Sunday, 8 May 2011

Pre-Loved Bush and 'Head

I recently picked up a copy of Transition by Kenny Rogers & The First Edition. It largely consists of saccharine Sunshine Pop with an occasional mild psychedelic touch. This may come as a surprise to anyone who thinks Kenny Rogers is only responsible for middle-of-the-road country tunes such as Lucille and Coward Of The County. No, he can also lay claim to an earlier career churning out middle-of-the-road psych-pop exploitation LPs. In fact, if Kenny was any more middle-of-the-road he'd have cat's eyes and a white stripe painted down the middle of his face. To be fair, some of the tunes on offer are quite listenable period pieces, especially the slide-guitar infused interpretation of Tulsa Turnaround, but I could do without the execrable cover of Two Little Boys. It's even more maudlin than the Rolf Harris version.

White Stripes

However, critical evaluation aside, what intrigued me when I picked up this LP was its history. Not the stuff which an interview with the band members could illuminate, but the history of this actual copy of the LP. Why was I able to find a well-played US-pressing (a white label promotional copy at that), in a charity shop in Teddington, West London? What was its journey prior to finding its way to me? Apart from the grating cover of Two Little Boys, what prompted the previous owner to part with the LP? Presumably it had meant something to them at some point. What had changed in their life to make this LP suddenly out of favour? Whoever had brought it over from the States obviously valued it enough to stick it in their hand luggage. Of course, where charity shops are concerned, an abrupt curtailment of being alive explains many of the items to be found lining their shelves and hanging on their rails. I often look at the amassed James Last and Perry Como LPs and think "dead man's record collection" and wonder which of the forlorn suits cluttering the store belonged to the deceased Easy Listening enthusiast. How many of my LPs have been accrued through an unwitting spot of grave robbery?

All of this got me to thinking about LPs in my collection that offer up tantalising glimpses of their former owners' lives and psychological make-up. However annoying it is to find writing on the sleeve of a record I want to buy, once I have it in my collection, I learn to love the graffiti as part of what makes that record uniquely mine. I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't have bought my copy of Kate Bush's Lionheart if I had noticed the way in which the sleeve was defaced prior to handing over the cash, but now that it's mine, well, it's as much a part of my record collection's history as the previous owner's.

Clearly not a Brazilian pressing

It may be as unimaginative as drawing a cock and balls in the dirt on a white van, but it raises a smile every time I stick Lionheart on the turntable. Other inked additions include a baffling one on the rear sleeve of Breeze's If The Wind... LP.


In case you're struggling to make out the inscription, it reads:

"If you paint my doorstep you could at least paint the bleeder black. Geoff."

What happened here? Was the recipient of the LP, despite doing a poor decorating job, rewarded with a favourite album, or perhaps Geoff withheld payment and opted instead for the tried and trusted give-the-bungling-decorator-a-shit-LP-with-an-unsettling-cryptic-message-in-lieu-of-payment ploy? If Geoff or his doorstep decorator are reading this, please get in touch and put me out of my misery. Similarly, what's the story behind the inscription on the lyric sheet  accompanying this Partner album and why was the LP subsequently offloaded?

What happened that first night in Maastricht? Did they ratify the Maastricht treaty? Have mind-blowing sex (unlikely as that first night is described as merely "lovely")? Or perhaps what we have here is one of those unrequited love scenarios. Has Jos read too much into their night in the Netherlands and started to stalk Charlotte? Is it just me, or is there a hint of menace in song titles such as I'll Be Waiting For You and Look Over Your Shoulder? How about the lyrics to Your Smile:

"Now you sleep beside me and I pray please let it be everlasting"

And what about that rear sleeve?

Happy memories of Maastricht

If you are Charlotte, or you share a high security prison with Jos, drop me a line and let me know the real story. And, if you could please resist the urge to sue me for defamation you can have your LP back.

And finally...

Picture the scene: a Motorhead-obsessed teenager stands in the rain at the backstage door of some crumbling Odeon waiting for his heroes to leave the building after a gig that has probably caused band and crowd-alike permanent hearing damage. Tucked under his arm is a brand new copy of No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith which he has had to shield from flailing bullet belts and drunken bikers for the duration of the gig. After almost an hour of waiting, his patience is rewarded when Lemmy lurches through the exit doors into the streetlight-illuminated drizzle, a busty filly glued to his arm. The be-warted one grunts an incomprehensible greeting and signs the euphoric teen's LP not once, but twice, taking the time to locate his likeness among the plethora of photographs on the inner sleeve to leave his biro mark. The teenager, oblivious to the cold and damp soaking through his denim jacket, heads for home, walking on air.

So why was I able to pick up that exact same copy of Motorhead's 1981 classic at a junk shop in Archway just five years later? I would like to say a big "thank you" to the original owner for standing in the rain for me. Much appreciated. Give me 'head 'til I'm dead!

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