At my friend Simon's 45th birthday tonight, catching up with some pals, some of whom I haven't seen for years. As many of the people there were parents, the conversation had turned to children's books, which led to the relative merits of Philip Pulman's "His Dark Materials" and JK Rowling's Harry Potter series. I said that I had enjoyed the first Potter book and read a few of the others, but during book four I'd thought, "What the fuck am I doing? I am an adult," and given up on the overlong and underedited (almost beneltoned) series. I had, however, enjoyed Pulman's non-adult books enough to get through the whole thing and really enjoyed them (though now struggled to remember anything about what happened). My wife, a big Harry Potter fan, looked aghast and said, "I can't believe I married you."
Al Murray chipped in and said, "Join the club. Member 4789. We're printing up your membership card now." It was funny because it was true. Who knows what possessed the woman? She could have done a lot better, even if she is wrong about the relative merits of Pulman and Rowling (though history seems to have favoured the latter in terms or renown and movie success).
"Don't worry," I replied, "I was the founder member of that club." I don't know why she wants to be with me, but if someone throws a bag of diamonds in your lap and says, "That's yours now," you don't start to question what you've done to deserve it.
"Membership number zero, zero, zero, one," Al confirmed.
Simon had invited everyone to bring along their old 45 records to celebrate him reaching that number himself. We may be amongst the last generation who would even understand what this meant. Or who would have such a thing. I wonder how many of us will be around to do this with 78s. I doubt many of us have any of those in our attics. I remember my family had a few ancient old songs like "Green Grow the Rushes O" that might have been in that format, but even when I was 5 it was ancient and out of date. But what joy could be had in playing records at the wrong speed.
I no longer have any of the few 45s that I possessed as a child and teenager. I had a very limited interest in music at school and even college and a tiny collection of tapes and LPs. My first singles were bought at a jumble sale, the unlikely combination of "Fox on the Run" by Sweet and "A Womblin' Merry Christmas" by the Wombles. Ben Moor had brought in one of the other singles I would later own, "A Taste of Aggro" by the Baron Knights. Even though I am not sure I was fully aware of the original songs they were parodying, I loved it and learned the whole thing off by heart. And was, I realised, still able to give a pretty faithful rendition of the whole thing now. I even recalled the B side, "Remember Decimalisation", a song packed with nostalgia for a better time, which in hindsight seems ridiculous as it was recorded in 1978, a mere 7 years after we'd changed currency. But now I was being nostalgic for a song about nostalgia and like old record speeds, I realised that the numbers of people who remember decimilisation is ever dwindling (only one of us vaguely recalled the change, though we did recall shop signs written in old and new money and having old coins in our change) and soon the numbers of people who even remember "Remember Decimalisation" (if there are any others than me) will reduce to nothing. One day, some of the younger readers of this blog will be able to ask "Do you remember when Richard Herring wrote about remembering "Remember Decimalisation"? But I fear they will be greeted with the response, "Who is Richard Herring?" But if one of you could do it, say in forty years time, I would be very grateful.
Simon should really have done this party when he was 33, because he could then at least have played whole albums. The problem with the 45 party is that it needed someone to (literally) change the record ever two to three minutes. I am not one of these people who harks back to the old days and thinks that music is no good if not played by spinning a needle around on scratched and dusty old records. I much prefer MP3s and it wasn't really until the advent of the iPod that I even started to listen to music properly. Having my whole record collection in my pocket and being able to play the tracks on random led me to discover stuff that I had probably never even heard before. And being able to access any song I want when I am running around London is simply amazing. Though I'd get a lot fitter if I was having to pull along a cart with a record player and all these records in disc form.