My colleague Claire Beck very thoughtfully got me Lost In The Dream on vinyl for my birthday a couple of months back. I’ve made my feelings clear about how much I love that record. I’m not neurotic about protecting vinyl but this is a real beauty. It’s a gatefold LP with two discs and it’s produced to an extremely high standard. Let me put it this way: it’s the kind of vinyl that you could very easily get over-protective about.
So naturally enough when my eight year old son decided he wanted to investigate it last week I experienced a slight feeling of panic. ‘This looks good Dad,’ he said, as he yanked it from the shelf and flopped down onto the kitchen table with it. He flung it open and took out the inner sleeves and records themselves. ‘The War on Drugs; is that a real war?’ he asked as he turned it over and upside down and read the track listing.
Thoughts running through my head at that moment included: how dirty were his hands? Would he drop it onto the floor? Was the kitchen table wiped down or would there still be breakfast remnants stuck to it and would they have now transferred themselves to my beautiful gatefold LP?
Immediately I had to stop myself and allow the boy to experience the joy of checking out and playing a nice record. I was also reminded of a moment in my life which I refer to as ‘The Great Shame’. You’ll understand why I call it that after my story. I have decided to share this with you because I realised how important it is to allow my son enjoy music as much as possible. I also realised it would have been rather hypocritical of me to take the album away, for its own protection, and here is why.
Quite a number of years ago, my older brother and I were bored at home one afternoon. Boredom was a common condition back then during the late 1980s. (I believe some kids are still affected by boredom even now in the 21st century.) We found a box of old vinyl records, belonging to my Dad. He was big into his music and if it wasn’t for him and his records I’d never have had discovered so many great bands and singers. This particular box was gathering dust at the back of a wardrobe so, with all the logic you’d expect from a pair of dumbass young teens, we reckoned he no longer wanted or needed them.
We proceeded out to the front of the house and began throwing them around as if they were Frisbees. Yes, I even blush now after typing that sentence. We flung them around with even more glee when it became apparent that records turn into makeshift ninja death stars once you start chipping away bits of the vinyl. Oh the fun we had. Disc after disc went flying around, shards and chunks of precious vinyl scattered about the driveway and front lawn. I remember it had been snowing and some of the records got stuck in the leafless branches of trees, tragically silhouetted against the white backdrop.
It eventually became clear that perhaps this wasn’t such a good idea after all. Even though these weren’t Beatles or Rolling Stones or Bob Dylan records, we had a feeling that the old man mightn’t have been too impressed. The albums included obscure Irish folk records, some of those Decca ‘World of Your Hundred Best Tunes’ records, maybe some random classical compilations but – thankfully perhaps – I really can’t remember what else.
We set about trying to clean the place up, climbing up trees to remove half records hanging sadly from branches and stuck in the hedges. Obviously we did an utterly shit job of it because as soon as he drove in from work he found bits of his record collection lodged or lying around the front of the house. Why yes, he did freak out. However, it was one of those really eerie freak outs where he didn’t shout or stomp around. He just stood there, like a mourner at a funeral, and quietly grounded us or put us to work cleaning the garage or something like that. I think we genuinely broke a little bit of his heart that day.
When I look back I think what a pair of jackasses we were. It is almost sinful to have done what we did. Records are a beautiful thing. We were stupid kids though, and everyone does stupid things when they’re a kid. Now you know why I had to quickly cop myself on when I began to fear about a stray milk-sodden cheerio, or a jam-stained finger, getting all over my War on Drugs album. At least the lad wasn’t heading out the front to smash it to pieces.
Have you ever damaged, broken – or thrown around like a Frisbee – someone’s vinyl or a CD? Please tell me I’m not the only one to have done this; I couldn’t possibly live with the shame.