If you're a regular reader of this blog, you may have gathered that I have a slight interest in records. As I was listening to one last week, I realised that I'd never actually replaced the stylus of that particular record player. I'm all for authenticity, but that had been there since 1979.
Obviously I'm not going to start advocating tapes, they were naturally a bedfellow of vinyl, but their perfect union can be personified by two terms; 'The Mixtape' and 'Home taping is killing music.'
Let's look at the Mixtape. I know you remember them and no doubt a myriad of memories have started flooding back, and it was exactly the same for me. It was the personal touch, only your choice of tune, the perfect place for that song to sit and what it should follow. Whether you taped them off the radio or put your favourites together, it was the soundtrack of your choosing, and every one of those C90s embedded memories deep into your core. Everyone hears a song, and is then perplexed that the song they're expecting next doesn't come on. As that confusion builds, you're immersed in that time when you had played DJ with that song, and it's only when reality bumps into you, do you realise how much time has passed between you playing or making that tape and hearing that song again.
Whatever your viewpoint, these cassettes contained ninety glorious minutes of music that was either your choice, or lovingly made for you. The picture should tell you this, and I deem myself one of the luckiest man in the world to have these in my possession. Not only because I still own it seventeen years after it was recorded, but the time and effort put in by my best friend instantly highlights how much a person actually cares for you. I still have this over the countless birthday cards I have recycled.
Which brings me to the reason of why this blog was late. I have been playing tapes. But not just playing tapes.
I have (at the time of you reading this) seven hundred and ninety two albums in my collection, with a spattering of around a hundred singles. Let us concentrate on the albums. The range is incredibly eclectic, rather like some calamity has happened in a record shop and no one's cleaned up yet.
If you're reading this with one ear on Spotify, while I will be turning a kind blind eye (more on that in another blog) you will be laughing at how stupid a statement like that is, as you can certainly get way over the seven hundred and ninety two albums I have. But they're just the songs and that's my point. There's no album art, no mysterious sleeve notes to ponder over and most importantly, you're not listening to it as it is designed to be heard. This isn't necessarily to do with it being on vinyl, more about who is singing or playing, as it was their choice where that song should sit on the album; what it will sound fantastic to follow, or more importantly, what to begin with. You don't get any of that and have completely ignored the point of them making that record.
Everything is contextual so if it's buried in a play list or presented to you via a logarithm, then you're clearly not showing that singer or band the respect they are due. From the painstaking ponder over the exact words to say, to the gruelling sweat over nailing that chord. That's even before they recorded it.
I'm certainly not saying there's never any room for a playlist, but compared to the original home of that song, it's like telling Mr Holmes that you don't need a poo. Also, where's the Chase? Not the tv programme, but the actual hunting down of that record, where the hunter finally gets their game, whether its finally spotted in a dusty crate or excitedly unwrapped at Christmas. While my taste is incredibly wide, I'm a massive Sixties and Seventies freak, so I get to hunt properly; looking for musicians who could only record for Vinyl, who, when spotted entrapped and captured (most records come quietly) is played on the equipment of the time.
While I do have technology that goes past nineteen seventy eight (I don't write this with a quill) it really should sound like it was supposed to sound. Obviously with the records I like its been quite a few years since they were brand new, but no ones record collection is ever pristine, as we've all had that clumsy knock as we put it on or get up to skip the next one as it's too scratched. It's all part of your collection, and if you never experienced that, then I can only assume that you were the one that kept the box the toy came in.
It's all about the music, and can be perfectly summed up by John Peel's defence of Vinyl over CDs (remember them?). When challenged over the better quality, he said “Listen mate, life has surface noises.” These 'marks', whether on the record or the album's artwork, are the marks of lives left behind are what I love, whether it's the original owner's name or their insistence to rate each song and list its length (again, more on that in another blog)
I may have digressed a little, but essentially as I continue to refuel my passion, be it via dusty gem's plucked out of a box or the needle hitting a familiar favourite, it does nothing more than turn me into an anorak., of which I am immensely proud.
If you have a passion that no one understands, then congratulations (unless of course you're a serial killer) as you know what causes the endorphins to rush through the lesser travelled path. So come fellow anoraks, let us clutch at our toggles and raise high our flasks of tea.
Even if you've never been to the Edinburgh Festival, you'd have to be a bit of a numpty not to think that any show you see there, from Theatre to Stand Up, has not been pondered, written and rehearsed to within an inch of its life. Obviously my shows are, but then again, I'm a Virgo. That said, with all the prep and sweat I put into every single sentence, it's real life that triggers the laughter and you have to be ready to accept it, just like when a kid plays with the box over the toy, or an album is only affordable as a reissue. I've given you a couple of these moments below, things that genuinely did happen to me whilst offstage, and I hope they make you realise that sometimes, you can't write stuff like this.
I think I had only been there a couple of days when I bumped into a panicked comedian I knew. She was doing her show in forty minutes and with a reviewer in, could do with a friendly face, so would naturally sort me a ticket. As I didn't have enough time to sit down to eat, I hurried to the chippy and with fish and chips in my hand, promptly sought out a bench on The Meadows to satisfy my appetite.
The Meadows is a green stretch of Edinburgh, equally populated with performers, tourists and drunks. As I enjoyed my grub, a couple of minutes passed before a man sat next to me and pulled out a guitar. I glanced towards him, was informed that I wasn't in his way, so went back to my munching and left him to his tuning. He then launched into a song, singing and everything, which was when I realised I was now sat next to a Busker. I remember thinking, if anyone stops to watch, they're going to want to know what the fella with the chips is gonna' do. How long before he sings? Let's just say, they were the fastest fish and chips I have ever eaten and I have only just stopped taking the Rennies.
Earlier on, I had been in the pound shop (as you know, most comedians are doing well) to furnish my temporary accommodation with such delights as coathangers, mug, plate and emergency toilet roll. As I was in a queue, I saw an elderly gentlemen stop at a display and pick something from it. He ambled over to an assistant and asked “Is this a chocolate bar?” to which he was told “No, that's a DVD.”
As I said, those were just a couple of things that happened to me whilst I was there; I haven't even mentioned becoming briefly homeless, but maybe that's for another time...
They were indeed heady times, and are always looked back on with delightful relish. I’m not saying we all have to be in a band, just that next time you feel discombobulated with yourself, try to remember those flashes from the past that made up the scenery on the journey that brought you here.