Thursday, June 08, 2006

Top 40

As I was growing up, I wasn't really exposed to any music barring the occasional Cliff Richard record that was given as a Christmas present by my Gran. My parents, big music fans in the late sixties and seventies, just didn't have the time to listen to it anymore once I came along in 1982, shortly followed by my Sister and four years later, my brother. I started listening to various records that lay around the house around the age of nine or ten. The Beach Boys 'Pet sounds' and Adam & The Ants 'Stand & Deliver' kept me occupied for hours, as did (and I'm ashamed to say it) a copy of Shakespear's Sister's 'Stay' in 1992. Eventually I tired of 'Stay' and around the same time I started noticing the works of Freddie Mercury and Queen.... I was hooked, I didn't want to listen to anything else. Mercury had died before I knew what Queen were all about but every time I saw a tape of theirs, I had to snap it up quickly and listen to it as soon as possible.

The early nineties saw the rave scene explode in the UK. Far too young (at 12/13) to go to any of the raves, I didn't really get what it was all about. I liked the tracks that made it into the charts - this was my preferred genre to listen (and dance) to. Most other kids had got into Take That or East 17, who I absolutely despised. At this point I noticed kids at school splitting into groups according to the type of music they were in to. There were the usual Pop-tastic girlies, the rockers and the occasional cool-kid that had heard of a band called Green Day. 1995 however saw my interest in dance music grow even stronger and I seemed to be the only one in my year group heading in that direction. There were a few kids older than me that lent me CD's to listen to, but as a general social rule we didn't speak to the older kids as they were bigger than us.

Around 1996, I started listening to other types of music again. Mainly Steve Lamaq or John Peel on Radio One. One night, Lamaq played a track that changed my perspective on music completely, 'Susan's House' by Eels. I remember thinking "Holy crap batman, there's a whole other world out there that I haven't even begun to scrape the surface of" (I probably didn't say 'batman' in that sentence - but you get the idea right?). From that point on I listened religiously to the radio, borrowed CD's from as many friends as possible and even went to the lengths of getting my brother involved in music too - so I could then borrow his CD's. I ALWAYS listened to the Top 40 singles chart on a Sunday too, just hoping that a song I liked appeared. I was usually able to recite the entire chart, from forty all the way down to number one.

At some point though, I stopped. I grew to loath the charts as they continued to fill with absolute pap such as the Spice Girls, Boyzone and Westlife. Discussions on the school bus with my buddy Vaughan usually went along the route of the new Idlewild, Stereophonics or Manic Street Preachers singles. By the time I'd reach the age of 18, even those became too 'mainstream' for me. It became a case of "Ah yeah, Idlewild - they're good, but have you heard this by (insert name of obscure band)".

At 19, I went to Australia. I'd been abroad before and had been exposed to music in those countries, unfortunately those countries were France, the Netherlands and Germany - known better for Jean Michelle Jarre, 2 unlimited or Die Toten Hosen (the Bad Trousers). In Oz, I witnessed the massive beach culture they have over there - acts such as Powderfinger, Ben Harper and a then-unknown guy named Pete Murray provided an amazingly relaxed influence to my tastes. I even got into country for the first time, Kasey Chambers being the catalyst for that. Upon my arrival back home in the UK, I tried forcing these acts on my friends - none were interested. I realised that the music that I was interested in was my own, my own to discover and my own to enjoy. From that point on, whenever I was asked "So, what kind of music to you like" I just replied "Oh.. you know... stuff" (but at the same time thinking "Ha, I'm not going to tell you - because it's all mine").

I continue to indulge myself in new music all the time, unfortunately this means that I rarely listen to any great musical acts of the past such as the Beatles, Rolling Stones etc.. Although I still completely love the oldies, I'm just driven by discovering more and more.

With a musical appetite including The Undertones, The Clash, Eva Cassidy, Idlewild, The Manics, Tennage Fanclub, Kasey Chambers, Radiohead, Nelly Furtado (new stuff is crud), Sublime, Bob Dylan, Groove Armada, Strip Squad, Tanita Tikaram, Q-Tip, Anti-flag, Fiona Apple, Ash, Dr.John, Robert Johnson, Sam Roberts, Armand van Helden, Ben Harper, Sigur Rós, Tom Jones and way more that I could possibly fit in here, my tastes are extremely varied... I have no friends that I could discuss the whole range with. I often find myself wound up with excitement about an up-coming single, album, gig or tour, followed by a deflated feeling as I find that no-one else seems to share the excitement too.

Obviously our musical journeys are completely different as we are brought up in different areas and at different times. Groups of friends share similar tastes, but I'm sure that in every group of Punks, there's one that likes All Saints - in every group of poptastic teeny boppers, there's one that listens to Guns N Roses and so on and so on.

But I was wondering, do you think there's anyone in the world with exactly the same tastes as you?

And to make this more interesting (for me, on a Friday). Is there any song or artist which you loved so much, they completely altered the type of music that you listened to? (Even Take That fans can join in)

(I've never written a post this long before - I started thinking about it while having a bit of a schmoke last weekend)


At 1:20 am, Blogger Afe thought it was best to say...

Hmm, interesting question. I always thought there would have to be someone with my music tastes, but after using audioscrobbler for ages I'm not so sure.

First, I'd say the Beach Boys opened the door to music for me. Then it was Nirvana & Guns 'n' Roses who took me down a heavier rock route for a bit. Then Crowded House, followed by the Beatles, took me back to more melodic folky rock. Then I guess Simon & Garfunkel were the ones who ushered me into more folk territory, and more recently, Bob Dylan. I'll eat my hat if I ever get into dance music though.

At 1:05 pm, Blogger Chris thought it was best to say...

First to say I totally recognized that path into music you described - right through Green Day, Lamaq and everything. I liked the part about finding a kind of zen understanding of your own music tastes. I teach teenagers and they've made me realise that I'm finally done with music trends and lifestyle. They all obsess and argue over genre bands and won't listen to anything more than a year old. My tastes are so diverse and eclectic that I'm happy to call them my tastes and not to feel any kind of inadequacy. I just feel older and wiser than them all.
So amen to the whole post brother.
But on the subject of tunes that changed my life. I can trace the opening of my musical mind through three tracks:

Two Way Idiot Mirror by The Wildhearts (Wow, guitars, soul, passion, ROCK!)

The Private Psychadelic Reel by The Chemical Brothers (played on a Virgin Megastore soundsytem in Bilbao, Spain - just hadn't realised music could hit you in the gut like that)

All that Glitters by Death in Vegas (a brain melting introduction to beauty, simplicity and subtlety in music)

At 8:44 am, Blogger Neal thought it was best to say...

I have wondered the very same question about music many times in the past. I consider myself in the company of a kindred spirit if I find somebody who even listens to one of my obsure pet bands (I won't list them here, it's your post). I have to say that as odd as I consider my musical interests and as rare as it is to find someone who likes the same sort of things, I have yet to find somebody over the age of 16 who actually listens to top 40 exclusively. That just shows how much music there is out there.
Anyway, musical crossroads for me came with the first time I heard Jane's Addiction and Faith No More in the mid-to-late-80s. They were doing stuff that nobody had really done before and I was listening to my 'own' music for the first time in my life.

At 3:37 pm, Blogger Curly thought it was best to say...

Afe - I discovered audioscrobbler via your place a couple of weeks back, it's a damn good idea I think. I find other peoples music tastes incredibly interesting, I like the way that you can see where you've been but you can never really know where you're going to go next!

Dance music is great but I don't think I've listended to any of my dance CD's properly since I was about 18, they are collecting dust really.

Chris - I've not actually heard that Wildhearts track, but will get onto it! Private Psychadelic Reel is definately a gut-churner I agree! Breakbeat orientated bands from that period like the Chemicals, DIV or the Prodigy are pretty rare now - it's a shame.

Neal - I'm all for hearing about obscure bands, bring it on! It's not just my post - I like to think it's everyones!! Despite the top 40 being mainly devoid of talent here in Britain, it's still so important to get a top ten hit. The States and Canada are rock orientated a lot more than here, which makes the charts more bearable to listen to.

At 4:07 pm, Blogger Léonie thought it was best to say...

I sometimes feel like my reasons for being inspired by certain artists or tracks are different from other people's, simply because I find it actually impossible to listen to something without wondering how it might inspire my own music. I grew up listening to jazz music: Ella; Peggy Lee; Billie Holiday. My parents aren't die-hard jazz fans, I think my Mum just recognised a style of singing in my voice and an interest in that style of song and exposed me to more and more. I cannot rememeber a time I didn't know how to sing Summertime. Also Simon and Garfunkel was a huge part of my childhood.

I don't think I had the same sort of journey through music as you did. I just love and feel uplifted/heartbroken/inspired by certain songs and albums. Not just jazz. I like things that are lyrics-based, like Leonard Cohen. At the moment I can't stop listening to Cassandra Wilson Thunderbird. Also a French jazz singer called Mina Agossi, who sounds like a great mix between Billie Holiday and Bjork. Also Feist.

Wow, long comment, sorry. I wish I had more time and money to devote to listening to more music. I really enjoyed reading your post.

At 9:05 pm, Blogger Teri thought it was best to say...

Ohhhh, that picture of you with your finger up your nose is sexy!

As for your question about musical taste, I'd be very surprised if there was anyone with exactly the same taste in music. Similar, perhaps, but not the same.

At 12:37 am, Blogger Captain Bee thought it was best to say...

Jamiroquai rocked my fucking world.

At 12:59 am, Blogger Curly thought it was best to say...

Léonie - Jazz is an area that I've never really looked into, but I do enjoy a bit Eva Cassidy or Katie Melua every now and then. You had a very interesing way of getting into music though, it's really made me smile reading everyones own little story!

Teri - Sometimes I just ooze sex appeal. Not out of my nose though.

Bee - It's a wonder you get to listen to music with all that shagging you do!! Jamiroquai are great, I agree.

At 8:53 am, Blogger Huw thought it was best to say...

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain showcasing this masterful performance. I need never turn to long necked guitars again.


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