On My Stereo is a regular column where we ask people to talk about their current listening habits. This second installment comes from Kevin Walker as he reflects on a lifetime of stereos and what he is listening to at the moment.
How many stereos have you seen off in your lifetime? If you’re an old fart (me), the number is probably double digits. The first stereo I was ever given permission to use was our old Radiogram made by His Master’s Voice, this was a piece of wooden furniture with sliding doors in the top, opening to reveal an automatic turntable with a long spindle and a backlit radio section. Multiple discs could be stacked on this spindle, dropping to the deck when their turn came – “… to prolong your listening pleasure…” – removing the need for your lazy arse to drag itself off the sofa. We wrecked it in the end and my old man didn’t exactly run out the door to get us a new one. True to form, he took his sweet time about it.
Bedsits, hostels, squats…transience, no sound systems, no record players, just tapes and shitty ghetto-blasters. I still have some 300 cassettes I can’t bring myself to chuck.
Number two was Pioneer separates, fair ball to him, Pater came through for us. This was 1979. Pioneer stuff was still made in Japan, this shit was wicked. That sound system is likely the reason why I listen to LPs today. By the time I left home my few albums had become a collection which I sold on my first trip home. Money. Living in London cassettes were the word. Bedsits, hostels, squats…transience, no sound systems, no record players, just tapes and shitty ghetto-blasters. I still have some 300 cassettes I can’t bring myself to chuck.
He once got so paranoid that he stayed home in his bedsit for a month or so and lived on Mars bars and Coke (soft drink). By the time he keeled over coughing blood, the Doc said that the Coke had done for his stomach lining good and proper and that Dons fizzy period would have to come to an end.
Don, this friend of mine, had a laserdisc player which he had no doubt purchased while off his scon. We rarely had access to a telly for christs sake! He carried that thing around for months from hostel to hostel depending on where he was night portering. Nobody wanted it. If memory serves, there was about fuck all releases ever made for this astonishing product which died a death and was forgotten enough to make DVD seem new. Don was into Motorhead and also Hawkwind (the Lemmy connection). He once got so paranoid that he stayed home in his bedsit for a month or so and lived on Mars bars and Coke (soft drink). By the time he keeled over coughing blood, the Doc said that the Coke had done for his stomach lining good and proper and that Don’s fizzy period would have to come to an end. He was an inspiration was Don, tenacious and funny, generous to a fault. We ended up getting arrested together, I won’t go into that now. Nothing to do with stereos.
I’m wracking my brains but it seems, other than that white elephant laser disc thingy, it was one shitty double deck portable after another… I almost forgot, the dreaded music center. remember them? Companies like Aiwa and Amstad those fake separates? Things have changed so quickly…I’m sad and old.
CDs came along and like a twat i ended up with a shit load of them to keep my 300 fucking cassettes company. I do have some nice CDs mind you…. and I’m not a hi-fi zealot or a music one for that matter
So I moved to Finland and my girlfriend at the time had a Philips music center, a grey affair with matching grey speakers (still in use). Those yokes work OK if you live in a small place. Anyway, that was 1989 and I started buying LPs again. Had some Technics stuff after that, reliable and cheap separates sold with big Finnish made speakers, value for money gear. CDs came along and like a twat I ended up with a shit load of them to keep my 300 fucking cassettes company. I do have some nice CDs mind you…. and I’m not a hi-fi zealot or a music one for that matter. I used to value originals and rare pressings but I couldn’t be bothered anymore. Samplers and compilations interest me more these days, old ones from the 70s and 80s please. During my ‘serious collector’ phase, I wouldn’t have wiped my arse with compilations. K-tel 40 super greats of 1974. Where are you now? (The first LP I ever bought, aged 9)
A Cambridge Audio amp and a Project record player with its motor hanging freely, suspended from rubber bands in a hole bored straight through the deck.
Four years ago my old man shuffled off the coil and I found and purchased 2nd hand, a Pioneer amp, the same amp he had bought all those years ago. Some sort of circle seemed to have completed itself. Thirty plus years old, this lovely piece of personal techie memorabilia wheezed on for six months before it too, gave up the ghost in grand ‘mission impossible’ style, blowing a channel all smelly and smoky like … ”your mission Kev, is to stop fucking about like a tosser and buy some decent kit…” I didn’t go spare in the hi-fi shop. A Cambridge Audio amp and a Project record player with its motor hanging freely, suspended from rubber bands in a hole bored straight through the deck. That detail sold me, the simple beauty of it. At first I was put off by the idea of an adaptor but by removing the need for a big tranny you make everything much simpler. No heavy Faraday shielding. The only control on this thing is the on/off switch. 2nd hand Magnat speakers and I was sorted.
dangling a plastic bag in front of one, giggling happily as it danced a spastic jig, pummeled by a Wailers bass line from the woofer of one of those Vegas. you could’ve heard these things on the fucking moon.
I tended bar with a guy called Pekka. One day he went out to do the ‘cash and carry’ and came back with a pair of monstrous Cerwin Vega speakers. These things were serious ‘land of the giants’ material. We scared the hell out of ourselves with Roni Size and Goldie at volumes that would mean hospital for an infant. I can see Marko (another friend and co-worker) now, dangling a plastic bag in front of one, giggling happily as it danced a spastic jig, pummeled by a Wailers bass line from the woofer of one of those Vega’s. You could’ve heard these things on the fucking moon.
I had a plan. The plan was drink some beer and start listening to records taking a selfie with each cover so that afterwards I had a visual log of how my little party of one had panned out
I’ve never been big on alphabetical order, always leaning more towards a loose general grouping with categories no more complicated than ‘Rock’ or ‘Jazz’, ‘American’ or ‘English’ or ‘Other’, thus allowing the LPs to shuffle around like delinquents, forming cliques and gangs. I let them do their thing and approach the shelves with vague ideas about where I might begin looking for my mono Rolling Stones LPs for instance. I know they’ll be together, rubbing shoulders with some ‘Blues’ or ‘Jazz’ no doubt, five minutes would probably do me. Often I have no target, that way I don’t listen to the same titles all the time.
I had a plan. The plan was drink some beer and start listening to records taking a selfie with each cover so that afterwards I had a visual log of how my little party of one had panned out. “Sad bastard” you say, “indeed” I say. Notes could then be made while hungover the following day, using the embarrassing selfies as a sound base for self loathing and despair and.. well, the notes. Here are the notes.
LP no.1. The Táin by Horslips, 1973. My track choice, Dearg Doom. This song is their enduring Trad-rock classic, known to all who are my age and Irish. They made another LP of note The Book Of Invasions, A Celtic Symphony, 1976.
LP no.2. Welcome To The Canteen by Traffic, 1971. My track choice, Sad And Deep As You and Dear Mr. Fantasy. One of their best live albums. Enduring material that still catches me off guard. Another LP of theirs to check out is Shootout At The Fantasy Factory, 1973.
LP no.3. Bad Reputation by Thin Lizzy, 1977. My track choice, Bad Reputation, Southbound and Downtown Sundown. I’m Irish for fuck sake. As young punks we turned our noses up at Phil Lynott. Another great LP is Jailbreak, 1976.
LP no.4. The Original Soundtrack by 10cc, 1975. My track choice, I’m Not In Love. This song is pure gold. Another doozy to check out is their debut album 10cc, 1973.
LP no.5. Everything Must Go by Manic Street Preachers, 1996. My track choice, Kevin Carter and A Design For Life. I like these guys. Full of attitude.
LP no.6. Ritual De Lo Habitual by Jane’s Addiction, 1990. My track choice, Been Caught Stealing. Do you remember this video?
LP no.7. Doolittle by Pixies, 1989. My track choice, Wave Of Mutilation and Monkey Gone To Heaven. Another of their LPs to check out is Surfer Rosa, 1989. Weirdos.
LP no.8. Deuce by Rory Gallagher, 1971. My track choice, Used To Be. Another good LP by Rory is Rory Gallagher Irish Tour 1974, 1974. This is another guy I never bothered with as a kid. Jimi Hendrix was once asked what it was like to be the world’s greatest guitarist, “I don’t know, go ask Rory Gallagher” was his reply.
LP no.9. Pink Moon by Nick Drake, 1972. My track choice, Pink Moon and From The Morning. Also check Five Leaves Left, 1969. Producer Joe Boyd was convinced that Nick was destined to be a great success. Unfortunately none of his records sold and only achieved iconic status years after Nick took his own life. I sometimes wonder what this inspiring songsmith would have gone on to do had he stayed with us a little longer. Nobody living can hold a candle to this awesome talent.
LP no.10. Computer World by Kraftwerk, 1981. My track choice, Numbers and Computer Love. My other favourite or their LPs is The Man Machine, 1978. Schöön.
LP no.11. Blood Sugar Sex Magik by Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1991. Track choice, Give It Away and Blood Sugar Sex Magik. I think this is the best thing they ever did. Rick Rubin was clearly a game changer for these guys.
LP no.12. The K&D Sessions by Kruder and Dorfmeister, 1998. Track choice, Useless, The Revenge of Bomberclad and Lexicon. I’d love to know how they get that sound.
LP no.13. #1 Record by Big Star, 1972. Track choice, In The Street. I only discovered these guys a few years ago and for the life of me, I can’t figure out how this band passed under my radar for so long. My radar must be banjaxed. Another LP to scan is Radio City, 1974.
LP no.14. Searching For The Young Soul Rebels by Dexys Midnight Runners, 1980. Track choices, Burn It Down and Tell Me When My Light Turns Green. This LP took us all by surprise. Well, me anyway.
LP no.15. Grace by Jeff Buckley,1994. Track choices, Lilac Wine and Hallelujah. Another massive talent taken from us far too early.
LP no.16. In The Court Of The Crimson King by King Crimson, 1969. Track choice, The Court Of The Crimson King. This track has been used often in film, my favourite example is in the movie Children Of Men. Another one to scare yourself with is Red, 1974. Red requires volume.
LP no.17. Wave by Patti Smith, 1979. Track choices, Dancing Barefoot and Wave. Also check the 1975 LP Horses. Patti Smith was signing books at a shop near me recently and I was surprised to see three generations of fans waiting to get their copies of Horses signed – yours truly included. A clear indication of just how powerful this material was and is. Lenny Kaye was with her and he was also signing LPs. I’m not often rendered speechless but on this occasion I was. As well as being in Patti’s band, he’s the man responsible for the Nuggets compilation, 1972. If you don’t know what I’m talking about you should find out.
LP no.18. I’m Still In Love With You by Al Green, 1972. Track choices, Simply Beautiful, I’m Glad You’re Mine and For The Good Times. If you’ve never heard this record I suggest you do so now. Some of the tracks may seem familiar as it’s been heavily sampled. Massive Attack is the first example that comes to mind. He ended up getting all religious, not my cup of tea.
LP no.19. Jeru by Gerry Mulligan, 1962. Track choice Capricious. Jeru was the nickname given to Mulligan by Miles Davis. It’s like… JAZZ , man. Another good one by Gerry is The age of steam, 1972.
LP no.20. The Planets by Holst (1874-1934) performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra 1971. See how many movies you can remember that feature pieces from this great composition.
LP no.21. Welcome To Mali by Amadou & Mariam, 2009. Track choices, Ce Nést Pas Bon, I Follow You and Welcome To Mali. This would have probably remained unknown to me, had I not received it as a gift from my brother. He’s good like that. So that’s it.