I wondered if I should do this, whether it was a suitable subject for Pop Junkie, but I figure it is. It’s what made me an addict to music so I may as well tell you about it, and seeing as Sunday is not only Mothers Day but would also have been my Dad’s 68th birthday it is an apt time to take you through my parents record collection. (That’s not me in the pic by the way – I’m not going to be around for another 5 years – but I love their clothes in this shot. Cool cats huh?).
I have them now, a collection that numbered maybe 100 to 150 singles and EPs and perhaps 20 albums. They pretty much stopped buying records when they were saving to get married, which dates the majority of the collection to pre 1963, but the odd disc still cropped up. Usually these latter day discs came via Penny, mum’s younger sister, but occasionally they’d buy something they particularly liked.
Each and every record was treasured by me. I loved the old gaily coloured paper sleeves, which contrasted with the labels which were invariably black or navy blue. The names on them were weird but had their own kind of magic; Parlophone, Decca, Reprise, Columbia, Regal Zonophone and London (not so weird!). I also liked the way mum wrote her name on all her discs, as did Penny. It seems to have died out with that generation. I know none of my pals who do the same, but I bet 90% of your albums bought from flea markets and charity shops have Brian, Daphne, Eric or Carol scripted on them in biro.
As soon as I was old enough to operate the radiogram I would sit for hours playing these wonderful pieces of plastic. Better than any Scalextric and almost as good as Subbuteo, I became welded to this piece of machinery and it’s litter of shiny black discs. It’s what turned me out the way I am, for better or worse…
Let’s get started. Let’s start where everything started ~ ELVIS. They had the first Elvis album, with its iconic sleeve, later purloined for London Calling, plus an early 10″ album, but it was those small 7″ discs that fascinated me. They had several by Presley. This one was my dad’s favourite on the plum coloured HMV label (not alas the original Sun label). It’s my fave too.
There was a lot of rock’n’roll. Good stuff ~ Larry Williams, Eddie Cochran, Chuck, Little Richard aplenty. Plus the milder stuff too ~ The Everleys, Chuck Willis, Orbison, The Coasters, Fats Domino and this one from the Del Vikings. Dad loved the doo-wop sound. This clip is a chicken-in-a-basket performance from the 80s or 90s but the vocals are pretty much as they were on the disc 30 odd years earlier.
I regard The Everleys as the Boomtown Rats of rock’n’roll, but, keeping to the analogy, this is their Looking After Number One (i.e. everyone has one good record). Actually, the Everleys were better than I give them credit for. Apparently their 60s stuff is amazing.
I bloody played this Larry Williams record to death round about 1976 when other kids my age were listening to Abba, David Essex and Slick. Larry is almost forgotten today, but he was not only a great songwriter, he was more nuts than Jerry Lee ~ you really wouldn’t wanna mess with him.
I’d forgotten how great this is.
Dad was brought up in a Catholic house. Soon as he met my mum, he pretty much moved in. Whereas at home he wasn’t allowed to have the radio on, at the Robinson’s the house was full of music. Mum’s dad loved Italian opera and Paul Robeson, but the girls were allowed to play r’n’r to their heart’s content. Dad loved it. You could not only play music, but you could play the devil’s music. If there was such a thing as the devil, Dad had his record. Take a look at this sleeve. Isn’t it the greatest sleeve in history? To an eight year old it looked pretty scary, the wolf howlin’ at midnight. Well, that was before I heard the bloody thing. Smokestack Lightning still gives me the shivers. It is in every respect a stunning performance direct from hell. And another thing, every time you might think that Lennon or Plant or Mark E Smith or Jim Morrison or even Elvis have the greatest voice in rock you have to remind yourself that the title belongs to Howlin Wolf.
The party goes on. My parents also possessed the greatst single single (!) in the history of pop. Official. Louie Louie by the Kingsmen with Haunted Castle on the b-side on the beautiful red and yellow Pye International label (you can see it on the Wolf video). You of course know that this is the version of the greatest garage punk song ever, but have you heard the greatest punk instrumental ever? They’re on the same piece of plastic. I played both sides a million times. I’m underestimating, I don’t want to give the wrong idea as to how much I love both sides of this platter.
We had about half a dozen Beatles discs even though Mum claims not to like them! She’s always been a Stones fan (Little Red Rooster is possibly her favourite song of all time), and says that she only likes Baby You’re a Rich man. The Troggs, Hollies and Donovan all got a look in. Bizarrely, no Kinks singles. I had to discover them for myself, which I did do and may explain why I regard them as the best band who ever lived. She loved this song too and I remember playing it lots. Have you ever seen this from Ready Steady Go with the Stones miming to it? It is one of the greatest moments of pop ever put on tv but some spoilsport seems to have banned it from Youtube. The look on Keith and Charlie’s faces has lived with me as a source of mirth for 20 odd years.
From 1970 to ’75 we went to Pontin’s at Wick Ferry in Dorset for our holiday. A few discs that reminded them of these fantastic holidays found their way into the box. Mungo Jerry’s In the Summertime, Creedence’s Green River and this pop classic from Christie.
However, their Pontin’s theme song was this prescription for instant party from Rufus Thomas on the Stax label no less (How cool is it to have Stax records in your folks collection?). They absolutely loved the Funky Chicken and it got the whole family on their feet. As I said, instant party. Other party favourites were Double Barrel, Young Gifted and Black, Montego Bay, Nutbush and Brown Sugar, but none of these are in the collection, they had a young family to feed and bills and food came before vinyl.
Also very cool was the fact that my parents loved Bowie and Bolan. Heck, they were only in their early thirties but even so. Their songs though were taped off the radio on a Sunday night. Dad would hover above the pause button in case something good came on and hey presto, thanks to the wonders of cassette technology we could keep the song forever and not only that could rewind it and play it again. Kids today have no concept of the revolutionary magic of the cassette. It did mean, however, that you not only missed the first two bars of the song, but at the end you get Tony Blackburn shrieking “Hey, FANTASTIC Sounds there from The Sweet and that one’s called Blockbus…”. At the end of our copy of Edison Lighthouse’s Love Grows (Copyright – Greatest pop song of all time) there is just one great big long “YIPPPPEEEEE!!!”
Okay, I think you get the idea. A couple to finish off. The kids got a bit older and as the 70s progressed mum and dad turned gay. No, I’m joking, they didn’t, but mum fell in love with Barbara Streisand and dad got an unhealthy taste for Cliff Richard records. My brother, sister and I can laugh now, but our childhoods were seriously damaged by a succession of Streisand albums; A Star is Born, Wet and Streisand Superwoman. These were played long and loud in our house. I couldn’t hear my Stranglers records above the din. However, every dog has its day and I bought her this single for her birthday in about 1980. I’d never heard it before but knew she liked the song. I know now it’s written by the great Laura Nyro and is pretty fab.
Yes, it’s true, Dad completely bought in to the Cliff revival which started with Devil Woman in ’76 (not a bad song by any means) and exploded with We Don’t Talk Anymore, Carrie and Wired for Sound. Do you remember just how big a star Cliff became, even in the pages of Smash Hits, around ’79 and ’80? This is for Dad, it’s still a naff song!
Well, if you’ve got this far thanks for persevering. It’s very important to know your roots and not to forget where you’ve come from. One regret about not having kids myself is handing down this legacy and that no-one is going to write about their dad’s taste for Sammy Davis, Scott Walker and The Fall in 30 years time. I also remember my dad telling me that Jet Black (The Stranglers drummer) was being interviewed on the radio. Dad didn’t like punk at all, but he knew I did and he sort of stayed vaguely in touch in a way that I spectacularly haven’t. He was no John Peel, but I recall that memory with fondness.
Be nice to your mums on mothers day and I sure as hell still wish my dad was around for me to give him a card. If you are a mum or Dad yourself remember to give your pup(s) the gift of good music. Thanks for everything you two ~ I love you both.