A conversation about music

Posted on Aug 19, 2013 in Music | 0 comments

Music bookOver a few glasses of red wine and with a fire crackling in the fireplace, an old friend and I had an interesting conversation about music the other night. His taste in music is somewhat to the left of mine, in the sense that he likes heavy metal and rock. I also love certain types of rock music, but I can equally well enjoy a brilliant piece of classical music.

As the hours went by the conversation drifted on to how certain types of music could withstand the test of time and how others simply faded away over the years. While many people of my age still enjoy the music of the Beetles, Pink Floyd, Queen and Abba, the music created by the generation before them seems to have disappeared from the airwaves.

I might be wrong, perhaps there are still people listening to Jim Reeves and Bing Cosby, but I don’t know any of them.

I remember my grandma used to listen to these tear-jerker old 78s telling stories of lost love, pain and melancholy. That’s what I remember of the music of that generation: it was filled with sadness and grief. Maybe it’s because they lived through the suffering of a World War, something which I hope we never have to endure.

Next we reminisced about a holiday we spent together in South Africa two years ago, where we came into contact with what the people there call ‘Boeremusiek’ – melancholy tunes created using a concertina and one or more guitars. At its very core it’s folk music carried from generation to generation by a dedicated group of followers.

We put on a CD we bought at one of those performances and sat listening to the strangely emotional sounds deep into the night.

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I become a retro music fan

Posted on Jun 1, 2013 in Music | 0 comments

I’ve recently become a fan of retro music and one of my favourite groups of the 60s and 70s is Creedence Clearwater Revival. To be quite honest, after discovering this group, I think there are very few modern groups that can be compared with them for their sheer brilliance.

The group consisted of primary songwriter John Foggerty, who was also the lead vocalist and lead guitarist. His brother Tom was the rhythm guitarist and Stu Cook was the bassist. The drummer was Doug Clifford.

The group sold more than 26 million albums in America alone and their songs are still regularly played on the airwaves all over the world. In fact, I can’t think of many other groups, apart from the Beetles and Queen that are still so popular after such a long time. Creedence became immortal when they were initiated into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twenty years ago. They are also at no. 82 on ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine’s list of the world’s greatest artists in history.

Some of their earliest successes include songs like ‘Proud Mary’ and ‘Suzie Q’, but my personal favourites are songs that only came later in their career, including ‘Bad Moon Rising’, ‘Midnight Special’, ‘Travelin’ Band’ and ‘Who’ll Stop the Rain?’

The group’s musical style covered what is described as ‘swamp rock’ and ‘roots rock,’ although they liked to portray themselves as ‘Southern Rock’ artists. Unlike groups such as Pink Floyd, who commented on social issues of the day, Creedence Clearwater Revival sang about love, catfish, the Mississippi River and the bayous; subjects with which the majority of their fans can clearly relate, even after forty years.

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Musical memories

Posted on Nov 13, 2012 in Music | 0 comments

A little bit of the unexpected, or a blast from the past, can do you the world of good.  Often when I’m travelling I set my iPod to shuffle, as my theory is that with over five thousand songs on it, it will throw up a few songs that I either wasn’t expecting to hear, or that I had forgotten about.  So when I was on the train today, on my way to a business meeting and catching up with a few things, I had a pleasant surprise in the form of a song that I first heard when I was a teenager, and which hasn’t been at the top of my playlists in quite some time.

The song was The Ballad of El Goodo by Big Star.  Now, Big Star are a band that many people have not heard of, and over the years I’m found myself waxing lyrical about them to anyone who will listen. Due to record company apathy and incompetence they never had any hits as such, and yet they were a large influence on a clutch of 80s and 90s bands such as Teenage Fanclub, BMX Bandits and This Mortal Coil (okay, so as a band they didn’t exist as such, as they were an amalgamation of 4AD acts, but you get the point).  The unique selling point about Big Star was Alex Chilton.  Chilton sang with the late 60s band The Box Tops at the age of sixteen.  If you listen to any of their songs, you won’t believe that someone so young could sound like that. I was sure it was a typo when I read that the first time.  At that point he certainly had a voice that sounded like he’d lived more of a life than he had. Anyway, back to El Goodo.  Chilton’s vocals have an emotive quality that suit the musical arrangement of the song perfectly, showcasing his incredible talent.  Listening to the words again today, it seemed to me that the song is a succinct plea from an older self looking back over their life:

‘Years ago, my heart was set to live, oh
But I’ve been trying hard against unbelievable odds
It gets so hard at times like now to hold on
My guns they’re waiting to be stuck by
At my side is God.’

I guess what got me about hearing this song again is that as an older version of my younger self that first heard this song, I can relate even more to the wistful self-reflective nature of the song.  It was a delight to hear again, and I won’t leave it so long until the next time.  It is a stunning piece of work that makes me want to take more long train journeys and discover other forgotten favourites.


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After the gig

Posted on Sep 16, 2012 in Music | 0 comments

I was so nervous!

It was a good job I had to drive a long way, first to Sandy’s to pick her up, then down to Birmingham.

She was blown away by Ant’s car, which reinforced my thoughts that if I’m going to get myself a good girlfriend then I need to get myself a respectable car. Trouble is the insurance is so stupidly expensive.

But then part of me says that she should want to go out with me not my car?

The roads into Birmingham are mad, it has a motorway right through the middle, with some wild tunnels with sharp bends in the middle of them. Everyone seemed to be going full pelt, but there I am in Ant’s pride and joy, his ‘old man’s car’ as he calls it. I was steady and we got parked up ok and found the place straight off.

Muse blew me away to such a degree that I forgot how nervous I was for a while.

I think Sandy enjoyed it. She was a bit too polite for me to think she was blown away.

But what’s most important is that we’re meeting up later and going to Yorkshire Sculpture Park. My car this time, so it’s an honest thing.


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Rockin the Midlands

Posted on Sep 13, 2012 in Music | 0 comments

We’re off to see Muse play at Birmingham’s International Conference Centre.

Brum was where I saw my first concert at fourteen, but this will be the first time I’ve been to their posh concert hall, built apparently to lure Simon Rattle to his role as music director of the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

Mates say it’s a pretty smart place. I hope so. I’m taking a friend from work and for a bit I had hoped to stay over and I used City Visitor to find us a great place to stay not too far to walk from the concert hall, with a special restaurant on the way too, but it was me who got cold feet.

Sandy just seems too good for me and I got really scared that I’d run out of stuff to say and then get that awful dread from awkward silence. I guess that’s daft really as most of the night we’ll be at the gig.

Then I got to thinking that maybe she doesn’t actually like Muse. But that is daft too, as if that was the case then that would suggest she must be more up for being with me.

Oh. Bollocks to the meanderings of my silly confidence lacking mind.

Provided I can stay awake to drive back we’ll still have the meal. And I’m going to borrow Ant’s Jag so we’ll not have to put up with my crappy little heap of a car.

I’ll let you know how it goes. But don’t expect steam, that’s not my scene.

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