I had just progressed from 45rpm to 33rpm by using all but tuppence of my saved-up paper-round money, and was watching in some wonder as a large circle of black vinyl was literally dwarfing the tiny portable record player it was playing on.
I can’t find a picture of the actual player I owned, which was powered by six U2 batteries, bright red and primarily aimed at a burgeoning teenage market that wanted to play 45rpm singles in their bedroom. However, it would play LPs and 78s as well, and the video above of a similar player from that era gives some idea of how the larger records hung over the sides, and the arm seemed to somehow appear from beneath the record to hover over it.
It is difficult to imagine how a thirteen-year-old might view the daunting thought of starting a personal annual tradition that would still continue more than fifty years into the future – even when you were that very teenager. However, the circumstances of the creation of this personal tradition show my original choice as not being a particularly difficult one.
When I took that first twelve-inch vinyl record into school to be played on a friend’s larger mains player at our class party on the last day before the Christmas break of 1963, I described it to a classmate, with typical teenage hutzpah, as my album of the year. “It’s the only one you’ve got!” he huffed with a wry smile. “So?” I replied, to which he shrugged and went back to reading his copy of NME, the centre page of which showed my album not only stood at number one in the Top Ten Album Chart that week, but also number seventeen in the Singles Chart as well!
I opened my haversack, pulled out a dog-eared rough-jotter, opened it upside-down at the pristine back page and wrote across the top “My Albums of the Year”. I used my wooden ruler to double-underline the title for added emphasis, then drew three vertical columns down the page, headed: “Year / Title / Artist”. On the first line I wrote: “1963 / With the Beatles / The Beatles”.
That jotter page didn’t last long, but the list continued over the years onto other pieces of paper, then into word-processing files, and finally a spreadsheet that on 31st December 2012 received its fiftieth entry – and continues to grow longer. The full up-to-date list is shown here.