Go on, admit it, you sort of like this here tune don’t you, yes you do, even though you will never admit it to anyone, not even to your own reflection in the mirror, and you certainly wouldn’t let him fly you anywhere, its still a pleasant enough tune to hum along to on a long car journey, listen to the lyrics, reflect on life and whether or not the fish in the creek can speak to you, peace and love man…
Between 1977 and 1981 I was technically still living at home in Leeds with my parents, thats where my mail went to anyway, but in reality I was living wherever the company sent me to, mainly to Newcastle-u-Tyne where I lodged in terrible contractors digs in Whitley Bay and thenceforth the wonderful Queens Hotel in that there former seaside town, but also to Birmingham or Edinburgh or wherever the hell the thought they’d like to send me next as they’d shut down the Leeds office one day when I wasn’t there and I became the company nomad – have van will go where the hell you send him sort of thing.
So most Friday nights I’d find myself driving back to Leeds if only to get my washing done, I had a Ford Escort van in the days when having a van meant no luxuries like door liners or power steering, but I did fit my own decent cassette tape player inside it and put a couple of huge speakers in the back so that at 80mph when the van was shaking itself to pieces and sounding like the inside of a jet engine I could turn up the stereo and blast my ears with my own choice of driving music – you’d be surprised at just how much echo you can get from the back of an empty Ford Escort van when you have a decent enough stereo.
The song “Boy From The Country” is forever linked to a winter Saturday morning, the sort of bright sunlight winters morning with the sun low in the sky when everything is covered in frost outside and the world looks very beautiful, my Friday night trip home had been aborted near Sunderland when the windscreen shattered and I’d had to drive back to my digs with bits of glass flying in my face, have a new windscreen fitted on the Saturday morning and then set off home again, all of this unbeknown to my parents who were probably sitting up all night waiting for me as mobile phones were a thing of science fiction and my dad wouldn’t fork out the £100 installation fee to have a phone put in the house – after that weekend my mother made sure he did.
I’m on the A1, its almost empty, the road stretches for miles in front of me, the weak winter sun is peeping through thin cloud, the fields and trees are covered in frost, and “Boy From The Country” is blasting from the back of the van as we hit our cruising speed of “My-God-You’re-Going-To-Get-Us-Killed”.
I bought Meatloaf’s “Bat Out Of Hell” album on a complete whim in Asda one Saturday afternoon simply because I had £5 in my pocket and I liked the cover art, got it home, stuck it onto a cassette and played it on my Monday morning drive back up to Newcastle – it stayed in the stereo from that moment until it finally wore right through the tape, got snagged up in the mechanism, had to be ragged out inch by inch while holding the wheel with one hand at warp speed and flung out of the window onto the central reservation, as was the practice to dispose of knackered tapes in the 1970s.
Every track on the album is a belter, every track is a driving track, every track is designed for the driver to sing along to at the top of his voice, in the dark so no-one outside can see you, every track shortens your journey , play the tape through twice and you’re nearly there no matter where it is you’re traveling from and to.
Its another Friday night anthem tape.
Thin Lzzy’s “Live and Dangerous” is one of those albums that I actually bought as a tape – buying music on cassette tape was actually a complete waste of time, effort and money because you just knew even as you handed over your precious few pounds at the till that this here tape was destined for a future on the central reservation of a motorway somewhere, its miles of plastic chrome impregnated tape wafting and tangled up all the way from here to Nottingham after you’ve worn it out on your car stereo – far better to buy the vinyl LP and tape it yourself – years later I still have my 1970s vinyl LPs and all these years later I could still play them (if I had a record deck), yet I have none of the very few pre-recorded cassette tapes that i foolishly purchased.
I had been to see Thin Lizzy on the Live and Dangerous tour and in a rush of “must own this” had bought the cassette which again became ever present in the van and ultimately gave its life to the central reservation of doom, I never replaced it with a vinyl version for it just doesn’t sound the same if not played in an empty tin box of a van at full volume while the world rushes past at incredible speed outside and you control your own destiny with just five fingertips on the steering wheel of life.