Pinpointing my first LP is not so straightforward. The first one I was aware of as a boy was Neil Young’s Harvest, as it was for a while the only record in the house, and I heard it far too often, echoing on the bare cement floor of the Land Commission cottage that my parents had bought in Co. Kilkenny, Ireland, in 1970. No water, no electricity, poured cement walls, cement roof tiles, cowshed of similar size but with fewer windows, £900 for the lot. Dark nights, dark woods over Tower Road, dark eyes of the cows staring across the wall, and Neil Young. The record had a dark unpleasant power over me for years afterwards, but it wasn’t my record, it was my father’s. It was a present he’d been given by a hitch-hiking couple, I think.
My parents sank a well, saving the walk up the hill to the hand pump at one end of the road, and they also ran a pipe thorough the woods to the elderly lady who was our nearest neighbour, and dug a septic tank behind the outhouse, and got electricity via a new line of tarred poles running across the fields to end with one in the middle of our front lawn, topped off with a buzzing transformer. Also a phone, placed on a big block of polystyrene that served as furniture in one of the rooms, and a cattle grid to keep the big beasts out of the garden. A new concrete block extension gave a bedroom for my brother and I. Now we had our own little record player, and our own records. I don’t remember which record came first. My brother listened a lot to a story record of Larry the Lamb in Toytown, and Larry’s voice became almost as disturbing to me as Neil Young’s. The other early LPs I remember my brother and I listening to were two Burl Ives LPs, and a loud flamenco record: Flamenco Candido, by The Curro Amaya Dancers with Domingo Albarado, vocal, and Juan Jiminez, guitar. The record was first published in 1959, but ours was a later reissue on the Pye Golden Guinea label.
Here is another Amaya, Carmen Amaya performing Buleria from a 1963 film, Los Tarantos. I think Curro Amaya was Carmen Amaya’s nephew, and Buleria is also included on his LP. More about the Amaya family on Omayra Amaya’s website.
The two Burl Ives records we had were Junior Choice and Down to the Sea in Ships. This collection of sea shanties has been responsible for the course most of my work has taken in recent years. I came across a paperback from 1956, Burl Ives Sea Songs of Sailing, Whaling, and Fishing, and started singing some of them to my children at bedtime. Then came the desire to illustrate a book of them, something I still haven’t done, but talking over the idea led to the Dutch picture book Het Zeemans-ABC (A Sailor’s ABC) and my current sea monster project for Nobrow Press.
My last LP is also a bit tricky. There were three of them, bought on the same visit to Harold Moore’s on Great Marlborough Street, London. One was Maurice Chevalier, Jeanette MacDonald, Three Classic Movie Musicals, with songs from The Love Parade, One Hour With You, and Love Me Tonight. I’ve only actually seen the last of those three films. Here’s Anything to Please the Queen from The Love Parade, and the insanely extended Isn’t it Romantic from Love Me Tonight, and here’s Irwin Chusid on WFMU playing Three Times a Day from One Hour With You. The timings on that playlist seem a little off – you’ll find the song at around 1:31:30.
The other two records I took home that day were Laurel & Hardy, The Golden Age of Hollywood Comedy, and Les Musiques Des Films de Charlie Chaplin, Michel Villard and his Orchestra. Both of these came in nicely produced gatefold sleeves, and both are of course wonderful to listen to.