published: 24 /
In his 'Vinyl Stories' series, in which he talks to musicians about their record collections, Dave Goodwin, in a break from routine, talks to Paul Wentworth, the guitarist with the Amber Herd about his cassette collection
This month's 'Vinyl Stories' is a bit of a cheat really. Well, I say cheat, but what I really mean is that we started out with rules for it and rules are there to be broken, aren't they? So, in my quest to find folk with the same passion of the black wax, I inadvertently stumbled upon another of my childhood wonders that I actually sadly don't possess anymore, although I know of people that do.
Can you remember winding the loops on by sticking a pencil through it? Do you recall precision recording from the radio your favourite songs, while pressing the two end buttons on the machine and keeping deathly quiet until Mum came bumbling in to tell you that tea was ready and ruined the whole damn thing? Aaaagh!!!
This month I have veered away from vinyl and delved into the world of the cassette. It turns out some people still have some cherished tapes from back in the day. One of them, Paul Wentworth, is the guitarist with the Amber Herd, whom we have featured here at Pennyblackmusic a few times. The Amber Herd released their debut album, 'Our Only Eden', to some critical acclaim last year. They have also become a favourite of our editor, no less.
Paul was originally brought up in North Yorkshire, but now works in Nottingham and also lives there with his better half, Estelle, a punk-loving Londoner. He doubles up in life as an engineer of some repute. He started out as any normal engineer, but now has scaled his workings into precision micro-engineering and building bridges for ants. Unlike most of us as we get older, Paul has a healthy set of hair and nowadays sports a fine ponytail.
He hasn't had chance to play any of his tapes for at least twelve years because his last tape player/recorder died shortly after he and Estelle moved into their ten new house. He did have a tape player in his car at one point, but he got rid of that for a newer model.
Paul was born and grew up in Malton, a small market town on the A67 in North Yorkshire. This is where he discovered and developed his musical tastes. He has a copy of 'Top of the Pops, Chart Hits of 1981' which he confesses that he saw recently on vinyl and nearly bought.
"It's got some really good tunes on it. There's a track on there that I really liked by Depeche Mode called 'Just Can't Get Enough' and I also liked 'Vienna' by Ultravox", Paul says. He, however, admits to not being a New Romantic or Futurist in his colourful past. He does admit to only being six or seven at the time though, so we'll have to give him the benefit of the doubt here.
In the same year he was also bought a copy of Elvis Presley's 'Greatest Hits' and also a cassette of 'Country Greats' by the Nashville Cats, which were "standards covered by a really bad covers band." It wasn't until 1982 when Paul bought his own first piece of music which turned out to be a cassette of Musical Youth's album 'Pass the Dutchie'. Then, after that, he bought 'Waking Up with the House on Fire' by Culture Club.
"So, it became obvious that I had this 80's sort of reggae going on. Then about two years later I started to listen to metal and nothing but metal. I have no idea where the two areas met but they did and that was that."
Metallica and Megadeth were the main staples of that time for Paul. There was a big divide between the two sounds but he embraced them both. Indeed,
Megadeth would be Paul's first furore into the live concert world, and he had all their albums on both cassette and vinyl. Every single one of them. The same could almost be said for Metallica. He remembers, "I bought Metallica's first single on cassette single whilst on a scout camp in Dundee. On the same camp I managed to draw the front cover of 'Somewhere in Time' by Iron Maiden on a carrier bag I had in the tent, and most of the Metallica and Megadeth album covers ended up on the canvas satchel bag I used to have. By the time I left school it was about seven or eight albums thick! I still have that same bag up in the loft, and I think it's got New Model Army on it now."
Paul also remembers buying a cassette copy of Alice Cooper's 'School's Out', and adored it that much that it became his most favourite album of all time. He bought that and Metallica's 'Justice For All' on the same day along with a computer game for his ZX Spectrum Plus called 'Super Stuntman'. "Whenever I play either of those albums now I have images flashing up of me racing my little racing car, doing all the stunts on that game."
Into the nineties, Paul's love of all things metal started falling apart. Grunge had taken off at the time, so he got on the grunge bus and toured with that after for a while. He then began travelling to gigs in places like Leeds and York by car as he had passed his driving test by this time and had started to develop a wider interest in music. He also saw gigs by bands such as James and Radiohead at the Barbican in London during that period, and ended up seeing a band on a regular basis at the Spotted Cow in Nottingham called the Bedbugs whose guitarist went on to play in Shed Seven. One night Bedbugs supported a band called Dodgy who blew Paul away, "I went on to buy everything they ever did before 'Free Peace Sweet'. They were that good. I had cassettes galore by Dodgy up until that album and they fell out of favour with me when they started to make it big."
About that time, Paul started to dabble in a bit of tape mixing, and he mixed his own tape entitled 'The Unique Thrash You to Within an Inch of Your Life and Then Slowly Bring You Round with a Cellist in White Rubber Mix 93'. Thinking Paul had gone all studio, I asked how he "mixed" the tape and he replied, "Well, I just got two tape recorders instead of one and recorded one from the other? How else do you mix tapes?" About then he also discovered a band called New Model Army. "They absolutely floated my boat. I was into everything they ever did and bought up the cassettes likewise. They were just perfect in every way, and I have gone on to see them live every year without fail after that up until to this day."
After moving out of his parents and obtaining his own flat somewhere around 1995, he met a girl in Nottingham who he had been quite taken with. "The best way, everyone knows, to woo a lady is through music so I mixed a tape for her. One of my friends lived on a farm up near Castle Howard, and one night me and a few of my mates were getting a bit rat arsed at his place, and I sort of had an idea of the tracks I wanted to put on this tape and also writing a selection of questions relating to these songs. Anyhow, we were getting progressively more drunk, and I began to press the record button on my portable tape recorder and to ask the questions. The answers I would put on the tape before each track. It got quite debauched towards the end,to be honest. I had also about this time just passed my apprenticeship in Engineering, and I had a photo from a newspaper of me getting my certificate which went on the front of the tape. I am the one looking like Marti Pellow. The tape would be called 'Them, Us and the St Valentine's Day Mascara'. It does say mascara and not massacre. I was wooing at the time not slaughtering!"
The tape had one side with all female artists on it and the other all male. The task must have worked well because Paul has been together ever since with Estelle. She has a music taste all of her own which hopefully we will inspect closely in the near future. On the tape are love-provoking artists like Led Zeppelin and New Model Army on one side, and Lush and the brilliant the Cranberries on the other. There was no expense spaired in the making either because Paul recorded the whole affair on a TDK D90.
Paul went on to be quite industrious with his home made exploits. He recorded a whole series of tapes entitled 'The Beginner's Guide to Bondage' which went on, just like the 'Now That's What I Call...' series, to have no lesss than seven editions of which he recalls, "The only one I could find in the series was edition three entitled 'Thumbscrews'. They each had a title of their own, you see?"
His favourites of all his tapes are 'The St Valentine's Day Mascara' for obvious reasons and the 'Top of the Pops' chart hits because it was his first bit of music that started his musical life off. Incidentally, just to indicate how precise Paul was with his tapes ( Remember he is now in micro-engineering building parts for hearing aids for sound deficient plankton), he would work out the length of the tracks on each side so that "If I was going to a party with loads of people there, to save time you could turn the tape straight over and not have any blank time at the end of each side." Marvellous!