Alluring appeal of vinyl echoes glory days of the charts

Granted, it is certainly not considered as vital as it was 25 years ago. Back then we all sat glued to BBC Radio One on a Sunday evening – taping, yes taping (on a cassette), the top 10 – while Top Of The Pops was required viewing.

However, this week the Official UK Singles Chart celebrates its 60th anniversary which gave me an excuse to dig out some of my vinyl collection.

Not that I need much prompting.

The way we buy music these days has rendered the chart almost irrelevant but the grand old list – which first appeared in the pages of the New Musical Express (NME) on November 14, 1952 – continues.

It was the NME’s Percy Dickens who came up with the idea of a UK singles chart – based on the American Billboard listings.

He persuaded 52 record stores to report their sales figures and Al Martino’s ‘Here In My Heart’, a favourite of my nan and grandad as I recall, stole the top spot.

It’s difficult to explain to anyone who has grown up with CDs or the internet what we’ve lost in recent years now that the downloading of music is de rigueur.

But when I was growing up in the Eighties the UK singles chart was crucial – going in hand-in-hand with regular visits to Lotus Records or Mike Lloyd Music up Hanley.

In 2012 you can have a fantastic collection of music on a device the size of a mobile telephone.

But it can never beat that feeling of purchasing a record, admiring the artwork, reading the notes on the sleeve, and sticking it on a turntable to hear that unmistakable crackling before the music kicks in.

I still have all my singles. My first purchases were a real mixed bag – reflecting no particular musical style or taste.

They include, in no particular order: Status Quo’s Marguerita Time; Belinda Carlisle’s Heaven is a place on Earth; Slade’s My Oh My; Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl; and the Auf Wiedersehen Pet theme.

Once I got to college, however, I fell in with a crowd of rock music fans and my music collection became devoted to U.S. bands Bon Jovi, Guns n’ Roses, Poison, Whitesnake, Aerosmith.

Jovi were, and still are, my favourite band – and my record collection reflects that.

I began attending record fayres at places like the YMCA in Hanley and saving up to buy singles I didn’t have.

These included limited editions, picture discs, posterbags, gatefold sleeves, and singles including foil stickers and backstage passes – as well as imports from places like the U.S., Germany, Holland and Japan.

I 1989 I remember paying £20 for the Bon Jovi single Runaway, released in 1984. That was an awful lot of money to me back then.

And digging out the UK limited edition issue of Wanted Dead Or Alive, complete with silver foil stickers still in mint condition, still gives me a thrill.

My record collection became a great source of pride – something to show my mates – just like a complete Panini sticker album.

It’s not quite the same with a virtual record collection that exists only on an iPod or some such thing.

That’s perhaps why many people under the age of 30 view their music collection as something they can access rather than something they actually own.

The dominance of CDs was relatively short-lived and vinyl collectors like myself will point to the artwork and packaging of singles and albums which, in terms of their desirability, were often as important as the musical content of a purchase.

I’ve got many more albums on vinyl than I have singles but my singles collection reminds me of a time when the charts still mattered and when millions still paid attention to them.

Which brings me to my main Christmas present request this this year: A new record player, of course.

Pick up the Weekend Sentinel every Saturday for 12 pages of nostalgia

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The Eighties is the decade most of us remember fondly

The original Now That's What I Call Music album.

The original Now That’s What I Call Music album.

Sunday, December 25, 1983. Christmas Day. That’s when I officially fell in love with the Eighties.

I sat in my bedroom marvelling at my brand new copy of the original Now That’s What I Call Music album, my shiny new record player and the sturdy black singles box containing my first 45s.

I’ve still got that album and all the seven inches – Status Quo’s Margeurita Time, Paul Young’s Wherever I Lay My Hat, and Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl, among others.

That day I played them from the moment we’d finished the turkey until I was ordered to bed.

Suddenly, at the age of 11, I realised music wasn’t the sole preserve of my parents.

Apparently, there was more to life than Elvis and Roy Orbison – despite years of brainwashing by my mum.

Money saved from my Sentinel paper round was soon being spent on singles and albums.

I walked up to Hanley on Saturdays and bought everything from Adam Ant, Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran to Bruce Springsteen and the mighty Bon Jovi.

Through music I discovered that girls weren’t just things to make you flush red if they looked at you in class or, heaven forbid, spoke to you at break time.

I took umbrage with Michael J Fox because a certain girl in the top class at Holden Lane High called him ‘dreamy’ after watching Back To The Future.

I was mesmerised when Kim Wilde or Belinda Carlisle came on the telly – and fell hopelessly in love with Susannah Hoffs from The Bangles.

I am delighted to say that while the Eighties may be the ‘decade that taste forgot’ it is also the decade that has stubbornly refused to go away.

Of course, it helps that my generation of 30 and 40-somethings are now in control of so many TV remotes and perhaps have the most disposable income.

But it is a fact that, for some time now, there has been a genuine appetite for 1980s nostalgia.
An internet campaign brought the Wispa chocolate bar back from the dead.

Monster Munch crisps have been relaunched.

Hit 80s TV shows like Starsky and Hutch and The Dukes of Hazzard have, sadly, been turned into big-budget movies.

What’s more, you can’t move for Eighties bands and singers hitting the road again to relive past glories.

People like Rick Astley, Bananarama, Midge Ure and, er… Kim Wilde (blush), who all performed at Alton Towers’ 30th birthday party at the weekend.

We lap it up because of music’s wonderful talent for forcing us to don rose-tinted Ray-Bans and reminding us of a special time in our lives.

When my sister-in-law celebrated her 40th birthday earlier this year it has to be said that the highlight of her raucous party weekend was the 1980s music.

I danced – I use that term loosely – until 3am and, as I lay in bed that night it occurred to me that I couldn’t see children of the Nineties or Noughties yearning for their formative years with quite the same enthusiasm.

For some, the Eighties was a grim decade of industrial unrest, high unemployment, terrible hair and worse clothing.

But, to me, as a child growing up in the Potteries, it is a decade that will always be golden – a time of great certainties, household names and sunny optimism.

In the Eighties, our milk man delivered bottles of pop in a variety of radioactive colours and the ‘outdoor’ at the top of our road sold Black Jacks and Fruit Salad sweets for half a pence.

Royal Doulton and Wedgwood seemed like immortal employers and a job on ‘the Mich’ (Michelin) was a job for life.

It was a time when Hanley still had family businesses like Bratt and Dyke where I could spend hours just mooching around.

It was the decade when the Boothen End proper at the Old Victoria still roared its defiance and when a certain bloke with a flat cap took over the reins at Vale Park – promising nothing and delivering the best era in my football club’s history.

It was a time when this newspaper still produced the much-anticipated Football Final on Saturdays.

It was also the decade of the Garden Festival that transformed 180 acres of derelict land in the heart of Stoke-on-Trent into the thriving retail and business park we all now take for granted.

Yes, the Eighties may well be ‘the decade that taste forgot’.

It’s also the decade that I, and I suspect many others, are most happy remembering.