Posts Tagged ‘Enrico Caruso’

1.1 My grandparents’ record collection

November 14, 2016

My grandparents never got rid of their records, even though they didn’t have a record player that I ever remember seeing. A radiogram is what Annie and Ivor Cooze would have called it, if they’d had one. Many of my schoolmates did still have these teak-effect electronic sideboards that took up half their living rooms: even though we were firmly in the smoked glass, shag-piled, high-fidelity years, we still looked and spoke and decorated our homes as though we lived in the post-war decade. We still sang songs on school trips about German bombers in the air and the RAF from Swansea, RAF from Swansea, RAF from Swansea shooting them down. Shooting them down.)

The only musical equipment my grandparents had was a large leather effect radio (not Roberts) that took an enormous six volt batter, a single-speaker tape recorder and, as far as I could see, one Jack Jones cassette and one Frank Sinatra.

They never listened to their records (how could they?) but they didn’t get rid of them either. I was fascinated by the thick brittle density of the 78s – much heavier in your hand than they should have been and a bottomless black. I imagined they’d taste like Callard & Bowser liquorice toffee. There weren’t many of them in their collection but Enrico Caruso definitely featured (my grandfather’s taste, I think). I don’t know where these records are now.

I’d like to have them. I would add them to the column of vinyl leaning against the living-room wall that I always see, out of the corner of my eye. These records anchor me to my past and made me who I am. They mapped out ambitions to be a pop star (still holding out for that one), poseur, photographer, journalist, poet, artist, archivist (I devised my own cataloguing system at the age of 11 it seems, from the biroed codes in the corners of the covers). They armed me with knowledge that I’d take through life (I didn’t have a book-lined study but I came to know Walt Whitman through Fame).

The records that now slouch in the corner? I listened to them constantly, obsessively, so that I can pre-empt every gouge and scratch (I know that the Selecter’s Too Much Pressure will stick on the final drum roll of ‘James Bond’ – and that it always sounds flawed in its pristine digital version) and Tom Tom Club has been played so often and mishandled so much that it songs are barely audible beneath the fuzz).

Then I played them inconsistently and, latterly, not at all.

I’m not a geek. I won’t spend half my wages on a rare pressing of anything – but I would spend all my pocket money on this twelve inch or that picture disc. I’m just a dilettante. I loved vinyl when it was mainstream, although my tastes didn’t often run to that. (I once finished with a girl because her favourite artist was Billy Joel). There’s no Now! in my collection nor Wham! and my singles and albums and disco mixes barely show the 80s they love on Friday night compilation TV.

I was just a girl for whom music was everything for a bit of a life.

Slide the record out of the sleeve. 45 rpm.