Something for the Weakened

A History of Collecting – Part Sixteen (I think) – Aural Sects

Monday, December 13th, 2004 by

Finally it returns, after weeks packed in bubble wrap and stored in a dark dry warehouse! It would have appeared last night, were it not for technical issues, but there you go. For the sensibly uninitiated amongst you, what occurs beneath is yet another hazy recollection of my lifelong obsession with, well, various things. Hey, there’s an archive to get you up to speed if you’re really interested. Can’t imagine that you would be, but hey. It’s a form of therapy for me. Christ I need it.

Neither of my parents were particularly interested in music when I was growing up. We did have an incredibly decrepit record player, which I’d sometimes stick my Dad’s old Elvis LPs on. But that died by the time I was only seven or eight and no one ever thought to replace it. The only music that was bought by anyone in the house were cassettes for the car. Mainly just petrol station ‘Sounds of the Sixties’ bargain things. It was seldom for these to migrate into the house. On occasion they would, due to the fact that the only other possibility of music came from a small tape recorder that was originally purchased as a data provider for a ZX81. That died quite quickly and unceremoniously, eventually being taken apart by me, using whatever little brute force I possessed, to see what made it work. I didn’t come off any the wiser.

The tape recorder faired better, lasting several years. It wasn’t music that it was really used for though, at least not by me. The primary use I found for it was making amusing radio programs, with help from Neill (with two Ls) and my brother. That and a magazine I briefly collected called ‘Story Teller’. Every fortnight you’d get part of an abridged classic tale, colourfully illustrated, and some exciting newly commissioned pieces. I remember being particularly distressed by the painting of a broken, buckled Tin Man after some flying monkeys had dropped him. The exciting part was the free tape that came with every issue, featuring a variety of voices reading out all of the stories, so you could do that whole read along bit. There were also a number of Ladybird books released about then that came with similar read along ideas behind them. These were quite fun, but at times a little off putting. The Transformers tie-ins for example, while telling some good tales, had a completely different voice cast from the TV series, causing some levels of confusion on my part. Eventually the tapes would have Blu-Tak or plasticene jammed in the holes on the top and another ‘Dimbo Radio’ (my own station) program would end up recorded on top of it

And so it remained for a number of years, until at one of the designated gift buying periods, I was given a radio cassette player. I don’t recall having asked for it (I was probably demanding some sort of exciting Action Force vehicle), but here it was. There had always been radios in the house, but they were without exception tuned to Radio 4; an obsession of my Mother’s, who to this day still has no interest in music. So here was my opportunity. A whole new medium to explore, various exciting wavelengths to try out and listen to into the dead of night under my sheets like any other self respecting pre teen. But that would be too easy wouldn’t it. I played around with the radio for a few nights, but eventually found that, apart from Dave Lee Travis playing an amusing song about truckers, there seemed to be nothing there for me. Slowly the recorder drifted to the corner of the room, then into a cupboard, only to come out for fewer and fewer radio recordings.

I was getting to hear music through other means at the time. Neill (with two Ls) had inherited one of his Dad’s old stereos and was given carte blanche to play with all his old vinyl too. There was a considerable amount of this, his Dad being a musician who grew up in Liverpool in the sixties. Strangely it was the first Pink Floyd album, Piper at the Gates of Dawn, which caught our attention the most. The Chinese whisper principle applying so much as it does at that age, and me being a gullible sod, led to me believing that Syd Barrett had gone mad while writing it and killed himself. This lascivious aspect only helped to contribute to our fascination with the album. The childlike hippy imagery, the freeform freak out of Interstellar Overdrive, the fact that someone had chosen to end a song with the sounds of a gaggle of geese. It was all so wondrous (except for the bit where we wrote all over the cover to a first printing of Meet The Beatles), but was to me something to be done away from home. My house was a peculiarly tuneless place and that was how I wanted to keep it. Besides which, all of my disposable income was going on comics and toys anyway.

That was until one day I had a brainstorm of sorts. It was after watching a film called Comic Book Confidential that I had videoed due to it being on way past my bedtime. A fascinating documentary (that I’d quite like to see again if anyone has a copy) and probably my first exposure to the American underground movement. But the thing that struck me was the soundtrack. There was some music on there that I really quite liked. So did I try and get hold of the soundtrack? Watch the credits, find out who the artists were and track down their work? Of course not. Those would have inevitably cost money I didn’t have and my parents were patient enough with the number of newsagents and toyshops I dragged them into. They wouldn’t have put up with traipsing through Our Price in Witney while I tried to find a Dr John tape (it transpires that the film was also my first exposure to the Night Tripper himself as well).

No, I did the obvious thing. I had acquired a blank tape from somewhere, so got my little stereo as close to the television’s speaker (stereo in a TV? Unheard of!), hit pause, play and record, and set the video running. I had to go back once or twice, when I got to enthusiastic with the pause button and got sections of dialogue over the tunes, but soon I had all of the incidental music to play at my leisure in my room. But it was a ninety-minute cassette and I had barely filled up much more than fifteen minutes of it. It was then that I hit upon my masterstroke and began what I think was my only ever free collection. Can you tell what it is yet?

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