Two Birthday cards and their unlikely connection
Its 3:00pm (ish) 14th October 1987 and its my 20th birthday. I’ve got a day off from college and have spent it meandering around town with nothing else to do. I bump into a mate and before we head off to our usual haunt, Trillians for a celebrationary drink we go on a little diversion. We end up outside the stage door of Newcastle City Hall where we try to get tickets for a sold out gig that night. As we wait with a couple of young women, the dulled tones of pop/rock bleed through the walls and we try to make out the tracks of the soundcheck. After a short while it falls silence and the doors open and an army of roadies, hangers on and the occaisional musicians appear. We get some autographs and then the double denimed main man appears and asks us ‘Hey lads do you know where the record shops are?’ to which I replied with a smirk and ‘Of course we do’….. to be continued…..
A former boss once introduced me in front of a staff team. ‘This is Billy, and he can’t walk past a record shop without buying something…’. This could be seen by the more sensitive person as a throwaway slur or a cheap stereotype, but considering its basically the truth, I saw it as a badge of honour.
As described in my previous piece for Record Store Day 2013, it is one of the great pleasures in life flicking through racks of vinyl old and new looking for that special album to buy, smuggle home and listen to in its entirety. A year on from RSD13, I am fashionably late heading into town for RSD14, its 8:00am in the morning and I am on the bus, passing the glorious sight of huge queues outside of all the independent music stores. I turn up at Beatdown records and by 8:20am have bought the majority of the special releases and picture discs I wanted. From the top downwards:
Between the Buried and Me – Colors Live : Bizarre Progressive rock/Metal album played in its entirety live, Opeth – Watershed : This is the album that cements the new direction of the Doom Metal band, Anathema – Untouchable 1&2 : A picture disc with studio and live versions of this classic, Ulver -Messe I.X-XI : Dark Gloomy Gothic metal bought classically to life with Scandanavian Orchestras, Mastodon – Live In Brixton : Stunning live show by one of the heaviest bands around, Mama Rosin / Moriarty : Swiss Cajun Punk band meets French American Cajun Jazz band
My humble purchases were a splash in the ocean compared to the eclectic mix of albums bought by my friend Chris. He had been committed enough to be up from 4am outside Windows Arcade awaiting for it to open. We met in Beatdown and then headed to find a beer at 9am to compare purchases. Chris has been a great friend for over 20 years and he has been there to celebrate my great experiences and pick me up for those sad times. He is a drinker of fine ale and whiskey, a stationery addict and long suffering fan of Newcastle/Bengals. Most of all he has a legendary Record and CD collection with an amazing range of styles and versions. Chris can pull together a compilation on virtually any subject, play tracks for any mood or find that hidden song that needs to be purchased. He has also the worlds largest stockpile of used cover versions. So when it came to his 50th birthday, what better to make for him then his own record shop with 50 albums celebrating his life.
The main body of the card was a thick brown card, folded to create a wide spine the approximate width of the record rack. The front cover has a couple of circular records made out of the materials that make up the rest of the card.
The Record Store element started as one design, essentially a box with no lid and a partial front face. This was drawn onto and then cut out of birch veneer but then the issues started. All the proposed folds to create the sides of the record rack were with the grain and easy to carry out but left sides too flexible. The bottom of the rack needed to fold upwards against the grain, and as much as this was done carefully, it had to split then snap. So an open topped box (made from the same material as the main card) was created to sit in the bottom of the rack to hold the albums and add stability to the structure. An additional piece of veneer was used to cover the inside back wall of the rack, with a small sign declaring ‘Album Sale… 50 years of listening’. Once constructed this was stuck down onto the card with additional small rectangular birch legs.
All that was needed now was albums to populate. The plan was 50 albums from 1964 – 2013, all different artists and all which Chris liked. I started with a skeleton made up of a list of his favourite 12 albums. I worked out the dates of these and then built the list out from there. Some years there was one stand out album, others there were too many or too few. I hope this covered Chris’s collection and tastes….
(64) Hard Days Night (65) Sound Of Music (66) Pet Sounds (67) Disraeli Gears (68) In Search Of the Lost Chord (69) Court of the Crimson King (70) Black Sabbath (71) Who’s Next (72) Simon and Garfunkles Greatest Hits (73) Selling England By The Pound (74) Crime Of The Century (75) Physical Graffiti (76) Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (77) Farewell To Kings (78) Van Halen I (79) Strangers In The Night (80) Leviathan (81) Tin Drum (82) Broadsword and The Beast (83) Frontiers (84) Love At First Sting (85) Storytellers Night (86) Mechanical Resonance (87) Hysteria (88) Imaginos (89) Tough It Out (90) Backstreet Symphony (91) Woodface (92) New Miserable Experience (93) Spilt Milk (94) Division Bell (95) Ozzmosis (96) The Forgotten Tales (97) Come On Over (98) Ray Of Light (99) Scenes From A Memory (00) In the Flesh (01) Southern Rock Opera (02) The Deep End (03) In keeping Secrets Of A Silent Earth (04) Reckoning Night (05) Black Halo (06) Black Stone Cherry (07) Colors (08) For Emma Forever Ago (09) Resistance (10) Blood Of Nations (11) Dust Bowl (12) The Pines (13) Life Sentence
Once albums were selected, 3cm square images were printed onto white card and cut out. The albums were placed into the rustic record store rack. It was then we noticed that any tipping of the card caused albums to spill out. So at the last moment (with 5 minutes before taxi to his party) I had some inspiration and grabbed a yellow Reflex bag, cut out a rectangle and created a smaller version of the bag with the distinctive lettering to carry all 50 LP’s. Strangely when people saw the card, this was the element that people talked about most.
Making changes or whole cards late sometimes pays off with those ‘fly by seat of the pants’ solutions found and difficult decisions having to be made. A month later I made a card for Chris’s sister, Lisa. She is a pub quiz team member, cider guru, personal shopper and Wham! fanatic. I wanted to do something different but again this was left to the last minute. An idea formed to create a card that is a birthday present with a secret inside. For this there was no planning, hurriedly making decisions as I went and tackling issues as they came.
I took 3 thick pieces of card and on one cut out an elongated rectangle from the centre. These three pieces were glued together with the holed piece in the centre and then the whole piece was wrapped with suitable wrapping paper (again glued). Once dry, a scalpel was used to cut a zig zag line across the whole present splitting it in two, all the time being careful not to rip the paper. Looking at either piece, at the cut end a chasm should be present.
I now concentrate on the rectangle I cut out of the middle rectangle piece above. This should fit perfectly back into the chasm, with half of the rectangle sitting above the zig zag cut. If at this point the other part of the present is placed on top it should hold it in place, making the present whole. But I needed to add the surprise. On the top half of the rectangle, stick on an image of the hidden thing… I used one of Lisa’s favourite people, added some birthday clip art and then cut out around the person (leaving the bottom half as a rectangle fitting into the chasm). The top half of the print if placed over fitting snuggly and hiding the surprise. In fact it fitted to tight that it refused to open when it was handed over.
The finishing touches, was a wide ribbon to wrap around and cover the zig zag split, a couple of miniature bows and a gift tag with our message. So there you go, a surprise Bryan Adams birthday present card.
Back in 1987, the denim rock star smiles at my response and asks for us to lead on. So there we were me, my mate (and two women) taking Bryan Adams record shopping in Newcastle. It was a really bizarre thing but Bryan was incredibly so down to earth. We asked a load of questions about the tour and his music, but he spent most of it asking about each of us. I remember he talked to me about college and then we all had a conversation about thrash metal which surprisingly he was very knowledgable about. All the time, our guest went unnoticed walking through the Newcastle streets. After a couple of shops we ended up in HMV where he asked us where the Country and Western section was. It was upstairs but by the time we reached the top step , the 80’s pop background music was brought to a sudden halt and ‘Its only Love’ started. Bryan said he had better go and we took him back to the gig venue. On the way back, we asked about tickets as it was my birthday. Unfortunately there were none… but hey, what a surprise birthday present, record shopping with Bryan Adams and who knew what card inspiration this would give.
Bryan Adams – Cuts Like A Knife