# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Miscellaneous - Thanks for the Smiles

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 22 / 3 / 2008

Miscellaneous - Thanks for the Smiles


In the latest in our 'Soundtrack of Our Lives' series, in which our writers describe the personal impact of music on their lives, Malcolm Carter writes about meeting and falling for his wife against a backdrop of acts such as the Beach Boys, the Chi-Lites, Jim Stover and the Hollies

I was at a friend’s house when I was about nine and it suddenly occurred to me that there was no music playing. That was the first time I realised just how much music mattered to me. I come from quite a large family and music was always playing in our house. Even on our Sunday drives to the coast my father would be singing his country and Jim Reeves songs (which I hated with a passion at the time, oh, how things change) then it would be back home to hear my brothers rock and roll booming from his room, the sounds of my eldest sisters soul, r’n’b and mod records creeping from under her door and the sister nearest in age to me going on about the Beatles. Then my mother liked Cliff Richard and those new noisy boys the Rolling Stones. In those days having a mother who liked Cliff and Adam Faith was acceptable but there was absolutely no way a mother, especially mine, should like the Stones. I can remember Friday nights watching my eldest sister dancing on 'Ready Steady Go' on the telly but never asking if I could somehow tag along and also remember turning down my other sister's offer to go with her and a bunch of her school friends to see the Beatles in concert. Regrets…I’ve had a few. So musically I have always been mixed up. Back in those days you didn’t like the music your parents did so the Stones and Sir Cliff have never figured much in my life. I now understand though exactly why my father liked country music so much and belatedly thank him for preparing me for the day when I could appreciate Jim Reeves, Ray Charles, Nat King Cole and a host of country artists who are now accepted by a young audience. If I had to choose one sibling whose musical taste matched that of my own it would be my eldest sister, the ‘mod’ girl. She introduced me to the music of Aaron Neville, the Spencer Davis Group, Georgie Fame, Billy Preston, the list goes on and they are all artists I still appreciate today. In 1966, even at the tender age of 12, I could feel change in the air. Not just musically but suddenly everything seemed to be more alive, more colourful and more fun. Maybe it’s me looking through rose-coloured specs but that’s how I feel about those times. I had a friend a couple of years older than me and we liked the same music. The Byrds were probably our favourite band at that time and what made it even better was that none of my family was playing music like that. It was mine! The summer holidays that year forever changed my life. For two reasons. Two Australian girls had moved into our small town and for the first time in our lives me and my friends saw girls in a different light. They were so different from the local girls; tanned and so full of life. The other reason was that one day that summer my friend played me a single he had just bought. ‘God Only Knows’ by the Beach Boys. To begin with I couldn’t understand why he was so excited about the opening line and what was so special about the way this group of Americans sang. But he was older ( 2 years older…which then made him seem so worldly) so I put up with hearing this song about 20 times a day. One day I flipped the record over and heard ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ and that was it…here were these guys from America singing about me and the Australian girl who had moved in down the road. Then reviews started appearing in the music papers we read about the Beach Boys new album ‘Pet Sounds’ and on checking it out I discovered that not only did the album open with ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ but it also included ‘God Only Knows’ and the bands previous single ‘Sloop John B’ which I knew and loved from my father having a copy of it by none other than Lonnie Donegan. So a major chunk of my saved-up pocket money went on buying the album. The first thing that struck me was how Brian Wilson knew so much of how I felt and how as the years rolled by I was going to go through all the emotions he covered in those songs. And those melodies…they’ve never been beaten. It was the work of a genius. Simple as that. For many years my whole life was in that album. I still turn to it when I go through certain periods in my life and I haven’t been conned into buying all the reissues over the years. I’ve wanted to buy them and have paid out willingly. I had to buy a CD player just to play the Japanese issue of the album on CD that I bought many years before it was issued in the U.K. I bought the CD and had nothing to play it on! So ‘Pet Sounds’ as boring as it may seem ( and I am sure there are many who are sick and tired of hearing how great the album is now) really is the soundtrack to my life. But three other songs are just as important to me. After school and college I got a job working as a radio and television engineer as it was called in those days. But the biggest attraction for me was that the workshop was behind one of the two records shops in Woking where I lived so most of my time was spent looking through the boxes of records as they came in and I was forever in trouble for being in the shop and not the workshop. It was during this time, if I remember correctly, that I met a girl who was to become my regular girlfriend. It’s a telling sign now that I can’t remember how and when we first met. Although we were together for a number of years it was a turbulent relationship. Looking back now all the time spent on arguments and being unhappy was a terrible waste of a young life. But when you are that age your first serious relationship is the most important thing in your life. It affects everything and your whole life revolves around it. My main problem was that I always wondered if she was the right girl for me anyway. My thoughts kept returning to the first girl I kissed; the one from Australia, how could I possibly be content with a local girl when there could be a girl on the other side of the world who I should be with ? I’d seen so many of my friends in serious relationships with girls from the same or nearby towns; it never made sense to me. How could they even think of spending a large part of their lives with someone from the same town when they haven’t been further than 50 miles from where they grew up ? Like Paul Weller, Woking’s most famous son a couple of years later, ( and if I may just say here that if we are talking record sales then surely Rick Parfitt from Status Quo, another Woking boy, should have that honour?) I’d also take those day trips to London just to smell and hear the place. While London at that period in my life was the centre of the universe I still had this feeling that the love of my life could be sitting on a beach somewhere in another country and I didn’t want to be like most people and never take the chance to find out. But, in my mind back then, London was another country. The same friend who had introduced me to the Beach Boys also introduced me, many years later, to the Chi-Lites. I discovered a song on their album, ‘A Lonely Man’ called ‘The Coldest Days Of My Life’. It’s an atmospheric eight minutes of loneliness with the sound of seagulls, waves lapping the shore and weeping violins before Eugene Record turns in the best vocal performance of his life on his best song. Being unhappy at work and in a relationship that I knew was heading nowhere I really did feel that those days were the coldest of my life and that song summed up exactly how I felt. Whenever I felt too down for ‘Pet Sounds’ then ‘The Coldest Days Of My Life’ would revive my spirits. The song was actually released as a single and spread over both sides of the 7”. The second side, or last few minutes of the album version, although just as sad, seemed to show at least a ray of light ; the production of the song seemed to take on a lighter tone and gave some hope for the future. Countless times through the years, even now, I turn to that song for consolation. Just as summer was fading in 1975 a guy I worked with came into work one day enthusing about the Norwegian au-pair girl his parents had employed to look after his younger brothers. Of course there was a rush for all of us who worked there to take this so called blonde goddess out. I lost out to another colleague but he did tell me that the Norwegian had a friend who was also an au-pair. She was Swedish and at a loose end most evenings after her studies finished. My relationship with my girlfriend was as stormy as ever so I thought a drink one evening with this Swedish girl would do no harm. I hate to call it a blind date but I guess that is what it was. I had a plan though; I’d call for her and if I didn’t like what I saw when she opened the door I’d explain that Malcolm was ill and asked me to call in and tell her as I was passing her house on the way home from work that he couldn’t make it. Shallow ? Me ? What I still remember about the girl who opened the door that late summer Friday evening was her smiling face. She just radiated warmth and happiness. Something I hadn’t seen in a girl for a long time. She was just this bundle of fun, smiling, laughing and so friendly to this strange English guy who had absolutely nothing in common with her. She, thankfully, spoke perfect English as she didn’t keep quiet all evening. We went to a pub by the Thames and talked, or she did, and I was fascinated by this girl who grew up not only in a different country to me but in what seemed by what she told me to be a different planet. We started seeing other regularly and it wasn’t long before we became an item and I finally found the courage to let go of my previous relationship. I knew that in this Swedish bundle of fun going by the name of Britt that I had found not only someone I wanted to spend my life with but someone who brought laughter and happiness to everyone who entered her life. We had no common interests, we didn’t and still don’t like the same music or films. I read books; she reads magazines and the newspapers. I still have an interest in fashion. She just likes clothes that look good and doesn’t give a damn about labels. I eat to live, she lives to eat even though she is still as slim as the first day I met her. But somehow, even though we grew up on different streets and shared no common interests, we clicked. Now, as the years have passed I am more convinced than ever that is one of the reasons that we have stayed together; we are still discovering things about each other. I heard two songs just after I met Britt. One was by an American named Jim Stover and called ‘Thanks For The Smiles (Sunshine Lady)’. It was about a couple meeting and leaving as friends, something I thought would happen to us in the beginning; we were too different for our relationship to last too long. But the title said it all, Britt was my sunshine lady. The second song was by a member of a British band I liked, the Hollies. Their guitarist and replacement for Graham Nash when he left to join Crosby, Stills and Nash was Terry Sylvester. He later recorded a number of solo songs and on one of them, ‘For The Peace Of All Mankind’, he sung a song about how I felt about Britt. None of those two songs sold enough to make even the lower end of the charts and while I managed to get the Terry Sylvester song on a French CD of all his solo work a few years back trying to replace my worn out copy of ‘Thanks For The Smiles’ with a CD has proved fruitless. It’s not been an easy ride for Britt, especially since we moved to Sweden some years back which was my idea. Having both me and our son reminding her that everything that goes wrong is down to the fact that we are living in her country and not mine can’t be easy for her and my biggest fault is that I’ve not always been there to support her when she needed me to. We celebrate 30 years of marriage this year and in all honesty it feels like 30 months. We run our own small business now and although everyone thinks that because I deal with all the day to day running of everything that I am the one keeping it all together the fact is that without Britt still smiling through it all and having the ability to be positive about most things then everything would fall apart quickly without her input. Every single customer we have is because of Britt’s personality. The fact that we are good at what we do helps but her happy attitude gets us in the door to begin with. I’ve never known anyone who can rise above all the problems and difficulties life throws at them like Britt can. Time and again when I feel I’ve reached rock bottom and know that she has felt the same Britt has been the one with the smile and silly comment to get things back on track again. Britt knows that ‘Pet Sounds’ is the soundtrack of my life by the fact that I never cease telling her and anyone else that will listen that it is the greatest album of all time and the reason our bank balance isn’t so healthily is because I keep buying every new edition of the album as it is released. We hardly ever listen to music together, not like we did at the beginning of our relationship. Sometimes in the car I’ll ask her opinion of a new CD I have bought or have to review but it’s not a regular thing. But every summer when ‘Pet Sounds’ is constantly playing in the car we at least listen to that together. There are other songs, of course, like most music fans hearing a certain song will always take me back to a certain place or happening, or person. I still can’t listen to Billy Bragg’s ‘Tank Park Salute’ without a tear in my eye as I think about the passing of my father, ‘These Early Days’ by Everything But The Girl sound tracked my feelings when our son was born and life was still simple. But, Britt, although ‘Pet Sounds’ and ‘The Coldest Days of My Life’ will always help me through there are two songs that you never hear me play but I always listen to on my i-pod. They are ‘For The Peace Of All Mankind’ and ‘Thanks For The Smiles’ and I play them at least once a week because even though I know the tough times we are currently going through will eventually end, those songs right now, as they have for more than three decades, are the soundtrack to the most important part of my life; the part that began when I met you

Picture Gallery:-
Miscellaneous - Thanks for the Smiles

Miscellaneous - Thanks for the Smiles

Visitor Comments:-
120 Posted By: Jim Stover, Asheville, NC on 05 Jul 2008
Hello, I read with great interest Malcolm Carter's warm piece about his life,his love and my recording, "Thanks For the Smiles." If you'll send me his address, I will mail him a CD copy of the song I recorded in 1971, which was released on Big Tree Records in August of that year. Best wishes and God's blessing, Jim Stover Asheville, North Carolina

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