Monday, 28 November 2016

November #1 - The First Record I Ever Bought

In December, I'll be counting down (as I do every year) my favourite albums of the year. Before that... a confession.

Over at What's It All About, Alfie? recently, Alyson revealed the first album she ever bought. She seemed almost reluctant to admit it was an Elvis album... as though that was something to be embarrassed by. God, I wish my first record was an Elvis record.

It's time that the tale were told...

(After Queen and Neil Diamond, I think you're ready for this now.)

I was 15 when I bought my first records. Quite late, considering. I'd been getting into music a lot around that time. Both my sister and brother had left home and had kids of their own, so I used to babysit for them often to earn a bit of spending money, and when I did I always ended up working my way through their records. I'll be honest, my sister had the cooler collection, although my brother did have A Kind Of Magic by Queen, and I played the grooves out of that (as previously discussed). My sister though: she had Elvis, and the Supremes, and the Beach Boys, and Bowie, and Kate Bush... and I babysat for her a lot because she worked till 9 in the evening and her husband was a long distance lorry driver, only home on weekends. Four or five nights a week then, I'd sit in my sister's living room after my nephews were in bed and watch a bit of TV... then fall into that record collection. It was my teenage awakening.

Eventually, I got my first record player. I might be imagining this, but I think it was a little red turntable with built in speakers. I don't think I had it long and I have no idea what happened to it (or whether it's just romanticised nostalgia) but I know that pretty soon after I got a midi system with a built in cassette deck for making mixtapes... and the rest is history. Thirty years later, this blog is the end result.

The first album I owned then, there's no problem there. Queen's Greatest Hits. A Christmas present from my sister because she saw how much I loved that band. I thought Bohemian Rhapsody was the greatest song ever written. There are days when I'll still fight its corner.

But that doesn't count as my first record, does it? It has to be the first one I bought with my own money, right? Strangely enough, the first single I ever bought, rapidly followed by the first album I ever bought, were both by the same artist. Here's a few clues to his identity...

It was 1987 and he was riding an incredible wave of success.

We shared the exact same birthday (day, not year... I was only 15, remember).

He grew up in New Jersey.

I honestly thought that when I grew up, I wanted to be him.

Oh, yes.

His name was...

Longtime readers of this blog will by now have guessed that my favourite artist is Bruce Springsteen. (There was a time I'd have said it was a toss-up between him and Morrissey, but I'm coming to realise, as I grow older, Bruce is in a different class.) I believe in the redemptive power of rock 'n' roll, and Bruce has been my constant companion since I first dove into its river. So wouldn't it be a wonderful kind of symmetry if the first single - or the first album - I ever bought was one of his?  

But life's not that neat, is it?


This is the first single I ever bought...

Then, a week or so later, this was my first album...

And you know what, I'm not ashamed to admit this: I loved them then, and I still love them now.

I could tell you how I was a huge fan of Moonlighting, and David Addison was the coolest guy on TV.

I could tell you that the song Respect Yourself (originally by the Staple Singers) is such a classic, even a smug Hollywood egomaniac couldn't ruin it.

I could tell you how the single was saved by the uncredited - at the time - guest vocals of June Pointer (with her Sisters on backing vocals).

I could even go with the flow and say, hey - as croaky as Willis sounds on this record, at least his voice isn't as bad as Meat Loaf's on that record I chose as my Number One last month.

But why should I have to defend the purchasing choices made by a musically-naïve adolescent any more than I have to defend the "guilty pleasures" of a 44 year old muso-irker?

Respect Yourself was a reasonably classy, yet still tongue-in-cheek, rendition of a great old song - and, I'd argue, Willis's cover of Under The Boardwalk, backed by the Temptations was even better (plus it was the 12th best-selling UK single of 1987, folks... so never underestimate the British record buying public). And there were some equally fun tracks on the rest of the album. It was never going to set Willis on the road to rock 'n' roll stardom (maybe he foolishly thought it would... but then Die Hard came along the following year and he saw a much more lucrative future), but it did the job right then. And it holds a special place in my heart.

(Willis's second, and final album, was called If It Don't Kill You, It Just Makes You Stronger. It didn't make his recording career stronger. I still have a copy on my shelf, one I'll never, ever give to the charity shop (and let's face it, who'd buy it?), even though I probably won't ever listen to it again.)

We only get one life and the choices we make matter, even the duff ones. They all mean something to us, and this record means something to me. Let's never forget...

If you disrespect everybody that you run into
How in the world do you think everybody's supposed
To respect you?


  1. By the time you were buying your first record, I was busy selling them for a living and I can well remember 'The Return of Bruno' (and the singles from it) flying off the shelves. I wonder how often all those copies get played these days? I loved the first couple of seasons of Moonlighting - it was a great show for a while.
    I love hearing about early record purchases and dished the dirt on my own first single and LP over at my place a little while back.

    1. A lot more respectable than mine.

  2. Everyone has to lose their cherry sometime:

  3. Singles -Tie a Yellow Ribbon by Dawn and Part of the Union by Stawbs on P7 school trip to London
    Albums ( on cassette) Sheer Heart attack and Band on the Run

    1. Now we're getting a bit closer, at least one the singles front. I have a bit of a soft spot for Dawn though...not so much for the Strawbs. Still, hardly an embarrassment.

  4. The big reveal, and I'm pleasantly surprised (despite the teasing about JD). I'd forgotten how big a TV star he was back then and I loved Moonlighting (which I watched religiously with my flatmates). These confessional first album/single purchases are proving to be really entertaining and little did I think that my Elvis one would actually get such kudos, as I'm probably the least cool kid on the block!

    Great choice of song by Mr Willis (if he indeed did choose it) and that's no doubt what drew you in and gave you joy back in the day. Thanks for sharing. As for me I'm off to listen to a bit of Al Jarreau!

    1. I should do a post on the Moonlighting soundtrack as that was an early purchase I played to death as well.

  5. Love this!
    But oh dear, I feel old, for I too was standing behind the counter of a record shop serving eager 15-year olds when this album came out, and like TS seem to remember handing over a good few copies of this. He was popular, that Bruce!
    My first album purchase - the Clash first - was pivotal; I was simply just the right age at the right time for this one, and it took a while to save up that £2.99 so it was a very important choice for my entry point into this brave new world!

    But prior to that, records were inherited from my big sister, or received as presents, and a yellow vinyl copy of 'How Much Is That Doggy In The Window' as well as a free flexi disc of the Cherry B theme tune were perhaps my favourites of all.

    1. I'd like to hope that yellow vinyl Doggy is now a rarity and worth a fortune!

  6. I loved this post, Rol - however, I'm looking back through the mists of time and wondering if I have the nerve to admit to my first record purchase. I do remember the LP, on the back of which I'd scrawled "My Idol." I suppose I'll have to reveal all in a post very soon. Thanks for the inspiration.

  7. Oh, that Bruce. Now that was a smile. My first records were my mother's. The Beatles, Beach Boys and Monkees at age 10. I owe her a lot. The first record I received as a gift was the Xanadu soundtrack in 1980. Yep, ELO and Olivia Newton-John. Fortunately, my first purchase is not the least bit embarrassing. After seeing Rock and Roll High School on TV I went out and got Ramones and Rocket to Russia, skipping Leaving Home completley. That was 33 years ago, but I still remember it clear as day. $6.49 each. My friend's mom drove us to the mall. I was about 75 cents short, and that mom dug some change out of the bottom of her purse for me. I had a paper route from age 10 until I could get a proper after-school job at 16. I spent just about every cent I earned on records. If I could, I would still operate that way.

  8. A dead heat between C and Brian for cool first purchases.

  9. Thanks for the honesty, and yes, our earliest memories mean a lot. I didn't buy music until I was 18-19!!
    We shouldn't be judgemental of actors, if they enjoy branching out.Afterall, we don't have to buy it. Scarlett Johansson's Tom Waits cover album I'm not ashamed to admit I'm a fan of.

    1. True... and Bruce isn't the only singing actor in my record collection by any means.


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