Friday, February 01, 2013

Thank you for the music

I'd forgotten that hi-fi smells.
My mum had wanted to throw out my dad's old separates system when she moved house about three years' ago. I can't blame her. It was a tower system encased in a smoked glass cabinet which would have completely taken over her new living room.
At any rate it had sat unused and unloved in the corner of the room since I'd moved out of the house. She'd traded down to a small integrated unit that my sister had no more use for (and which is now in our front room - I'm the electronics hoarder in our family).
I couldn't bear to see it thrown out though. I remember my dad buying it from John Lewis in Milton Keynes about a year after we'd moved down from Scotland. I guess he must have had a bit more disposable income and fancied splashing out on something nice. It was certainly a pretty big investment, but I reckon he was given the old soft soak treatment by the hi-fi sales guys. He was taken into one of those glass-fronted rooms where they sit you down and play different combinations of units to you.
"Sir will notice the subtle difference when the Speculum A430 amp is teamed up with the Bumf turntable."
*Dad nods vigorously*
Like many working class guys, he aspired to be a man of wealth and taste. He just needed the wealth bit.
At any rate he must have been feeling a bit flush that day as he bought a turntable, amp, tuner, cassette player - all Sansui make - as well as the aforementioned smoked glass tower and a pair of B&W DM10 speakers.
I can remember listening to our not very big music collection on it: The Drifters Greatest Hits, War of the Worlds (taped by somebody from his work), The Corries, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Elton John Greatest Hits (the first one), Billy Connolly Live ... it was an eclectic mix.
The system really did sound great. I was amazed that you could pick out individual instruments so clearly, something that was hard to do on the rudimentary integrated system we had before - Elizabethan if anybody remembers that brand.
The hi-fi was another symbol of the way things were getting better for us. We'd made the traumatic - for me initially - move to England the year before and it really was like another world in some ways. We'd come from a one shop village of council houses, a real monoculture where I was happy but which in retrospect seems like the most boring place in the world. Vandalism was about the only outlet by the time you were a teenager. You had to get out.
We moved to a small market town called Leighton Buzzard, but it might as well have been Manhattan compared to what we were used to. Life was richer. The food was different. People did different things. Pubs had garden areas so families could go to them together. There were more opportunities for all of us.
And dad was on more money, hence the swanky hifi and his first ever new car (although the latter was purchased from the money he was putting aside for a deposit on a house, something that eluded him as prices were starting to outpace his earnings in the Eighties housing boom).
He probably only enjoyed the system for around a year, maybe two before he died. After that, it was always dad's hi-fi. He liked having nice things and he liked them to be looked after. They had to be for people like us.
It's more than 30 years since he died and since he bought his musical pride and joy. Last weekend I dug it out my mum's garage and brought it home. This evening I opened the box and was hit by that smell... the circuits? Whatever it is, it took me right back to the time when he'd be cueing up a record and sitting back to enjoy it.
It still sounds great dad!