The crackle and hiss of the record could not be disguised by the digital signal by which BBC Radio Six is broadcast. The record was sixty years old and the presenter suggested that it had been played many times. To be honest, even when it was new there was probably some crackle and hiss. Crackle and hiss were part of the character of a record.
In the early 2000s, in Somerset on holiday, I remember my mother saying, “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. I paid a boy called Neil Hill 30 pence for that in 1976 because we were going out from school one Saturday afternoon and he had no money. His name is still written on the sleeve.
“Let’s play this record,” I said.
My daughter laughed at the primitive process that would be involved. My mother had 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 men 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 men was that he was married and living Surrey).
We played the record, from the summer of 1976, Abba singing, “Dancing Queen.”
“Dad,” said my daughter, “the sound quality is awful.”
I had forgotten how bad 45s sounded and how they only lasted three minutes. Nevertheless, it was brilliant. It evoked memories of the long hot summer that year 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 – complete with crackle and hiss.