A conversation we had with a couple Moi and I have known nearly all our lives reminded me very much of the things I bought with my first wages as an apprentice carding engineer many, many years ago.
Our friends were talking to one of their grandchildren who had just received his first salary. The young lad was complaining about the tax and other deductions he had paid out of his wages and wanted to know why – the very same question many have posed for generations. Attempts were made to explain that he was paying for his grandparents’ pension, though unfortunately that didn’t seem to help much. But also like every generation before, with money of his own for the first time, he treated himself to something special, which in his case was a pair of plimsolls, pumps, track shoes, trainers, or whatever they’re called these days.
Winkle pickers and blue suede shoes – the designer trainers of their day
Our friend was so gobsmacked at what he had paid for these pumps… whatever, that she felt compelled to take a photo. She couldn’t believe that a pair of what she described as diving boots could cost £650. in fact she was so gobsmacked that she assumed that she must be mistaken. I have discovered since we had this conversation that £650 is far from unusual. Having looked at the photo, I would describe them as thick black socks with thick white soles.
Presumably, this so-called designer footwear is meant to impress or influence some sort of positive impression of the individual. As a teenager I wore winkle pickers, probably costing something like £5, but I’m sure only because they were fashionable and not to influence or impress. Having thought about that, it probably amounts to almost the same thing I suppose.
These are family photos taken at weddings in 1964 and 1965, where I’m proudly wearing my Cuban heeled winkle pickers that had started, like they all did, to curl up at the toe end, an odd fashion. My drainpipe trouser suit would have cost no more than £15. What a cool dude though.
The only footwear I owned that turned out to impress was a pair of light blue suede deck shoes (memories of Elvis of course). Mum and dad had bought them for me when I was still at school, so they would have been cheap. I didn’t like them at all, but the young ladies at school did and I was being noticed more, which of course meant that I felt like the bees’ knees. I became quite fond of those shoes after that. Very shallow I know.
The Dansette record player – clever stuff
My first wage was £4/10 shillings (£4.50) in 1962. It was the norm in those days, when we started work, to cough up for our keep. I can’t remember how much take home pay I had but most of it went to Mum. I would be surprised if I was left with £1 a week to spend on myself, but even that was considerably more than I was previously given as spending money.
As my big sis Rhondda had taken the only record player and all the records we had in the house when she got married, I was left with no way of playing the modern pop music of the time. But I eventually saved enough to buy a Dansette deluxe record player.
The Dansette had an automatic changing turntable, which dropped another record on top of the one played previously, once the stylus arm (tonearm) had returned to its rest. They were produced in their thousands by BSR (Birmingham Sound Reproducers). They could stack several records on top of each other, which is where the name ‘record album’ came from. If a recording of an opera, overture or collection of favourites from a group couldn’t fit on one vinyl record, the whole set would be placed together in one folder similar to a photo album, hence the name.
The automatic stacking system is also why the numbering of each side of the records of this era doesn’t appear to be in sequence. If a set (album) contained, say, three records, the listener would of course need to hear the music played in the correct sequence; therefore, the first record would be numbered sides one and six, the second record two and five and the fourth record three and four to indicate how to stack them on the automatic turntable. This way, when the records were dropped on top of each other, sides one, two, and three would play first then the whole stack would be flipped over to play four, five and six. Clever stuff really!
The standard speeds were 78, 45 and 331⁄3 rpm. The diameter of each was 10, 7 and 12 inches respectively. The more recent 7 and 12-inch records were made of vinyl, while the old 78s were made of brittle shellac resin, with the speed and material combining to detrimentally affect the lifespan of these.
Desert island discs for 60s teens
I bought my Dansette in 1963 from Swales electrical shop in Milnsbridge, our neighbouring village down the valley. I couldn’t afford to buy it in one go so I bought it on hire purchase, (on tick). I would have had to get my dad to sign as guarantor and, while I’m sure he wouldn’t have appreciated the item, he would have appreciated the financial discipline of which he was a great admirer. Repayment wouldn’t have been much more than 2s/6d (25p) a week, which meant I had my record player and could immediately afford to buy my first record.
I excitedly rushed down to Woods music shop in Huddersfield and because I had actually saved enough for the down payment on the record player, I was able to buy six records in one go. I’m nearly sure they were 4s/9d (24p) each.
My choice of records at that time would have formed six of my eight desert island discs choices. It will now form a trip down memory lane for the older readers, and it will also indicate how sad I am that I can still remember them. In fact, while writing this I spent many a happy nostalgic moment listening to them online.
The six records in no particular order were as follows:
- My Boomerang Won’t Come Back, Charlie Drake, 1961.
- Walk Right In, The Rooftop Singers, 1963. I played this one endlessly.
- Monster Mash, Bobby Picket and the Crypt Kickers, 1962. Another one played endlessly.
- Up On The Roof, Kenny Lynch. Originally by The Drifters, 1962.
- Telstar, The Tornadoes, 1962. Produced by Joe Meek (see Norky’s Ramblings ‘When rock ‘n’ roll came here to stay’).
- Tell Him, Billie Davies, 1963. I did like her, a lot. I would choose this as my favourite desert island disc from this list.
My favourite book and luxury item would be How to Survive in the Wild [Ed: by Christian Casucci], and a shotgun, but to be in keeping with the programme format I would probably choose A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, and a compass.
Keeping the music playing with a bit of DIY
When the endlessly played record and/or the stylus (needle) was getting worn out and the stylus began to slide across the record without playing anything except a terrible scratchy din, it was always too much bother and expense to replace either, though of course I wanted to continue playing the record without wasting my time shopping. So the quick remedy was to Sellotape a halfpenny on the tonearm, thus forcing the stylus on to the record and Bob’s your uncle. This didn’t do the record any good, of course, and by the time I got around to buying a new stylus the record would be knackered which in turn knackered the new stylus. Oh, happy days.