Desmond still hasn’t arrived yet.

You may remember in my last post (if you don’t, just scroll down a little), I talked about getting the theme tune to Desmonds on Vinyl, and how excited I was at this particular series of events… you may have also noticed that I haven’t updated you with anything since then… and that’s because there’s nothing to report. As you can guess by the title of the post, it still hasn’t arrived. I’ve bugged the vendor who have said there’s been difficulties in manufacture, and the latest date they have is September 15th.

I did hear back from the producer of the record, which is nice, so I’ll include a bit of that if and when the record arrives, as it gives a nice little insight into the origin of the theme.

In other news, as I haven’t really been blogging much, I had another operation on my foot a couple of months ago (I don’t think it was long after I bought that Desmonds record), and my foot is healed. I just hope it stays that way.

I didn’t really do a blog about it… initially I intended to, but it literally was about as uneventful as things go. Of course, I did talk about the operation, so in order to pad this out a little, let’s flash back to the start of June…. (cue wibbly effects)…

Oh, and if you don’t like reading about operations, just skip bast the bold section below…

Strap yourselves in, folks, as things are about to get graphic. No photos thankfully. I don’t think they’d have liked me updating Facebook with photos.

Anyhoo. There I am, in the theatre, flat to the boards, with my left leg in the air. My only view was of the three ceiling lights, and a load of pipes, presumably for oxygen and stuff.

In goes the cannula. A device whose name escaped me until just now.

My leg was smothered in KY Jelly. Trying to take my mind off things, I wondered if that was a brand name, or just a general term. I never bothered looking it up, but by the time this goes “to print”, I’m sure I will have. (EDIT: I didn’t.)

There was talk about arteries, and I could feel some device pressing on my leg. I’m guessing this was some type of ultrasound. Dunno for certain, as my view was still of the ceiling.

It was then that the injections started, obviously for the anaesthetic. Pretty much felt like I was a dartboard at that point. I could feel each one going in, followed by a strange sensation I can’t describe, sort-of like everything was going tight.

The anaesthetist would be verbally confirming how much he was giving me, millilitres by millilire, and I guess he wasn’t allowed to just bung the whole lot in one go.

I still had sensation in my feet, like I could acknowledge when the specialist prodded something, but there was no feeling. They tested it with cold spray. Nothing. It was so weird.

Then, the operation itself began. It started with a few crunching noises. It initially sounded like he was cutting my big toenail. Whenever I get that particular nail done at the podiatrists, it always makes a satisfying crunch. Not this time, however, he was more than likely breaking my toe in order to be able to fuse it. Lovely.

It was at that point tried to think of anything other than what was happening around me… My music collection come to mind, and I thought of a way to improve my personal MP3 database (I have an SQL database with the details of my CD rips in them. it should be trivial to include a link to the music files themselves, to save me having to copy and paste the filename each time… In case you were wondering).

In a vain hope to take my mind off the noises even further (and the fact the specialist was now clearly using a screwdriver on my foot) I had a brief conversation about my music collection. I mentioned I had a copy of Manuel from Fawlty Towers singing “Shaddap You Face”. I’m not sure if the guy was impressed or just feeling sorry for me.

At this point, my view changed. They adjusted the bed so I was no longer starting at the ceiling. This was a bit more comfortable.

Now, obviously, I still couldn’t see exactly what was going on, as they had a screen up… Oh, wait. I could see exactly what was happening

Now, you know those big operating theatre lights? (These ones were manufactured by a company called Getinge, which made me think of someone saying “Get In” whilst pissed) Naturally, you can’t see anything in the reflection of the lights, as they’re all concave, but the reflection of the white shiny arm that connected the lights to the ceiling gave me the PERFECT view.

Thankfully, it was pretty much over at this point, but still, they had to sever the tendon and sew everything back together. It’s one of those things were you can’t NOT watch….

I could either just stare straight ahead at the blue cloth, or I could look to my top right and watch all the action. “Oooh, that’s a lot of blood”. I can’t even watch anyone get injected, I nearly snap my neck away from the telly every time a COVID story comes on the telly, so exactly why this proved so fascinating shall remain a mystery. Maybe I was “getting high on my mortality” as Sinead Lohan once sang.

In record collecting news, I’ve been out buying lots more CDs. Seems quite a few places have had a glut of CD donations and are therefore getting rid of them pretty cheaply. I haven’t had that much luck with the boot fairs – obviously my access to these has been limited too, but I did pick up The World of BBC TV Themes for 50p. This is the only known release that includes the full length theme to “Rockcliffe’s Babies”, performed by Paul Hart, Joe Campbell and the children from the Corona Stage School. Who’d have thought they’d have became so famous over the past two years? Oh, wait.

So, yeah. That’s been a very quick life update. Esentally, nothing’s happened for months…. nothing’s new there, then.

The theme tune to Desmond’s

Waaay back in the late 1980s, there was a comedy show called “Desmond’s”, following a family running a barber’s shop in Peckham. It aired from 1989 until the death of the lead actor, Norman Beaton, in 1994.

It would come to no surprise (to both of my regular readers anyway) that I was a fan of the theme tune, and of course, it’s one of the things that stood out to me. I loved it, and it was one of my favourite parts of the programme. It was one of those theme tunes that should have been released as a single, but it wasn’t.

Every year or so, I’d do a quick Google to see if a proper copy, or even an extended version of the theme had been leaked anywhere. Nope. The only things that ever turned up were just off-air, or off DVD recordings. Nothing more than the 45 seconds used at the start of the programme, and the instrumental bit used in the credits at the end. I came to the conclusion that it was only ever used on the programme, especially as it was co-written by the creator, Trix Worrell.

I think I went though one of these search things most recently anout a year ago, when for absolutely no reason, the theme started to be used in an advert for butter. This rekindled my love for the theme, and got me thinking, there had to be an “official” version. As the show ended in 1994, it’s unlikely that it would still exist some 26ish years later, and it certainly sounded better quality than it just being ripped from a copy of the programme.

Once again, I searched high and low (or rather, I searched Youtube), and found nothing. What’s even weirder, is that the full episodes that had been uploaded to Youtube now had the theme tune removed. How very, very odd. Considering that its only use outside of Desmonds was on a butter advert, it seemed very odd that it would just suddenly disappear like that. Obviously someone still owns the copyright to the song, so it could have just been that they didn’t want it on youtube, but why would they object to the theme being on there, but still allowing the rest of the episode to survive? It seemed clear that someone else had the rights to the song now, than what they did when Desmond’s was recorded. Were they planning a re-release?

Again, the trail went cold. No song, no videos on Youtube (except for poor quality versions), no more butter advert, and no release. I put it to the back of my mind. It was never going to see the light of day. A quarter of a century had gone by.

Now, I’ve been holed up for the past 4 weeks, thanks to an operation on my foot. I’ve barely been able to move off the sofa for a month, so I’ve became acquainted with an old friend called “Television”. Tonight (or yesterday by the time this makes it “to air”), I was watching The Chase, and the butter advert made a reappaearance. Just out of complete boredom, I flung “Don’t Scratch My Soca” into Google. Up came a result for Bandcamp. It was 3 minutes long. I didn’t expect much, just a fan remix or something like that. Imagine my surprise when, not only was it the proper version used on Desmond’s, it had a second verse! This was the moment I’d waited over 30 years for. All of the bits were there… the main theme, the bit they fade out when the episode starts, the end theme, and of course, that never-heard second verse. Daddykins, who happened to be enjoying The Chase, didn’t quite understand my excitement, as I fumbled with the remote, pausing his enjoyment of the afore-mentioned tea-time quiz show.

The track was released on June 21st, so only 9 days ago. Not only was it available as a free MP3, it’s possible to actually purchase it on vinyl (at the time of typing). A very small number were produced. 100 in colured vinyl, 200 in black vinyl, and a few white label test pressings. Well, I had to go for the coloured vinyl. I only ordered it today, so obviously, it hasn’t turned up yet. Might be a couple of weeks. Might be sooner. No doubt I’ll update when I have the record in my grasp.

Should you wish to hear the full theme, or even chance your arm at getting a vinyl copy, you can click here. Now, to give my fingers a rest, as typing this all into my phone hasn’t been the most comfortable experience.

EXTENSION: The theme was also written and produced by John Collins, and released under his “Local Records” label, which explains how / why the master recording survives. And, of course, it’s also available on Spotify

I asked some of the questionson the Local Records website too, such as when it was recorded, why it wasn’t released until now, etc.

2nd hand MP3 players!

I’ve typed a few times about radio rallies. They’re basically markets for new and old amateur radio equipment, computer bits, and box upon box of various other electronic hardware that have served its useful life. Still, there’s nothing wrong with digging through these boxes of miscellaneous flotsam to see if there’s something that’s worth looking at, or giving a second home.

You may remember I pulled out a perfectly working voice recorder last year for £1. Now, due to the fact that the headphone port on my phone is broken (or rather, there’s half a newspaper stuck in it, which won’t shift), I’ve been using this voice recorder as an MP3 player. The slight problem with it, is that it’s an absolute beast. The microphone on top of it makes it look like a taser, so I don’t like getting it out in public (oo-er). It was still serviceable, however, so I wasn’t really in the market for a new one

Today was the first radio rally of the year, in Ripon. Chris came with me, and right in the middle of a box of trash, he spied a little box. “MP3 Player 4Gb”. Of course, the burning question is, did it come home with me?

Pffft. Of course it did.

It’s one of those little “chewing gum” MP3 players, without any type of screen, or other functionality. The guy wanted £3 for it. I talked him down to £2. Finally, those years of watching re-runs of Bargain Hunt have finally paid off. My first successful haggle!

It came with everything it should have done. Manual, mini (not micro) USB cable, and Of course, the in-ear headphones. I don’t think they’ve been used, but I’m going to nuke them from orbit, just to be on the safe side. As you can see, it’s badged with the Alba name, and has the model number MP420008UK. Anybody that knows anything about hi-fi would probably projectile vomit at the mere mention of the word “Alba”, but if it wasn’t for my original Alba music system, which I got for Xmas 1991, and the CD player in 1992, I’d probably not have the same interest in music that I do now. The hi-fi is long gone, but the CD player still works. , or it did the last time I plugged it in anyways.

So, anyway, back to this MP3 player. What’s the first thing you do with any type of 2nd hand storage media? That’s right, you plug it in, check to see what the previous owner had on it! I think I’m safe publishing this. It’s an MP3 player. I don’t think they’re going to be listening to their personal documents through this.

It seems this MP3 player had a very easy life, as there were only a few files on it. The majority of the drive seemed to contain the same random data string, so it was either like this from the factory, or the previous owner wiped it using a utility. This was entirely possible, as due to the .trash-1000 folder, the previous owner was using Linux. It didn’t come back with anything other than the few tracks that were already visible. The rest of the 17 files were just random system files.

Oddly, a lot of German-named tracks. Edith Piaf too. Coincidentally, Chris was with me when I saw her grave in Paris. Funny how these things come together like that.

So, I’ve typed all of this, but does the bloody thing work? Yes, is the short answer.

Cosmetically, it’s in mint condition. No obvious wear, and the serial number sticker isn’t worn at all. As this has spent (what looks like) many years stashed away, I’m not sure how healthy the non-replaceable battery is going to be, but it charged without an issue.

I formatted it, and copied three, songs to it. They’re the first three instrumental versions from the “Pandora’s Box” version of Hell Frost, by The Unguided, if you were wondering, and yes, it works great. Despite it only being 4Gb, that’s plenty of space for the short bus journey to work. It certainly lasted the whole time it took me to type this.

In conclusion, I’m pretty happy with this purchase. It’ll certainly last me until I upgrade my phone. Now, to choose what other crap to fling on it!

EDIT: October 2019 – It’s appeared to have developed a loose/dirty power switch, where a knock or a jolt will turn it off. It might just need a clean, or it might have just been thrown about once too often. I’ll see how it goes. 6 months use out of a few quid. Not bad.

Hartlepool Record fair – just a few days to go!

What’s black, 12 inches long, and guaranteed to bring a smile to my face? Yes, that’s right. A record.

And on the end of that terrible, and actually non-factual joke (I collect singles mainly), I’m happy to announce that for the first time this millennium, the lovely little fishing village of Hartlepool is getting its own record fair! (Would help if I mentioned the date. It’s this Sunday, March 31st. Oops)

It only seems a mere 20 years ago, since I was rummaging through boxes, buying “Morning Train (9 to 5)” by Sheena Easton, because I thought it was the *other* “9 to 5″, you know, the one by Dolly Parton. Little did I know that those particular memories would be the last ones I’d make for 20ish years, and I’d have to satisfy my record hoarding hunger through other methods, and other towns with their own record fairs.

Let’s get the formalities over with, If you’ve found this through Google, or something similar because I mentioned the record fair in Hartlepool (sutble), and you want to know how to get there, then it can’t be easier. If you’re coming by train, head out and look for the big church. Walk towards the church, and look for a zebra crossing on your left. That’s Tower Street. Walk about 100 yards along that road, and there’s be a building on your right that looks like a smaller church. That’s it. That’s the Studio, and that’s where the record fair is. It’s really easy to get to.

I’m also not affiliated whatsoever with the record fair runner, I’m just over the moon to have one in my home town again, and if the fair is well attended, there’ll be more, and I’ll be a very happy bunny.

We now return you to your usual programming, of me rambling about crap that happened recently, and yes, mainly record fairs.

So, erm… yeah. How to sum up 20 years aof record fairs. For me, they go way back. Pretty much my entire adult life. The late 90s were a strange time for music. Vinyl record sales were dramatically on the decline, CDs were still the in-thing. Music downloads were something done illegally, and streaming was something you did in a dark alley on the way home after 15 pints in the pub.

The art of the record fair was also in decline. It never truly died off, but it’s safe to say it went into hibernation. Fast forward many years. I’d lost my hair, my beer gut took pride of place around my midriff, and all of a sudden, vinyl was back in vogue again, and so, the humble art of the record fair returned.

I think the first one I went to (in the recent batch) was back in 2013, then the owner of Betterdaze (a record store in Northallerton), arranged one. It must have had a good attendance, as more were arranged, along with others in Northallerton. Looking back through the collection, I’ve came back with some cracking stuff from all of them. I mean, who could turn down a 12” pressing of “Seven Tears by The Goombay Dance Band, on clear yellow vinyl? Not me! I picked it up from Middlesbrough on 12th September 2015.

Recently, I’ve travelled as far as Leeds, just to get toa record fair. They was an ordeal. Absolutely worth it for the German pressing of “Downtown” and “Another Man“by One 2 Many. In fact, you can view all of the records I bought that particular day.

So, in conclusion, yes, if you attend this record fair, there is a very high possibility I will be in attendance. Say hello. Actually, no, don’t. I don’t mix well with strangers, and I’m out the night before, so there’s a strong chance I’ll be hanging out my hoop, and not willing to talk to anyone.

If you do go, I hope you find some bargains!

Then We’ll have Steak And Chips for tea.

Bleeergh. I’ve felt lousy over the last few days. Unfortunately, the lovely fishing village of Hartlepool appears to have some type of cold / flu bug doing the rounds. Daddykins had it last week, and spent over 24 hours in bed because of it. I started getting the ol’ throaty tingle on Sunday night. By Wednesday, I’d flung in the 6 hours of lieu time that I’d accrued and headed off to bed myself. The rest of the week saw me throw in the first sick days in three years (I’m discounting foot/eye problems in that).

Saturday came, and Chris was available for a trip somewhere. I explained about this record shop I’d heard about in Darlington, so off to Darlington we went.

Now, seeing as Darlington is a short distance away, it’s somewhere I opften go to as a change of scenery from the normal charity shops. I also knew that the afore-mentioned record shop existed, but every time I’d been there, it was closed. Oddly enough, it wasn’t actually in the location I thought, as it’s recently moved location. Previously, it was in a courtyard, away from the main drag. Now, it was in its own little shop, which, as of July 2018, was an empty sewing shop. Thank you, Streetview.

Anyway, I entered the shop, and started digging through the first pile of 7″ers I came to, tucked away on a shelf. The guy behind the counter saw I was interested, and told me he was getting shot of them, 10p each, or I could have the lot for £20. Whilst the latter offer seemed tempting, getting them from the shop, to Chris’s car, would have been a logistical nightmare, and where would I store them when I got them home? I decided to just go for the 10p option. It was easier.

I can’t have been more than a minute into picking through this vast vinyl variety, and I came across something incredible. Cue, the wibbly flashbacks, etc.

Back in 1975, Mike Oldfield was the new music sensation discovered by Richard Branson. His debit album, and of course, the first single from it, imaginatively titled “Mike Oldfield’s Single” was released, and Virgin, as a music label, was born

Neither that single, or Tubular Bells, are particularly difficult to find. This can’t be said for Mike’s follow-up single, “Don Alfonso”. It’s a charming little ditty about a Spanish bullfighter…. In fact, here’s a YouTube link to it… this will probably die at some point, so if it doesn’t work, comment on this post or something.

The guy who played him in the video is Larry Martyn, who was in Are You Being Served. There. Saved you looking him up.

Despite the brilliant 70s comedy video, the song appeared to have been quickly withdrawn, and failed to chart anywhere. The B side was Mike’s first working of his famous Xmas hit, entitled “In Dulci Jubilo (For Maureen)”. Maureen was his mother who had died a year previous to this being released. A year or two later, Mike would release a remixed version of “In Dulci Jubilo”, reaching No. 4 in the singles chart.

I think this is where the issue occurred, and how this got thrown into the pile of records he was trying to get rid of. Now, I’m only speculating here, but I noticed that a previous owner had written “In Dulci Jubilo” on the cover. As both singles share the same black and white “Twins” label, it’s possible, that this was mistaken for the much more common release. Either way, I can’t say for certain, but what I do know that this was the bargain of the year so far, possibly ever.

Here it is, in all its vinyl glory…

My new toy

What’s got 2 legs, drinks crap beer and spends far too much in charity shops?

Well, I doubt I even need to answer that question, for you know that idiot is me. When it comes to charity shop shopping, I have two rules, never buy anything over a fiver, and never buy anything electrical.

So, on Thursday, I bought a £6 tape recorder.

This isn’t just any tape recorder, it’s a 4-channel tape recorder. Something I’ve never seen before, but apparently, they were once a thing. And this one is in really good condition

For some time, I’ve been after something that can play tapes. I’ve been after one to hook up to my computer, as I still have a load of tapes from my childhood to go through, and convert. I’m sure I was an absolute scream when I was 9, but it’s things like the old radio clips I want to convert. I do have a USB one, but the sound quality is dubious at best. I wanted something a but more… sturdy.

On Thursday, after knocking back a bag of chips for my dinner, I sauntered back to work. and decided to check out the Alice House charity shop. I was on the mooch for CDs, after only picking up a small amount on my travels. Before I even got to see the rotating plastic demons, something caught the very corner of my good eye. It looked like a tape recorder. And, clearly it was! I took it over to the little seating area they have, and by the time I’d sat down, a complete stranger said “You’ve got a bargain there!”. Upon closer examination, the sticker shows that it had only been PAT tested the day before, so yeah, it looks like I was indeed the first one to pick up the bargain!

Now, despite the obvious difference of having more knobs than a Taiwanese brothel, I didn’t quite know what I had hold of. Turns out it wasn’t just any old tape recorder. This beauty has the rare ability to record an all four tracks of a cassette tape. For the uninitiated, cassettes tapes have four tracks on them, but you only ever hear two of them at a time, the left and right channel. You turn the tape over, and you hear the other two left and right channels. This particular recorder uses all 4 tracks on the tape at once. Back in the day, it was a simple and relatively easy way to get a multi-track setup for home recording.

Last night, I plugged it in to make sure it all worked. And it did! One slight problem was that it was playing all 4 tracks at once, meaning at Side A was being played forwards, and Side B was being played backwards. 4 channels, y’see… there must be a way to have it just play stereo, but time was getting on, and I demoted it to the cupboard. I had a feeling it might have stayed there for a while.

I was speaking to a lad at work who knows more about this type of stuff than I do, he said just change the pan and tilt controls, and set channels 1 and 2 to L/R. This was too obvious to work

My interest in the device was rekindled. I’d planned in my head how I was going to announce my new bargain to the world. I hadn’t knocked up a Youtube video for a while. My camera battery was charged AND I knew where all the bits of my tripod were. This was all falling into a place.

I even got home and shot the beginning of the video. There was also a truly hilarious joke that I was going to include that saw me plug the power adaptor in, I’d then turn the light off, and then edit it so it looked like it tripped the lights, followed by a truncated “OHHH, FUUUU.”, and then immediately cut to the close-up shot of the tape recorder all set up and working, followed with “Only joking!”

This is where karma kicked me right in the balls. I’d got it set up, camera positioned, aaaand, the power supply for it went south. The power light was flickering, and the output lights were jumping around. I was not amused. Turns out the bit of cable that goes into the power supply is intermittent. Looks like someone’s picked up the (relatively heavy and brick-like – you can see it in the bottom left of that screenshot) power supply by the cable, and stretched it to near breaking point. Could this be the reason why it looked so good? Was the previous owners’ attempt to use it thwarted by a small piece of cable? I will never know,

One thing I do know is that it’s working again, after fashioning a makeshift splint from a bit of masking tape and some cable ties. I’ll farthom out a more glamorous s

I’ve yet to hook it up properly to my computer to have a proper play around with it, but I’m eager to see if it sounds as good as it looks…

Das ist a nice keyboard!

OK, well I know that the last proper blog post (ignore the Facebook one) was about keyboards. Well, you’ll be excited to know that this one is too. Of course, you only have to scroll down slightly to find the “absolute bargain” with that Dell keyboards.. a little bit of spit and polish (rather, a load of Cillit Bang, and even more of those disposable blue cloths), and it was back up and running.

Anyway, Thursday, is of course, market day. I’ve mentioned this many times. Sometimes, I weep when I find a badly treated CD that I’ve been after, sometimes I laugh at the prices that some of the stall holders charge, and sometimes, I swear in disbelief at the bargains that can be had, when the person just doesn’t know what they’re selling.

So, I was on an early shift at work. It was sunny, and all of those two things combined mean that I headed off to the flea market. You gathered that, otherwise I wouldn’t be typing this now. The first stall is always a hive of miscellany. My eyes were immediately drawn to a box of records. No surprise there, but the next box along stopped me dead in my tracks. The records no longer had any significance. There were keyboards. and there was one that stood out in particular. A huge one. A single keypress immediate;y informed me that this was no ordinary keyboard, it was mechanical. The satisfying clack of the key. The overall look of the beast. The fact that it looked practically brand new.. There just had to be a catch somewhere.

I grabbed it instantly, and went over to the guy selling them. £2 each. What? Money exchanged hands, and I walked away with a keyboard. I had no idea if it worked. I walked through the town clutching this keyboard, I must have looked a complete wally., but I don’t care. A mechanical keyboard for less than the price of a pint.

It’s actually perfect timing. Some of you have noticed when I’m typing something that there are double characters especially Cs and Ys. It appears that those two switches are possibly on the way out. They might just need cleaning, or they might need replacing entirely. One thing I know is that it’s not easy to do, so I was sort-of hesitating over getting a different keyboard. I suppose this will have to do for now!

Right, so far, I’ve raved about my purchase. I do have a couple of reservations about it. It’s a touch-type keyboard, meaning that none of the keys have marks. It’s completely blank. One thing is though, I’m typing using it now, and the words are flowing like beer from a keg. There are obviously the odd mistakes, but they creep into my typing anyway. Using this might actually improve my already fantastic typing abilities. Ahem.

Another thing is that… I’m not sure it’s a genuine product. It’s by Das Keyboards. A name I’ve actually heard of. This one is apparently the MX3000. There is a Cherry keyboard of very, very similar design, though checking out the Youtube videos on it, It looks better made, I’ve had Cherry keyboards in the past that have had different branding on them, so it might just be a case of that.

Just look at how plain the logo is though.

I’m not going to rip it apart to find out to see if there’s anything more identifiable on the parts inside,, but I do know that the switches are Cherry branded

There’s also the fact that it’s an ANSI keyboard (American), as opposed to the ISO (UK) standard. It’s not much of a problem, but the smaller return key, and you can only get to the backslash by pressing AltGR and # as there’s no dedicated key for it. Seeing as I use the backslash key a lot MIGHT prove an annoyance, but I’ll wait and see.

I’ve been using this as my main keyboard since Thursday now, and I’ve had absolutely no other issues with it. I’m surprised how quickly I got used to not having letters on the keys. As I said, maybe this will improve my typing, maybe I’ll get sick of it and fling it in the cupboard with the other 5,000 keyboards that I own.

But yeah, no letters!