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

The day Live Aid rocked our world

Thirteen was a pretty good age to be when the biggest concert in the history of the world was staged.

I had discovered music two years before when I was given my first record player for Christmas and got my first album (Status Quo – Twelve Gold Bars).

After that I had built up a collection of 30 or so singles ranging from Paul Young’s Love Of The Common People to King’s Love And Pride. Enough said.

As well as regular trips to Lotus Records up Hanley, like most people back then I relied on Radio One’s Sunday chart countdown and Top Of The Pops for my musical fix.

Then at 12 noon on July 13, 1985, a charitable phenomenon quite literally rocked the world.

Unless you were around at the time of Live Aid then it is difficult to appreciate the sheer scale and impact of the dual concert staged at Wembley Stadium and across The Pond at the John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia.

Indeed, in comparison the Live 8 concerts – staged some thirty years later – felt like Live Aid light. They were simply duller reinventions for a new audience.

Back in 1985 the dual concert was all anyone was talking about.

Live Aid was a televisual first and one of the largest satellite link-ups and television broadcasts of all time.

Against all odds, a relatively minor punk rock artist managed to bring together a multitude of genuine superstars who performed at the same time in front of an estimated audience of 1.9 billion people in more than 150 countries.

Bob Geldof was that man – or Sir Bob, as he is now.

The scruffy and irreverent lead singer of Irish band The Boomtown Rats had been incredibly moved by BBC reporter Michael Buerk’s of the 1984 famine in Ethopia.

This led him to pick up the phone and call Ultravox lead singer Midge Ure and together they co-wrote the massive number one hit single Do They Know Its Christmas?

The Band Aid track, sung for free by a collection of British and Irish musicians, became the fastest-selling single ever in the UK and raised a staggering £8 million for the famine relief effort.

Overwhelmed by the public response, Geldof then set about organising a concert of epic proportions.

Although most of us were completely unaware of the logistics at the time, the Live Aid concert brought together TV networks ranging from the BBC in the UK to ABC and MTV in the U.S. as well as numerous channels on the continent.

It was also broadcast live on the radio in a technical accomplishment which, for its time, was quite remarkable.

The list of performers – with a few notable exceptions – read like a who’s who of the music world.

It’s like a snapshot of the mid-Eighties music scene and, looking at it, I defy anyone to tell me that the Nineties or Noughties were richer and possessed more talent.

At Wembley the Coldstream Guards band opened the show with a royal salute before veteran rockers Status Quo kicked us off with the very appropriate Rockin’ All Over The World.

Elvis Costello sang The Beatles’ All You Need Is Love and U2 established themselves as one of the great with an energetic set in which lead singer Bono leapt into the crowd to dance with a girl who he thought was being crushed by the throng.

Other artists included Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Alison Moyet, Dire Straits, Elton John, Spandau Ballet, Ultravox, Adam Ant, The Style Council, Bryan Ferry, The Who, Nik Kershaw, Sting, Sade and Bob Geldof himself who sang I Don’t Like Mondays with The Rats.

Phil Collins was unique in that he preformed on both stages – using a Concorde to make it to the U.S. show in time.

But, for me, the stand-out performance of the show was Queen’s astonishing set.

Genius frontman Freddie Mercury held the entire crowd of 72,000 in the palm of his hand during Bohemian Rhapsody and We Are The Champions – while the rest of us sang along at home.

It’s little wonder to me that various artists, music industry executives and journalists voted it the greatest live performance in the history of rock music.

Artists on the stage in front of 100,000 people in Philadelphia included The Four Tops, Billy Ocean, Black Sabbath, Run D.M.C., Reo Speedwagon, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Judas Priest, Bryan Adams, The Beach Boys, Simple Minds, The Pretenders, Madonna, Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers, The Thompson Twins, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppellin, Duran Duran, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan and Lionel Richie.

All the while the music was playing 300 phone lines were being staffed by BBC personnel – allowing us to make donations to the Live Aid cause.

At one point, the yet-to-be Sir Bob, interrupted BBC presenter David Hepworth as he attempted to give out the address for potential donations.

Pumped up by Queen’s performance, Geldoff shouted: “F*ck the address, let’s get the (telephone) numbers!”

After his outburst the rate of donations rose to £300 per second.

It was estimated that Live Aid ultimately raised around £150 million for famine relief in Africa.

It was certainly the ‘Woodstock’ of my youth – even though I don’t even know anyone who was actually there!

Pick up a copy of the Weekly Sentinel every Saturday for 12 pages of nostalgia

You know you’re a Potteries child of the Eighties when…

The end of my first year of 80s nostalgia columns has prompted me to consider what it means to be a child of the Eighties.

I guess there are some general criteria, such as understanding the profound meaning of the phrase ‘Wax on/ Wax off’, knowing the words to the original McDonald’s advert off-by-heart and remembering when Betamax was the cutting edge of technology.

Alternatively, there’s being at school at the same time as Tucker and ‘Gripper’ Stebson, knowing what YUPPIE stands for and still owning a few cassette tapes.

Of course, these could apply to any children in the UK who grew up in the decade of decadence.

However, if – like me – you were raised in North Staffordshire during those years, here’s my somewhat localised list which defines you as a child of the Eighties:

*You were annually enrolled on the Staffordshire Police Activities and Community Enterprise (SPACE) scheme which kept you out of mischief during the summer holidays

*Your were dragged to the 1986 Garden Festival several times in all weathers because your family had bought a season ticket and the thought of the Twyfords ‘cascade’ still makes you laugh

*You remember the brown and cream Sammy Turner’s buses but more often caught buses run by PMT (Potteries Motor Traction) and thought nothing of the connotations of the acronym

*You can’t remember what was on the site of the Potteries Shopping Centre before it opened its doors in 1988

*You viewed it a badge of honour to have survived a ride on The Corkscrew at Alton Towers

*You either went to Rhyl or Blackpool for your holidays during Potters’ Fortnight and ate cold toast on the journey

*You remember the city centre having two cinemas on the same street – The Odeon (now The Regent Theatre) vying for business with the cheap and cheerful ABC down the road

*You considered Fantasy World and Lotus Records the coolest places in Hanley and knew Bratt & Dyke as that posh shop your mum took you to when the sales were on or you needed a winter coat

*You bought a 10 pence mix from ‘The Outdoor’, including Black Jacks and Fruits Salads, and remember some of the sweets costing a tiny half a pence

*Your drank Alpine pop in a variety of radioactive colours delivered by the milkman

*You remember when our Spitfire was displayed in a big greenhouse outside the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery and the best thing inside the building was THAT skeleton

*You recall Stoke City changing their manager more often than their socks and poor relations Port Vale earning a reputation as FA Cup giant killers

*You viewed Eric ‘Crafty Cockney’ Bristow and Ray Reardon as local celebrities – even though neither of them were actually from the Potteries

*You were amazed when a newsagent from Cobridge won an Olympic gold medal in Seoul – mainly because you thought hockey was for girls

*You partied at The Place, attempted break-dancing at Regimes, fell in love with Indie music at Ritzy’s nightclub and should have known better than to have been seen dead in Chicos

*You remember people having jobs at Shelton Bar, Royal Doulton and ‘down the pits’ and being told during a careers fair at your school that a job at ‘The Mich’ was a job for life’

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

The gadgets and gizmos that shaped a decade…

You’d be surprised at just how many gadgets and gizmos that we take for granted nowadays made their bow in the Eighties.
The decade of decadence was also one of great technological advances in both the home and on the streets.
A desire for portability and the growing importance of mobile communications were key drivers for this evolution as lifestyles changed and time became a precious commodity.
Chief among labour-saving devices which became popular during the 80s has to be electronic TV remote controls.
This lazy-person’s wand, which ultimately led to the invention of the phrase ‘couch potato’, is now a given in homes up and down the land.
Generations have grown up assuming we always had ‘remotes’ and never suffering from having to traipse to and from the sofa every time they want to change channels. Unless the batteries run out, of course.
Sticking with television, let’s not forget that the first satellite channels aired in the mid-eighties – eventually leading to the creation of the all-consuming behemoth that is now Sky TV which was launched on February 5, 1989.
Almost obsolete these days, it is also worth remembering that video cassette recorders (VCR) enjoyed their halcyon days back when yours truly was in high school.
The first VCR actually went on sale at Dixons in 1978 priced £798.75 – the equivalent of more than £3,000 in today’s money.
It was made by Japanese electronics giant JVC and had a slot in the top to insert the tape and huge, piano-style keys.
But it was during the early 1980s when video recorders really rose to prominence during the infamous battle of the brands between VHS and Sony’s Betamax.
VHS eventually won out – largely because it was the format favoured by video rental stores which were so popular at the time.
I recall my mate Richard hiring umpteen videos and us having the run of the old manor house up Norton when his parents were out.
We watched everything from Raiders of the Lost Ark to The Evil Dead II while burning another 80s novelty – pizzas – in his mum’s cooker.
At the time, Mrs Murphy didn’t have a microwave oven – another invention which became a household must-have in the UK during the mid to late Eighties.
Microwaves didn’t become available in Britain until the end of the Seventies and did not catch on initially because of safety concerns and confusion over whether the ovens might be ‘radioactive’.
In addition, for most families at the time they were just too expensive.
For many in the UK the microwave revolution really began with Jimmy Tarbuck’s advertisements for Sharp microwaves which first aired in 1985.
Wearing a rather fetching red jumper, the Scouse comedian showed the nation how to defrost a chicken in minutes.
Strangely, Tarby wasn’t chosen to front marketing campaigns for another 80s icon.
Who could forget the ‘ghettoblasters’ or ‘boombox’ radios in a variety of sickly colours which popped up all over the place – turning Sneyd Green into downtown Detroit? Sort of.
Boomboxes were introduced in the late 1970s, when stereo was added to existing designs of the radio-cassette recorder but are mostly associated with the 80s sounds of breakdancing and hip hop.
The major manufacturers competed as to who could produce the loudest, best-sounding, flashiest and/or most quirky-looking boomboxes.
Of course, the boombox wasn’t the only musical innovation of my youth.
The metal-cased blue-and-silver Sony Walkman TPS-L2 – the world’s first low-cost portable stereo – went on sale in Japan on July 1, 1979.
It was launched in the UK in June 1980 and I remember being ridiculously jealous when I saw a lad wearing one at Central Forest Park.
As an avid collector of vinyl, I have to say I was less than keen to embrace the advent of another 80s musical phenomenon: compact discs.
These horrible little tea coasters put paid to my trips to Lotus Records in the old arcade up ’Anley from where I would purchase limited edition, imported picture discs of my favourite rock artists.
To be fair, I’ve still got a cracking vinyl collection, but it’s not been quite the same since the world’s first compact disc was produced at a Philips factory in Germany in 1987 – sparking a global music revolution.
Jointly developed by Philips and Sony, to date an estimated 220 billion CDs have been sold worldwide and they remain the dominant format despite the growth in digital downloads.
Interestingly, the first CD produced was The Visitors by Abba, but when the first CDs went on sale in November 1982 they were mainly classical recordings as classical music lovers were believed to have more money than pop and rock music fans.
The final gizmo we have the 80s to thank for is the mobile telephone.
Britain’s first mobile phone call was actually made across the Vodafone network on New Year’s Day 1985 by veteran comedian Ernie Wise.
Since then, ‘mobiles’ have become essential to modern life and it is now estimated that almost 90 per cent of Britons now own a handset.
When mobiles were first launched they were the size of a briefcase, cost about £2,000 and had a battery life of little more than 20 minutes.
You see, sometimes small really is beautiful…