Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Music in a Life

The other day on The Dabbler, Brit listed the various signs he's noticing that his youth is behind him - not least the evolution of his musical taste, always a strong indicator.I wonder where it will lead him next. Brit is of course a mere stripling in his early 30s or thereabouts, and I'm wondering if his taste in music might, over the coming years, follow a similar parabola to mine. Here's how it went...
  To begin at the beginning, my first real awareness of the power of music came at the state primary school where I arrived at at the age of 9 rising 10. Here an excellent music teacher led us in choral singing of pieces by, among others, Schubert, Haydn, Purcell and Beethoven (imagine that in a state primary today...). Although I could barely sing, I started taking a strong interest in, especially, Beethoven, and happily explored the classics (or a limited, Ludwig-dominated part thereof) with my brother, maintaining this interest in parallel with an obsessive love of pop music that began shortly before the coming of The Beatles - my own weekly charts, the lot. Well, it was undoubtedly a (the?) golden age of the pop single, and there was surely never a better time to follow the music and buy what discs of 7" vinyl one could afford.
  Only as I grew into a condition of irremediably cool grooviness in my later teens and early 20s did my classical interests fade away into the margins of my musical life. This state of affairs lasted well into the Seventies (through what was surely the golden age of the 12" album), at least up to the release of Patti Smith's Horses and Television's Marquee Moon, the last two albums to hit me, sweep me away and take me over in the old thrilling way I'd become used to from the intensive listening years of multiform intoxication and (let's be honest) idleness. By this stage, I was a working man (well, employed) and life was about to get serious - i.e. bereavement and parenthood were around the corner, Life was becoming real.
  It was around this time that I began to feel the need for the depth and the solid emotional power of classical music. I discovered for the first time much of Schubert, especially the late masterpieces, and the late quartets of Beethoven (how had I missed those first time round?) and much else beside. But then, as the years passed and the children grew, things took a curious turn, and I found myself journeying further into country music (which had always been there in my early love for the Byrds and Gram and Emmylou and the Burritos) - and, in parallel to this, that other music of love and death, opera...
  These days, opera seems to have largely fallen by the wayside (apart from Mozart) and the country taste has moved on into alt country and the wider world of Americana. Meanwhile, my classical journey has taken me further back into the past, and much further into English music, recently into Baltic music and, well, into all sorts of places, often under the guidance of Mahlerman's brilliant Sunday posts on The Dabbler. Which takes us back to where we began. And here I stand, a man who no longer takes even a passing interest in the mainstream world of rock, let alone pop, and seldom even revisits old favourites - they are so deeply embedded from all those years of stoned immersion that I hardly need to be reminded - but whose journey continues. Who knows what will come next and where it will end? Let's hope it's not in a twilight home with The Definitive Monkees on my iPod. Oh, I don't know though...


  1. As solid a background as can be Nige, steeped in the twenty centuries aural offerings, as our dotage approaches, or in my case is in full swing, let's hope that we don't regress into those early tunes, the ones that assaulted our ears so long ago, the mothers favourite, Welcome to my World, the dire Una Paloma Blanca and anything by Cilla Black, the unchained chainsaw melodies.
    From (increasingly unreliable) memory the first record bought was Rex Stewart and Cootie Williams, can't remember the tunes, followed by the Count Basie EP the Kid from Red Bank including Stompin' at the Savoy and then into the big time, Emile Ford and the Checkmates what do you want to make those eyes at me for, oh! such lyrics.

  2. 35, but I'll take 'early 30s'.

    The music of your formative years never leaves you, but music is so vast it's surely good to keep exploring (many don't).

  3. Yes Brit - I was shocked when I went with my son to see Rammstein at the 02 recently, the number of men of my age (advanced)who had clearly been fans of the band for 20 years, had adopted the various paraphernalia that dyed-in-the-wool fans need (body-piercing, neck corks, multiple tattoos, Doc Martens with steel toe-caps, and lots of black leather), and had simply said to themselves 'This band fit me like a glove. I'm staying here. Order me a leather coffin'. For those more enlightened souls there is, of course, Lazy Sunday at the Dabbler. Thanks for the nod, Nige.