Back to 1983 it is then, which is where I left off talking about the records I bought as I was growing up.
I turned 14 in September 1983, and earlier that year, spurred on by my Quo obsession, and sick of either playing air-guitar or pretending to play a tennis racquet, I’d got my first two guitars; one an acoustic I’d persuaded my parents to buy me, the other a red electric Gibson Flying V copy (by which I mean cheap, £55.00 if memory serves me right) not unlike the one above. Mine, of course, did not bear the Gibson insignia, it was called something like Ribson or Gibton. Shortly afterwards, my great grandmother passed away (not from the shock of me buying such a ludicrously shaped electric guitar, I hasten to add), and she left me a modest amount of money in her will: enough to buy a Fender amp, which I considered was decent compensation for the sudden loss of the Crunchie bar she gave me every Saturday when we went to visit her.
And so I proceeded to attempt to learn to play the damned things. Soon I had those three chords learned (the Quo-umverate, as I believe they’re known), and started to look around for some new things to try and learn.
Around the same time, I had started going to the Dance, actually just a disco, which was held once a month in the hall of the secondary school I attended. These were open to the public, although it was predominantly attended by school kids, had a licensed bar which was manned by one teacher and a couple of civilians. The teacher was there solely to make sure none of the school kids got served.
Our task each month time was to try and get served at the bar, which meant queuing at the opposite end of the bar to the one the teacher was serving at. I got lucky here, for I didn’t have any lessons with the teacher in question (he taught Maths to the brainy kids, which counted me…er..right out), so he had no idea who I was and regularly served me, despite the fact I looked nowhere near 18. (I say I got lucky; what this invariably meant was that it was I who was sent to the bar by my mates who did have him as their teacher).
Apart from my missions to the bar, I was your typical adolescent wall-flower, spending the entire night sitting to the side of the dance-floor, only venturing on to head-bang (that’s right ladies, form an orderly queue!) when they played the same three rock songs they played every month: “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath, “Whole Lotta Rosie” by AC/DC (by the way, isn’t that the least AC/DC audience you’ve ever seen…?), “Down Down” by Status Quo. That was generally enough, and I was ready to stop by the end of the third song, often believing I had felt my brain move inside my head and bash against the side of my skull. Which would explain a lot.
Occasionally, they would play a fourth one, usually “Layla” by Derek & The Dominoes, although not the long version. (A year or so earlier, we had been on a school holiday for a fortnight to the Butlins holiday camp in sunny Barry Island, South Wales. At a disco there, this was the only song my mates and I ventured onto the dance floor for, only to be told off by a redcoat for head-banging to it. Apparently such activity was banned. We sloped off in a strop to the cinema to watch Pete’s Dragon instead.)
Then one night, the DJ played a record I’d never heard before, and which, these days, is viewed as a cheesy party record. I was blissfully unaware of its reputation, loved it so much I went into town the next day and found myself a copy on 7″. I don’t think I’ve heard this for about 25 years or so, and gave it a spin for the first time in all those years when I was writing this. It’s nowhere near as bad as it’s commonly perceived to be, or as I remembered, for that matter. Judge for yourself:
Jeff Beck – Hi Ho Silver Lining
Soon this was added to my guitar repertoire. I decided that maybe learning some other older songs would serve me well – all the Teach Yourself to Play Guitar books I’d bought (anyone who has heard me play, will not be in the slightest bit surprised to learn I’m entirely self taught) were crammed with songs by The Beatles and The Stones and many, many more (as the adverts used to say) – and so I scouted around for some more.
Quite how I ended up buying the next single, is, therefore totally beyond me.
10cc – I’m Not In Love is not exactly a record known for being choc-a-bloc full of chunky guitar riffs for me to get my teeth into. But this was the next record to find it’s way onto my turntable, nonetheless. What it is known for is being is a wonderful study of a broken heart and of denial, which may well be why it struck a chord with this thirteen/fourteen year old who found himself utterly ignored by members of the opposite sex.
The other clue as to how it ended up in my possession is the label the copy I bought it on: Old Gold. Sadly, I can’t find any pictures of the actual copy on said label, but here’s one of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown’s “Fire” which might jog a few memories:
In the late 70s/early 80s, branches of Woolworths and W H Smiths had rack upon rack of these, and thinking about it, I suppose it was our version of finding songs on the internet. Need to find a certain record, but don’t want to shell out for a whole album? Then the song could be yours on Old Gold, for the price of a bus fare into town, followed by a good hour or so’s solid rummaging through the racks, and then the cost of the single itself (£1.99, I think).
Flicking through those racks of re-issued songs on the Old Gold label was my practice ground, where I learned the correct stance for vinyl perusal (legs apart, back bent, fingers working the top of each record, eyes focused on the disc label, for the sleeves themselves were uniform, and the exposed label was the only way to identity the song contained on the grooves within.)
The next record I bought was also on the Old Gold label, and I found out some years later that it was actually the UK’s Number One single on the day I was born. It was Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising”
The reason I bought this was down to one film, a film I still love to this day, and which as I write this I find myself suddenly filled with the urge to dig out my DVD copy of and give it another watch.
Yes, I’m talking ’bout “An American Werewolf in London”.
Now I could’ve sworn that “Bad Moon Rising” accompanied the first transformation scene in it, but I guess not: that honour goes to some song adopted by a football team whose supporters turn their back on the pitch when their team scores, just as I turned my back on them two years earlier.
You don’t need me to tell you that John Landis, who directed the movie, subsequently, and as a direct result, was hired to make possibly the most famous pop video in history: Thriller. (PS – assuming you get the same advert at the start, Now 91 looks shit, doesn’t it?)
You also don’t need me to tell you the other reason why “American Werewolf…” had such a profound effect on this virginal thirteen year old. I give you two words: Jenny. Agutter.
When I was a younger man, the presence of Ms Agutter in the credits meant two things: firstly, it would probably (but not always) be a sign of quality; secondly, it would definitely have at least one scene I would get embarrassed watching in the presence of my parents. (see also: “Walkabout” and “Logan’s Run”, which I rather Freudianly mis-spelled as “Logan’s Rub” when I first wrote this part).
By the way, American Werewolf’s scene to make me blush in front of my parents but engage in a very different activity when alone with just me, the video recorder and the pause button, was accompanied by this.
Nowadays, of course, spotting Ms Agutter’s names in the credits means you’ve fallen asleep on the settee, dribbled all over the cushions but managed to dodge having to sit through “Call The Midwife” when visiting your parents. Oh, how the times have changed.
So: chords for two new songs learned. Next up was a single which was actually in the charts at the time. Featuring Maggie Reilly, who I had always assumed was famous for being in Steeleye Span or the like, but who it seems is most famous for appearing on
Mike Oldfield’s Moonlight Shadow.
Oldfield was famous for a few things: for his Tubular Bells album which, I’m sure you know, was the first ever release on the Virgin label and which set Richard Branson up for a life-time of twatting around in hot-air balloons, running rubbish railway services and paying Usain Bolt and David Tennant to pretend to be his friends in TV adverts; for his Christmas hit “In Dulce Jubilo”, and for “Portsmouth” – not one that might tickle your memory glands, that, but one which has been burned onto my psyche ever since we did Country Dancing at Junior School and I made a complete arse of myself attempting to do-si-do with Vanessa Simpson, who I had a massive crush on, crush turning out to be quite literally the appropriate phrase, as I trod on her feet countless times until she asked to be allowed to change partner.
Ahem. But I’m over that now.
Oldfield had also re-recorded the Blue Peter theme tune (it’s not a great quality that link, but it’s worth a watch, if only to see the masterful interview techniques on display from Simon Groom, who is probably more famous for a possibly unintentional live innuendo and for corpsing live on-air, which I can’t find a link for). (NB – Any mention of Blue Peter reminds me of this, and no, it’s not an elephant having a shit in the studio.)
So that’s a few riffers and one fiddly guitar solo learned, what next?
Amongst the singles I still have, are two by the same band, with very battered sleeves. They are:
Gimme All Your Lovin’
Sharp Dressed Man by ZZ Top.
Ha ha! There’s three of them, and two have really long beards, and the one who doesn’t is called Frank Beard!! Brilliant!!! Hands up who’s utterly tired of that factoid being wheeled out whenever ZZ Top are mentioned?
And hands up, who likes me? You utter, utter bastards.
I’d like to say that my purchase of the these two ZZ Top records was because I thought they were fine examples of Texan-boogie rock (I did, and still do really like them; no Guilty Pleasures, remember?), but in reality, it was because their videos contained what I believe the red-tops refer to as “bikini-clad lovelies”. I was 13, shallow and untouched downstairs, gimme a break. To show how I’ve grown up, I’m not going to post a link to them here. Plus I did resist the urge to buy the other single from the album, “Legs” which threw any pretension of not being about a bunch of middle-aged men ogling younger women out of the window.
Which kind of neatly leads me on to my first female popstar crush, albeit with ages reversed, who I think I mentioned in passing quite a while ago: Debbie Harry.
For it was in 1983 that I bought “The Best of Blondie”, an album that I still own on vinyl to this day (and on CD for that matter. And MP3.) I’ve mentioned before how I used to buy Best of albums as a way into a band (I realise I am not unique in this, I don’t think I’ve done anything particularly smart there) and such was the case with this purchase.
My vinyl copy came with the above as a poster; I had no idea who Andy Warhol was at this point, or why he was BAD, but I still dutifully stuck the poster to my wall (no, with blu-tac, don’t be disgusting). The album remained on my turntable almost non-stop for several months, even after I’d learned to play as many as I could on my guitar.
Here’s one song which I wasn’t all that fussed on originally, but which I think now is probably my favourite Blondie song, and which probably explains my love of a good bracket (as you’ve probably noticed):
“(I’m Always Touched By Your) Presence Dear”
I suppose I should do one of those Like It? But It here things, right? Okay then.
In the words of Columbo: “Just one more thing before I go.” I recently bought myself a new turntable, and I’m going through the laborious process of a) trying to track down copies of all the vinyl I used to own and buying them again, and b) buying some other stuff on vinyl too. As well as this, I’ve decided to buy a few of the albums my one-year-older-than-he-was-a-week-ago-brother owned and which I used to borrow whenever I had chance. My vinyl purchases may yet develop into a new series here (once I’ve stopped buying all the old Quo albums. Again.), but in the meantime, here’s one from an album he bought (a Best Of album, you’ll note. Must be a family trait) and which, as far as I know, has never been released on CD, so I feel less bad about posting this:
“19th Nervous Breakdown”