I fondly imagine that the homes of most Town Folk are filled with music for much of the time, and have been since childhood.
As I have mentioned previously, Mrs Happiness mistrusts as a matter of course any of the music I enjoy, having awoken once too often to the dulcet strains of Trout Mask Replica, Oar, a bootleg tape of Smile, or something by the Incredible String Band while dozing with our eldest still on board as I tested the theory that babies will respond positively once born to music they have heard in the womb.
Consequently, although music plays almost constantly in my head, almost all of my actual listening is through headphones, as is the (electric) piano practice of our first-born. I will occasionally pluck up the courage to strum an electric guitar unamplified as far away from where she sits reading as possible, but mostly we enjoy a house full of silence, punctuated only by the bickering of children and the happy screams of an over-stimulated 5 year old trying to use up the last of his energy before bedtime.
I am quite used to it, having grown up in an environment where music might as well not existed. Mrs H’s dislike of The Rock and All Of Its Doings is nothing compared to the pathological disdain exhibited by my Father towards any music other than the big bands of Glenn Miller or Joe Loss, whose records he still wouldn’t have in the house. It came as a real shock when I discovered a few years ago that he and my Mother met at a weekly dance: I had to go and listen to Trout Mask Replica, Oar, Smile, or something by the Incredible String Band to get over it.
When I was about 4 or 5, he brought home a Radiogram, comprising a high-end-of-the-market record player and a fantastic looking valve radio that lit up when it was switched on but which despite many Dad and Son hours trailing a long aerial made of pink plastic out of the back and through the house in a variety of directions we never actually succeeded in getting it to work. It was a great big piece of furniture as tall as me at the time and wide enough for myself and both of my younger sisters to lay behind end-to-end without any part of us sticking out, and speakers more than adequate to provide cover during games of hide and seek. I was not supposed to touch it, but eventually he gave up trying to stop me as I acquired records of my own and demonstrated vinyl-handling techniques to his satisfaction.
The coming of the Radiogram heralded the arrival of a box-set, or at least a large number of albums encased in an Apple Green vinyl sleeve with gold lettering. Dad would wake up on a Sunday morning, make a cup of tea, repair to the front room and the house would be full of the sound of these records, played at quite startling volume.
I can’t remember exactly how many records there were in the set, although the number 12 seems to have stuck in my memory.
Side one began with a rush of steam, the closing of doors and a whistle, then a slow clanking growing faster, as the Flying Scotsman – brought into service on the 24th February 1923 – set off on its record-breaking journey from London to Edinburgh, a journey of eight hours on the fastest steam train of them all.
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