A simple request to have the latest offering from Family played at the sales counter was usually met with a sigh and an unusually warm and friendly remark like 'you can only hear part of it!'
This wouldn't be the case in, say, Cheltenham, where anyone in a tweed jacket asking to listen to Siblelius was fawned over in Fawlty-esque manner, and practically carried to the audio alcove in a Sedan Chair.
And it was in Boots Cheltenham (it is still there today, standing proudly on the corner which takes its name) that one Charlie Eltham tried to place a back order for The Strawbs' single Grace Darling.
He'd recently heard it at a party and was impressed by Blue Weaver's mighty organ and the angelic backing provided by some young chaps from Westminster Abbey's choir school. Boots would grudgingly oblige to get anything for you if it wasn't in stock, and Charlie's request was scribbled on a pad and he was told to come back a week later to collect it.
The following Saturday, the same surly shop assistant - after trying to ignore Charlie for ten minutes - frowned her way through the box of orders, pulled out a dog-eared card and more or less threw it back at him. "Sez not available" she snapped. There was a reason for this. Instead of Grace Darling, the order had been placed for Grey Starling.
Clearly the heroic exploits of a Northumbrian Lighthouse keeper's daughter had not made a lasting impression on the Saturday girl with the flicked fringe, despite Blue Peter's best efforts to perpetuate her memory with an animated story read by John Nettleton.
And so, to the Gloucester branch of the same long-established pharmacy, where a friend's wife had a part time job in the 1970s. An elderly lady marched up to the counter: "I've 'eard this song on the radio - Man Looking Tired. You got it?"
Puzzled looks on the business side of the counter. "Err, no. I don't think so. Who is it by?"
"'ooze it by? One of the bloody Beatles, of course. The Scottish one!"
Customer sighs and decides to perform the song.
"The one with all those men a-marching and a-piping. You know....Man Lookin Tired, And Mist Rolling In From The Sea...."
But these incidents were not just limited to Boots. My cousin Rob, when he was small, liked Cliff Richard's song The Miniature Gun (The Minute You're Gone). An easy mistake. While we are about it, did Abba really call me last night from Tesco, and write another song about Chicken Tikka? Then there was...You Can Dance, You Can Dance, Everybody Look At Your Pants..but I don't know who recorded it. Sorry.
Now then, I am guilty as charged. My hearing may not be what it was, but last year when I went to collect one of my daughters from a bowling alley in Worcester, I endured a few minutes waiting in a convivial bar area with a warm lemonade, until the disco fell silent. The DJ was spinning a song called All The Cigarettes. At least I thought he was. Apparently it was somebody called Beyoncé performing her popular chart hit All The Single Ladies.
Radiohead's OK Computer may have been voted the best album of all time in the history of Channel 4 Best Of programmes, but I could only make out a few words on the whole CD...alarms, surprises and no. Then there's a whole raft of young men currently mumbling their way through a new wave of acoustic albums. Pleasant, most of them, I admit. But not memorable. They might be more so if I could hear a word they were saying. As my Grandfather would have commented: "They're singing into their boots."
Songs have to tell stories in my book. My story book, in fact. And I do like to hear what singers are singing about. Surely it is the lyric that leaves us with a lasting memory, and helps music add an extra dimension to our lives? We can all hum a tune, but without words it can't have much meaning other that a momentary pleasant diversion. Or perhaps not for someone audibly challenged nearby, who mistakes your happy humming mood for an invisible wasp attack.
So, for the reasons which vex me posted above - it was very pleasing to receive a compliment from a songwriter of considerable talent recently. She said, of one of my own songs: "...delicately picked and beautiful diction...just the way a good song should be played (in my opinion)." This made me feel very 'umble: at least I'm not mumbling into my own boots then. Or even mumbling in Boots. Although if it still had a record department, I may be grumbling there.
Right, I'm off to find a cigarette.....if you hear what I'm saying correctly.