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.
December 1977 brought some change to the house of my parents, for one thing I wasn’t there very often, two days a week maximum is all I could offer them from my hectic lifestyle for I had discovered an alternative mid-week lifestyle of living in shit digs 100 miles away and tramping around on building sites all week getting incredibly muddy, cold and wet and then very drunk every night, in short I was enjoying a life in Newcastle and using my parents house in Leeds as a rest stop while your laundry got done.
Building sites in todays age of Health and Safety Act are incredibly clinically perfect emporiums of nonsense where even a cut finger gets written down in a big book and someone has to go and change the sign at the site entrance that reads “0 days since our last accident”, if they had had such a thing in the 1970s the sign would have had to read by the minute and even then it would need changing every minute.
Building sites in the 1970s didn’t have fences all around then for starters, you didn’t need to pass through a security turnstile to get onto the site in the first place for the only thing that stopped most sensible people from wandering onto a 1970s building site was that you’d instantly sink to your knees in mud if you did and if you were a women you’d be hounded off the place within seconds by means of verbal abuse and the odd accidental dropping of half bricks from the top of a scaffold in your general direction followed by “Sorry Love, accident”
I can’t tell you how many wooden ladders I have climbed that didn’t have a full compliment of rungs, or had rungs that looked like rungs but that would pop from their mountings as soon as you trod on one in a most alarming way, the ones that did that were usually the ones near the top, just when you don’t want to tread on something that won’t bear your weight.
I can’t tell you how many scaffolds I have walked along that were free standing and not attached at all to the building alongside them, which doesn’t sound like a big deal unless you are five or six storeys high and the scaffold that you are walking along sways like a drunken sailor with every footstep because each of its legs are resting on bricks that have long since sunk into the mud below, and then a labourer comes around the corner of the scaffold on your level pushing a wheelbarrow full of cement and there are no kick boards or even defined edges to these few planks that you are sharing.
It was a fun world of daring do, steel to caps on safety boots were a thing of imagination, the hard hat had not yet been invented, I was asked just recently in one factory if I was going to wear “safety gloves” whilst drilling a wall for a screw hole, all the while whilst wearing my safety boots, hi-viz jacket and safety glasses just for the avoidance of doubt in any passer-by that I might not be doing something here that was very, very dangerous, so dangerous that my factory host had erected barriers around the hole that I was to drill to put the No.10 rawlplug in, I stared at my host for several seconds when they asked me about “safety gloves” for I had never heard of anything quite so ridiculous even while looking quite so ridiculous in the rest of my safety gear, “No” is all I could think of to reply with, no I would not be using safety gloves, I’m a maverick me, watch while I drill this hole in this soft breezeblock wall, 4mm wide by 25mm deep, and then place a plastic rawlplug in it, thrill yourself while I do all of this without the aid of safety gloves but for christ sake don’t tell anyone or they’ll throw me off the site.
So along came December of 1977 and one Friday night I drove home from Newcastle safe in the knowledge that I did not have to go back until January for ’twas the time known as “Christmas Shutdown” when all the building sites closed for at least two weeks and all the menfolk who worked therein could get well and truly bladdered every night in the name of merriment until it was next year and you had to go back and start all over.
And during that journey home I pondered on the room that I called my own at my parents house, it was a single room extension to their bungalow, contained a bed and a very old wardrobe that had been purloined from someone outside of the family, one of those old fashioned Gentlemens wardrobes that had shelves inside it that were labelled with the purpose to which you should put the shelf, a shelf labelled “Shirts” for instance, and another labelled “Ties and Scarves”, it was like having a small branch of Greenwoods outfitters in your own bedroom, I didn’t like it one bit, it smelled too much of furniture polish for one thing.
No, what I really wanted was some modern furniture in a light teak veneer with cream drawer fronts, two wardrobes with a bridging unit and some drawers in the middle upon which I could sit the Sharp Music Centre that I had recently purchased and the more I thought of how my bedroom would look the more convinced I became that this would be a good thing to spend my Christmas bonus on, why I would do this thing on the morrow and when I arrived home and just before rushing out to the pub I told my father of my plans and he said it was good for he would get to have some new furniture in his house and he would not have to pay for it at all.
So it was that on the very next day my father and I called around to Bob Becks house and we borrowed his VW pick-up for to cart home the dozens of boxes of furniture from MFI in town for my new emporium of young mans bedroon-pad would come in flat packs with hundreds of parts to assemble and all the Christmas break to do it in.
Bob Becks VW pick-up would never have passed a thing like an MOT test, for one thing it didn’t have a speedometer that worked, the one it had just stuck optimistically at 70mph even when you were stood still, its very rough diesel engine took several minutes of cranking to decide to spit fumes and complain all the way to its top speed of 25mph, it had been around the clock several times at least and no-one really knew its age for the number plate was one of the ones from before a time when you got a clue from the prefix letter, in short it was well knackered but it chugged us all the way down Kirkstall Road and it chugged us all the way back home with my flat pack bedroom even though pedestrians laughed at us all the way home – as they walked past us.
In no short time at all I was the proud owner of a very swish bedroom and neither of the new wardrobes smelled of furniture polish and musty old socks, better still the Sharp Music Centre fitted perfectly under the bridge unit and , getting to the point right at the end of this here story – the album that I played for the whole of that Christmas and New Year break was Janis Ian’s “Between The Lines”.
Initially attracted to the album by “At Seventeen” it only took a few plays to realise that there were several much stronger tracks on the album and it quickly became the album of choice to lay on the bed with the lights turned out and snooze yourself to unconsciousness, probably with the aid of lots of beer, ’twas a fine album indeed and still is and still features on the current in-car playlist.