It was February 1979. I was nine years old and on half term holidays from school. My Nana saved 10p a week, for my brother and I, starting on the week after Christmas. By the time it came to half term, she had saved £1 each for us.
My Dad was off work from the pit, again. He was a very principled man and he instilled his values in me. He’d left the shipyards, because of the strikes and took a job down the pit, only to find him self on strike almost immediately. He used to try and stretch his wages out to buy an album every month, or so. He didn’t believe in buying singles and he’d say “always buy albums and then you get the single, plus many more songs for just a few pounds more!”
Dad had to nip to Jarrow, to buy a few bits and bobs. It was Tuesday. Chart day! I had my pocket full to the brim with 5p pieces and I’d decided I was finally going to buy my very first ‘45. I wanted to buy Oliver’s Army after hearing it on Top of the Pops the previous week. It had been rising up the charts and was highly tipped for the number one spot.
As we headed into Woolworths, I told to my Dad that I was going to buy the new number one single, as soon as it was announced on Radio One. My Dad thought this was quite strange, knowing that I had developed my own musical tastes – likes and dislikes! I was confident, though. I was sure I was going to be buying ‘Oliver’s Army’. It was a dead cert. The record that was the current number one, would be flung aside, by the musical masses and everyone would will Elvis Costello to the top of the charts.
I noticed a cheeky glint in my Dad’s eye. He challenged me to stick to my principles and to buy the number one, whatever it was. I started to feel a sense of dread as I stood near to the counter, listening to the chart’s final countdown. My Dad had returned from the handy store part and stood by my side. Woolies had the heating on and I had my parka coat on. My hands poured with sweat as I rolled my fingers over the 5p pieces. I’d stupidly drawn a line for myself.
I could feel eyes looking down at me as my Dad told everyone that I was going to buy whichever record was number one. The lady behind the counter looked at me, in her light blue, checkered overall. She took pity on me and asked if I wanted to buy my preferred single and said “you don’t have to stick to any daft principle!”
“YES, HE DOES!” exclaimed my Dad. “He’s made a declaration to himself and to me and he’s going to stick by it. Aren’t you, son?”
“Err, yeah, dad!”
I had no choice now. It was nearly one o’clock. I closed my eyes and prayed as the countdown came to an end and Radio One declared “…and still at number one, it’s the Bee Gees, with ‘Tragedy’. ” It most certainly was! I, reluctantly, handed 14 of my 5p coins over to the nice lady. She gave me my first single and 1p back, placing the change into the Sooty with a slot on the top of his head, to help blind children.
I played the single, when I got home and felt “held in time, in a world of tears”. I never played it again. It still sits amongst the rest of my record collection, as a reminder to stick to my principles and to never back myself into a corner, if I can help it!
Photo and text sent by Davy, Hebburn, South Tyneside