Each week I would receive five shillings pocket money from my Nan and five shillings from my great aunt. I got nothing from either parent as they suggested any additional income would put me in a different tax bracket. At 13, in 1970, I thought a tax bracket was something which held up book shelves.
I would, soon after pocketing my ten bob, be quickly relieved of it by the man behind the record counter in Hurley’s, a small department store on Balham High Road.
There were several listening booths within the record department; you could listen, in relative private (and without anyone shouting out “turn that bleedin’ noise down, Michael”), and no one would ever know you were a closet Clodagh Rodgers fan.
75% of my pocket money would go on buying a single record. (There’s not much you can buy for seven and six these days, mainly because pre-decimalisation currency in no longer legal tender).
Despite the unendearing fiscal lessons taught by my mother, I would occasionally buy her records she’d ask for. She was a massive Motown fan and I remember buying the Detroit Spinners’ “It’s a shame” and Freda Payne’s “Band of gold”.
One week my mother went rogue.
She’d taken a liking the Scottish group, Middle Of The Road. In June 1971, when seven and six had become thirty-seven and a half pence, I went to the record counter at Hurley’s. I approached the assistant and innocently inquired after the number one hit of this aptly-named middle of the road pop combo. I had long hair at the time and believe the assistant anticipated me asking for something by Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Humble pie. His assumptive world (and mine) was about to come crashing down:
“Have you got Chirpy, chirpy, cheep, cheep?” I asked
“No,” replied the assistant, choking on the absinthe he’d had hidden in his Thermos flask, “I’ve been like this since the accident.”
Middle Of The Road went on to have two others hits: Soley, Soley and Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum; following on from Chirpy, chirpy, cheep, cheep, I naturally assumed either the lyricists were very unimaginative or had dreadful stammers.
Embarrassed after the Chirpy, chirpy, cheep, cheep incident, I took my custom to Harlequin Records, also on Balham High Road. It was there, buying singles, that I learned to spell badly courtesy of Noddy Holder.