Thursday, March 28, 2013

The best records are the ones in your head

In the summer of 1972 I had to go home to Yorkshire to help out at my father's business. He was laid up with a back problem and I had to keep his small textile firm ticking over.

The work was dull, dirty and repetitive. There was no stimulation from the outside world. I dreamed my way from one break to another. The only possible distraction came from a transistor radio over at the other end of the warehouse. It had a crackly medium-wave signal and I didn't control the volume.

That was the year the Eagles "Take It Easy" came out. For some reason it was impossible to buy. On the basis of a handful of radio plays, I developed an obsession with it. That obsession grew in inverse proportion to the number of times I heard it, which was very few.

I'd listen particularly intently during the couple of Radio One programmes that I thought might play it. I'd concentrate hard when they were throwing to the records they intended to play in the next hour. Whole days went past without my hearing it.

In the absence of the actual record I recreated the sound of the intro in my head. There was an acoustic bit, overlaid with a chord from an electric guitar, following which it folded swiftly into a brisk groove which seemed to tumble towards the opening line. "Well I'm a-running down the road trying to loosen my load...."

It was quite thrilling to replay the record in my head. When it actually came on I almost blushed with excitement. I wanted to hear the whole of the record but it was that beginning that I really yearned to hear. On one occasion I came back into the warehouse and it was already playing, which was somehow worse than it not being on at all. It was like missing the opening of a film.

Last night I went to a preview of a new documentary about the Eagles, which comes out in a month's time. "Take It Easy" is used a few times. That intro still does it to me every time. It's partly for now and partly for 1972.


  1. I had a flash of instant recognition when you referred to almost blushing with excitement when hearing a record you were obsessed with. Had that experience so many times (with other records, of course).

  2. I felt something similar when Noel Edmonds played Kiki Dee's Lonnie & Josie; later she covered Take It Easy on her first BBC In Concert and made the song into something sexier.

  3. I don't normally comment on blogs and I'm not normally this pedantic but a phrase in your post strikes me as odd.
    "That obsession grew in inverse proportion to the number of times I heard it, which was very few."

    so each time you heard it you obsessed less? ultimatley not obssessing at all.
    the obsession diminished each time you heard it?
    sorry, I'm doing an OU maths course and inverse proportions must be on my mind.

  4. Radio Caroline was like that for me. You'd hear things once or twice, no more.

    The YouTube clip above includes Comic Sans which I like in inverse proportion to the number of times I see it

  5. I had a similar experience in the autumn of 2000 when I went to see a Mute records showcase at the ICA in London. The headliners were Goldfrapp, who were a relatively new act at the time. Their debut album – Felt Mountain - was a fortnight away from being released. The only song of their's that I knew was 'Lovely Head' which had been put out as a single earlier in the year.

    When they played 'Pilots' (which was a sort of dreamy James Bond theme from a parallel universe, in a similar vein to You Only Live Twice) a disco ball stretched panes of white light across the ceiling. The black wooden partition that divided the room vibrated under my palm.

    I don't think that I've ever wanted an album more than I wanted Felt Mountain, but I had no choice other than to wait two weeks to hear it. I drove myself half mad trying to hold onto the melodies that I heard that night. I would keep checking to make sure that I could still recite them in my head. There were moments when I could feel them slipping away from me. I would stop whatever I was doing and attempt to reconstruct them, and then go over them a few times so that I didn't forget.

    13 years doesn't seem all that long ago. It's strange to think that, back then, there was no YouTube. I was still on a dial-up internet connection. It wasn't easy to preview or hear a record before it came out.

    There's a lot to be said for a bit of delayed gratification. I still listen to Felt Mountain now. It's a very good album – I don't think they ever bettered it - but I'm pretty sure that my continued interest in the record lies, not just in the music, but the way I felt during that fortnight between hearing the songs for the first time, just the once, and owning the record.

  6. I used to nurture a pet theory that many a pop single was produced so that the right frequencies cut through the noise of a factory floor.

  7. No family connection to Hepworth's tailors, by any chance?

  8. Very, very, very distant at one point in the dim and distant, I think.

  9. Music allows you to time travel.