Generally Speaking

Buying an LP as a birthday present in the 1960s

BBC Radio 3 Breakfast came on at 6.25 as usual this morning, my wife’s birthday, in the middle of a movement of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. An LP of which, strangely enough, was one of my first birthday presents to her – in what must have been about 1962, years before we were married.

I remember going then to choose it in the record department of Russell Acott’s in Oxford High Street. Waiting for one of the listening booths to be free. Then taking the records they had looked out for me and listening to them one at a time, through big, black headphones. Did I put them on the turntable myself? That seems incredible now, remembering how easily LPs were damaged. I vaguely remember being asked to be careful with them, but nothing more formal than that. There must have been a big profit margin for the shop.

I knew the piece I wanted for her, the violin was my instrument and I knew she liked the Mendelssohn, but there were half a dozen different versions available. So I took my time agonising backwards and forwards before making my precious purchase. Eventually I bore the David Oistrakh version away lovingly. That crisp and precise last movement settled it.  We still have it somewhere (…found it – see pic…). Can’t bear to let it go.

Birthday LP

She used to play it on her Bush record player. Which was itself probably her present from her parents that year.

Where would you start making a list of the ways this is different from today? And ways in which this is different from the popular image of student life in the 60’s?

Birthday LP-002

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