Tony Gardner is a bona fide celebrity. Not one famous for being chucked out of a reality TV programme in the first week or for being married to a footballer. A proper celebrity. Look, he has an IMDb page. An impressive one at that.
On an 8-track. For younger readers, this was a recording technology barely popular in cars in the 1970s. The cartridges were slightly smaller than a VHS (do I have to explain what those are?) and contained tape that was wider than a cassette (Google it). The player had a button where you could skip to the next quarter down on the tape, a quarter of the album ahead. Weird.
I loved the The Carpenters and Karen Carpenter was my first crush. I had a ticket to see them in Bristol in 1978 but they cancelled the tour. A nerdy teenager into middle-of-the-road pop during the Punk explosion was really not very cool, but nowadays my Karen is now rightly revered as one of the great pop voices. The car was a Leyland Princess in yellow (Sandglow Yellow’, I’ve just looked up) with a brown vinyl roof. It was awful.
My Dad was a lorry driver and loved his cars, but we always spent money on Mum having a good car, in particular three MGB roadsters as I grew up. White, racing green and then a brand new black one, VAM 157T, in which I learned to drive at Keevil airfield and I ADORED.
Cassette player (which you now know all about), hood down, Afghan hound on the back seat. We were literally a Cadbury’s Flake commercial. Mum loved Johnny Mathis, Barbra Streisand, Nat King Cole and Harry Nillsson. File under Easy Listenin’, I s’pose.
My first car was a Volkswagen Beach Buggy. Dad bought it off a bloke at work when I was 15. Purple glitter, frog headlights, huge double exhausts, hear it a mile away, falling apart a bit. Myself and my friends drove around the Wiltshire countryside like kings – we must have been unbearable.
You got a lift home from sixth form if you helped push it to bump start. No music system – well, it didn’t have a heater, or doors – but this song was the soundtrack of the summer of 1983, when I came home from my first year at uni and we drove it to Paris in sheepskin jackets and hats, being all cool.
If I couldn’t get the Beach Buggy to start, or it was in the garage getting its starter motor replaced, I would sometimes borrow whatever car my Dad had that month. I remember the Peugeot 505, a family saloon thing with a turbocharged engine. It went like a rocket and I would cruise back from school with the windows down and this playing.
Dad gave me a superb Mk2 Golf GTI to use when I became a junior doctor. I would have to travel back and forwards to London from my hospital jobs in the West Country to see my girlfriend in London. (Reader, I married her). We went on a holiday in September 1987 to the Loire, much of which was spent worrying about how we were going to get our hands on Strangeways Here We Come, the final album by The Smiths. I think we found it in Lyon and weren’t disappointed.
You can probably tell I’ve never been much of a petrolhead, apart from the Beach Buggy, which might not even count. As a family, we’ve had two Fiat Multipla diesels, finally getting rid of our second as our last child went to university this year. Ugly, practical, 10-CD changer under the passenger seat and embarrassing for teenagers – it ticked all the boxes for us.
Anyway, this song was always played on school runs and there’s a family game where we have to put our arms out in a ‘Halt’ sign when she sings “Stop!” but ONLY at that moment, or you lose, you big LOSER. People think we’re weird, as they did when they saw us all turn up in our frigging Multipla.
The CarTunes playlist is up and running on Spotify. As mixtapes go, it’s rather special. If you’ve been inspired by the tracks laid down by Tony Gardner, get in touch to add some CarTunes of your own. Can you beat The Style Council in a purple Beach Buggy?