Today's post is a tribute of sorts to an 80's pop music institution - at least in Britain. Who else remembers Oldies Unlimited? Here's a reminder:
Not very visual, is it? Anyway, let me set the scene for you. First, I will get my pipe and slippers and mutter something like, "You kids today, you don't know how lucky you are...".
Let's say it's the mid-eighties and you want to hear an Ultravox B-Side. No downloads, no file sharing, you have to actually buy the real record the track was on. So you go down to the local record shop and say, would I be able to order "We Came To Dance" by Ultravox? Then the hippie looking bloke (some things have not changed that much) would pull out a book the size of Cardiff and look for the catalogue number. I think those books still exist - most libraries seem to have hidden racks of them in the reference sections. Then, you would wait. About a week later you would check back and they would look at their order book - all handwritten in biro - and shake their head, nah mate sorry, couldn't get it.
Oldies Unlimited was great precisely because they had all kinds of records, you just had to go through the whole mail-order experience. This starts with them sending you a booklet with a list of their records, which they would send every month or so. When you ordered records, you had to put some extras down so you never knew exactly what you were going to get (Hey, wasn't that also how you ordered Panini stickers for your albums? I'd forgotten about the whole "provide alternatives" approach). No scans, no digital photos, just writing to some place called Telford which could have been the moon for all I knew. No credit card - just send a check or a postal order. This was while I was still at school, so placing an order was a rare treat.
On one occasion I took a chance and bought a box of 100 singles for about ten pounds, it was one of those grab-bag deals. When they came, of course they were all rubbish and I'd never heard of any of them. The only one I remember at all was "I Never Go Out In The Rain" by High Society. For some reason I've always had a soft spot for tunes that hark back to Vaudeville and the roaring twenties.