Family Ties


A week ago (29 May 2015), I was attending the funeral of my aunt Cheryl. After a long fight with cancer, she had passed on and was finally at peace and free of pain. In just over 3 weeks it will be the one year anniversary of the passing of my Nana too. It’s perfectly naturally that funerals (much like most family events) tend to make people think, to ruminate, to assess….. and whilst I was doing so, two stories jumped to my mind. Nothing earth shattering and revelatory, just some things that made me smile.

My parents bought my first CD player somewhere around the early 90s. It was a no-name brand, but it did the job for me. Up until this point in time I had been using the hi-fi downstairs and trying not to break the needle. At some point not long after that Cheryl came to visit us. She brought with her some CDs for me. If memory serves me right these were the first batch of CDs that I ever owned. Contained within this bundle were:

  • 2 CDs from the front of magazines (one of them featuring the bizarre, yet excellent Sesame’s Treet)
  • Queen: Greatest Hits 2 (which I kept for many years until I bought the Greatest Hits 1,2 & 3 package)
  • Lionel Richie: Back To Front (and excellent album but one that I gave to a school friend for him to give to his Mum on the grounds that it was Lionel Richie and not metal enough for me…. I have the album now though. Cracking stuff it is.)
  • Pearl Jam: Ten

This last CD was new to me. I’d heard of Lionel and Queen, but this band was unknown to me. So I popped the CD into the hi-fi and discovered that I liked this band! Quite a bit actually. I’d never heard of Pearl Jam, I’d probably not heard of Nirvana…. or the word ‘grunge’ either. Not that it would have mattered, this was (and still is) a rock and roll album. I’ve always felt that PJ were erroneously tagged grunge simply because they came from Seattle. And whilst they shared the same appreciation of punk that Nirvana et al did, they were much more aligned to classic rock than anything else. I mean…. they ripped off the solo for ‘Alive’ from ‘She’ by Kiss!

Anyway, this album stayed in heavy rotation for a long time, which was down to the quality of the music than my limited CD collection. When ‘Vs’ came out in ’93, I went out and purchased the album and continued my journey with the band, right up until ‘Yield’ when I kinda drifted away. Apart from being appreciative of the fact that I was given CDs, I think I’m also thankful to Cheryl that because of her bringing me that CD, it planted a little seed in my brain, that not everything has to be buzz saw guitars, lightning solos and gruff yelled vocals… it could be soulful singing, emotive lyrics, it could still be GREAT music even if it wasn’t metal.

Because, you see, up until then it was pretty much metal all the way (even Kiss and WASP were metal to me). My absolute favourite band was, without doubt, Metallica. Having gotten into them a few years earlier via a copy on ‘…And Justice For All’, I was on the cusp of my obsession with the band that would last for most of the 90s. Somehow (most likely through Kerrang or Metal Hammer) I knew that there was a new Metallica album coming out in 1991. And I also knew that there was going to be a single released too.

Nana would go into Cardiff city centre (or town as we call it) every Friday. On several occasions over the years I went with her. She followed the same route every time although I think that she rarely stopped for lunch normally, I think that was something she did for me. On one occasion I went into town with her for the express purpose of buying the new Metallica single, which was called ‘Enter Sandman’. So we followed the same route (Poundstretcher, Littlewoods….) and then we took a detour into St David’s Centre and more specifically to (the now defunct) Our Price record shop.

I located the single (7″ vinyl picture disc) on the shelves, picked it up, said to Nana “This is the one I want” and then promptly put it back down on the shelf so I could count out the money in my hand. Clearly, I wanted to have the cash ready before I even got to the counter! Nana then said to me “Why don’t you give me the record in case someone else comes along and takes it”, so I handed it to her and continued to count the cash. Moments later, I heard a voice talking about the single and specifically saying “Oh, it’s supposed to be here but they don’t have any in stock”. HA!!, I thought, I’ve got the last one. Off over to the counter I went, paid my (I think) £1.99 and continued around town with Nana. A very good day for my 11 year old self; not only did I have the new Metallica single, we also went for lunch in the market (sausage, beans and chips) and eventually got picked up and home I went.

As you can see from the photos, I still have the Pearl Jam CD and the Metallica vinyl. Neither have been played for a few years; the CD resides in MP3 form now, the vinyl without a needle and turntable for many years (it’s also in digital form now).  There was a point in most funerals where there is a period of contemplation, usually where the congregation is encouraged to think of a special memory. These are just two among many other memories I have of these two ladies. I could have chosen the time Cheryl gave me an Iron Maiden guitar book or the Gilbert & Sullivan musicals I went to with Nana…. but these two stood out for me and I wanted to share them.

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