What is it about a song that leaves you feeling better at the end of it? What songs make you cry? Do the hairs really stand up when you play a piece of music? If the answer to any of those is No then there must be something wrong with you. Music has the capability to touch the soul and transport you to a better place. Music twangs on the heart strings like a good book or movie. La Calinda by Frederick Delius was played as I walked into assembly at Woodlands Junior School in Tonbridge. We had a different piece of classical music for assembly every week. That piece touched the very soul of a seven year old boy. I hear it today and it still stirs the same sensations. That junior school had the foresight to expose its impressionable pupils to classical music and I thank them for it. My home was filled with music (as mentioned in previous blog posts) so having it at school was no hardship. From that early age I knew what I liked. I did not listen or appreciate music because it was fashionable.
Even as a child of the 70’s, Glam Rock did little for me and Top of The Pops was not my inspiration. I do however, remember my parents listening to The Carpenters at that time. Even at that tender age, most of it sounded plain and bland. I do however recall one track sticking out from albums of musical mogadon. ‘Happy’ is dated and sentimental but I think however a classic.It still makes me smile and gives me a lump in my throat too. You see music doesn’t have to be fashionable and that should not be the criteria for enjoying it. I am not ashamed to enjoy that song to this day.
I shared a bedroom with my older brother Andrew. He moved in the early 1970’s from David Bowie to Yes and Genesis. Much of Yes struck a chord with me as it seemed to almost follow classical composition lines. Pieces such as Starship Trooper, And You And I or Yours Is No Disgrace have movements. They soared and were symphonic and magnificent. Genesis really touched me. Their early albums with Peter Gabriel at the helm were regular listening in our bedroom. Selling England By The Pound is I believe their finest work. Within that, Cinema Show stands out and can still 40 years on; transport me to a wonderful place. Another song of the 70’s also remains in my top five of all time favourite songs. Renaissance were a prog rock band that produced some interesting and melodic work in the mid and late 70’s. Their most famous track however is unsurpassed. Northern Lights is to me beautiful, majestic and wonderful.The brilliant vocals of Annie Haslam are powerful and reminiscent of Maddy Prior of Steeleye Span fame.
Such tracks as Heartsong by Gordon Giltrap transport me back to winter evenings watching The Holiday Programme with Cliff Michelmore. It has stuck in my head since first hearing it and remains one of my favourite instrumental pieces.
There is so much music that moves me and that is as it should be. The Martin Scorsese film ‘No Direction Home’ charts the early career of Bob Dylan. The film interviews those that were around with Bob at the time. The poet Allan Ginsberg recalls the first time he ever heard ‘Blowing In The Wind’. As he described the emotions he experienced, the tears rolled down his face even forty years on. It stirred a memory so powerful as to induce the same emotional response. Words in the case of Dylan were often the profound stimulus but I have always been a tune man myself. The perfect pop song for instance can often address very dark subject areas but deliver a purity through music. ‘There She Goes’ by The La’s is to me the perfect song. the riff is simple and catchy, there’s harmonies and fantastic clean guitar sound. The fact that it talks about heroin use is irrelevant to me. You should never wonder if its OK to like something or why because sometimes you just do and that’s fine.
Music continues to twang and touch today. Anyone who tells you that good inspiring music has all been written is blind and deaf to new experiences. I have been profoundly moved by The Shins, Villagers, Belle and Sebastian and Cashier No 9 to name but a few. The recent album by a singer/songwriter/harpist, Serafina Steer is a magical piece of work. The stand out track on ‘The Moths Are Real’ is ‘Night Before Mutiny’. It is almost beyond beautiful. If you have not heard much by her I urge you to beat a path to ITunes or your local record store and check her out. I look forward to many years of emotional rollercoasters, transported by music and words that mean much to those who write or perform them. My long battles with depression have been much documented in previous blog posts. Music and literature are my antidotes to the black dog. I have cried to Serafina Steer and so should you to whatever reminds you you are alive. That is the purpose of music and writing.