I don’t remember Mum and Dad ever buying singles. When I was a kid, singles were what *I* bought (generally on cassette because it was a quid cheaper than CDs, and also because when I first started buying them we didn’t actually have a CD player in the house). What Mum and Dad did have, as far as I knew, was:
- A gramophone with accompanying early-mid 20th century record collection. I used to peruse this and found the names of the records fascinating, but the music itself was of little interest to me because (a) my interest in the 20th century only really starts circa 1963* and (b) it was mostly old Scottish tunes, which Dad always put on the gramophone for the kids to dance to whenever I had a birthday party. Mum and Dad eventually sold the gramophone and accompanying collection, enabling them to put a bigger TV in the space.
- A collection of vinyl LPs dating from the early ’60s to the late ’80s. Half of it was/is Scottish folk, which is nice enough but not a particular musical passion of mine, so it was the pop/rock albums on the other side of the cupboard that I always dug out as a kid (and learnt how to use a record player as a result – something a lot of people these days have only picked up during adult retrohood!) My brother Malcolm and I divvied up a large part of this collection on Christmas Day 2019, as Mum and Dad are strictly CD/Spotify users now. Apparently it’s only really the younger generations that have recently returned to vinyl and cassettes.**
- A whole bunch of cassettes for car trips circa 1988-2000, 80% of which were taped copies of stuff we had on vinyl or CD.
- CD albums dating from about 1994, when the family finally got our first CD player. In the 21st century these have replaced the cassettes for car trip purposes. Mum and Dad are still folkies but their preferred folk is more ‘niche’ nowadays and so they still buy CDs as a way to support smaller bands.
During the Christmas 2019 divvying up of vinyl, I was surprised when Dad produced a fairly substantial pile of 7-inch singles that I had never seen before, some of them dating back to the late ’50s. I didn’t expect there to be any ’80s goodies in there, due to my aforementioned memory of Mum and Dad never buying singles – I assumed the 7-inch collection must all have been from their teenage years – but I was wrong!
‘Total Eclipse…’ and ‘Say Say Say’ are both 1983 classics, but ‘I Know Him So Well’ was released as a single in December 1984 – the month before I was born. It appeared to be the most recent 7-inch in Mum and Dad’s collection when I went through it – so maybe it was parenthood that put an end to their single-buying!
Anyway, these tiny slices of the ’80s belong to me now, and I really need to fire up my own record player and give them a spin someday. Much more special than burying them in my ’80s Spotify playlist!
*Nothing to do with Chatterley, the Beatles, sex or anything else that Larkin wrote about. 1963 saw the first episode of Doctor Who, and so that’s when the 20th century became properly interesting as far as I’m concerned.
**Pre-pandemic in the late ’10s I used to love going into branches of HMV, heading up to the music floor, and seeing that it was all vinyl and cassette tapes once again – not a CD in sight!