Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Music your parents introduced you to..

  ... women and children gather round the gramophone in their living room



Dick Dale, Let's Go Trippin'. (Studio, September 1961.) A pioneer of the classic Surf Guitar sound, who gets less attention than he deserves. Quite the sight to see live, too - he plays strings that are really more like power cables, and goes through one plectrum per minute. No exaggeration there. Also a pioneer of amplifiers and speakers - innovation driven by necessity, because he kept blowing them up. Still rocking in the California desert.

Aretha Franklin, Spirit in the Dark. (Live, March 1971.) She received quite a bit of attention, by contrast, all well deserved. She also wrote this song, which despite secular lyrics really hits me like church music. The version I heard as a kid was much shorter, I think; the vamping at the end was probably electric in person but not so much 43 years later.



My parents didn't do me any favours in musical taste upbringing. My mother was a fan of the showband scene, popular to dance halls and ballrooms throughout Ireland in the 50's and 60's. On trips between Kildare and Limerick I was 'treated' to my fair share of Joe Dolan, and the track I picked, possibly harshly but most memorably for an at-the-time 8-to-11 year-old, is The House With The White Wash Gable. As I say, it was probably a harsh nomination, so for a better impression of Joe, as his legacy really does deserve, check out Make Me An Island, You're Such A Good Looking Woman or It's You, It's You, It's You. As his tag line goes, There's No Show Like A Joe Show!

My dad has showed inclinations of a better taste in music, although I was never really immersed in any particular artist or style. The best of the small bunch, and the artist who most stayed with me since, was Chuck Berry. He needs no introduction, so the track I picked, which has that awkward theme of the time of the appeal of young girls, is Sweet Little Sixteen.


 My parents are super fond of classical music, Mozart was rocked big time, opera was cranked out load. I remember being forced to watch full operas as well as the odd ballet - Russian of course, even as a small kid I could see the power and dynamism of the Bolshoi, none of that prissy British ballet.

Within this classical climate, low and behold my dad comes back from a trip to Europe with a tape for me, not a dusty, crusty number but fresh from the studio. I would have been 12 and relatively uneducated in modern music, so wham I put it on. I gotta admit it was too unusual, I remember only liking a few songs and being somewhat disappointed overall. Now I see it as powerful double album with a whole bunch of good songs - Sign 'O' The Times by Prince.

"awaiting footage"

This song is 'If I Was Your Girlfriend' I find it beautiful, slightly mushy and the song builds to a steamy, saucy climax, which always makes me grin. You can talk during the first 3mins but then you need to listen to the titillating lyrics. 


Very apt theme given I'm back in Old Blighty visiting the parents.

First track courtesy of my mothers musical influence. Mum was born in a small village on the Isle of Wight in 1953, by chance of birth the 1970 Isle of Festival was on her doorstep and had a huge influence on her musical education and mine.  She was lucky enough to see these guys in their element.

Sly and the Family Stone: If you want me to stay.

This one's courtesy of my Dad's influence. One of Eddie Cochran's lesser known tracks. 
Eddie Cochran: Nervous Breakdown.



  'Fragile' –  originally by Sting - is here ( ) given new life by a constellation of the jazz greats: Nils Landgred (singer and trombonist), Pat Metheny, Michael Brecker, and Esbj√∂rn Svensson (the last two of whom have since passed away, making the his outing all the more memorable). Performed at Germany’s Jazz Baltica sometime in the recent past, this ethereal rendition transforms an otherwise mainstream pop ballad into a haunting journey via Landgren’s almost childlike voice and  the unmistakable vocabulary of jazz. All of which powerfully transports me back to the Sundays of my own childhood, when our home became a true cathedral to jazz (which just so happened to be the devil's music in my grandad's books).

 Ollie (...yea Gods, strike me down in disbelief!! HE LIVES!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Tracks: Jacque Brel: Marieke; La Valse a Mille Temps

Two tracks from Belgian troubadour Jacques Brel – one sung in Flemish, the other in French. I loathed this music when my parents used to play it, always and without exception on holidays in France. The moment we drove off the ferry, on went the battered cassette and so the nausea started. A couple of years ago I critically reappraised old Jacque and grew to love his style, characterised by a combination of anger, incredulity and passion that builds towards a dramatic and complex crescendo, heightened by a band that quickens to a devastating speed. Another thing I love is that Flemish is so guttural, I imagine it’s difficult just to speak it, let alone sing it, and yet he somehow manages to sound effortless and triumphant. He was a funny looking dude too.



Parental influence, where music was concerned, was more nature than nurture. I was mostly influenced by other family members, friends and people I was trying to emulate or curry favour with. There was a drawer that housed the family vinyl and some of the most loved platters were Puff the Magic Dragon, The Wombles and the Flash Gordon soundtrack.
None of these cultural highlights make the following list:

Otis Redding - Cigarettes and Coffee: This was chosen because my folks genre of choice used to be motown and the soul greats, where Otis featured very heavily. I'm not a massive fan of his most well known works but I do dig the melancholy, early hours vibe to this.

Jimi Hendrix - Crosstown Traffic: The parents bought tickets to see the living legend in 1967
at the Saville Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue. The great and the good of rock music were also in the audience (they saw The Rolling Stones, including Brian Jones, Ringo Star and the other Beatles, Stevie Winwood and many others). I would have chewed my right arm off to be there but I'm happy to live vicariously through their tales. As such, I became a massive fan of Jimi's in formative years and this is still my favourite song - and the album art rocks too. It takes some gall to frown upon over zealous promiscuity, being a rock god in the swinging sixties - or maybe it was impatience rather than moral judgement? Whatever! I love the high energy, driving, jaunty nature of the song and the quirky yet extremely catchy vocal harmonies.

'We were absolutely mesmerised. At the finale Jimi smashed his guitar on the drums, sparks flying everywhere!'