January 1967, London

The week after attending the New Year’s party at which I meet Marion, I’m invited back to the home of Bob (the Irma Thomas UK fan club founder) and Jack, his Jamaican partner. It is more than a little eventful. I arrive as a boy on Friday night, January 6th and I leave the next morning as a man…details of which will be revealed when the 1st volume of my memoirs are published as a book…

A few weeks later, I’m invited to a party at the same house (which ironically is 10 minutes from where I currently live in London, 54 years on!). It’s my first predominately gay men’s houseparty. I say hello to a man who is sitting on the stairs in the hallway. ‘What’s your name?’ I ask. ‘I’m Franklin,’ he says with a cheeky grin. ‘Really?’ I tell him his first name is the last name of one of my favourite American singers, Aretha Franklin. ‘I’ve never heard of her,’ he smiles. I’m not surprised: it’s January 1967, Aretha is then recording her first Atlantic single and she’s virtually unknown in the UK, in truth, nowhere near the global hitmaker she’s about to become. I tell Franklin that I work at a record shop where we sell some of her music. Truth is, at Soul City, we’ve managed to sell a few copies of Aretha’s most recent CBS 45, “Cry Like A Baby” but it’s not exactly flying out the door even among the dedicated R&B fans who are our core customers at the time.

Sufficiently intrigued by Franklin, a personable man from the Caribbean island of Dominica, I start going out with him. Marion and I haven’t had our first date yet although we have spoken on the phone and plan to meet…