Due to my own stupidity and lack of foresight, many years ago I sold a fine hi-fi system in favour of not having anything at all to play music on so convinced was I that in the brave new world of MP3 we would not require a stack of amplifiers and media playing technology we would only need a computer and maybe a small device that held your complete record collection and would slip into a shirt pocket, and in doing so I instantly made my impressive collection of LP’s completely redundant.
LP’s, you remember LP’s, of course you do, large black (mainly) flat discs made of some sort of plastic substance that when placed on the thing called a “record deck” would produce music as if by magic, for thats what it was, magic in your own living room – kids ask your parents about LP’s, you’ve missed a whole chunk of history right there.
Anyway, I packed away my impressive collection of LP’s gathered those past thirty years of musical awareness and stored them carefully in the loft from where they have survived three house moves despite the one who is legally bound to my wallet insisting that they are not required any longer being as we have nothing to play them on, but what does she know.
In the early summer of 1972 I was 15 years of age, earlier that year there had been released upon the youth of the UK a quite remarkable song by an unknown singer/songwriter, so long was the song that when it was released as a single they had to spread it over both the A and B side (kids, ask your parents again, “What does he mean by A and B side”), the verses were a jumble of rhyming couplets which seemed to be telling a story to us all but it was a story that none of us understood or could interpret, although many tried.
The track “Vincent” was then released unto the UK and at that point I committed five of my English pounds to purchasing the LP from whence it had come, the eponymous “American Pie” by Don Mclean, in a well rehearsed manoeuvre I had purchased the single “Vincent”, found that I liked both A and B sides, and promptly sold the single to Dr (to be) Rodney Emmott for the same price as I had paid (saved him catching a bus to town to buy it himself, we worked like this on many singles transactions) and set about raising the rest of the cash to buy the album so convinced was I that it would be at least half decent and worthy of my investment, which was not inconsiderable.
It was agreed with the voice that lives in my head that the whole of one match’s wages would be expended on the American Pie album – I was a program seller at Leeds Rugby League and with a bit of effort and a good crowd who all wanted to buy programs I could earn anything up to £5 in commission, which was a quite remarkable sum of money for a boy and his Saturday job, for one thing I only had to work every second Saturday afternoon and by comparison I had many friends, Dr (to be) Rod included, who did an eight hour Saturday shift stacking shelves at Hintons supermarket for £2 – and they were happy with their £2 so you can easily see that £5 for an hours work flogging programs was good money, rich pickings indeed.
The usual drill was that you arrived 90 minutes before kickoff, walked straight in through the main gates without paying, nodding slightly to the big fat bloke who guarded the gate as if his life depended on it, he’d nod back in recognition that you were a VIP allowed free passage and access into the hallowed ground, you’d collect your stack of programs to sell and make your way to your selected location to spend the next hour in a frenzy of dispensing glossy A5 brochures and coppering up change from £1 note for the 5p transaction, then at kickoff you’d go back to the office to count up the taking with the other five program sellers, take your 10% commission and be free to go and watch the second half of the game, paid a fortune for one hours work and get into the ground for free, what more could a 15 year old ask for ?
Except this day I was on a mission, with Dr (to be) Rod’s 50p and the program selling commission I was now a wealthy boy and the rugby match that Saturday afternoon was not for me, oh no, I ran all the way to the bus stop on Otley Road and caught the first bus that arrived to the Central Bus Station, then ran around the corner to Kennedy’s record shop, a shop that did what it said on the sign, it sold records, and they sold to me for slightly less than five of my English pounds, one copy of Don McLeans “American Pie” album, why they even put it in a green plastic bag to carry home safely.
For a boy of fifteen there is nothing quite like the pleasure of sitting on the number 33 bus on the way home from town clutching a green Kennedy’s bag with a new LP inside it, you’re urging the bus to get you home as quickly as possible in order to play your new album whilst at the same time hoping that someone will stop and ask you what album you’ve just purchased, especially if its a cool album that you’ve just purchased, a James Taylor album maybe, or Emerson Lake and Palmer perhaps, but you know for a fact that the only time that the cool kid from school spots you on the top deck of the bus home with a green Kennedy’s bag on your knee is the day that you’ve just bought your dads birthday present and you have to show him Sinatra’s “Ol Blue Eyes Is Back” and suffer weeks of torment thereafter.
The album was as good as I had hoped, still is, still is, the whole album is still on my playlist in the car except that these days its on a thumbnail sized memory card inside the dashboard which also contains seven hundred other tracks meaning that I could drive my car for several circuits of the UK without hearing the same song twice, who would ever have thought that such a thing would exist as you sat on the number 33 bus with a green Kennedys bag on your knee ?
Anyway, its still in the loft, more than forty years old and gathering dust while a digital and invisible version of it exists somewhere in the guts of my car and plays itself at random on long journeys, still as fine a piece of work I have ever heard…