Music….. It’s soundtracked most of the significant moments in my life, there are tracks that upon hearing them, instantly take me back to a certain place in time, they evoke certain emotions & sights in my mind. Often I can recall them instantly along with sounds & even tastes related to those specific moments when catching a snatch, just a few bars of a familiar refrain.
Music has always been a place In which, like the written word I seek solace or escapism. Give me a book to read or music to listen to & you will undoubtably loose me for a while, give me both together, then I will switch off entirely & be transported to a different world for hours at a time.
Asked where my tastes lie then my normal reply, & I suspect that of those who know me well enough, would be “electic”. It ranges from guilty pleasures, in the form of single tracks to full blown obsessions with some artists as well as a multitude of genres from jazz, blues, rock, punk, ska, dance to classical & more recently even opera.
It’s difficult to pin point at exactly what point this love of music started, however as a child of parents who were teenagers in the mid 60’s, a mother who was an unashamed MOD & a father who’s taste’s were more rock driven, music was always played in our house throughout my early years.
My earliest recollections of music becoming so much more personal in my life hark back to being a 7 year old. I would spend Sunday afternoons, sprawled across the floor on my front, before our huge Hi Fi system, with a large pair of Sony headphones glued to my ears. My choice of listening varied from the many tapes my parents owne,d such as Simon & Garfunkel, Judy Collins, Crosby Stills Nash & Young as well as various Mowtown, my legs swinging back & forth in the air behind me always in time with the beat.
Then there was the holiest of holy, vinyl. I can vividly recall the stack of records which leant against the wall, their coloured spines, the scent of cardboard selves, the crispness of sun aged cellophane wrappers.
Even to this day I can name a fair few of the titles. Treasures such as Wing’s Band On The Run, Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Waters, The Beatle’s Let It Be, Mike Oldfield’s Tublar bells, The Face’s A Nod As Good As A Wink. these were some of my regulars.
At the other end of the scale there were albums that to a 7 year old seemed less accessible, strange titles with sleeves that seemed daunting, Emerson Lake & Palmer’s Brain Salad Surgery, complete with H.R Geiger’s striking gothic imagery. Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti, it’s cover a New York tenement & die cut windows, filled with American iconography.
Though fascinated & transfixed by these covers, something about both of them made me shy away & eschew listening to their contents. They were both albums I would come to discover & enjoy under my own terms later in life.
If I had a favourite at the time then it was undoubtedly Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds. This is the album that introduced me to the now familiar spine tingling sensation I experience when listening to music that moves me.
It wasn’t only in the listening though, it was also the record that would induct me into the ritual of vinyl.
To start with, obviously I was deemed too young to be able to handle such precious possessions, but shortly & with time I was allowed to do so.
I quickly grew to love the process of switching the hi fi on, watching the dials gradually light up & the needle flicker on the amp as the valves within slowly received their initial surge of electricity.
Unwinding the thick rubberised cable from round the headphones & the satisfying clunk the connector would make as it slotted firmly home into headphone port.
Then to the record itself, first lifting the heavy glass lid on the turntable, switching the selector to correct speed, again with a satisfying noise & firmness, sliding the thick vinyl disc from it’s sleeve & then gripping gingerly between the finger tips of both hands to avoid prints or smears.
Next placing the disc upon the turn table, lifting the needle arm across & over the record so it would begin to turn, but not lowering it, oh no, this was indeed a ritual, one that I was taught had to be carried out to the letter & one that I did so, without fail, with pride & with a peculiar sense of love for the ritual itself.
First and always first before the record could be listened to it had to be cleaned. Using a record cleaner with a handle made of heavy brushed steel that was always cold to touch, I would deftly place it’s velveteen edge against the rotating grooves & watch as light from the window flickered through rising dust motes.
Then once satisfied that the record was sufficiently clean I would place the headphones over my ear’s & perform the last act of gently lowering the arm and needle onto the groove, always with a slight crackle, but careful not to jar or scratch, settle my elbows onto the floor, place my chin in my hands & begin to listen to Richard Burton’s opening words.
Here I would remain, pouring over the vivid artwork & words contained within the sleeve booklet, whist listening to the howls of the martian’s death ray’s, transported to an alien earth until such time as the needle would reach the run out groove, automatically returning the arm to the start position above the record with an audible click & signalling the need to start the ritual over for side two.
Being a double album the ritual would be repeated at least once more, hopefully even twice before being called for either dinner, bath or bed.
To be continued……