Sellotape, Bruce’s and a Psycho Killer

“We are vain and we are blind
I hate people when they’re not polite
Psycho killer
Qu’est-ce que c’est”

Talking Heads

Doo doo doo doo doo doo, Doo-doo-doo …

That intro!  Tina Weymouth’s intro might be possibly the best intro ever, full stop.  In the last blog I spoke about the palm-sweating, pocket money-guzzling excitement of buying your first record. For me it was a 7” single, but it got me thinking about all the other formats through which we enjoy music. So, the next few blogs are a personal journey of other formats through which we enjoy our music, and this is my story about my first 12″ single, Psycho Killer.

A quick caveat. This isn’t a trawl through all the formats’ histories, because there are many much better informed articles out there. This week it’s just about my introduction to the 12″ single, and next week will be about how it influenced me – my “special fortified dance remix” of the same format through my punky / indie-y / disco-y / techno-y eyes.

Of course, the 12″ record wasn’t new, the Long Player having been around for decades. But when I bought Psycho Killer in 1977 the 12” single had only made its commercial debut 12 months earlier. The honour for the first commercially available 12” single goes to Salsoul Records’ Ten Per Cent by Double Exposure[1], the format born out of greater DJ-friendly sound quality and running time. I thoroughly recommend the acquisition of a good Salsoul Records compilation. Loleatta Holloway; First Choice; Salsoul Orchestra: even if you don’t know the songs or artists at first glance I’m sure you will recognise elements of the tunes because they’ve been sampled to death. They are superb songs.

I digress. Back to Psycho Killer and I recall it being almost as exciting as buying T.Rex’s Metal Guru five years earlier. Talking Heads weren’t punk rock. The song wasn’t two minutes long, or about breaking out of borstals or tearing up the establishment. But the punks I knew didn’t constrain themselves to those two-minute anthems. We loved The Jam, reggae, Kraftwerk, Iggy and Bowie too. Even Motorhead (but no other metal … there were boundaries!). In late 1977 “punk” was starting to split into left-leaning post-punk, such as Gang of Four, and right-wing Oi, which stuck with songs about two-minute correction centre escapes, skins, and violence. (Apologies to any Oi-fans, I’m sure there were / are many decent ones).

Back then, as my music taste was evolving, I knew for a fact that I was a “collector”. In early primary school it was fitba’ stickers, by the time it got to third year of secondary it was records. The punk spirit and fuck-you attitude gave a freshness and liberation of not having the peer pressure of being seen to like what everyone else was listening to at school (and certainly, in 90% of cases I’m sure, not liking it anyway – how many people really like Yes)?

When I heard Weymouth’s bassline in Bruce’s Records my ears pricked up. When I saw a copy of 12” single my eyes lit up too. I’m sure I hadn’t even seen a 12″ single before and so I had a tough choice to make. I could buy the 7” version of course for half the money, but no-one else had the 12”. The song length on the 7″ and 12″ was the same and, because nobody had hi-fi back then, no-one bought it because of the extra breathing space in the vinyl that made it sound louder.

I bought it because I could. I had a paper round then so I was relatively flush with other income supplementing my pocket money. I loved the smiley-face cover, and it sounded brilliant! And I was pretty sure I’d be the only kid in my school who had it.

I try to take care of my records but there’s no doubt that my copy is looking, er, well-loved. Its corners have had to be sellotaped over the years when the glue packed up but, when I occasionally still play it, the record sounds as fresh as the day I bought it.

And each time I thank my lucky stars that I bought it that day in Bruce’s because I was, and still am, a collector.

Psycho Killer lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

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