My little town

June 1, 2017

“Nothin’ but the dead and dyin’ back in my little town”, sang Simon and Garfunkel back in 1975. “This town’s becoming like a ghost town”, sang the Specials in 1981. In hindsight the seventies and eighties was a golden age. My little town had a hundred thriving independent shops then. And even a Woolworths. I surveyed the desolation of my local town yesterday and wondered why the whole lot can’t be bulldozed down so they could start again. One bank has been turned into flats. The others are derelict. The few crumbling three-storey Victorian shop fronts still trading are great if all you are looking for is a new tattoo and some ecigs. Long gone are the Bakers, the 5 Butchers shops, the Fishmongers, the Ironmongers, the 4 Shoe shops, the 7 Clothes shops, the Photographers, the 3 Record shops, the Model shop, the fruit and veg shops, the Cinema, the Hat shop! etc etc. There are six tatty Charity shops now though dotted amongst the numerous boarded-up premises.

I’m currently reading a book entitled “When the lights went out: Britain in the 1970s” written by Andy Beckett. Although a bleak picture is painted of Industrial unrest, political upheaval (that’s nothing that’s any different in any decade) and inflation, I don’t recall any empty shops on the High Streets then. In the early 1970s I lived in the West Midlands. There were loads of small shops to visit. Newsagents on every street corner had Marvel and DC comics. Every town had two or three independent record shops. Charity shops were in their infancy. Perhaps there was an Oxfam shop. Far more common were second-hand shops and junk shops. Again, in hindsight I probably bought the wrong things from them. Victoriana was for sale for a few shillings. I was more interested in the boxes of second-hand singles and LPs.

So in the 1970s I began collecting Ska, Rock Steady and early Reggae singles. Strange colourful labels, often with different artists on each side of the single. Sometimes the B side was an instrumental version/backing track of the A side. And the music was so uplifting. Now I’m in my sixties I tire of listening to the “serious” Rock LPs/CDs I used to love. They seem destined to never leave their shelves again. But listening once more to stuff like this really cheers me up.

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