(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.
The rest of the album?
… you takes your chance.