As an Englishman residing across the pond, chancing across this Kodachrome image of Old Blightly nestled amongst the Country and Christian LPs in a Colorado thrift store was enough to stop me in my tracks. The sight of Big Ben and that red double decker bus, just like the ones that used to take me record shopping as a teen, wiped away the years. I was momentarily back there on Westminster Bridge, getting lightly drizzled on as Morris Marinas and Vauxhall Victors whizzed by.
From the title alone I had a pretty good idea what the record was going to contain. The info on the back cover confirmed my hunch: the chimes of Big Ben, the hustle and bustle of a London street market, the rants of Speaker’s Corner, a cockney knees-up in an East End pub, etc etc. But what was this on Side 2 Track 1? Liverpool’s somewhat underground mod band The Koobas with the flip of their sixth and final 45, and something about a recording at John Stephen’s legendary Carnaby Street clothes shop? For 99 cents? Sold.
Musically speaking, it turned out to be a huge letdown. But non-musically speaking it’s a delight. While a murky snippet of The Koobas’ excellent mod stomper ‘City Girl’ plays in the left channel, we hear a 1967-era fashion transaction taking place in the right channel. An oh-so-English accent asks for a pair ‘casual trousers’, instantly reminding me of the gentleman’s outfitters from The Fast Show (unBritish readers see video below). What follows is a minutes worth of comedy gold, although of course it’s not supposed to be.
I imagine an American tourist couple grabbed this LP while they were in London in the late 60s, thinking it would be a wonderful way to remind them of all the quaint sounds they heard on their European vacation. Judging by the pristine quality of the vinyl they probably played it a couple of times then stuck it in the attic. Truth be told, I haven’t played it more than a couple of times either. But both those times have been a real trip. Until someone invents a time machine this is the closest you can get to parking your scooter on (the now pedestrianized) Carnaby Street and popping into a boutique for those causal trousers.
Oh, and here’s the full version of ‘City Girl’ by The Koobas. A great B-side by a great band, but not exactly the kind of thing that turns up in dollar bins. At least it’s never been in one I’ve looked through at the time of me looking through it…