Why I didn’t like record shopping with my older brother

Today is Art Garfunkel’s birthday. The curly-haired half of one of my childhood favourite bands turns 69 today. Bridge Over Troubled Water takes me right back to our home in Mufulira in Zambia. And to records. Remember them?

An awesome album

I loved Simon and Garfunkel. They were not wild like the Rolling Stones, they didn’t wear tight pants like Tom Jones did, they were just right. To a young girl living in Zambia, who didn’t like wild, or tight pants, they were super cool.

I remember two brothers coming to visit my sister and me in Mufulira. It was one of those complex situations that brothers and sisters can relate to – I liked J, he liked my sister, she liked R and R liked me. No win situation. Anyway, I told them both that I liked the song, Bridge Over Troubled Water and, maybe to impress J a little, I said that I especially liked the words. R said he knew them off by heart (show off) so he could tell me them. I got my pencil and paper at the ready. He proceeded to tell me the words, but I didn’t realise those were the words – I thought he was telling me a story. I listened, and I remember thinking, “Where is this all going? Tell me the song words already.” Was my face red when I realised what had just happened. Duh.

My husband and I were lucky enough to see Paul Simon on his Graceland Tour in Harare, Zimbabwe, in 1987 at Rufaro Stadium. It was an amazing experience. But I couldn’t help feeling sad that he and Art Garfunkel had by then headed off in their own directions. I watched the DVD of their recent reunion concert and even all these years later, I can understand why I liked their music then. They were really pretty special.

So fast forward to Cape Town in recent years. My brother-in-law is as mad about music as his younger brother (my husband), and both have formidable collections of CDs and vinyl. Different tastes, but identical passions. In an effort to keep vinyl alive, we gave him a turntable for his birthday a few years back. Since then, he and my sister-in-law have had a series of vinyl evenings at their home. They invite about 20 people round to share a meal, a few beverages, and to bring along their favourite record.

The first time, we all had to bring both our best and worst track, and then each person had to vote for each track in turn. Which became increasingly hilarious as the evening progressed and we discovered how different everyone’s taste in music was. Nutbush City Limits by Tina Turner (along with Jennifer Rush’s The Power of Love) is on my top ten worst songs list, and it was played as someone’s favourite. One person had Tiny Bubbles by Dean Martin as his worst track of all time. He hated it so much he didn’t have the record, so his forfeit was to sing it to us. His rendition was far more memorable than it was tuneful.

My husband chose Bridge Over Troubled Water as his best track. No-one could say anything bad or negative about it. It shot to the top of the list and won the best track prize of the evening. I guess the song is like that. For me it’s part of the soundtrack of my life, and I will always love it.

The song that won the un-cherished award of worst track of the evening was Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep by Middle of the Road. If I’d still had that seven single (remember those? 45s?) I would have brought it with me for the same category. When I was about nine, I was given a record voucher (I think I might have called it a record vulture when I was that age) for Christmas. I was so excited because it would enable me to buy my first. record. ever. How cool was that?

My brothers, sister and I headed off into the centre of dusty Mufulira to the big departmental store to redeem our vouchers for stuff. I was beside myself. I had enough to buy an LP and a seven single. I chose a Springbok Hits album. If you are from the sub-continent, you will remember those hideous compilation albums of very badly rendered cover versions of current hits. I was thrilled. Come on, I was nine.

Now, on to the seven singles …. hmmmm, what to choose? What to choose? Along came my elder brother to help me choose. With his encouragement, which may or may not have come across as a threat, I bought Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep. I can still feel the deep disappointment I felt at having to buy such an awful song. Those were my first record purchases. Pretty bad. And even worse.

Just before we left Cape Town last year, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law had a farewell party for us, in the form of another vinyl evening. It was a really wonderful, memorable and special evening where we all ate well, drank better and laughed more than ever. The hard rockers among us insisted on playing air guitar and “dancing” (you have to air-quote there) along to their numbers; some played air guitar on their legs, another played air drums with two pencils just above a bald guy’s head, one shared stories of heartache at a high school dance, when he introduced his track of choice, and all the while our laughter provided backing for tracks like Radar Love by Golden Earring, Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water and Neil Young’s Harvest. After a track-off, Neil Young emerged as the evening’s winner.

So, happy birthday, Mr Garfunkel. Thank you for the music and, today, for the memories.

Sunshine signing off for today.

You can find out more about these tracks at www.allbutforgottenoldies.com Seriously.

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20 thoughts on “Why I didn’t like record shopping with my older brother

  1. “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is one of my favourite albums, with “The Boxer” being on my all-time Top Ten Favourite Song list!

    We had planned to see Simon and Garfunkel this summer in Halifax, but the tour was postponed due to Garfunkel’s voice issues…hoping they reschedule soon!

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Sunshine!

    Hugs,
    Wendy

  2. Your post brought back a great (about 10 years ago) memory for me: The then boyfriend of a close friend had an extensive vintage record collection-thousand of old vinyls, including some original Sun label Elvis. We were in his rec room for hours, a group of 50+ year olds, singing and dancing to all the oldies.

  3. Aww. Sunshine, I absolutely love this post. You keep impressing me with your excellent taste in music!

    Those Vinal Nights sound like incredible fun–especially the track competitions. What a creative, funny idea!

    Thanks for this post. The Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep story made me laugh out loud.

  4. My husband and I have sang and played in bands (we both play guitar, I sing, and he also plays drums) and we love to sit around and strum at home. He can play just about everything by Simon and Garfunkel by heart and I’m fairly sure that I know all the lyrics. :0)

    We were both living in Australia and had just met when Paul Simon was doing his Graceland thing. I can’t hear anything from Graceland without feeling a sense of deep nostalgia. So many memories tied to the music. Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes is THE song. I was actually slated to go to South Africa after Australia but returned to America and got married instead. Visiting South Africa is on my bucket list. One day.

    I think I’ve wandered off a bit. 🙂 I enjoyed the blog and the memories it evoked. I haven’t heard anything on vinyl in years and years. It makes me sick that we let my dad’s huge record collection and hifi go when he died. I would love to still have them.

    1. How lovely to sit and strum and sing Simon and Garfunkel. What a lovely thing to do! The songs are SO singable! Hope you can make it to SA one day, it’s worth it!
      Sorry about your dad’s record collection and hi-fi – I guess at the time you didn’t understand its value to you.

  5. I really like the idea of Vinyl Nights, and you’re right about Simon & Garfunkle. They didn’t sound like anything else on the radio at the time. Their records were their own little genre, so they sound as fresh today as they always did.

  6. Loved Simon & Garfunkel. Thanks for the memories.
    Chirpy chirpy cheep cheep, oh I remember it well, has to be on a par with “Gimme that thing” and “Day trip to Bangor”. Though for Middle of the Road, to quote Dannii Minogue, the vocals and harmonies were really good. Shame about the lyrics.

  7. We have vinyl type nights too! Tom Jones always wins. Then my friend Andy will “pole dance” to the winning song. Makes me well up just thinking about it! Time for another!
    I grew up on Simon and Garfunkle too. Paule Simon has got the be the 20th century’s most important song writer. The Boxer and Kodachrome are my favorite…oh and Julio, and Cecila, and El Condor Pasa, and the 59th street bridge song, and I am a Rock and and and….
    xxx 🙂

  8. I love Bridge Over Troubled Water but I am afraid that I did permanent damage to the song’s popularity when I tried to play in on the violin in my first year in orchestra. Ouch! Thanks for sharing the vinyl evenings idea. It would be fun to take out all our old albums. When I was in college I was blasted out of bed every morning from my next door neighbor to the sound of the group Boston. Same group, same song, same time…every morning.

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