A song can take me right back in an instant. The opening sounds of Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time, makes me think ‘Great song’ as it reminds me of vinyl recordings, seven and twelve inch records; when a track was something the needle moved through; a time of Top of the Pops, big record stores, cassettes, recording off the radio, when a smart phone was a phone that looked great; seeing the new Star Wars movie on the big screen, and queuing up outside to get your ticket, before rushing in to find your seat; the Stella and Classic cinemas; the demise (temporary as it turned out) of Dr Who and James Bond; when Batman was a camp TV show that was must watch viewing and you could cut off masks from the back of cereal boxes; four channel TV land, without remote controls; Christmas TV schedules and movies; the Hoff was Michael Knight, KITT’s sidekick; when relatives holidaying in the USA was an event, and M&Ms were something only the kids on TV and movies ate.The mind boggles with the rush of images and feelings. So many thoughts. So many possibilities.
Looking at it from here, the past does seem like a foreign place, like a galaxy far, far away. But a great adventure did take place. And that adventure had it’s own soundtrack. And that soundtrack was personal. And for some reason when I found my own music, it became really personal. We all thought it defined us in some way. Crazy, but true.
What I realised recently (yes, I am slow), was that for a while, the music I listened to was brought into the house by other people. My Dad mainly, then the brother, a little from my Mam and only a couple by me. One record that I do remember requesting as a birthday gift was the Superman soundtrack double LP - Long Play! - with gate fold cover, which was amazing because on the inside was a shot of Superman played by Christopher Reeve in flying pose, a picture that would look great framed and on the wall. The two records where in sleeves that were not simply white with the hole cut out so you could see the label and listing with out sliding the shiny black vinyl disc out, with the lines of grooves flowing around it, and perhaps getting smudged with fingerprints, or worse, scrapped. Instead it was closed, black, with small pictures from the movie. It looked great. All this joy even before I started listening to it.
Everyone could hum the Superman theme, even today. A magical piece from John Williams, who has written a lot of magical pieces over the years: Star Wars, ET, Indiana Jones, Jaws, Jurassic Park. The man can write mean soundtracks. With this one, after placing the record on the turntable, carefully wiping the disc with the anti-static cloth, which was always a yellow colour, watching the needle automatically lift up, slide over, and slowly place itself down into the grooves on the disc with a warm crackling sound as it moved through the edge which was always larger, so it could settle before playing the music track, which gave me time to settle down before the magic started. I always insisted on playing it from start to finish, in order. And soon the heroic, bombastic, terrific theme would erupt from the speaker and I’d be off.
The sound system, or stereo was in the the dining room, which meant sitting in the big chairs, sliding them back, and relaxing, trying to live the movie through the music. The system, which was made up of ‘separates’, the tuner/amplifier, the turntable, the cassette deck, sat on a varnished, wooden cabinet, with sliding doors. All the wires neatly down the back and winding against the skirting boards into the sockets. Inside the sliding doors, and on either side, exposed for all to see, were rows of Dad’s records, and a smaller section of the brothers, and then mine. There was this distinctive smell that came from it, maybe it was the vinyl or the age of some of the records, all in great condition, all extremely well looked after. All would play as good as the day they were bought. I’m smiling even now. Inhaling that sweet, sophisticated, warm, record smell.
I guess the first record that once truly was mine, or at least I can remember, was a movie soundtrack. That is a surprise. Soon though, I’d find my own feet in music, with the Kylie watershed, which divided this period of listening to what was brought in, to bringing it in myself, but perhaps that's another story for another time. We all have a soundtrack, its only wondering what ours is. What's yours?