As you may have noticed by now, Music That Made Me is not an erudite list of classic songs, nor is it just a compilation of my favourites from over the years, but records that have in some way influenced my tastes, for better or worse. There are probably certain periods of our lives that our musical preferences are influenced more than others; my teens and my mid-twenties probably stand out as defining periods, although I continue to be excited by discovering of the new even now. Yet one of the most important periods, hardly touched on in this series, is early childhood. I’ve mentioned my first single purchase and early camping holidays in France, but before that much of my earliest exposure to music came from my parent’s record player.
There was something very sturdy about that record player. It was a solid brown box with a hinged lid that was fixed down with two golden coloured clasps. You would place the records on a central spindle from where they would drop onto the deck with a satisfying ‘clomp’ before the arm swung slowly across and rested itself onto the vinyl grooves.
My parent’s singles were kept upright in a wire rack, which ensured that any possible warping of the discs was kept to a minimum. It was a mix of their teenage rock ‘n’ roll favourites, from The Everly Brothers to Eddie Cochran but interspersed with some children’s records that they’d purchased for me – recordings of Teddy Bears Picnic, (How Much Is) That Doggie In The Window and this, the bizarre Puff The Magic Dragon by Peter, Paul and Mary.
Although the writers of the song denied its references, the allusion to ‘puffing’ a joint, chasing the ‘dragon’ and ‘Little Jackie Paper’ - a possible relation to rolling a spliff, caused an outrage amongst the moral masses when it was first released in the 1960’s and was adopted by the flower-power hippy scene at the time . Yet to this young listener, sitting at home in his parents lounge with its patterned brown wallpaper and white fake leather sofas – the epitome of cool in the early 70’s – this song was a sweet, magical and innocent song.