Ever since I was at primary school, I have loved telling stories. I was about seven years old when one of my essays was read out to the class for the first time. It was about an octopus in his underwater garden, inspired by the Beatles song. After that, my short works of junior fiction were often retold. Despite that, I can’t say I had a burning ambition to be a writer, and my teachers didn’t suggest it as a career path. Instead, I did the sensible thing and trained to be a secretary.
After leaving school at 18 I got a job in the Civil Service. Nice and safe, but not really me. After all, I was also a backing singer in a pub rock group. I wasn’t a punk but I had been inspired by the spirit of the movement, which was that anybody could get up on stage and perform. So I did.
Then, one day, my best friend showed me a job advert. The editor of Sounds – one of the three big music papers of that time – was looking for a new secretary. She thought it was the perfect job for me, but I wasn’t so sure. She thought it would help the band, and I was even less sure about that. Despite my resistance, I heeded the call to adventure and applied for the job. I got it.
I entered a new world that was in stark contrast to the safe confines of the Department of the Environment. The editorial office at Sounds was chaotic, fun, inspiring, mind-blowing… and a bit scary. But I settled in, found myself a new boyfriend (one of the journalists there), and started going out to gigs with him.
We often wrote the reviews together – but it didn’t occur to me that I might be able to write one myself. Until the day came when my boyfriend was too busy to write a review, and he asked me to do it, under my own name. I resisted – again – but eventually agreed.
I handed it to the reviews editor, who published it without much editing. I had to come up with a pen name because I didn’t want the publisher to know it was me – a mere secretary – writing for the paper. So my boyfriend suggested the name Betty Page. The real Betty (sometimes Bettie) was a 1950s cheesecake model who had a secret life posing for a bondage photographer. Not many people knew who she was at that time, so it was a bit of an in-joke for those in the know. And so my secret life commenced.
For the next 12 months I led a double life as a secretary and nascent music journalist. That came to an end when my boss, Alan Lewis, offered me a full-time job as a Sounds staff writer. I couldn’t believe it. Neither could the publisher. The men at the top tried to put a stop to this madness. You couldn’t be giving a secretary a writer’s job, because every typist that entered the building might think she could do the same! This was the Seventies, after all…
But Alan – amazing mentor that he was – persisted and insisted, and I got the job. And so Betty Page became a proper music journalist.
For the next 15 years Betty/Beverley contributed to the pop cultural narrative of the country as a rock and pop writer, reviewing concerts and albums, interviewing bands and creating stories that plugged into the zeitgeist – most notably the New Romantics and the electronic music boom of the early Eighties. Many of these articles are archived at www.rocksbackpages.com
I chronicled the rise and fall of many popular artists, including Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and Soft Cell, and observed the often toxic effects of fame first-hand. All this happened at a time when music papers were the only trusted source of information for fans.
Music journalists were taste-makers and opinion-formers; they could create movements and make or break bands. It was a heady, exhilarating responsibility and one that I took seriously. The greatest moments for me were when readers wrote to thank me for introducing them to a new group or album, or a fresh insight into their favourite artist.
In the mid-Eighties I became the editor of pop magazine Record Mirror, before going freelance as a writer and editor on a variety of music publications including the New Musical Express.
In the Nineties I left music journalism behind and got myself a proper job on Fleet Street, working first for The Observer, then The Sunday Telegraph and The Sunday Express – writing, editing and commissioning stories for those newspapers’ magazine and features sections.
In 2000 I embarked on the daunting project of writing a memoir about my time as a music journalist – a book spanning the Eighties. Part chronicle of the culture and music of that decade, part personal story, it took five years to complete – so I understand what it takes to delve into your own history and how challenging that can be.
As the digital age took hold in the new century, I watched as free content began to dominate the internet and citizens became storytellers. It was clear, as circulations declined, that the days of print were numbered and the type of journalism with which I had grown up was disappearing.
The internet has given everyone the ability to share content so amateurs and pros alike are telling stories in unprecedented numbers. Every Facebook update and tweet tells a story.
The mainstream media has long focused on doom and gloom but what I want to do now is spread good news and tell uplifting stories – stories that give people a sense of meaning and purpose.
I want to use my 35 years of experience as a journalist as well as my recently acquired skills as a life coach and public speaking trainer to help individuals and business owners tell stories to inspire others.
The posts on this website tell more of my story – but it’s not all about me, it’s about you as well.
I believe that well-crafted stories can change people and change the world.
Contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org