year ago - 'One of the "BEST" songs ever written'

John Sunderland - 3 months ago - 'Mr McPhee - one of the few gifted beings in this world that can make a guitar talk'.

And here he is - the man himself - Mr McPhee on a recent Groundhogs tour:

Old Rockers Never Die

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