(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – May 2021)
Who remembers the ‘listening booth?’
In the early 1970s, other than borrowing a record from a friend, or perhaps thieving one, there were very few means of listening to new music. The choice of radio stations was also limited, and their playlists were generally ‘mainstream,’ catering for the masses.
With an L.P. costing around £2/ 5s (£2.25 a year later when decimalisation came into effect) you really wanted to know what you were shelling out for.
It was all very well enjoying a single (‘45’) released by a band or artist, but this was no guarantee they could produce ten or twelve tracks of similar quality – three if ‘Progressive Rock’ bands were your bag.
Misjudgements were costly.
The old ‘try before you buy’ mantra was never more pertinent. Most credible music stores provided some means or other for prospective buyers to skip through the tracks of an album before deciding whether or not to buy.
Of course, this facility was open to abuse. Some shoppers would spend a whole Saturday afternoon on a constant loop of listening to an L.P. re-joining the queue of punters, then listen to another album. This would continue until such time as the store-assistant caught on, and asked the evident time-waster to splash the cash … or leave.
(Guilty as charged m’lud.)
As I mentioned in an earlier post, my very first vinyl L.P. purchase was made initially on the strength of two singles, but backed by the safety net of listening to the remaining tracks on the eponymous John Kongos album.
Whether it were pressure on floor space, the ease of home-taping, or the advent of more specialised radio stations, by the mid-70s though, these booths started to disappear from the high street. And with all the streaming services at our finger tips now, they are not likely to make a comeback in any meaningful sense.
Resultantly, from that time, until the latter became more freely available, I reckon there must have been millions of pounds spent by music fans ‘on spec’ – paid in the simple hope and belief that they were purchasing forty minutes or so of wonderful music.
I also reckon there must be millions of music fans who rue the vanishing listening booth; who have at least one album in their collection that they regret buying; who would rather have spent their equivalent of nowadays, £20 plus on a kebab and a few beers.
So, it’s time to ‘fess up – what album from The Seventies, still in your collection, really disappoints you? What ‘70s album do you flick past without so much as a cursory glance?
What album do you bewail, and why? What disappoints you about this record, and why did you buy it in the first place?
Me? The one and only of my Seventies LPs that I no longer play, and indeed really only bought for one track, is ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ by Meatloaf
(I can almost hear that communal, sharp intake of breath!)
This album was released in 1977. The year of Punk; the year I was wearing ripped jeans and cap sleeve T-shirts. It was everything Punk rebelled against and in truth it troubled me to be seen buying it. But what the heck – I was working. I had money to burn …. and I may as well have done just that.
I was sucked in by the general hype and, it has to be said, a blistering performance on The Old Grey Whistle Test of ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Light,’ featuring Karla Devito. I still love that song.
My tastes were changing. I was thirteen years old and all ‘growed up’.
However, the 1971 kid in me still found it tough being weaned off the bubblegum and sugary Pop hits of the day.
The previous year, we’d been on our first overseas family holiday. Spain, it was, and wherever we went, whenever we went, bloody ’Candida‘ by Tony Orlando and Dawn, was being given big licks.
Breakfast in the hotel dining room: “Oh, Candida, We could make it together.” Lunchtime by the pool: “The further from here, girl, the better, Where the air is fresh and clean.” Evening by the beach-side bratwurst bar: ” Hmm, Candida, Just take my hand and I’ll lead ya. I promise life will be sweeter, And it said so in my dreams.“
Back home in UK, The Mixtures and ‘The Pushbike Song’ had been popular enough to reach number two in the January charts of 1971.
Probably more so in those days before digital photos, when you returned from holiday, you craved anything that gave that instant hit of warm, glowing memories.
Scent and music best serve this purpose, I find. In the absence, though, of Yankee Candles emitting the heady, mixed aroma of sun-cream, paella and bleeding Watney’s Red Barrel, my parents opted for an LP that contained both these songs,
Chuffed to bits, they proudly told me I could play it (carefully) on the new radioogram.
My excitement, however, didn’t last long when it very quickly became apparent that the songs were not performed by the original artists Still, money was tight, and it was better than nothing at all.
A few months later, and buoyed by their ‘new cool,’ my folks bought another of those trendy compilations, principally for the T. Rex track ‘Get it On.’ Of course there was no fooling me this time. Once bitten and all that. Also, the song ‘Coco,’ was on the LP, and I had the proper, 7″ single by The Sweet. I could spot the difference.
The rest of 1971 music passed me by without leaving much of an impression. I do still have ‘Bannerman‘ by Blue Mink in my collection, but that’s about it.
The following year though, shaped my music of choice – pretty much for life.
On a family weekend trip to Blackpool, I remember buying what would be only my third album. (The second was ‘Slade Alive‘ by Slade.)
That album was ‘Love It To Death,’ by Alice Cooper. I have no idea as to how I knew of the band. I think perhaps I was flicking through the record box and the rebellious, now fourteen-year-old in me had decided to exact retribution for my mother’s uncomplimentary remarks about T. Rex.
You think Marc Bolan is ‘dirty’ and ‘weird,’ do you? Get a load of this dude and his cronies!
(I unfortunately now own only a CD copy. I sold the vinyl to a second hand record store in Stirling not long after being married when we had no cash.)
A few months later, Alice Cooper arrived in the UK for a series of shows. His reputation preceded him and of course the very conservative press of the time were all over it. I was desperate to go to the Glasgow show. It would be my first gig. But there was zero chance of that happening.
Determined my mind would not be corrupted by some deviant from the other side of the Atlantic, my folks properly ‘grounded’ me on the evening of 10th November 1972, to prevent me sneaking off to the show with a couple of pals who did have tickets. It was for my own good, of course.
One of my mates though, somehow managed to smuggle a tape recorder into the venue and so I was at least able to hear a very muffled version of the show.
My first gig would have to wait.
Part #4: HEAVY ROTATION
It wouldn’t be too long a wait before my first gig – only another four months or so, in March 1973. But in the meantime, my Alice Cooper LP ‘Love it to Death‘ was being played to death in my bedroom.
It whetted my appetite for more ‘heavy rock.’ In late 1972, however, gaining access to such music was not easy. You either had to know somebody who had bought an album and lent it you, or you took a punt and bought blind (or perhaps that should be ‘deaf.’)
Some shops though, like Lewis’s in Glasgow had ‘listening booths,’ where you’d be allowed to listen to one or two tracks from an album in the hope that you’d eventually buy.
(Latterly, the dingy wee Virgin Records shop at the end of Argyle Street, then Listen, in Cambridge Street, Glasgow offered the use of headphones to listen to music. The down side though, was that only one person at a time could listen – we used to pile about six mates into the listening booth along the road in Lewis’s.)
Some rock bands, however, like Free, Deep Purple and the excellent Atomic Rooster had been given airtime on the UK’s prime time popular music show, Top of the Pops in late 1971 / early 1972 and although a bit late to the party (again) I started to search out music from such artists .
1972 also saw the blossoming of Glam Rock in the UK. Arguably started by Marc Bolan in mid 1971, the Glam movement was well and truly on the march through 1972.
At school, though as a thirteen / fourteen year old lad, it was not de rigueur, to show your true Glam self. Stars like Bolan and Bay City Rollers were for the girls. Boys had to be into what was perceived to be ‘harder’ rock. As mentioned in an earlier post, I got terrible stick for admitting I liked The Sweet. Little did those ‘macho’ pals of mine appreciate that most Glam bands could rock-out some pretty heavy riffs too.
My first rock album however, was one of those blind / deaf purchases I referred to earlier. I had read of this band Uriah Heep in Sounds paper / magazine, and around mid-1972, sent away for their debut album, ‘…very ‘eavy… very ‘umble.’ This immediately took over from the Alice Cooper LP that had hogged the turntable for so many months.
I still play this album a lot, and for me, the late David Byron was one of the best vocalists in rock music.
From a kid who was totally unaware of The Beatles just a few years earlier, I was now completely immersed in music. I couldn’t play a note, of course – I was far too lazy to learn despite my parents’ best efforts. And singing? There was more chance of me holding the World Heavyweight Boxing title than me holding a note.
1972 had been a year of musical enlightenment for me. It had started with me pestering my folks to buy me a shirt similar to one I’d seen Kenney Jones wear while playing drums for Rod Stewart on Top of the Pops. I wanted to look ‘cool’ at my school disco.
We never found one, of course, and I had to settle for a turquoise, paisley pattern shirt and matching kipper tie, with lilac needle-cord trousers.
It ended with me wearing that very same outfit to a disco in London (I was part of a representative Glasgow Boy Scouts group visiting the city) where I ‘got off’ a girl from a local Guides troop.
I made her laugh, apparently.
I now know why.
Isn’t Life strange, though? The song that kicked off 1972 for me, and remains possibly my all-time favourite single, is ‘Stay With Me,’ by The Faces.
… and the song that brought the year to a close, reminding me of that disco in London, is – ‘Angel‘ by Rod Stewart and The Faces.
(Post by John Allan, from Bridgetown, Western Australia – March 2021)
The LP (from “long playing” or “long play”) is an analog sound storage medium, a phonograph record format characterised by: a speed of 33 and a third rpm, a 12 or 10-inch (30- or 25-cm) diameter; use of the “microgroove” groove specification; and a vinyl composition disk. Introduced by Columbia in 1948, it was soon adopted as a new standard by the entire record industry. Apart from a few relatively minor refinements and the important later addition of stereophonic sound, it remained the standard format for record albums until its gradual replacement from the 1980s to the early 2000s.
……………………….and it was the currency of cool in the 1970s.
What follows is a handy guide for the true devotee :-
Always store LPs in a cool dry place away from direct sunlight, preferably on display in alphabetical order on a dedicated shelving unit.
All LPs covers must be read on all sides including inner sleeves if applicable before or at least during first listening.
On removing LP from inner sleeve, album must be in the horizontal position. Gently tilt to no more than 30 degrees and allow vinyl to slowly slide towards dominant hand, thumb raised palm upward. Cradle with thumb on circumference, second and third finger on centre sticker arching the palm while bringing non dominant palm directly across the diameter. Manoeuvre dominant hand to mirror other hand. Carefully proceed to turntable in a stately manner, LP held at chest height between both palms.
WARNING: to not attempt to play disc unless an anti-static felt duster is within easy reach.
Place LP on spindle. Gently blow on stylus to: a) clear any dust or debris b) show respect.
When finished, reverse the steps of 3rd bullet point and return album to inner sleeve. Turn inner sleeve a full 90 degrees and return to album cover proper. Stand down.
Deny the existence of ‘The heLP’.
Kill all known DJs within your area.
No family or friends must be present during first listening.
Never let anyone else touch a) the LP b) the turntable c) you.
NEVER be tempted to lay an unsheathed record on the shag pile carpet even for one nanosecond.
Never lend an album to anyone else unless a member of ‘The heLP’ and you’ve personally visualised their initiation scars.
Never leave an LP on the back seat of your mate Gavin’s Cortina on a hot summers day unless requiring a cool looking ash tray, even if he is ‘Grand Wizard’ of ‘The heLP’.
So folks, keep those discs a spinning. – Are you a DJ ?