Until the 1970s we seemed to be living in some sort of Ebenezer Scrooge style house where requests for basic household commodities, like for instance a colour tv, or a record player, were greeted with the single refrain “Where do you think you are – on your fathers yacht ?”
I don’t think that our dad liked to spend his money.
Then, as the decade changed from 60 to 70 there was a definite relaxing of the purse strings, maybe he got a pay rise or maybe he just found more of what he quaintly called his “fiddles” to run, but there was definitely a bit more money coming into the house and with it came, at long last, a record player, a radiogram to be exact – which I eventually sold to a certain Tim Knowles – a lovely tone it had Tim, lovely tone.
Sometime later our dad came home from work with the exciting news that he’d just signed up a new customer at his “proper” job, the day job, the job where he had to pay tax on the income, Wharfedale Audio, world famous manufacturers of very hi-fi equipment and the best news was that they had a staff “seconds” shop where staff (notice the emphasis on “staff” ) could pick up bargains on very hi-fi audio equipment, the sort of very hi-fi audio equipment that our dad would normally not even dream of purchasing – unless he could buy it at the “staff” terms.
It wasn’t long before his frequent visits to his new customer managed to establish a link with the security guard there and for that security guard to admit one non-staff member into the staff “seconds” shop under consideration of a small remuneration, and hence we came to be the proud owners of a range of Wharfedale and Leak hi-fidelity audio equipment.
I still had the speakers in my possession up to just a few years ago, 30 years on and they were still the best pair of speakers I had ever owned and probably not by coincidence also the heaviest pair of speakers I had ever owned, you could certainly never even dream of wall mounting them they were almost too heavy to stand on a floor that hadn’t previously been reinforced.
And on that hi-fi equipment I played all of the long playing records of my youth and those of you born after 1985 will just have to take my word for it that there is no standard of quality audio on the marketplace today that will match the experience of going on the bus into town and purchasing a vinyl record with your hard-saved pocket money, then bringing it home to play it for the first time on your dads very hi-fi, hi-fi, nothing at all – digital music recordings just don’t come close, not in any way at all.
Thats why that huge mono radiogram that I eventually sold to Tim the Shifter had such a lovely tone – because that lovely tone came from valves, real valves inside the monster cabinet, valves that glowed when hot, that mono radiogram had a speaker cone in the front of it that was at least three foot in diameter and could fill a stadium with sound – they don’t make hi-fi like that anymore.
I’ve been browsing the likes of eBay for a small audio player recently but frankly there is nothing that takes my fancy at all, nothing that doesn’t look like its been assembled by small Chinese children and will play approximately five albums at the sort of audio volumes that I enjoy before blowing a speaker cone, you can buy complete “Hifi Systems” on eBay for around £25, brand new, which frankly is appalling, add a zero to the end of that and you’ll get close to what our dad paid for the Wharfedale amplifier on its own back in 1972 – without adjusting down for inflation – how many pairs of slippers did he have to flog to buy that then ?
I’m currently listening to Spotify relaying an album that I bought with my hard earned pocket money and played on that hi-fi back in 1972, Rod Stewart’s “Never A Dull Moment” and while the digital quality is lacking something undefinable, its still a selfish wallow in nostalgia, the defining track for me being the Bob Dylan song “Mama You’ve Been On My Mind”, Mr Stewart has not made a better album, has not made a decent album since 1975, has churned out absolute tripe in recent years and cannot sing a note to save his life these days, but I forgive him all of that for that one album and my dads hi-fi.
I still have the original vinyl album in the loft, all I need now is something to play it on.