Sometimes I think there’s too much music about. It’s too accessible, too cheap. Before recording, music was something special, a treat. You only had music at church, or on high days and holidays. Music was rare and live.
Nowadays people walk the streets, each one plugged into his/her own soundtrack- a bit dangerous if you’re on a bike, I would have thought. Nowadays music is cheap and canned. You can buy it at 69p a tune from iTunes, or £4.99 if you want to buy a cheap album. And that way you can keep the silence away. You don’t have to deal with the quiet. It’s not music you’re listening to on your headphones, it’s grey noise.
No. I’m talking about real music. It doesn’t have to be classical- but sometimes it is. It’s the music which reaches down into your very soul and twists your guts around and you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. And sometimes you don’t even know why.It’s so private, so precious, that you don’t listen to it very often in case it loses its magic.
This music ( there’s not much of it- maybe half a dozen tracks- ten at the most) marks out your life up to this point. It’s a line of milestones reaching back to your childhood.
I’ll tell you about some of mine. Does that sound brash ? Loud mouthed ? Insensitive ? I don’t think so. You see, I can sit here at the computer and write about it, but if I were to actually play some of these, then I wouldn’t be able to type a word.
Here we go.
Vaughan Williams -Variations on a theme by Thomas Tallis
It is England. Simple as that. Broad cello lines that speak of a hills and drystone walls But more than that- it has immense strength and sadness- both at the same time. Something has gone, certainly, but is still there, hidden. And somehow the music brings all this to the fore.
Satisfaction- the Stones
I watched Glastonbury the other week, and the highpoint was seeing Keef ( wrinkled, pot bellied) one foot on a step, firing off the DumDum dudumdum dedumdum riff that brought me back to the sixties. It’s visceral- it grabs you by the throat. I was at college at the time and it became a kind of anthem for us. We even wrote an ironic lyric to it “ We’re the latest big sensation/ Get our share of adulation/ but the words are a bore/ they’ve been done, done before/ we get too much (Dudumdum dedumdum ) adulation…” and so on.
Here, there and everywhere- the Beatles
You’d think that, as a child of that time, that my life would be full of Beatle tunes. I listened to them a lot at the time. But only one remains. It’s a very clear memory. It’s a summer fair at the university, and I’m standing on some steps, looking down at the crowd below. I hear the line “ Changinging my life with a wave of her hand”- and at that moment an incredibly beautiful girl walks by and waves. It’s just that. As a matter of fact, she was far too beautiful for me to ask out, but she’s still a friend, fifty years later.
Waterloo Sunset- The Kinks
It’s an odd little song, and I’m surprised it’s so important to me because it’s about London, and I’m a northern boy. It has a quirky, almost folky tune and it brings up an idyllic picture of a London evening, golden light spilling across the river. There’s a kind of sadness about it too.
The Statues – Jake Thackwray
You won’t have heard of this guy. He was a brilliant guitarist and lyricist with a kind of Noel Coward cleverness. He was very funny indeed. He wrote about how his dog ruined his romance, about the burglar who found asylum in a nunnery ( “ Big Bad Norman, fifteen years on the run) but this one is about two statues- one of a beautiful naked lady, standing in the middle of a lake, and the other of Sir Robert Peel ( “ He was big and gritty and he fought like one obsessed” and it is very, very funny. Every time I listen to it I laugh aloud. But at the end, something wells up inside me and I get all teary…silly isn’t it.
Look out for Jake. He may be dead but his stuff is still available.
There you are then. Five tracks that stir my soul. What are yours ? I’d be interested to find out.