Oliver in the Overworld


Sometimes the memories just punch a hole right through your heart, when you see something again that you never expected to see again.

When I was young, and in that last year that my Dad was still alive, there was an ITV tea-time kids variety show called Little Big Time, hosted by Freddie Garritty, of Freddie and The Dreamers, and co-starring Pete Birrell, the Dreamers’ bassist, plus poor Graham Haberfield who was Jerry Booth on Coronation Street and Winston on The Dustbinmen. It was live every week and there was a serial on it, a musical serial, called ‘Oliver in the Overworld’.

Birrell played Oliver, a grandfather clock who woke Freddie up for school but who lost his memory and had to be taken by Freddie to the Overworld, the land of Machinery, where the Clockwork King would repair him by fitting a new undercog.

Every week I’d sit fascinated at the next stage. It was silly, it was childish, but by god it was full of life, and imagination, and each week there was a song, sometimes jumpy and bouncy, others sad and sweet, all of then pop songs of a kind that were rapidly becoming outmoded but which were right for me who was only just hearing pop for the first time.

Oh, of course it was too young for me: the studio audience, whose energy just rippled off the screen, were my sister’s age not mine, but I loved it and so did everybody who remembers it. nd wehave to remember because the tapes were wiped and none of it exists.

Some of it was preserved as a Freddie and The Dreamers LP, but not half the songs nor half the story. Long years after, long yearsago now, I bought it off eBay, digitized it onto CD. Oddly, as I’m working my way through all my self-burned CDs whilst I go through lockdown, I played it today.

So, about half an hour ago, I wondered if I could get a better version of the last song, a piercingly sweet lament, ‘I’ll come back and see you again’, a heartstring tugger. It’s not on YouTube… but nearly eight minutes of footage of ‘Oliver in the Overworld’ is, plus songs that aren’t on the album! And I have watched it with incredulity and been pulled out of my time, moved fifty years in my head and most of all my heart, stunned and crying because I have had that hole punched straight through me and for those few unbelievable minutes I have been looking at myself as a boy with so much to learn and so much shadow soon to fall, who is laughing his head off at watching the world grow in possibilities around him. A boy whose Dad isn’t, yet dead, who hasn’t got that lifetime of missing him ahead, who has not come back anywhere near 2020, and it is so real again.

Oh so real. And impossible to go back to and see again.

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