Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Into the Groove

Into the Groove by The original SimonB
Into the Groove, a photo by The original SimonB on Flickr.

I know I've been lax with this recently. Still can't think of anything earth-shattering to write, so here's part one of somehting I satrted a couple of years ago and really ought to get on with. Maybe publishing this bit will spur me on.

Music has provided the background to my life for as long as I can remember as well as being the focus for a number of key moments. If I’m not deliberately listening to something then I still have music running through my head (sometimes even when I am listening to something I’ll get another song intrude). I can’t shut it off. Sometimes it gets distracting when I want to concentrate but I’d rather have it there than not.

There was always music in our house, usually Dad’s choice of whatever he fancied (often classical but also lots of stuff from the 60s) and this wasn’t confined to the living room. I know my brother and I both had large valve radios we used to listen to, complete with little diamond shape stickers plastered over the front to indicate where each station could be found – no presets back then! Mine was attached to the underside of an old breakfast bar installed in my room as a large desk. Known as “the bar” until we moved out of the house it served as base for a thousand lego creations, half-written stories, airfix kits and was somewhere for homework to be tackled. But most importantly it was big enough to put a pair of speakers on and still leave room to use the rest. Sometime after the original transplant from the kitchen the bar gained an annex. A white conti-board construction, featuring one shelf just underneath the level of the bar and three open sections underneath used for storage. Two of them got filled with comics and magazines but what went on the shelf meant the third section got reserved.

My own record player. A Garrard 401 or 404 if memory serves. And with it a Pye integrated radio/amp/cassette player and all linked up to the speakers on the bar. The tape player in the Pye was later condemned to idleness by the arrival of a Panasonic tape deck with proper recording level controls and everything.

I’m not sure how Ma & Pa managed it as I remember getting the kit as a birthday present very clearly. As was traditional at the time presents were given out downstairs straight after breakfast and among other stuff that time has erased I unwrapped three LPs: K-Tel compilation “Music Explosion” (Seasons In The Sun, Kung-Fu Fighting and 20 others), David Essex – Rock On and the inevitable classical selection “Rock Gently with Beethoven, Bach and Brahms”. Anyway, on going back upstairs I found the kit to play them on all nicely set up and ready to rock – Dad must have done it while I was having breakfast or something.

The interwebs tell me that Music Explosion was a 1974 release with the other two from 1973. So I would imagine this birthday was therefore either 1976 or 1977. I can’t imagine getting all that kit at age 4 in 1975 but at the same time can’t remember not having my own reproduction equipment so am not going to sweat on the details. I do remember the lectures on how to look after everything, cleaning the records before use (hello the EMItex cloth and Dust Bug), only holding them by their edges and so forth. That certainly left an impression as I have vivid memories of being a little know-it-all explaining to friends that their Dad’s records skipped because of all the finger prints be-smearing the surfaces. And at primary school we always went in to assembly to a record being played by a carefully selected duo of kids from the oldest class. When it finally got to be my turn I brought the EMItex in and cleaned all the records for the first time in years.

As well as the instructions to look after them, something else about the way Dad kept his records must have rubbed off as well. Until the mid 80s the albums were stored in the “bar annex” in the order I got them. Complete with a little red sticker in the top left corner with the number of acquisition on (these came from a Sasco year-planner which arrived one Christmas and was never used other than as a source of stickers, I later upgraded to letraset directly applied to the sleeve for anything with a light enough background). Unfortunately at some point this chronological system was replaced with a shift to storing alphabetically by artist and then within each artist in order of release; the stickers were removed and the letraset scratched off and all I have now is a bunch of scarred sleeves to testify to the old ways. They were all catalogued in a notebook as well, complete with track listings and carefully copied band and record label logos, which I wish I still had but has also been lost along the way. Probably when it got replaced by a database on the ZX Spectrum which has been continually updated and replaced via Atari ST and has now moved on to the PC.

That means that although I can make some good guesses I can’t be sure exactly of what albums followed the initial three. By the time I moved up to secondary school in September 1982 there were three sets from Geoff Love and his orchestra adapting themes from tv and film sci-fi into a disco style, a rip-off of the Star Wars soundtrack by an outfit known as The Sonic All-Stars (this is the first album I can remember buying with my own money), the real soundtrack to Return Of The Jedi, a Monkees collection on Music For Pleasure (I’ve just looked and it carried no release date), some Abba, some Madness and Dare from the Human League. But what order they arrived in can only be guessed at by the dates they hit the shops. Scattered in amongst this lot, and with the first two albums definitely being acquired the wrong way round (probably a Christmas present for the second followed by the first two months later as a birthday present), were the four albums released up to that point by the band I could not get enough of.


Ishouldbeworking said...

What are the chances that any of today's kids will look back on 'my first download' with the same nostalgic affection? When things are harder to acquire, we just value them more.

I love that photo, by the way!

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite memories of my childhood is when my dad would sometimes pick an evening to just play records from his collection. No one would be interested in the tv or anything else, we'd all just go and sit and listen to the music play.

Simon said...

ISBY: Good point. I wonder how many will even remember what the first one was. Glad you liked the picture, a few more of my deck on flickt if you click through.

P&C: Nice to see you here! Sounds like a top evening to me. I still do the same given the chance.