Albums are great. Nothing else can communicate the depth of feelings and experiences in such a short space of time. Books take days or weeks to read (normally), but albums can take you somewhere in around an hour. Vinyl albums have the great asset of a holdable cover that you can sit back and take in … look at the artwork … read the lyrics … study the credits, all while the music is playing. Even in the CD/DVD/Download age a new album, or and old one discovered, is a wonderful thing (normally!).
There have been a number of albums that have made a difference to the course of my music and life in general. In subsequent posts I’ll mention a few in more depth. The first album I ever bought was The Beatles “Hard Days Night” – the album of the film. I saved my pocket money to buy it (albums weren’t cheap for schoolboys with no job) but it was a big step up from the EP of only 4 songs. There were loads more.
I bought a couple more, Fleetwood Mac’s “Then Play On” I recall buying because I loved the singles, only one of which was on the album (Oh Well) so I was a bit disappointed. Then Steve introduced me to two pivotal albums that changed everything. They were musically different but their covers had similar long-haired guys and girls with long dresses and flowing locks. One was by an un-accompanied traditional English folk group (“The Young Tradition Sampler” by the Young Tradition on the Transatlantic label) and the other was by a psychedelic Scottish band (“Changing Horses” by The Incredible String Band on the Electra label). I had never heard anything as stunning as them before. Astonishing harmonies, lyrics from a bygone age, instruments from all over … magical stuff.
Chicken On A Raft, Creation, Randy Dandy-O and Sleepers Awake … and I did!
I seem to have always been aware of music – it’s been a constant part of my life, and still is. My parents were interested in amateur dramatics and my mum always seemed to be singing around the house when I was young.
I found out later that my dad actually went to a choir school in London when he was a boy. He was also a television engineer and so we had access to such things as radiograms and televisions. He worked in Weybridge, Surrey and I went to primary school in Wimbledon and Carshalton until I was about 8. I have three clear musical memories from those days:
Stanley Park School Country Dancing – I guess I was around 6 and Stanley Park (Carshalton Beeches, Surrey) had a large school playing field. I can remember our class going on the field to do “English Country Dancing” – it seemed an odd thing to do at the time, but now I know that such things were commonplace in schools. Maybe it was responsilble for my fear of dancing that I have to this day – but actually that’s probably because I am so bad at dancing! I don’t recall the music but it would have been some folk tunes to which we children were supposed to dance around in groups. It was sunny and outdoors, but almost certainly un-memorable.
Classical Music – in our front room in Carshalton we had a “stereogram”, a wonderful machine for the time that took up the space of a small table in which was a record player and radio with two speakers and space to store vinyl LPs. Most of mum and dad’s records were of no interest to me but one summer day I discovered their box set of classical music. I suspect it was a Reader’s Digest thing, but it was through those records that I first fell in love with Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. I must have only been 6 or 7 but it was an amazing piece of music. It still is now, nearly 100 years after it was composed, and to my child’s ears it stood out above everything else. The rest of the box set had Debussy’s Prelude to a Faun and Holst’s Planet’s Suite, and they were great but Stravinsky was the man!
5 O’Clock Club – a wonderful children’s program on ITV that was transmitted at tea time for children and hosted by Wally Whyton and Muriel Young and a glove puppet called Pussy Cat Willum. It also had the legend who is Bert Weedon, the man who taught so many kids to play the guitar. It was my main exposure to pop music. Wally Whyton, although I didn’t know it at the time, had been a key skiffle guitarist – so along with Bert he started me on the guitar route. The first single I bought was Bert’s “Ginchy” (I haven’t seen the records for years but I recall it as being on the ATV label and the B-side was “Yearnin'” – I haven’t heard them for years and don’t recall anything else about them).
We moved from Surrey to Devon in 1960, to run a pub called the Jolly Sailor in East Ogwell. I am sure I saw a children’s TV program around that time which had Johnny Kidd and the Pirates starting it, riding in on a horse and cart and Shaking All Over – from then on I was going to play guitar!