Our novel begins in 1968 in a rural community in England at the height of the Cold War and the Swinging Sixties, where one of our main characters, Renza, lives with her many siblings and domineering mother. Her father is working overseas and the family will join them in the summer.
Renza is 16 and a music fan, she lives for Top of The Pops and Radio One. There’s little else to bring her joy; she has few friends and her time is spent mostly looking after her siblings and helping her mother. And then Scott, lead guitarist with Narnia’s Children, enters her life. I won’t give the plot away but suffice to say that writing about Scott and Renza was like flashing back to my own youth, in many respects.
The story is fictional but the locations for the music venues (gigs) and many of the bands and music mentioned, is based upon real places and musicians. Many are still around. Others are a complete figment of my imagination and have been based upon a combination of musicians I’ve known and situations I’ve experienced during my many decades involved in the music business – write what you know they say.
As some of your readers might already know, I’m married to a musician whom I met when I was 16. Eventually we went into artiste management -musicians, singers, and song-writers and record producers - internationally. I could write several books about our life working in the music business and I guarantee it would make your hair stand on end. Some of my crime stories hint at it.
All my experiences garnered as the girlfriend, later wife, of a musician living through the crazy, amazing time which was the 1960’s, have been pillaged and plundered whilst writing Only One Woman. Mixed with our life experiences later-on, working with mainly male musicians, it was easy to write what I’m told has been a realistic description of life with, and as, a musician. Both Christina and I used our experiences, of course. She was, in real life, the fan-club secretary to my husband’s band - which is how we know each other. She wrote Stella using some of her experiences with the band, I am sure.
Back to 1968 and my husband’s band who’ve been such a great source of material for me over the years. I took various events during 1968/69 and stretched my imagination and used loads of poetic license when writing various chapters. For example, the other band managed by ‘Stephan,’ is based on a real band and they did indeed make their lead singer’s life hell back stage and on stage. They were mega successful and their records are still played today. Back stage was a nightmare – open warfare - when his band (named for him by the way) wanted to have a go at him. Remember the stories about Roger Daltry and Pete Townsend (The Who) fighting back stage and in hotels – physical fights – well, this was how it was with ‘Stephan’s’ other band. It used to get so violent threats of calling the Police was about the only thing to stop them killing him. And on stage they were horrid to him in front of audiences; they’d mock him, berate him, and often left him singing with his microphone switched off for ages before it dawned upon him. Wonderful material for a writer, but actually how dreadful to be in a band like that. All bands fall out of course, but I’ve never experienced anything remotely like that since.
‘Narnia’s Children’ had an army of faithful – mostly female –fans following them up and down the country, covering their van (Bessie Bedford) in lipstick messages and writing quite salacious fan-mail to them, which, going through my husband’s memorabilia containing similar material, I delved into for my research for Only One Woman. I found it quite sad reading them, all these decades later; letters filled with such love and optimism and joy. What were those girls doing now? Did they find happiness with another ‘rock god,’ or did they settle for Fred from the local Council road crew? Some followed the band for years and would show up at gigs, album launches and autograph events, knowing everything about the band, or their desired musician, whilst the band knew little or nothing about them other than their names and by then, familiar faces. Wives and girlfriends of the band kept a low profile as it wasn’t ‘cool’ for them to be seen or for the band to be ‘taken,’ and the record company and management went to great lengths to keep up the pretence of the band being ‘available and attainable.’ Such tosh, and no-one really believed it I am sure. Nowadays, does anyone care if their adored band or musician is married or has a partner? I think not.
The scene in Only One Woman, at the Army camp, where Narnia’s Children are playing when Renza is confronted by hordes of female fans all throwing themselves at Scott, was quite common. Many confrontations took place in the loos at these events, and the one with the two female soldiers actually happened, to me.
The after gig party is written from memory of several such parties over the years. The fashions and music have changed but the ingredients all making up the ‘party’ at the support band’s home – or ‘dump’ as Renza called it – could have happened any place, anywhere in the world, any time since.
Quite a few ‘group’ vans – in the late 1960’s - were to be seen regularly driving through towns and villages on the way to gigs in venues, large and small. One could pay to see several Chart topping bands and singers for next to nothing and without all the booking nightmares of recent times. The live scene was vibrant and varied. Bands didn’t have such an entourage with them, no security – unless you were The Beatles etc – and access to them was unfettered usually. A fan could walk into a dressing room (or what passed for one back then) and even turn up outside the band’s home with ease. It was not unusual to find a half-naked girl in the dressing rooms so the band told me many times. I wasn’t surprised.
I recall bumping into various fans who’d managed to secret themselves in the back of the van, hidden behind the drums and stacks (speakers, amps etc), only to be discovered upon reaching home as the van was being unloaded by the roadies. Few people had phones at home, there wasn’t internet, so unless someone was near the local phone-box there was no way to call a taxi for them or to notify their families that they were safe and well, often hundreds of miles from their homes. The fans came into the band’s home, were fed and watered, and sometimes allowed to sleep over, until the roadies could get them to the nearest bus, coach, or railway station and sent home. In recent times ‘security’ check the trucks (no vans these days) for stow-away girls and of course, illegal immigrants. How times have changed. And of course bands no longer get in to their Ford Transit or Bedford van to drive all over the country and Europe; most fly or travel in tour buses. I must admit I do prefer the latter forms of transport. Vans were fine back when, but these days comfort wins every time over the ‘fun’ of slumming it on the road.
I could ramble on forever about ‘those days,’ but I won’t. If you are curious about the life and times of a UK band in the late 1960’s, do please consider reading Only One Woman. And if you do, please let us know what you think. Better still, leave a review on Amazon and GoodReads for others to read – every little helps.
The Paperback (Worldwide) and Audio will be published May 24th 2018 for stores and libraries etc.
June 29th 1968 – Merryhill Base
The gig was amazing. It was packed – lots of kids and soldiers of course – full of screaming girls, so noisy. Scott’s band was the star attraction, having come from overseas (well, Jersey), and, as Rich told me during the evening, they had proper management and an agent, plus as well as writing their own songs, they had songwriters working for them too. Serious stuff.
Narnia’s Children, I soon discovered, were professionals, unlike the support act, The Fulcrum, a local amateur band looking for a record deal but so far hadn’t got any interest. They had a big local following, but Scott’s band had a national following and some fans came to all their gigs, wherever they played. It was great, learning all this. Rich said that Narnia’s Children even had several record companies interested in them and there was talk of overseas tours, and they were recording soon with a famous company. They had lots going for them. Going to one of Scott’s gigs for the first time was so thrilling – and I basked in the glory.
Mind you, it had got a bit scary when I went to the loo. Being an Army base there were lots of women soldiers and I have to say some of them were real hard cases by the look of them. Anyway, I found my way through the heaving crowd to the ladies and waited in line for a cubicle to become free. Several mini-skirted girls were ahead of me, chatting and giggling and discussing which one of the band they fancied and which one they were going to get off with given half a chance.
There were a couple of female soldiers behind me, chatting and passing remarks about the girls in front. I didn’t think anything of it. I’d been thinking about how sexy Scott was, the way he held his guitar so low and moved on stage.
The girls in front of me went into the cubicle and one of them shouted to me to hold the door because the lock was missing. I grabbed the door as best I could and tried to keep it shut. But all the time she chatted to her mates about how she fancied Scott and went into great detail about how she thought he was eyeing her up all night and how she was going to go backstage and make a play for him. Over my dead body, I thought, and was tempted to let go of the door and expose her.
‘Are you going to be all day?’ I wasn’t going to hold it much longer and all the other cubicles were full so this one was going to be mine, if she ever came out. It sounded like Niagara Falls on the other side of the door.
‘Go play with the traffic,’ came the reply. Girls tittered behind me.
‘Come on, you’ve been in there ages. What’re you doing?’ said the soldier behind me. ‘Need any help?’ Everyone laughed again.
The door flew open and a Phyllis Diller look-alike shoved past me, giving me the evil eye.
‘No chance,’ I muttered, thinking of her plans for Scott. Before I could move she turned and pushed me into the cubicle. ‘It’s all yours.’
I turned to the soldier behind and asked her if she would hold the door for me, at which she smiled sweetly and nodded. Her friend giggled. I was getting myself organised when the door flew open and the two soldiers stood grinning at me.
‘Please shut the door,’ I said, my hipsters almost at my knees. I held my hand out to push the door closed again, but the blonde soldier who had agreed to hold the door pushed the door open again.
‘Don’t be unfriendly,’ she said, moving closer to me.
‘What?’ I moved as far away from her as I could in the tight space and nearly toppled into the loo.
‘Please go away.’ My hipsters fell around my ankles.
‘You want to be nice to us, don’t you?’ Her tubby freckled faced friend was trying to get into the cubicle as well.
‘What are you on about?’ I started pulling my hipsters up. ‘I want to leave, let me leave.’
I felt threatened. I couldn’t understand what I had done to upset them. I didn’t think I’d been unfriendly, why did they want me to be nice to them? I struggled to zip my hipsters up and tuck my skinny rib in.
Something about their faces and their stance made me frightened and I could feel my heart pounding and my face getting red. I tried to get past again, but they blocked my way and the blonde one made a grab for me. She got hold of my shoulders and pushed me against the wall, as her friend tried to get in far enough to shut the door, but thankfully the space was too small for the three of us.
‘What do you want?’ I yelled at them, struggling against the hands holding my shoulders. ‘What have I done to upset you?’
My captor laughed and bent her head towards me. The penny suddenly dropped: bloody hell! She was going to kiss me. Oh my God! My mind went blank with shock. I turned my head away and my hair covered my face.
She grabbed my head and forced it round and her friend leaned over and pushed my hair out of the way. She grabbed my left boob and squeezed. I struggled and kicked and yelled at the top of my voice, ‘Help! Help!’
The tubby girl looked over her shoulder and checked no one had come into the loo. Then she held my face in her hands whilst her friend tried again. I twisted and turned and wriggled about, I was in a panic. I couldn’t for the life of me think why they were doing this to me. At first I thought they were going to beat me up, I’d heard about girls who did that to other girls, but kissing me!
That was really weird.
‘Scott! Scott!’ I yelled at the top of my voice, though how he could help me in the ladies loo, I had no idea.
‘Shut up you stupid bitch.’ The blonde girl twisted her face up and grabbed my hair, pulling it really hard. I yelled louder, the pain was terrible.
‘Hey, what the hell is going on in there?’ a female voice asked from the other side of the cubicle wall, and both girls stopped and stood quiet.
The blonde one put her hand over my mouth. I thrashed about with my legs, kicking her and biting her hand. She yelped and jumped back, her hand falling from my mouth.
‘Help! Please help me,’ I shouted and kicked out again so that the two girls had to back out of the cubicle to avoid a good shin kicking.
‘What is going on in there?’ the woman outside shouted again. ‘I’ll get someone to sort you out if you don’t stop it and come out.’
‘I’m being attacked, please get help,’ I yelled as my assailants backed out of the cubicle and left me, panting hard and holding on to the wall for support.
I heard the door bang as they left and a middle-aged woman appeared in the door.
‘Are you OK, love?’ she asked kindly, holding her hand out to me. ‘They’ve gone now. You can come out.’
I took her hand, emerging slowly, looking around to check they’d really gone.
‘What on earth was going on?’ the woman asked.
‘I don’t know,’ I trembled, hardly able to get the words out. ‘They forced their way in and grabbed me and tried to kiss me… I don’t know why they’d do that. I was terrified.’
‘Well, they’re gone now so don’t worry anymore.’ The woman smiled at me kindly. ‘They won’t try it again, they’ll get into serious trouble if they’re reported.
I was still bursting to spend a penny (well more like half a crown by now) and the woman held the door whilst I relieved myself. What Mum would call the ‘Relief of Mafaking’ whenever she was that desperate to go.
Hang on whilst I go to the loo and I’ll come out with you and check they really have gone.’
‘Thank you.’ I held the door for her, my heart at last beginning to slow. ‘You with anyone, love?’ the woman asked, pulling the chain. The door opened and she came out moving towards the sinks.
‘My boyfriend’s in the band,’ I said and stopped her trying to wash her hands before she tried the taps. ‘Nothing works.’
‘Ah, thanks.’ She opened the door to the hall and the noise of the crowd and the support band nearly deafened us. She looked around and then beckoned me out. ‘All clear love. You go and find some friends and stay with them.’
‘Thank you so much,’ I shouted as she walked away waving over her shoulder.
Music has played a large part in Jane's life and she uses her knowledge and love of it in the novel, 'Only One Woman'.
Jane Risdon Bio:
Following a career in the International Music Business I’ve turned my attention to a life-long ambition – writing full-time.
Now I fill my days writing and concentrating on developing my own career instead of those recording artists, song-writers, and record producers whose careers filled my every waking moment for decades.
I write Crime and Thrillers mostly and have been published in numerous Anthologies, Online Magazines and Newsletters.
In addition to my short stories and crime novels,
(I’ve broken away from a life of crime – only temporarily)
I’ve co-written a novel
ONLY ONE WOMAN
with best-selling and award-winning author
published on 23rd November 2017
by Accent Press
Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00I3GJ2Y8
Thanks for coming along Jane. You've certainly lived a life most of us could never dream of! I hope you visit again soon to tell us all about your crime thrillers and Mrs Birdsong. I look forward to hearing all about it.