…In this world of troubles my music pulls me through… (‘Music’ – John Miles)
You know the thing when you just know what song is going to play next on the radio? Well, I’m not certain whether I’ve mentioned it here before, but despite being in no way musical myself (the closest I come to playing a musical instrument is when I put the whistling kettle on the stove) and tone-deaf to the power of ten, I have the strange ability to identify a tune very quickly, most often on the first note. (Not really in the top-rank of life-skills, I realise, but it is, unfortunately, the best I’ve got.) I don’t know why. It’s not a conscious thing, but I find myself doing it wherever I am – even when the music is somewhere else. It drives my wife mental in Tesco’s. When I’m driving, I pick up snatches of music from other car radios even when they’re on a different channel to mine and I have to wind the widow down to shout the title at them. Sometimes, in the High Street, I know what people are listening to on their phones just from the way they walk. (Probably Genesis eh?) It makes me a really bad team-mate at music quizzes (I am an adult. I have taught myself to let others answer first. For a man who sometimes has the social skills of a six year old, this is a big deal) and a proper dog-with-a-bone when, for whatever reason, I know that I should know a song but I don’t.
It goes without saying that I can only identify the songs I know (although, when they are completely new to me, I can still normally guess the artist – unless I am also unfamiliar with the artist, in which case I can name the bedroom they recorded it in*). Now, I know a lot of songs. I listen to music all the time. As much as I relish the sound of silence, it only really appeals to me when I can put some music in it. I sit and write in a room full of cd’s – I’ve never really got on with Spotify. In fact I’ve only just turned on to the habit of letting my ipod play random songs in the car as my mind always skips on to what should be coming next. Music is always playing. When I’m alone in the house there is often music upstairs and downstairs. Never the same music mind. Sometimes I sit half way down the stairs to see how they ‘gel’. They seldom do – unless one of them is The Beatles and the other one is… anything that has come since really.
Mostly I listen to the whole album and, although I obviously have favourites, I do try to give them all a go every now and then. The last CD I play every evening is always the first I play the next – just in case I didn’t give it proper attention the first time round. In fact, when I’m concentrating I don’t think I really hear the records, but if they’re not playing then I can’t concentrate in the first place. Sometimes I will work my way chronologically through an artist’s entire catalogue (and, yes, they are racked like that – I also have to have identical slices of bread when I’m making a sandwich and I can’t even look at a pen if its cap is missing*) – Bowie was the last – other times I will deliberately shift from Kasabian, to Fairport Convention, to Elbow to The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, just because I can. I have a secret hidden rack that is full of guilty pleasures: Bryan Ferry, Japan, INXS, All About Eve, The Darkness… that I can only ever play when nobody else is listening. And I have vinyl too, lots of it, although I only tend to play that when I can really listen and then it drives me mad because I know exactly where every crackle and pop is and I find myself just waiting for them to happen. It puts my teeth on edge – like eating a piece of Halloumi when you’re not expecting it.
Anyway… I have spent a lifetime augmenting this systematic collection of multi-genre music (I am an infuriating completeist when I find a new artist) by choosing random albums on the strength of the cover; the title; because they just happen to be in the rack behind the album that I actually went in to buy, or simply because they look lonely. However, of late I seem to have bought more pups than gems and, quite frankly, I’m running out of space to store them all. (I never throw out music.) I have accumulated so many albums with just one good track on them that I am sometimes driven to making compilations: never worth the effort. I go off tracks that are not properly ‘sandwiched’ very quickly. I never got on with ‘Now’ albums. (Actually, anybody else remember ‘Top of The Pops’ albums? All the top tunes of the day, but performed by sessions musicians as they couldn’t afford the real thing – like buying the latest ‘Avengers’ DVD only to find that it stars the local am-dram group. “Iron Man isn’t in this one because his wife’s still doing his shirt. Also she won’t let him out until she finds out what that stain is on his chino’s…”)
So what I really need are recommendations. Please point me at some music that might hit some spot or another (I fear the targets may be getting smaller). If I’m already familiar with it, nothing lost. If I’m not, I can’t wait to find out. I really am open to anything. I’ve always struggled with Rap and Country & Western (now there’s a fusion to contemplate – Drake feat. Loretta Lynn – you heard it here first) but I’m very happy to have my head turned, just as long as I don’t have to wear a Stetson or eat grits (I’ll be honest – until I looked it up just now, I thought that grits were bits of semi-digestible chicken gizzards. They’re not, apparently – but they still sound like they should be).
FYI this evening I have played Roy Harper (HQ), Gong (Gazeuse) and Rush (Moving Pictures). I was just about to play Tom Yorke (Anima) when I stumbled across Polly Harvey (Stories from the city, stories from the sea) so she’s on next instead…
*Complete lie! Come on!…