I'm posting this one in case there's the remotest chance that someone, somewhere will be even vaguely curious to know the significance of the record I'm holding in this picture on my Facebook* page. It's no biggie, really. But let's take a trip back to 1977: The first Star Wars movie was the box office sensation of the year and I was a nerdy little kid fixated on sci-fi and music. So when I saw the promotional video for Space's hit single "Magic Fly" on TOTP, I was naturally captivated. Here was a group who wore astronaut suits so you couldn't see their faces, playing strange-looking keyboards on a spooky instrumental disco cut. Thanks to the wonders of Youtube, we can all watch that promo again. I've had the 7" single (in the generic pink Pye Records paper sleeve) for ever, but never got the more attractive-looking album. As an 8 year-old, my pocket money wasn't sufficient to go buying elpee records, especially when most of it was already being spent on Marvel Comics. I can't say I've ever really yearned for the album in adult life - I've never consciously searched for it in the crates or e-bay. But I guess I always knew it would be mine eventually and last week, during my regular trawls through the local charity shops, I finally came across a copy for 49p.
As an aside, I should just expand on the whole charity shop thing. Shopping around these places is a thankless task these days. It's very rare to find anything of true monetary or artistic value, but I just like the randomness of shopping this way. I find things that I never even knew I wanted, often these are records that are connected to my past, that didn't seem important at the time, but now resonate as beacons from times and places that can never be returned to. Sometimes it's just the sleeve designs that attract me. Sometimes there's a weird synchronicity aspect , as with my recent Vangelis scoop. I don't know where it's all leading, but I'm enjoying the journey.
But back to Space. After 30 years, the album is finally mine. The sleeve is a bit battered, but I don't mind that. I like sleeves that look 'lived-in'. Interestingly it says 'Original Version'. Why? Was there ever an unoriginal version? The record itself, as predicted, is not an overlooked masterpiece. In truth 'Magic Fly' is the only great tune on there. The opener 'Fasten Seat Belt' has the same throbbing bass sequencer as the hit, but, as with nearly all the other tracks, it's ruined by the over-elaborated arrangements. Clearly, Space were a bunch of crack French session musicians who knew their chops and set out to prove it, with lots of fiddly Clavinet riffs, piano embellishments and big flashy solos. There's a couple of nice percussive breakdowns, especially on 'Tango In Space', where they add a bit of phasing on the drums, but anyone hoping that this might be a missing link to Daft Punk or Air would probably be disappointed. If the record predicts anything, it's the jazz-lite cocktail disco of Bill Sharpe's Shakatak in the following decade. It's not all disco-tempo: there's a couple of slow ballads, including one called - get this - 'Velvet Rape'. I quite like the final track 'Carry On, Turn Me On', but mainly for the energetic performance by the uncredited female vocalist, who makes a few of those Donna Summer-like 'orgasm' noises towards the end. You can clearly hear that there's an edit around 6m10s, as though the producer decided her gasps and moans were getting a little too raunchy and spliced-out the offending section of tape.
The great thing about the track 'Magic Fly' was that it was so fucking cold, constructed of the most basic essential elements without falling back on flashy but ultimately meaningless musicianship. Even the drummer managed to restrain himself from adding any fancy little para diddles and played the beat like a human metronome. Truly, that track had 'space'. I can't say it spooks me like it did back in the day, but a lot of musical water has passed under the bridge since then. Whatever the shortcomings of the rest of the album, I'm still pleased with my purchase. Now I'm going to file it on that part of the shelf where all the records I only play once every 5-10 years go.
* I really haven't got a fucking clue why I set up a Facebook page. Basically I got invited by a Famous Dubstep Artist without knowing anything about it, but now it seems to be catching on like rabies. I've heard it described as a cross between Myspace and Friends Reunited, but I can't imagine anyone of my age group being on there, so I very much doubt I'll be linking-up with any old school pals through this. It's time's like this I really feel the generation gap. I mean, what's the fucking point of it all? Mind you, I did manage to track down Jack, the guy who took all those excellent photos for me last year. Nice to know he's doing alright up in Nottingham now. I guess I'll hang around there for a while and see if anything interesting happens...