Chapter 3: "Movin' aní a-groovin'"

For a brief run on Thursday nights in 1960, Cliff Richard and The Shadows had a TV show. The sight of Hank Marvin playing up the neck in the cutaways of his Fender was always the talking point on the way to school next day. It didn't do so much for me. Neither was I particularly taken with the clean, treble sound of Hank's Fender. I liked FBI, but most of the other tunes seemed tame and I generally preferred the uptempo numbers they did with Cliff. On 2/6 pocket money each week, I managed to acquire all of their singles and was particularly fond of Please don't tease, as well as many of the 'B' sides of those singles, including the uptempo numbers Cliff and The Shadows featured in their act like Willie and the hand jive, Mumblin' Mosie and Nine times out of ten. I also liked the latin feel of Don't be mad at me, Thinking of our love and Fall in love with you and was moved by the opening chords of D in Love which was the 'B' side to their hit I love you, and not dissimilar to a better recorded version of the opening to Rock Island Line.

My friend Gerald Walters had a Dansette record player and through him I discovered Let there be drums by Sandy Nelson (which Dad loathed because of the repetitive drumming), Duane Eddy, Don't you just know it by The Fendermen, Johnny and the Hurricanes Red River Rock All of these featured robust, bassy, rhythmic guitar sounds and I also enjoyed the guitar sound of Brontosaurus stomp by the Piltdown Men, as well as almost anything by the Everly Brothers, particularly Bird Dog. Later, through his appearance in the film of the Newport Jazz Festival "Jazz on a Summer's day", I was to discover the guitar of Chuck Berry. Crucially as well, in a second hand shop when I was trying to collect Elvis Presley, I took a chance and bought One Night. I was knocked out by the sound of the beefy, acoustic-sounding guitar and later was pleased to discover that Elvis had played guitar himself on the track. I can see now from these preferences, that I was meant to be a rhythm guitarist.

The price of a second hand single was usually 1/6d, which still left a shilling from a week's pocket money. I could happily spend half an hour each week among the second hand smells of The Exchange and Mart in Addlestone, engaging with the vinyl. It was important that the experience was solitary, as later it was to be the case with second hand bookshops; I don't like competing with others for space while I do it. The smell of that old box of vinyl is difficult to describe. It was waxy and dusty and compounded with the stale paper scent of old sleeves. I loved it. Later, I extended my searches to coffee bars for ex-juke box records. These were usually in better condition, although if they came from a juke box which played records in a sideways position, they often seemed to be warped; for a while I owned a very wobbly James Burton guitar solo on Ricky Nelson's It's up to you. Each record had the middle missing and was invariably in the wrong sleeve. Ex-juke box record hunting required more front, because coffee bar staff didn't really like me spending too long looking, swapping sleeves for the 'right' one and blocking access to their counter.

Naturally, there were not as many records to plough through as there are today and it became easy to take short cuts with practice. While I was looking for Cliff records, I looked only for the green Columbia label with, hopefully a sleeve with what were meant to be coloured discs, but looked more like balloons. There was no need to look at that label once I had the records I wanted (other singles found frequently were by Russ Conway and Acker Bilk). Columbia's stable partner, the scarlet Parlophone label with Charlie Drake, The Temperance Seven and Adam Faith (but I never saw his records second hand), had nothing I wanted. Another EMI label, the mauve then later blue HMV, had boasted Elvis for a while, so I looked at these records more carefully. They had Johnny Kidd and the Pirates and The Olympics, both of whom I bought. A rarely seen EMI label was Capitol. Those I did see were usually by Nat King Cole, but I managed to buy it for Gene Vincent and The Piltdown Men. There were two yellow labels I used to see. One was another EMI label, MGM, which released Connie Francis, Conway Twitty, Tommy Edwards and other names I skipped over. The record I saw most often on MGM was Jimmy Jones Good timin'/Handyman, which I'd never heard of and didn't buy. When I heard it eventually, I regretted not having bought it. The other yellow label was Oriole, which might have had Little Stevie Wonder's Fingertips but usually had Maureen Evans Like I do, which was all right but I wouldn't buy it.

The sight of the orange and white gong bashing logo of Top Rank could raise my hopes, but these were usually quickly dashed when the record turned out to be by Craig Douglas. Perseverance had its reward, however, and I was able to buy U S (later Gary) Bonds, Teen Beat by Sandy Nelson (a better guitar riff than on Let there be drums), The Fendermen and B Bumble and the Stingers on the label. I ignored the mauve Pye label with Petula Clark and Jimmy Justice, and the blue Decca label with Mike Preston. Phillips records were rare and were usually by Frankie Vaughan. There was no doubt about it, all the best stuff was on black labels. This was either, like Elvis and Floyd Cramer on RCA or, and this is what took the time, the eye-catching black and silver semi-circles of the London American label or its plain black predecessor London, with a triangular centre piece. For preference, London singles should have the striped sleeves (fawn/blue or blue/white). It seemed that anything on the label was worth buying to hear and I did. The Everlys, Johnny Burnette's Little boy sad, Del Shannon, Ketty Lester, Nino Tempo and April Stevens, Bobby Darin and anything from Phil Spector. Others on black labels were Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Duane Eddy, Johnny and the Hurricanes, There was a black British label, Pye Piccadilly, with Joe Brown and Jackie Lynton and they were good.

Some artists lost the muse when they moved to different coloured labels. I bought and was sorry, Duane Eddy's Caravan on Parlophone and the Everlys' Temptation on Warner Bros (a pretty label, mind, with different coloured arrows at the edge, it looked great spinning on a juke box). These and others disappeared in the to and fro of swapping at school and elsewhere. There were two for one swaps and I once gave two 45s for twelve 78s which included Buddy's Oh boy, Elvis's Jailhouse rock, Jerry Lee Lewis's Great balls of fire, Marvin Rainwater's Whole lotta woman, Lonnie Donegan's Puttin' on the style and Cumberland Gap and Johnny Duncan's Last train to San Fernando. It was a good deal, even after getting rid of The Army Game and Harry Belafonte. The beauty of buying second hand, was that records were reasonably cheap and you were certain to be able to move them on if you didn't like them or grew tired of them.

When I was collecting Cliff or Elvis I frequently took a chance on the condition of the record, preferring to have a poor copy than none at all. I lovingly washed each purchase in warm, soapy water and imagined fondly that this improved the really bad specimens.

Copyright © John Scott Cree 2001

Click here for Chapter 6: "A strange hobby"

Back to Homepage