Sunday, 5 October 2014

Music variety is the spice...

My recent posts regarding the various great musicians of our - and previous times - has had me rearranging my collection.

Don't fret too much, though, I'm not an obsessive-compulsive about this sort of thing (and shouldn't that really be CDO not OCD? After all, if you're going to be obsessive, surely the letters should be in alphabetical order...).

Anyway, I don't bother with putting my favourites in any particular order other than collecting all of the singles together. That sounds like an obvious thing given that singles tend to be seven inches in diameter compared to the whole foot you get with most albums, but I confess that I have now switched to purely digital files. I have to say, despite my age, that the advantages far outweigh - or rather, under-weigh - the old collection of plastic that seemed to attract dust from every corner of the planet. Probably even from passing meteors.

Another major advantage is the fact that you can sit anywhere you please and listen to whatever takes your fancy for hours and hours without doing anything more physical than clicking a mouse.Sure there was some sort of pleasure to be gained by lovingly cleaning a spiraled piece of PVC before gently placing it on a turntable and equally gently guiding a diamond-tipped needle into the groove. There again, it now doesn't matter if a dog decides to nudge the back of my knees when I start to play a track. Of course I miss the screech occasionally (the one associated with the stylus and the record, not the one I habitually give when nudged by a nosy canine), but I can rest safe in the knowledge that my digital recording will always be in perfect, non-mutted condition.

Thanks to the 'shuffle' feature of virtually all music players these days, I don't even have to choose a running order - so gone are the hours spent sorting and re-sorting all the discs before invariably changing my mind about the playing order.

Then, of course, there's visibility. No more 'it's-a-black-and-white-label-therefore-it's-probably-The Specials-but-it's-faded-so-much-I-can't read-it -Oh-bugger-I-didn't-realise-Kylie-recorded-for-them' (and no, I don't really own any Minogue). These days, if I wander (wobble) through the kitchen and spot a Mars Bar, I can go to my laptop and find The Ballad of Lucy Jordan in a matter of seconds. I'll leave you to work out that particular psychological link...

But back to my sorting. I've now got eighty single tracks gathered in a folder named 'Old Shit' that gets played with alarming frequency. Artists include Robert Palmer, Kate Bush, ELO, Squeeze, George Harrison, Freddie Mercury, Iggy Pop, Meredith Brooks, The Pretenders, ZZ Top, Jilted John (no, really), Kirsty MacColl, Shakespeare's Sister... a quick count here shows me that for the eighty tracks, sixty-four different artists are present and I'm not talking Band Aid-esque collections. There's probably fifty or sixty different styles of music as well although C&W seems absent (Labelled With Love doesn't count).

And talking of a Squeeze classic, I find it endlessly wonderful that each and every track can immediately bring back a shed-load of memories - most happy, some a little sad (I really had just split up with a girl called Julie when I first heard Jilted John) - but each and every recollection is powerful. By the way, I'm not keen on Mars Bars. The memories don't even have to be relevant to the track or its title. I'm fairly sure I've never been Paranoid (well that's what they all tell me, anyway), and I've never been a Soldier, Toy or otherwise. I've never driven all night and gone underground to enjoy a dreadlock holiday, and I'm pretty certain no one has ever suggested I was as cool as a cat. Cool as slush, maybe.

Given that what remains is just a fragment of the hundreds of records - in all media - I have owned over the years, I guess I can be pretty sure that I am left with those items that carry the most meaning for me. But having said that, every time I look through the collections I'm reminded of tracks that are missing and which I want to hear again. Or I hear a new artists and desperately want to hear more of them. Or I feel like trying something again which I didn't really enjoy first time round. Or... and that's when I know for sure that music is desperately important to me.

You will know by now if you've read any of my earlier posts (more than 1,000 page views so far, so I know there's at least a few of you who read regularly - thank you) that my first love these days is writing. But I never, ever write without something playing in the background. Right this second it's Alice Cooper and next up will be Billy Idol - and yes, I do keep my Frankenstein fed and yes, I have had a White Wedding. Or two.

Music comes in all shapes and forms (not a reference to Iggy Pop, I promise), and for me at least, it remains so very important. I once conducted an impromptu survey among work colleagues, asking them to name their favourite artists. I gave up after fifteen people when I realised that I had fifteen different answers - I guessed that I would get different answers from some a week and a mood later, but just that first round of questions told me all I really needed to know. We all hear things a little differently, all see things within a track that means something a little different to each of us - and isn't that a joy?

Music is so important.

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