Monday, October 2, 2017

Coming of age

The task: Bring along tracks from that time in your life when hormones are rushing about and the first buds of a blossoming interest in music are sprouting forth. Songs that conjure fond memories for you but as they are from a time before your tastes congealed into the hipster know all you are today they might be a little bit embarrassing.


For this theme I went back to my pre-teens, to my pre-double-digits in fact, when I was about 7 or 8, jumping between two single beds, wrestling my teddy bear with only two vinyl albums to my name. Despite not doing anything for my music credibility, they do hold a special place in my heart, so while I'm not exactly proud to put present them, I can at least say I'm at ease with my choices.

Raffaella CarrĂ  - Do It, Do It Again

I have no idea where I got this 7 inch single; on the one side the Italian version A Far L'amore Comincia Tu (about which there is an interesting Stack Exchange debate about the appropriate translation to English) and on the other, Do It, Do It Again (With Love). These are the same song with modified lyrics to better suit the language. About 20 years after I last listened to this single I found it stashed away in my old bedroom, still wrapped in a homemade, paper and sellotape sleeve. It brought back a whole heap of memories when I listened again on YouTube, and so it felt especially worthy of this theme.

Michael Bolton - How Can We Be Lovers If We Can't Be Friends

Ooh, controversial. Having sent Music Club into a complete tizzy with his selection of Red Fu some time ago, Carl has made it easier for anyone else to offer up something embarrassing or just 'wrong'. With that in mind I decided to present my favourite track from the first vinyl I ever bought - Michael Bolton's Soul Provider. This is the last track from side one and, if you really try, you can hear power metal (or at least power ballad) vocals that I occasionally enjoy in my adult life.



I grew up on a staple diet of classic rock, and mainstream nineties like pearl jam and radiohead. But there was the rare CD or tape in my parents' collection that hinted at a much wider and diverse musical world, one I'd only discover in my twenties.

Van Morrison's Astral Weeks was one of those tapes, my only real introduction to jazz. Beside You is my favourite track on the album, at its freest, sixties best.

And Dead Can Dance was the pick of my dad's brief New Age phase, which involved a lot of Enigma and Deep Forest. The Host of Seraphim sounded at its apocalyptic best on David's enormous sound system, vividly invoking the hormonal hyper-realism of the teenage years where even the most insignificant events often seem drenched in existential power.



Nothing embarrassing here: My teenage years were spent in the shadow of my Amstrad all-in-one hifi. Veneer chipboard on the sides with a classy tinted front door window that enclosed a snazzy silver, twin tape deck, radio and record player. Hours of fun were had creating mix tapes and spinning discs

Kate - Breathing

I don't know where it came from (maybe the parents), but I played the living bejeezus out of a copy of Kate Bush's Whole Story. I recon it still has to be the best best-of that I can think of. Condensing a decent discography onto two sides of vinyl is tough. I love the fact that this record has a bit of everything, and I chose Breathing as the most evocative, strange and compelling tune on the album. What more does a teenager want to fall to sleep to, than sounds of the apocalypse being whispered into your ear by the dulcet tones of the very sexy, creative and leotard-clad Kate. Explosive stuff.

Frankie - Surviving

Slightly later in life, yet still tethered to the Amstrad; I started listening to heaps of London based radio stations. I think it was GLR that I used to record off of most often (before I found Sunrise FM. EDIT: just did a search and it lives again, online!! Result). I made mix tapes from sections of mixes. There was one tape that induced me to catch the train to a record store in London and buy up a list of 12"s that I'd heard and actually got the names of. Unfortunately many of the tunes on the hallowed tape were unknown. Fast forward a few decades, and lo and behold, I start listening to a Frankie Knuckles compilation, only to find 3 or 4 of his tunes were some of the most memorable on the tape. Hallelujah!



Faith No More - Epic, released June 1989 on The Real Thing album -  the source of influence was my big bro, I'd "borrow" his music, surf branded clothing, invite myself to hang out with him and his friends - he was pretty generous although some of the "borrowed" clothes he probably didn't know about!  It reminds me of a time when living in a big family was about making do with what you had access to and learning to share space and being exposed to a wide range of music that wasn't necessarily something you'd choose personally.
There's reasonable online debate about what the song was about, personally I'm happy to leave the debate to those who care more than I did.  I enjoyed the mix of genres and have a number of favourites from this album.

Def Leppard - Rocket, from the 1987 Hysteria album....a time where we embraced bands that openly wore more or equal quantities of makeup as women, hair was highly flammable, pants were almost painted on and my bedroom walls were covered in posters of these type of idols (Poison, GnR etc.).  
Rocket as a track has a heap of stuff going on, multiple version of varying lengths including an 8:41 extended lunar mix, the original 6:34, and was considered "experimental" for hard rock at the time, looking back I still love it and have plenty of fond memories from school disco days of "pashing sessions"...ewwww to generally kicking around with a group of people being a teenager.



10cc "Don't Hang Up" from How Dare You 1976

This little gem is an absolutely classic piece of 1970's pop/rock. I recall listening to this with my close friend Brodey Jones in his bedroom after school. It is really a reminder of just how artificial and inauthentic a lot of music from this period now sounds. It literally seems to have come from a different planet to the other things that were beginning to happen at that time. Hard to believe that The Ramones were bashing out three minute wonders in New York let alone the mutant electronics of Suicide also in NYC. Still, the somewhat prissy and overly clever word play, fussy and glossy production not to mention the incredibly narcissistic subject matter (I think they intended it to sound as creepy as it does) seems to represent literally everything that punk rejected. Nonetheless, I still remember this album with fondness for those simpler times.

The Brothers Johnson "Strawberry Letter 23" 1977

While the rest of the world was exploding with punk fervour (well, London) I was grooving to this fine piece of funk/pop in my bedroom. This was huge in Henderson (West Auckland) and a staple of every party at the time. This was definitely the first time I had purchased a pure dance music album and it was actually a bit radical within my own little group who at the time were into Grand Funk Railroad (not really very funky at all) and David Bowie. As I had absolutely no clear 'taste' at this time I was happy to slot that in next to my Jimi Hendrix albums. Listening to it again after such a long time I think it still stands as a fine and enduring piece of groove. It has aged incredibly well when compared to some of the other stuff around at the time. 

Soon after this brief period between developing an awareness of music in its own right and before it crystalised into a lifelong passion I bought The Jam's All Mod Cons (1978) and it has been downhill ever since.


Slightly embarrassing pre-hipster tunes... my cuppeth overfloweth as I had the (un)fortunate experience of having the 70's and 80's running as the background track to my misspent youth...

For a variety of reasons I had moved cities and/or countries every two years of my life so the world was pretty impermanent. In each place you would get to know people over that two year period and then suddenly you (they) would be gone, never to be seen or heard from again... Except for that one guy who contacted you on linkedin two days after you signed up and remembered you from 1974 during the one year you spent at Carre's Grammar in Sleaford, Lincs. The other slightly bizarre thing that happened in 1974 was a small group from Sweden who were blitzing their way through the Eurovision Song Contest that year... luckily for you ABBA is not on my list because Glam Rock got there first... There, I've said it.

In my defence for this band a couple of their tunes have been used recently as soundtrack/promos for fantasy/action genre movies 'Suicide Squad' and 'Guardians of the Galaxy'. This particular track was written after an incident at a venue in Kilmarnock where the band were forced offstage by the crowd throwing bottles at them... maybe the spandex and glitter was a leap too far... I give you Sweet with Ballroom Blitz.   


Things didn't get much better in the eighties, sad to say. On the plus side, I'd stopped moving around every two years and was flatting in Wellington. On the minus side there was big hair, power shoulders and tight pants with the added bonus of makeup for one gender and moustaches for the other. Being on the other side of the planet from the action meant that my musical diet was dictated by the whims of whichever radio or TV producer happened to be in charge. Yes, the Music Video had arrived and it was bigger than a Big Thing(tm)! As with all Big Things the music video just kept trying to outdo itself to the extent that sometimes the song got lost in the process. But we didn't care about that as we tried to look cool in pants that gave parts of the anatomy a lot of grief while watching A Flock of Seagulls performing I Ran on TV on a Saturday night before hitting the town, getting legless and vomiting on the way home...