Look At It This Way - March 19, 2016

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I would love to say the very first record I bought was something cool.

It wasn’t. It was the Laughing Gnome. By David Bowie. In his pre-cool days. It may, horror of horrors, have even been a cover version. I can remember the lyrics to this day. Ha ha ha, hee hee hee, I’m a laughing gnome and you can’t catch me.

Try living that down - well, once you’ve all stopped singing it. Sorry.

I remember where I bought it. Upstairs at the old Co-op, Cleveleys. Right next to my very first pair of tights. Bear Brand ‘flesh’ coloured that looked like no flesh I had ever seen before. I wore them for the school production of Toad of Toad Hall as I played a ferret or something similarly furry and brown. I think Mole tried to cop off with me.

The neighbouring rack used to sell cover versions of the top 10 pop songs within days of issue - although there was always something a bit off and James Last chorus-like about them. They’d have added chirpy la-lahs to Led Zep and Pink Floyd if they could have got away with it.

“Shine on you crazy diamond. You were caught on the crossfire - la lah - of childhood and stardom - la lah - blown on the steel breeze. La lah lah lah lah lah.”

I’m strolling down memory lane because in a moment of madness I agreed to cover showbusiness for this paper for a brief stint - and found myself at a Let It Be photocall the other day (I remember attending a concert by the real thing at the ABC in the 1960s) and even writing about the Bay City Rollers. Or whatever incarnation features Les McKeown. I hated the Bay City Rollers but I still know the words of Shang-A-Lang via some strange process of teenage osmosis which seemed to come with heightened hormones.

Like many of us older timers - and I’m 60 this year - I got shut of my vinyl long ago. Regretted it almost immediately. Compact discs didn’t have the same tactile pleasure as bearing a record carefully to the deck, placing the stylus carefully upon it and standing by waiting for those scratches where you knew the needle would jump. There are still some songs I sing today complete with the rep-rep-repetition born of a scratched record. Just as I still recall songs at the point where I’d have to pause them to rewind the cassette tape.

I’ve bought a lot of vinyl of late. Old vinyl, not new ridiculously over priced vinyl. Much of it at charity shops or Fleetwood Market - although some of my choices were too close to a stack of unwanted Gary Glitter records for comfort.

I hit on the idea that a record deck would be a great gift for my 80 year old mum, a means of reuniting her with records long lost, and all the associated memories.

In fact it went horribly wrong as the records were the touchstone to too many bad memories.

“Your dad and I had a row when we were dancing at the Melody to this one,” said my mum.

She liked Mario Lanza’s Be My Love, for our late dad had courted her with such during his national service. Doris Day’s Secret Love was their song, too.

“But never liked this one. He was such a drip. Your Auntie Barbara liked him.”

That was Vic Damone - and Street Where You Live - banished back to the carers’ charity shop. A fairground archive album with a ghastly version of Puppet on a String followed. Then Perry Como. He made us both cry as Magic Moments/Catch a Falling Star carried us back to buying a last EP for my dad before he died.

The Carpenters proved almost as depressing with the world’s most mawkish song - Goodbye to Love. It was left to Bert Kaemphfert to lift the mood - we learned to dance to Swinging Safari. Swinging meant something different back then.

We also learned to bunk off ballroom dancing lessons to browse but never buy in record shops in Blackpool.

Back in the day we placed staff at the likes of Cobweb Records on pretty much the same pedestal as the pop performers they promoted. They played great music, they looked the part, and it wasn’t a big chain. But to save money my brother still recorded the top 10 every week to play until the tape and patience wore thin.

So why am I telling you this? Two reasons: April 16 is Record Store Day and Noel Gallagher’s Flying Birds are among high profile performers to have produced exclusive vinyl for release at the hundreds of independent stores still left in the UK.

And Jackie the Musical comes to Blackpool next month. The 70s. Now that’s what I call music. I think.

Friend or folly council choice

I like Doreen Lofthouse. I like the breadth of her vision for her home port and her business.

I love the fact she believes in enhancing the aesthetics of the Fylde and putting something back into the community through the Lofthouse Foundation.

And I adore the statue of mother, child and dog looking out to sea which was gifted to the port by the family. It’s as much part of the town’s living heritage today as the Eric Morecambe statue at Morecambe. Children flock to it, fishermen’s families place flowers upon it, and passersby pause to pat the little dog on the head.

So frankly if Doreen (pictured) wants to build a 30ft replica lighthouse and stick it in what passes for her ‘back garden’ - a sprawling estate in Thornton - that’s all right with me. I’d probably do the same if I had the money and inclination and had made my fortune out of Fisherman’s Friend lozenges.

But there was a real risk it was going to end in tears after planners recommended refusing retrospective planning permission.

No doubt it pleased the “there’s one law for the rich” brigade but it seemed a poor do in terms of the family’s legacy to the town. And there had only been one objection. One.

Thanks for seeing the light, councillors. Doreen. enjoy your ‘folly’!