Saturday, 5 November 2011

From The Beginning - A History Part 1

It has been a rite of passage for most teenagers since the Second World War to "get into" music, and I was no different. Yet, while for some music is little more than a fashion accessory that helps brand them in the same way as a hairstyle or the cut of their jeans, for a significant minority, the interest becomes a more permanent and pervasive obsession, and I would have to place myself in that group.

My parents didn't "get" pop music for the most part, nor its big brother rock. They owned a nice teak radiogram (a sixties precursor of the music centre), whose tiny integrated speakers made it impossible to generate a genuine stereo effect. Most of their records, however, pre-dated their marriage in 1959, and additions to the collection were rare and often inexplicable. No Beatles albums until one of the British Army's military bands produced an L.P. of cover versions. An album of Joan Baez "because she had a nice voice", which barely left its sleeve. Soundtracks to "Gigi" and "High Society". A bit of Glenn Miller, and some ten-inch mambo records which might be of some interest to a collector now, had they not been binned years ago. Chris Barber because my father played trombone at school. And a selection of Classical music so conservative I ignored the whole genre until I was twenty. There was also a Readers Digest box-set of abridged Shakespeare tragedies (Hamlet in 50 minutes-ish), a BBC dramatisation of A Christmas Carol and a selection of Bob Newhart monologues (which I now own on CD).

Nostalgia makes me miss one album that used to be brought out for each of my first eight Christmases or so. It was Carols played by Swiss/German/Austrian? musical boxes in that unique twinkly timbre. I have searched the past few years in the run up to Xmas for something similar on Amazon etc, but to no avail as yet. And, as nostalgia ain't what it used to be, I expect I'd be disappointed if I did manage to hear it again.

Although they didn't care for it, pop music was nevertheless heard in the house, at least early in the day, as The Light Programme, which became Radio 2, provided the background to my mother's chores, or more accurately, the efforts of The Lady What Did, of whom there were a succession. The first "cleaning lady" I remember was Joyce who, knowing that I liked it, bought me Helmut Zacharias' "Tokyo Melody" (the BBC theme for the Tokyo Olympics) on vinyl 45 (what else?) for Christmas 1964. My first record and one I managed to replace a couple of years ago via eBay. It went missing (I believe) courtesy of one of my school contemporaries when I was growing up in Cheshire. That the replacement turned up in nearby North Wales suggested it might be the original seeking out its rightful owner, but just a coincidence I suppose.

Birthdays and especially Christmas saw a slow drip of additions to my collection in the form of the "humorous" novelty records of the time: Two Little Boys by Rolf Harris and so on. The first one I bought (with a Xmas record token) was The Scaffold's Lily The Pink. My first twelve-inch investment was a Walt Disney narration (with all the songs) of  Lady And The Tramp, which I had somehow managed to miss at the cinema, followed by a West End recording of  Lionel Bart's "Oliver!"in mono, because the stereo film soundtrack was a lot more expensive.

Then in 1970 the lad I sat next to at school lent me his big sister's copy of The Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night" L.P., (without her knowledge) and that, a bit belatedly, was that...

Title to this entry courtesy of track 4 on Emerson Lake & Palmer's 1972 album "Trilogy".

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