Holding on to music

Record Shop

It hadn’t really struck me until recently how much I love music.  Not playing it myself, I can’t play any musical instruments (a regret that I never learnt to play the piano.  How cool to see one somewhere and just start an impromptu singalong?), but listening to music created by others.

I have always known that music can affect my mood.   It is hard to feel sad when Mr Blue Sky by ELO comes on the radio, or not to sing along to Bohemian Rhapsody and then start dancing in your seat too despite not having the energy to move five minutes before.   Similarly music can transport us back in time to when we first heard a song, or an iconic moment in our lives where a particular track was playing in the background.

I had forgotten how important music was to me as I grew up until this week when I ventured into a record shop.   An old fashioned record shop selling vinyl that I happened to pass whilst I was in Guildford.  I have been to Guildford lots of times shopping but have always stuck to the High Street and the big name stores, never really venturing along the side streets.   Stumbling across this one I had to go in because Mr B had recently won a turntable in a competition on Twitter and I thought it might be nice to get some surprises to play.

Going inside I was instantly back to being 15 again.   To going into the record shop in the corner of the market square in the town I grew up.   Rummaging through vinyl and saving up to buy albums.  Being really aware of what was in the charts.   Of there being certain record stores whose sales contributed to that chart but it was all very cloak and dagger and you weren’t supposed to know which ones they were so you couldn’t skew the chart sales.

I remember clearly getting my first record player, aged about 12.   I actually got three or four LPs first and my parents saying “Shame you don’t have anything to play them on, maybe for Christmas” and then giving me my last present, a record player.   The sods.

Music was a big deal in our house growing up, my dad was, and still is, a huge fan of it.  There was always an album playing at the weekends.  And if it was Big Country or the Eagles it was on loud.    A top of range music system with hundreds, if not, thousands of LPs that I used to love looking through as they were all lined up in a cabinet that I remember lining a whole wall in our house.   A needle on the record player would cost several hundred Pounds to replace so I knew I had to be SO incredibly careful with it.

Weekends buying new speakers  involved a trip to Nottingham and my parents sitting in a room above a Hi-Fi (do people still call it Hi-Fi?!!) shop as they listened to favourite records through different speakers to choose which ones he would buy next.   I loved it as I meant I got to chose sweets and a comic to keep me quiet, my love of my music not really being present at that stage but developing from the age of 14.

The more I thought about music as I left that record shop this week the more I realised just how much things have changed in the past 30 years.

How getting hold of music these days has changed hugely.   We never visit a record shop now, we might sling a CD in the supermarket trolley, or we might buy it from Amazon.   Sometimes we don’t even really pay for it individually.   We have subscriptions that are on direct debit and music appears on our iPads or phones and tablets just at the click of a button.   It is convenient but it doesn’t feel the same somehow.

In actual fact we don’t hold music anymore.   We don’t physically hold music in our hands.  Feel it.   That sounds poncey, I know, but it is only this week that this fact has really hit home.   Even if we buy a CD we put the silver disc in the CD player and leave it doing its thing.   It isnt the same as watching black vinyl turn around, is it?  Having to jump up and turn it over when one side has finished.   And hearing the occasional crackle, or god forbid the song jumping because the album was scratched.

We don’t hold it and we don’t have conversations around it.   Having won that new turntable Mr B has brought his vinyl collection down from Wilmslow so he can go through them and play them again.   Some albums are doubled so are presumably his brothers that he inherited when Rog died.   As Mr B has been going through them we have had conversations about particular artists or albums

Ugly Kid Joe didn’t write Cats In The Cradle, you know.   Harry Chapin did.  He died in a car crash between gigs

That was news to me and as Mr B handed me the album I spent five minutes reading through the notes on the inside.

That’s another point actually about music.   Going through somebody’s record collection tells you so much about them.   I am not sure that going through an ipod will ever make us feel like that.  In fact if you don’t know the password to it you won’t even be able to look.

We went to the Folk Awards at the Royal Albert Hall last week, for two reasons.  One was to see Joan Armatrading play as she is on my bucket list of performers I want to see before they die stop touring, but also to hear about Sandy Denny being recognised and inducted into the Hall of Fame.   A lady I knew nothing about until I heard how much Rog loved her music, and one of her songs was played at his funeral.   Somehow I felt we should be at the concert to recognise him, and her.  Daft I know, but well, music and memories can make you do daft things I guess.

I have come home and dug out the albums that I have from my teen years.   Very much proof that I was a kid of the 80s.   Nick Heywood “North of a Miracle” anyone?  Howard Jones “Human Lib”?  I even remember buying that one.   Or compilation albums from long before Now That’s What I call Music became a thing (incidentally I do have the first one of those).

As I left Guildford on Wednesday carrying my bag of records it made me sad that people don’t do that anymore.   Even the square carrier bag made me nostalgic.  Just the right size and shape for a handful of albums.

And it didn’t cost me 5p.

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  • Those were the days…..
    Henry Hall, Flanagan and Allen. Then Glen Miller, The Inkspots, Gracie Fields, George Formby. I even remember Count John McCormack!
    Googles will be useful!

  • Yes. This. Just this. The feeling of physically owning music: the joy of album covers, knowing the meaning of an album – start to finish – rather than just random songs.
    How funny we should both write about this at the same time: we must be getting old!