The Flat-Sharing Years, The Specials and Everything But The Girl

I was away from home last week which explains my blogging absence. We’ve been lying low this summer so as not to jeopardise any of our business ventures by having to self-isolate, but it was time to emerge from WIAA Towers to visit one of my oldest friends who has moved from London to ‘God’s Own Country’, Yorkshire. She has been mentioned around here often, whenever I’ve written about my flat-sharing years in Aberdeen. Between 1979 and 1987 we lived in a total of five different abodes (with up to four others depending on the size of the flat) before finally parting company and heading off in totally different directions, both figuratively and geographically.

Another very famous set of flatmates

We didn’t know each other very well when we moved into that first student flat in 1979 and we were studying very different subjects. As the years go by however, your flatmates become your ‘urban family’ and you form a very special bond that can only come from living in the same shared space for so long. (Oh yes, there were many, many dramas over exams, jobs and boyfriends.) It was lovely to be able to spend time with her last week, sampling the delights of the North Yorkshire Dales, nearly 42 years on from that first flat-sharing experience.

But this is a music blog so what song to share? Back in 1979 we didn’t have laptops, Netflix or Amazon Prime but we did have a black and white telly that sat on an alcove shelf to the right of the bulky gas fire (never serviced of course but thankfully we lived to tell the tale and didn’t die of carbon monoxide poisoning). My musical memories always lead me back to the show that aired on a Thursday night at 7.30pm, and despite the lack of colour, it was great living somewhere again with a telly. The year before we had been in halls, with no access to telly at all, so for a music lover like myself this was a step up in the world indeed.

As it turned out, only being able to view our favourite music show in black and white was not a problem in the autumn of 1979, as that was just when the 2 Tone phenomenon started to grip the nation – Pork pie hats were even spotted on the heads of Aberdonians. Suddenly ska and rocksteady, a genre we had been too young to appreciate first time around, really started to resonate with a new generation of young people. A tour was put together and in November 1979 I went along to a local nightspot with another music-loving friend to witness the stars of 2 Tone in action – Link to post about that night here. The Specials topped the bill and by then we knew all the songs from their eponymously named debut album. Too Much Too Young rattles along at a fair old speed, giving this late ’70s version of ska a whole new punk sensibility.

Too Much Too Young by the Specials:

But this post was supposed to be about the reunion with my old friend and I don’t remember her being a particular fan of ska in 1979. By the time we parted company in 1987 our musical allegiances were much more aligned and one of the albums I bought that year really did resonate with her. We gladly shared any new acquisition and took advantage of the flat ‘music centre’ to (very illegally) record a copy on cassette tape. Here is a song from the album Baby, the Stars Shine Bright by Everything But The Girl, one that apparently always brought a tear to her to eye whilst driving around the North of Scotland in the new company car she had just been given (which unbeknownst to her bosses became the Flatmobile). We had started flat life with steady boyfriends, but by 1987 they had long gone, and we were singletons again ready to start the next chapter.

Come On Home by Everything But The Girl:

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I seem to have mislaid a lot of local friends of late so was feeling a bit lonely. This pandemic has put paid to many of my regular routines and several of the friends I used to do things with are now finding themselves either busy with grandchildren, or are retiring, and moving away from the area. Thank goodness for old friends of 42 years standing. I had a lovely time last week and our 2021 ‘digs’, unlike our old flat, were most definitely 5 Star.

Until next time…

Come On Home Lyrics
(Song by Tracey Thorne/Ben Watt)

Baby come home, I miss the sound of the door
Your step on the stair’s not there to wake me no more

And every day’s like Christmas Day without you
It’s cold and there’s nothing to do

And it’s mighty quiet here now that you’re gone
I’ve been behaving myself for too long
‘Cause I don’t like sleeping
Or watching TV on my own
So please come on home

Baby, what’s keeping you all this time
You’re wasting your days out there in the sunshine
And who can I turn to if you believe still
That England don’t love you and she never will

For it’s mighty quiet here now that you’re gone
And I’ve been behaving myself for too long
I don’t like drinking
or painting the town on my own
So please come on home

Baby come on home Please

For it’s mighty quiet here now that you’re gone
And I’ve been behaving myself for too long
‘Cause I don’t like sleeping
Or watching TV on my own
So please come on home

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days. I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 57 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team, Bacharach and David. The opening line to that song was, "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

15 thoughts on “The Flat-Sharing Years, The Specials and Everything But The Girl”

  1. It’s wonderful that you’re out and about again! Yorkshire? That must be the place south of County Durham🤣 How did you find the trip in these changed times?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We’d held off until the end of the summer but as it turned out the journey wasn’t too bad at all. We shared the driving and only stopped twice, once at House of Bruar (do you know it?) for a bacon roll, then just north of the border for a late lunch. As country bumpkins, not used to motorway driving, we thought we’d be traumatised but it was actually quite easy especially once you got past the Edinburgh by-pass. Wouldn’t fancy driving down all the way from Orkney though!

      Once there we spent time with our friends and did some outdoor walks and lunches. Although mask-wearing is no longer mandatory in England we found most people still do. Managed to get back in one piece without having been pinged, so all good.


  2. “Back in 1979 we didn’t have laptops, Netflix or Amazon Prime but we did have a black and white telly that sat on an alcove shelf to the right of the bulky gas fire…”

    And were we happier that way?

    I love posts such as this, photos and all. They warm my heart and tug at my nostalgia gland.

    Dare I say you both look even better now than you did back then? Or perhaps it’s just the improved photography…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Life was definitely simpler with fewer demands on our time and fewer expectations. That old black and white telly was a real treat and our only communication device was the red phone box across the road (in the bottom picture). The rest of our time was spent with real people in real lecture theatres, libraries, cinemas and pubs. I went back to college this week but of course haven’t left my house at all – Not how I had hoped it would be when I started the course but it’s going to be virtual from now on I suspect.

      I think it’s the photography! But, back in the ’70s teenage girls didn’t look glamorous like they do today – We were generally very plain with mousy hair (and I did wear a lot of black).


  3. Sorry to be so late on this one, I’ve had difficulty focusing on the blogs lately but I read this the other day and thoroughly enjoyed; as Rol says, posts like this warm the heart. Lovely pics of you both and great to see how well both of you have aged (or not aged!)
    1979 was a really memorable and special year for me, for one thing (amongst many) it was the year I left my stuffy school and was off to do my Foundation Art at college and everything that happened that year did so to a fantastic soundtrack, such an exciting mixture of music which all seemed felt quite optimistic and fresh and exploratory. The funny thing is that Mr SDS recently bought a few old copies of Melody Maker from Spring ’79 and going through them it doesn’t really come across – a few bands who went on to bigger things but an awful lot of less interesting groups and artists that just never really cut it and have been long since forgotten by most I suspect. We were surprised as it sort of contradicted our memories, but I think 79 took a while to really get going on the music front; the editions from later on that year would probably be more representative.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t be sorry as it seems from Rol’s blog you’ve had a bit of a tough week. I’ve been forgetting of late that I’m supposed to be anonymous around here I think, but I loved my week away and thought it was pretty cool to try and recreate the photo 42 years on. I’ve lost touch with my remaining school friends, so my oldest friend.

      So 1979 was a year of change for you too. You were a bit younger than me but I’m sure we must have been listening to a lot of the same kind of music back then. An exciting time to be young but yes, a lot of very middle-of-the-road stuff around as well epitomised by the fact Lena Martell hogged the top spot in the charts for ages when we were in that flat with One Day At A Time. It was really great having a telly again albeit a black and white one but my favourite music show on a Thursday night still didn’t always deliver!


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