My nephew Chris came round to see me the other day with a tear in his eye and a bounce in his step. You want to know why? I’m going to tell you anyway. It was a tear of gratitude and a bounce of joy, let me tell you. You want to know why he was grateful? No? Here’s why.
All through the seventies, about which me and my mate Doyle have often bored each other near to tears with our shared drug and music and near fatal stupidity related accident memories, I was a great record buyer. I’m still running copies for him even now. While all of my more sensible friends and contemporaries were away at university preparing themselves for a life of economic misery and uncertainty and monstrous political certainties, I was earning a wage, living cheap in staff accommodation at a now demolished hospital (£3.30 a week all found!) and spending all my money on substances, books and vinyl. The staff at Virgin records at the Clock Tower in Brighton, for my weekly visits, used to save me a copy of every new Stiff release and put aside all the jamaican import 45s for me. Tappa Zukie, the Intebidators and all. All the college boys used to come straight up to my place when they had holiday and tried to steal or at least get copies taped of all my latest acquisitions. Jane still tells far fetched stories about what we did with Ski pineapple yogurt in her lunch break while listening to the Rezillos. If only it was all true. Well, I’d like to be able to remember some of it, anyway. So far so good, and some of the memories lie within me still, only to spring into horrible reality when I least expect them. That’s one reason why I’ve recently started listening to Country girls like Caitlin Rose, Lindi Ortega and the incredibly versatile and wonderful Eleni Mandell, who can’t make a bad record. It’s actually nothing to do with unwelcome flashbacks, I just wanted to make an irrelevant mention of who I’m listening to right now. Is that so bad? Which leads me back to where I was a minute ago.
Chris came round. A month or so back, I went into the little spare room where all my old music was piled up in boxes. Everything from the seventies. The Velvets, the Ramones, Television, Dame Patti Smith. Zeppelin, the Groundhogs, Graham Parker and the Rumour. The Pistols, the Stranglers, The Damned, The Residents. Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds. Costello. Morrison. Nico! Zappa. Even Snakefinger. The Doors. The Reggae. All the really rare delta blues and mississippi blues and old blues and newish blues. But no blue suede shoes. And that, my friend, is just a scratch in the ice on the top edge of the iceberg, while the Titanic is mouldering away at the foot of the ocean. So I looked at it all. I thought, I don’t want this anymore. It’s all part of a past that I don’t feel like I’m a part of anymore. I don’t need this music on vinyl or cassette anymore because the essence of it all has become a part of me, it’s always there. Always here. and anyway, the cd collection is growing at a frightening rate. Make room! Make room! That became Soylent Green, in case you didn’t know.
So, knowing that none of my four would have any interest in my old music, having grown up with it and many a time run out of rooms screaming ‘dad! no! it’s loud, it’s horrible! we want mum back!’ or words like that, I decided that Chris would be a worthy recipient. He’s my sister’s boy. He plays guitar and bass. Very well. He wears Ramones t-shirts and looks the part and is a source of pride and despair to his mum in equal measure. He reminds me of me thirty five years ago. He calls a spade a spade with no malice or shame and never stops to ask what’s in a name. I phoned him, told him what I’d decided and the boy almost wept for joy. His dad came round in the van and we loaded them up. Nearly a thousand records. So Chris is happy. That’s why he came round to see me. To tell me how much he was enjoying listening to stuff on vinyl that he’d only heard clean and sterile on CDs, and all the other stuff that he’d never heard of or even dreamed about. I’ve got a spare room back in use. All is well with my little world. But I keep waking up at 4.43 every damned morning now. I’m sure it’s nothing to do with the records going. I’m sure it’s nothing to do with anything.