Monday 8 April 2019

Where did the obsession start ...

Yup, it's definitely an obsession.
If I'm not listening to music, I'm talking about it, writing about or buying it.
It's only at work that there is generally no soundtrack of my choice banging out in the background (open office environments tend to frown on that sort of thing (and they would frown even more if I was left in charge of the music choices))

So how did it happen?  Where, and why, did it all begin?

Most Talent Show contestants claim to have been brought up in his always full of music - Beatles, Stones, Joni Mitchell, Captain Beaky - but I wasn't.
My home was permanently fixed to Radio 2 (I remember staring at the stereo wondering why a miniature Jimmy Young wasn't sitting there interviewing some politician - 28 years old I was).
My parents had grown up in the 60s, so they must've been touched by Beatlemania, Stonesmania, Whomaina or any other"...mania" doing the rounds.  My mum even told the story how someone who worked at the EMI Pressing Plant (the one in Hayes I'm assuming) lived across the road from here, and she had a complete set of Beatles singles on the day of release
Maybe they were affected by that early 70s thing where they'd now got married, bought a house and had children so it was time to "put away childish things"
There was a record player and a tape deck, I rarely saw a cassette tape until my dad starting recording albums for the car, and then saw the record collection was a couple of albums each by Abba and The Carpenters, a Booby Crush album, a recording of the 1812 Overture and The Beatles Red album (1962-66).

A house full of music?  Not me.

I got my first tape player around 1979 and began dutifully listening to, and recording, the Radio 1 Top 40 countdown.
I can the recall two (possibly three) other events that occurred in 1979 which may be a pointer.
  1. A visit to my cousins who had their own record player - I became enamoured by these little black circles, and the fact that you could play what you want, when you want without relying on Tony Blackburn to play it on a Sunday evening
    (I think it was Tony Blackburn at the time - might've been Simon Bates?)
  2. A copy of either Smash Hits or Look-In being passed around at school and the contents being discussed
    ("What?  You've never heard of "Heart Of Glass" by Blondie?")
  3. The video for Dave Edmunds "Girls Talk" on Top Of The Pops
    ("I don't want to be a footballer anymore.  I want to be in a band and do music")
Now, I should have been ritually viewing Top Of The Pops every Thursday, but as a diligent Cub Scout I was unable to see it unless it was School Holidays, or I was too ill to attend to my duties as a Seconder (and later a Sixer) of White Six.
I have watched the re-runs on BBC4 and don't believe I missed any truly earth shattering performances - and missing the Tottenham Hotspur 1981 FA Cup Squad performing "Ossie's Dream" is not going to make my rue my past

A little later, a succession of Paper Rounds and any other income was thrown over the counter at second hand record shops, Our Price, even Woolworths and Boots sold me records.  I was amassing quite a little collection - which was stored in a chest of drawers (if I'm honest, just one drawer).
And then as a present, I received a copy of The Guinness Book Of British Hit Singles - I now had the means to listen, the means to purchase, and now the means to read every word of those lists and analysis, learn it and talk about it like some sort of authority.

And it is those three events above, and that book which dropped me hook, line and sinker into a world of musical obsession from which I will never escape (and don't actually want to anyway)

Full time employment, and no real responsibilities, meant that the purchasing power, and frequency, increased as did the need for additional storage.
And the increased purchasing was supplemented by regular attendance at Live gigs, and the emptying of the wallet at the Merchandise stand - programmes, T-Shirts, other sundry memorabilia, and special release CDs and albums (this is where I note that the CD is a preferable format to the 12" album - they're much easier to stuff in your pocket and tend to remain unharmed when caught in the rush of the crowd for the last tube train.

The rise of the Internet has been something of a double-edged sword.
An oversize music collection can be reduced to a succession of 1s and 0s and carried round in your pocket.  And if you visit the "right places" you can pretty much replace your entire collection.
However, when it comes to digital music I own very little sticking steadfastly to the physical product (and using up every bit of spare storage space into the bargain).
The Internet may have expanded my musical horizons, offering a "try before you buy" principle, but discoveries will usually result in a 5" disc of metal arriving in the post (or more slabs of vinyl being forced into overladen shelving)

In pre-Internet days, if you heard a new song on the radio you has to wait for the back announcement and then scour the local record shops in the hope of finding a copy. If none were to be found, you placed a special order from the Big Book, took your receipt and waited a fortnight for it to be delivered to the store.
Now, you can hear a song on the radio, wait for the back announcement, get home, fire up the computer and place your order direct with the artist.

Or in the case of The Humdrum Express – hear a song on the radio, wait for the back announcement, forget to do anything about it, hear it again 6 months later, get home, fire up the computer and place your order direct with the artist.

Next week is Record Store Day, and whilst some of the special releases (granted, fewer than in previous years) do appeal, - I will be avoiding that one.  For me, every visit to a town involves a visit to the record store, therefore every day is Record Store Day to me.
So I'll be avoiding the queues of chancers buying up everything in sight, watching the prices on ebay go through the roof 20 minutes after the shops have opened, and generally being grumpy about the whole thing.  But I guarantee there will be music playing at the time (probably the debut album by Them Crooked Vultures which I forgot I owned and found down the back of the cabinet the stereo stands in in my Dining Room)

My fear is when I die my wife and kids will sell it for what I TOLD them I paid for it

John Miles - Music

Dave Edmunds - Girls Talk

Humdrum Express - Leopard Print Onesie


  1. What a great post. Sorry it took me a few days to get around to reading it. Struck a lot of chords with me. Particularly the Guinness Book... I remember my copy was in absolute tatters after a few months.

    I hope you continue to listen to AND write about music forever. (Well, as long as that is for any of us.)

    1. Cheers Rol.
      My Guinness Book (and indeed every subsequent copy I had) split at the spine leaving a sort of loose leaf file feeling to the library.

  2. Lovely memory here of how Woolworths and Boots sold records as well as the more obvious outlets. Also Martins the newsagents, and various one-off grocers' shops in our town had a little corner box with records in. Some of the most obscure things that were never likely to sell to the mainstream customers could be found in them, I can only imagine that the reps who managed to palm them off to those particular shops walked out with big smiles on their faces!

    1. The small local newsagent with boxes of unwanted records, a lot of them being ex-Jukebox (with the centres punched out) - usually selling for 10p or 20p a pop.
      Or bundled up as a sort of lucky dip at 15 for a quid.