A few days ago we handed our garden to the Vet to have her girlfriends round for a Glast-no-bury get together, the real festival having fallen foul of Covid.
We made a teepee and a rustic bar from some old pallets and a broken gate and the girls decorated the whole shebang. We even made some bunting out of the toilet roll wrappers from our collection of Who Gives A Crap boxes.
As I watched on, socially distanced and some as they danced along to some of the music they might have heard if they’d gone, my mind wandered back to the music, or the lack of it, from my own childhood.
These days, of an evening you might find me dancing around the kitchen to something poppy or rocky that Spotify has thrown out on some playlist or compilation. While I’d be the first to admit to not being completely a la mode with the latest in hippest and hoppest of music, it’s easy to absorb new talent of which there remains as much now as ever. Though let’s be frank here and in the spirit of full disclosure, rap music isn’t… music that is.
But back in the 1960s music barely featured at home. We had neither a record payer, radiogram or any similar type of machine for playing music. We had no records. Until the Archaeologist, a few months older and infinitely more advanced than me as a child, persuaded a parent to buy him a broken 78 HMV record player so he could try and fix it – he’d have been 7 or 8 at the time and I was still struggling with the concept of Lego. He got it going though it lacked any sort of horn to amplify the music. No worries. He made one out of paper. It had to be manually held in place as it had nothing to support it – muggins got that job – but it worked and we could listen to a few grim old 78 records bought from a jumble sale for a few pence. The 1930s was not a great period for music, at least if the crap we acquired was anything to go by.
Obviously some sort of stylus was needed and, innovative as ever, the Archaeologist used a pin from mum’s vast selection, inserting it into his paper horn.
Naturally that eventually led to disaster – I trod on it, the pin broke off in my heel and imbedded itself so deeply that I needed an operation to have it removed. Of course the Archaeologist was upset – I’d broken his delicate construction and he’d have to rebuild it. The fact I was in pain, couldn’t walk, needed my heel cut open and spent ages healing were deemed to be a fair balancing of the scales… no, of course I’m not still bitter.
Eventually I had to buy my own method of playing music. I started with a small transistor, acquired in the early 70s to listen to Radio Luxembourg – 208 metres of joy. Such a rite of passage for the teen. After that I scrimped and saved to acquire a small white stereo player that managed to play both 45s and 33s, though it wasn’t until I reached University that my new found friends pointed out that those numbers were, in the case of my machine, more guidelines than accurate descriptors of the speeds achieved.
Sadly, and I live with this shame still, my lack of a musical role model left me with a blank canvas on which to paint my own musical tastes. What can I say? I’m a soppy hopeless romantic with a tin ear. My first album? Gilbert O’Sullivan followed by the Carpenters. Ok, the Carpenters were more than ok – Karen’s voice remains sublime and Richard’s a pretty mean axeman- but if you’re trying to establish musical credentials circa 1972 amongst your fellow 14 year olds, Deep Purple or Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd might have been better choices.
I’m still catching up and living down my past. And it’s fun dancing around the kitchen to George Ezra… even if I still hope no one is looking