Smile!

It can’t have escaped the attention of any of my friends residing in England that on Monday we finally caught up with the rest of the UK.

Sadly, not in terms of hating the Tories, though hopefully that will come soon.

No. As of Monday, if you went into a supermarket you would be charged 5p for every plastic bag that you used.

I was blissfully unaware this law had come in until I went to pay for my lunch at the self-service tills in the mini-Morrisons (soon to be rebranded “My Local” following some corporate buy-out or another) and was asked by the unusually complicit machine to tell it how many plastic bags I had used.

On the way home that night, I called into my local Asda, and it was fucking carnage. Massive queues everywhere, and people kicking off about being charged for what had previously been a free commodity.

I’m kind of with them, in one respect: if you didn’t know about it – and it wasn’t exactly heavily advertised – then it would have come as a surprise.

However, in the other respect, it’s only 5p – which goes to charidee by the way folks – and surely anything to reduce the amount of shit we’re dumping into landfill has to be a good thing, right? So, y’know suck it up. Or just try to make a run for it with your shopping trolley, until the wheels lock up at the edge of the car park, or “the shopping trolley graveyard” as it’s more commonly known.

Much as I hate the idea of them, reducing jobs as they inevitably do, I must admit that I do quite like the self-service tills. This stems back to when I was unemployed a couple of years ago, and often had to pay for my groceries using nothing other than 2p and 1p coins, which is just plain embarrassing if you’re counting them out into an actual person’s hand as the queue behind you glares hatefully at you.

There’s a chap who works on the Asda self-service tills, the guy who comes over and types in his password when the machine is telling you whatever you just placed in the bagging area is the wrong weight, and he’s lovely. Always says hello, always calls me sir even though I tell him not to. I worked in retail for quite some time when I was younger, and encountered many an obnoxious wanker, so I always try to be pleasant and nice to the staff because I remember what its like when you get shouted at by some prick who thinks he’s been overcharged for his crate of Monster Energy Drink. A lot of people are incredibly rude to retail staff, and the way I look at it, if I can go in there and be nice to them for just one minute, then that’s one minute when they haven’t got to deal with someone horrible. Of course, this is a bit of a reciprocal deal, for if you are nice to them, they are nice back. You get great service then. Try it. Everyone leaves the scene happy.

(NB – this is the same strategy as I used to use with bouncers – sorry, security – on the door at clubs, when I was young enough (ahem!) to go to them. Be nice to them on the way in, and, provided they don’t then call your bluff and search you, they’ll remember you next time and be pleasant back. For they are stupid creatures, easily tricked.)

And yes, I have just equated going to the supermarket with Jeremy Corbyn’s “being nice is nice” philosophy. (Strong message here) It’s quite simple to apply, really.

Anyway, the Asda chap was working on Monday evening, racing around the self-service area with a rack of plastic bags over his arm like a wine waiter’s tea towel (that’s what it is, deal with it, poshos). Because of all the people kicking off at the poor sod, the queue just to get into the self-service area was long (also because at least half of the tills weren’t working), and after I finally made it in, scanned all my munchies and lubes…er…I mean just my munchies, nothing else, paid and bagged up (brought my own bags, thank you very much) I bumped into the Asda chap as I left.

“Hello sir!” he said, affecting a cheery tone.

“Hello. I don’t envy you today mate. First day of the bag charge, right?”

He gave me an “oh god thank you someone is aware of this and how torturous my shift has been” look.

“Mhmm” he replied through pursed lips.

“I don’t envy you” I said. “Try and make it through your shift without decking any of the idiots, won’t you?”

He smiled. “I’ll try, I can’t promise anything though.”

Anyway, today I had another 5p bag experience, this one much more sinister.

I went into Morrisons at lunch time as usual, to find three of the staff frantically trying to get  all of the recently delivered sandwiches, wraps etc into the fridge ready for the lunch time trade. Fair enough. Can’t buy them if they’re not out of the cardboard box and in the fridge. I selected mine from those they had unpacked – Chicken and Bacon, not my first choice, but them’s the breaks – collected some fruit (yeh, get me and my semi-healthy lunch) and a drink and made my way to the self service tills.

There are two of these in this store, right in front of the counter where the actual tills are. There was nobody on the “real” tills – they were all sorting the delivery – so customers had to use the self-service tills. That’s okay, I usually do anyway.

The left hand self service till is being used, the right hand one appears empty, so I approach, only to note a cluster of produce in the bagging area, a list of them on the screen, and…no bags. The bloke trying to pay for them is hunting high and low for a bag to use. In the end, he leans behind the counter and liberates a couple.

Now anyone who has ever worked in a shop, and I would have thought that most people who hadn’t, know that behind the counter is the preserve of staff only. Not this bloke though.

He is spotted by one of the staff, who calls from the refridgerated area “Excuse me! You are not allowed behind the counter” as she hurriedly makes her way over.

The bloke, clutching one bag, does not do as any decent person would and apologise, he decides to continue the argument.

“There’s no bags on the tills” he shouts

“Well just come and ask us for some and we’ll give them to you” is the assistant’s reply, as she makes it behind the counter.

She’s a nice lady, this assistant. I see her every day, she always says hello, tells me when they have my favourite sandwich in but they just haven’t unpacked it yet (I don’t wait for it), laughs at the ridiculously trainspotter-ish pac-a-mac I’m wearing one day when the rain has unexpectedly comes but in a nice “Oh that’s a nice coat!” kind of way (I agree, telling her it’s not the most fashionable item I’ve ever worn – that was a pair of dungarees circa 1990 (almost there folks!) – and she knows I’m having a little joke with her and poking fun at myself) – because we have spoken before and although we don’t know each other, she knows I can take a bit of a ribbing and will even make it easier for her by taking the piss out of myself to save her the effort.

I do this in quite a lot of shops. In one, every time I went in to buy a packet of cigarettes, the bloke behind the till would ask me if I wanted to buy a Lottery ticket.

“No thanks”, I said the first time, “buying these is enough of a gamble for me!”, waving the packet of fags at him.

This is great. They remember me every time I go in there now. But, annoyingly, since I (sort of, tried to) quit, they remember to such an extent that as soon as I walk in, there is a packet of my brand of cigarettes waiting for me on the counter. Which, when it happens in three or four different shops, makes it rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreally hard to quit smoking.

Anyway, this bloke starts shouting about how there should be someone behind the counter at all times and as there wasn’t, he thought it was ok to help himself.

And then this exchange happened, which made me see the situation in a whole different light:

Her: “You can’t just go behind the counter and help yourself. That’s not how it works”

Him: “Yeh? Well it is in my country”

Oh yes. Some context. he is a frankly massive grumpy as fuck white Caucasian male. She is a lovely, glorious, cheerful and friendly lady of colour, if I had to speculate I’d say maybe Eritrean or Somalian. But I don’t have to, so I won’t.

Thankfully, she misheard him.

“Well it is in this company” she said.

He left, further ranting as he went, about how awful the customer service was in there.

She just looked at him. “Well don’t come back then” she said.

After I had bought my lunch, I approached her, and told her that if he happened to write or call in to complain, she should let me know and I’d be happy to give a statement that she had done nothing wrong and that he was a racist arsehole.

Least I could do, innit? I mean, this lady has memorised my favourite sandwich. Props are due.

See? Being nice is nice.

It is that this point that I realise you may not have come here to listen to me waffle on about my relationships with local store-workers, and may want some tunes. So, something appropriate (well three things actually):

sting - spread a little happiness Sting – Spread a Little Happiness

the-supernaturals-smile-food The Supernaturals – Smile

lloyd-cole-and-the-commotions-my-bag-polydor Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – My Bag

PS – That last song would have cropped up later in my usual “Dubious Taste” series, but I would have had to talk about – and play you – the godawful “Dance Mix”, so consider yourself spared. Though I might post it anyway.

PPS – When writing this, I was desperately trying to remember who it was that did a comedy sketch about a guy getting very upset about being charged for plastic bags. I was about to throw myself prostate at your feet asking for help in identifying who the hell it was. And then, it sprang into my head, literally as I typed this. The ole synapses are still working (just about).

PPPS – although there is this slightly contradictory view.

PPPPS – I used to write about Wedding Present cover versions on a Wednesday night didn’t I? Sorry, will get the defibrillators onto the chest of those posts in time for next week.

.

Indie Daze

So, another busy weekend awaits me.

First, I’ll be going to this: Indie Daze so you’ll forgive me if the next part of 1985 doesn’t happen just yet.

Seven bands, five of which I hope to catch. Sorry The Popinjays, but I vaguely remember your name but none of your records so I won’t be rushing to see you. And as for Back to the Planet well, sorry, but I vaguely remember your records and I won’t be rushing to see you.

As for the rest? Well:

Eat were a band I had a bit of a thing for. I even managed to forgive them for their not-very-good-version of the Lovin’ Spoonful’s great “Summer in the City” as they did give us such forgotten pop jewels as this anti-capitalist yelp:

Eat-Bleed-Me-White-552330 Eat – Bleed Me White

And then, The Primitives. Ahh, The Primitives. I won’t say too much more, for they will feature prominently on these pages soon. But Tracey Tracey, oh my how you helped me through my later teenage years. Most people remember The Primitives for this: Crash

But there was so much more to them than that. Well, actually, not that much more. Though their debut album, the aptly named “Lovely” came with a veritable bucketful of shiny pop tunes likes this:

81RqVNsTVGL__SL1450_ The Primitives – Spacehead

Then there’s Pop Will Eat Itself, a band that divides me from many of my friends in that I love them and think they were pioneering and ground-breaking and they hate them and think they sound like Sigue Sigue Sputnik (which they don’t). When I was out for my birthday last weekend, I mentioned I was going to see PWEI, half the table turned their lips up, the other half went “What, them that sang Can u Dig It? Ace!”

So, here is that very same, very brilliant “The Warriors” sampling classic:

Pop-Will-Eat-Itself-Can-U-Dig-It-120927 Pop Will Eat Itself – Can U Dig It?

Although quite how good they’ll be without Clint Mansell who has gone on to bigger, better, more soundtracky things since remains to be seen…

And then there were two.

Well, now regular readers will know and probably be quite sick of my love of The Wedding Present, so there’s no need for me to bang on about them yet again here. Suffice it to say, they are playing Bizarro, their second album proper, in its entirety and hopefully a few more gems from their back catalogue. I saw them a couple of years ago when they toured this on the anniversary of the album’s release and they were, excuse my language (like I’ve apologised before!!), fucking majestic. So I could just post Kennedy here yet again but I’ll plump for one of the non-single album tracks, this glorious, brooding, sinister tale of stalkers written long before stalking was even a thing:

bizarro The Wedding Present – Bewitched

PS – Stella Creasey, I’ll see you in the mosh-pit.

And so on to joint headliners and popular cockney rhyming slang Miles Hunt and The Wonder Stuff. I’m hoping for a Greatest Hits set rather than any of the stuff they’ve recorded since they reformed, and hopefully Miles will get what the day is all about and rejoice in their back catalogue. Again, this is another band who will feature prominently here soon, so I’ll leave you with this corker:

4100149 The Wonder Stuff – It’s Yer Money I’m After, Baby

More tomorrow depending on how much my head hurts.

Oh and of course, if you like anything you hear, go buy it. You don’t need me to tell you where to find all of these records, now do you?

Oh, and second: having totally failed to buy a coach + festival ticket on Thursday, Sunday morning is Glastonbury tickets day. Wish me luck folks (or I’ll have nothing to write about here come August 2016)

Extra Time

So to summarise: yesterday was my birthday. Spurs thrashed Man City 4-1. Good. Wales beat England in the egg-chasing. As an Englishman who lived in Wales for 20 years, I can’t be upset about this. I do wish I was still in Cardiff for the party that undoubtedly happened last night though.

Instead, I got very, very drunk which means this morning I can post this:

220px-Construction_for_the_Modern_Idiot The Wonder Stuff – A Great Drinker

I’ll see you on the other side of the plink plink fizz.

1985 And All That (May – July)

Let me make something perfectly clear: whilst 1985 was definitely a transitional year for me in terms of the sort of records I was buying, I certainly hadn’t yet cracked this thing called “cool” yet. This will become self-evident when you consider the next batch of 45s and 33s that found their way into my life and onto my turntable.

That said, given the idea behind this blog stems from the book and film “High Fidelity” it seems apt to start this section off with a single I bought which later popped up on the soundtrack to the latter.

220px-Walkingonsunshine Katrina & The Waves – Walking on Sunshine

How I wish I could say that I bought this identically-titled and much cooler tune from a couple of years earlier. But I didn’t. Ho hum. Forget I ever mentioned it.

In one of my earlier posts here, I talked about Andy’s Records, a semi-independent record store (there was a chain of about four shops dotted around East Anglia/East Midlands) which had a basement dedicated to second hand vinyl, and I find myself being drawn downstairs more and more often, sometimes spending hours flicking through the racks in the desperate search for some hidden nugget that some other poor fool had castaway.

Putting aside the term “hidden nugget” and its connotation of being linked to an unearthed gem for a moment, it was here that I picked up the next (non-Quo) album to be added to my growing collection, an album my brother had owned (yeh, that’s right: I know you’re reading this and if I’m going down I’m taking you with me!) and which I inexplicably decided I wanted a copy of too. And who can blame me? Oh yes, anyone else who ever heard “An Innocent Man” by Billy Joel could. For that’s what it was. In 1983, “An Innocent Man” was huge, spawning hit after hit after hit. Buying it at the time might be just about excusable, but two years later? I’m not so sure.

Anyway, rules is rules, so here’s a single from “An Innocent Man” which I have to admit I do still have a bit of a soft spot for:

51ozwZ1Ke-L Billy Joel – Tell Her About It

Actually, I’m being a bit disingenuous here: there are plenty of songs by Joel which I have a soft spot for, not least this, a song I hated at the time, but which became a firm favourite of the Friday Night Music Club, Hel and I often collapsing in fits of giggles after drunkenly squawking the line “children of thalidomide” into each other’s face (if we missed it, we would start the song again) – not that kids born with disabilities is in any way funny just…y’know, props to the guy for weaving that lyric into a hit record.

Andy’s Records also provided me with another album which I bought purely to fill in some gaps in my “classic rock” compendium, a compilation album called “Formula 30”. Check out the track listing here. If anyone can explain to me the concept behind the title of this album, I’d be delighted. The “30” clearly refers to the number of tracks, but the “Formula”? And the band names scrawled on a classroom blackboard? Are we equating classic rock with scientific theories…?

*Shrugs* I dunno…

Anyway, “Formula 30” gave me my first taste of a band that I would soon become moderately obsessed with, further proof (if proof were needed) that I definitely had not got the hang of this thing called “cool” yet:

R-903957-1176299751_jpeg Dire Straits – Sultans of Swing

I’m putting my love (there, I said it) of this record down to my burgeoning desire to better my guitar playing. By this point, I had become relatively competent (even if I do say so myself), and would spend hours upstairs trying to master every little lick, with varying degrees of success. My parents tell me that the moment I got home from school every day, I would race upstairs to get my fix, plug my guitar in, put a record on and play along at maximum volume. The record was my backing band, and I was the lead singer and guitarist, practicing my rock star foot-on-monitor poses for all I was worth. My apologies to the neighbours.

(Of course, any mention of “Sultans of Swing” starts the synapses in my brain sparking, and leads me inevitably to mention this lot. Glorious.)

But for every song on “Formula 30” by Dire Straits, Free or The Moody Blues that decreased my cool rating, there was one which added a gold star, and if you’ve taken the time to check out the album’s track-listing, you will have spotted which band who feature twice on it I can attribute two stars to:

R-903957-1176299751_jpeg Roxy Music – Virginia Plain

Seriously, in the canon of great debut singles, that must rate pretty highly.

And of course, noting the 11th track on the album (or Side Two, Track Three as vinyl-heads may prefer) I can’t let the chance to post this slide.

And the horror of some of the records I picked up in Andy’s Records doesn’t end with “Formula 30”. Oh no. Around this time, my mother commented that money seemed to burn a hole in my pocket: no sooner did I have some, than I was pleading for a lift into town so I could go browsing in Andy’s Records second hand emporium.  What other explanation, apart from a rush of blood to the head, or temporary insanity, can there be for the purchase of this album:

Genesis83 Genesis – That’s All

Yes, not content with having bought Phil Collins & Philip Bailey’s “Easy Lover” a year earlier, I found myself parting with my hard-earned for this abomination. The only solace I can glean from this purchase is that at least I picked it up second-hand and so I wasn’t further lining the pocket of Mr Collins. (In 1992, Phil Collins was attributed with a quote that he would leave the country if Labour won the election. Questioned on this later, whilst neither confirming or denying he said it, Collins admitted that he certainly did not want most of his income taken. He said this from his home in the tax haven country of Switzerland. This album contains a song called “Illegal Alien”. Go figure. And let’s not forget him faxing his soon to be ex-wife over their impending divorce. What a guy.)

Think anything I’ve posted so far qualifies as the most embarrassing record I bought in this chunk of 1985? You’re wrong. Much worse was still to come.

But not just yet.

On to slightly more contemporary (for the time) records. Next up, less controversially titled than “Black Man Ray”, but no less baffling lyrically:

China-Crisis-King-In-A-Catholi-116069 China Crisis – King in a Catholic Style

When writing this post, I did some research into what this record is actually about. All I managed to find was this post on one of those song lyric websites:

“The song has such strong political overtones, although not as well executed as some bands for making political statements.
Still, fairly insightful lyrics, a catchy beat, what more can you ask?”

Yeh, thanks for that.

And just what is going on in that record sleeve? *Shrugs* I dunno…. (Have I got a new catchphrase here…?)

Next up, an album which came out in early 1985 but which I held off buying until now: “Songs From The Big Chair” by Tears for Fears. A couple of years earlier, they had been one of the bands that the cool kids were into. Of course, me being me, I arrived to the party late. Better known for huge singles “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”, “Shout” and the frankly rather wonderful “Head Over Heels”, the next song was released at the arse-end of 1984, the first single to be lifted from the album, and is somewhat overlooked when compared with that list of smasheroos from the album:

Tears_for_Fears_Songs_from_the_Big_Chair Tears for Fears – Mother’s Talk

All funky bass and synth-stabs, I’m not sure it’s possible for a song to sound any more 80s than that.

Next this:

billy_idol__white_wedding Billy Idol -White Wedding

Seriously, you don’t need me to tell you about this record do you? Thought not.

The next one takes some explaining. Drum roll…for it is time for the award for the “Undisputed Worst Record of This Post”, which hands down goes to:

jimmy-nail-love-dont-live-here-anymore-virgin-2 Jimmy Nail – Love Don’t Live Here Anymore

I know. What the fuck was I thinking? Well, I’m afraid I have no justification for this whatsoever. At the time I did, and it’s time for the obligatory Quo mention. At the time, I was under the impression that Rick Parfitt played guitar on the record. Now, as I am forced to admit I actually paid money for this soulless slaying of the Rose Royce classic, I can find no evidence to support this. Roger Taylor from Queen? He’s certainly there. But Parfitt? Well he’s in the video …soo…

Anyway, this is indicative of just how all-consuming my obsession with the Quo had become. If only there had been such things as Quo-patches (and not the sort I had sewn into my denim jacket) to help wean me off all things heads-down-no-nonsense-boogie-esque. Don’t worry, I snap out of it soon enough.

Now. An apology. The original intention of this blog was to a) chronicle every record I bought in the order that I bought them, and b) provide an anecdote related to the purchase of said record, where possible. Regular, patient readers (patients…?) will have noticed that this latter point has rather fallen by the wayside somewhat recently. Truth be told, much as I’d like to believe that everything I do will be of endless fascination to everyone else (I’m hoping you sense the tongue-firmly-in-cheek tone of that last statement), as I’ve worked my way through all of the records, I’ve realised that there simply aren’t as many funny things to tell you about as I had hoped. So, sorry that this has become a bit “and then I bought this…” recently.

1985, however, gives me plenty to tell you about. Or So Much Thing To Say, as Lenny Henry would quip. Not necessarily linked directly to record purchases, but still snapshots of where I was at at the time. Sitting comfortably? Good. Then I’ll begin.

See, 1985 sees the start and equally swift end to my career as a petty criminal. (I say end, but in fact I had two further run-ins with “the law”, once for riding pillion on a motorbike without a helmet, the other for singing as I walked down the fast lane of the A470 at 3am in the morning singing.)

First, some back info. In 1984, some of my mates from school had gone on a fortnight’s trip to Sweden with the school’s Canoe Club. (Every school had a Canoe Club, right…?). They had returned with tales of high jinx and hot girls, so when the Canoe Club announced they were going to do a similar trip to Norway in 1985, I signed up.

Shortly before the trip, a friend (who had best stay anonymous for legal reasons – let’s call him Pete) and I went into town to pick up a few provisions for our holiday. At this point, we had every intention of paying for them, but once in Boots the Chemist looking to purchase a battery for my pocket torch, Pete whispered in my ear “Nick it! Nick it!“. The next thing I knew, the battery was safely deposited in my pocket and we were skedaddling from the scene of the crime sharpish.

I know. Crime of the century, right? Eat your heart out Ronnie Biggs!

Flush from our successful pilfering debut, next on the shopping list was socks. Not just any socks, for this was the 1980s. Oh no. White socks were the order of the day. In fact, they were probably already unfashionable by 1985, but that was me, late again. And so to Littlewoods, an online vendor these days, but back then a reputable high street chain-store. Littlewoods was situated over two floors in Peterborough’s Queensgate arcade, the first floor of which offered several vantage points from which you could look down (and throw things) onto the shoppers below. One such spot was immediately outside Littlewoods.

Pete and I entered on the ground floor, collected the bounty that was a four-pack of gleaming white socks, before making our way upstairs, me via the escalator, Pete by way of the adjacent staircase. It was here, where I thought I could not be spotted, that the socks got dropped into my bag.

On exiting the shop, we stopped to lean nonchalantly against the railing, and it was then that over Pete’s shoulder I spotted a bloke who seemed to be trying to draw my attention to something without making it obvious he was doing so. Turning, I was confronted with two security guards, who launched into the “we have reason to believe you have items in your bag which you have not paid for” speech, and I was invited to accompany them to their office. They turned to Pete and told him that as he wasn’t actually with me at the point of theft, he was free to go, unless he wanted to come too, an offer which he politely declined before fucking right off. Cheers, mate.

Pete and I were actually supposed to meet his parents for lunch that day, about half an hour after I was nicked. He went, and had to spend the entire time pretending that we had got separated in the sprawling metropolis that is Peterborough, and he had no idea where I was. Had it happened now, of course, they would have just called my mobile (which would have been confiscated, and the police would assume that all the calls were from disappointed punters trying to work out where the stolen goods they’d ordered were).

Back in the store, meanwhile, I found myself standing like a naughty school boy (which of course was exactly what I was) in front of the manager. After a brief interrogation, wherein I apologised profusely for my moment of madness (copyright Richard Madeley, Winona Ryder et al) and offered to pay for the contraband (he declined), he instructed the security guards to call the police. He then left, leaving me sitting with my head in my hands, pretending to cry whilst peeking through my fingers to see if the security guard’s heart would melt at my histrionics. It didn’t of course: he remained with his hand on the door handle, as if I was likely to try and make a run for it.

The police duly arrived, about six of them – clearly they considered me to be a major catch – and proceeded to escort me through Queensgate, me surrounded by coppers, like a celebrity with his entourage and security. I was then bundled into the back of a police van and driven off to the local police station. Clearly they were making an example of me, and at the same time, scaring enough shit out of me to make sure I never went shop-lifting again. (It worked).

Once at the station, you have to be interviewed, booked in and read your rights by the Duty Sergeant. However, on arrival I found there was a queue of similarly arrested teenage (or younger) shoplifters, and I was instructed to take my place against the wall at the back of the line.

As we all stood there in shameful silence, a policeman walked by, and asked each of us why we were here.

“Nicking” said the first lad.

“What?” asked PC Plod.

“A personal stereo” came the budding Oliver Twist’s response.

The same question was asked of the other two in the queue; I can’t remember what their answers were, but they were definitely cooler and harder things to steal than my meagre haul.

And then it was my turn.

“What about you, sonny?”

“Four pairs of socks” I replied, eliciting smirks from my new found fellow thieves.

“Socks???”

“Yes sir. White ones.”

There was a pause for dramatic effect. I’ll give him something, this guy’s comic timing was impeccable.

“Bet you feel a bit of a twat now, don’t you?” said the copper, looking back down the line and proffering a “Hark at him!” gesture at my fellow convicts. I couldn’t disagree.

Finally I got to the desk, where my particulars were taken down, and my pockets emptied, at which point the shocking presence of the battery was exposed.

“What’s this?” my interrogator asked.

“A battery” I replied, matter-of-factly.

“Nick this as well did you?”

“No, I bought that”.

“Oh? Where’s the receipt then? And the bag?”

“I didn’t keep the receipt and I didn’t ask for a bag.”

“Where did you buy it?”

“Boots.”

“Which counter?”

“The photography department” I answered, the first thing to come into my head.

“Well, we’ve got you there Sonny Jim. My wife works on the photography counter in Boots on a Saturday. I can give her a ring and see if she remembers you.”

I may only have been a kid, but even I could spot such an obvious bluff.

“Okay. Feel free to ask her” I replied, looking him straight in the eye. I wanted to add “Though I don’t think they’re allowed to take personal calls during opening hours”, but thought better of it.

I was then led to a cell, where I was to be held until my parents had arrived. Before entering the cell, they make you remove your shoes and belt, and anything else you might potentially use to top yourself whilst in custody. (The shoes have a dual suicide purpose: firstly, the laces could be used to hang myself, secondly, as a teenage boy, one whiff of the insoles would have induced a catatonic state at the very least).

I handed these over, and went into the cell, to find I was sharing with the youngest of the three other kids I had been lined up with. He was displaying considerably less bravado than he had when in the queue, sitting on the bench, knees up against his chest, arms clasped round them, sniffing in an effort to stop himself from crying.

The door slammed behind me, and I decided that as my cellmate was about to blub, I needed to show I was top dog, that I wasn’t bothered, that I was the Norman Stanley Fletcher and he was the Lenny Godber of this cell. I lay down on what was left of the bench, and proceeded to have a kip.

I was woken some time later by the sound of the flap in the door clanging open, and the words “Oi! You! Get up, your parents are here” being barked through. I assumed, as did my cellmate, that as he had been here longer than me, it was his parents, and he got up to leave. However, it turned out his folks gave less of a fuck about him than mine did about me.

“Not you” shouted the kindly policeman, “you!” It was directed at me.

I mentioned earlier that they had taken my shoes and my belt; the reason I was wearing a belt that day was because I was wearing a pair of grey canvas trousers with a popper button (I know, cool, right?) which had a nasty habit of unpopping at inopportune moments. This, of course, transpired to be one such moment.

As I stood up, I failed to notice the popper had performed its usual trick, leading me to literally fall over my trousers which had, in true slap-stick style, plummeted to around my ankles. Lord only knows what the police must have thought I was doing with my cellmate….

Into the interview room, where I was met with understandably frosty glares from my parents. I was released with a caution, the only thing my mother saying on the drive home was “Well, you’ll never get a job now”. The subject was never mentioned again, and I have a sneaking suspicion that this might be the first time my brother has ever found about this (although I might have told him during a drinking session sometime).

It was not until several years later that I ever discussed the events of that day with my parents. Luckily we can laugh about it now, although I am always disappointed that, bearing in mind the identity of store from which I had stolen, this old, slightly adapted, joke didn’t happen on that day:

I had a phone call yesterday.

“Hello?” I said.

“Hello. This is Dominic from Littlewoods”

“Littlewoods? Oh God thank you thank you thank you! I’ve won the football pools!! I’m rich! Rich! Rich!!!!”

“Er…no….we’ve just caught your son shoplifting.”

We’ll save the trip to Norway for next time. To finish off with, a song which perhaps goes some way to explaining the reason I stole that day, a jealousy of those who seemed to get everything they wanted with minimum effort, and the last of the singles I bought (yes, bought) in this chunk of 1985:

522b5c8dd844503c7dfa41b149d2c053 Dire Straits -Money For Nothing

Or I could just blame Pete.

More soon.

1985 and All That (January – April)

Deep breaths. Come on, we can do this.

It is 1985. Oh yes it is. The year that I think it’s fairly safe to say that my record buying took off with a vengeance. And it’s fair to say, it’s quite a mixed bag. Some of which, in direct contradiction to my “There’s No Such Things as a Guilty Pleasure” tag line, I cannot believe I am about to confess in such a public arena that I spent money on.

There, that’s piqued your interest, hasn’t it?

But before we get cracking, some admin. Firstly, as there’s quite a few records for me to reminisce over, I’ll split 1985 into three different posts. Secondly, I can’t really go any further without talking a little more about the behemoth that was Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas”, partly because it topped the charts for what seemed forever at the start of the year, but when researching this post I was surprised to find that actually it was toppled from pole position on 13th January.

I think there are two reasons it dropped from the top so quickly:

  • there wasn’t anyone left to buy the bloody thing, and
  • the cynic in me thinks that this is wholly indicative of that British spirit of charity, and how quickly it can be forgotten when it no longer suits. “It’s not Christmas anymore, so we can stop spending our money telling them it is.” The inverse of the current volte-face in opinion regarding the refugee situation, if you will (although pretty much everyone I’ve spoken to has been sympathetic to their cause, it just took the media – and the press specifically – a while to realise they were out of step with what most people were thinking.)

So to kick things off in 1985, a song from 1984, which, in light of the above, and even more so when you look at the shabby scaremongering this week about Jeremy Corbyn, sums up the political bias of the press in typical style.

I guarantee that when you watch this you will think two things:

1: Blimey (or insert your own swear word/exclamation of preference here), doesn’t he look young?, and

2: Blimey (or insert your own swear word/exclamation of preference here),  nothing much has changed since 1984, has it?

It Says Here

But I digress. Where was I? Ah yes – Band Aid and admin. Thirdly, I am obliged to mention The Quo somewhere, so lets get it out of the way now, shall we?

Quo’s Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt were actually supposed to have lead lines on “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, but performed them so badly in the studio that they got ditched for Paul Weller, Sting and Glenn Gregory. Their performance is probably explained by the fact that the duo openly admit to turning up at the studio with “shitloads of drugs…coke, dope and all sorts. People were saying, ‘Let’s go and see Doctor Rossi and Doctor Parfitt, shall we?’….” (Rossi has since revealed that he blew £1.7 million on coke in the 1980s, which explains not only why most of their records were, with the benefit of hindsight (mine – everyone else knew it at the time) shite, but also why a chunk of his septum fell out).

They also managed to lock Spandau Ballet in the toilets at the Band Aid recording sessions, so…y’know…s’not all bad.

That’s the admin out of the way: on to the hits!

First up, a song I have already written about, and so I’m going to skip past it now. That song is Kirsty MacColl’s version of “A New England” and you can read all about it and listen to it here: self-referential tosser.

Next up, an artist I have a great deal of affection for, without actually owning very many of his records: Terry Hall. By 1985, he had left The Specials, formed Fun Boy Three, co-written “Our Lips Are Sealed” with Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Go’s, given a helping hand to Bananarama’s career by way of a guest appearance on “It Ain’t What You Do (It’s the Way That You Do It)” (or did Banarama appears as guests on the Fun Boy Three’s version? I never did quite manage to work that out), split from Fun Boy Three, and formed The Colourfield.

Truth be told, The Colourfield marked the start of a decline if not in the quality of Hall’s work, then certainly in the commercial success he achieved. This, though, was their first single, and their biggest hit, and rather lovely it is too:

the-colour-field-thinking-of-you-chrysalis The Colourfield – Thinking of You

Don’t go thinking I’d gone all soft though. Nope, at the start of 1985 rawwwwk was very much where my heart still lay, although I would have to admit my tastes were starting to shift towards more poppy territory.

But wait – who’s this coming over the horizon? A Canadian chap in a checked shirt who seems to marry rock and pop together in perfect harmony? Just what The Doctors ordered! And so it was that I bought this:

Bryan-Adams-Run-To-You-vinyl Bryan Adams – Run to You

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking this is one of the records I’m embarrassed to admit to owning, right? Well no, actually. See, in 1985 The Bryster (as nobody has ever called him) was not yet the purveyor of power ballads and Number One hogger that we have since come to know and hate, for whilst it was actually released in 1984, it was in 1985 that his “Reckless” album was, frankly massive. I bought that too, but not just yet, so we’ll come back to that later, but suffice it to say it was packed with, yes, power ballads (“Heaven“), enduring power pop (“Summer of ’69“) – c’mon, everyone loves that record, don’t they? – and a rather shonkingly awful duet with Tina Turner (“It’s Only Love“).

Ah, Tina. Tina Turner. It is to you I turn to present the “What on Earth Was I Thinking When I Bought This???” award for the first part of 1985. I have neither clue nor excuse. Maybe I was blinded by the fright-wig. Maybe it was that “riding an invisible horse” dance she seemed to do. I dunno. But somehow, lurking in my record collection, is this:

tina-turner-priavte-dancer-album-artwork Tina Turner – Private Dancer

But I didn’t just go out and buy the single. Oh no. In fact, I didn’t buy, nor have I ever bought, any of her singles. Not for me on this occasion the usual “Buy first single. Buy second single. Like third single? Buy the album” routine I had safely established. No. To compound my shame, I went straight out and bought the fucking album.

I’ll get my coat.

But no. I won’t. Instead, I’m going to turn things round by posting what to my mind is one of the great lost singles from the 1980s, an absolute belter, and if I had to list my favourite singles of all time, this would be right in there:

the-big-sound-authority-this-house-is-where-your-love-stands-source Big Sound Authority – This House (Is Where Your Love Stands)

Criminally short-lived, Big Sound Authority only released three more singles, none of which managed anything approaching the success of “This House” (which itself only managed to get to Number 21 in the charts) and one album, which also tanked.

And so to Liverpool, and to China Crisis, and a song the title of which I don’t think you’d get away with these days:

China-Crisis-Black-Man-Ray-116071 China Crisis – Black Man Ray

Erm, where do you start? Well apparently, it’s about Ray Charles, but quite why they felt the need to point out he was black I have no idea. Let’s skip swiftly on.

I’ve already written about the other single by the next artiste, the godawful incomprehensible babble that was “The Riddle”. Unperturbed by just how terrible that was, I went and bought the follow up and until I came to write this, I’d forgotten that actually it’s rather good. Of it’s time, sure, but rather good all the same.

Nik_Kershaw_Wide_Boy_Single_Cover Nik Kershaw – Wide Boy

Needless to say, shortly after this, his own pop career nose-dived dramatically, before being ever so slightly resurrected when he wrote this. Yeh, cheers for that, Nik.

And so, to round off this first look back at 1985, another record that would not just join “This House” in my list of my favourite singles of all time, but would unquestionably nestle squarely in the top ten. The Cult were not a band I remember my brother ever owning any records by, but I think his recent radical change in musical taste had probably rubbed off on me enough to make my ears prick up when I first heard this:

the-cult-she-sells-sanctuary-beggars-banquet The Cult – She Sells Sanctuary

If ever a record deserves to be played as loudly as possible, it’s that one. And it still sounds as magnificent to these ears today as it did way back then. And I’m not the only one who thinks so: super-cool DJ Erol Alkan used to regularly drop it in his sets (I’ll try and source an example to post for you sometime) and even I witnessed the power of this record first hand. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine was in a band which did an “Indie-okie” night in North London once a month. (The premise: karaoke, but with a live band playing behind the volunteer singer, who would choose from a list of classic Indie tracks. It was as much fun as it sounds i.e. an enormous amount). They asked Hel and I to DJ on the bits in between and we were more than happy to oblige – in fact it was the first time we DJ’d together. Anyway, as everyone was basically there to either sing or to have good laugh at those who did, nobody was expected to actually dance. But that’s exactly what did happen when I dropped this: the dancefloor didn’t exactly go mental, but it suddenly filled up and there was definite movement, enough for one of the band to tap me on the shoulder and say “Steady on – they’re supposed to enjoy our bits more than the records!”.

Right, that’s yer lot for now. More soon.