What was the first record you bought? People my age usually say something cool like Led Zeppelin or The Who. Mine was “Puttin’ on the Ritz” by the Pasadena Roof Orchestra. By the time I was eight I knew all the words to ”Yes, Sir! That’s My Baby” and could whistle perfectly the middle eight of “There’s a Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder”. This may be one of the reasons why I once dragged by sister around Grimsby Town shopping centre trying to buy a cravat.
So while all of my friends were singing along to Bananarama and Jason Donovan, I was expanding my own musical taste to include Roger Whittaker, Foster and Allen (oh, how I loved “Annie’s Song”!) and the Broadway cast of 42nd Street. Then I discovered Queen, ELO, Crosby Stills and Nash, Peter Frampton and Fleetwood Mac. Especially Fleetwood Mac. “Rumours” had as much impact on my life as Sinatra’s “Songs For Swingin’ Lovers”. Like all great art, it’s an album that gets better as I get older. Since I reached 40, I can’t listen to Stevie Nicks sing “Landslide” without reaching for a tissue.
For me, it’s doesn’t matter what decade a song belongs to, it’s always been about the melody. It’s certainly not always the case that all the oldies are the best. There has been some terrible crap written and recorded since Rudy Vallée learned how to croon into a microphone. What we call the Great American Songbook is the distillation of 50 years of writing. It’s the best of the best; a tiny handful from countless 1000s of songs. That’s why it’s harder to find excellence in the here and now. We have to wade through the rubbish hoping to stumble onto something special. We’re like metal detectorists treasure-seeking across a musical landscape. Looking back, even to the 80s, the good stuff has floated to the surface and that’s what we remember.
So, what was your first record? Maybe it’s time to find a comfy chair, make a cup of tea and give it another listen. The cravat is optional.