For the record

Mikel vinyl

Mikel vinyl (Photo credit: aspitos4kids)

I need excitement oh I need it bad
And it’s the best I’ve ever had

The Undertones (or just possibly Busted if you are not of an age).    I think this is one of the tunes that will stay with me forever.   The tremble in the voice of Feargal Sharkey and half a dozen simple bar chords that even I could replicate without too much trouble.   I had it on an EP and it was probably the song that I sang along to more than any other in the late ’70’s.

I don’t need excitement, I am already excited!  You won’t believe the source of my delirium.    I have a record token.  Do you remember them?

It’s not exactly a record token.   It is a voucher for a High Street distributor of books and music, so it could be a book token but I have decided that it is going to be used to buy some music.

I mentioned it to my son – he is a musician and I thought he would be as thrilled as I.   Ha!   “There’s no such thing as a record token and there never has been.  You’ve made it up”  (to be fair, I did make a lot of things up when he was young, he still thinks that the ink in a marker pen is made from spider blood).      “Why don’t you just download it” he said.

The youth of today.   When I was a very young man I used to live for the weekend trip into town.    I’d have my wages from my paper round (£3.50, morning and evening round every day but Sunday.   Sunday was just mornings but absolutely horrid because the papers were all too big to go through the letterbox and the bag weighed more than me) and I had a predetermined route around the independent record shops.    They were never in the absolute town centre, you’d find them in slightly run-down streets or as small stalls in some of the indoor markets.

The best ones were gloomy inside and the floor would be slightly tacky.  The staff would be pale, mysterious and slightly forbidding, as if they lived a subterranean life and only emerged from their caliginous existence to attend concerts of little known but uber trendy bands.      Albums would be arranged either by genre or alphabetically and occasionally both.   There would be hand written labels acting as separators and well-known or long-established performers would have their own mini section.    In some shops there was a special section for coloured vinyl and picture disks.

After a visit to each shop there would come a time for deliberation.   For me, this was in a cake shop called Druckers.    A huge slice of something covered in cream that should definitely not be tackled without a fork and possibly a bib and once the cake was consumed it was back to the chosen store.   This was the best bit.

The album of choice would be in a thin cellophane wrapping and would be in a plastic bag designed specifically for carrying a 12 inch record.    Once on the bus home the cellophane would be torn away and the serious work of examining the track listing could begin.   This was just a teaser for the sleeve notes inside.   So much information to absorb about who wrote and performed on each track.    Sometimes the lyrics were included and in exceptional cases (usually on a concept album) there would be notes on how the album was conceived.

All of this was just a preamble to putting the record onto the deck and actually listening to it.    Some had cryptic messages engraved around the run out – these thrilled me beyond belief (although I’ve never been sure why).    A good choice in record would then get several plays non-stop until I’d decided which were my favourite tracks and tried to work out which ones would be singles.

Oh the joy of it all.   So this weekend I’m going to a different town centre and to just one shop.   There’s unlikely to be vinyl there but there will be CD’s and they will still have sleeve notes to read.    I may even find a cake shop to visit after my perusals to give me time to contemplate.   After all, I don’t want to rush into anything.  I know that  the CD will not smell the same as a record and I’ll probably have listened to it all the way through by the time I get home, but it will still be far more fun than iTunes.

There are many more people being moved by the feeling of anticipation here.  I’m sure that you will enjoy their posts as much as I did.

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17 Comments

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17 responses to “For the record

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  4. caliginous – I got a B in my English O level but this is the first I’ve heard of that one. Straight to Google… Ooh – nice word. Oh, and a nostalgic piece for those of us who remember the thrill of putting what our parents called ‘the needle’ onto new, virginal, vinyl. Probably the only time we would hear it crackle free.

    • Thank you. I’m pleased I’ve raised a memory. Caliginous – for some reason it has always made me think of living in a pool of molasses. Perhaps that’s why it stayed with me.

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  8. A very enjoyable read. I was with you every step of the way.

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  14. and you have a son?

    I’m surprised you can remember anything from the late 70s/early 80s.

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