3rd March 2022 Last week I wrote about films – today I thought I’d tell you about my musical tastes. I’ve already mentioned in previous blogs that I have been known to warble occasionally in my various guises as schoolgirl, chorister, performer and backing singer. It’s true that I do love to sing, but these days I keep it to myself – in the shower or in the car!
My first ever experience of solo performance was when I was about five years old and in my last year of nursery school, before starting at Barrow Island Infants. It was our annual Nativity play and I was asked to sing ‘Once in Royal David’s City’. I don’t remember actually doing it, but I can’t have cocked it up that much because I vaguely remember my Nana being very proud.
Also, one of my earliest memories was a present of a Denys Fisher wind-up Radio toy. It was plastic, and had a large round knob in the middle, and just above the knob was a window which displayed a coloured illustration of the one song as it played – ‘Ten Little Indians’. I’m not sure if that song would be politically correct these days, and somehow ‘Ten Little Native Americans’ doesn’t quite fit…
So, I’ve loved music from a very early age, and my tastes are eclectic, to say the least. There are a few genres that I’m not very keen on – Heavy Metal, Progressive Rock, to me they just sound like loud noise. And don’t get me started on Hip-Hop, or Garage, or House, or whatever it is they call it nowadays – in my humble opinion, all they seem to do is ‘sample’ (I call it ‘pinching’) something from a really good song, and set it to a much too heavy bass beat, repeating the same line of lyrics over and over again. No, just NO!
I was a child of the 60’s but I also grew up with the songs of the 40s, and 50s too, and love them equally. But I had my formative years in the seventies that will remain my all-time favourite decade for music. Recently on Channel 5 they had a series of 70s music programmes on a Friday evening – I loved them! It was like being a teenager again, and there were so many songs (and artists) that I’d completely forgotten. But they mainly played the famous ones. From the early 70’s Glam Rock – The Sweet, Cockney Rebel, Slade, Showaddywaddy, T-Rex and of course, David Bowie and Queen.
I think of all my teenage idols, the latter two are my all-time favourites. I still listen regularly to my albums, and cannot think of a single track that doesn’t instantly transport me to my teenage self. There’s a clip from a 1970s Top of the Pops which has Alice Cooper, adorned with his usual black make-up, singing ‘School’s Out’. As he sings, he lifts up a lock of hair of one of the audience who is dancing next to him. That girl could easily have been me – long straight hair, parted down the middle, maxi dress in floral fabric, Laura Ashley style. That was my ‘look’ at the time – come to think of it, it’s not too far away from my current look! I quite like the ‘boho/hippy chic’ vibe, even if I was too young for the ‘Summer of Love’.
I think I first noticed David Bowie when he brought out ‘Changes’; I fell in love with the song on the radio, when it was released in January 1972. I bought the ‘Hunky Dory’ album from which it came and became fascinated by this strange, skinny bloke with eyes of different colours and crooked teeth. He didn’t look a bit like I’d imagined him. I wasn’t disappointed though – I already had my teen-love crush going on with David Cassidy for the good looks, but Bowie was something else altogether. When Ziggy Stardust came out, I believed then, and still do, that it was the ultimate music album. It’s as fresh and relevant today as it was fifty years ago, and there aren’t many music artists you can say that about. I confess, I did sort of fall out with Bowie after he brought out ‘Low’ in 1977. As an album I felt it was far too depressing – which was quite apt considering Bowie’s state of mind whilst recording it. He was gradually moving out of a cocaine addiction and his frailty was obvious in the music. Brian Eno was a collaborator on this one, but I wasn’t all that fond of his music either. Apparently, many people consider Low as one of Bowie’s greatest albums, but I’m afraid I don’t agree. I think perhaps I wasn’t in such a good place myself at the time. Perhaps I ought to give it another try…
My best Bowie albums, which I literally never tire of hearing, are David Bowie (1969), The Man Who Sold the World (1970), Hunky Dory (1971), The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972), Aladdin Sane (1973), Pin Ups (1973), Diamond Dogs (1974), David Live (1974) and Stage (1978). Not many – only nine out of the 26 studio albums, 21 live albums, 46 compilation albums he released (figures courtesy of Wikipedia). I still believe it was a huge loss to the world of music, and the World in general, when he died much too early, of liver cancer, aged 69 in 2016. Can it really be six years ago already?
And my other all time favourite music heroes, of course – Flamboyant Freddie – Freddie Mercury and Queen. I first came across Queen in 1974, when I went to a concert at Lancaster University’s George Fox building, when Queen were the support band for Mott the Hoople, who had had a resurgence in popularity after being rescued (coincidentally) by David Bowie, when he gifted them ‘All the Young Dudes’, their best-selling single. In those days there was a brilliant university music circuit where bands would cut their teeth before being offered recording contracts by major record companies. Nowadays, they seem to reverse the process – get famous first THEN do the touring. But I saw some fabulous performances at Lancaster Uni, including Procul Harum, John Miles and Cockney Rebel.
To get back to my subject though – again, my favourite Queen albums are the early ones: the eponymous debut album Queen (1973) followed by Queen II (1974), Sheer Heart Attack (1974), A Night at the Opera (1975), A Day at the Races (1976), and News Of The World (1977). I’m also very fond of the Greatest Hits albums, for a concentrated hit-fest of Fabulous Freddie. Such a front-man and such a talent. Such a terrible loss at his early demise in 1991 from AIDS. And I’m sorry, but for me the people who have sung with Queen since, just don’t cut it – apologies to Adam Lambert and Paul Rodgers. They just can’t replace Freddie.
I followed the trends of the late 1970s; my sister Mel was a punk, and so I became quite familiar with The Stranglers, The Sex Pistols and The Buzzcocks. I followed the New Romantic wave and liked Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran and Human League. The 1980s was my nightclubbing decade – I was in my early 20s and single again following a disastrous early marriage, so I was out for a good time. I wasn’t so keen on the light and synthpop contributions from SAW’s ‘Hit Factory’ – the Kylies, the Sinittas and the Sonias, although admittedly they did come up with some great music for the disco dancefloors. I much preferred the likes of The Police and UB40.
When it came to the 90s, my interest in pop music began to wane. I married for the second time, aged 32, to a man eleven years older, whose musical taste revolved around Jim Diamond, The Stylistics and Billy Fury – that’s quite a broad selection! But in the 90s I became aware of much older music – the Blues. When Alison Moyet did a cover version of ‘That Ol’ Devil Called Love’ by Billie Holiday I was intrigued – more so after seeing Diana Ross play Billie in ‘The Lady Sings the Blues’ movie. I love Billie’s voice and have been a fan ever since. Not only her, but other classic Blues artists; John Lee Hooker. Big Bill Broonzy and Bessie Smith among them.
Now to the other genres that I enjoy. At school, much of the music we listened to was classical; we were lucky enough to get taken to concerts and I found some of it made my heart swell. My late beloved was a big fan of classical music and I’m glad to say I still have his extensive collection of CDs. But he too was eclectic in his tastes, including Folk, Irish Folk , Django Reinhardt, and Ike & Tina Turner – quite a mixed bag. At Glyn’s funeral he specifically requested Bach’s Cello Concertos by Rostropovich and I have to say it is some of the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard.
Opera is one of those ‘marmite’ subjects – people tend to either love or hate it – I’m glad to say that I am among the former. Talking recently to my friend Ann Marie, she was of the other persuasion, saying ‘It’s awful! Much too pompous and highbrow. Not for common people like me.” It’s a common opinion I suppose which is ironic when you think that in Italy it was the music of the man in the street. My favourites? Probably Luciano Pavarotti and Maria Callas. Her ‘J’ai Perdu Mon Eurydice’ from Gluck’s ‘Orpheus and Eurydice’ has me in tears whenever I hear it.
I remember when Glyn and I took our campervan for a weekend at a site at the foot of Pendle Hill. Angram Green, at the time, was a very basic site with few facilities, but it was a large open field with a stream running through it. We had set up the van, with the large tent attachment on its side. It was a beautiful warm evening, we were the only campers, and we sat as the evening grew dark, watching the swallows darting about catching midges. We had just eaten, and now cradled large glasses of malt whisky in our hands, and had Callas on the CD player. It features in my memory as one of the most perfect moments of my life with Glyn and I’m reminded of it every time I hear Callas sing.
My other guilty pleasure is a genre called ‘New Country’ and I got into it in the 1990s when my second husband and I ran ‘The Ship Aground’ pub in Talsarnau, near Harlech in Gwynedd, North Wales. We had Sky TV in the pub, as being patriotic Welshmen, our customers loved nothing better than watching the Rugby Internationals at the same time as drinking their pints. You have to love a nation for whom one of the most popular and famous folk-songs is about a small saucepan, don’t you? (Sosban Fach to the uninitiated.) At half time during these matches, I would bring up from the kitchen vast trays of sausages, chips and bread and butter and they loved it. At the heart of Welsh Nationalism, strangely we were warmly welcomed by the locals, even though we were both English. Sure, we had to take a lot of ribbing, but it was all in good part – for example, one of our regulars, Cochyn (Welsh for ‘Red’) who, for all the Internationals, would wear the same t-shirt which claimed ‘I only support two teams – Wales and whoever is against England!’ He actually ended up marrying my (English) former sister-in-law and they have been very happy for many years now!
I digress, yet again… When the pub was empty during weekday lunchtimes, I would have the TV switched to CMT, the Country Music TV channel. It was there I discovered my passion for this ‘New Country’ music – stars like Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire, Faith Hill, and before she was very famous, Shania Twain. I loved the stories in the songs and often there would be some tongue-in-cheek humour, and clever plays on words, such as ‘Just call me Cleopatra, ‘cause I’m the Queen of Denial,” by Pam Tillis.
I became a fan of some of the ‘old’ Country Music too – I bought albums by Patsy Cline and played them over and over. Her songs number among my favourites for driving to – when I can howl away all by myself in the car without bothering anyone else. ‘Crazy’, and ‘He Called me Baby, Baby All Night Long’ are great songs to howl to.
So, that’s about it – I mentioned early the music from the 40s and 50s, which were my mum’s favourites, and I love the old Rock’n’roll, though, surprisingly I was never a huge Elvis fan. One of my favourites is the soundtrack from the David Essex film, “That’ll be the Day.” Oh yes, David Essex was also one of my teen crushes in the early 70’s – it’s something about those twinkling blue eyes, the long dark curly hair and the gypsy styling, I think. I’m glad to say, he still has the twinkling eyes, and yes, I admit it, even with the white hair he has now – I still would! Definitely!
Well, I guess that’s enough of my rubbish for this week. Let me know what your favourite types of music are?
‘Till next week,