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.
So they remain to this day safely packed away in plastic storage boxes and stuffed into the corner of the loft in this here house surviving three house moves at which point the wife always asks, “Do you really need those…” and I always remind her that the terms of the exclusion order specifically state that she is not to be let within ten yards of my album collection after what she did to my singles collection in 1983.
So its February of 1974 and the young JerryChicken is by now in his 17th year and is partaking of his pseudo extra year at school, for truth be told he should really have left in July of the previous year but having no clue of what to do in the wide world by means of employment he opted to stay on into the sixth form and study for A Levels, which came as some surprise to the school as they had written him off as “We’ve gone as far as we can with him” the previous year but to their credit and maybe because they needed to make up the numbers they allowed me to stay on and pretend to be studying for two A Levels that I eventually never took.
In one of those events in life that you simply can’t explain to anyone else and make it sound even halfway plausible in mid February of that year we found ourselves on a privately chartered Boeing 707 en route to Las Vegas – “So what” I hear you all cry, “You can fly to Vegas anytime these days”, but wait, for here we are speaking of 1974 and in 1974 flying anywhere at all was reserved for the RAF and a few well heeled folk, cheap flights and package tours were still in the realm of wishful thinking and drug addled disturbed sleep patterns for the likes of Richard Branson and Freddie Laker, in the UK you took your holiday in Scarborough every year and if told that you’d soon be flying on a private charter to Las Vegas by a stranger in a bar you’d find somewhere else to sit and covertly ask the landlord to phone for an ambulance from the funny farm for that bloke over there.
Its a long story and its described elsewhere in this here fine blog but basically Ralph, yes you know Ralph we have spoke of him oft times, Ralph had managed to blag all eight of us seats on the private hire Boeing 707 that a millionaire of his acquaintance had organised on the whimsical idea that package holidays to Las Vegas would be just the ticket in 1974, a man 30 years ahead of his time this millionaire, still, a £7 a head trip to Vegas on a millionaires whim is not to be sneezed at and so Ralph did not sneeze and after two flights we found ourselves disembarking in the desert bowl (even in February) that is Las Vegas.
Of course Vegas was not quite what it is these days, back then it was still the reserve of gangsters, fraudsters, crooks and prostitutes and a rather seedy joint to boot, all of which went down rather well with the gangsters, fraudsters, crooks and, erm, our little band of wide-eyed innocents that disembarked from our flight from Manchester, imagine for instance our wide eyed innocence upon arriving at our rooms at The Flamingo to find Mama Cass appearing nightly there and Diana Ross right over the road at Caesers Palace – this was not East End Park Working Mens club territory at all, as my father correctly pointed out to Ralph.
Of course this was 1974 and for both of those traveling troubadours their star had shone and waned since the 1960s, Vegas then was where all the has-beens went to screw their last dollars out of showbiz, a last gasp effort to keep hold of the house in Malibu AND the one in the Hollywood Hills, sad but there you are, the showbiz world of 1974 wanted men with corkscrew hair and glitter on their faces, Diana Ross was to re-emerge in the disco-shite era of the late 70s but Mama Cass was a few short months short of her London date with a chomp and a choke too many on a ham sandwich, it was a crazy world of showbiz excess and an undercurrent of dodgyness that we found ourselves strolling amongst, innocent as young lambs.
And then one day we found ourselves wandering downtown and henceforth to the largest Woolworths I had ever seen and wonder of the ages, it was air conditioned, quite amazing to British people back in the 1970s who’s idea of air conditioning was to waft a copy of the Daily Express in front of your face.
If you have never been then let me say one thing about Las Vegas, its hot and the air is as dry as tinder, its obvious really because it sits in the middle of a desert inside its own mountain range bowl and even in February it was hot, well to us British it was anyway, to the Vegas residents it was bloody freezing as it had dropped down in to the 70s during the day, hardly peaked above 75 degrees all day and they wore scarves and gloves to keep warm while we strolled around in our string vests and hankies tied around our heads in true Northern England style saying things like “Phew what a scorcher” for 75 degrees had never been achieved even at the height of summer in Scarborough.
The dryness of the air sorted my acne ridden teenage face up once and for all and I never suffered from spots thereafter so throw away your creams and potions oh spotty youths and spend some time in a desert, I can heartily recommend the practice.
Anyway this combination of heat and dry air, and the aircon in Woolies drying out what moisture was left in their air supply, coupled with the practice of covering the floor of the largest Woolworths store ever seen in nylon carpet, meant that to touch any of the steel shelving therein meant instant static electrocution.
All over the store could be heard the crackle of sparks and “Oh fuck me” or “Aaaaah, fucking thing” or “Gah you bastard fucking thing” every time anyone reached to touch something on a shelf, hardly anyone bought anything in that largest Woolworths known to mankind because you couldn’t get the bastard stuff off the shelves without almost killing yourself, people leaving the store had hair like Albert Einstein which no amount of Sylvicrin hairspray would flatten for that night out at the casino.
But the Woolies had one of the largest record departments I had ever seen and better still the LP’s were about half the price that they were back home, unfortunately I was rather strapped for my own supply of hard cash and being as my father had the only family US dollars safe within his wallet I had to rely on cajole and promise of a payback when we got home in order to purchase my copy of The Rolling Stones “Goats Head Soup” and “Truth” by Jeff Beck – the latter purchased because Rod Stewart had been the vocalist on that album, the former because the in flight audio soundtrack on the Boeing 707 had included two tracks from the album on a one hour loop, so I got to listen to “Coming Down Again” and “Angie” at least fifteen times during the trip out there.
Its still a damn fine album, it still features on my playlists, and it still resides in the loft to this day, as does the Jeff Beck album, in fact the Jeff Beck album is one of only two in my collection that did not get played all the way through before being consigned to the back of the LP rack never to be played again, its in the loft in pristine condition, any offers ?