Wednesday, 2 July 2014


The Smiths - Hatful of Hollow
London Philharmonic Orchestra - Peter and the Wolf 
Dexys Midnight Runners - Geno
Adam & The Ants - Kings Of The Wild Frontier
Entering a shop to buy a record for the very first time is a disappearing practice but one which lives forever in the memory of those who used their pocket money to take home a piece a precious vinyl.

London photographer Dean Belcher’s latest project is a series of portraits of 33 individuals each clutching the first record they bought. It’s a great series which captures something of the emotional attachment we have for these objects. It’s not only about the sound we hear when playing a single, album or old 78, but removing the record from the sleeve, reading the small print on the label, and investing time and money into a pastime that’s almost as important.

Dean’s portraits cover all ages and it’s refreshing to see as many women as men. It’s interesting to see how the subjects, for me, fit into different categories including: those who bought kids’ records (Goofy Greats, Yogi Bear); those who purchased the big hits of the day (Sweet, The Police, Arctic Monkeys) and those who struck pure gold by buying some the greatest records ever made on their first attempt (Curtis Mayfield, The Smiths). Some people seem to perfectly match their purchase, others are less obvious, and some quite possibly have a loose connection with the truth. I wish I could claim mine was “Anarchy In The UK” after listening to John Peel under the covers rather than hearing Noel Edmonds play “Captain Beaky and His Band” by Keith Michell in my dad’s car going to see my Granma.

Monkey Picks asked Dean about his photos.

What sparked the idea to take portraits of people with their first record and what did you hope to capture?
 A lot of personal projects I work on are quite long term so I was looking for something I could shoot and show quite quickly. I've never been a vinyl collector per se but I have always bought vinyl. I was in a local record shop recently where I saw two teenage lads going crazy over an old Beatles album and saw the same excitement I got when I bought records every week. I knew I wanted to shoot something exploring this subject and needed something to anchor the theme. One thing about buying vinyl is you generally make a more considered decision (than streaming or downloading) and often have to put some physical effort in. What better link than the first record you bought consciously doing all those things. 

Did you find a theme developing through the series? Did you discover anything you hadn't expected?
I'm not sure anything unexpected happened except I think there may have been a little more fibbing than expected! There was definitely a theme though which I did expect and that was generally joy and laughter and a lot of reminiscing, everyone was emotive in one way or another which is exactly what I wanted.

There are people of different ages in the series. Did their relationship to vinyl differ?
Now that was very interesting. Us of a certain age had little choice but to buy our music this way and it was initially for most heavily influenced by outside sources such as the radio, Top of the Pops and very much the Top Ten; initially in any case, we all of course quickly find our feet and form wider influences. The younger people on the other hand have always had access to pretty much anything via streaming or downloads, what they do not have is an infinite access to new music on vinyl and it's relatively more expensive so the very young with limited funds tended to go for used vinyl, the 30-somethings tended to choose carefully on new releases but still felt that owning the tactile vinyl was nicer and better for their very favourites.
Theres a story behind everyones first record. In some of the photographs its easy to imagine what that story was, less so in others. Can you tell us anything about the lady with the Vera Lynn 78? She looks great.
Ah Nana Dewhurst, what an interesting woman. She made wedding dresses including the Queen’s. Her husband was also a very interesting character who after the war worked at The Dorchester. He travelled a lot both during the war and before. One of the interesting things was he was fluent in the languages of all the countries he was based in, including India and Burma. Anyway it was out there he saw Vera Lynn perform for the soldiers. I'm not sure if this was the reason they both liked her but Nana bought that record in Woolworths in Brixton as soon as it came out with one of her first wage packets working for Norman Hartnell, the aforementioned dress maker.

Tell us about the first record you bought.  
I'm not sure I have the very first one. I had a milk round and bought records every week from the age of about 11, very much influenced by what was going on at the time and before I set out my stall, so to speak, choosing which "tribe" I was to belong to. I remember buying New Wave as well as cheesy pop like “Bright Eyes” along with things like “Ain't No Stopping Us Now” and “Happy Radio”. I still have most but can't find the New Wave which I put down to the fact that in ‘79 when I decided Mod was for me I couldn’t possibly listen to this old Punk/New Wave stuff. Funnily enough though I still have “Uptown Top Ranking” which I would have bought before the "epiphany”. Thankfully my blinkered view didn’t last long. Oh, and first album was Plastic Bertrand from Boots. My dad questioned my buying an album entirely sang in Belgium/French but the cover was good and I could hang it on my wall.

What are your plans for the collection?
I had no definite plans but having put it out there the response has been great, within a day a couple of magazines have expressed an interest in publishing it which is great and even better a gallery has been in touch about a possible exhibition. I'd quite like to self-publish it as a book too.

Very many thanks to Dean.
To view the complete completion visit 33rpm A Venture In Vinyl.
To see more from Dean Belcher visit Dean Belcher Photographer.
Vera Lynn - It's A Sin To Tell A Lie
Showaddywaddy - Red Star
Hanna-Barbera - Yogi Bear TV Theme Tune


  1. What a brilliant idea and what wonderful photos. (Dammit, don't you just wish you'd been included too? I do!)

  2. It's great. If you look on Dean's site I'm the shifty character with the Captain Beaky record...

    1. I'm sorry - I missed that! *blushes* Great pic!

  3. Excellent idea, although with all "first record bought" projects too many people tell lies to look "cool".
    Great to see some honesty here - BA Robertson and Captain Beaky :-)

  4. There should be another category - The First Record I Bought That Means Anything To Me Now.