By Tony May
If you’ve read a good many of my articles here you will know that for some considerable time now it has been a burning desire of mine to secure an interview with one of Hastings most interesting and knowledgeable people, Keith Tooke…
To put it plainly, if ever there was a person whose brain it would be beneficial for science to ‘cryogenically freeze for posterity’ it is Keith’s – the man has an amazing memory for information and is as fast in responding as any modern day Mac or Windows machine!
Well, I am glad to say that, while I have been unable to persuade Keith to ‘pose for the camera’ he has given me permission to use ‘some of the information’ he has passed on to me in a series of letters. Keith and I have been ‘bumping into’ each other at bus stops and local Hastings events for years and usually end up talking in the street for hours when we do (so much so, in fact, that my Mum and Dad were on the verge of calling the Police when I ‘bowled in’ at about 11.30 pm on one occasion). For whatever reason, however, neither of us have ever set foot in each others homes and instead have chosen to write long letters to each other whenever anything we know the other one would be interested in hearing about crops up. This may be somewhat of an ‘odd set up’ – especially in today’s day and age – but I think Keith would agree that neither of us are exactly ‘your standard model’ and both of us feel much more in tune with the past than we do the present.
Old fashioned we may be but I love nothing more than setting aside some ‘quality me time’ to sit and read one of Keith’s ‘communications’ and doing so has often inspired me to write an article for ‘HT’ – the last example of this being my ‘People Born In Hastings’ piece of a few issues back. Ironically, I got a bit of ‘flack’ from Keith for that one! He correctly pointed out (I’ve never known him to be wrong yet so its bad news if he picks you up on a point of fact!) Archie Belaney (Grey Owl) WAS born in Hastings. I did quite a lot of research for that article and seem to recall coming across a web page, which stated that he was born ‘NEAR’ to Hastings not IN Hastings but since Keith’s note to say that I got that wrong have been unable to locate any such reference on the Internet? I guess I must have gotten mixed up with one of the other people featured in the article – it does take a LOT of note taking on ‘bits of paper’ to research some of the articles I write here you know! (lol)
Oh, and while we are on the subject, Keith tells me that the famous folk singer, Shirley Collins was born in Ore, Hastings in 1935 so that’s another one to add to your list!
The amazing thing about talking with Keith in person is the fact that virtually no matter who it is you talk with him about connected to the entertainment, T.V. or pop music industries (especially from the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s) he either has a story or a little known fact to tell you about them! This is partly down to the fact that for years Keith has been an avid autograph collector and as such has managed to ‘track down’ or talk with many of his heroes either at concerts, shows or by simply turning up at their front door!
My favourite such ‘Keith story’ revolves around the popular singer and talented songwriter, Lyndsey De Paul. I HATED most of poor Lynsey’s records at the time as I was not really old enough to appreciate the finer aspects of them then. I was only 9 in 1974 and was into all of the Glam Rock acts like, dare I say it, Gary Glitter, Mud, The Sweet and Wizzard. Lynsey’s rather ‘cutesy’, tuneful and wistfully romantic songs seemed DEADLY boring compared to hits like ‘Blockbuster!’ and ‘See My Baby Jive’ but many years later I happened to chance on her ‘Won’t Somebody Dance With Me’ on a compilation box-set of 70’s hits. I really liked the song and decided to explore more of her back catalogue and ended up becoming a big fan! So guilty was I for thinking for years that she was no more than a ‘talentless air headed blonde’ that I apologized to her in a review of one of her CD’s I did for Amazon.com.
As soon as I mentioned this to Keith he told me that her real name was Lyndsey Monckton Rubin and that she was the person responsible for writing The Fortunes 1972 hit, ‘Storm In A Teacup’. Hilariously, on what I think he said was the first time he met her, Keith just ‘turned up’ at her house one day and pressed the front doorbell!
A rather astonished Lyndsey answered it apparently and after discovering that he had traveled quite a way asked how he had known where to find her?
‘I just looked you up by your real name on the electoral register at the library’ came his calm reply!
Well, as the old saying goes, ‘feint heart never won fair maiden’ and if I remember the end of the story correctly it was Lyndsey’s birthday that day and she was holding a party so she invited him in. Wow! How awesome would that be for a fan, eh?
I should also state at this point that Keith owns a small photograph album that he shows to ‘the hallowed few’ which contains pictures of him standing next to or posing with a wide spectrum of stars so there is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that his stories are true. In fact, everything about the way his brain works advertises what a wonderful capacity to store facts and information Keith has. He would be simply the BEST person to add to any quiz team and would have stood a fair chance of walking off with a million quid on ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’ if he’d chosen to apply for the show, I reckon!
As I have mentioned before, however, Keith is someone who prefers to ‘operate off radar’ and is far more comfortable talking to pop/film/entertainment stars in their back yard than he is doing interviews for ‘HT’. He IS well known about Hastings though and I have heard loads of reports of ‘sightings’ of him on Hastings Pier back in the ‘glory days of big name gigs in the ballroom’. Sadly, that era, the old pier and the iconic venue the pier ballroom was are all now a thing of the past but I’m sure that there will be plenty more stories of ‘a time when’ to come from Keith when he reads this!
I don’t know about you, but I was particularly saddened to learn of the death of ‘On The Buses’ and ‘Last Of The Summer Wine’, Actor, Stephen Lewis earlier this year. I used to LOVE him as ‘Inspector Blake’ and he gave me (and my Mum who loved the show) more than a few giggles as ‘Smiler’…
As usual, when mentioning this to Keith, he came out with a fascinating piece of musical trivia about Lewis and the ‘On The Buses’ programme…
Did you know that Stephen Lewis actually released a ‘spin-off’ single called ‘Tickets Please’ as Inspector Blake in 1973? I certainly had no idea about it and have never seen a copy of it in all my 30 odd years of record collecting! Even Keith acknowledges how rare it must be – he hasn’t seen another copy of it anywhere either!
‘Spin Off’ novelty singles were of course all the rage back in the early 70’s and I guess that’s why the Phillips label (Phillips 6006 058) must have thought it a good idea to come up with something for ‘Old Blakey’ to sing. I mean, look how well Clive Dunn did with ‘Grandad’ in 1970! John Inman (Keith met him a few times and describes him as a ‘nice man’ who always had time for you) also ‘spoofed’ his ‘Mr. Humphries’ character with a hit single, ‘Are You Being Served, Sir?’ in 1975.
For whatever reason though, ‘Tickets Please’ was a monumental flop and destined never to be heard of (or even thought of probably!) again until my conversation with Keith earlier this year. Listening to it on Youtube, https://www.youtube- .com/watch?v=9hpL07Jmj8Y its hard to understand why the song failed so miserably as its certainly no worse a novelty record than the aforementioned hits? Mind you, the pop charts were MUCH more difficult to penetrate back then as sales of 7″ singles were brisk and the competition for chart places stiff.
I have listened to the song a few times since old ‘Blakey’ passed on. Its so sad the way the world we all become accustomed to changes so fast, isn’t it? No sooner you look around for a second everything has changed and suddenly there’s no going back…
Interestingly, Keith also has another rare single featuring the ‘On The Buses Theme’ by a group called ‘Harlequin’. This one has even defeated the Internet as far as I can tell! I can find no mention of it anywhere and the mind boggles to the ‘lost treasures’ that must lurk in the ‘Tooke collection’…
Well, that’s it for this first installment of ‘letters from Keith’ but I aim to try and pass on to you all more of the ‘titillating titbits’ and amazing tales I hear from him or add my pennyworth in print here to the subjects we discuss in the future. I never throw any of Keith’s letters away so I will have a trawl through them for next time and see what other interesting Hastings/nostalgia related subjects leap out at me. God bless.
“Hastings Town” December 2015
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