What first four albums did I buy? A response to a social media challenge.
This morning a post on social media made me think about the first four album records I ever bought. It was from a friend I met at university who chose four albums from the time he was 14. These included Elvis Presley, The Who, and David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust. The other one was Slade.
It made me think about my first record albums but instead of posting on social media, I wanted to write this blog as the post evoked such strong memories and made me think about two friends and their big brothers and sisters. Having brothers and sisters made your record collection bigger and more interesting without spending any of your own pocket money.
I had two friends one called Bobby and one called David their siblings were Pauline and Alan respectively and on Saturday mornings or Saturday afternoons when the siblings were out we would steal into their rooms and look at the record collections. These were all vinyl of course and were located beside things called turntables which were connected to an amplifier and a set of speakers. These devices are no longer very common but at the time there were great debates about the quality of the speakers, the make of the amplifiers, and turntables a great deal of pocket money was spent on vinyl records.
The pop charts at the time had some decent music among some poor but popular titles that passed for ‘songs’, ‘Mouldy Old Dough’ being a good example. T-Rex was there with ‘Metal Guru’ and so was Alice Cooper, Slade,10cc and of course Chuck Berry with his Ding-a-ling. Amongst these were some other classics of the day like Rod Stewart, Don McLean, and the now unmentionable Gary Glitter. He would appear later in my timeline during one of his many comeback tours lying facedown in a hotel room in his famous glitter suit. It was a university gig and Gary was a ‘no show’ having consumed too much of the alcohol in the ‘rider’ in his contract before his appearance.
You owe me a move say the bells of St. Groove
Come on and show me say the bells of Old Bowie
When I am fitter say the bells of Gary Glitter
No one but you and I say the bells of Prince Far-I
Clash City Rockers, The Clash
But it was the records that we looked at on Saturdays that really took my fancy. Pauline, Bobby’s sister had American tastes and I was transported immediately to the west coast with songs and albums from artists I have never heard of but were iconic then and now. Groups like Santana, Canned Heat, and Steppenwolf as well as artists like Jimi Hendrix. I was amazed and very impressed by these rock legends and bought some of the albums. Her record collection also included some classics like the old blues artists I had never heard of. I would later go to see the ‘Blues Legends’ tours that came to the Glasgow Apollo and was amazed by the old blues guys who sang and played harmonica on stage. I also loved Janis Joplin singing ‘Piece of my heart’ and would later buy the ‘Cheap Thrills’ album by Big Brother and the Holding Company it came from. Like most tracks, I began listening to I discovered they were usually originally sung and created by black artists who did not get the benefit of mainstream exposure. Erma Franklin is a good example of this.
Her collection also included some R&B influenced British artists that I would go on to follow. These included Free from the north-east of England, Jethro Tull, and Family. My school bag at the time was an old leather briefcase I inherited from my brother it became a portable billboard for the bands I loved as I would carve their logos into the leather with a penknife and ink in the letters with a felt pen. It was a primitive form of leather tattooing.
The most striking bands from Pauline’s were from California and called the Doors. L .A. woman was the album I first bought at a very young age, not that I understood the full meaning of the lyrics at the time! The Doors were carved ceremoniously onto the leather of the briefcase and then linked in with the felt tip marker.
David’s brother Alan also had a very good record collection which included all of David Bowie’s earlier music before Ziggy Stardust came out. This gave me an insight into Bowie and his musical complexity which I later followed closely. Alan also had an interest in country music and I was to listen to people I knew in another context playing music. I loved listening to Michael Nesmith formerly with the Monkees. At the time I hated everything I thought country music stood for because I was surrounded by a lot of ‘fake country kitsch’ in the Lanarkshire town I grew up in. There were regular Country and Western Nights in the local pubs and you would often bump into guys practicing their gun slinging in the toilets in full cowboy regalia. Thanks, Alan for pointing out my misunderstanding.
Buying music was something I enjoyed and the albums themselves became very precious but as I grew older and moved around more it became difficult to maintain a proper record collection . One record I inherited from my own brother was by a band called the Byrds. The album was the Notorious Byrd Brothers and my favourite track was called I Wasn’t Born to Follow. It was actually written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King and it featured in the film Easy Rider.
The song celebrates the freedom that the hippies had in the late ’60s. This song uses a wonderful country-rock melody and is sung by guitarist Roger McGuinn. Peter Fonda who starred in the movie was involved in selecting the songs from the album the song connects with many people I have known but few people know that I followed this kind of music from the start.
So what were my first four albums? They included Ziggy Stardust by David Bowie. The Doors,’LA Woman and Santana’s ‘Abraxas’. I also bought a curious 4 album sampler record from CBS the name of which I forget. It had a huge number of artists I later checked out including one that would later feature in a famous court case disputing the the original source of a very famous song opening by a band called Led Zeppelin with their song Stairway to heaven. They were another californian band called Spirit whose song Tuarus was at the centre of the legal case.
So thank you to Mark on Facebook for evoking all these memories for me and also to the big brothers and sisters whose records we ‘borrowed’ and carefully put back in their sleeves without leaving a scratch. We owe you a lot. But I have to say the best was yet to come. Punk, New Wave, and Reggae music were just a few years away.