On the radio at 6.45 this morning, Indie singer Ten Tonnes announced the release of his new single. Of course, it would have been possible immediately to have gone to a website, or to iTunes, and to have downloaded the recording. But for those of a certain generation the release of a single will always conjure a picture in the mind of a black 7 inch vinyl record in a paper sleeve.
The buying of a new single in school days was no casual decision, money was tight and selections were not to be rushed. In Torquay, where we went on a Saturday, in the days when Boot’s was more diverse, and when John Menzies was still on the high street, together with the omnipresent W.H. Smith and the independent record shop or two the town might have sustained, there might have been three, four or five shops to be browsed before a firm decision could be considered. Albums were generally out of the question, an outlay of three or four pounds was impossible, when our school pocket money was only fifty pence a week. A 7″ single in 1975 could be had for fifty pence or less, but buying the right one took time.
Looking back at the effort and looking at some of the truly dismal records I bought, it is hard to imagine what thoughts had gone through my head in those hours spent going through record store shelves. “Did I really buy that?” I ask myself, “Or was it someone else’s single that somehow get muddled with mine?” The evidence tends to be irrefutable, having devised a monogram from my initials in precocious teenage years, I wrote it on the sleeve or the label of every record I bought; the bad records were undeniably my own choice.
But there must have been the moment when the record was taken from its sleeve and played for the first time. How many times was it played? How many times in a row did I listen to the same three minutes of music (for, apart from Don McClean’s “American Pie” which fills both sides, who listened to the B side of a record that was not listed as a double-A side?)
Oddly, despite remembering the purchases, there is no recall whatsoever of playing for the first time the dozens of singles on which I spent fifty pence pieces; perhaps the memories are repressed in order not to feel embarrassment. Singles now hardly cost more than they did in those distant years – but there’s not nearly as much fun in buying them.