I grew up in a deaf family, and aside from a children’s tape recorder we would sometimes record our voices on, we didn’t have anything that could play music in the house.
So I only discovered music at the age of 11, when a friend gave me his second-hand record player. Our next door neighbours soon gave me an old record they didn’t want – Revolver by The Beatles, and from then on, I was Beatles obsessed.
I found that my £9 a week paper round money (for six freezing cold mornings!) went a long way at second-hand record shops in Oxford and Banbury, the nearest towns to where I grew up.
With repeated listens, I could figure out the lyrics to some of the early Beatles songs, like Love Me Do, but to figure out the rest, I bought books full of their lyrics and learned them all.
My record-collecting days ended though, when my family bought me a CD player one Christmas when I was 14. Over the years, the old record player broke and my record collection (of around 50 LPs and 100 singles) migrated from my old room, to my parents loft.
Where it stayed, until this year, when my wife bought me a turntable with built-in speakers for Christmas. That gave me the perfect excuse to go into the loft and bring my collection back to London.
Picking up these huge squares of card with vinyl discs inside brought back a lot of memories. So did hearing the odd crackle, and skips in the songs as the needle hit a scratch.
But what I hadn’t realised was how fascinated Toddler (don’t worry, not her real name!) would be.
She loved the spinning big black discs and the way they produced sound when a needle was placed on their grooves. She was also fascinated with the big images on the front of the records.
As is the way with children, you have to go along with what they’re suddenly obsessed by, so one sunny afternoon we put all the records out on the living room floor, and I made up a story about each one.
The Beatles, I told her, were best friends who loved making up their own sign language in the snow (the front cover of Help).
While Paul McCartney’s RAM was an album made by a farmer who, ahem, loved his sheep.
And the Pet Shop Boys’ album Actually was about two friends, one of whom had narcolepsy.
Ok, so one day she’s going to realise Dad made it all up (let’s hope she can learn to forgive) but she loved the idea that these great big photos related to real people, and music she could then choose to hear.
It reminded me of something that seemed so magical about collecting records when I was a young lad – the massive great big images on the front cover, and the artwork within. Safe to say that CDs don’t hold the same visual allure for this Deafie.
For the last few weeks, I’ve let Toddler choose a different record to listen to every day. I’m not sure she likes the music, but she keeps choosing Paul McCartney’s eponymous first album simply because it has cherries on the front.
The way she’s related to vinyl has made me realise that however antiquated it is these days, to children records are so much more intuitive than an iPod, which as Charlie Brooker once said, makes music into an excel document.
My iPod might hold a thousand songs, but even when Toddler is old enough to scan through all the artists and songs, would she have any clue from their names alone how their music might sound?
All of which has made me start collecting vinyl again via eBay – so I have some music in a format my children can engage with and discover – at least until they get their own mini iPods in a few years time.
Perish the thought.
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