I think it’s accepted on here that, amongst other things, we’re all music nerds. All of us will have spent loads of time, and most of our money, trawling through second hand record shops and car boot sales, looking for the excitement of finding that record we’ve been searching for. And many of us will have started over when CDs took over from vinyl (I imagine I’m not the only one who shudders to think how much our vinyl collection would be worth now, had we not flogged it all to buy CDs!). A hobby that seemed to disappear overnight with the rise of eBay and demise of record shops. But how did it begin?
When I was little I had a dansette and a handful of multi-coloured records with nursery rhymes and the like. I used to love the Bay City Rollers and my mum even made me a little tartan trimmed Rollers outfit. My first memory of watching TOTP is when David Essex (now a friend of my mum’s, weirdly!) was in the charts with Gonna Make You a Star. I then moved from the Rollers to Showaddywaddy, Darts and the Barron Knights and started getting their records for birthday and Christmas presents, along with the latest K-Tel album, like Disco Fever, which had Silver Lady by David Soul on it, which is still one of my favourite songs today.
My dad is 7 years older than my mum, so whilst we didn’t have many records (ooh, we were poor, etc) there was a nice mix of late 50s rock and roll and sixties beat groups. Along with my dad’s western albums (we’ve talked on here before about the joy of Marty Robbins’ Gunfighter Ballads) and a smattering of easy listening that I have no idea which of parents was responsible for. I started playing their records, mainly the singles, as Blue Hawaii and Elvis’ Golden Records aside, the albums were pretty ropey. Eventually they bought a few Music For Pleasure compilations by the likes of The Monkees and Mamas and the Papas, which were fab.
But I played the singles to death. They only had one Beatles single, but it was possibly their best, I Want To Hold Your Hand. I didn’t like the B-side, This Boy, until I got into The Beatles properly, several years later. I recently made a playlist on iTunes of the box of singles they had. A few Elvis ones, my favourites being Rock-a-Hula and The Girl of My Best Friend, a couple of Billy Fury ones, some Hollies (my mum’s favourite band – I Can’t Let Go is probably the single I played the most and I still love that track), some Roy Orbison, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Dave Clark Five, that kind of thing.
My dad would sit and tell me about all the songs/artists and it’s probably the clearest memory I have of my dad from that time. We’d listen to Jimmy Savile’s Old Record Club on a Sunday lunchtime and my dad would tell me about the songs on there. It’s odd, because my dad doesn’t have strong music tastes or a strong musical knowledge, but whatever he said helped build up my enthusiasm for music. My dad’s poor musical taste is best demonstrated by an album he had that he didn’t know he had. It shows how often he played his records, but there was one of those Top of the Pops style knock offs, with a session singer and band covering loads of Elvis songs, but when we went to put it on the sleeve contained Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake. My dad was disappointed cos he said the Elvis covers was a good album. He said it must have got mixed up at a party, I just pity the person who went to listen to Small Faces, but got a pub singer version of Elvis songs! Anyway, I had more enthusiasm than my dad for Small Faces!
A couple of uncles passed me down some records. Again, there was a ten year age difference, so one box contained some older records, including the Buddy Holly Story, which I adored, whilst the other uncle gave me a box of albums from the late 60s and early 70s, including the first Tim Buckley album and Ummagumma, which set the 11 or 12 year old me on the path to becoming big fans of both.
Back a few years though, in the late 70s, my mum used to buy cheap ex-juke box singles. She never asked me and my sister what we liked, so it really was pot luck. Some of them were horrible, like Boney M, some were ace, like Dr. Feelgood, whilst some I thought were horrible, but actually were ace, I just didn’t know it yet, like I Want Your Love by Chic. As the centre was punched out you sometimes couldn’t read the song titles properly, which led to embarrassment when I played the B-side of Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick.
In 1979, me and all my mates decided to buy our first single. Only we decided it could only be one of two singles – Dance Away by Roxy Music or Pop Musik by M. Thus the latter became the first single that I dragged my mum into town to buy me. From then on I started buying less sweets and football stickers with any money I was given and started buying records. The next three singles I bought, all ex juke box, were Walking on the Moon by The Police (although I really wanted Message in a Bottle), It’s Different For Girls by Joe Jackson and Echo Beach by Martha and the Muffins.
From then on I was a young record collector. The first thing I did when I visited anybody was look through their records. My Nan’s records were all classical, easy listening (of the rubbish variety – not stuff like Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra, which I liked) and show tunes, but for some inexplicable reason she had the Beatles Red Album. We spent a fortnight at my Nan’s (she lived at the seaside in Robin Hood’s Bay) and I played it constantly. So much so that it left with me. That must have been around 82, just as the singles in the charts had started to go rubbish, after a few great years. As I wasn’t yet old enough to have started reading the NME or Melody Maker, the music from that period that I now love had completely passed me by. So I went headlong into a Beatles obsession and thus started my serious record collecting.
I got the stick at school mercilessly for loving the Beatles. Probably by the same kids who were buying their records 12 years later when Oasis told them to. But I didn’t care. In the pre-internet days I somehow managed to discover loads of other great artists, probably by hearing them on radio shows or reading about them in books. I’d read in a Beatles book that they got into Dylan when he released Bringing It All Back Home (still my favourite Dylan album) and I heard Like a Rolling Stone at the same time, so Father Christmas brought me BIABH and his Greatest Hits, so Dylan quickly became a big favourite, as did 60s girl bands, the Bonzos, Ricky Nelson and all sorts. Apart from Frankie Goes To Hollywood I really wasn’t interested in much chart music. It took the emergence of Pet Shop Boys, The Dream Academy and Stephen Duffy to change that.
By now, almost all my money was being spent on second hand records. My parents had split up and my mum had moved to Sheffield, whilst I remained in Barnsley with my dad, so whilst I never really strayed from those two places, there were loads of shops and market stalls to keep me going. The Tuesday second hand market in Barnsley was fantastic. You could even buy bootlegs there, which was terribly exciting! My one regret is that I didn’t have the money to go and see bands, but I joined the St John Ambulance in Sheffield, so I saw loads of bands that way, including some of my favourites, like The Blow Monkeys and Lloyd Cole. The first concert I covered was Elton John, which wasn’t a bad place to start. Probably the best was Springsteen at Bramall Lane, as we got to watch from the side of the stage, when not helping revive all those who had fainted at the front.
My dad had started buying books at car boot sales to sell on to a dealer and those were goldmines in the 80s. I got some great records there. The best ones were at Stockton and Sedgefield racecourses. They were massive. But I remember coming across a bloke selling singles in perfect condition for 50p each when I was down to my last £1.50. Trying to choose was impossible, because there were so many good ones. I ended up choosing the first two Cure singles and another, but 35 years later I still wish I’d had £20 with me, because it was the best box of bargains I’d ever seen.
When I was 19, in 1988, I moved to Liverpool to do my nurse training. It was just a coincidence that I moved there, as there were only a couple of places offering a combined general/paediatrics course. By then my Beatles obsession had died down a little (or I’d grown up a bit, one or the other!), but if you’d have told me 6 or 7 years earlier I would be moving to Liverpool I would have passed out, especially as I started seeing a lass who went to Quarrybank and lived round the corner from Mendips. Despite it’s rich musical history, Liverpool was a bit of a let down for second hand record shops though, so every payday I used to trek over to Manchester, which had loads of places to spend my meagre student nurse wages. That’s when the record collection started to get out of hand, although my obsession with music and CD buying has actually been bigger than ever these past few years. It’s the one upside of having to stop working and being in constant. But everything started back in the 70s, listening to my parents’ records and my dad telling me all about them.
Anybody else care to share their stories of their musical youth and what set them on the path that ended up with us debating the merits of the latest Bond theme song on here? I get rather jealous of those a bit older than myself who grew up when the great records of the 50s and 60s were coming out. It must have been so exciting. An old friend used to like rubbing it in that he had been to see Buddy Holly! I suppose I’m also a little annoyed with myself for drifting away from rap music after buying the early Run-DMC, Beastie Boys and LL Cool J records, as I had the chance there to see all those artists and listen to the records as they came out, rather than getting into the music when the artists were all (okay, not all, but a fair amount of them!) dead!
But I’d be interested in hearing your stories. Hopefully I’m not the only one who started off a Rollers fan…