Yesterday I ticked off the 58th of my 75 challenges, as "meeting someone who has had a top ten single" (no.60 on the list) was duly completed.
Since the official charts began back in 1952, there must have been hundreds and hundreds of artists and bands who have recorded songs that reached those heights, but sadly the number of those people I actually know totals… roughly… none.
So to narrow it down, I decided to do two things… look at all the upcoming concerts/gigs/shows (delete depending on your age) to see who might be appearing in the north east; and rather randomly, the second was to see how many singers or musicians shared by birthday—which, from a present-receiving perspective, is 3rd June.
I counted six potential candidates… which rapidly decreased to five as the former T-Rex drummer Mickey Finn passed away in 2003. However, amazingly… there was one person who actually fulfilled both criteria, and that lady was Anita Harris, who reached no.6 in the charts back in 1967 with a song called “Just Loving You”.
Anita was scheduled to top the bill in a variety show being held at Darlington Civic Theatre. We bought tickets (front row no less) and yesterday Elaine and I made the short journey across the A66 in the hope of not only enjoying an afternoon’s entertainment, but also meeting someone whose performances on television I can remember from way back when I was far younger and slimmer than I am now.
We arrived in my father’s home town early enough to have a relaxing cup of coffee (or hot chocolate in my case), and we would have had a scone each, but the woman in front of me ordered the second-last one. At least there was still one left; it was just a shame that Elaine had to miss out….
That’s a lie (of course): I had a raspberry and white chocolate muffin.
Onward to the theatre and as the foyer began to fill, it became very clear very quickly that this was one of those very rare occasions when Elaine and I would bring down the average age of the audience… quite considerably, in fact. Proceedings eventually got underway shortly after two o’clock, and I’d have to admit the show itself was actually a lot of fun.
Amongst the guests was a magician (John Styles), who later appeared in the guise of a Chelsea Pensioner to deliver a comedy routine; and Mark Andrews sang a few old favourites (and I am almost ashamed to admit that I was able to join in with most of them). Mark Walsh compered the afternoon in a kind of semi-homage to Leonard Sachs, but I doubt very much whether the South African-born effusive epitome of extrovert effervescence could play the banjo with quite as much dexterity….
The Grumbleweeds were one of the headline acts. Rob Colville is the only original member of a group who started performing as long ago as 1962. Today they appear as a duo with the partnership completed by James Brandon, who joined following the passing of another founder member Graham Walker in 2013. There were chuckles galore throughout both their sets; although I really should have returned the feathers of the sadly departed pigeon (Eddie R.I.P) which came to rest on my jumper after the bird was unfortunately—and unceremoniously—blown to smithereens.
All of which brings me to Anita Harris.
I’m not really sure where to start. Anita has still got a wonderful voice, but there is a love for the songs and an emotion in her performance that absolutely radiated from the stage. Anita has had such an extraordinary career; she’s played all the big venues, rubbed shoulders with so many of the biggest names in entertainment, yet on a Wednesday April afternoon in Darlington, she was still able to reach out to every member of the audience and make them feel special.
That is a gift….
As well as sounding great, Anita certainly looked fabulous from seat A9… but when I had the chance to actually meet her afterwards, I think it’s reasonable to say (and I hope she won’t be offended) that she is a stunningly beautiful woman. It’s not the done thing to discuss a lady’s age, but look at the photo, have a guess, then do a quick search on the internet….
Bet you were wrong!
She was so charming to Elaine and I… we both got a hug; and it was really kind of Anita to agree to have her photo taken with me to formally complete the challenge. It was a lovely way to end a really enjoyable day… hopefully there’ll be more positive news to follow next week; but for now, thank you Anita.
Oh, and happy birthday for 3rd June!
PS: In case you were wondering, the other four people sharing our birthday who have had top ten singles are: Ian Hunter (Mott the Hoople), Deniece Williams, Suzi Quatro and Kelly Jones of the Stereophonics. You weren’t wondering, were you?!