Monthly Archives: January 2009

April 3rd 1973

“Took ‘ome In Search of Space – Smart” / “Started to paint radio”

I also remember painting the radio.

I equally remember making a complete pig’s ear of it.

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April 2nd 1973

“Trev said he was sellin’ In Search of Space for £1.25 – I’m gonna buy” / “Got radio off of carol and got it going”

I pontificated at length about Hawkwind’s “In Search of Space” a few weeks ago.

I can’t understand why Trev would have wanted to sell such a classic. I wonder if I could have duped him into swapping it for that awful Saturnalia picture disc? Unlikely, Trev doubtless had better taste than me!

Weirdly, given my predilection for memory loss, I can remember the radio I snagged off of Carol. It was a stylish Roberts Radio – similar to the one shown here – which she couldn’t get to work properly.

Looks as if my few lucky prods at the innards paid off, giving me a working set?!


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April 1st 1973

“Worked over L&C for 3 hours changing to VAT prices”

Worst April Fool’s joke EVER!

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March 31st 1973

“At work, changed all sweets to VAT prices. BackWard sed I could work tomorrow as well”

VAT (Value Added Tax) was introduced in 1973 – as a condition of Great Britain’s impending membership of the EEC (European Economic Community) – as a replacement for both Purchase Tax, a tax which had been in force since 1940.

Purchase tax was the main indirect tax of its day, imposed on the wholesale prices of a wide range of goods, mainly ‘specialist’ items. (The definition included things like washing machines, fencing and refrigerators, along with other items considered necessities these days!)

Naturally, the tax mandarins at customs & excise did not want things to be simple for retailers and companies trading across the country, so VAT was brought in at three different rates; A 0% rate for basic food items and necessary household goods, 12½% for so-called ‘luxury’ goods, and 8% on almost every other good or service.

It is the European equivalent of USA’s Sales Tax, but unlike the retarded American version the tax value is passed on via the selling price, rather than tacked on afterwards. (Something which – even after over a decade of living here – feels like some kind of bait and switch charge) American visitors to the UK often (conveniently) forget this important difference when comparing the cost of something from one side of the Atlantic to the other.

My job at Lancaster & Crook’s today was repricing all the sweets (candy) to include the new 12½% rate, something which doubtless added a penny or two to the price of every bar.

I wonder if my pricing activities included repricing the tastiest – and most-missed – Cadbury’s chocolate bar ever? The Aztec bar. As my addled memory recalls it was part-milk/part-dark chocolate covering a crunchy nougat interior laden with peanuts and raisins. Of course my mind may just be racing there and I could have included ingredients that didn’t exist at all but merely represents a wish-list?! The positive memory is that it really was the chippity-chomp. Cadbury’s obviously withdrew it somewhen as I never see it anymore and Cadbury’s website fails to mention it. (Bugger, I wish I’d never looked at the Cadbury’s site – am hungry now!)

VAT was eventually raised – doing away with the 3-tier system – to a flat-rate 15% in 1979, where it remained until 1991 when it went up to 17½%. To try and stimulate the economy, the government reduced the rate back down to 15% for a 13-month period from December 2008. Needless to say, this minor shift has made very little difference indeed and, instead of making much difference to people’s spending habits, it is expected to cost the treasury over £12-billion before the reduction expires.

I think America should do away with state sales taxes and instead introduce a one-rate inclusive federal tax like VAT. It would stop people from having to calculate the total cost of the potential purchases in stores, cut out a whole crapload of bureaucracy, and better balance the inequality of the current state system. Given that the rate could be 2½-5% higher than any existing sales tax level, the upturn in revenue could be used to pay for a universal healthcare system so that everyone would have access to doctors, specialists, hospitals and care.

That’s perhaps my Utopian States of America?!

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March 30th 1973

“ARGUMENT!” / “Got a bit wet riding home from school – Nig not working so worked ’till seven”

*sigh* … it never fails to depress me – even 36 years later – that my parents spent so much of their life arguing with one another.

Surely I can’t have been to blame for everything?

But maybe I was?

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March 29th 1973

“Sold other ticket to Rick E” / “During games i+Trev bt Nig + Pete 21-12, 14-21, 21-19 at table tennis”

I hope Nig & Pete bowed before us mumbling “we are not worthy, we are not worthy”

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March 27th 1973

“Day Off” / “Went to Southampton with Mal & Nig – Went in Wimpy’s for dinner – I bought Magical Love – Saturnalia” / “Got Roxy Music tickets”

This could end up being a meandering lengthy post…….

Let’s start off with the reference to Wimpy’s shall we?

Wimpy – or Wimpy Bars as they were known then – were the first American-style ‘fast food’ restaurants in Britain. (For the sake of a “fast food” descriptor we shall conveniently ignore the whole British “fish & chip” phenomenon… the precursor of ALL fast food, surely?)

The chain was originally founded in 1930’s Chicago. (The restaurant name came from cartoon character Popeye‘s hamburger-eating chum J.Wellington Wimpy, seen on the right) It was licenced in the 1950’s by the huge J.Lyons food corporation, who brought the notion of self-serve quick food served at tables to the other side of the Atlantic. By the time of this diary entry (1973) there were an astonishing 1000+ Wimpy restaurants across 23 countries.

Wimpy Bars continued to flourish until 1974. Then a new player entered the marketplace. That player was McDonalds.

In the face of the McD’s behemoth as well as other interlopers like Burger King and KFC, the Wimpy brand went into rapid decline and the company was sold four times over between 1977 and 1990. Each attempt to re-promote and reposition the chain was met with public resistance.

In 1973, Wimpy offered freshly-cooked burgers accompanied by chips (french fries) and thick milkshakes. As I remember food was ordered from a waitress, and then eaten from real plates and with real cutlery. Maybe Wimpy is therefore responsible for two things in my later life?…

The first is that I have generally had FAR too much of a fascination for fast food in all its forms which has most definitely aided and abetted in my middle-aged ‘girth’ (However, despite ignoring fast food joints in the past 4 years, my girth regardless grows!)

Secondly, that Wimpy may have formed my dislike for eating messy burgers with my fingers, something for which I am considered no less than a ‘freak’ by my fellow Americans. I’ll always prefer to eat a burger with a good ol’ knife & fork than my hands. Something that my good wife even felt necessary to comment on at her excellent foodie blog.

Perhaps surprisingly, Wimpy STILL exists on the British retail/dining map, albeit it in a much reduced capacity. It operates over 270 franchise restaurants, many in motorway service stations and bowling alleys. It does have some stand alone locations too, predominantly in the South of England with a dozen or so in London alone.

Maybe next time I am back in Blighty I will search one out?

Front and back of the original Saturnalia picture disc with the diffracted (3-D) images

Now, onto Saturnalia’s “Magical Love”…..

OK…confession time. I bought this album because of what it looked like!

I had no idea of who Saturnalia were (neither, I suspect, did Mal or Nig) or what this album was all about. Here’s what I DID know. It was a picture disc inside a plastic sleeve. The pictures on the disc must have looked very groovy, and the middle label had a weird refractive element to it which made it change colour.

I was an impressionable youth with (apparently) money to burn.

I can tell you nothing about what Saturnalia sounded like. I can remember the sum total of nothing about this album. I know nothing about the band or their subsequent career.

I bought this album entirely on spec, most likely because it was on sale in one of the shops we went in whilst wandering around town. I probably thought I was being hip and trendy by buying this picture disc?!

I do remember that the sound quality of it was truly awful. Picture disc technology was doubtless far from perfect in 1973 resulting in hiss, skips, rumbles and more. I can’t have played it much and have no idea where it went over the years that followed its purchase.

Who’s not to say that Saturnalia’s career would have been stellar had their record label not inflicted a crappy picture disc on them?

Let’s do a little research on Saturnalia and “Magical Love” shall we?….

• Seems as if this was the second EVER picture disc released commercially in the UK. (The first was a version of Curved Air’s “Airconditioning” LP)

• The album was produced by (former) Yardbirds singer Keith Relf and is considered something of a lost psych/prog rock “classic”. (In this regard I’m betting it normally changes hands for obscene amounts of money)

• The band’s sound is often compared to Jefferson Airplane. (As if I needed another reason not to listen to it in 1973… Grace Slick’s screechy warbling has never appealed)

• The band featured a somewhat attractive female lead singer known as Aletta

• The picture disc was notorious for featuring images of the band naked from the waist up.

Aaaaaah….. now I know why I may have been attracted to it!

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March 26th 1973

“Pete B gave me money to buy Roxy ticket”

Unlikely I became a tout at such an early age – in fact did touts even exist in 1973? – so this would appear to be no more than a friendly schoolboy favour.

In a “what’s weird” moment, this Pete B and myself would become rival music retailers after I opened my store in Eastleigh. He managed the other indie ’round the corner’. Whilst he and I always remained friendly ‘chatty’, his boss (the owner) maintained an always-acidic response towards me.

At least until my superior retailing and customer service skills forced him out of the town, and eventually out of business.

I love karma.

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