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.
But first an explanation, when I say that these albums are in storage in the loft of my house then thats exactly what I mean and I aren’t going to get the ladders out and spend 30 minutes seraching amongst the detritus of forty years to find the one I’m looking for, suffice to say that the album I speak of is a Joe Cocker album released around 1972 on the Music For Pleasure label and if you search for it anywhere online today you can’t find it, not even in Joe Cockers own discography, but it existed once and I bought a copy.
Now those who still have any sort of vestige of pride in their 1970s record collection will by now be doing the ROFL thing or as we like to say around these parts of Northern England, “Pissing themselves” at the mention of the MFP name for amongst record collectors you mention the likes of MFP at your peril for MFP were definitely “bargain bin” types of albums, more often than not they were albums of cover versions recorded by their own in house session musicians but released with the original artists name on the cover and the words “sounds like” in very small letters to obvert any copyright claims, cheap knock-off albums were the MFP specialty but they cost a third of the price of an original album (which should have been a warning) and so were attractive to skinflints and to maiden aunts who knew no better when purchasing presents for nephews.
But every now and again the MFP label would, by hook or by crook, grab a handful of original tapes by a genuine artist and gain permission to release them, I don’t know how it worked but for instance I have a MFP release of Procol Harum’s “A Salty Dog” album, its the original recording re-released five years after the original and I can only think that Procol Harum’s original publishers had convinced themselves that the band were going nowhere now and so flogged the rights cheaply to Music For Pleasure.
And so back to Joe Cocker and the MFP album that is clad in a badly designed brown sleeve with a poor image of the Joe Cocker on the front but it sold for only £1.50 and its the genuine Joe Cocker on the recording (how do I know, come on, no-one else ever sang like that and kept their vocal chords intact), and so I bought it.
Looking at the date and the track listing its easy to work out what happened, its basically Cockers first album “With a Little Help From My Friends” with a couple of tracks exchanged for ones on his second album “Joe Cocker”, both of these were originally released in 1969 and then Mr Cocker went, well, lets say he enjoyed his new found wealth a little too long shall we and other than the live recording of “Mad Dogs & Englishmen” didn’t release anything new until 1974.
So I’m guessing that sometime in the middle of all of that his publishers, probably giving up all hope of him ever working again, flogged off the accumulated tracks from the first two albums to MFP and let them release their own bastardised version, very cheaply, and I bought it, obviously.
Now here’s a thing, for years, in fact for most of this life so far I have believed that Joe Cocker once appeared on Hughie Green’s “Opportunity Knocks” but didn’t win in the viewers votes back in the day when you only voted by going to the trouble of buying a postcard, writing the name of the artist on the back, buying a stamp and posting it to the master of the teatime entertainment genre, and Paula Yate’s dad, Hughie Green.
“The singing gas fitter” is how I recall his introduction, “Remember folks, if you want to vote for Joe you just put “The Singing Gasfitter” on a postcard and post it off to us at Teddington Lock” is EXACTLY how I remember it happening, its in my head right now, video playback and everything, my dad sitting there and surprisingly being quite entertained by the singing gas fitter as this was the mid 1960s and anything in the popular music genre should have been “Bloody rubbish” to him.
I mentioned all of this to my cousin a couple of years ago, no not the famous cousin, his brother, the one who’s circle of fame extends to various Northern Rail routes and the bars around City Station, that one, and he told me that he had no recollection at all of Joe Cocker being on Opportunity Knocks and as the less famous cousin is two years older than I then I had to accept his word for he was a funky young thing at Grammar School at the time and he would know better than I.
Still, I was pretty sure of my in-head video playback and so I did what you always do when you want to prove a point, I went to the interweb, and lo and behold, nothing a flipping thing about Joe Cocker ever even meeting Hughie Green let alone starring on his teatime variety show, it was all in my head, a complete invention of my own, at some point in my youth-hood I have imagined what it would be like for Joe Cocker to appear on Opportunity Knocks and come second to a singing labrador dog and the thought has been filed away incorrectly in the factual section of the Museum of Recollections rather than the full-to-busting “fantasies” section.
I can only imagine what the piano player in that video is doing now, sitting in a nursing home somewhere during the relatives Sunday afternoon visiting hour,
“Grandad” one of his teenage grandchildren will ask, “is that really you playing the piano in that Joe Cocker video that I found on Youtube”
“Yes my dear” he will reply, dribbling slightly from both corners of his mouth, but that was a long, long time ago, before your father was born to that bit of totty in the vocal backing section”.
“Grandad, ” the youth will continue, “you look totally shit-faced in that video, did you take drugs in the 1960s ?”
“Erm, what does your father say” the old man will interject.
“He says you were shit-faced for most of the 60s AND the 1970s too and that after you’d spent six months at the Betty Ford Centre you came out sober but unable to play the piano anymore”
“Pah!” replies the old man, “your father knows crap-all”
“Grandad” asks the spotty youth.
“Have you got any weed on you now”
“No of course not you impudent young pup, now piss off and stop bothering me”
The young boy looks to his feet, admonished and a little embarassed.
“Go to my room” says the old man, “lock the door behind you and then look in the bottom of my wardrobe for the Rowntrees Cocoa tin, there might be a gram or so loose in there but don’t touch any of my needles and definitely don’t snort any white powder that you may or may not find, its fookin dynamite and not for young noses like yours”