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.
Its a long forgotten fact that in 1970 a law was passed in the UK that made it a legal requirement for every household to own at least one copy of the Simon & Garfunkel album “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and so my mother ordered our copy out of the Brian Mills catalogue and it duly arrived with just a cardboard sleeve to protect it and lordy lordy, it wasn’t broken and played perfectly well upon our radiogram, we paid 2/6d a month for the rest of our lives and became proud owners of the best selling album ever (to date).
Shortly afterwards, and this was no coincidence, our dad changed the wallpaper on the chimney breast from the traditional maroon velvet flock affair that looked like it had been liberated from a dowdy back street pub (it probably had been) to one more suited to the brave new world of the 1970s, a cacophony of huge orange flower motifs on a white background in a 2D cartoon style suggested by The Beatles “Yellow Submarine”, we got a psychedelic mirror to match which was decorated in the same orange motif and hey presto, our family was trendy and with-it-man, we took to wearing flares and tie-dye t-shirts and Mr Hall over the road didn’t approve at all, which was fine.
Things were definitely changing in the household, by now both Ned and I were teenagers though we both still shared a bedroom with barely room for a gap between our two single beds that had just a few years earlier actually been a set of bunk beds, we asked for proper single beds but our dad declined to spend his money as there was, in his eyes, still years of wear left in the bunkbed that he’d bought us when we were five years old and so his generosity only strectched to sawing the top bunk off the bottom bunk and placing them side by side, “There” he said pointing at what was surely the truth, “you’ve got two single beds” and it was pointless explaining to him that they’d been ok when we were five but now our feet stuck out of the end every night, I had to wait until I left home at seventeen before I got a proper bed.
But things were changing, definitely, our dad for one thing had stopped wearing suits outside of working hours and now had a range of what he called “sports jackets” in a variety of tweeds and houndstooth weave, some of which were so jazzy that they hurt your eyes and in this he was ably assisted by Cyril-over-the-road who was a sales manager at a large tailoring business in Leeds and was more than willing to “liberate” anything from the stock room as long as you crossed his palm with silver, Cyril-over-the-road and our dad would form a strong friendship and a business relationship that if it had only been incorporated as a bone-fide business would have been one of the largest Gentlemens outfitters in Yorkshire, we had queues of our dads mates outside our house most Sunday afternoon as they came clothes shopping to our house and our dad and Cyril-over-the-road had enough stock to satisfy the highest demand, and when they didn’t have something in stock out would come the tape measure and Cyril-over-the-road would measure you up, go to work the next day and have someone run up your garment in their lunch break – you don’t get many black market clothing businesses that do bespoke tailoring.
To compliment his range of sports jackets our dad had an unco-ordinated range of what he called “slacks”, that is trousers to the rest of us but to him a pair of trousers that didn’t belong to a suit were “slacks” and the rule of thumb in 1970 was that the colour of the slacks did not have to match the colour of the sports jacket, in fact it was compulsory for the two not to match in any way. Sports jackets with wide lapels and slacks with flared legs, our dad was almost trendy, he had started to like our music, and Ned and I were getting quite worried that the Generation Gap that we had heard so much about was closing rapidly in our house, it wasn’t supposed to be like this.
And there was also that Saturday morning sometime in 1970 when our dad was “in the doghouse” again and our mother just wanted all the menfolk out of the house for the day and so he took Ned and I to work with him, yes this was back in the day when Saturday mornings were a normal part fo the working week for a lot of people, in our dads case he was by then the manager of the Leeds office of a national company and so Saturdays were when he sat in his office and sorted stuff out ready for Monday, Ned and I messed about in the other offices and then when the stuff was done our dad took us for a walk through the centre of Leeds, and it was while we were taking a walk that an amazing thing happened.
He spent some money on a frivolous thing.
I know, its amazing isn’t it, I spend so much time explaining how “careful” our dad was with his money, how he sawed the bunkbeds down rather than buy new beds, and then I go and tell you that he just threw his money around like a man with no pockets, well it did happen, just one day, and I suspect that the money he threw around was surplus to the normal budget, in other words it may have been one of his “fiddles”.
Whatever the reason we found ourselves in Woolworths in Leeds, just pottering around wasting time as our mother didn’t want any of us back in the house at all until teatime, it was like we’d been sent out to play with our dad in tow, when suddenly he stopped at a counter and stared on something on display.
It was a record player.
A stereo record player, with two speakers and everything.
“Rigonda ?” asked my dad of the spotty faced kid behind the counter.
“Yes sir” replied the spotty faced kid, although he probably didn’t say “sir” because this was 1970 and the kids didn’t use the 1950s language anymore.
“Yeah” replied the spotty faced kid behind the counter, “Its Russian”
“Its Russian ?” asked our dad, “Woolworths are selling Russian record players now ?
“And is that the right price” asked our dad, unbelieving.
“Yeah, like I said, its Russian, its cheap”
“Lets listen to it then”
And the spotty faced kid turned it on and played a Woolworths compilation album of songs that were sung by people who weren’t the original singers, at all, and the record player actually sounded quite good.
There was a problem of course for we already had a radiogram and had no need of a record player, that is we had a huge bureau sized piece of furniture that took up a whole corner of the room and contained a mono record player and a massive valve wireless, the single 24″ cone speaker being built into the base of the monster radiogram, “Lovely piece of furniture” our dad had explained as he dragged it into the house one day, having liberated it from a second hand furniture shop in Harehills.
“We could get rid of the radiogram and I could build a shelf unit in the corner for this record player to stand on” I heard him mumble to himself, I stood there stunned, I was 13 years of age and this was the first time I had ever heard our dad speak of spending money on something.
And so it came to pass that he bought the Rigonda Party Time record player and I solved the problem of disposing of the ancient radiogram for him by selling it to Tim Knowles with the spell-binding sales script “Its a lovely piece of furniture”, our dad built a shelf unit in the corner of the room which made our living room look like something out of Abigails Party and suddenly our family was massively trendy, folk came from London to gaze with envy at our psychedelic living room with its Russian record player and trendy inhabitants in slacks and sports jackets and floral wallpaper in hues and patterns that brought eyesight to the blind.