Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Crackle and hum

No automatic alt text available.I visited my mum at the weekend and after years of promising, I finally took my vinyl record collection from her garage. It has been there for about nine years, and before that, it had been in my old bedroom since 1988 when I came home from university. Soon after that, the CD age kicked in, and although I moved house fairly regularly in my post-college days, the 12 inchers stayed put.They were played very infrequently after that, locked away in a cupboard in my minuscule room. When mum moved house, I had to box them up and she was kind enough to take them with her. Although I had my own flat in Hackney by then, it wasn't huge, and I didn't have a record deck to play them. They could easily have gone the way of my huge collection of music 'inkies' - Sounds, NME and Kerrang magazines that I would buy avidly in the teens, twenties, and thirties. These were given away after I discovered that their value - huge to me - was not appreciated by anybody else.I was obsessed with music, like many people of my age. There are so many more passions and pastimes for kids these days, or so it seems. Maybe it's just that my two are a bit young to have got the bug yet. I didn't really start to get into music until I was about 12 and moved to England. 
For me, heavy metal was my entry point. Not very cool, I know, although more so now that it ever was when I was a youth. However, it opened up a peer group for me. I was even briefly in a hard rock band with some school friends - initially as timing challenged drummer, and then as singer, the job that no one ever wanted.
After that my tastes broadened quite a bit, and so did my purchasing habits. I noticed that some of the older guys who I admired didn't feel the need to stick to just the one genre, so although I didn't ditch my love of the hard stuff, it wasn't the only thing that interested me.
Albums were relatively hard to get hold of until I got my first jobs - newspaper rounds, milk rounds, cleaning jobs, and the big break, a summer holiday working in the local bread factory. I felt like a millionaire taking home nearly £200 a week (sounds a fortune, but I doubt you'd get away with doing the hours I had to, these days).
With cash in my pocket and albums at £4-5 a pop, my collection quickly built up. I'd listen to them on my dad's old separates system or a small unit in my bedroom, making mixtapes for friends and people I wanted to impress with my catholic tastes.
Our local record shop, Buzzard Records, was a chart return shop, so there was always a stack of cheap singles and 12 inchers to be had as sales guys dropped off loads of free copies to try and hype tracks into the charts. Consequently, I've got a whole subgenre of singles by no-hit wonders who nevertheless produced great little pop moments.
I was obsessed by vinyl at that time in my life. I even took my growing record collection to university with me. It seemed inconceivable that I would leave it behind. Your music collection spoke volumes about the kind of person you were, or so I thought. I remember reading somebody saying that they'd go to parties and if the person didn't have a copy of Psychocandy in their collection, then they'd leave.
I wouldn't go that far, and I do have a copy of the Jesus and Mary Chain's first album.
Anyway, I've opened up a the first carton of albums - T-Z, of course it's alphabetised. There's quite a lot of Throwing Muses and Tom Waits, a forgotten diamond by One the Juggler (hang on, that's not T-Z - my filing system has been compromised), Tracey Thorn's lovely first solo album, and a red vinyl copy of an album by former Gillan guitarist Bernie Torme, who I was obsessed with for ages (I once sat listening to the top 40 convincing myself during the countdown to the new number one, that it must actually be him, as his latest single hadn't been played. Of course, it hadn't made the top 75, nevermind the 40).
As well as the six crates of records, I brought back my dad's old Sansui record deck, which still works, although the stylus may be a bit worn. Either that, or the records are just scratched to bits. Maybe after years of listening to pristine CD quality sound, the background crackle is more obvious than it was back in the day. I think we lived through the era of crap vinyl anyway. It was noticeable when you bought an older record. The original copy of Nick Drake's Five Leaves Left I picked up from the record shop on Camden Lock bridge (what was that called?) was move satisfyingly solid than many of the records I subsequently bought new, including the Drake compilation, Heaven in a Wild Flower, that got me into him while I was at university.
At the moment, I feel like the Howard Carter of music, going through the crate and plopping stuff on to the deck. Twenty minutes of music - the length of one side of an album kids - also seems so much more civilised than the interminable tyranny of the unedited CD. We thought it was great to get more value for your money, but really it seemed to encourage a lack of editorial quality control. A side of an album passes very quickly, forcing you to refocus every 20 minutes on what to listen to next.
After a long break from the vinyl, it seems quite hip to be listening to slabs of plastic played with a needle. The vinyl revival is now a big thing, although I can't see myself being sucked back into buying it. This is a little holiday in the past.
The last vinyl record I think I bought was Oasis's (What's the Story) Morning Glory? I got it 22 years ago at a release party at Virgin Records where the band played some numbers, and I got it signed by Noel and the drummer (sorry fella, I can't remember your name). As such, it was more of an artefact, especially as I had nothing to play it on. My then girlfriend bought the CD which was what we played.
It might be in one of those unopened boxes, although I've a feeling it may have been lost when we moved house as I think I kept that particular item close for a while.
Never mind (an album I don't have on vinyl). There are still plenty of memories to dig out.

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