Many years ago when the world was young I was at a ball in Cambridge, at which my date and I enjoyed a 1940s revival band called the Valentinos, who performed an hilarious number called ‘Who Put The Benzedrine In Mrs Murphy’s Ovaltine?’, the title of which must rank among those great Questions Of The Age alongside ‘Why Do Fools Fall In Love?’, ‘Who Put The Bop in the Bop Shoowop Shoowop?’ and ‘Why Do Birds Suddenly Appear Every Time You Are Near?’
But I digress.
‘Benzedrine’ was, I assume, a cover version, but I simply couldn’t trace the original. This was pre-interwebz, and certainly pre-iTunes. Inquiries at specialist record shops drew a blank. Nobody seemed to know. I was stuck.
Until, one day in 1992. In the summer of that year I was doing a sabbatical stint at the Royal Naval Air Service Armoured Car Division BBC World Service (Science Unit) in Bush House, in the centre of London. The cafeteria at lunch was crowded with broadcasters and journalists, and I remember being crammed in with my colleagues and telling them the story I’ve just told you, about my search for the original recording of ‘Benzedrine’. Well, I might have known that the BBC would be the place where those with an encyclopaedic knowledge of obscure records might lurk. At our table a hand appeared through the crush of souls, bearing a scrawled note that read
Harry ‘The Hipster’ Gibson
That didn’t get me any nearer to finding the record, but at least I had something to go on. And when iTunes eventually came to Cromer, I could download the track.
But iTunes can’t solve everything. It cannot, for example, fix leaky oil wells or come up with an exit strategy for Afghanistan. My needs, however, are more humble. For there is a record – a much more recent record than ‘Benzedrine’ – that I seek, and on iTunes it cannot be found.
Earlier than the BBC incident, but after the Cambridge ball, I was listening to The Friday Rock Show on BBC Radio 2. The DJ, the late Tommy Vance (it was after 10 pm), would occasionally leaven the diet of heavy metal with more adventurous tunes, and one was so fantastic I went out and bought the record. I can’t remember which track triggered it, but the year was 1990 and the album was Nomad by jazz-fusion guitarist Scott Henderson and his band Tribal Tech. I bought the album on a cassette (remember them?) Well, I listened to it, but cassettes were replaced by CDs, and then downloads, and the album made its way into the loft with lots of old pirate recordings, my elephant’s-foot umbrella stand, my collection of tapes of kittens being impaled on red hot skewers and other stuff.
Well, roll on to the present, and I was given a load of jazz-fusion CDs by my friend and fellow commuter Mr N. C. of North Walsham, which featured some more recent Tribal Tech Albums, and other work by Scott Henderson. These are all fantastic and are now firmly lodged in my iPod. That was when I retrieved Nomad from the loft and am enjoying it a second time (it features in heavy rotation in the car alongside Rapture Of The Deep by Deep Purple and Ghost by my friend, singer-songwriter Dana Kerstein). I’d like to get Nomad into my iPod too, but it existeth not on iTunes. I cannot track down a CD anywhere, and wonder if it ever appeared in that format. Sure, I could lash up my aged and not often used cassette deck to a computer and do it the hard way, and it might come to that… but in the meantime, if anyone can get hold of a CD of Nomad by Tribal Tech, or knows whence one might be found, a middle-aged old git in Cromer wants to hear from you.