The evening of December 1st 1976 began much like any other, but by the time the evening rolled into night time, television history had been made. With Queen unable to make their interview slot on the Today magazine programme, punk band Sex Pistols were drafted in as a last minute filler. It was an event that started with a wobble and ended with guitarist Steve Jones calling the ill at ease presenter Bill Grundy a “fucking rotter”. Up until this point, punk had been a truly underground phenomenon, only really of concern to a few bands, their friends and young people who’d decided they now wanted to be in bands. It hadn’t really spread beyond parts of Manchester, London and the boring suburbia of Bromley, yet here it was beaming itself into the living rooms of unsuspecting viewers.
Within hours, the press claimed outrage at the “filth and fury” of it all which only meant that punk was now in the consciousness of an entire nation, fueling the fires of excitement within teenagers up and down the UK, making it all the more appealing. In 1977, punk made its way into the mainstream with the Pistols, The Clash, The Damned and The Stranglers all releasing classic debut albums and scoring a few hit singles in the process.
When Record Store Day first began, it was a great idea. Those who were regulars at independent record shops like Avalanche in Edinbugh and Resident in Brighton could potentially get their hands on very limited, exclusive items. It was a celebration of record buying culture, more than anything. Over the years the event has grown. After all of the major labels sensed a potential cash cow, it increasingly became about reissuing stuff en masse at inflated prices.
Record Store Day has become an event full of mixed feelings. There are now tales of people not actually visiting their local (and favourite) stores on RSD as the crowds of unfamiliar faces have made the experience quite stressful. People queue for hours in the hope of finding one of the many artificially created rarities – a lot of which seem to appear on ebay just hours later at even more inflated prices. In recent years, there have even been dealers “pre-selling” their RSD wares on the internet up to two days before the event that was supposed to get people into their shops.
Looking back, the three years between the disco and pop oriented sounds of 1976 and the majestic jumble of influences that fill 1979 are a huge gulf. By 1979, disco was on it’s last legs, punk had firmly given airtime to what we now think of as new wave and the pop music of the day was about as strong as it had been since 1975.
At an unspecific point in 1979, my dad arrived home from work carrying a long playing record. It turned out to be the new Police album. At this point, ‘Message In a Bottle’ had been all over the radio and I knew I liked this new music. My mum, on the other hand did not have quite the same enthusiasm; she’s a bit put out that this does not have ‘Roxanne’ on it. Presumably, the album – like others – had been purchased at Barnaby’s, a record shop (no longer there) very near my dad’s then place of employment; a giant tin shed in which he worked with dangerous acidic chemicals and little regard for health and safety. That Police album (‘Reggatta De Blanc’) got played a lot. If I think hard, I can still see Dad sitting by his Fidelity stereo system lifting the needle onto the record and playing the title track over and over and I remember thinking how fitting it was that the word emblazoned on the front looked a bit like the word fiddle. That piece of music must have spoken to him: decades later, he would still attract my attention by calling my name to the tune of that track.
The sight of my dad coming home with new music in this way was not entirely uncommon.
In 1991, Motörhead realeased the album ‘1916’, an album on which they sounded more alive than they had in years. The songs were sharper than their late 80s efforts and the band sounded like they’d regained a lot of their spark. There was a surprise too: the title track was a cello backed ballad, where Lemmy crooned about young men joining up to fight for king and country in the First World War. Nobody saw that coming…and they say you can’t teach old dogs new tricks.