Memory Songs #1 “I Can’t Explain” by The Who


When I was twelve years old I went with my best friend, Spud, to the local Woolworth’s store on our local high street.

We had decided to club our funds in order to purchase a record.

Neither one of us owned any records of our own at that point.  We survived on the top forty on Radio 1 on a Sunday evening, Top of the Pops and things we heard, but didn’t understand, that came wafting from the sixth year common room at school.

For reasons that I am confident neither one of us could explain to you today we decided upon something by Gary Moore.  My suspicion is that it was probably “Out in the Fields” because that would have been in the charts, or on the radio, at around that time.  Whatever it was we plucked it from the shelf, headed to the cash desk, popped our respective twenty-five pence onto the desk and then headed for my house to play, for the first time, a record that belonged to us.

Back at my home we placed the slab of black vinyl onto my dad’s turntable, dropped the needle and sat back to listen.  The record player was in my parent’s bedroom…maybe they were decorating the living room…so we were perched on the edge of their bed.  Once it had finished my dad appeared in the doorway to tell Spud it was time for him to head for home as we were about to have tea.  Suddenly we were confronted with the terrifying reality of co-owning a Gary Moore single…who would keep it?  This was not something we had given any thought to.  I suggested taking it for a day at a time but before Spud could agree my dad had handed him the record and told him that he could keep it.  I didn’t have time to complain before my dad had ushered my friend and my half of the Gary Moore record out of the house.

As the front door closed my dad turned back to me and said, “Come and listen to this.”  I followed him back into the bedroom and sat, once again, on the edge of the bed.  He bent over and pulled out a battered looking copy of an album from his collection housed in the cabinet underneath the turntable.  He removed the vinyl and did what Spud and I had done with our record…dropped the needle but then something very different happened.

I felt something.

Of course I had heard music before.

Of course there were songs and bands I liked.

Of course I had danced…or at least jigged and jogged around my bedroom while music played.

But as I listened to this record and watched my dad nodding his head, thumping his foot and losing himself to the beat I suddenly felt something new…a rush, a dizzying flash, a near manic desire to jump, jump, jump around.

This was The Who.

This was “I Can’t Explain”.

The album was “Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy”.

The cover features the grown up ‘Oo in glorious tecnicolour looking at some Artful Dodger types in monochrome…the men looking at the boys they were.

I used to stare at that sleeve as I listened to the rhythm and blues, the rock and the roll, the blister and bluster of the songs contained on it and wonder what it would be like to be a grown up…would I still feel the same way as I did at that point; excited and thrilled by music, transported to places outwith and deep within myself?  I could only hope that I would be just like my old man…a grown man with a wife, three kids, a job, a mortgage but still utterly enthralled by the wonders and the glories of the bands he had loved as a young Mod growing up.

My dad gave me more gifts than I could ever remember…he must have spent a small fortune on various bikes, board games, toys, electronic gadgets and the rest but I think the one priceless gift he gave me was the one he gave me that Saturday afternoon when he shared something he loved with me and planted the love of music deep inside of my soul.  The plastic toys have long since gone to landfill, the bikes have been replaced by a family friendly car and now its me with a wife, a kid and a job…but thanks to that afternoon, thanks to “I Can’t Explain”, thanks to my dad I still have that love of music and I don’t think that will ever leave me.

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