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When I Was a Boy

December 17, 2015

One of the unfathomable, magical properties of music is its ability to transport the listener to another time and place.


This happened to me recently when I heard “When I Was a Boy”, the first track from “Alone in the Universe”, the new album by Jeff Lynne’s ELO. The song’s (presumably autobiographical) lyric has Lynne describing his childhood self lying in bed listening to music and dreaming of playing music for a living instead of getting a conventional job.


I was instantly transported back to my own childhood where I would lie for hours in my bunkbed listening to my beloved orange Philips transistor radio either through a single, tinny  earphone or with the speaker pressed to the side of my head.


(This isn’t it, by the way. My radio is long gone and, to be honest, I probably hadn’t given it a thought in thirty years or more, but hearing the song brought the memory rushing back and finding this picture online has made me dearly wish I still had it).

I can also clearly remember the thrill of sitting in in our living room listening to LPs that I had  borrowed from my local library (two concepts that younger readers may need a grown up’s help with!).  I’d listen on headphones, but they weren’t your modern, diminuitive “ear bud” things, these babies were the size of soup bowls and seemed to enclose most of my juvenile head along with my ears. The result was an immersive, all-consuming experience.

And did I dream of playing music for a living? You bet. I had this fantasy of driving around in a Bedford Rascal van loaded with all my equipment, singing and playing songs to adoring fans all over the country.

Bedford Rascal van. The world's smallest tour bus?

Although I never reached the dizzy heights of owning a Rascal (it’s still on my wishlist of things I’ll buy when I make my first million) my dream came true – music is now my full-time job.

I drive around in what is, more or less, a van packed with equipment. I travel all over the UK to sing at events and although the people I perform for might not always be classed as “adoring fans” the important thing is that all these years down the line I am making a living from music.

Perhaps the most delightful irony in all of this is that one of the borrowed LPs I most vividly remember listening to on those gargantuan headphones is “Discovery” by ELO.

"Discovery" by Electric Light Orchestra

Funny how things turn out sometimes, isn’t it?

(PS. If you haven’t heard it, here’s “When I Was a Boy”. It’s excellent).

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