The unadulterated pleasure of a 12 inch (picture disc)
One of the greatest pleasures of a teenager in the days before itunes, Spotify and YouTube, was saving up your pocket money to buy the latest release from your favourite band. Of course, in the 80s this would be a band or group that had been ‘organically’ created through hormonally infused angst, a general vitriol for the establishment, or, in the case of Bananarama, a mutual love of matt red lipstick and back-combed hair. This, after all, was the era before pushy 'momagers' trademarked their kid’s name no sooner than they were popped from the womb; and a world away from the pop Svengalis who now sit behind glittery desks pressing giant buttons as preened and practised stage school kids perform well rehearsed routines before cameras on prime-time TV.
This was the 80s. A time when it was still considered acceptable to buy your generic label, skin-tight stretch jeans from the market (and I’m not talking Camden here), or your make-up from the bargain bin section of the local chemist. Teenagers didn’t get their highlights from a salon – oh no – we bought highlighting kits from Superdrug and tore tufts of hair out through swimming cap style plastic hats, gouging our scalps with sharp crochet hooks, before waiting an hour to reveal uneven ginger streaks to the world. 80s boys wanting beachy blonde ‘flicks’ got their mum to buy Sun-In for them, turning up for school on a Monday morning looking like they’d dipped their fringes in a bucket of Domestos.
But, it was The Record Shop where as a young teen, nothing aroused more excitement than flicking through the tightly packed vinyl albums and 12 inch discs confined to wooden racks, and arranged in alphabetical order around the tiny shop floor. At the helm, and stood behind a vertiginous counter at the back of the premises stood Big Bri - as the owner was affectionately known to the youth of Dorchester. Big Bri had superhero-esque status amongst the adolescents of the town; able to order any rare or imported vinyl requirement you might have. A large tome of a catalogue would be pulled out from under the counter and breath would be held as Big Bri thumbed its dog-eared pages in search of your request. Upon finding what you wanted, a small deposit would be paid and you’d be told to pop back in a couple of weeks to see if your 12 inch picture disc Japanese import had arrived. Of course, patience is not a virtue of the young, and you would find yourself ‘just popping in’ to The Record Shop after school 3 times a week, as well as twice on a Saturday, in the vain hope that your much coveted purchase had arrived early.
The Record Shop was also the hunting ground of hormone ridden teens hoping to impress and get noticed by their victim of choice. I may have spent an hour nonchalantly perusing The Cocteau Twins and Nick Cave, whilst perfecting my sullen single eyebrow raise and pout, with one eye on the Lynx doused boy opposite me, but, I had the art of casually wandering past the relevant section and pulling out the latest single by Madonna, Bananarama or Cyndi Lauper before slinking up to the counter, down to a fine art. Big Bri would smile down at me as he slipped my uncool purchase in a paper bag, before my friend and I would scuttle out in our paisley mini skirts and DM’s, loudly commenting as we passed the indie band t-shirted, and heavily Sun-In’d object of my desire; “Yeah, so Brian said the Jesus and Mary Chain E.P. should be in next week…”
Of course, having just yesterday scanned through my Shazam app to remind me of the tunes I’d zapped on the radio and wanted to download to my ipod, I can’t really complain about the instant accessibility of music in 2017. But, as my kids wander around plugged into music it took virtually no effort to find or own, I do wonder if this technology means they’ve missed out on a whole era of life which, no doubt played a role in shaping me into the person I am today, and, which even more importantly, has given me and my now 40-something friends great memories to whatsapp nostalgically over whilst we watch our streamed movies on Smart TV’s...because we really can’t be arsed to go out to the cinema when there’s a perfectly comfortable sofa to sit on at home…;o)