The bitch is back

One of those dinner-table topics is the subject of the first record one bought. This is a subject for an increasing aging generation as records are not the all-conquering music media device they once were. Even stretching the topic to include CDs still excludes the majority of modern music purchasers, it would seem, as downloading now conquers all.

Watching re-runs of Top Of The Pops on BBC4 I am confronted by the reality of my age. The shows from 35 years ago are shows I first watch as an eighteen year old in my bedsit in Cranley Road, Westcliff-on-Sea. Whilst the details of the shows are lost to the whims of an imperfect memory, much of the music and the bands are still vividly recalled. This was still the heyday of the seven inch 45rpm vinyl single, a heyday that had lasted two decades at the time, and the explosion of punk, new wave and alternative music gave fresh impetus to this medium.

Picture sleeves, coloured vinyl, picture discs, odd shapes, and records released by small do-it-yourself outfits were the staple of my regular consumption. I bought many singles, both new and second-hand, and it truly was a voyage of discovery (often in conjunction with the NME reviews that were championing much of the stuff that I was developing a taste for). If only I had not decided to get rid of my entire record collection in the mid-eighties I would still have them.

My first single purchase was The Bitch Is Back, an Elton John single from 1974. I did not buy it new, and I guess I would have got it in either late 1974 or early 1975. I was a late developer as a record buyer largely because my parents had no record player until then. I recall mum buying some old 45s from Roots Hall market, and although much was from the late 1950s I actually enjoyed them far more than the Glam Rock and Teenybopper stuff that dominated the top twenty in those days.

My maturing record tastes in the early 1970s were heavily influenced by richer school friends who could afford the decadence of record player ownership. So, it was largely my schoolmates’ tastes that led me to becoming a fan of The Who, Rolling Stones and Elton John. When they embraced The Eagles and Patti Smith then so did I. It was only when my parents got that first gramophone, and sometime later I purchased a portable cassette-player that I was able to loosen the grip of my friends tastes and start find things for myself.

Looking back there seems something momentous about one’s first record purchase. Hindsight has invested the occasion with an aura that was not there at the time. I came across a single that I was familiar with, that I liked, and so bought. I cannot recall what the second single bought was, but I am reasonably certain that my first elpee was Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy by The Who.

I recall a plain sleeve, and an unfancy DJM label. The song itself is reminiscent of Elton’s Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting in the prominent guitar work, although the brass reminds me of Philadelphia Freedom. It is played at a higher tempo than much of Elton’s work of the time, and the provocative title suggests far more than is actually found within. One curious fact about this record is Dusty Springfield’s backing vocals, which I was only made aware of when hunting for the lyrics.

What was your first download? Mine? I have yet to download a song, but my first purchased single was ……

(My first cassette was also by Elton John; my first CDs were by The Pixies and New Order.)

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