Started work properly, a 2nd year apprentice, I was out of the training school and on to real jobs. Learning to be an electrician involved a few things that I hadn’t expected. Being summoned to the other end of a house by an electrician hollering your name like he couldn’t shake off the alligator that was eating his foot was one of them. When you arrived after climbing out of the loft and risking life and limb on the obstacle course that we had inadvertently constructed from tool boxes, coils of cable, furniture and lifted floorboards he’d dropped a screwdriver and could not be bothered to bend down and pick it up “it’s because o’ me back mate” was rare but not unique. The general passing of tools, crawling around lofts (and other enclosed spaces) pulling a cable behind me and clearing up the mess created by breaking my flask was more normal.
I was baked potato boy on one site, we had constructed an “oven” from a couple of wire trays, some bricks and a gas burner. The oven was a multipurpose piece of engineering capable of baking potatoes, boiling the kettle, impairing the flavour of baked beans and keeping the place warm. I was the youngest on the site and it was my job to periodically pop over to check on the potatoes, make the tea and as a consequence of the visit check that the wooden hut in which we had built, what let’s face it amounted to, a furnace had not burnt down.
My 18th birthday was a low key affair, I don’t really remember having a party or anything, I think I was too busy being 18 to worry about it much, I probably went to the pub and drank too much, but I really don’t know. I got a watch as my “coming of age” present, digital battery jobbies were just coming out, but I wanted a wind-up one with hands. I haven’t worn it or any other watch, for that matter, for about 30 years, but I still have it, I doubt I’d have bothered to keep a digital after the battery had run out.
If you go by the charts 1976 is a pretty dismal year for music in the UK, Brotherhood of Man win the Eurovision song contest with Save Your Kisses for Me (and see #1 singles). The top slot on the album charts was inhabited by “best of” computations for about 40 weeks of the year. For me it was back to the leisure centre for, Manfred Mann’s Earth band on The Roaring Silence tour, it was a great gig and Blinded by the Light is this year’s track. I have just had a listen to this on YouTube who knows what a calliope is? I certainly don’t, and I didn’t care enough at the time to find out.
I had of course heard Born to Run a couple of times at the “Rock Disco” but Manfred Mann’s covers are my introduction to Springsteen.
What else happened in 1976
UK had a heat wave and drought, it didn’t rain for 45 days in some parts of the south-west (it was winter by the time I became baked potato boy). Harold Wilson resigns and James Callaghan becomes Prime Minister. Concord comes into service, Big Ben stops for nine months, Brent Cross shopping centre opens, the InterCity 125 is introduced and the last Hillman Imp rolls off the production line. In Northern Ireland Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan found The Community of Peace People and win the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts.
The US celebrates its Bicentennial and Jimmy Carter wins the presidential election, Apple (computer company) is formed. In Argentina Isabel Peron is deposed by military dictatorship. China sees a huge earthquake in Tangshan that killed over ¼ of a million people and the death of Zhou Enlai. The G-6 becomes the G-7 when Canada joins.
In entertainment; Star Wars begins filming in Tunisia. Frampton comes Alive! goes to number one on the US album charts and is still one of the bestselling live albums. The Muppets make their first appearance on the telly, and sadly Sid James dies on stage. The Ramones release their first album, The Sex Pistols perform the first of two concerts to an audience of 35–40 people at the 150-capacity Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall. Audience members go on to form Joy Division, New Order, The Smiths, Simply Red, The Fall, Buzzcocks, and Magazine and Factory Records, then appear on the Bill Grundy show and cause a bit of a stir. Terry Pratchett’s novel The Dark Side of the Sun and Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene are published.
British sporting highlights include John Curry’s gold medal at the Innsbruck Winter Olympics, three golds at the Montréal summer games and James Hunt’s F1 world championship win.