Television viewers in the early 1970s didn’t have much in the way of choice; there were three channels, but one of them was severely highbrow and made no concessions to popular taste. Fortunately, the commercial stations were more than happy to cater for the needs of the lower orders, and so on Sunday afternoons you would find my family (like so many others) intently watching The Golden Shot.
This resolutely downmarket gameshow, hosted by evergreen charmer Bob Monkhouse, featured members of the public trying to hit studio targets with a crossbow bolt. The climax of the show called for a viewer – watching on screen at home – to direct the movements of a blindfolded shooter, who attempted to hit the target positioned in the image of a halved apple. Of course, as a young lad I had no idea of the lewd undertones lurking in this spectacle. The whole thing was exceedingly Freudian, and Monkhouse – never afraid of a knowing wink – gave no hint that he was aware of the show’s erotic subtext.
Picture the scene; Bob announces ‘Bernie, the Bolt!’ and a mute assistant loads the crossbow, mounted on a pivoting stand. The marksman, blindfolded, uses his moustache as a kind of laser-guidance system as the contestant gives nervous instructions: ‘up a bit…left a bit…fire!’ The target sits in the middle of an apple’s seed-case, a vertical eye warm with promise; the unseen bolt flies forward and lands with a satisfying thud in the bullseye, and as the audience begins to applaud, a gleaming waterfall of gold coins spills joyously from a slot beneath the apple.
It was in the early seventies that I arrived home from a carol service to be told that my Mother had died. Until then, I had not been aware that a whole world of possibilities existed around me; but in that moment of intense pain, I saw them all come into focus before receding like a burning page. The bolt had struck bullseye, but instead of a cascade of money, I found a pile of stones with which I dutifully filled my pockets. I felt too weary to bother looking inside the box to see if hope remained there; I could do nothing but endure and await the end.
Of course, we draped a black cloth over the television set, and so were unable to join in the national rejoicing as Messrs Wood and Holder vied for the coveted Christmas number one spot with their musical offerings. How strange to think, then, that almost thirty years later I would find myself happily listening to Roy Wood at a folk festival and wishing that it could indeed be Christmas every day. The old boy can still sing, and knows how to belt out a tune on the bass guitar, or the sax, or the bagpipes. No wonder the Beeb picked ‘Flowers in the Rain’ as the opening song for Radio One; they must have recognised the young Wood’s restless musical talent…