VINYL JUNKIES – Neil Armstrong 7 songs that shaped his world

The love for vinyl has always been there and many stories are attached to it. There is whispers in some quarters that vinyl is back, and they are getting louder. Not in the same numbers that it was in the pre-cd day’s of the 70’s and 80’s, but the records are up on the display shelves of record shop’s.

There is hundred’s of reasons why we like a certain song. Vinyl Junkies is looking for the stories behind them.

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‘The End of the Pier’ is a new play that Neil Armstrong wrote and is about to perform at The Customs House, South Shields. Neil is an award winning actor/writer/director based in the North East of England. Over the last twenty-five years he has directed shows for dozens of companies, has been nominated by B.A.F.T.A, The Writers Guild of Great Britain and the National Comedy awards. His play ‘Remember Jim’ which he wrote, starred in and directed, won Best Performance at the Sunderland Echo W.O.W Culture Awards. In 2015 and 2016 he wrote, co-directed and starred in Durham Gala Theatre’s Pantomimes, both broke all box office records to become the most successful productions ever to be staged there.

Introduction’s over, here are Neil’s 7 songs that shaped his world.

1 ‘One of the first songs that got me into music was I Feel Fine by The Beatles. I didn’t actually buy it, my Aunty Nora gave me an old 45 of it in about 1972 I think. This really started me on my way to buying records. I think the feedback at the start of the song drew me in. How the hell did they do that? I wondered, when I was eight. I still think it sounds great today.’

FAGIN

2 ‘Given that I earn my living poncing about on a stage, I thought I should include something theatrical in my pick of the pops. So jumping back in time to 1970, I was in London, aged six and on holiday with me Mam, Dad and our Julie. We went to see the film version of the Lionel Bart musical Oliver ! I didn’t want to go I think the picture of Fagin on the wall outside the cinema scared me, but I did go and came out singing ‘You’ve got to pick a pocket or two’ with me sister whilst we tried to steal loose change from me Dad’s pockets. I know it’s not exactly Rock but there’s some great tunes in it’.

BEATLES

3 ‘By the time I was fourteen I had my first guitar and had moved on to now loving The Beatles later period when they ‘Went weird’ as all me Aunties used to say. I had the Blue Album which I paid for through me Mam’s Kay’s Catalogue. I played it over and over again, it was me only LP at this point apart from a K-Tel chart toppers compilation thing. I loved every song on it. If I had to pick a favourite I couldn’t, but Here Comes the Sun would be close’.

GENESIS

4 ‘By the time I was fifteen it all went a bit Prog! The Musical Box by Genesis from their 1971 album Nursery Crime was largely what did it. I’m from Seaham and it wasn’t as posh as it is now, so listening to these Gothic tales of people getting their heads knocked off with croquet mallets in English Stately Homes and Gardens was for me, a perfect escape. I didn’t care that most of the band were ex-public schoolboys or that my mates were listening to the Sex Pistols or Sham 69 or whoever. I was off on one with Genesis, Yes, King Crimson and the rest, to hell with punk! Let’s Prog! Ten years too late admittedly but never mind. I still love this song today. I don’t even think it’s pretentious, preposterous maybe, but not pretentious’.

DRAKE

5 ‘Hazy Jane #2 by Nick Drake. I discovered this song on an Island Sampler called Bumpers that I think I bought in The Old Durham Bookshop in Sunderland. I was about 16 at the time and for some mad unfortunate reason I was working in the Civil Service. The only good thing about working there was you got flexi-time so I used to bugger off early on a Friday afternoon to spend my hard earned money from what I considered to be the worst job in the world on LPs. I think this song is gorgeous. I love music that evokes pictures and places in your head and this did for me. It still does and always will’.

6 ‘La Rossa by Van Der Graaf Generator from their albunm Still Life. It’s angry, it’s noisy, it’s got Peter Hammill screaming his head off. I met him once when he was supporting Marillion at the Mayfair in Newcastle. Me and me mate Geoff weren’t that bothered about Marillion so we sneaked into his dressing room to see if he could offer us any advice on how we might become rock stars. He was a lovely bloke, and even sent us a Christmas Card wishing us well in our quest later that year. VDGG I know are an acquired taste, but I loved how they never gave two hoots about anything other than their music. I saw them at the Sage in 2005 when they reformed and they were amazing’.

ange

7 ‘I was on YouTube about a year ago and discovered a song called Le Soir Du Diable by French band Ange. It was live footage from a gig they did in 1977. Here we had a hairy singer (Christian Decamps) with two sock puppets on his hands – one an angel, the other a devil and they are both playing the xylophone for him as he sings. I’ve tried telling me mates this is tremendous. I mean let’s face it you’re not going to see some twat like Ed Sheeran doing that anytime soon! But unfortunately I seem to be alone on this one. Nevertheless I stand by this band and say ‘They don’t make ’em like that anymore!’ and I wish they did. But just in case they never do, I went and tracked down every 1970’s Ange album. There’s a bloke at Chester le Street market on a Saturday who can sort you out French Prog with Puppets if you fancy it…….no?….just me then?’

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Neil’s new play ‘The End of the Pier’ is on at The Customs House, South Shields from 22nd – 26th August 2017.

Intro by Gary Alikivi, JUST FOR THE RECORD 2017.