Digging out old records

Aug 10th, 2008 | By | Category: Personal Columns

The good lady of the house went to see Mamma Mia last night, there weren’t many blokes there.  The sad thing is that if I had gone, I would have known all the words.  I dug out my vinyl, and then remembered something I wrote four years ago.  The posts were more thoughtful in those days – I’m still mystified at contriving to use Abba to make a theological point.

23rd June 2004

The approach of the summer holidays brings the prospect of a return visit to Somerset, and my parents’ home which I left in 1983 to get married.

Back with my parents in Somerset last summer my mother said, ‘Oh, by the way, I found your records’.

‘Mum’, I said, ‘I don’t have any records. I don’t have anything on which to play any records’.

‘Well, look in that box in the hall’. I looked. There were about fifty black vinyl 45 r.p.m. records, most of them in their original sleeves. I had assumed that 20 years ago such things had gone off to a jumble sale. For 20 years my records had been lying somewhere. I think one of my sisters might have had them for a while, but here they were back again.

I looked through them and they evoked a flood of memories.

‘Look at that one’, I said to my daughter Miriam. I paid a guy called Neil Hill 30 pence for that in 1976 because we were going out from school one Saturday afternoon and he had no money. (I remembered that Neil Hill was less charitably known as ‘Stalag’ because his poor health left him terribly emaciated – school can be a terribly cruel place). ‘Let’s play this record’, I said.

Miriam laughed at the primitive process involved. My mother suggested using the turntable that was above the CD player in the sitting room, ‘if not’ she said, ‘your old record player is up in the attic’. I was about to say that I didn’t have a record player and then remembered inheriting one from two guys I had shared a house with who had gone off to India in search of spirituality – it wasn’t even stereo. (The last I heard of one of the guys was that he was married and living in a posh part of Surrey). We played the record, from the summer of 1976, Abba singing ‘Dancing Queen’.

‘Dad’, said Miriam, ‘the sound quality is awful’. It was. I had forgotten how bad 45s sounded and how they only lasted three minutes. Nevertheless, it was brilliant. It evoked memories of a hot summer and big flared trousers and school friends playing silly pranks and hikes on Dartmoor and days when the future had unlimited possibilities. It was three minutes of smiles.

There used to be a slot on BBC Radio 1 on weekday mornings in the 1970s called ‘Our Tune’. The DJ, I think it was Simon Bates (he’s on Classic FM now), used to read people’s personal stories, sometimes happy, sometimes poignant, sometimes tearful, and at the end of the story the person would request a particular record, a tune that evoked for them the memories of particular moments. Being hopelessly sentimental in those days, I could be in tears by the end of the story!

Reflecting on the power of a single record to bring thoughts and memories and emotions, I wondered where I had gone wrong in my job. Presented with an unparalleled story about a most amazing, charismatic and life-changing man, I should be on strong ground when it comes to pulling on people’s heartstrings. I have a true hero, a hero who fights injustice, who frees those who are trapped, who leaves no life untouched amongst those whom he meets. He faces opposition, persecution, violence and finally death. In a blinding flash on a Sunday morning he walks out triumphant.

I’ve been given a story to tell that should draw on every single emotion of those who hear it. Instead of simply telling that story I’ve let the Church get in front of Jesus, most people now cannot see beyond the institution and its traditions; the power and the glory of the story have been lost.

Like digging out the old records and hearing them as I heard them at the time, with the emotions and the memories they evoke, I need to retell the story of Jesus as it is, free of all that has become attached to it, and allow the story the power to touch people’s hearts.

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  1. Rev only you could use Abba to make a theological point! So what record would you play after telling the greatest story of all? (and don’t say Always Look on the Bright Side of Life!)

  2. Ian I went to see Mamma Mia earlier this year, and I’m not one for musicals (the last one I saw was Joseph and the Amazing Technical Dreamcoat in 1973!!!)BUT it was absolutely fantastic!!! I joined in and sang all the songs (I am sad)You missed a fantastic show.

    On the subject of record players didn’t your Mum and Dad have a big Radiogram when we were kids?I have this vision of a huge wooden box with a geat sound, in their front room.

  3. Make that Technicolour not Technical !!!!!!!!

  4. Baino,

    I wish I knew!


    It was a girls’ night out! I went to a football match on Friday night. When it comes to concerts and films, we tend to go with our own friends. Katharine would not have wanted to go to any of the gigs I have attended this year.

    Yep, they had a wooden radiogram that included an FM waveband on the radio. Not sure what went out on FM when it was manufactured.

  5. My children found it very funny the other evening when watching TV, I commented that the guy in the Birds eye fish fingers ad used to be in a band when I was young and I used to think he was great, he was my favourite (if you haven’t seen it – it’s Suggs from Madness!). I explained to them that the song playing (Our House) was one of the bands songs. They wrinkled their noses and looked at each other and burst out laughing. I didn’t quite see the joke, he still looks good to me! Anyway, today on the way back from the supermarket the Madness song “It must be love” came on the radio and the kids were singing along with it – I said “So, you think that song it good” “Oh Yes!” they all chorused. One Point for Mum, I think.
    Ian – I remember ‘Our Tune’ so much and my Mother and I would always sit and have a cuppa around half ten and listen to it, invariably with a few tears at the end.
    So, how do you tell the story of Jesus and remind us that he was the greatest superhero ever, without weapons of light-sabres and invisibility cloaks or superpowers of x-ray vision or gadget hands. I think you should just keep on doing what you’re doing, you may not think you are leaving an impression on those who listen to your story but through just being the person you are, your words linger in hearts and minds longer and than any good Abba song.

  6. Maria I have to respond to your post, my 2 boys reacted in the same way when I told them who Suggs was!!!!!

  7. Maria,

    Your cheque is in the post 😉


    I love Suggs!

    The night before a very unhappy funeral in June I went to see Madness in concert – the evening was under the shadow of the funeral. Coming out of the crematorium, the place suddenly filled with sound -‘One Step Beyond’ and then ‘It must be love’.

    (Maybe I’ve said that already somewhere – senility!)

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