Another New Year, new blog, new photo & a few new paragraphs…

Well, it’s been quite a while since I last posted on the ‘bloggery’ (it looked better with two ‘g’s’ rather than one). It was 18th April 2015 – & that’s nearly two years ago! Blimey (!), a lot’s happened since then. There’s been another album of songs, ‘REVERSING SIDEWAYS IN AN UPWARD DIRECTION’, which was released on 9th October last year, to an unsuspecting/unprepared general public (although I lie a bit about that, as it had been announced in advance, but I think most people had forgotten about it by the time it came out). It’s sold quite well, as I realise I’m a ‘niche artist’ (as well as being a ‘nice artist), so the shifting of numerous ‘units’, as they say in the music world, isn’t part of the agenda. However, it;’s doing okay thank you very much, & thank you to all those who have parted with their hard-earned cash to ‘dip into my world’! But, at only £5, who could resist such a little beauty? It’s had some good reviews, & tracks have been played on local, & national, radio (including BBC6Music – Tom Robinson Show!), so I’m very pleased with what’s happened so far. Have a look in ‘the shop’ on my website for purchasing a copy, if you so desire. I just need to get a few more festival gigs booked for this year to promote it, & I’ll be making some headway. It’s now time to start a new paragraph…

As soon as I finished the album, ideas started flowing about possible new ideas for songs. I seem to be on a bit of a creative flow at the moment, hence I’ve been recording again, & I’ve have amassed eight tracks so far, three of which are more-finished than the rest. Their titles are: ‘Do The Bosch’, ‘Technology – How Does It Make You Feel?’ & ‘A Quiet Evening In’. Now, this album started out as an instrumental project, & I was going to ask other musicians to help out. However, it has now become…A solo instrumental album with words – some of which are sung in a melodic fashion. I just couldn’t stop myself! So, later this year, another GGB album will be launched, with the working title of, ‘Leisure Land’. That’s all I have to say on the subject (for now).

If you’ve read my blogs before, & let’s face it, there hasn’t been very many (blogs, or readers), you might have noticed that the header photo has changed. The original photo used (above), was taken by artist/musician/sound-maker & friend, Sunshine Gray (originally in the 1980’s band, Gloria Mundi, & later, Eddie & Sunshine). Alas, she is no longer with us, but her work lives on via the internet. You can see/hear her sound installations at: www.sunshinegray.co.uk/ Unfortunately, a lot of people are no longer with us – stars of stage, screen, writers & yet more friends. Each week sees another celebrity bite the dust, & at the time of writing this, we have lost actor John Hurt & actress Mary Tyler Moore. You can’t dwell on the past, so this has triggered a ‘time for a change’. The new photo was taken in the midst of a guitar-playing/recording session, earlier this week (yes, you guessed it, for the new album!). During an idle moment (when I was probably thinking about something profound), I looked down at all the different-coloured leads, cables, foot pedals, effect units etc., & thought, ‘That looks like a photo I could use on my blog page. Oh yes, my blog page – the page that should have blogs on it!’ It was then that I decided to start writing this blog…& here it is!! There’s no time like the present.

When is a blog not a blog?…& Is nostalgia a thing of the past?

When is a blog not a blog?…

Questions, questions! The other day I thought it seemed a long time since I’d written a blog, & then I realised…It had been a long time since I wrote a blog! TWO YEARS AGO!! Yes, a whole two years! What had I been doing all this time? Cogitating? Vegetating? Speculating? Thinking? (there are lots of other ‘ings’ I could include here, but I’ll stop while I’ve still got your attention – if indeed, I’ve got it at all? Hello, is anyone there?….). To prove I have been doing something, below is a draft blog started last year when I was writing a song (entitled ‘I Like Nothing’), that prompted thoughts about the past but never completed/posted. Incidentally, I have been busy writing, recording, mixing my 2nd album., LO-TECH MUSIC FOR HI-TECH PEOPLE, available here, there & everywhere, including my humble little website. Please contact me if you’d like a copy – & at only £5:00, how can you resist? (Photo below.)

Finished Lo-tec music CD Cover

Anyway, a blog is only a blog when you post it. So, here it is, & at last I’m back & a-blogging!….

Is Nostalgia a thing of the past?

When I was at art college, many moons ago, we were constantly told to surround ourselves with our likes/passions/past/roots – the things that made us tick. My particular inspirations at the time were the seaside & monster magazines. The idea was to collect & build an archive that said a lot about the individual – what we were, where we’d come from & what helped to shape our work. It was basically, our source material. Over the (many) years, this idea of storing stuff has become part of me, that & the idea of what links us to the past.

A lot of my songs are about memories. I keep diaries to help retain those memories, but do today’s ‘younger generation’ (& I’m already starting to feel old by writing that!) manage to collect moments & momentos in the same way, especially with instant communication & social networks – which are permanent, yet volatile.

MP3s & other media sound files are all very well, but they are not associated with memories (i.e. where were they bought from – like a location), as they’re all ‘virtual. The ‘sounds’ are just collected, & usually in a random order – unlike record albums/CDs that are built up over weeks, months & years, & carefully selected to make up a library of different bands/genres etc. They all mean something to the owner. My first CD player (which, surprise, surprise, I still have, & is in good working order) had a ‘Random Selection’ button on it, that immediately gave you the album in a disconcerting order. I thought at the time, why mess around with something that’s been carefully put together in the studio, selecting tracks that follow-on from each other? Would I buy a painting, cut it up & then reassemble it on my living room wall? I don’t think so.

‘Young people’ have grown up not knowing ‘the album’, the idea of a concept, so they will very rarely play an entire album that follows through an idea, a theme, a direction. All MP3 collections are like the ‘sampler albums’ from years ago, only much more disjointed – but they’re not thought through, so the tracks don’t really sit together very well….If at all! Of course, MP3s can get ‘lost’, as they are not tangible objects (only the MP3 player is). You can’t hold an audio file, & it doesn’t have a front or back cover – certainly no images. There is also the important ‘tactile experience’ of physically handling the product (lovely LP’s for instance, that have to be lifted onto a record deck, & then turned over at the end of side one! Ooohhhh, lovely!). I might be ‘old school’,  but I know which format I’d prefer. Give me a 3-D object any day.

Whatever happened to rebellious youth?

Having recently played at a ‘Keeping It Peel – John Peel Day’ event, I remembered about some notes I’d written on bits of paper, with the above title, ‘Whatever Happened To Rebellious Youth’. Once I’d found them, I then remembered that I hadn’t written a blog for several months (25th May, to be exact!…..Damn!!). So, here’s the late, lamented follow-up blog……..

To keep this blog pain-free, I’m including some images to help break up the text – think of it like an illustrated book, only much, much shorter (so short in fact, that it wouldn’t even equate to a brief chapter…Or maybe I’m doing myself an injustice?).

I was called a ‘mature punk’ in a review of my live performance, when supporting Alan Clayson, a short while ago. Well, I quite like that…..& yes, if you must know, I did used to have short, bright red hair & dress like a skinny deckchair attendant wearing a variety of stripey deckchair covers, with hints of macho leather here & there. From a distance, I looked a bit like a very thin Briget Riley painting. Alas, that vivid hair colour treatment has taken it’s toll on my hair/head, but I still maintain a bit of ‘spikey-ness up top’ – retaining some integrity, I hope.

Me-Small-Facebook

Me (circa 1985) – complete with ‘macho leather look’

So, returning to my original question, what has happened to ‘rebellious youth’? The book, ‘Like Punk Never Happened’, by Dave Rimmer, (published by Faber & Faber) discusses how ‘New Pop’ in the 1980’s took over from Punk, & eventually the record business again started calling the shots, rather than the artists/bands – who had suddenly lost control of their careers; their goals; their direction, & ultimately, their destinations. It became industry-led. Music had lost it’s ‘soul’, & ended up corporate. Punk had originally broken down the boundaries & taken control, showing that anyone could do it (& in some cases, unfortunately, some did!).

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However, all good things come/came to an end. The music had gone full circle. The big companies were in control once more. Well, the same seems to have happened to todays ‘scene’ (old-fashioned word, that…A bit like ‘hip’, which you realise later in life is more to do with ‘replacement’, rather than ‘a trend’). Record labels are still looking out for their own versions of successful acts, & consequently we get plagued with sound-a-likes of bands/solo artists we’d rather not have heard in the first place. Oh woe! I shan’t mention names, but there are the singer-songwriters who sound as though their vocal chords have been strangulated, & consequently sing in high, wimpish, nasally, washy tones, that lack clarity of pronunciation. I’m not sure why some singers bother to write words, when you can’t even make sense of them…& it’s not as though they’re belting them out, either (they’re usually quite quiet, gentle songs)! Other acts/bands try to have a ‘jolly good foot stompin’ feel & beat to the numbers, forgetting that the songs need content, too…….Well, both genres are my pet hates, anyhow! So, before I sound like an embittered man, the point of all this rambling leads me onto the crux of this blog (if you’re still with me??), & that is, where is today’s rebellious youth?

Open mic nights are a chance for new talent to show off their wares. Alas, some of the time (although there are several exceptions) there are performers emulating present limp stars – that make for a very MOR experience. If I wanted that, I’d stay at home & listen to BBC Radio 1 (thankfully, I don’t…..I couldn’t!). It’s either a stereo-typical pop performer, or it’s regressive old school. Now, there’s nothing wrong with looking back to the past, but for gawd’s sake, reinterpret the song/style/era, not just copy it – I even heard a straightforward version of ‘Streets Of London’ earlier this year! Believe it or not, there are some people out there who still haven’t forgiven Bob Dylan for taking up the electric guitar. I say, ‘Get over it!’. It doesn’t seem right, young performers playing so ‘safe’ with their choice of numbers. They’ve listened to their parents very cosy record collection, & picked out stuff that came & went years ago. It’s all too easy listening…..Too Val Doonican (if you don’t know who that is, Wikipedia it). We need to move on. Emulate to innovate!!

John Peel was a great advocate in wanting ‘to be challenged’ by the music he was listening to. The book based on his reviews & articles, ‘John Peel, The Olivetti Chronicles’ (published by Corgi Books), shows how much he liked to be confronted by new styles & radical approaches in music….& in life, generally. Were he still alive, he’d be happy to hear something fresh & original – who wouldn’t? However, it does feel, yet again, that ‘Punk never happened’. Since, the further we get from the book’s ethos, the more crucial it should be to rebel musically………..

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Good things come to those that (work at it, & then) wait….possibly

Having recently finished recording/producing/mixing, & then physically getting my new (very first) solo album, ‘A Bathful Of Nasturtiums’, ‘out there’ to the general public, it was with a sense of satisfaction that I actually made my deadline date. I felt good. Everything was in place for the launch at Filey Folk Festival (see previous blog). The problem was, due to my lack of folky-ness, it didn’t sell any albums. So, all I had to do now was PROMOTE IT!! But how? I decided to start with local radio, & booked a spot on BBC Radio Humberside (the David Burns Show), followed by Vixen Radio (a community radio station, with ‘The Foxes Den’ show). I played several open mic nights, that alerted people to the songs & the album – & the fact that several local musicians had helped out too. A few copies were going here & there, which was great…..& word of mouth also spread the news. But what next??

Initially, I sent out a few promotional copies, including a couple to reviewers, but apart from the two radio stations & a reply from one reviewer, I’d heard nothing. Then suddenly, there in my Inbox, was a copy of a forthcoming review, written by Alan Clayson! As this was my very first solo attempt, it was all a bit daunting. Would he be kind, brutal, honest, not honest but polite, or any combination of these things? When I started to read it, I couldn’t believe my eyes! It was good. It was VERY GOOD! It was an uplifting experience, that made the making of the album really worthwhile. I was sent into a strange sort of euphoric state. Yes!!! So, I suppose I ought to let you read the glowing review. Here it is……

no2 Bath texture 12.3x12.3 copy

Graham Graham Beck

A Bathful Of Nasturtiums

www.graham-graham-beck.co.uk

‘A Song For Those Not Listening’, the third track in, ought to be compulsory listening for the critic who either skip-listens or doesn’t bother at all with most of the musical flotsam-and-jetsam that washes up round his word processor every week – because if A Bathful Of Nasturtiums is treated so, he’ll be overlooking perhaps 2013’s most entertaining album thus far.

Its maker, Graham Graham [sic] Beck was at art college in Hull at the same time a Wreckless Eric with whom he formed Ruby and the Takeaways. When the group sundered, Eric achieved qualified pop fame while Graham Graham continued to waver and spring between music and art – which may be why part of the appeal of A Bathful Of Nasturtiums is the tactile sensation of looking at and handling a package that actually contains a cut-out-and-keep Batman mask (germane to the CD’s ‘I Am The Batman’ finale’) and a sachet of grass seeds (‘All Praise To The Manicured Lawn’).

Of the twelve listed tracks, my fave rave at present is ‘Fig Roll Overkill’ in which a sense of longing as much as the wretchedness of addiction to this biscuit pervades. Conversely, following ‘I Am The Batman’, there’s five untitled instrumental minutes of uneasy listening that I found more obscurely captivating. These, however, are but two of many startling and witty expressions of commendable sentiment framed in diverting, highly detailed and often quirky arrangements.  Moreover, if no Scott Walker, Beck’s understated approach to, say, ‘The Fag End From Hell’ or nostalgic ‘Unreliable Memories’ is as loaded as the most Joe Cocker-esque vocal explosion.  He’s no slouch as a keyboard player either. Finally, as Janice Nicholls – the girl who used to pass judgement on the latest releases in the ‘Spin A Disc’ section of Thank Your Lucky Stars – often said, it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.

Alan Clayson

 

Now, you can possibly imagine how I felt, having read it & then re-read it, & then re-reread it in case I had misread it (was it all some weird, illusionary, mystical experience?) . But no, there it was in black & white in my inbox. It’s given me, & my confidence, a boost. I feel as though, at last, I’m doing something right! Now all I’ve got to do is convince other people……

 

 

 

 

Better late than never…(Fresh From Filey Folk Festival)

This post was going to be entitled just ‘Fresh From Filey Folk Festival’, but due to the vagaries/quirks/annoyances/really, really frustrating, & stupid things that happen online (yell, scream at computer, tear hair out – & there’s not much of that left!), the internet DIDN’T deliver!! I’ve been about three days without it, & further more (& even more-annoying, if that were possible?), I haven’t been able to login to my own website or blog. Disaster! However, we’re all back to normal here, for now. So here’s the original blog that should have appeared some days ago (get it while it’s there, here or wherever…):

Fresh from Filey Folk Festival – a lot of ‘f’s there, & I’m sure there were a lot of ‘f-words’ being muttered in the audience, when I played my solo set, on the 4th May, at the aforementioned folk festival!

Traditional folk music, & after all, that was what this festival was based on, will always be ‘traditional’. You can’t sway a determined audience with ‘modern technology’ (& I was only using a 1988 keyboard!). Perhaps it was the integrated drum machine that put people off. Perhaps it was my less-than-traditional songs, or the way I presented them. Perhaps it was my not-too-serious approach to playing at such a festival.

I’ve nothing against traditional folk – I quite like some of it. Without it, music wouldn’t be where it was today. Then again, without trad. jazz, rock ‘n roll, 1960’s pop, disco, punk, new wave, techno etc. etc. (I realise I’ve missed out quite a few genres here), music still wouldn’t be where it is today. If I can be tolerant towards all musical styles, then why can’t the purists? It’s a bit like the ‘Classical crowd’ who always shun/dismiss anything beyond early 1900 as being too radical. Perhaps folkies are still in shock over Bob Dylan taking up the electric guitar. Well, it makes you wonder.

2013-05-07-1865Filey Bay.

When I played a short set the other night (post-festival) in Hull, the barman said that my songs reminded him of Jake Thackery – which is ironic, since he was a folk singer, popular in the 1960’s & 70’s, & toured around the folk club circuit at the time!!

2013-05-04-1664Metallic lobster – Filey seafront.

I suppose with me starting off my set at Filey F. F. by saying, “Look. I know this is a folk festival, so I might as well be honest with you, I don’t play folk music. But if you pretend I’m playing ‘folk’, you might quite like it?!” With this endearing statement, a few members of the audience left. Several more left after a couple of numbers. However, to their credit, numerous people stayed, & were really appreciative – particularly the younger audience (several even tapped their feet!). But unfortunately, it doesn’t sell albums – at least, not my new solo album….’A Bathful Of Nasturtiums’, if you’re interested (available from my website – plug, plug!)…at: http://www.graham-graham-beck.co.uk/buy-online-graham-beck-store.php#!/~/product/category=4013858&id=23572351

2013-05-04-1689Buckets & spades – it must be the seaside!

Two phrases came to mind when I was in the middle of my set: ‘Folk isn’t necessarily a four-letter word’, & ‘There’s nowt so queer as folk’. Luckily, I said neither. I know honesty is the best policy, but at times, I do wonder….

I’ll be back at the festival again next year, determined to play, but maybe take along my piano instead & ‘folkify’ my songs instead. I rise to the challenge!

2013-05-06-1859The caravan I stayed in for the festival, north of Filey (my first-ever ‘caravan experience’).

2013-05-07-1868Calm, peaceful, quiet, relaxing & quite deserted – Filey beach & sea, having just had a ‘nice cup of tea’ & biscuits, before heading back to the city….& home.

 

 

 

 

 

It never rains, but it pours… (Idle chat online)

Hull can be a sleepy, back-of-the-water place (which is one reason why I like it). However, as starved of entertainment as we are, Saturday 9th March proved an exception to this rule. Not only were my good friends (Wreckless) Eric & Amy Rigby playing in Hull – I MC’d the evening at The Adelphi Club (& invited, took to the stage ‘helping out’ on keyboards for Whole Wide World, Take The Kash, Dancing With Joey Ramone, & lastly, Hit & Miss Judy) – but also on the same evening & playing in the city were The Pretty Things & John Otway!! Consequently, for some people, this caused a dilemma – which gig to go to?
The following appeared on the local football team’s ‘Football Plus’ pages (of all places!)…..

Hull City Forum chat site (‘City Independent – The Hull City Fanzine’ 9th March 20013).

theotherphantom: It seems Wreckless Eric is at the Adelphi that night. The place is being overrun with pop stars!
Ren: Saw Wreckless at Springhead a few years back. Bloody good gig.
That was before he hooked up with Amy Rigby though. I gather the two of them together are quite something, though I’ve not yet had the pleasure.
theotherphantom: I went to their Adelphi gig last year along with a mate who’s seen him several times. He was disappointed this time round. The best bits were when a friend of theirs played keyboard for a couple of tracks. The timing improved no end.
Ren: That would have been Graham Beck presumably (local chap)? AKA Big Spider Beck and various other musical guises.
He also played at the aforementioned Springhead gig; I think him and Eric go way back. He’s credited with keyboards on the “Bungalow Hi” album which I have on CD, not sure if he worked on any of the earlier stuff though.
theotherphantom: That would have been Graham Beck presumably (local chap)? AKA Big Spider Beck and various other musical guises.
He also played at the aforementioned Springhead gig; I think him and Eric go way back. He’s credited with keyboards on the “Bungalow Hi” album which I have on CD, not sure if he worked on any of the earlier stuff though. Rings a bell. Tall chap.
Ren: Yup, that’ll be him.

& the day after………..
theotherphantom: Did anyone get to either gig?
Ren: Not me.

Well, Eric’s gig saw a good 80+, The Pretty Things about 50, & John Otway (with Wild Willy Barrett)…..well, who knows?! You’d think this big city would generate greater attendance numbers, but there is a lethagy here (‘Gig, pub or stay in?’)…..Or maybe the choice was just too great for some!

PS Eric & Amy’s night was the best, of course. They played for two hours, & everybody went home happy. You can’t say that very often.

PPS It could be worse, but I will always be known as ‘the tall chap’!!

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Eric & Amy ‘do their stuff’ at The Adelphi Club, Hull, with the tall chap on piano (please note: I am sitting down!).

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The allure of vinyl (Part 2)…

I hadn’t intended to write a follow-up to my last blog, ‘The allure of vinyl’ (now a ‘Part one’, I suppose), but due to reading a paperback by the late great DJ, John Peel, ‘The Olivetti Chronicles’ (published by Corgi Books), there was a chapter, amongst others, that really resonated with me – & it was too much of a coincidence of interweaving facts within that chapter not to write a ‘Part 2’. What was it/were they? Read on to find out………….

Just this morning (it won’t be by the time I finish writing this, of course), I was reading the chapter entitled ‘Record Shops’ from the absorbing afore-mentioned book, . The particular piece was written back in 1980 for Punch magazine, & concerned John Peel’s earliest forays into his local record shop(s). Apparently, & it was something I’d forgotten about, most record shops were merely ‘departments’ within bigger stores. He bought a Columbia 78rpm in ‘Crane’s of Liverpool’ – a furniture & musical instrument shop. It was by Ray Martin & His Orchestra, & called ‘Blue Tango’. I was born much later than Mr. Peel, but I do remember quite well (& we’re talking late 60’s, early 70’s) the location of these ‘record depts.’ in furniture shops (why furniture shops?), large department stores & musical instrument shops – a bit more of that later….

Record departments were places where you could get lost in, browsing through records of bands with names no-one had heard of (& in some cases, were never, ever, heard of again). They were social areas that felt like ‘our world’, another world of sound & wonderful album covers. It somehow made you feel special. That’s all gone now, apart from a few, dwindling, independent, & second-hand record shops (see previous blog). It seems that this situation had already started back in 1980, according to the learned J. Peel Esq. He mentioned the lack of choice in W.H.Smith stores, which of course now, has nothing whatsoever to do with music, CDs or otherwise. However, back to the plot…

I also have a 78rpm in my collection by Ray Martin & his Orchestra, but this is called ‘Tango Waltz’ (I wonder if it was pre, or post, Blue Tango?). I bought it years ago when living in London, I think, from a jumble sale. Whenever I play it (as I am at this moment in time……You’ll have to believe me here), I get transported back to my early days of listening to the valve radio – which I, incidentally, have as well………& it still works! – hearing various dance bands/groups/solo artistes of the era. God, I’m beginning to sound old! The 78 is nothing to write home about, but it’s pleasant, & although I can’t associate it with any particular moment in time, or event, it does evoke the sound & warmth coming out of the radio & the coziness of life at home in my earlier days. It’s comforting – nothing wrong with that, I think?

Tango Waltz 78rpm

Now, further to connecting records & memories (once again, please see previous blog), there are three LPs that I can clearly remember buying. First up is/was:

‘Parachute’ by The Pretty Things. It’s a wonderful, melodic, tuneful, raucous & experimental ‘concept’ album. Bought during a lunch break from my school holiday job (in Marks & Spencer), from Wolsey & Wolsey’s electrical shop – they sold everything from televisions, transistor radios & record players – it was a revelation hearing the music in the listening booth (I really do miss those booths), with the stereo effects coming out of the tiny speakers located just above my head. I listened in wonder to side one, all the way through, & proceeded to march (in non-military style) to the counter with my hard-earned money. It all felt very subversive, & buying it made me feel soooooooo good! At last, I thought to myself, an album that filled that underground/progressive gap that was missing in my very, very minimal record collection at the time.

Pretty Things LP

Next up was……

Savoy Brown’s ‘Looking In’. Once again, this was yet another purchase made during a lunch break from my school holiday job. I found this LP in the section marked ‘Underground’. My two friends (both working in the same shop), & myself, settled into the dark, curtained listening booth, which was much more luxurious than Wolsey & Wolsey’s, in the basement (household & hardware items) of Arnauld’s Dept. Store. I remember there being a small sofa in there. We all agreed, crammed on that sofa, that there was something special about this album, even though it seemed ‘very bluesey’, & was certainly far better, to our progessive ears, than The Moody Blues album we’d all listened to on a previous lunchtime outing. Incidentally, I once copied the cover artwork, & entered it into an all-schools exhibition at the local library…..& it won first prize! I also managed to sell it, for a mere £5.00, which boosted my pocket money no end.

Savoy Brown LP

& finally….

Frank Zappa’s ‘The Grand Wazoo’. It was a couple of years later, when I walked from my art college, on a (you guessed it!) lunchtime break, but with my girlfriend of the time, into Allen’s Music Shop, through the highly-polished upright pianos & acoustic guitars hanging from the peg board-covered walls. I can’t remember how I knew about this album, although I do remember borrowing ‘Hot Rats’ from a friend at school, & was very impressed with it. So, maybe I thought it was in a similar vein. Anyway, I asked the assistant to play the record for me. Now, if you were listening to anything in Allen’s, the whole shop also heard it, as it was played through the main shop speakers (they didn’t have any separate booths for this purpose). We both listened to all of side one, as I stood amongst the pianos in the window to get the whole ‘stereo effect’. Customers, staff & my girlfriend all flinched during the first track, ‘For Calvin (& His Next Two Hitch-Hikers)’, & the shop was emptying fast for the next long track, ‘The Grand Wazoo’. When it finished, you could see everyone was feeling relieved & the atmosphere in the shop went back to normal. I was laughingly asked by the member of staff if I wanted to buy it, & my girlfriend also said something like, ‘Of course you don’t, do you?’. All present were totally surprised when I said, ‘Yes!’ When I got back to art college, the LP was the talk of my studio. My girlfriend didn’t talk to me for a couple of days………

Frank Zappa LP

If anyone’s interested, & I’m sure you’re on the edge of your seats with this one, the other side of Ray Martin’s ‘Tango Waltz’ is called, ‘Carnavalito (Festival Of Flowers)’. Now, that’s something to remember if it ever cropped-up in a pub trivia quiz!

The allure of vinyl

Last month, I watched a wonderful film/documentary entitled ‘Sound It Out’, made & directed by Jeanie Finlay in 2011 (on Glimmer Films). The subject in question was ‘the only surviving independent record store in Teeside’, in Stockton, UK, known as, strangely enough, Sound It Out. It was a brief look at, what used to be, a thriving record store – & indeed what were thriving independent record stores across the whole land. An interesting fact emerged out of the film-umentary (or should that be, docu-film?), comparing the number of these shops in America with those over here….& do you know what the difference in number is? There IS no difference! It appears that there are the same number on both sides of the Atlantic, which is incredible, considering how large the USA is compared to us (the little ‘ol UK). All I can assume is that independent record stores are fairing much better ‘over here’ than ‘over there’, although that isn’t saying much, as corporate giants HMV (& owner, Tom, from Sound It Out, says, ‘There’s HMV, but we don’t count them as record shops’) have limited the consumers’ choice by what THEY want to stock, which is mainly major record label music. There’s no chance of smaller, indie-type, labels getting a look in. But, I digress…….

The characters that patronised the shop were enthusiatic, obsessive, nerdy & just a bit……How can I put it kindly?…..Well, a bit/quite different.  Assistant David, says he likes working there because, ‘…..It’s not the ordinary people, it’s the random people…’ who inhabit this shop. Above all though, they are passionate about their music, & the fact that this record shop could supply all their ‘fixes’….& if they couldn’t, they’d have a damn good try at trying to track down a source that could supply their musical needs. Now, how many shops, could you say, would go out of their way to do that these days?! It’s the individual approach, character & friendliness of the small independent shops , that will hopefully keep them afloat in these turbulent times. They might be small on the outside, but on the inside, they are beautifully formed – full of hidden, unexpected treasures, just waiting for the right person to come along & find/buy the said item(s).

Apparently, record-collecting is a ‘male obsession’ (‘Well, it is here’, says Tom. He has about 50,000 albums/CDs/cassettes in stock – I do believe there is a collection in America that totals in excess of 1,000,000 (that’s ONE MILLION LPs!) & the owner is looking for a permanent home somewhere….I’m not sure if that’s for him, or the record collection!). This Tom is very insightful – & I suppose he has plenty of time to be, waiting for customers to find (it’s ‘out-of-the-way’, but next to the Job Centre), & then enter his shop – a world full of vinyl. Having vinyl records is akin to ‘…having the original link (to the artist), or something. Half the guys who buy these records probably don’t play them (…what??!), but you’ve got them in the hand, in the shelf…..’ – it’s the feeling of posession, I suppose. Anyway, he continues, ‘It’s all about emotions…& memories. I can tell you exactly what I was doing when I play a record – who I was going out with…..It’s all about memories. Records hold memories’. ‘With records’, Tom says, ‘it’s never-ending. You can go on…..& on…..& on…..’.

I occaisionally buy vinyl records, usually from second-hand record collector-type shops. I can identify with the sentiments expressed in the film, as records DO take me back to the time I heard/bought them. My first vinyl album was Jose Feliciano’s ‘Feliciano! ‘ (that includes his classic re-working of The Doors’ ‘Light My Fire’ – a chart-topper over here, I do believe, back in it’s time)…..& it’s this ‘time’ element that reminds me that I bought it in Liverpool, in a lovely old-fashoned record store – with listening booths – whilst visiting my Aunt & Uncle, there.

Feliciano!

Of course, it was quite a while before I could play the LP, as I didn’t have a record player! Months later, I borrowed my cousins Dansette player, along with The Beatles ‘Rubber Soul’ & The Beach Boys’ ‘Pet Sounds’ albums. It was wonderful hearing the lush violins & orchestral arrangements set to the amazing guitar-playing of Jose….& the music/other-worldly sounds of the Beatle-Beach Boy minds, that have inspired me to this day with my song writing & musical arrangements. You see, all these memories & details have come flooding back to me – although I don’t think they ever really leave.

My record collection was boosted, quite significantly, recently, when a musician friend donated 300+ vinyl albums. It was quite an exciting moment when, having finally got them home (in a somewhat over-full car boot), I looked through them & saw several that I never really owned, only borrowed & played in my school boy & college boy era, & to suddenly have them ‘IN MY POSSESSION’, it just felt really good. More of my youth was coming back to me, in vinyl form!

So, it is all about capturing the past – a sort of vinyl archive specific to me. It describes me, & also hepled shape me. I always keep a written diary, & this record collection is fast becoming a ‘sound diary’. I shan’t go into the esthetics of 12″ x 12″ covers, gate-fold sleeves etc., but they were, & still are, great for artwork & reading all sorts of details, particularly without the aid of glasses. But, vinyl albums beat CDs & MP3s anyday!!

Long may the LP reign, & long may the independent record store keep going….& going…..& going….&…….

Wire - Pink Flag

‘Art punk’ band Wire‘s 1st. album – ‘Pink Flag’. Some classic, short & spikey numbers on here, & riffs/samples much-used by Elastica et al.

Keef Hartley Band -The Time Is Near

Keef Hartley Band – ‘The Time Is Near’ (I first heard this album being played on the John Peel Show – there was something special about it, & there still is).