When it sounded better

Regular readers (are there any?) may have noticed my dad comes up a bit in my ramblings. There was even a photo of him in one of my personal favourite entries. There’s good reason for this, the man is as supportive as he is entertaining. He’s also an inspiration and with the way my family has shaped my character it was inevitable that I would be able to mine them for blog ideas.

But now he’s started to horn in on my territory! He’s written a wordy, thoughtful piece on the importance of music and the way it has impacted his life and it is good. So here it is, posted in full for you to enjoy. I post this as a professional courtesy and I hope that the message is received. Because if you try and steal my readers (are there any?) with any more gold of this calibre it will mean war old man. War.

Anyway, enjoy. It’s really good. And he’s also included scans of his original Pink Floyd ticket and concert programme. Bonus content!



I have a strange habit of lying in the bath with a glass of wine and my trusty MP3 player set to random play, plugged into a tatty little battery-powered speaker. Normally either a copy of Classic Rock or a copy of Private Eye is browsed through whilst “old shit” plays in the background; my kids always used that description when chiding me for replacing old vinyl with old CD’s when visiting music stores.

Tonight (and for the first time in a long time) I listened to Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond Parts VI – IX”; it’s the end of the album for those that have not heard it. I don’t know why but hearing the music through that crappy little speaker took me back to 1975, the year the album was re

It seems incredible in this era of complete accessibility to all forms of entertainment via a plethora of technological platforms but in that year, Pink Floyd premiered the album “Wish You Were Here”, pre-release, with an uninterrupted playing on Alan Freeman’s Saturday rock show on Radio 1. I had a vivid and also sad memory of my teenage self and my good friend John (who is sadly no longer with us), committing the moment to cassette tape via my parents Grundig FM radio wired through my Amstrad amp to a cheap cassette deck.

The odd thing is I have lis
tened to that album on many occasions over the years but of course those occasions have mainly involved the true splendour of the music pumped through many watts of sound system or my ludicrously expensive headphones. This time, hearing it in a more stripped-down format courtesy of the woeful speaker capability, I heard the fantastic guitar work of David Gilmour much as I heard it that Saturday in 1975 via Alan Sugar’s “budget” equipment and Alan Freeman’s truly excellent radio show. It made me quite nostalgic for times long gone. Just imagine, a DJ that could get away with back to back jingles sampled from Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein” and Bizet’s “March Of The Toreadors”.

Having puzzled over why this should have been such an enjoyment, I was reminded of a comment from a sound guy in a small studio in Grafton Street in Cambridge when our enthusiastic but ultimately unsuccessful teenage band tried a recording for fame. The sound engineer told me that once the recording had been made, he would play it back through a 3 inch speaker to see how it sounded; after all if it was going to be a hit (fat chance) the world would have to hear it on a transistor radio!

John and I had seen Pink Floyd live in the period between “Dark Side Of The Moon” and “Wish You Were Here” when the North East’s premier venue, Newcastle City Hall, was deemed unsuitable for the Floyd’s quadraphonic PA so the nearby Odeon cinema was “converted” for the show. Songs were trialled during that tour that ended up on both the “Wish You Were Here” and the “Animals” albums. Incredibly, these works in progress were in the comic book style official concert programme, lyrics and all.

The closest thing to music piracy in those days was a 12 inch vinyl offering cut from a recording through a microphone hung over a monitor at a gig by one of the road crew. Those “bootlegs” re-defined the humorous term of “Lo-Fi” as did a bunch of iffy looking cassettes your mate’s dad brought back from overseas.

When another friend’s elder brother left for academia (Middlesex Poly) we inherited a little business running bus trips to gigs in Newcastle from our North Yorkshire homeland. Over a few years myself and a small bunch of friends saw gigs that are the stuff of legends. Mott The Hoople with Queen as the support act (!!), Lynyrd Skynyrd, Deep Purple with Nazareth supporting them, Eric Clapton with Muddy Waters, unbelievable. Mega festivals including Knebworth performances by Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd also featured. A lot of smaller and ultimately influential acts such as John Martyn and Roy Harper were enjoyed too. Roy’s “One Of Those Days In England” album has some truly sublime music on it.

When we married, the only two albums my wife and I had in common were “One Of Those Days In England” and “Backless” by Eric Clapton, the centre gatefold cover of which featuring the view from the stage of the crowd at an open air gig at Blackbush Aerodrome in Surrey, a gig I was at.

Before the advent of the endless “Best Of” albums, in the 70’s, the live album was the only way your meagre funds would allow acquisition of a reasonable selection of any band’s material. Some live albums were average to say the least but some still shine as the best of British rock and in no particular order I name Thin Lizzy’s “Live and Dangerous”, Wishbone Ash’s “Live Dates”, Deep Purple’s “Made In Japan”, Whitesnake’s “Live In The Heart Of The City” and Rory Gallagher’s “Live In Europe” as the pinnacle of said genre. These were invariably enjoyed on decidedly low-tech equipment ranging from Woolwoth’s record players to Comet’s deal of the week.

In the current climate of purists insisting vinyl offers the more authentic sound quality rather than CD or MP3, perhaps listening to music though a 3 inch speaker really is the real thing…


Cheers Dad. Oh and consider the kick up the arse I probably needed, normal blog service will resume very shortly.


2 thoughts on “When it sounded better

  1. Neb-Maat-Re says:

    I don’t suppose you still have that tape of the Alan Freeman broadcast of WYWH?

    The album was remixed by BBC engineers in their own Matrix H quadraphonic, making it a unique mix. Would love to get a copy.

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