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.
We were browsing around in town, me Richard and his elder brother Steve in an HMV record store when my eye was caught by the remnants bin, a basket full of the crap albums that never sold upon first release that were being let go for a few pence. like iron filings to a magnet I was inextricably drawn, just in case there was a real bargain among all the Lena Martell and Brotherhood of Man albums, and there was…
It was actually a cassette tape and as I stood perusing its track list and wondering who the hell Joe Egan was and why was his album in the bargain bin, Steve came across, looked over my shoulder and said something like “Oh thats him out of Stealers Wheel” and my interest was aroused, that and the price tag of 50p did it.
Stealers Wheel had two frontmen, Joe Egan and Gerry Rafferty and as you learned readers know together in 1972 they wrote their huge hit single “Stuck In The Middle With You” which was later to star in the Quentin Tarrantino film “Reservoir Dogs”, you all know this already I know, I’m just filling in, what is also known is that Stealers Wheel was not a happy band of musicians, they fell out frequently, Rafferty walked out on them frequently which was a bit inconvenient as his vocal was generally the lead vocal, most inconvenient especially when you have a #1 hit single and Top of the Pops want the band to record a video and Rafferty walked out several weeks ago and hasn’t been seen since, theres only one thing for it, Joe Egan had to take the lead and mime to Gerry Rafferty’s vocals as if it was him all along – and smile like you don’t really hate the bloke at all, you’re #1 this week and you’ll do whatever the advertising men tell you to do, even if Gerry Rafferty is getting 50% of the royalties for sulking in a pub somewhere…
Fast forward to 1979 and five years of legal wrangling over who was committed to which record company and who owned the rights to the songs they’d written and during which both of the pair wouldn’t release anything new until the publishers had just fooked off and forgotten them, and finally Rafferty releases his solo album “City to City” which sells billions of copies and makes him lots and lots of money being as he wrote all the tracks on it, and Joe Egan releases his solo album “Out of Nowhere” which is not received quite so warmly, in fact it barely causes a ripple in the music industry and within months its in HMV’s remnant basket with a 50p price tag and HMV begging you to take it off their hands.
So I take it off their hands for them and I stick it in the cassette player in the van (I do a lot of van driving at this time and its where I listen to all my music), and I LOVE the album straight away, in fact I love it better than Rafferty’s efforts and I still do for Joe Egans voice and lyrics suit me, relaxed and mellow, the sort of album you listen to in a darkened room at the end of the day with a malt whisky on ice and you breath slowly and your heartbeat slows right down and the rest of the world can go do one – you’re relaxed.
Surprisingly for all of the thousands of times that its been played in various vehicles that I owned back in the day when vehicles had cassette players, this particular cassette never chose to unravel itself inside the gubbins of the player, I never had to remove the whole unit from the dashboard, unfasten hundreds of screws to get the lid off it and then poke and prod around inside to extract hundreds of yards of thin plastic tape in the vain hope that if it came out in one piece then there was half a chance that I’d be able to wind it all back inside the cassette and it would actually play again unencumbered by hissing noises and large gaps where no sound came out – the Joe Egan cassette never did any of that, probably because there’s only about 20 mins worth of music on each track, but still, it resides in my loft these days, unplayed, probably will never be played again as I have the album in a digital format now and do not have the means available to play cassette tapes.
In fact when I think about it, I do not have the means to play music at all in the household these days, gone are the days when your music centre or stacking system was the highlight of your living room, the days when you’d go to someone else’s house and the first thing you’d ask is “What sort of stacking system have you got” and then be bitterly disappointed when they pointed to the one branded “Binatone” in the corner because now you just know that when they ask the question in reverse then you’re going to sound like you’re showing off when you say “A Wharfedale system” and add apologetically, “Its my dads old one actually, but I’m sure your Binatone sounds just as good, really”.
Instead my means of playing audio now relies on small bits of digital equipment, a phone, a tablet or a computer, I don’t even own an MP3 player anymore, sure its more convenient but there are no sleeve notes on an MP3 file, there is no artwork and the sound quality can range from OK to really shit, someone sold us this brave new world and its plain for all to see that its just not as good as what we had.
Rant over, now relax to “Out of Nowhere” …