“Backward And Forward” And My Memories

by Kevin Burton

    I guess there’s a reason why melody and memory aren’t far apart in the dictionary. They go together like peas and porridge.

    And, for those who think there is something pejorative in the term “one-hit wonder,” well what about all those no-hit nobodies?

   We’re all doing our best then, aren’t we?

   Anyway, I’m just a little wistful today on this anniversary. Going back to a musical place that’s far away, yet not so far at all.

   It wasn’t the best song ever, or even of its time, but it was my first. My family was living in Bermuda so all those memories are sunbaked. But this song is especially warm to my heart.

   It was the first tune that I plucked from the airwaves, wore like a football jersey and said “that’s MY song!”

   Oh it was catchy enough.  You understand the concept of a chaser song?  That’s a song you play to drive a particular tune out of your head.

   Well you might have needed a chaser song if you were like me in the old days, clutching that transistor and singing “I love you back-WARD and for-WARD, For-WARD and Baa-ack-WARD…”

   “Backward And Forward” by the 60s band the Palindromes was recorded on this day in 1968. That’s why it was important for me to run this story today (although you might get to the end of it and say I was 25 days late in posting it). 

   Released as a single on Zedtone Records in late July, it hit number one on the Bermuda Bandstand Review in September. It was on top for two weeks until “Hey Jude” took over the world.

   Who didn’t love the Beatles? But the Palindromes were our own.  It was the only other band we knew with the John-Paul-George-and-Ringo familiarity we afforded the Beatles.

    In the Palindromes, you had Bob Hannah on lead guitar and backing vocals. Anna Seles played rhythm guitar and mostly fronted the band, with sister Eve Seles handling bass and harmonies, and some percussion in the studio, as we found out later.

   Gig Renner was on drums. Gig held it all together not just with the beat, but with harmony of the other sort, the bandmates getting along sort. And he was the fan favorite. “Gig or Ringo” was the question of the day, and not a few of us chose Gig.

   It was “Eve, Bob Hannah, Gig and Anna.” It rolled off the tongue. That four was pretty fab in Bermuda. It was a simpler time. 

   And that’s where things stood, until the suits from Zedtone stepped in.

    Seemingly before Backward and Forward, fell of the charts, those geniuses wanted a pretty face to front the band. So they brought in this girl, Penelope Sizemore, as a singer. She was breathtakingly beautiful and a decent singer, but from day one she never fit in with the Palindromes. 

   But the tone-deaf people at the label forced her into the mix.  

    I was actually at one of the meet and greets  when they introduced Penelope to the fan base.  Most of us were adoring kids at the front of this big auditorium. The emcee called out, “The Pal-in-dromes!”

    After the band bounded on stage and the screaming died down the new singer was greeted by a girl two rows in front of me.

   “What’s your name?” she asked excitedly. 

   “My name is Penelope, I’m a singer,” she said, and launched into something about a concert tour, until she noticed the girl’s confusion.

   “What was your name?”

   “Uh…Penny, you can call me Penny,” she tried.

   “Pen-nep?” the little girl said, pronouncing each syllable carefully, snapping off the P sounds. “That’s a very strange name.”

   We kids were hip to the Palindromes’ vibe even if the record label wasn’t. 

   “Yes, I spose it is,” Penelope Sizemore said her voice trailing off.  I thought that answer weak and decidedly un-rockstary. I never forgot it.

   The event went downhill from there and so did, although not right away, the career of the Palindromes, one of the many one-hit wonders.

   Well our attentions were fickle. Most of us kids moved on to Blood Sweat and Tears or some other band. 

   Penelope Sizemore went on to front Finders Keepers, who had their hits “All Mine” and especially “Sweet Serendipity,” which was top ten in Australia and Thailand. We liked those tunes, but the Penelope Sizemore episode ruined the Palindromes really. 

   She was snippy about it, saying the band was never all it was cracked up to be.

   “You think Gig is an actual name, really?” she said. “Gig?”

    It was more the label’s fault than Penelope’s. But because of the way she handled it in the press, I have her right up there with Yoko Ono and Karen Carpenter’s mother as rock and roll villains.

   Please, don’t even start with me about Ono as part of the band. She could only have been a small-p palindrome. 

   When they announced the Palindromes were breaking up, they said it on the radio like “The END of the Palindromes!” dramatic like that.

   “Yes, I spose it is” I said in Penelope-speak.

   But that doesn’t change or damage the magic of Backward and Forward, those times and all they mean to me.

   For the sake of accuracy, I just tried to Google this stuff to make sure my memory squared with the facts. 

  Don’t you know I couldn’t find any of it. Not one syllable! Here I thought Google was almighty and could find and conjure ev-er-y-thing ever known to man. 

   It’s just so strange. It’s almost as if the Palindromes were a fictional band, a memory bubble floating above and constrained by, the parameters of the Bermuda triangle. 

   But Backward And Forward will always be MY song. No one will ever take those memories from me.

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