In a previous post, I ranted on about the falling fortunes of HMV, the high street music retailer, in the face of competition from the cheaper, leaner on-line sellers. Anyone reading that post might suspect that this is a modern phenomenon, but not so.
Back in 1973, I was already a fully fledged LP buyer limited only by a paper-round income and whilst the high street was my main source of music, there was an alternative. In the spring of that year, an advert in the music press caught my attention. It had been placed by a small mail-order company operating out of premises (probably someone’s spare room) somewhere in Essex and promised newly released albums at reduced prices in direct competition to the high street traders. Shock horror! In those days there really wasn’t such an animal as a ‘reduced price’. By and large, stuff that you bought was the same price wherever you went unless it was a dog-eared sale item.
It just so happened that there were two releases that I had my eye on at the time, ‘Mother’s Pride’ by all-girl combo Fanny and ‘Air Cut’ by a newly re-vamped Curved Air. The prices for these two discs were mouth-wateringly low when compared to standard shop prices and even with the added burden of postage; the deal looked a good one. Of course the Wait was a bit of a problem. Whilst I could waltz into any of the three music stores in St Albans and snap up these LPs instantly, mail order had attached to it the words of doom, ‘allow 28 days for delivery’.
Twenty eight days! I could die of old age. But life was more leisurely then. Postal orders had to be bought, sent by post and cashed at Post Offices, goods had to be packaged and put back into the Royal Mail system. You begin to realise how ‘instant’ ordering from Amazon really is these days. But dangling in front of the punter was a hook with bait – the deal involved the addition of a ‘free single’. This crude marketing device had the desired effect and I went for the Wait.
And it came to pass that after about a fortnight, better than the expected 28 days, two pristine LPs arrived by parcel post together with the free single. In truth, even I knew then that the freebie would probably be something I’d never heard of from about 1961 (and ex-jukebox, no doubt), but no, it turned out to be a brand new copy of Traffic’s debut single, ‘Paper Sun’ from 1967 and on the classic lurid pink Island label. Result!
There are many singles that are undoubtedly a product of their time and this is one of them. Summer of Love Indian instruments? Check. Weird psychedelic lyrics (man)? Check. Catchy 1960s melody? Definitely. This is probably one of the best freebies I’ve ever received but even this didn’t tempt me back for a second stab at mail order. From then on it was back to the record store for a good browse and instant gratification. Until Amazon, that is.