Another Home Taping Confession: The Friday Rock Show And Why Record Companies Always Put The Best Tracks At The Start Of The Album.
Whilst I have confessed to my musical piracy when taping off the radio – indeed the BBC have broadcast the tapes to prove my guilt – the extent of my taping songs off the radio moved on from the Top 40 countdown show. The trouble was – and the reason I continued this sordid life of crime – Slayer never made the singles chart. And if they did, they didn’t get played on the radio anyway. I don’t blame Mark Goodier for this. It’s tricky playing Angel of Death on a National, Licence-Fee-funded Sunday evening Middle Britain Radio show. “Auschwitz /The meaning of pain…” is likely to put most people off their tea and scones before they settle down to watch Downton Abbey – or Ever Decreasing Circles as was the staple Sunday night TV show back then…
Indeed there was a famous moment when Radio 1 DJ Bruno Brookes did play Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name Of... on the Sunday evening chart show – and didn’t realise that it contained a naughty word. Actually that song contains 17 instances of the F word and some other choice phrases, all of which were broadcast in full at 5pm to the delight of teenagers and the horror of their parents throughout the land. A friend of mine caught the moment on tape. Priceless.
Nevertheless, these occasional lapses of good taste by the BBC were all too infrequent and I was ravenous for new music. And not new music recorded by Wham. Or Rick Astley, Bros or Timmy Mallett. Especially not Mallett. Lovely chap though I hear he is.
The only time you could hear rock music on any radio station was Tommy Vance‘s Friday Rock Show.
TV on the radio, he called it. 10pm until midnight on a Friday night. I would always tune in, even for the last few minutes when coming home from the pub. Almost every record Vance played on that show was new to me – I heard it all for the first time. I first heard Metallica on that show (Battery). Rage Against The Machine (Fistful of Steel – which he played twice in a row). Guns n Roses’ Night Train. Magnum’s Midnight (You Won’t be Sleeping). Bon Jovi’s breakthrough single You Give Love A Bad Name.
And some terrible dross too (too?). So I taped it all, and then (and this bit is very sad and embarrassing to admit) I recorded individual songs onto ten or so other blank tapes and arranged them all in alphabetical order. Machine Head under “M” and so on. I even wrote a track listing on the little cards inside the cassette boxes. Bless. I was a one-man prototype Pirate Bay or Napster. Without the distribution capability.
The theory behind this ridiculous (and some might say weird) behaviour was actually fairly sensible. No, really. I thought that if I read about a band I might be able to look them up on my tapes to see if I had heard them on the radio before buying their album on the back of a magazine review. It only worked once – with a Metallica song.
The filing system lasted about a couple of months until I got bored / swamped with the effort required – but it is an indication of how starved I was of the music I loved that I went to those lengths. Or how genuinely tragic a character I am. You decide. I think I know the answer…
As I mentioned, I put this Heath Robinson plan in place so I might avoid – where possible – buying records unheard, something I would do often. The reviews in Kerrang and, later, Raw and Metal Hammer were a vital part of this process. A rave review would often unlock the purse strings. Why else would I have bought albums by Candlemass, E-X-E, Salty Dog or Sea Hags? (That last one was a particularly good album…) Is it even possible to buy an album unheard nowadays? It’s so easy to look up something on YouTube or Spotify.
The closest thing to YouTube I had in the eighties was travelling to the record shop, walking shyly up to a sulky and / or sarcastic looking punk or goth (always punks and goths) at the counter and asking them if they wouldn’t mind awfully, y’know, if I could perhaps hear a record on headphones – which would allow them the opportunity (in my head at least) of inwardly sneering at my poor musical choice whilst I listened to the record in front of six other people who were all tutting and looking at / tapping their watches impatiently holding a copy of Fun Boy Three’s Tunnel of Love or the latest album by The Fall or The Smiths – or anything cooler than Queensryche’s Rage For Order or Aerosmith’s Classics Live or whatever it was – putting massive pressure on me to Hurry Up And Decide Whether You Wanted To Buy The Damn Record Or Not!
It’s character building stuff to ignore a mass of similarly minded folk. I was never very good at it. I never lasted beyond the end of the second track. And this, I suspect, was exactly the reason why record companies always put the good tracks at the start of the album…
Record #134: Slayer – Angel of Death