First published on JVTV in November 2017
Music has been a constant presence in my life since childhood. However, during my early years, the music choices were largely influenced by my mother, and other relatives. Our Freemans Catalogued Hi-Fi, which we paid for at £2.75 for 52 weeks, often played Tammy Wynette, Billy Jo Spears, and Elvis Presley, with occasional tracks from Glen Campbell, Jim Reeves, and other country stars. Although my father rarely took charge of the turntable, I do remember him playing Englebert Humperdinck’s “Please Release Me” multiple times during his frequent demands for a divorce.
The Versey family was known for hosting the most entertaining parties. The festivities would begin with Mother’s selection of Elvis and country tunes, followed by Uncle Chris’s Beatles repertoire. The children would request the latest kiddie sensation such as The Wombles, while everyone tried to prevent Uncle Paul from accessing the turntable and his cherished Bob Dylan collection. Whenever it was his turn, fists would fly and yet another scratch would mar Highway 61 Revisited before the celebrations came to an abrupt halt.
I didn’t start seriously buying my own records until I turned 16 and began earning my own money. Before that, I relied on receiving record tokens for Christmas and birthdays, and occasionally being treated to a purchase when my dad had extra money from overtime, rather than spending it all on alcohol. One such occasion was in the early 1970s, when I was only four years old. I have a memory of buying The Wombles’ Remember You’re a Womble, although I can’t recall the actual act of purchasing it. Nevertheless, it stands out as one of the first records that I considered to be mine. The very first record I remember buying for myself was Wings’ Mull of Kintyre, which I got from the now defunct Woolworths.
During the mid to late 1970s, my mother continued to dominate the stereo, while my father occasionally got to listen to Neil Diamond and, of course, the obligatory Englebert. As the 70’s turned into the 80’s, my siblings and I began to acquire record players and tape recorders. Tracie had a particularly impressive record player that could hold at least 20 singles, with one dropping down onto another while the player arm rose up – a very advanced piece of technology for the 1980s.
Tracie used to blast out her Adam and the Ants records, and I remember that one of her boyfriends forgot his OMD LP, which we kept in the dining room cupboard for a long time. During that period, Chas n Dave were very popular, and we ended up adding their Jamboree Bag LP to our music collection. Even now, almost four decades later, I still remember the songs about beer, sideboards, rabbits, Margate, Spurs, and crazy snooker players that infiltrated my mind.
As the early 80s became the mid, I began earning some extra cash by working at the Sunday and Thursday markets and completing occasional paper rounds. Despite this new income, I refrained from purchasing records and instead bought packs of tapes to record songs from the radio. The challenge was to capture the music without any interference from the DJs, such as Tommy Vance and Richard Skinner. However, my efforts were often disrupted by my sisters’ noise or my parents calling us downstairs for dinner.
In the middle of 1986, I left school and found employment in a little shop. However, it was short-lived, and I soon transitioned to painting and decorating on the YTS. Unfortunately, that didn’t last long either as I was mistreated and used as a slave. In response, I urinated in the kettle and served my boiled urine with their afternoon Tetley Tea. As punishment, I was forced to walk home in my underwear with my hairy testicles covered in gloss. But I digress. With a few pounds in my pocket, it was time to buy my first album.
After hearing Happy Hour by The Housemartins at Portman Road during half time, I immediately fell in love with the song. I decided to purchase the LP at Boots, but was disappointed to learn that it had not yet been released. Instead of waiting until the release date, I opted for another album. Little did I know that one’s first musical purchases can stick with them for life and shape their identity. Looking back, I wonder what my first album really says about me. What was it?
Touch Me by Sam Fox
The page 3 model from east London had transitioned from tabloids to Top of the Pops. I was a huge fan of Sam and spent £5 from my first ever adult paycheck on an album that I only remember for the included poster. Looking back, I regret not having laminated the poster!
I eventually bought The Housemartins’ first album. Although it wasn’t my initial record, it was the most significant one as it sparked a love for Paul Heaton that continues to this day. They were solely my band, not my relatives’ or anyone else’s. From The Housemartins to The Beautiful South, Heaton’s solo work, and now with Jacqui Abbott, I have obtained all of his commercially available releases. Despite the streaming sites and other, illegal, means, I continue to purchase physical copies of his albums.
Throughout 86 and 87 I continued to buy LPs including several Bob Dylan, John Lennon’s “Double Fantasy,” Ultravox’s “Greatest Hits,” Madonna’s “True Blue,” The Housemartins’ “People Who Grinned Themselves to Death,” and The Beatles’ “Red Album 1962 to 1965” and “Blue Album 1966 to 1970.”
In 1988, I purchased a CD player from the catalog lady who lived three streets away. Although I had a brand new CD player that could be plugged into my stereo, I didn’t have any CDs. So, I went to Woolies and bought two CDs – a CD Single of “The Theme from S’Express” and Kylie’s debut album. From then on, my CD buying habit grew exponentially. I bought all sorts of music from Sex Pistols, ABBA, Led Zep, Bros, S/A/W, Elvis (thanks to my mother’s influence), The Jam, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, and many more. When I switched to digital in 2007, I had been buying CDs for 19 years. Music Magpie took nearly 600 CDs from me, which adds up to about 32 CDs per year. Considering that I had low wages for most of that time, it’s not too shabby.
Let’s backtrack a little. As the 80s transitioned into the 90s, I expanded my most-played bands to include The Stone Roses, The Sex Pistols, The Proclaimers, and The Jam. Naturally, the next logical step after purchasing music was to experience it live. While I had caught Chas n Dave at The Spa a few times, I had yet to attend any other live performances.
The first concert I attended was Simple Minds at Wembley Arena. Unfortunately, I was not a fan of their music and have no recollection of the performance. It was a letdown for me. The Beautiful South was the next band I saw. I ended up seeing them five times. I can now provide specific dates and details thanks to the internet.
November 9th 1989 @ Kilburn National Ballroom supported by What Katy Did Next
November 20th 1990 @ Hammersmith Odeon
December 13th 1994 @ Brixton Academy
October 29th 1996 @ Shepherds Bush Empire
December 4th 2004 @ Hammersmith Apollo
Chuck in Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott
May 28 2014 @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire
July 2nd 2016 @ Thetford Forest
December 7th 2017 @ Hammersmith Apollo
So by the end of this year it will be 8 times. Again not a great deal in 31 years of following. Once every 4 years.
Edit: since writing this article I have now seen Paul Heaton a total of 13 times as either part of The Beautiful South, Heaton & Abbott or as a solo artist **May 2023**
I’ve attended numerous concerts over the years, including performances by Bob Dylan, Oasis, REM, The Darkness, The Sex Pistols, The Stone Roses, and The Proclaimers – some of which I’ve seen multiple times. And let’s not forget about my unforgettable experience at Glastonbury in 1997. Some of the standout moments from these shows include dancing with a Sex Pistol and a soap star, getting down to The Prodigy while under the influence of hay fever medication and scrumpy, and even rubbing shoulders with a few A-list celebrities!
Dancing with the Stars
On September 24, 2004, I danced with Glen Matlock, a founding member of Sex Pistols, while he was performing with Dead Men Walking. The band was named after the unfortunate fact that each member had played in a group where someone had died. The group consisted of Mike Peters from The Alarm, Kirk Brandon from Spear of Destiny, Bruce Watson from Big Country, Slim Jim Phantom from The Stray Cats, and, of course, Glen from Sex Pistols. My friends Realo and Shevvy accompanied me to The Spa in Felixstowe for the gig. The venue was not packed, and we had been drinking when Shevvy suggested that I join the band on stage. I decided to go for it and made my way to the front of the auditorium, bypassing the two security guards who were busy playing cribbage on the side of the stage. However, one of the guards caught my shirt and tore off all the buttons, revealing my somewhat large belly to the crowd’s cheers and jeers. I ended up dancing alongside Glen, but the guard grabbed me again to remove me from the stage. Fortunately, Glen convinced him to let me return to my seat.
June 30th 2012 and my dancing with a soap star during the long-awaited Stone Roses reunion concert at Heaton Park. As the band played their iconic 9-minute track “Fools Gold,” I caught sight of Sonia from Eastenders accompanied by a small group of people close to our location. Although she seemed disoriented and may not remember our brief 10-second dance, I am cherishing the memory.
On Sunday, June 23rd, 1996, The Sex Pistols played Finsbury Park as part of their Filthy Lucre tour. Although I was too young to appreciate their music during their heyday, their album Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols had become a personal favourite over the years. Naturally, I had to attend the concert, accompanied by my old pal Clive Fisher. As expected at outdoor events, the walk to the bar was quite lengthy. To save time, I opted to order four pints at once. While waiting in line, I was oblivious to the commotion behind me. My only concern was retaining my spot in the queue and purchasing overpriced, lukewarm Carling beer. After finally being served, I noticed that the bartender was particularly enthralled with the two individuals directly behind me. It was only then that I realized that the pair were none other than Kate Moss and Johnny Depp. Unbeknownst to me, I had stood beside them for a full ten minutes. Of course, they likely had no idea who I was either!
I have plenty of stories to share, but I’ll save them for another occasion. As previously stated, I digitised my collection a decade ago, and it’s expanded from 600 albums to over 3,000. The most recent band that caught my attention was Glasvegas in 2005, and I have no interest in anything newer. With so much classic music left to discover, I simply don’t have the time or energy to devote myself to another artist like I have with Mr. Heaton for over three decades.
The music I listen to is quite diverse and varied. I’m open to listening to almost anything, as each musical era has its own unique charm. Whether it’s the nostalgic 80s cheese, the classic rock of the 60s, or the Britpop of the 90s, I enjoy them all. Surprisingly, even bands I don’t particularly care for, such as Radiohead and Coldplay, have created some songs that I find enjoyable. Lastly, I’d like to share my all-time favorite top 5 albums:
Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols – The Sex Pistols
Different Class – Pulp
Pet Sounds – The Beach Boys
The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses
Sunshine on Leith – The Proclaimers
Double Fantasy would have made this list if all the Yoko Ono shite was taken off and it was renamed Single Fantasy!