A History of Dubious Taste

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I pledged that I’d crack on with the autobiographical aspect of this place, irrespective of the fact that I don’t necessarily have any entertaining acid drops to relate to the records in question.

So, with nothing to say except that you should trust me here: suspend your pre-existing prejudices about this lot and give this a listen. This is just great. I love this record, especially the bit where Knopfler goes all Springsteen mid-way through it.

Here’s the just-shy of fifteen minutes epic that is:

mi0002788297

Dire Straits – Telegraph Road

See? Told you.

More soon.

1985 and All That

“More soon. Better soon. No really, I promise.”

Sometimes things I write come back to haunt me. Last time I wrote anything in this thread, it was the words above.

And then I checked to see what records that I bought in 1985  I still had to write about.

Ah.

Can I pretend I was talking about records I bought in 1986? No? Fair enough.

OK, let’s try and get through these then.

You know how stand-up comedians often talk of terrible gigs they played when they started out, before they found “their voice”? Well, that pretty much sums up the mish-mash of records that I’m going to post today: I hadn’t quite found my voice, my style just yet, and that’s as close as I’m going to get to justifying some of these.

So, first, one which proves that I was still a little easily-led. When I was 15, and for a few years beforehand, many of my friends were into bands like Pink Floyd and Rush. I bought into the first to an extent – I’ve talked about ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ on these pages before, and that remains the only record by them that I own a physical copy of – but I never fell for the ‘charms’ of Canadian rockers Rush at all.

But there was another band that loomed large amongst my peers, who I never really liked all that much, but who managed to score a couple of hits in 1985, the first of which I still quite like but didn’t buy, and the second which I did buy but don’t think I’ve played more than once or twice since:

marillion-lavender-emi

Marillion – Lavender

That sleeve really tells you all you need to know about that record, doesn’t it?

Well, not quite. Marillion’s lead singer was called Fish. He chose that name because he thought it to be less ridiculous than his real name. Which was Derek Dick. So he had a point.

Moving swiftly on then, a record which I seem to remember a girl at school giving to me as a birthday present. I have no idea why she did that. I don’t recall ever saying I particularly liked it, and I don’t recall she and I ever being particularly great friends. Friendly, sure, but not friendly enough for birthday gifts. Maybe I’d mentioned it in passing and she decided to present me with it thinking I would be grateful, maybe I’d mentioned in in passing and she decided to present me with it knowing it would piss me off to actually own it. (In case any of you are now hollering “Maybe she fancied you, you idiot!” at your screen/tablet/phone, well I can rule that out, for she only ever had eyes for wrong ‘uns, and no amount of shoplifting white socks would have made me a wrong ‘un). So, I have no idea. All I know is that I not only own this, but also that it has inexplicably survived my lean years, when records that I genuinely loved were ruthlessly stripped from within my vinyl collection to assist me in the purchase of some unloved trinket or other:

Red+Box+Lean+On+Me+219048

 Red Box – Lean on Me

I do hope that everyone of you is saying “Aye” right now, as requested.

There was still the occasional purchase from Britannia Music going on at this time, including this, which was actually released two years earlier in 1983, but which I bought through choice rather than one of their “Tick This Box and Send the Card Back if You Don’t Want This Record” scam. I have no qualms at all about owning this album; Elton John has been around for such a long time that I think tucked away somewhere in his back catalogue there’s at least one song that everyone loves, be it “Your Song”, “Tiny Dancer”, “Passengers” (God help you if that’s yours) or this, from the album in question, “Too Low For Zero”, which still has me singing along like nobody can hear me (although they can, they definitely can, as the guy who used to live in the flat above us in Cardiff once kindly pointed out to me) when I’ve had a few:

MI0002072918

Elton John – I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues

Of course, in 1985, Live Aid happened. I’ve already mentioned this in passing before, and besides, as I think I mentioned last time, I can’t really compete with the wonderful post over at Any Major Dude With Half a Heart from the 30th anniversary of the gig, which I would thoroughly recommend you go read, here.

The cynics amongst us – okay, including me – whilst applauding the honourable intentions of all those involved, couldn’t help but notice that appearing at either the UK or the USA concert (or both, as Phil Collins did when he famously got Concorde across the pond, thus leaving the sort of carbon footprint that required Live8 to happen years later), not only scored them bonus points for caring, or appearing to care, about world issues, it also had a seriously positive effect on their record sales.

None more so, than Queen.

In November, they released this single, often thought to have been inspired by the event of Live Aid, the lyrics to which, in drummer Roger Taylor’s own words, were “sort of half nicked off Martin Luther King’s famous speech”:

queen-one-vision-1985-34

Queen – One Vision

That’s Queen, who lest we forget, were roundly criticised for playing a run of shows at Sun City, the entertainment complex located in Bophutswana, despite the United Nations cultural boycott of South Africa whilst apartheid remained in situ.

But let’s not go off on another rant again, eh?

Queen were of course not the only act to appear at Live Aid to monopolise on their appearance. Precisely two months before Live Aid, Dire Straits released their “Brothers in Arms” album, which of course went on to claim a position in the Top 10 Best-Selling UK albums ever that as far as I can find, they still hold today (Number One? Queen’s “Greatest Hits”, natch). I by now was working my way through The Straits’ back catalogue as fast as my money would allow me, and next on the list was 1980s “Making Movies”.

Now I know that the mere mention of Dire Straits makes many of you reach for that little X in the corner that closes the window, but indulge me for a moment. For whilst “Brothers in Arms” may have been the album that made them all their bucks (helped in no small part by a coincidental correlation with CD sales taking off), if I were to look over their back catalogue, they were already past their best, with their absolute peak having been “Making Movies”. It’s an album I still own, and play semi-regularly today, mostly because of this:

dire_straits-romeo_and_juliet

Dire Straits – Romeo & Juliet

When I was a kid, I was mildly obsessed with “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, a science fiction/comedy series, written by the late, great Douglas Adams, which first aired on BBC Radio 4 in 1978, but has been repeated many times since. In 1982, my brother recorded them all onto a series of C-60 cassettes, which he created sleeves for, little doodles, drawing and sketches of characters and scenes from the episodes contained within. (I know it was 1982 because there was an odd amount of episodes, which meant the second side of the last cassette was blank, a situation he resolved by recording songs from the Top 40 one week, one of which was Quo’s version of Tom Jones’ “Something ‘Bout You Baby”. Don’t fret, I’m not going to post it.)

Anyway, the radio series spawned a television version, a five book trilogy (The final one, “Mostly Harmless” came with the words “The fifth book in the increasingly inaccurately named ‘Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ trilogy” written on the front), and much, much later, a film version.

There were also novelty singles (“Marvin the Paranoid Android” by…erm…Marvin, The Paranoid Android – and fret not, I’m not posting that either), a stage show or three, not forgetting that Adams’ creative brilliance inspired the names of musicians (see: Level 42), and of course Radiohead, who named their biggest single, “Paranoid Android”, after the aforementioned character.

Oh go on then, I’ll play one of those three:

Why am I prattling on about Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I hear you feel obliged to ask.  Well, because in the fourth of the inaccurately named trilogy, “So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish”, Adams write this:

“Arthur put Dire Straits on the stereo…Mark Knopfler has an extraordinary ability to make a Schecter Custom Stratocaster hoot and sing like angels on a Saturday night, exhausted from being good all week and needing a stiff beer – which is not strictly relevant at this point since the record hadn’t yet got to that bit, but there will be too much else going on when it does…so it seems best to mention it now while things are still moving slowly”

A page later, he writes:

“She moved forward, put her arms round and kissed him, because the record had got to that bit which, if you knew the record, you would know made it impossible not to do this.”

I had always assumed, wrongly I find as I came to research this post, that Adams was talking about “Romeo & Juliet” when he wrote that, but it transpires he was actually referring to a different track from “Making Movies”, one which opens the album with an arrangement of the “Carousel Waltz” from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “Carousel”. This song, in fact:

dire-straits-tunnel-of-love-part-1-vertigo-5

Dire Straits – Tunnel of Love

Say what you like about Dire Straits, they knew how to press home a concept on minimalist sleeve art. “Making Movies” is identical to the two above (but with the words “Making Movies” replacing the words “Romeo & Juliet” and “Tunnel of Love”, obviously).

If Peter Saville had done something similar with the sleeves of all the Factory Records releases, we’d all be hailing them as works of art. But as this is Dire Straits, and thus already on minus cool points, we’ve never heard of the bloke responsible for the original design and artwork. (A chap called Neil Terk, in case you’re interested. Brexiters are hoping he won’t gain access to our country.)

Which leaves me with just two other singles that I bought in 1985 to write about, and hopefully a sign of things to come.

These last two also come from the same band, a band who had already reincarnated from Southern Death Cult, to Death Cult, to The Cult, their sound spiralling to a more and more accessible version of Goth, and following the success they found with their “Love” album,, they changed once more, unleashing a full metal racket upon us (which I also loved).

But before that, following the release of “Love” and “She Sells Sanctuary”, which I’ve written about and posted previously, by the end of 1985, there were two more singles, both of which I bought on gatefold double 7″ format. I don’t think I’ve ever played anything other than the A side of either of them, which makes me think that it was around now that I was beginning to turn into the fully fledged, must collect everything, music nerd you see before you today.

So, here, to round things off for 1985 (as far as I can work out, that’s covered everything I bought, borrowed or stole), are two singles by The Cult, both of which seem to sum up Britain right now. And that’s all I’m going to say on the matter:

Rain-650px-350x350

 The Cult – Rain

The+Cult+Revolution+303838

 The Cult – Revolution

You’d think they’d have edited out the occasion that lead singer Ian Astbury comes in a bar too early for the “There’s a revolution” refrain, wouldn’t you? Can you spot it, readers?

More soon. Better soon. No really, I promise.

Oh, shut up, mun.

1985 And All That

‘Bout time I got this moving again isn’t it?

When I last wrote anything on this thread, I was talking about a school trip to Norway, and promised to talk about the contents of the diary I kept for those two weeks.

Well, having read said diary, I’m not going to dwell on it as, frankly, it’s rather embarrassing. It’s like it’s been written by a  15 year old boy.

Similarly, the next record I bought is by a band most people would be embarrassed to admit owning anything by, let alone liking.

I’ve mentioned them previously on these pages, but only in terms of being on a compilation album I once bought. Now, though, it’s time for me to come clean and admit to buying not just that, but today’s single and every album in their back catalogue.

This:

Dire-Straits

Dire Straits – Money For Nothing

Now. Let me be clear. I’m not embarrassed to admit to liking this band. I don’t care that they are not, nor have they ever been or will be, cool. They will be mentioned again on these pages, so you’d better get used to it.

As you may have noticed from previous posts, in my youth I was fairly easily influenced in terms of my musical tastes, usually by my father or my brother, much as I tried to resist.

But there was no resistance for Dire Straits. And that was because someone on the Norway trip loved them, and I utterly fell for her and all she loved and at the time that included Dire Straits too.

I’m still in touch with the lady in question; she’s now happily set living in New Zealand with her partner and three kids; we’ve been in touch sporadically over the past ten years or so, and I felt obliged when writing this to get in touch with her and warn her that I was going to be posting something here about the Norway trip.

Her (edited) response was “Oh gosh. I think I was horrid in Norway…drinking..to the tune of Brothers in Arms”.

Well, I beg to differ.

What I haven’t told her is that having decided against writing about the trip to Norway, I really couldn’t avoid writing what I’m about to write. Oopsies.

Her reply goes on:”…thought nostalgia was supposed to make you feel all warm and fuzzy and enhance self-esteem…”

So before I go any further: Anne, if you’re reading this, sorry! But I hope it fits the latter criteria for you…

Anne was in the school year above me when we went to Norway; when I was at junior school I had been moved up a year (yeh, check out the brains on me!) and consequently knew a few people in her year, particularly one lad called Adrian, who had been given the nick-name “Flop” on account of the fact that he was the first person from his family to be clever. So we weren’t total strangers before the Norway trip, and we got on well throughout it. But in that way that 15 year old boys do when they meet a girl who doesn’t seem to be totally repulsed by them (although, with the benefit of hindsight and my diary, she was perhaps a little more interested in the local boys than I noticed at the time) I found myself gravitating to her.

A couple of years later, Anne, Flop and I wound up at 6th form together, at a different school to that we had attended for the previous five years, and they introduced me to their friends, at least one of whom is one of my longest-standing friends to this day. For that year, me, Anne, Flop, Richard, Tony, Kirsty and Maria, and a few other peripherals who hung out with us every now and then, were the cool kids, the antithesis to the boorish louts who took up one half of the common-room.

All of the aforementioned were indie kids; bear in mind when I started at 6th Form I was still a flag-waving, but wavering, Quo fan, so they must have seen something in me, probably my friendship with Anne and Flop, that allowed them to let me into their little gang.

As well as this, and at the same time, Anne was more than instrumental in introducing me to new bands too. She made me tapes of albums and tracks she thought I’d like; I still have these knocking around somewhere (though, alas, no working tape deck to play them on) and we’ll come back to them another time. I listen to pretty much all of the bands in question to this day, not solely because of her, but because they’re bloody ace. So, y’know, thanks.

Between these two reference points, between Norway and 6th Form, Anne used to work part-time in the Co-Op in her village. This was just up the road from my mate Matt’s house, where I would often stay after the monthly “dance” (by which I mean “disco”) which was held in our school on a Friday night. Come Saturday morning, I would often make excuses to pop to the shop in the hope she’d be working; more often than not she wasn’t, so I would return with bags full of pointlessly purchased provisions.

So, Anne was my great unrequited teenage love; I think she knows this, but I never told her or made a move at the time, so crippled with self-doubt and insecurity was I in my teenage years (and the fact she was proper obsessed with a lad called Paul Darby). If she doesn’t, then I’m pretty sure this is exactly the way that she would want to find out.

In an attempt to pull this back to something less embarrassing and confessional, this seems an apt record to post, one of the finest songs about unrequited love you will hear, not just by Mr Bragg, but ever:

billy_bragg-brewing_up_with_billy_bragg

Billy Bragg – The Saturday Boy

(Disclaimer: Anne never did any of things listed in this song)

More soon.

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.