Saturday, 13 June 2009

music lesson


It's the ultimate leveller.

Everyone has a soundtrack for their life, key tunes that represent a certain time, place and event in our collective existence......and when we all eventually make the final journey back into the earth, there's always a theme tune ringing out through a church, bringing a frown to the tear-stained faces of our parents and a smile to those of our friends.

From growing up with my brother and sharing a bedroom with him, I was exposed to the CD revolution.

The mid-80's, a kick-ass gleaming new AIWA Hi-Fi stereo stack system sitting on our floor, imposing black, looking like it had been stolen from the bridge of the USS Enterprise. Magical digital green-glowing readouts, a graphic equalizer that pulsed to the rhythm of the audio output, slick, touch-sensitive controls.

And the software was straight out of a design dream. Small silver discs, that glowed rainbow colours supernaturally when the light caught them, reflecting my fascinated young face as I would curiously handle them as if they were hand-downs from the almighty himself, always knowing that there would be hell to pay should I got the slightest fingerprint on their sacred surfaces.

I was exposed to the works of The Police, Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Genesis, Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel, Prince, The Smiths..... More artists that I can recall. The stereo itself was always strictly off-limits, but every now and then, when the cat was away, I would have a blast at it, always careful not to alter any settings or presets. After a childhood spent devouring comics, sci-fi films and endless games of street football, it was a new exciting toy.

Strangely enough, apart from outside influences, I never really caught the music virus until I was about 16. Roundabout when Cobain had croaked it, and the whole "Brit-pop" phenomena was just raising it's head. I was hanging around with a group of mates - as I saw them then - who were heavily into the music scene, primarily rock. I connected only with the music that I felt an affinity towards - that which I felt had soul, feeling, and the lyrical personality and truth that can only come from the heart, mind and pen of someone with their pulse on the heart-rate of humanity.

Like Abbey Road - an album that was put together during the sad break-up of the Beatles, yet had a collaborative creative genius and lamenting yet uplifting aspect that only makes it a greater and more resonant achievement, listening to it in hindsight. To the day I last draw breath, I defy anyone to listen to listen to Golden Slumbers and not detect McCartney almost crying as he belts out that track - as if he already knew the party was over, the 60's were at their death and the 3 mates he had conquered the world with were all off on one to do their own thing. The evil spectre of the 70's and all the strife it encompassed was on the horizon, and money talked, babe.

Yes, sad but true, undeniably.

All things must pass.

But my musical education was sparked by such great albums. I could instantly, almost instinctively connect with the material I liked and reject that which totally turned me off. In the mid to late 1990's, there was a real movement...

However stale this may sound, everyone who was around and able to walk into a record store in this country at that time will perhaps grudgingly, admit: There was a shared sense that British artists were reclaiming the throne we had relinquished to America and the colossus that was MTV in the 80's, when all we could seemingly offer was shit like Wham!, Chris De Burgh and Adam fucking Ant.

When the Yanks had the likes of Michael Jackson, Madonna, Guns and Roses, Springsteen.... We just couldn't compete with that media onslaught, regardless of whether you thought they were talented or not. They had the remote control of the television and radio in their hands, and they'd be fucked if they were gonna let go of it.

But then Oasis swaggered into the stage spotlight, with an arrogance and a "Don't-give-a-fuck" attitude somewhere between the Stones and the Pistols. They were a breath of fresh air, with their tabloid-screamed hell-raising exploits of cocaine on corn-flakes and their unashamed Beatles homages. It was like we were harking back to the 60's and our parent's soundtrack, always jealous yet thankful that their generation had provided us all with the platform for this "new" revolution, and the undying optimism that the music of that decade offered.

Blair was knocking on the door of No. 10.

Football was coming home.

Thatcher had long since fucked off from our seat of power with fake, self-centered tears in her crocodile eyes.

Other performers, in the words of Noel Gallagher; "Clung onto our shirt-tails", such as Blur, Cast, The Verve. Yet the collective sound was cohesive, together.

Again, just like the 60's. Great artists don't pay homage, they steal.
Not too dissimilar a sound, yet distinctive and unique to each act.

It was a long-held dream of mine to work in a music store. Primarily to indulge further in my obsessive love of cinema and video games. The music passion came later. I would hand in CV's to shops with my best grin to disinterested staff, who would uniformly give me the stock response of: "Yeah, I'll pass it to the manager".

On and off, I would still make attempts to get employed in a job where I knew the pay was poor, the hours long, the stress of dealing with irate parents, desperately trying to purchase the latest Disney release for their kids when it was out of stock....

It didn't happen until I was at the threshold of the 30-year-old demographic.

And man.......

Did a DJ save my life...............