“You love your music, don’t you?” an old friend asked me last week. “Yes,” I replied. “Doesn’t everyone?” “Not really. I can take it or leave it.” That surprised me a bit, although perhaps it shouldn’t have done. I’d forgotten that well known fact that we are all different people. I had just assumed all of my life that everyone liked music, it’s just that everyone liked different types of music. How wrong I was!
For most of this barely half-decent spring Sunday, my iPod has been hooked up with a speaker and finding random selections from over 13,000 songs. If there’s no such place as heaven, this must be the nearest place.
I’d like to think that impending old age has expanded the eclecticism of my collection rather than narrowed it. I grew up at a time when pop music as we know it was exploding and some of my very earliest memories involve music. I remember being at the home of my Uncle Ralph and Auntie Gladys who were not actually my uncle and auntie at all. In fact, I had a good few uncles and aunties dotted around Europe who were no such thing. Does this still happen today? In their front room they had a record player, one on which you played music on vinyl. 7 inch singles plopped one by one onto the turntable as if by magic, but there was only one song I ever wanted to hear: Russ Conway’s Sidesaddle. Russ, I didn’t know at the time, was a Bristolian and a very famous one too, playing piano and not singing, which again was quite popular in those days. I loved that song and even today when I hear it I am transported back to Auntie Gladys’ front room. “Can you play it again, please?”
I had an impressive collection of singles as a young lad, too, which I played to death. The Rolling Stones’ Not Fade Away in its flimsy orange Decca cover was played constantly, sometimes at 78 RPM because it was SO funny.
Just to make sure I wasn’t too trendy and modern, the first album I ever bought myself was Neil Diamond’s Taproot Manuscript. Can you imagine the reaction of my friends, who were by then listening to Black Sabbath, Santana and the Edgar Broughton Band, when they saw my collection? I didn’t really do ‘heavy’ in those days, although I do now. It was probably my granddad, who regarded all modern music as the devil’s offerings, who encouraged me to stay away from it. I stuck to non controversial stuff like T Rex (I had a terrible boy crush on Marc Bolan which never turned into anything, honest!).
These days I have embraced most things on my iPod, everything from said Neil Diamond through ZZ Top via the Roots and all the way back to the Beach Boys. I draw the line at the original version of Queen, known as Queen, and the modern version, called Muse, but most of the top popular music acts of the last 60 years are likely to appear at some point.
The point is that there is so much good music out there. Yes, I know many people say that music’s not as good as it used to be but I would suggest that’s because they haven’t been paying attention. If your world revolves around Heart radio and, god help you, BBC Radio Bristol, you would be forgiven for thinking that Don McLean was right about “the day the music died” but in reality there is more music out there than ever before and, I would argue, more very good music too.
As I write, the Manic Street Preachers are belting out an album track which I don’t remember, but it’s jolly good and the expectation and surprise of what will follow never fails to float my boat, as they say. (It was I’m not your stepping stone by the Monkees, since you ask.) I do love my music and can’t imagine a world without it.