Thursday, 24 November 2016

White Privilege

It is June 1964, I am eighteen.
Just taken my A levels. To the chagrin of everybody, I am leaving in four or five months to go and live for good on a kibbutz in the Negev desert.
I went with a few friends up west to the Flamingo, an R&B and jazz club in Wardour Street. It was in a basement underneath the Whiskey A Go Go, a more upscale club.
White people dressed to the nines went up to the Whiskey and slobs like me went down to the Flamingo.
The black people were always dressed smart, but they did not go to the Whiskey. The wrong music and only whites.
They came down to the Flamingo, that was a more integrated club. Though I sometimes had the feeling it was only black people and us.
We were at the club quite early. There was a supporting act from Newcastle. I had never heard of them before. The place was half empty when they performed.
Their name was The Animals.They had just released “House of the Rising Sun”. A week later it came into the charts at number 1.
I liked their performance because of Alan Price’s Vox Continental organ. I was an organ fan.
A friend of mine worked in a record shop. He used to import Jimmy Smith and other Blue Note records for me.
For the musical illiterate: Jimmy Smith was the greatest Hammond organ player ever.
The Animals performance was good and after them came an even better performance from Sonny Boy Williamson. However, I remember the evening for a less salutary reason.
You could dance there. Unfortunately there were few single white girls. I would not have dared to ask a black girl to dance. I do not think I had even met one at that time.
I saw this rather attractive white piece of skirt lounging against a wall, all on her own.
I swaggered over to her and said, ”Do you want to dance?”
She fluttered her eyelashes at me, smiled and replied in a posh voice, “I’m ever so sorry, but I don’t dance with white boys”.
I was used to anti-Semitism. That was the first time I had been put down because of the colour of my skin. 

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