Age 8 ? – My sister, who was 14, was an avid listener to the Top 40 on the radio. Through her I was introduced to a wide variety of artistes which, when I think of them today, evoke a whiff of nostalgia. I recall the likes of Roxy Music, Kate Bush in her “Wuthering Heights” prime, Boney M and, before child abuse and paedophilic behaviour was exposed, Gary Glitter and his Glitter Band (who had some catchy songs in their own right).
Age 11 – The Shadows. I have no idea how I came to get “into” The Shadows but my mother was a huge Cliff Richard fan so it may have been that which first introduced me to them. I was a fan for many years and now and again I dig out their “20 Golden Greats” to recapture days of yore.
Age 16 plus – Heavy Metal. It’s strange that a genre that has become my favourite type of music (and it’s a very large and diverse genre) was discovered by accident. Nobody introduced me to it and I think, though the passage of time blurs memories, that it was having a radio in my bedroom at home that started it all.
I recall flicking through the channels and coming across Tommy Vances ” Friday Rock Show” which aired after my bedtime (I was living with my parents who had strict views on such things) so I listened to it under my bedcovers.
The music was unlike any I had heard before. My father had a particular loathing of “loud” music and anything involving guitars so music that tested those boundaries was quickly switched off.
The music was raucous and loud, it was fast, aggressive and heavy yet, beneath the raging torrent there was enormous skill and ear catching melody and I recall scribbling notes of bands and songs I enjoyed so I could look out for them in HMV.
Age 20 – First concert. Michael Schenker at the Bristol Colston Hall.
October 1986. A cold and dreary evening outside but a loud (I didn’t know concerts were that loud) and amazing spectacle inside in the company of the blond haired, leather jacketed, trademark black and white Gibson Flying V playing German sensation with his panache for melody.
Age 29 – Perhaps it was maturity or perhaps it was the fact I was signed off work for 6 months through ill health that started me in my next musical adventure.
I was living in Bournemouth at the time and one day, casually flicking through the CDs at HMV, I came across a very cheap recording of Beethovens “Emperor” Piano Concerto. I wasn’t into classical music by any means but I did recall this piece of music from a childhood vinyl owned by my parents and so I purchased it and took it home.
I was instantly transported by the richness of the music. The lush melodies, the huge sound and the consummate skill of the soloist. I suppose I fell in love with the piano there and then and over the next 6 months I amassed quite the collection of piano concertos.
Of course piano concertos are but a small part of the genre so I expanded my audio repertoire. Violin concertos, instrumental music, great symphonic works, Gregorian chant etc all became part of my collection.
And now – Hang on you’re thinking. We’ve just jumped over 20 years and yes, you’re right. I’m now 51 and, in general I’d say my tastes are broadly metal and classical music. They aren’t quite the strange bedfellows you might think as many heavy musicians derive inspiration from the great classical masters.
I do listen to other music but, in general, I’ve found it totally banal and contrived. It’s all so artificial and real musical skill seems to have been abandoned in favour of computer assisted wizardry and repetitive, meaningless lyrics.
I’ve a particular loathing of Rap which sets itself up as being cool and clever yet just comes across as misogynistic speed talking (to me) and hip hop, R’n’B and whatever name is invented next sounds just like the same person to my ears. Modern “pop” music seems to have lost its way with so few distinct artists. But if you like it then that’s entirely your choice. Music should be a deeply personal choice.
But the music I loved has changed.
I came through an era of heavy metal that will not be repeated. New bands, extraordinary musicianship, a huge spectrum of new music. That’s gone now. There aren’t the great radio rock shows, there’s been an acute loss of melody in favour of speed and screaming, guitar solos aren’t as popular as they once were and artists I loved have died out or retired.
Even classical music has changed. Gone are the wonderful compositions of old with their ringing melodies and glorious tunes. They’ve been replaced by harsher sounds, atonality and they no longer sound welcoming or tuneful. Music moves with its times they say and perhaps it truly does reflect a less welcoming society.
I still listen to music and occasionally YouTube will throw me a gem through its “if you liked that then listen to this” suggestions. Where else would I have caught Breaking Benjamin’s “Ashes of Eden” or Skillets “Invincible” ?.
But Music now is tinged with sadness. As I grow older the soundtrack of my youth is now all but gone. Artists die, music moves on, tastes change. My CD collection barely grows and even they, once cutting edge, have been long surpassed by digital downloads. There’s still something great about a CD though, the lyric book, the jewel case, they still excite me.
As artists move on I am left with memories. Memories of great gigs in crowded halls. Of standing out in the freezing fog of a late December in Newport waiting for the doors to open. Of singers falling off stages, bands being so loud the music was lost in a sea of distortion and you went so deaf it took you 48 hours to recover.
Those were the days.
Music will never die. It is timeless although our tastes change. It is enduring although what we deem to be music may well change as we evolve.
But there will always be a soundtrack to our lives.
So now, if you will excuse me, I’m off to listen to some ABBA, Mozart, Rush, Hildegard of Bingen and Jean Michel Jarre…not necessarily in that order..