Dixons Currys.digital, buying a new computer keyboard. What sounds like a competent cover version of Starship’s We Built This City is playing. For a moment I wonder if it’s the start of one of those godawful trance retreads of 80s guitar hits. You know the sort of thing: Owner Of A Lonely Heart/Max Graham versus Yes, Proper Education/Eric Prydz versus Pink Floyd, Boys Of Summer/DJ Sammy feat. Loona, The Majesty Of Rock/The KLF versus Spinal Tap.
It isn’t, but now I’m trying to block out a sound that I think is something originally recorded by A Flock Of Seagulls. The performance is accurate except for the vocals. These are horribly, horribly out of tune. It can’t be a recent re-recording or someone would have used pitch correction software. What is this shit? Can I endure it long enough to find a decent keyboard?
I’m replacing one old one because I’ve broken it. My main keyboard is an ancient IBM of similar vintage to A Flock Of Seagulls, rescued from a discarded original PC at the Institute of Cancer Research. I learned to touch-type on a manual typewriter so I love clackity old metal-framed IBM keyboards, which I suspect are built from obsolete Israeli tank spares and are the only ones in existence that you could apply to a human torso with fatal results—or, indeed, that I can hammer away at with my heavy fingers for more than a few months without breaking also.
I approach the counter with my soon-to-be-suffering new Logitech, but things are beginning to swim a little as the painfully bad singing continues. Luckily Go West kicks in before I pass out from intonation sickness.
“What is this playing?” I ask the guy behind the counter, “some kind of 80s compilation?”
“It’s The 80s Live,” he says, happily. “They were playing The Best Of The 60s earlier on, but I took it off ’cause it was rubbish. Go West are brilliant. Almost as good as Level 42.”
Our eyes meet and I gaze deep into his soul. He is not being ironic.
“How old are you?”
I don’t know exactly what age he really is, but whatever it is he’s at the stage of life when you lie about being twenty-one so someone will sell you an alcoholic drink or a domestic solvent.
“Is there any music you like that was recorded in the last twenty years?” I ask him, trying to keep the mystification out of my voice.
“Has anyone recorded anything good in the last twenty years?”
I pay for my keyboard, laughing: “Kids today!”
“Thanks, granddad,” I mutter on my way out, reflecting that I was a medical school dropout, working in the library of Tamworth College of Further Education and navigating around the home keys of a cast-iron Olivetti while the sales assistant was a toddler.
I am become my dad.