Posts Tagged With: LPs

Why blokes never grow up…

Tom Butchart, proud owner of Sound It Out Records in Stockton

Tom Butchart, proud owner of Sound It Out Records in Stockton

“When I play a record, I can tell you where I was, who I was going out with…it’s all about memories.” So says Tom Butchart, owner of Sound It Out Records in Stockton-on-Tees. Tom has a theory that blokes like to collect things as a way of holding on to their youth. That way they never grow up. He admits that 99% of his customers are men. For Tom and the rest of us vinyl junkies, records are endlessly fascinating because they hold memories and emotions. We are forever trying to recapture the past. Through the music we hear on old vinyl records, we are transported back to a time of big hair, flared jeans and necking in the back row of the pictures.

Recorded in Oslo, pressed in Munich...I must hear it!

Recorded in Oslo, pressed in Munich…I must hear it!

Now as you may or not know, I was once myself a record shop man – the manager of HMV in Bradford, no less. I worked there from 1974 until 1980, certainly some of the best years for music, I’m sure you’ll agree. I was 18 when I joined and 24 when I left, so they were formative years, years when one’s musical tastes are cemented. But whereas everybody else who worked in the shop in those days has now forgotten about their experiences and moved on to other things, I haven’t. For some unfathomable reason I am obsessed by those 6 years of my life. So much so, that I have spent all the intervening years trying to find all the records that were in the shop at the time. And I mean ALL of them! Yes, folks, it’s a kind of madness.

A record I just HAD to hear in 1975...

Now does the music match the cover, I wonder…

When I started working in the shop, some of the big sellers were records like Sheer Heart Attack by Queen and Supertramp’s Crime of the Century. But I quickly became entranced by more exotic records, LPs with intriguing, enigmatic covers, recorded in Scandinavia and pressed in Germany; unpronounceable names I had never heard of playing racks of polyphonic synthesizers or odd instruments like bass clarinet.  Terje Rypdal, Bennie Maupin, Eberhard Weber, Annette Peacock – who were these people? Suddenly music wasn’t just for dancing or shaking your shoulder-length hair; it was something deeper, magical and transcendent. LP covers were wonderfully artistic, and often the music inside matched the aesthetic promise of the outside.

Here is a picture of 'heaven' for a bloke like me...

Here is a picture of ‘heaven’ for a bloke like me…

If my obsession is a kind of religion, then I worship at a temple in the middle of my sitting room, between two great big speakers. The records I play serve as little prayers and sermons, but without the dogma. In fact, music is a release from moral responsibilities, a suspension of worry and care, a flight of fancy, a time to sing like an idiot on the sofa. Old LPs transport me as efficiently as any time-machine. Now you can see why I, and Tom Butchart, and many other blokes, have never quite grown up.

Worshipping at a temple somewhere between 2 speakers...

Worshipping at a universal temple somewhere between 2 speakers…

Nowadays, we are constantly told to “live in the present”, whatever that means. Don’t think about tomorrow, don’t dwell in the past. Well, I’m sorry, but to quote an old Jethro Tull song, I am very definitely Living in The Past. Does that make me a saddo? Maybe. But for me, music is a kind of emotional touchstone. With the aid of my LPs, I am able to reach down into a well of feelings within myself. Of course, music also gives you a great sense of history – not just the history of music, but of cultural and social change. Reading is wonderful, too, but it tends to stimulate the intellect; music is a kind of  spark that instinctively sets our bodies and souls in motion.

Mental-as-anything Quo fan Shane in his favourite shop

Mental-as-anything Quo fan Shane in his favourite shop

There is a film about Tom Butchart and Sound It Out Records. One of the blokes featured in the film is a regular customer called Shane, whose obsession is focused on one band only: Status Quo (all together now, “Here we go-oh, rockin’ all over the world”). This guy appears to have a humongous collection of memorabilia and is on a permanent mission to buy anything associated with his rocker heroes.  There is a very revealing moment in the film where Shane looks at the camera and says: “I just like my Quo! I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I haven’t got a woman. What more could you want?” I have no idea what he means…

Categories: Blighty, Music, Vinyl | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Music is my mistress

This vinyl junkie just can't stop himself...

This vinyl junkie just can’t stop himself…

William Shakespeare said never trust a person who is not moved by music. It’s not enough to tap your foot or sing along to the muzac on the radio: you have to need music like you need love. A song can make you glow inside, jump up and shout with joy or sit and cry your eyes out on the sofa. Most people I talk to believe that music is important in their lives. But I am suspicious of people who say they like all kinds of music: it usually means “nothing in particular”. In other words, music is not an obsession, an addiction, a drug.

You know you have an obsession when you realise that you really do like “all kinds” of music. I mean everything. When people claim to have wide taste it usually means “within the sphere of rock and pop”. My problem is I like the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. And all of it looks down on me every day from my record shelves.

OK - this isn't me, but I know how he feels...

Come up and see my LPs! Go on, you know you want to.

So here’s a little test. I am appealing to everybody on the blogosphere to examine their musical predilections and try and match this for “wide-ranging taste”. My record collection covers: country and western, English and American folk, every kind of jazz (from Dixieland and Duke Ellington to avant garde scary stuff), rock and roll, deep soul, disco, reggae, samba, heavy rock, soft rock, prog-rock, punk, bossa nova, every kind of classical music (from Bach to Bartok and Benjamin Britten), blues, brass bands and Welsh male voice choirs. I even have recordings of steam trains.

The worst thing about having an unstoppable fascination with everything recorded is the embarrassing cheesy stuff you have to come clean about. Over the years I have had soft spots for Barry Manilow, David Cassidy, Helen Reddy, Mantovani and his Orchestra, Cliff Richard, Julio Iglesias, Shirley Bassey and Boy George. And I’m not gay.

Let's hear it for Barry Manilow!

Let’s hear it for Barry Manilow!

The problem with having musical “taste” (and the inflated pride that goes with it) is that so much music has to be dismissed as trash. You can only like the good stuff and look upon the rest with derision. You become a self-appointed critic panning everything that hasn’t got…well, whatever it is you think it needs. But the real secret of having musical taste is liking everything. Yes, everything (apart from gangsta rap and André Rieu, of course).

My favourite music magazine is Record Collector (published in the UK). You never know who might be on the cover: Frank Sinatra, Iggy Pop, Donny Osmond, Adele or some weird prog-rock band from the early 70s. The ethos

The weird and wonderful world of...Mike Gibbs

The weird and wonderful world of…Mike Gibbs

of the magazine is that they don’t discriminate. Of course, some readers only buy the magazine to look for their favourite artists and skip the rest. But the happiest reader, the music lover, finds excitement on every page – like a schoolboy with a comic.

So the next time somebody says they like all kinds of music, ask them if that includes Bix Beiderbecke, Dolly Parton, Jethro Tull, Throbbing Gristle, The Only Chrome Waterfall Orchestra and the Nolan Sisters.

The majestic, tragic Bix Beiderbecke with his wonderful Wolverines, 1924

The majestic, tragic Bix Beiderbecke with his wonderful Wolverines, 1924

Categories: Music, Vinyl | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The biggest record shop in the world?

When does a country become a giant second-hand record shop? When somebody like me goes back to England from Brazil, on holiday, with the sole intention of scouring every charity and junk shop for vinyl. OK, so I did some other stuff like see my mum (Bradford) and my brother (Twickenham) and a few mates up north and in London. But for three weeks flat I planned an assault on every possible city, town or village that might have a shop in it with a tatty cardboard box in the corner containing a few old records.

New vinyl is not for me. It’s easy and expensive. No, the joy is in the accidental discovery. Serendipity. Kissing a thousand toads to find that elusive princess. Fumbling through umpteen fusty boxes of James Last and John Denver in the dim hope that a glorious little gem may turn up. Something like a US import of Mister Magic by Grover Washington for 50 pence (yes, kiddies that really happened).

If you’re still reading this, you’ll probably wonder exactly how many records I managed to squeeze into my suitcases on the way home to sunny Porto Alegre from dreary Heathrow. Go on then, guess. Twenty? Fifty? No more than 50, surely. Well, how about 115? You see, a vinyl junkie needs a lot of fixes, man. Hang on a minute – the needle has just finished playing the last track on side one of The World of Blues Power (John Mayall, Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Savoy Brown et al). Now I’ll have to get up and lift that lovely diamond before it hits the label in the middle. But I’ll be back. Honest, guv!

Categories: Vinyl | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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