Musical Psychogeography in Cheltenham

A recent weekend trip to Cheltenham for a family wedding brought back some very strange psychogeographical memories to me.

I spent a lot of time in Cheltenham in the mid-eighties as a teenager. I used to get the bus into the town and visit the record stores: Our Price (where I bought such records as Einsturzende Neubauten's debut LP and Big Black's "Songs about Fu**ing") and the brilliant Badlands where I bought too many discs to mention (though Pere Ubu's "360 degrees of Simulated Stereo" springs to mind).

Driving into the town on the way to the wedding along the London Road I pulled up at the traffic lights and remembered that this very location is always inextricably linked in my memory with The Velvet Underground's "White Light, White Heat". Indeed whenever I think of the album I flash on this very spot. I recall turning the record over and over in my mind as I was riding the bus into town; listening to "Sister Ray" at the traffic lights on my Walkman.

And it didn't stop there. This view and location on Clarence Street (below) always makes me think of Pere Ubu's "The Modern Dance". This was before I actually owned the record which I eventually found at the Our Price on the Kings Road. I think the association was owing to a rave review of the reissue that appeared in either the Melody Maker or NME. I must have been reading the review at this location. A family friend owned the newsagent and it's likely I bought the "inky" at their shop.

Turn 180 degrees around the same crescent and here I have a powerful association with David Bowie's "Alladin Sane". I'm pretty sure I bought the record at Badlands and, walking back to the High Street was gazing intensely at the cover. Or perhaps daydreaming about it.

This, below, is where the Old Price used to be on the High Street.

And here is Badlands. Still open. Still great with a great mail order too.

For a long time I used to have memories of particular records in London. Often they were things that that I heard on pirate radio as I was bombing round town in my car at that impressionable age. A certain tune at the corner of the Euston Road etcetera. On re-encountering these Cheltenham memories however I realised their London equivalents have all faded away. Worn away by other associations. These kind of cultural and musical memories are written in one's mind as though magnetised. We are the tape which receives these signals and we are imprinted by them. However, with the passing of years, the signal fades.

Postscript. Just remembered another great record I bought at Badlands. Brian Eno's "Before and After Science". Secondhand. With the lovely prints.