If your mem'ry serves you well,
You'll remember you're the one
That called on me to call on them
To get your favours done.
And after ev'ry plan had failed
And there was nothing more to tell,
You knew that we would meet again,
If your mem'ry serves you well.
I know exactly what I was doing on Friday the fifth of November 1971. Whilst the neighbours and everyone else in Stevenage were lighting up the sky with Standard Fireworks, my mate Andy and I were ensconced in my room with the lights low and the music high. There was, no doubt, a joss stick burning sending wafts of incense into the atmosphere and a single candle for sure to allow us to see enough to change the album on the turntable and to see our glasses of Spanish Graves. The wine was dreadful but at 48 pence a bottle, cheap enough to create a buzz. Even at fifteen we were so sophisticated (!).
The music that night was Pawn Hearts by Van der Graaf Generator and Nursery Cryme by Genesis. I know all this to be true. The internet would have it otherwise but I don't trust other people's memories. The internet - well, Google - would have it that this situation could not have arisen as the release dates of the Genesis album was a week or so later and the VdGG one back in October. However, I believe both albums were released on that very day, Guy Fawke's Night 5/11/71.
Don't worry, I'm not writing about Prog Rock here. I'm reacting really to an article in this Tuesday's Independent.
The article starts with the idea of the "excitement of fans queuing outside record shops to get their hands on the latest release" and also mentions this "in the face of today's instant gratification of digital downloads". I don't think on that Friday back in November 1971 I had to queue for very long in W H Smiths to buy them both. There may have been some teenybopper in front of me buying T. Rex's Jeepster I suppose. To be honest I don't think I've ever queued outside a record shop waiting for it to open. Pubs, yes. However, the point is about the excitement.
here. In the way my mind works these two articles connected and it got me thinking of whether anybody ever waits impatiently for anything nowadays in this time of "instant gratification". With many albums now, if you bother to buy them from Amazon, you don't have to wait to listen to them because you can "rip" them immediately on purchase. Unless it's on pre-order of course. But then that means waiting doesn't it?
I did a little survey of some sixth formers on Wednesday to test this out. The results were interesting. Several of this small select group of Film Studies students listen to the radio and watch tv live - by that I mean they don't all listen on catch-up. They like to know about future film releases and admitted to being impatient about long release times but none of them particularly cared much about music. They wouldn't be impatient waiting for a new release as music is just there. They tend to find it on youTube or Spotify and don't have any artists that they really care about. Obviously this surprised me.
Meanwhile, back on fifth of November 1971, I would have been desperate for the end of school bell to go so I could rush over to town to get my albums. I would have read about their imminent releases a few weeks before and would have been staring at my Timex watch to tell me that it's time to go. I would have bounded out of the Art room or whatever classroom I was in having arranged previously with Andy to come round after tea. No phones or email of course back then. I can imagine the excitement still. After scraping together our change to afford the all-important 48p and a quick visit to Unwins in the Old Town we'd have settled in for our night's dark entertainment listening to Mr Hammill screaming about lemmings and lighthouse keepers. Another reason I remember that night is because a day or so later I wrote a song based on the idea of two people hiding in a room whilst war breaks out in the streets. I'd probably just read 1984 or something intelligent like that. The first line was "They're fighting in the streets" but the rest of the song has, mercifully, disappeared along with the trails of smoke and star-bursts of Mr Standard's finest rockets. About as memorable I guess.
I love the idea that artists are celebrating their new releases with parties. I'd been aware that P J Harvey had recorded her album in front of an audience - I think Fairport Convention did that for some of Bonny Bunch of Roses (1977) - at Somerset House. In the Unthanks article they say, "We're going to stick a spotlight on a turntable in the middle of the room and hope that people will close their eyes and enjoy". I'm sure they will. Hopefully they'll light a few joss sticks and perhaps serve some slightly warm crappy Spanish wine just to keep the ambience right.
Perhaps someone can let off fireworks outside as well. Mind you people will do that for the drop of a hat nowadays. Anyway, just in case you couldn't get to the Unthanks party, here they are.