– Marc Bolan
The first single I bought with my own money was T. Rex’s Metal Guru. It’s still in my collection after impressively managing to survive the punk cull. Although I have retrospectively built my record collection up again – no Status Quo, I hasten to add – relatively few pre-1976 records survived punk’s asteroid impact. I recall trading my Status Quo On The Level cassette in Glasgow’s Record Exchange for 80p, to be reinvested immediately for Radiators From Space’s Television Screen 7” on Chiswick Records. Picture cover! – Precioussss…
(As an aside, I wonder who actually bought second-hand Quo cassettes in 1976?)
But T.Rex survived. How come? Well, it’s still a decent tune. But mainly because the first single that you buy is not just a song, nor even just a record, but an emotional attachment. It’s your pocket money so you don’t have a lot, and there are other priorities to consider for the limited resources you have. Two ounces each of Kola Kubes and Aniseed Twists (oh, the innocence). Or that week’s Shoot, or the fitba’ cards with the thin strip of crap bubblegum that lost its flavour after about 12 seconds. It’s comparatively expensive too – the 50p cost of a single in 1972 is £6.30 in today’s money according to Inflation Calculator UK, so you had to learn be extremely picky at an early age.
Can you think back to buying your first record? This is mine. Hand sweating with eager anticipation clutching the 50p piece, walking the mile and a half to Gloria’s Record Bar in Battlefield. A hundred yards away you start to get the shakes and kick into a bit of a jog. I don’t know why, it’s not illicit, but it is a “grown up” thing to buy a record and the adrenalin is pumping. Then, in the shop, actually parting with your 50p and getting your very own music in exchange wrapped in a “Gloria’s” paper bag, still tantalisingly out of view but you knew it was in there. I know they sold millions back then, but this was mine. And, way before the days of picture covers, T. Rex had their own record sleeve!
I can’t say for sure that it doesn’t happen these days, but it’s difficult to empathise being a young kid and having that physical and emotional sense of excitement about music. Maybe LPs are the thing, and thank goodness that form of art is continuing its resurgence. But they’re even more expensive. I certainly couldn’t have afforded £2.49 for an album (£31.37 in today’s money) in 1972, even at birthday time. Try as I might my 57-year old brain can’t envisage my 11-year old self enjoying the same excitement in a download, or even a CD, and absolutely not from a stream. It’s too easy; it’s on-demand; it’s even free if you don’t bother to pay the artist. Where’s the personal investment?
So bring back the 7” single. Make it a double-A if you like; a gatefold cover with lyrics; yellow vinyl …
Let’s bring the excitement back to music and bring back memories for life.
And, as an added bonus, it has less sugar than a Kola Kube.
Gloria’s Record Bar and image: The Herald 22 August 2017 accessed 22 March 2019
Metal Guru lyrics (c) Spirit Music Group
Metal Guru image: http:/genius.com/T-rex-metal-guru-lyrics accessed 23 March 2019
Kola Kube photo: wj-shaw.com/products/kola-kubes