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May 21st 1975

“Tim came round in evening. He listened to and might buy New Morning”

Yes, I had been introduced to Bob Dylan.

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Mr Zimmerman… in as much as I love some of his stuff to the same degree with which I hate his other stuff.

In early 1975 I had bought – or at the very least taped – Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks” which had successfully taken my breath away. He managed to articulate a lot of things I was trying to express in his lyrics and the music just flowed from beginning to end, tracks like “Tangled up in Blue” and “Idiot Wind” making me realise why (my then hero) Steve Harley had so many good things to say about him. “Blood on the Tracks” was the beginning of my true appreciation for the simpler singer/songwriter style which I suppose had started with Cat Stevens a year or so earlier?

“New Morning”, originally released at the start of the 70’s, is retrospectively credited as the start of Dylan’s then re-birth in public awareness and a type of album which ultimately led to “Blood…” and the (even better IMHO) follow-up “Desire”

I can’t remember much about “New Morning” and couldn’t name you one tune from it now. I know I picked it up someone quite cheaply – Woolworth’s bargain racks again? – and, after just one listen, decided it wasn’t for me.

It looks like I previewed it for and tried to palm my errant purchase off on Tim, who had previously worked with me at  Lancaster & Crook.

Fingers crossed!

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January 11th 1975

‘Started new Job – GREAT!”

Seems as if I was a little more excited to be at Francis Records than I was on ANY day I ventured to Lancaster & Crook supermarket, doesn’t it?

I really did fall into the new job very quickly too, revelling in the fact that I was now one of ‘those guys’ behind the counter who I admired and envied so much. Suddenly my opinion on music – for whatever it was worth – held some sway. (“Yes sir, have you ever heard Aphrodite’s Child?“)

Do I remember my first ever sale? Somewhat weirdly in what has otherwise been an utter desert of memories, I do. Elton John’s double opus “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road“. Do I remember the price. Reverting to type… nope!

Mrs Francis was a quirky old stick to work for. I guess in time – and certainly when I ended up with my own store – I eventually understood just why she only ever wanted things done her way. Because, ostensibly, her way worked. She was adamant about how every sale had to be processed, but when you’re 17 years old it just seemed ‘petty’.

This was before the days of big (even small) fancy tills. Every sale was written in a simple duplicate book, the top page of every ‘paired twin” duly rubber stamped with Francis Records’ address and phone number. The pages in these books weren’t even self-copying, thus requiring a succession of little sheets of carbon paper.

As well as handwriting the customer’s receipt, Derek and I had to ensure we also wrote the details of any transaction down on a “daily sales sheet”, basically the top page of a writing pad sitting somewhere in the near vicinity. Whilst we were able to conduct cash sales ourselves, any cheque or credit/debit card sale HAD to be handled – at least initially – by Mrs Francis… awkward if she happened not to be around at that very moment. In these circumstances we had to run downstairs and see John in the classical department and ask him to handle the sale. Bizarre, but true. However, cash WAS king so the incidents of credit or cheque sales were (perhaps surprisingly nowadays) admittedly rare.

Customers would come to the counter with their LP requirements sleeved in plastic covers which we would then fill from the masterbags in the racks behind us. People would have to ASK for singles (45’s) as there were scant few ‘picture sleeves’ in those days for customers to browse through. Cassettes were a little more problematical as the racks required a key to open them.. and Mrs Francis had the key. Again, if she wasn’t around John had to be summoned from downstairs.

Customers’ purchases would be placed in a 13″ or 8″ square paper bag advertising the Francis Records name. If we sold a poster we would wrap & tape a bag around it by way of some strange ‘proof of purchase’.

Mrs Francis DID teach me – from this early age – the ‘right and proper’ way to answer a telephone call in a manner that made the caller feel respected. It’s something I never forgot and I used pretty much the same style of greeting 11 years later when I opened my own shop.

One thing that I did of my accord – maybe at my Dad’s suggestion? – was wearing a tie to work. Whilst Mrs Francis would have been quite happy for me to wear more casual clothes, I actually spivved myself up a little each week, preferring decent trousers, a crisply ironed shirt (thanks Mum!) and, yes (the ultimate establishment icon), a tie.

Little did I know that this day in 1975 would represent the very beginning what eventually turned out to be an almost 22 year ‘romance’ with the music (and/or video) industry.

So, a belated THANK YOU Mrs Francis for giving me this early opportunity. Not just for kick-starting my eventual career but for handing me that inate ability that all record shop workers have for being somewhat dismissive and sneering of other people’s music collections!

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January 4th 1975

“Mr Ward did not need me so had day off. Sarah’s party – Rubbish”

Would Mr Ward – my boss at Lancaster & Crook – ever see me again? 

I seem to remember that once I turned 17 (in just 3 days time pop-pickers!) he would have to pay me more per hour than he did at 16, so maybe he was edging me out slowly to try to save wages? 

I suppose my job there gave me a little ‘structure’ and ‘work experience’ but I can’t say it was enjoyable. Mr Ward was a very unforgiving boss, short of any sense of humour. He gave everyone a hit list of things to do each day and expected them 100% done by closing time, even if he interrupted your flow with other projects to do ‘on the fly’. This included having to execute home deliveries on that “bloody bike”. 

"Lankies" as it is now - a rather tatty-looking Co-Op convenience store beset with regular vandalism

I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt though. The early seventies must have been challenging for any business owner in the UK. Inflation, the cost of living and the three-day week plus those power cuts must have created an air of uncertainty for everyone, making them nervous about spending money. Maybe Mr Ward thrived on the challenge? – some people do – and just wanted to make sure his stake in the Supermarket (I believe he co-owned it?) was secure. 

He certainly treated his full-time and part-time staff differently. He had two full-time employees when I was there; Roger, his assistant manager,  and a woman (Sharon?) who ran the deli and meats counter. They always seemed to be able to reason with him. We underlings however were supposed to be seen and not heard, just get on with our jobs and be grateful for whatever meagre wage packet we received. 

Years later my Mum would also end up getting a part-time job at “Lankies” – as it came to be known colloquially – and she HATED Mr Ward who always treated her like a total idiot. Part of the problem was that my Mum – employed as a cashier – was not trained properly in all the aspects of ringing someone up, and so was always having to call for help. Mr Ward would invariably come over, tap a few buttons on the till, get the customer sorted out and then berate my Mum for not knowing what to do. He would never show her what she was doing wrong, just assume she should know. Mum lasted at “Lankies” no more than a few weeks, but she was later ‘tapped up’ by the small newsagent next door to perform till duties there. Where she excelled… at least until boredom and her argumentative nature got the better of her. 

Meanwhile my social ‘whirl’ for the day was a party at Sarah’s. Looks as if it wasn’t very memorable?… other than being “rubbish”. However, that could have just been my personal code for “never got off with anyone”

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January 3rd 1975

“Did absolutely zero all day. waited for phone. have to see them at 4 mon”

In case you’re curious I was waiting to hear about an interview for a new Saturday job.

I think I had finally had enough of stocking shelves at Lancaster & Crook, and definitely enough of having to go out on that bloody delivery bike.

Now I was a “college boy” my eyes were on a bigger prize, as far away from tins of soup and old grannies wanting fresh bread as you could get.

My life could change at 4 o’clock on Monday Jan 6th 1975. Will it? Wait and see.

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January 2nd 1975

“Nig came round in the afternoon”

What? You were maybe expecting more?

Yes, this 1975 diary is getting off to a lacklustre start isn’t it?

Maybe I should use this lull in the proceedings to do a brief “cast of characters” primer for the years ahead?…

Nig could probably be described as my best mate at this time. He lived just around the corner, and we spent loads of time in and out of each other’s houses.

Via Nig I also got to know other Fair Oak lads like Malc (later my best man) and the four Martins (P,P, T, & R)

Tim was someone I worked with at Lancaster & Crook supermarket. He was the other main member of my (now,sadly defunct) “band”

Nobby was my very good mate from Nursling. He will be mentioned  a lot through 1975 and beyond. He attended many of the same classes and courses as I did at Barton Peveril.

Other people from Nursling and Rownhams who I palled around with included Norm, RickieDASmutters, and Judy Gina (the Butler sisters)

In my Art classes at college I was good friends with Nobby, Neville, Derek, Sarah & Paul D. Our Art tutors were Tessa D’arcy Orders – an adorable “hippie” lady – and Roy Godfrey – a somewhat haphazard and eccentric tweed-wearer who was always pulling his socks up. (In a weird twist of fate in the early 80’s, I would not only end up employing Mr Godfrey’s son for a company I was running at the time, but I would also date his rather delightful daughter for a few months)

During my Technical Drawing classes I mucked about with (again) Nobby plus Tony, Bob, Mick & Nigel (not to be confused with Nig). Our tutors were Mr Brown (who always smelled of cigarettes) and a firm, but fair, belligerent Scotsman by the name of Bill Pollock. Many of us also did a “Technical Studies” class – the basis of which I can’t remember (metalwork? woodwork?) – where we were taught by Mr Whitfield.

It’s hardly worth mentioning my English Lit classes. Except to say I was tutored by a stiff-collared very strange man called Archie Benham whose face went BRIGHT red and who would visibly shudder with barely contained rage anytime a student pissed him off.  I was one one of those students.

In order to remember one of those tutor names I had to refer to my old school reports which reminded me – and you may find this as funny as me – that I also took typewriting classes! Something else I wasted my time with at college obviously?

All these people and more will appear from time to time as this diary unveils its dirty little secrets.

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(1974 Albums) Various Taped Recordings

I have reported in some detail all the records I bought during 1974.

The back pages of the diary also shows a selection of taped recordings I owned – many of which have already been discussed in my 1972 and 1973 entries.

However, there is a tiny handful of other albums I apparently recorded to C-90’s in 1974 that certainly seem worthy of a mention or two….

Clouds – Scrapbooking
Clouds were a Scottish Prog Rock band, unique in not having a lead guitarist amongst its line-up. They signed to Chrysalis Management around the same time as Jethro Tull but never enjoyed the support or public acclaim that Ian Anderson’s one-legged flute antics nurtured.

“The Clouds Scrapbook” was a concept album marketed as being some kind of a companion piece to The Beatles’ “Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band”. I think we all know how that marketing idea went?

I’m pretty certain I borrowed this album from Tim B who I worked with at Lancaster & Crook. Years later I believe I also bought the LP for 69p from Woolworth’s clearance racks. I never hung onto it and would/could not recognise one single track from it these days.

Leo Sayer – Silverbird
Leo Sayer’s first claim to pop fame was as co-writer of Roger Daltrey’s debut solo single, “Giving It All Away“.

His own career was launched by 60’s pop idol turned actor, Adam Faith. Sayer’s second single “The Show Must Go On” – which Leo performed (strangely) in a Pierrot clown costume – reached Number 2 on the UK chart, a feat which then kickstarted a run of no less than seven consecutive Top 10 singles, including the worldwide #1 smash “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing

“Silverbird” was his debut album and it reached Number 2 on the UK Album Chart. It remains a fixture in my collection and a track or two occasionally pops up on shuffle. The songs are a little bit dated but still well composed and performed. “Oh Wot a Life” is a favourite of mine.

Two bits of Leo Sayer trivia… The first is that Leo now lives in Australia and became a fully fledged Australian citizen in 2009. The second is that “Leo Sayer” is cockney rhyming slang for “all dayer”… an all day drinking session. No wonder he feels like dancing!

Alan Hull – Pipedream
Straight off the bat I will state that “Pipedream” remains one of my favourite albums of all time.

Alan Hull was a member of Newcastle-based folk rock band Lindisfarne who, in the early seventies, enjoyed a run of singalong hits including “Lady Eleanor“, “Meet Me on the Corner” and “Fog on the Tyne

Ructions amongst the band around 1973 resulted in the band breaking up. Three members went off to form Jack the Lad, whilst Alan Hull recorded and released “Pipedream” before eventually agreeing to be part of an “all-new” Lindisfarne. (It didn’t last long, he disbanded the group again in 1975)

“Pipedream” is an album chock-full of lovely gentle little songs all featuring Hull’s pretty unique and pleasing vocal style. Personally, I don’t think there is a bad tune on it and I recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who likes singer/songwriters. I think my favourites are “I Hate to See you Cry“, “Justanothersadsong”, “Country Gentleman’s Wife” and the opener, “Breakfast”

Hull died suddenly at the age of just 50 – of a heart thrombosis – in 1995. A real loss to the musical firmament.

Funnily enough, as much I like this album I have never even been vaguely tempted to investigate his other solo work. Perhaps it’s about time I did?

Yes – The Yes Album
Although “Fragile” will always remain my favourite Yes album, I’ll admit that (and despite the whole ELP vs Yes rivalry that existed back then) I have also frequently dabbled in their others… “The Yes Album” being a case in point.

For a start it kicks off with “Yours Is No Disgrace“, perhaps one of the best prog-rock album openings of all time. I love the way the Hammond slips in round the back of the drum and guitar intro… it almost gives me goosebumps.

Then there’s the almost hillbilly-esque Steve Howe guitar solo “Clap“, and I suppose “Starship Trooper” can’t be considered too shabby can it?.. even if I personally feel it’s a little too rambling for its own good.

Side Two offers the earworm of “I’ve Seen All Good People” and… well, precious little else as far as I am concerned.  (I’m sure there will be die-hard Yes fans who will disagree with me.)

I’ve never actually owned “The Yes Album” on any format (other than the recording I made in 1974… that counts, right?) although when my wife and I merged our transatlantic CD collections I was happy to see it amongst hers and duly ripped the songs mentioned above across to my i-tunes

Bryan Ferry – These Foolish Things
If we ever wanted to know what kind of singing route Bryan Ferry – and thus Roxy Music – would eventually take, we only have to listen to this 1973 solo album of ‘classic standards’ crooned by the man himself.

It’s as eclectic a choice as it is good. There are certain songs that I heard for the very first time when Ferry sang them (“It’s my Party“, “Don’t Ever Change”, “Loving You is Sweeter than Ever” & “River of Salt”) whilst there are others (“Sympathy for the Devil“, “Don’t Worry Baby” & “Piece of my Heart“) which I actually prefer over the originals!

His cover of Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” was and remains peculiar, whilst the magnificently crooned title track, “These Foolish Things“, cemented Ferry’s by-then reputation as a “lounge lizard”

What’s amazing about this album is that the concept – covering old standards – is as succesful today as it was in 1974. Hell, Rod Stewart’s entire post 1999 career has been founded on doing just that with, and I hope Rod won’t mind saying this, pretty lacklustre results.

Do I still like this album? Yes I do. My caveat is that I think Ferry honed the idea to perfection with the second set of solo covers, “Another Time, Another Place” a year later… an album which I am sure will turn up amongst these diary pages in due course.

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(1974 Album) Fat Mattress – Fat Mattress

Fat what now?

I do believe this is another album purchased “on sale” at one of Eastleigh’s record emporiums. If I was a betting man I’d guess Woolworth’s clearance bins.

In terms of pedigree, Fat Mattress’ is quite the intriguing mish-mash.

The band was formed by Jimi Hendrix’s bassist Noel Redding on the precept that it would allow him more freedom than he was able to enjoy as a member of the Experience.

Redding added Neil Landon, an ex-vocalist with The Ivy League (who had enjoyed a few 60’s hits including “Funny How Love Can Be“) who was also the singer on The Flowerpot Men’s wonderful beach Boys pastiche “Let’s Go To San Francisco” in 1967.

Landon and Redding were joined by guitarist Jim Leverton and drummer Mike Dillon, the latter of whom was snagged – I kid you not – from… Englebert Humperdinck‘s backing band!

Given the Hendrix connection Fat Mattress were quickly signed to the Polydor label in 1969. The same year saw the release of this eponymous debut album, a hit single in Holland, an appearance at the Isle of Wight Festival and a tour of America supporting… let’s see now… oh yes, the Jimi Hendrix Experience! Redding would actually play in BOTH bands every night.

The band released a second album in 1970 (entitled “Fat Mattress 2” – *sigh*) and then… promptly split up.

I know nothing more about this album, could not even tell you the title of one track, let alone hum it. I seem to vaguely recall eventually trading it with one of the guys I worked with at Lancaster & Crook, but for what I can’t remember.

I was obviously still buying albums based on price and ‘on a whim’

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