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Clack, Crackle & Pop: The Vinyl Days

August 12th, 2008 9 comments

If you belong to a certain generation, you will be familiar with the old music consoles featuring a radio tuner (in Germany with bands indicating exotic places such as Hilversum, Dubrovnik and Königsberg) and a record player with a spindle on which you”d stack up to ten records which would drop on to the turntable when the previous platter was finished. A bit like a pre-historic WinAmp playlist. I was such a record player.

I cannot remember exactly how old I was. Probably two years old. But I remember it. My shtick was to run around with my left arm pointing up with an outstretched index finger as my right hand made half-circular motions around the left index finger. All that was accompanied by soulful singing, usually songs by child star Heintje. Suddenly the singing would stop, I”d say “clack”, and begin singing a different song. Usually by, yes, Heintje. My first idol, was Heintje.

Today I continue to be a source of recorded music. If my friends have a party, I bring the music. If they are looking for something new to hear, I”m the man. And, seeing as you are here, each song I post signals the clack of a record dropping from my index finger, with the link being my right hand rotating the record, and the click of the mouse the soundeffect.

I have four older siblings, the youngest of whom is six years older than I am, and my mother was a young 21 when I was born (I need not point out that the elder siblings originated from my widowed father”s first marriage). Records were everywhere in our house. My siblings introduced my to all kinds of German Schlager music (the youngest of my sisters loved Udo Jürgens before falling for Peter Maffay), the Beatles, David Cassidy, and later Jethro Tull”¦ My mother, although her first love was classical music, had a singles collection, too. And I loved singles. So it was on my fifth birthday that I became the proud owner of a compact record player, the box-type where the lid doubles as the speaker. I commandeered my mother”s singles collection, kept in an album with plastic sleeves for the purposes of prudent storage. Manfred Mann”s Ha! Ha! Said The Clown, Chris Andrew”s Pretty Belinda, the Archies” Sugar Sugar, Al Martino”s Spanish Eyes (not knowing English, we sang: “Du, sperr” mich ein”), Trini Lopez singing America from West Side Story, Gilbert Becaud”s Russian-flavoured Nathalie, The Peels” Juanita Banana ““ and Jane Birkin”s Je “˜taime non plus. I loved the keyboard line but felt sorry for the girl who apparently was suffering a nightmare.

My grandmother, at whose nearby house I”d spent half of my childhood, also had records. None of these were as cool as Al Martino, of course. Still, I loved playing records, even if the music I played meant nothing to me and my life. I loved her classy shiny music box with the mirrored liquor cabinet which smelt of brandy. I”d choose the records according to the aesthetics of the record label. My favourite was a dramatic “50s design in orange with a logo which looked vaguely like an exploding star. It was a recording of a Montenegro Choir performing the Hebrew Slave Chorus from Verdi”s Nabucco. It remains one of my favourite pieces of music.

In my second-oldest sister”s flat, I became a fan of the Beatles, without knowing it. I liked the music on the green Capitol label, especially Paperback Writer and, with deplorable predictability, Ob-ladi-Ob-lada (though that was on the Apple label, I think). I also liked the one with the red label, which was a song with the barking dog barking to a tune. Of my mother”s singles, I liked The Peels” Juanita Banana primarily because of the karate label. It reminded my of my favourite ice lolly in Denmark, where we”d holiday, called (I think) Kung Fu. In 1999 I had the opportunity to sample the same liquorice-flavoured ice-lolly. It remains my all-time favourite ice-lolly, and I still can”t tell martial arts apart.

My grandmother must have been a big music fan in her time. By the time I was four or five (and she 75), I think she wanted to live her hipness through me. Perhaps she felt it lacking in dignity to rummage through the singles shelves. So when we”d visit the record section of the local Karstadt department store, she would strongly recommend a single I should pick for purchase. Invariably it would be something by the evil Heino, or perhaps by the delusionarily-monikered Czech crooner Karel Gott. Just before I turned six, I finally bought my first deliberately and self-chosen record. It was no less ghastly than Oma”s Heino grooves, but it was my choice: Roy Black & Anita”s Schön ist es auf der Welt zu sein. I suppressed the memory of that purchase for 35 years. The purchase signalled the start of a frenzied, Oma-sponsored acquisition of a fairly-sized record collection which would include such luminaries as Vicky Leandros, Mireille Mathieu, Roberto Blanco and Freddy Breck. For my fix of English music ““ the Sweet”s Poppa Joe! ““ I had to go home to Mom”s plastic sleeve album. By the time I was eight, I had worked out that the German Schlager was terminably uncool. I stopped buying German records ““ and, for a while, any at all. The fever struck again before too long, thanks to the Bay City Rollers (cutting edge cool I was not).

1977, the year I turned 11, was made of vinyl. A single soundtracked the death of my father (Don”t Cry For Me Argentina by Julie Convington), my first love (Rod Stewart”s Sailing), my first crazy record-buying spree at the huge Saturn store in Cologne, at the time Europe”s biggest record shop (Kenny Rogers” Lucille). And then there was a life-changing song, though I didn”t know it at the time.

I had started to learn English in school only a year previously, so I relied on a monthly song lyrics booklet to provide the lyrics of popular songs. A single word in one particular hit bothered me: esitayshon. I looked it up in the songbook for the correct spelling (“hesitation”, apparently), and then consulted my English-German dictionary. It felt fantastic having learned a word like “hesitation”, which even in its German form did not form part of my daily vocabulary. This was the beginning with my ongoing love affair with the English language, thanks to a heavily-accented Spanish duo”s hit, Yes Sir, I Can Boogie (an celebration of dancing skills, I believe). Within a few months, my record purchases would focus on more sophisticated music. The Stranglers thus taught me the word “sleazy”. A couple of years later, I would subscribe to an English football magazine, Match Weekly, to enrich and polish my English vocab.

Your presence here, having persisted with my rambling memoirs of vinyl, suggests that you may well have an appreciation for this blog, hopefully taking some pleasure from both the writing and the music. If so, you may give credit for that to Baccara, Heintje and record players that used to go CLACK!

And so to the music: The first lot of these songs are new uploads, the rest is recycled from the Time Travel 1970s series.

Heintje ““ Mama.mp3
Trini Lopez – A-me-ri-ca.mp3
Jane Birkin & Serge Gainsbourg – Je t’aime moi non plus.mp3
Al Martino ““ Spanish Eyes.mp3
Udo Jürgens ““ Merci Cheri
The Beatles ““ Paperback Writer.mp3
Vicky Leandros – Ich hab’ die Liebe gesehen.mp3

The Peels – Juanita Banana.mp3
Gilbert B̩caud РNathalie (French version).mp3
Chris Andrews – Pretty Belinda.mp3
Manfred Mann – Ha! Ha! Said The Clown.mp3
Roy Black & Anita РSch̦n ist es auf der Welt zu sein.mp3
Sweet – Poppa Joe.mp3 David Cassidy – Daydreamer.mp3
Rod Stewart – Sailing.mp3
Baccara – Yes Sir, I Can Boogie.mp3
Julie Covington – Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.mp3
Kenny Rogers – Lucille.mp3

This post was written in celebration of VINYL RECORD DAY on August 12, marking the 131st anniversary of the the invention of the phonograph. Visit The Hits Just Keep On Coming for an index of more articles written especially for Vinyl Day.

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