A warm welcome to Plane Groovy; this is my chance to give something back to the hobby which has consumed me for most of my life!
A bit of background: The first song I remember grabbing my attention was “Telstar” by the Tornados and the first single I recall putting on the record player myself was “She Loves You” by The Beatles – I must have been about 6 years old. Primary school was a whirl of learning, and almost every song I hear from that era takes me straight back there, a poorly focussed snapshot of the fun we had, of half-remembered friends. Herman’s Hermits, The Tremeloes, The Hollies, the Small Faces, The Monkees, The Kinks; there was a seemingly endless supply of magical tunes.
I was given a transistor radio for my 10th birthday by my parents. It went everywhere with me. We used to crowd around it during playtime at school, switching between Radio Caroline and Radio North Sea International to see if we could find our favourite songs twice during one short break. That year, 1967, is burned into my memory as the year when music took over as my main hobby; whether I was Airfix modelling, building Lego, making Origami figures, building dens in the farmer’s hedgerow or searching the local pond for newts, the radio was there delivering music – sounding amazing … and I remember being utterly bemused when the pirate radio stations were turned off for the last time in late ‘67.
I still have that radio, up in the attic …
1970 brought with it senior school and vinyl albums! The thrill of hearing “Court of the Crimson King,” “Wishbone Ash” and “Led Zep III” for the first time will stay with me forever. In 1971 I got my “own” choice of Christmas presents: Family “Fearless;” John Lennon “Imagine;” ELP “Pictures at an Exhibition” and Lindisfarne “Fog on the Tyne.” My pal Peter Dawson returned to school with Caravan “Land of Grey and Pink” and Yes “Fragile.” I was hooked. We used to get bands playing at our school; Genesis, Camel, Van der Graaf Generator, Magma, Comus, Greenslade and many more. The first band I saw live were Steamhammer in 1969, at 2.30pm one Sunday afternoon in the school main hall … From this time on, throughout the 70’s pretty much all of my disposable income went on vinyl; mainly albums with the odd memorable single. Prog rock has been a constant companion although I embraced Punk and New Wave while at University in Bristol; evenings down at the Locarno seeing XTC, Squeeze, Eddie and the Hot Rods, The Police, The Jam; The Runaways at The Granary (don’t ask – they were dreadful!) and Johnny Thunders and Gruppo Sportivo at the Poly; Kursaal Flyers, Yachts and Radio Stars at the University – but interspersed with established bands at the Colston Hall: Gentle Giant; The Tubes; PFM; AC/DC. Not to forget the best gig I ever saw – 801 playing live at the West Runton pavilion on the Norfolk coast, and an epic weekend at Reading ’75 with Pete Wells and his sister Pam, watching Prog band after Prog band but never finding Sam Coster … who had the tent we were supposed to sleep in! Mobile phones should have been invented 15 years earlier …
I joined the Air Force. My Hi-Fi was gradually improving and my record collection expanding. The constant moving from base to base in the RAF was getting more and more difficult as the sheer weight and volume of my LPs increased, so when CDs came along in 1983 I was relieved! I bought the first player available in the UK – a toploading Philips CD100 – and started with 10 of the only 30 rock CDs on sale at the time. Throughout the 80’s and up to the end of the 90’s I bought new releases on CD, my vinyl was stashed away into storage for the move to America and never really regained its’ rightful place on my return. Moving had become much easier but although I was still buying new releases, gradually the music wasn’t grabbing me in the same way and I just assumed that this was part of growing up!
Summer 1998; I had left the RAF four years earlier and was now flying for Virgin Atlantic Airways. We had moved into our new home and I had installed some outdoor speakers. Catrina commented that the music (Paul Simon “Graceland”) sounded particularly good through these speakers; I replied that she was right, but it was because – rather than the CD – we were listening to the vinyl album which I had only just been given, had never played before. Understandably Catrina thought I had got it the wrong way round; CDs must sound better because they are newer technology? After I had explained why I thought that vinyl would always sound better she dropped the bombshell question – so why do you buy CDs instead of LPs? I explained how difficult it would be to move my 3000 album collection if it was all on vinyl and she looked at me as though I was mad – “You’re not in the RAF any more, we won’t be moving around!”
That was it. A revelation. I started buying the albums from the past 15 years which I had only owned on CD, and realised that it was CD, not my age, which had taken the edge off music for me. Now that I was once again hearing albums on vinyl, the emotional response to music was back; the joy of sitting and listening to music – really listening rather than just having it on in the background. Opening up the gatefold covers, reading lyrics rather than guessing at what they might be – I’ve got it all back again!