Sunday, April 03, 2005

Stu's Stereo

I believe it was Yaya’s idea. Had to be really, since Bertha was his bus. I don’t remember the actual moment of gestation, but I can picture the scene…

We are almost certainly upstairs at 123 Hadham Road, Bishops Stortford. In Stu’s bedroom. The room is full of smoke, which means Monique and Rollo are out. The smoke comes variously from Marlboro reds, roll-ups filled with Drum halfzware shag, and a large joint doing the rounds.

The joint is filled with some crumbled green stuff, probably from Morocco, more tobacco than can possibly be good for us, and the folded-in bit that you find in the top of a pack of Marlboro reds which can be torn out to roll into a crude cardboard filter that invariably comes adrift and stays between your lips when you suck too hard.

Also in the room:

A Stereo

Stu’s stereo. A stereo made up of separate components, as was the fashion in those far off-days. I was always rather envious of Stu’s stereo, being a doshless student whose every spare penny was spent on film and albums (generally played on someone else’s stereo).

Stu’s stereo was particularly impressive. It had one of those decks you had to be very careful with. To start the record going you had to raise a little lever, and press a little button, and push the needle across on a spindly sort of arm, and press another little button to lower the point of the needle in exactly the right place on the record, before the music started. If you hadn’t first balanced the arm God help you, and your records. I never understood how to balance the arm on a record deck. Far too many tiny screws to worry about. Which probably explains why my last remaining 12" albums are all so covered with scratches that listening to them is rather like some sort of 60s audio art experience (and not the good kind).

Stu’s stereo had a proper separate amp, with a silver façade and lovely simple knobs that said volume treble and bass so you always knew exactly where you were. In my case, with the bass up just a little bit more than everyone else preferred.

It probably had a radio tuner as well, but none of us ever bothered with that sort of thing.

And it had speakers big enough to balance a mature pot plant on. White cabinets, parked on the floor in two corners of the room. The grilles covered, if memory serves me correctly, with a printed fabric cartoon scene of a Western bar. With a cowboy bartender and everything.


Lots of them. All lovingly stored in plastic sleeves to protect the covers. We’ll save the playlist till later, but there must have been at least three milk-crates’ worth.

I’m going to have to explain the milk-crates, right?

Let’s just say it was our wont in those days to store records in bright red crates liberated from around the back of any local Unigate dairy. Not the ones the milk went in, obviously: they had partitions. We only took the ones the bread was delivered in. Exactly the right size for about fifty albums, they were.

Anyone who ever moved house in the 70s and had to pack up and carry the albums will realise immediately that these crates were a gift from God.

And if anyone from Unigate reads this, we’re sorry. We’d give them back but they were all thrown out when CDs came along.

A Bottle

It might have been whisky, it might have been wine, but it was one of those giant sizes. And it was almost full - of pennies.

Used to fascinate me, that bottle, in my stoneder moments. I’d love to know what happened to it. Or indeed how much it contained.

I wonder what Stu spent the money on?

An Ashtray

Overflowing, of course. Always an ashtray, wherever we went.

There you go. We’re in the room. We’re listening to Joni Mitchell. Court and Spark. Which means that sooner or later we’re going to hear the following:

‘I was a free man in Paris
I felt unfettered and alive
There was nobody calling me up for favours
And no-one’s future to decide
You know I’d go back there tomorrow…’

Dynamite stuff, when you’re young and stoned and fanciful...


Blogger broomhilda said...

OK hooked now, must have more, need more.

1:44 pm  
Anonymous caroline said...

Yup. Bertha's rollin'.

9:59 pm  
Blogger Omykiss said...

Oh no!!!! We've got a blue milk/bread crate in the garage AND it's got records in it .. so ... if you need a photograph maybe we can help :)

5:11 am  
Blogger Mark Gamon said...

Hmmm. Well it's the wrong colour but maybe I can do something with it in Photoshop. Strictly in the interests of authenticity, you understand. Welcome aboard the bus, Omykiss...

Why do I keep calling it a bus? It's an ambulance, for heaven's sake...

9:17 pm  

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