Monthly Archives: June 2010

July 18th 1975

“Break-up for summer hols. went down Cricks during day then for dinner with Lorna”

The Cricketer’s Arms – or “the Cricks” for short – was the pub closest to Barton Peveril. Back in the days when a ‘minimum drinking age’ seemed to be more of a suggestion than a mandatory legal requirement it was not uncommon for the place to packed with school pupils and college students at lunchtime.

It was also not uncommon for students to rub shoulders with their teachers at the bar, either vying for the barmaids attention and quick service so they could get their ‘drink on’ during the hour-long break.

I’m not saying that the Cricks’ staff failed to upkeep their legal requirements from time to time – usually for a few days after they had been warned by police to stop serving underage drinkers – but most of the time the proverbial blind-eye was turned as long as none of the 16 or 17 year-olds got too out of hand.

We rarely did. I knew how to drink, as did a few others, but rarely did we topple over into incoherency and/or mouthy stumbling. For the most part lunchtime consisted of 2 or 3 beers (or, in my case, the spirit equivalent of Bacardi rum or Whisky) a bag of pork scratchings, vibrant chatter and money pumped into the jukebox. (Diana Ross’ “Love Hangover” was – for whatever reason – a particular favourite, and the song ALWAYS reminds me of The Cricks whenever I hear it these days)

The end of a school year was a particularly busy time for the pub and today in 1975 was doubtless no exception.

I don’t know if it was on this occasion or another but I do remember bumping into a friend of my Dad’s one time and having to ask him not to “tell on me” next time they met up. Mr. S did make – and stuck to – that promise, even taking it one stage further by buying me and all my schoolchums a round of drinks! I can’t help thinking that in this day and age he would have been arrested and sent to prison for “contributing to the delinquency of minors” or some such ludicrous politically correct nonsense.

In other news I also went out for a meal with Lorna. I wish I’d stated the place we’d gone to because I continue to remain clueless where people went on ‘dinner dates’ in 1975. I can’t remember any restaurants that would have fitted the bill for teenagers – maybe it was one of those crappy steakhouse places that were all the vogue for a while? (Surely though, they would be outside the limits of my meagre finances?). Drat my ever-forgetful memory!


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New posts are incoming as soon as humanly possible.

The ‘pesky’ World Cup – and sundry other distractions – are currently taking precedence.

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July 17th 1975

“Didn’t go to college – returned LPs to Virgin & got 6.89 credit” / “Disco – Got off with Lorna. Dedicated make me smile to Lorna + got virginia plain dedicated to me”

Virgin Records was the new major dealer in Southampton to satisfy my vinyl needs.

I wrote briefly before about how Richard Branson’s retail chain got its leg up to the High Streets of Britain (and later, the world), but its founding deserves further reportage.

Virgin Records & Tapes’ first opened in London’s Notting Hill Gate, run by Branson and his first business partner Nik Powell. Their first official store however was at the Tottenham Court Road end of London’s busy Oxford Street, initially above (I believe) a shoe shop. A while later they took over the ground floor. Here, and unlike most other record stores in 1971, the vibe was decidedly ‘laid back’, customers often crashing on the floor listening to albums and smoking substances both legal and illegal.

The first Virgin Records store in Notting Hill Gate

Branson decided to grow the chain after Post Office strikes threatened to take away his (primary) livelihood gained via the mail order business. He opened other stores in and handful towns and cities across the country. Few of them were in prime locations, Branson preferring to drive traffic to the stores rather than enjoy natural public footfall.

The response from the record buying public was pretty instant, the stores offering a breath of fresh air to people who had grown tired of the more staid HMV shops, places like Woolworths and the lack of choice in many independents. Virgin also specialised in imports, both cut-price (known as ‘cut-outs’) from America and titles which were not officially available in the UK.

Branson was also quick to take advantage of the removal of government-controlled ‘retail price maintenance’ which had kept the price of records and tapes artificially high since the sixties, discounting popular titles to create turnover whilst making most of his money from the stores’ depth of catalogue titles. It would be a record business model which many others – chains and independents alike – would emulate in succesive decades.

The Southampton Virgin store opened in what was a very much “off the beaten track” location at 16 Bargate Street, at one end of the town’s pedestrian precinct and hidden round an almost blind corner from that precinct. To make matters ‘worse’, it was situated across two floors linked by a very inhospitable and closed-in staircase.  The ground floor was given over exclusively to albums, whilst the much smaller upstairs was the singles/tapes/posters/accessories department. It was very narrow, the space between the racks little more than 7 or 8 feet. Indeed, the two floors combined probably totalled no more than maybe 1000 sq feet, a far cry from Branson’s later retail ventures.

I fell in love with its choice of albums almost immediately, attracted too by the fact that my old friend/adversary Niles had nabbed a part-time cashier’s job there and was able to pass on his generous staff discount of 20%. It was like red rag to a bull and I quickly went on a vinyl buying frenzy.

This store would eventually form an integral part of my post-college career – more on that later – and once again Niles would be involved in a way that was positive for me but unfortunate for him.

Today in 1975 it seems as if I had returned some unwanted – maybe faulty? – albums and received a credit note. (Virgin was once notorious for not wanting to give cash refunds to anyone, Branson’s policy was that once the money was in the business, it should somehow stay there)

I thought I would have a good picture or two of how the Southampton Virgin store looked in 1975, but research of my photo albums drew a blank… well, other than one of me stood outside it a few years later which I’d prefer to save for a future post.

Thanks to the ever-reliable Google “street view” application I can present a current-day pic of where the Virgin store was located. It looks very salbrious these days, despite being mere yards from two of Southampton’s main tourist attractions – the old walls and the West Quay shopping centre. The presence of all those steel shutters – the shop windows hidden behind them – certainly make the locale seem less than appealing.

In other news, it seems I got “lucky” at tonight’s disco, getting off with Lorna, with whom I subsequently enjoyed a short term fling. We were sorely mismatched and split up after just a few weeks. Her parents owned a fish & chip shop but I swear that wasn’t the main attraction.

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July 15th 1975

Trip to Coventry – CANCELLED”

Well, thank heaven’s for that!!

Why would there have been a trip to Coventry I wonder? All I know about Coventry is it has the famous cathedral and a motor museum.

There’s also the phrase “sending someone to Coventry”, a peculiarly English idiom which dates back to the 1640’s and is a slang phrase for ostracising somebody or not talking to them. It is thought to have originated during the English Civil War after Royalist troops who were captured were taken – as prisoners – to Coventry, which was then a Parliamentarian stronghold. These prisoners were – obviously – often not received warmly by the locals and shunned completely.

The phrase enjoyed a whole new lease of life during the industrial union disputes of the 70’s, often referring to strike breakers who became ignored by their colleagues.

In all my travels I never have visited Coventry. There seems little point in doing so now.

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July 14th 1975

“Started to re-read Spy Story” / ” Went down the Clock with Nig”

It appears the complicated tale in Len Deighton’s book had confused me to the point of starting it all over again. Or, was it perhaps so good I decided to immediately read it for a second time? Unlikely.

The Clock Inn – or “the Clock” as it was more colloquially known – was my local pub of choice at…erm… 17 years old.

It sat – and still sits – at the corner of Sandy Lane & Bishopstoke Road in Fair Oak. In its 70’s ‘heyday’ it sported a public bar (for the committed drunks to sidle up to the counter in), a ‘lounge bar’ and (quite a rarity in those days) an outside patio/garden area.

More often than not we gravitated towards the lounge, the quieter option, a room fronting Sandy Lane and decorated in ghastly ‘pub carpet’, vanilla walls, scant ‘frippery’ and a nicotine-stained ceiling. There was maybe little more than a cigarette machine to provide the sole distraction from sitting at melamine-topped tables supping booze and talking rubbish. (TV’s in pubs were unheard of back then)

Later in its life it became a pub troubled by hooliganism and a certain ‘football culture’ clientele, but when we used to go there it was quite a gentle little boozer run by a little old lady with a heavily-wrinkled face and brusque manner. I seem to remember her name was Rose? Not once was I refused a drink, the notion of underage drinking far more prevalent in those days. It was illegal to serve minors but didn’t come with the heavy fines (if caught) that accompany such behaviour in the 21st Century.

Last year, when I was back in England visiting my Dad and helping him celebrate his 80th birthday, we decided to venture down to the “Clock” to see what it was like after being bought out by the Hungry Horse pub/restaurant chain.

To my surprise – and nostalgic delight – it was actually quite enjoyable. The interior is now (almost) one big wide open space, set on several levels and resplendent in comfortable seating and a friendly vibe. We ordered some food which turned out to be terrific value for money (in the old days you were lucky to be able to get a bag of crisps!) and imbibed several of their drink specials. I’m not sure I would have recommended it as a ‘venue’ in 1975, but now I most definitely would!

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July 13th 1975

“Dossed around all day. Did some designs for t-shirt competition”

I did what now?

Designs for a t-shirt competition? Man, I wish I could remember more about this diary entry, like what kind of competition it was and who was running it.

T-shirt design would become something I would dabble with – and in – over and over again in my later life.

Likewise ‘dossing about’

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July 12th 1975

“Started at Dixons. Only sold a pair of headphones all day”

Dixons’ Southampton store was located at the (relatively) unfashionable end of the town’s High Street. But, despite being in competition with the likes of Comet or Rumbelows (not to mention the plethora of independent electronics retailers), it handled a lot of foot traffic and was very busy indeed.

The hi-fi department was at the rear of the store on a raised platform. I was put under the training and supervision of Dave H., an experienced Dixons’ employee and somewhat archetypal old school salesman who ‘hustled’ customers wherever he could.

I think that’s probably why I only sold a pair of headphones all day. Dave would either beat me to any customer who expressed even the vaguest interest in things or would happily steer my customers in his own direction whenever I didn’t have a clue (which was often) and had to ask him a question.

Also, unlike him, I was perhaps a little to ‘honest’ with my answers to customer enquiries. If they asked me if a particular amplifier or tuner was any good I would refer to my memory bank of ‘magazine reviews’ and tell them what I had read. Not always with a positive spin. That would often send potential buyers away to think again.

For all his public persona, Dave was actually an OK guy. Very friendly and very approachable when he was off the shop floor. We shared lots of long chats about the hi-fi industry whilst we had our tea breaks or lunches together, and he confided in me that he was hoping to get out of Dixons “very soon”.

He and a pal of his had started up a loudspeaker company and they had just started manufacturing top quality speakers which they planned to sell via ads in the specialist hi-fi magazines. I showed immediate interest in his plans and he promised that he would loan me a pair of the bookshelf models they built for my appraisal, a promise he kept just a week or so later.

So, anyway, my ‘career’ in the hi-fi industry had commenced. I’ll be honest and say whilst Dave was a decent enough supervisor and the pay was OK, the job was horrible. Apart from the short breaks I was on my feet all day long, and I felt very out of my depth in dealing ‘cold’ with customers and trying to talk knowledgeably about things I (admit I) had scant knowledge about. Plus I was forced (rather than out of personal choice) to wear a ‘shirt & tie’ outfit which made me feel uncomfortable, not least because the heat in that low-ceiled claustrophobic hi-fi department was often unbearable.

How long will Dixons hold my attention? You will have to wait and see where fate takes me next… to be honest it was something of an unexpected twist.

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July 11th 1975

“Sold Kev B. Man LP for a quid”

I didn’t really care for this self-titled Man LP. A little too rambling, even for me. As I recall one of the sides was little more than a  20 or 25 minute freeform jam of some description.

(Pauses to research album online….)

Yes, the track was called “The Alchemist” and took up the whole of Side 2. Here’s 10 minutes of it via a somewhat pointless You Tube video, for you to judge for yourself. (Warning: It does take over 4 minutes to “get going”)

The only two tracks it really had going for it were “Romain” – which became a live Man favourite – and Deke Leonard’s drum-driven “Daughter of the Fireplace” non-clunker chunker.

Still, a quid for a duffer wasn’t too bad was it?

Well, apart from the fact that it now goes for £40 to collectors. *sigh*

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