July 1967, London
I’m having a great time working at the small record department located in the John Menzies bookstore on Cheapside near St. Paul’s Cathedral in the City Of London. Although I share the space with a cranky woman named Mrs. Banks who runs the greeting cards section – and who wastes no time telling me to ‘turn down that music’ and is clearly not thrilled at the sudden influx of young workers on their lunch breaks, with a notable increase in customers of West Indian origin which only causes her more upset given her thinly-disguised racism laced with a touch of anti-semitism – I’m in my element selling a slew of Tamla Motown hits! The label is flourishing with The Four Tops, The Supremes and The Marvelettes all enjoying UK chart singles. My favourite is the 1st UK Motown release by Gladys Knight & The Pips’ “Take Me In Your Arms & Love Me.” I’ve been loving the group’s recordings since Dave Godin played me the Van McCoy-written-and-produced soul classic “Giving Up” a few years earlier.
It’s wonderful to see the family group getting attention from mainstream British record buyers and I play their first UK hit as often as I can in the shop. I befriend two cousins, Keith and Obrey who are thrilled that their daily lunchtimes are an opportunity to hear the latest soul music 45s!
Meanwhile, a few months into my relationship with William, I contract what we now call an STD (sexually transmitted disease) back then a dreaded venereal disease. I’m less than thrilled. He says it can’t be because of him but I know I’ve been monogamous since we started dating even if it’s obvious he hasn’t. It’s a ‘warning sign’ although he insists he doesn’t know how he could have gotten it. It will take a few months before I become fully cognizant that as charming as he is, William likes to ‘wander’ just like boyfriend #1 (Franklin) did and it’s real soul music (and particularly that of Aretha Franklin) that is providing my heart with comfort…