I’ve been buying music again. Seeing as this blog’s been going on for 20 years, I’m bound to have touched on this subject before, but seeing as I can’t remember, I’m sure you, my dear reader won’t recall either. Today, I’ve had good reason to revisit this subject… so how did my love for music begin, and how did it flourish into what could be classed an a compulsive collecting disorder, or something?
Some of my earliest memories are in my dad’s car. I’m sure he had a particular tape that had “Hang On Sloopy” by The McCoys taped onto it. I’d go so far as to say this was my first musical memory. I’m sure at this point, I must have shown some interest in music, as for Xmas 1984, I got my first ever record player. It was a Fisher Price jobby. Beige in colour, with an orange turntable, and a massive orange tone arm. I have a photo somewhere, but unfortunately, you’ll have to make do with a photo of me opening my presents on what may have been the same day, or it may have been the year after.
Gosh darn it, I’m close to reminiscing about that brown sofa now. Anyhoo. Xmas came, and I got a small selection of records, all perfectly suited for a child of this age…
“Do They Know It’s Xmas” – It’ll have been the most popular record at the time.
“We All Stand Together” – Paul McCartney and The Frog Chorus
“Child’s Play” – a BBC record containing tracks interesting for kids, including the Dr. Who theme, some stories, and a couple of tracks containing Floella Benjamin.
“The Mr. Men Songs”. Featured Arthur Lowe. Another BBC record. Originally released on Pye records
“Stories from Playschool”. A spoken-word record, containing, as it suggests, stories from Playschool.
One main problem with this setup, is that this was a real record player. It played real records, from a real stylus. Sadly, after years of playing everything from Band Aid to biscuits, the turntable finally gave up the ghost. The player “went into storage”, also known as the black bin bag at the side of the road, and most of the records suffered a similar fate. As my childhood grew, I’d moved onto tapes, or rather, taping stuff off the radio, outgrowing these kid’s records.
Fast forward to 1991. My dad brought home a music centre from work. Not sure how he got hold of it. Maybe one of the customers wanted shot of it? Don’t know. Either way, it ended up in our possession, and I was thrilled to finally have a proper music system. It then came to see what records I had to play on it…
I had a choice of either “The Mr. Men Songs” or “Child’s Play”. The rest had went to the great jukebox in the sky. I still have tapes of me doing pretendy radio stations from back in the day featuring selected tracks from these two records. Eventually, these scratched kiddy records went out of circulation, for the final time, eventually becoming part of experiments involving light bulbs and sharp things. Years and years passed, and about 5 years ago, I founf the Mr. Men record smashed under a ppile of old boxes in the cupboard. It was then that I started regretting my actions. A small part of my brain gnawed away at me, wanting to hear some of those songs again. I thought it’d be interesting to hear them with a proper setup, not like the mono little record player, and not like the jumping, scratched mess I forced the music system into playing.
Turns out it’s been particularly hard to find in the second-hand market. Most copies probably just got scratched or thrown away, when the child grew up. After all, it’s not going to win an Ivor Novello award any time soon, but thankfully, I never grew up, and there’s been a little part of my brain dedicated to its memory.
Over the years, I learned it was arranged by Keith Mansfield… the very same guy who composed so many BBC themes, and who gives his name to the KPM music library (I believe). The lyrics were written by Roger Hargreaves himself.
Well, after years of searching I finally found a copy… on tape! Yesterday, I was in Northallerton, which Chris, and after spending more time and money than I really should have in a certain brilliant record shop, I headed round the charity shops. the last one I went into was the Blue Cross shop, near the end of the high street. The CDs weren’t up to much, so I had a look through the tapes. There it was, in all of its plastic glory. The sticker said £1.49. Oof. I’ve paid much more for much worse so I waddled off to the counter, with tape in hand. Turns out it was only 20p, and I only had a tenner, after I’d fed the parking machine gods all of my loose change earlier on in the day. Chris had disappeared outside by this point so I sheepishly handed over The Queen, and while the lady showed the trainee cashier how to use the till, I explained pretty much everything I typed above.
SO, yeah. It’s a bit of an embarrassing purchase, but there’s just something about those 1970s graphics and that BBC logo that will always hold a place in my heart. I’ve yet to play it… it came out in 1979, so no idea what 40 years have done to it.
And yes, I’m well aware that it was originally released on Epic Records back in 1976. It says so on the cover. Oh, here, have some photos of it. (This is your worst closing line ever – Ed). Oh, shut up.