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 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.
Jarrow Lad Tony Higgins now lives in Murcia, Spain. He is author of ‘Homage to Murcia: a season of football anarchy’. The book follows a lower league Spanish football club whilst capturing the history, politics and culture of the place that Tony now calls home. As well as helping run an English Academy in Murcia, Tony is currently working on a new book about his families exploits in World War 1. The book has many stories about characters from Tyneside and elsewhere, whilst tying in events that were happening in the wider world at that time. Tony tells me it’s a bit like Peaky Blinders and Catherine Cookson all rolled into one.
Intrductions over, here are Tony’s 7 songs that shaped his world.
Whiteman in Hammersmith Palais – The Clash (1978) This was the first single that I ever bought. I purchased it in 1978, from a record shop in Jarrow called Records from the Past. The shop was at the bottom of Ellison Street, next to the newsagents – come toy shop, called Freddy Furlongs. In Furlongs you could buy Airfix soldiers and Subbuteo teams but at that time I was slowly shifting to a different type of moulded plastic, the flat pressed vinyl kind that played music.
As an impressionable eleven-year-old I had no idea what the lead singer, Joe Strummer, was singing about. It was only later in life that I would get the lyrics about Delroy Wilson, Leroy Smart and Ken Boothe. The messages in the lyrics of this track are just incredible and still resonate today, especially the one about “if Adolf Hitler flew in today they’d send a limousine anyway”. The artwork of the pink sleeve and smoking pistol in the middle of the disc is just something else too.
The Murder of Liddle Towers – Angelic Upstarts (1978) – Shortly after my purchase of Whiteman my search for more Punk vinyl took me to nearby South Shields and another small record shop, on Ocean Road, called Pete Edmonds Records, those in the know reckoned you could get all the new sounds there. Anyway, this time I was in search of The Murder of Liddle Towers by local band Angelic Upstarts. The song is about the death, at the hands of the police, of a thirty-nine-year-old electrician and amateur boxing coach from County Durham, called Liddle Towers. On the B-side is the fantastic Police Oppression, which basically told the life of a teenager growing up on the streets of Tyneside, through the eyes of the lead singer Mensi. I also owned a Who killed Liddle badge and t-shirt and you had to be careful when wearing them as Northumbria’s finest weren’t too keen on the sentiment.
Public Image –Public Image (1978) – I was just that bit too young really to be into the Sex Pistols when they were in their prime and literally I just caught onto their shirt tails, as they imploded on that infamous last tour of the USA. However, shortly after, The Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten, who had changed his name back to his real name John Lydon, was heading up a new band called Public Image Limited or PIL for short. Their first single, called Public Image, is a classic and I think I may have bought it in Newcastle when it first came out. I still think it is a brilliant song and the single was originally packaged in a fake newspaper that made outrageous statements such as “Refused to Play Russian Roulette”, “No One’s Innocent, Except Us”, “Donut’s Laugh saves life”. Apparently the song’s bass line was named as the 18th best bassline of all time by Stylus Magazine in 2005 but if you’ve heard it you know that it is even better than that!
I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles – Cockney Rejects (1980) – I really don’t know where I first heard the Cockney Rejects or how I grew to really like the band. Nevertheless, they became one of my favourites, as punks began to give way to Boot Boys and Skinheads. The Rejects were a post punk band that around 1980 seemed to morph into a new musical street movement called Oi! This new musical faze was led by Garry Bushell, a journalist with the Sounds newspaper, and it became the flagship of the new wave of Skinheads that hit the scene around the early 80’s. In my opinion the movement was wrongly labelled as racist after some trouble erupted at a big Oi! gig in Southall.
The Rejects were and still are big West Ham fans and I remember them appearing on Top of the Pops, whilst drunk, performing this track. The song is a cover version of the West Ham football anthem. You can still see this performance on YouTube, it’s definitely worth a few minutes of your time. This all happened just before the 1980 FA Cup Final which West Ham went on to win, beating Arsenal 1 -0. Remember these were the days when FA Cup Final day was a big event in most British households and the whole world seemed to come to a standstill for a couple of hours. I recall the cover of the single being in the style of a West Ham shirt. I actually got to see the Rejects do a gig in Murcia a couple of years ago.
Baggy Trousers – Madness (1980) – Around the same time as Oi! we had a revival of SKA music in the UK. Bands such as The Specials, Selecter and Madness were all attached to the Two Tone label and around 1979 these bands and others did a UK tour. This new British version of SKA however was a bit punkier than the original bands from Jamaica and although I loved all of the new groups I think my favourite was Madness. Madness soon moved from the Two Tone label and got their own record deal. I had bought their first and second album and the band released Baggy Trousers as a single, which I dutifully bought. This song was all about the bands school life and it seemed to reflect how I had grown up too. Of course I don’t suppose that I am alone in that feeling. The cover of the record had most of the band decked out in Crombie coats and the following Christmas yours truly was bedecked in one too.
I must have seen Madness over a dozen times now but I remember, around 1980, a mate and me bottling out of an opportunity of seeing them at Newcastle City Hall. It was at the time of the big Skinhead revival and I think we were worried about if we would get there and back in one piece, as violence at gigs was quite common then. Nevertheless, I do recall going to the cinema to see Dance Craze, a movie about all the new SKA bands and I remember skanking in the aisles with loads of other likeminded youths.
Too Much Too Young – The Specials (1980) – The Specials came a very close second to Madness for me and again they are a band that I have continued to listen to throughout my life. I remember buying this single in Jarrow Woolworths, a place you could get many a vinyl bargain in the cheap 50p rack. Anyway, Too Much Too Young got to number one and it was released as a five-track live EP in January 1980. As well as Too Much Too Young it featured cover versions of the old SKA tracks the Guns of Navarone and Skinhead Symphony – a medley of Long Shot Kick De Bucket, The Liquidator and Skinhead Moonstomp. Some of the tracks were recorded at Tiffany’s in Coventry, the bands home city, and the single had an iconic photo cover of the crowd. Many years later I got to see the band play their comeback gig in Newcastle and also later on in Coventry. Again this is another band whose lyrics still resonate today.
All Together Now – The Farm (1990) – Whiz forward to the 90s now but vinyl was still in vogue, just I think. Liverpool band The Farm are one of the most underrated bands ever in my opinion. I was right into them from the off and bought their first album Spartacus that went to number one. People say they were part of the Baggy or Madchester scene but I just like to say they were an indie band. They released from Spartacus one of the most iconic tracks ever, All Together Now. The song was written about the famous unofficial treaty, during World War 1 between British and German troops, that happened on Christmas Eve 1914. The track was produced by Suggs, the lead singer of Madness, and had a British Tommy in a Subbuteo style on the cover. As we know from the beginning of this piece, Subbuteo, toy soldiers and Madness had already played a big part in my life so that cover was just perfect! At any rate the single got to number 4 in the charts and the band were the first group that my wife and me ever went to see. They played that iconic Newcastle venue, The Mayfair, sometime around late 1990 or early 1991. Through the mysteries of social networks, I have become quite friendly with the band and recently I attended the guitarists wedding in Liverpool. The Farm are actually back making music and I have been to see them play on numerous occasions over the past few years. I even got to see them support Madness earlier this year!
Recommended: WILL BINKS July 7th 2017 – MARTIN POPOFF July 12th 2017 – JOHN HESTON August 3rd 2017 – NEIL ARMSTRONG August 11th 2017 – COLIN SMOULT August 29th 2017 -– NEIL NEWTON September 12th 2017 – 2017 – VINCE HIGH December 11th 2017.
Intro by Gary Alikivi September 2017.