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.
Of course I bought City to City because of the huge impact that “Baker Street” had on the UK charts in 1978, its a bit shallow I know but there we are, its called marketing and genius’s make millions from doing it, think of “Shake and Vac” and imagine the board of directors of SC Johnson being presented with the first storyboard by the marketing genuis, “Yeah, well, its been difficult gentlemen, you basically have a product that you throw on your dirty carpet thus messing it up some more and then you vacuum it up, which you could actually do without the product, so what we’re going to do is sing this song for you, its so bad that people will buy the product, I know, I know, I can see it in your faces, but believe me, when they hear this they won’t believe that the product could really be that bad, so they’ll have to buy it to find out…”
Mattie’s Rag just happened to coincide with my time at The Per Mar Guest House in Whitley Bay, a time which is now recorded in the Museum of Recollections as “The Doss House Year”, a year in which I often stopped dead in my tracks in the street outside the Per Mar every Monday evening as I arrived for another five days of slumming it with the builders and would think, “Why, why are you doing this to yourself”, and then continue up the path because it was £4 a night all in and that left me £3 out of my allowance for beer – in Matty’s Bar.
The Per Mar catered for building site workers, the ones who didn’t have a home to go home to, or at least the ones who’s homes were too far away to go home to every night (like me for instance) and so had a very simple requirement of a bed, food in the morning and food in the evening, and nothing more complicated, it didn’t have to be a good bed or a comfortable bed or even a clean bed, just a bed, it didn’t have to be good food, or tasty food or even food that was in any way edible, just food would do, and The Per Mar ticked those very simple boxes for just £4 a night which even in 1978 was cheap, so cheap that anyone with an ounce of sense would have stopped first and thought, “Hang on, thats VERY cheap” but no, I booked it and I kept coming back for at least twelve months, may even have been longer.
Its was the lads in the guest house that made it worth the ordeal of actually living there, they were an assorted bunch of itinerant workers ranging from the guy from Hull who’s name escapes me who was actually a site manager and could have afforded much better, but he loved the social life at The Per Mar, there was Eric the concrete specialist from Barnsley who was working on the construction of a new sewer pipe which ran out to sea and so they could only work at low tide, it was Eric who came straight in every night, sat down at the table and tucked into that evenings indiscriminate food without washing his hands first and regaled us with stories of how he’d been inside the live sewer today and we’d notice that his fingernails were full of something we’d actually not wish to know about, and there were the asbestos strippers from Doncaster who chipped away at asbestos concrete all day long in absolutely no protective clothing at all stripping the deadly dust from power station water pipes because it had been declared too dangerous to remain in situ but ok to chip off by hand for whatever price the chippers asked for.
And they asked for a pretty hefty price too, the only reason that those lads did the job was because it paid at least four times the average wage, I was a bonus surveyor for an electrical contractors and our electricians were earning around £100 to £150 a week – the asbestos strippers were on £450 a week basic, they will be dead these many past years of course and I doubt that many of them made 45 years of age but still, they earned enough money to pay off their mortgages within five years and they spent an awful lot of it in Matty’s Bar.
Matty’s Bar was directly over the road from The Per Mar, which was handy because some nights you’d come out of there unable to see let alone walk so drunk would you be on whatever bottle of beer Matty was selling that night for Matty who owned Matty’s bar did not serve draft beer, probably didn’t even have a licence, Matty’s Bar was a spare room at the back of The Rex Hotel that he may have legitimately rented from The Rex or maybe they didn’t even know he was there, he placed some scaffold planks on some empty beer barrels and called it a bar, rented a pool table and sold cheap bottles of beer cheaply, and we all got blind drunk most nights in there.
You’d exit the bar sometime around midnight and stand in the doorway steadying yourself against both door jambs, line up with the standard lamp in the window of The Per Mar over the road and then launch yourself at it – sometimes you made it sometimes you had to turn around and go back to Matty’s Bar, line yourself up again and have another go, they were good nights.
City to City was one of those albums that I bought, played and recorded to cassette tape and from then on it was mainly played in the car. This happened a lot, in fact if I ever could be arsed to go up into the loft to peruse my fine album collection I’d probably find that most of them are still in pristine condition being that most of them were probably only played through once or twice before being committed to cassette tape for the car journeys, for back then I spent most of my life driving the motorways of this country, in fact things don’t seem to have changed these past forty years at all other than the fact that the car is not cluttered with cassette tapes these days but has 600 tracks stored on one thumbnail sized memory chip which exists deep inside the glove compartment somewhere in the thing that Seat call “The Media Player” which can be controlled by voice command – won’t be long now before I get my robot butler.
Why t’was only the other day that I remarked to no-one in particular whilst traversing the mountainous M62 motorway that one simply does not see the miles and miles of cassette tape these days, wound around and around the central reservation barriers, the graveyard of all cassette tapes on the day when you’d be humming along to “City to City” and it would suddenly grind to a halt, you’d press the eject button and withdraw the cassette itself only to spend the next five minutes pulling and tugging at the three miles of tape that had managed to tangle itself up in the cassette players innards, all the while driving at 70mph with your knees doing the steering while you fiddled with the innards of the cassette player, and finally flinging the now redundant cassette and its endless stream of flapping screwed up tape out of the window to its natural graveyard on the central reservation – someone got paid to come along once a year and risk life and limb extracting and untangling that tape or we’d still be swimming in the stuff even now.