The Smash Hits That Weren’t

top of the pops

It’s Just Not Cricket – the majority of 70s compilation albums contained no authentic recordings whatsoever


Before music streaming sites and endless YouTube videos, the quickest way to get your daily dose of chart hits was to buy a compilation album.

The curated musical juggernaut known as Now That’s What I Call Music cornered the market in the early eighties and, although it now faces stiff competition from the likes of Apple Music and Spotify, it hasn’t lost its appeal just yet.

People still regularly play old and jumpy Now CDs at parties for a bit of drunken nostalgia and you can’t beat picking up a cheap Now album from the bargain bin of a motorway service station to make your lousy trip in a non-bluetooth courtesy car more bearable. Continue reading →

The Single Women’s Churchyard Of Cross Bones Graveyard

cross bones graveyardCross Bones Graveyard near Borough High Street in London is a pauper’s burial ground with a legend going back to medieval times. Prostitutes were buried here in the 16th Century as they were forbidden to be buried with the usual rites. They were often stacked on top of each other, and beggars and thieves used to pick through the graves, gathering what little they could of any value from the deceased.

It was also called a ‘Single Women’s Churchyard’ and between the 12th and 17th Century, the whole surrounding area was controlled by the Bishop Of Winchester, and as it was beyond the reach of normal governance all kinds of things were allowed that were forbidden in other parts of the city.

You can read more about this fascinating burial site and the legends surrounding it at the Cross Bones Graveyard site.

The Lost Art Of The Armchair Treasure Hunt

armchair treasure hunt masquerade kit williams

Masquerade by Kit Williams – it looked pretty but did your head in

The late seventies gave birth to a very different kind of publishing phenomenon; the armchair treasure hunt. Long before Geocaching was a thing, the book ‘Masquerade’ featured puzzles hidden in beautiful and elaborate illustrations by artist Kit Williams and sparked a national craze as armchair puzzle solvers up and down the country (and later the world) attempted to unravel its mysteries and thus discover the prize; an 18 carat gold hare buried somewhere in the British Isles.

But the contest morphed into its own conundrum as a spectacularly bizarre turn of events mired the competition in controversy and, despite the author’s best efforts, the prize was never officially won.

Three years after the book’s release Kit received a solution by post from Ken Thomas describing the exact location of the golden hare. However, details of its unearthing became slightly sketchy as Mike Barker and John Rousseau, two school teachers who’d dug in the correct place previously, had unwittingly re-intered the hare during their excavation leaving Ken Thomas a fresh dig site with only a few piles of earth to sift through to claim the prize. Even though they had technically solved the puzzle first, by the time Mike and John’s correct solution had popped through Kit William’s letterbox the story was already out and Ken Thomas had been declared the winner. Continue reading →