Finally! The birthday guest posts are here…. First up, I’d like to say a very big thank you to Paul (aka @thehatandbeard) for contributing this highly thought-provoking post on how our taste in music (perhaps inevitably?) changes over time, which I am sure will get you lot discussing and debating! Feel free to let us know what you think in the comments, and watch out for another guest post tomorrow…
This is the story of how I fell out of love with rock music. There wasn’t a specific incident or event that caused it but, rather like falling out of love with a person, a series of clues that, when taken together over time, left no doubt that it had happened.
I’m not going to attempt to define what I mean by rock as entering into the world of genre politics would just take too long. I’m going to assume that, broadly, we all pretty much know what it is.
I love music. I’ve loved it since I would hear my, slightly older, neighbour Richard play The Spencer Davis Group’s ‘Keep On Running’ through the bedroom party wall. It was 1965 and I was eight years old. Even before that I can remember being impressed by Susan Maughan’s 1962 hit ‘Bobbie’s Girl’ which I would hear on the family radio.
I went on to love The Beatles, The Monkees and everything similar but didn’t have access to a record player until I insisted on being bought one as a fourteen year old T.Rex obsessive. Electric Warrior was my first buy and I still have, and play, that wonderful LP.
As well as T.Rex my listening during those Glam Rock years included Bowie, Mott The Hoople, Roxy Music and Lou Reed. The discovery that Lou was previously in a band called The Velvet Underground led me into a whole other world, hearing The Velvets for the first time was like nothing I’d ever experienced and I still tell people that they’re my favourite group. I continue to long for that thrill of hearing something totally different from what I’ve heard before.
Rock music for me back then meant groups like The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. They all had hit singles (and would appear on Top Of The Pops) before rock became a bit pompous and the notion that the LP was the only serious medium took hold. Early reggae was another important influence and it seems impossible now that great records like ‘Double Barrel’, ‘Liquidator’, ‘Israelites’, ‘Long Shot Kick De Bucket’, ‘Return of Django’ and many others were huge pop hits in the late 60s / early 70s.
In the middle part of the 1970s my music world descended into a prog rock dead end until the much needed arrival of punk rock in 1976. One day my friends and I were listening to albums by Yes that seemed to last a fortnight and the next to the first Ramones album that flew by in a rush of pop perfection.
Before punk became a dead end stereotype itself, those early records were, for me, a gateway to listening to all kinds of wonderful music – reggae, african, soul, jazz, blues, 1950s/60s pop and, yes, country.
Post punk I would still dutifully buy rock records but over time these would make up a smaller and smaller part of my listening.
At this point I really should say, to rock music and its fans, “It’s not you, it’s me…”. I’m prepared to acknowledge that my recent abandonment of rock could be down to my advanced years but nevertheless here’s what it feels like to me.
First off I find it all to be slightly ridiculous, not just the music but all the fuss that surrounds it. It’s the ridiculous guitar poses, the adolescent lyrics from grown-ups and the fake rebelliousness. You’re not anti-establishment, you’re a business that, sooner or later if you become successful enough, will be finding ways to avoid tax and you’ll be voting Conservative. Rock music writing is almost all terrible and I’ve just had enough of those endless ‘we went on tour with the band and stayed up all night drinking and taking drugs’ articles. Every album gets a four star review and interviews with musicians are dull, unchallenging and full of nonsensical rambling from the musicians. Every new record is announced as being a total departure from what’s been done before but ends up being the same deck of cards slightly reshuffled.
As I said before, I long to hear something I haven’t heard before but I don’t believe that rock music has any more surprises for me and it seems to have locked into a groove that just keeps repeating without adding anything new. Partly I think it’s because bands think they can do everything themselves, I’m much more interested in the classic pop approach where the roles of writer, arranger, producer and artist were distinct from one another. This is why I love records by people like Frank Sinatra, Petula Clark, Ella Fitzgerald, Dusty Springfield and many others.
Above all, there is just too much of it. We don’t need any more. The endless recycling of old material via expensive box sets that include all the songs that weren’t well recorded or good enough to come out the first time doesn’t help.
I still love music though and even now I’d love someone working in the rock genre to come up with something truly astonishing. I won’t hold my breath though.
I’ll finish with a tiny flavour of what you’re likely to find on my stereo at the moment.
Alexander Borodin – String Quartet No.2 (1881):
I’m having quite a thing with string quartets at the moment and this is my favourite. It includes the melody that was later used for the song ‘Baubles, Bangles and Beads’ (from the 1953 musical Kismet). Coincidentally this song also features on…
Francis Albert Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim (1967):
Before I heard this I thought that the only essential Sinatra LPs were the 1950s Capitol albums with arrangements by Nelson Riddle (look them up, you need these records). This album of bossa nova arrangements on Sinatra’s own Reprise label is equally wonderful.
Ennio Morricone – Film Music (1966-1987):
There are so many fantastic Morricone soundtracks but this double CD compilation is a terrific place to start.
Wire – Wire (2015):
Against the run of play here is a record that probably counts as rock. These people are as old as I am and we have no right to expect them to still be making such great records after all this time.
Thanks for listening.