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Artie And The Lost Forty-Five

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I’m searching for the lost forty-five. Jack was talking about it last night in The Crown. It was when an old northern soul record came on the jukebox, one that they play regularly in there, and which can’t fail to make your feet tap and your body start to move as if you were on a dance floor in Wigan back in nineteen seventy-four or thereabouts or perhaps in Studio 54 in New York City a few years later.

It got Jack going, that’s for certain. Records like that always do. He started telling us about the lost forty-five, which he does at frequent intervals of drunken revelry. We call it the lost forty-five scale, meaning you can calculate his level of drunkenness from how much he talks about it. Last night was such a night.

So, the record. It was recorded somewhere in Alabama in the mid-sixties, he tells us and pressed on a local label. There were only a few hundred or so copies made if that, and it’s possible that there aren’t any left. He was trying to remember what it was called. He couldn’t do it. But he says, when he hears it, he’ll know it. He might even recognise the label it was on, it’s so obscure, all pink and yellow lettering and a logo of the face of a guy in shades with a goatee beard and wide, thick sideburns that look so good you want them for yourself as soon as your eyes make contact.

So that’s what I do today. I wake up and the sun’s coming through a crack in the curtain and I’m thinking about the lost forty-five. I’m going to go searching for it, to the Funky Groove Emporium in town, where I spend a fair proportion of my idle afternoons.

I get up at an hour that’s early for me, way too early in fact for life and limb to be truly rested, but there you go. I couldn’t sleep anyway. It’s like that sometimes. The head’s buzzing and you’ve got ideas flying around your mind and you need to think about them and fulfill them. So I have some cornflakes and strong coffee and get showered and dressed in my day wear of black Henley top and slim fit jeans, put on my trusted Harrington from back in the day, and head out of the house.

Another monotonous bus ride later and I’m off down the street, hands in pockets, taking in the mood of the town going about its business. I zip up my Harrington because there’s still a slight chill in the air. I head up, past the newsagent and charity shop I sometimes browse in, and turn the corner into a side street. There it is in front of me. I push open the door and a bell rings and nod to the guy behind the counter, an old hippy I believe, from back in the day, who’s sorting through a stack of albums, and go over to the vinyl.

I start off with the albums. There are all the familiar ones here, a lot of which I’ve got at home tucked away in my record box, which is taken out at appropriate opportunities and played to my heart’s content as part of the technicolor world of rhythm and soul, which is where I live my life. I flick through them and note one or two that I might think about adding to my collection, though the prices today are a little more than I’d intended to pay. If I spend this much, I won’t have anything left for the weekend. That wouldn’t do. It wouldn’t do at all. I just stick the prices at the back of my brain somewhere, for thinking about when I’ve looked through everything else that’s on offer.

I walk a few feet and start going through the singles. Once again, there are records here I have already plus a whole lot more that I dig hugely. I’m going through the dusty record boxes that have seen better days and clocking the bits and pieces of the great sixties and seventies beat revolution that’s the cornerstone of our collective being. I’ve not seen the lost forty-five yet, though. Not that I’ll know what I’m looking for. But, from what Jack says, that won’t matter. Like him, I’ll know it when I see it.

I smile to myself and look round. Will I know it when I see it? I don’t know. Though, in a sense, it doesn’t matter. Because my eyes have just been diverted a little and my mind’s registering what I’ve seen. It makes me think of the crucial influence of the fanzine writer in my life. Let’s put it this way. For my sins, until recently I’d never heard of a band called The Pink Shades who came, I think, from one of the Scandinavian countries, though it could have been somewhere else. But I’ve heard of them now. There was a piece on them in a fanzine I picked up the other day, which led me to check them out. They’re garage rock’s finest, in the bass, guitar, and drums tradition, with a little Hammond organ thrown in for good measure. File with Nuggets and the rest of the greats.

So, you’ll understand my surprise as I’m standing here, going through the little pieces of black plastic, when it hits me, a single. It might as well have jumped out of the rack, started spinning round, and hit me between the eyes. Because it’s by them, The Pink Shades, the very same band I’ve been checking out. You could call them ‘my new favourite band’, if you wanted to. I take it out of the rack and have a look. It’s in a picture sleeve, five mop top-beat boys staring out at me with long fringes that fall over their faces and nearly cover their eyes, in roll necks and paisley and silk scarves. The single’s called Gonna Leave on the A side with All I Need on the b side and, as soon as I see it, spurred on by the article in the fanzine, I want it. I take the record out of the sleeve and give it a look. It’s fine, no scratches on it and not much dust so it’s well worth getting. I put it back in the sleeve and put it to one side. I need to check if there are any more that I want.

I flick through the rest of the records and there’s nothing that grabs my attention, not in this way. Maybe if I’d not seen that, there may have been others that would have drawn me in. But there aren’t. So I decide to leave it at this. I take the record to the counter and hand it to the guy and he smiles as he puts it in the bag. I’ve got taste and he knows it.

As I walk out of the shop with the record in my hand, I think to myself. I’ve been searching for the lost forty-five all my life.

Written by BillySoho
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