A question that crops up frequently in magazine interviews with artists of all stripes, is the one about their first record. It’s almost obligatory in those thumbnail Q & As that are dashed off by e-mail to fill half a column. It’s easy to spot the bullshitters – the one’s who claim it was an LP by the Velvet Underground or Black Sabbath, or something iconic like “Heartbreak Hotel” (when a quick look at their biog reveals that they would have been either 6 months old or 19 at the time – making such a claim doubly unbelievable). For most of us, it was probably a cheesy chart tune obtained with a birthday gift token or some scraped together pocket money.
My house wasn’t a particularly musical one. We had one of those radio-gramophone contraptions that had a deck and built in amp and radio, but there weren’t many records. My parents were older than those of most of my peers, so the beat and rock eras pretty much passed them by (although in her last years, mum developed a baffling devotion to John Peel’s show, primarily for the man himself rather than the records he played.) What records they did have were a motley collection of big band collections, light classical and a few pop 78s that me and my brother obsessed over – Johnny Duncan’s “Last Train to San Fernando”, Mario Lanza’s drinking song from The Student Prince, the Forbidden Planet theme (not actually from the film, as I later discovered), the theme from the film A Kid for Two Farthings and “Rock Around the Clock”. All of these dated from well before I was born (I’m not that bloody old).
My first record – given as a present – was the soundtrack to Disney’s The Sleeping Beauty. Quite why, I still don’t know. I’m sure I’ve not seen the movie to this day. The first record I actually bought with my own money, though, was “You Can Do Magic” by Limmie and the Family Cookin’. It wasn’t even the one I wanted! “Rumours” by Hot Chocolate was what I’d set my heart on (I don’t even remember how that one goes any more), but it wasn’t in the chart, and so wasn’t displayed in the shop. Rather than ask, a panic provoked by shyness or dim-wittedness (or both) led me to point at the first thing I could see in the top thirty that I liked. Thus Limmie.
The record’s long since disappeared off to some jumble sale or charity shop, but I still remember the bright mauve Avco label, and the company’s rather garish sleeve. “You Can Do Magic” is a sweet, light pop soul tune. Limmie’s singing is a bit like a female Michael Jackson (in his pre-teen Jackson Five persona). The B side featured a male lead and was called “Spider”. Not heard it for years but I think the chorus went something like “spin, spin, spin your web around spider” or something of that ilk. I thought it was great, and I especially liked the fact that nobody else at school (save my brother) knew it – my first taste of cliquey, musical one-upmanship!
My first music magazine was a thing called Disco 45. It was little more than a collection of hit lyrics and PR puff pieces, printed on the sort of slightly superior newsprint that Private Eye uses. I used to cut out and keep all the songs I liked, and stick them in a scrapbook. Nearly all were classic seventies sweet soul – the (Detroit) Spinners, Chi-Lites, Stylistics, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes and forgotten acts like Limmie and co. It’s strange to think that within two or three years I was listening to Led Zeppelin, the Doors, Love, the Clash, Wire (and obviously some things I’m less proud of – ELP’s Tarkus, for example). I never lost that affection for that pre-disco seventies soul era, though. First loves may not be the greatest, or the longest lasting. But they were first, and that is something that no other can ever be.