Getting Better

  • I’ve got to admit it’s getting better
  • A little better all the time
  • I have to admit it’s getting better
  • It’s getting better

John Lennon/Paul McCartney, Getting Better (Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band)

I listen to a lot of music. Particularly in the evenings and late nights, particularly at weekends, and particularly when I’m travelling. But I used to listen to a lot more music, in my teens and early adulthood. Between 15 and 22 I must have listened to music at least 8 hours a day, sometimes twice that.

As you can imagine, my musical taste was heavily influenced as a result; so even now, most of the time, I listen to music created between 1965 and 1975, give or take a few years on either edge. It’s not that I don’t listen to any other music: I do. But I tend to think that there were so many wonderful albums made during those years, so many talented musicians, that I don’t need to venture out from there. Call it my comfort zone if you must. I just happen to think the music was great.

Now many of the people I listen to are dead, sometimes as a result of personal excess, sometimes as a result of accident and tragedy. So it comes as an incredible privilege to me when I get to see any of my boyhood heroes play live, when I get to see the musicians and bands of my youth in the flesh. Over the years, I’ve been able to see the Grateful Dead, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton, John Mayall, Queen, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, John Martyn, Van Morrison, Cat Stevens, Donovan, Don McLean, the Moody Blues, just to name a few. And I am so grateful.

In the early 1980s getting tickets used to be very hard; you tended to have to queue up at the venue box office. Sometimes, if you were very lucky, you got them on the phone. And if you couldn’t get them in person or on the phone, you didn’t go. Scalper prices were too high. By the early 1990s phone-based sales became more common, at least for the bands I wanted to watch. And it took till the late 1990s and early 2000s before the web became a potential route. Potential. I use that word advisedly. The early days of web sales were diabolical, even more roulette-ish than the telephone. Sites crashed more often than British Rail cancelled trains. You wouldn’t be able to get through. And when you did get through, the tickets had all gone.

If you really wanted to see someone, and you just couldn’t get through, you still had the touts. But their prices weren’t cheap, so it was not something you could do anytime you liked.

Roll forward to today. I’d been travelling for some time, came home, went through my personal mail, and found an email from the Royal Albert Hall. Offering me the opportunity to buy Eric Clapton tickets for next May before they opened for general sales tomorrow. How convenient. Why was this? I don’t really know. I assume it was because I’d bothered to register some years ago, that I’d listed my preferences, and, over the years, I’d bought a considerable number of tickets. Any of the above. All of the above.

Who was I to complain? So I clicked on the link, hoping against hope that the early release tickets hadn’t sold out. And then I was taken somewhere I’d never been taken before:

A waiting room. How nice. With a little counter that counted down to when it would be my turn. When I clicked on the link, I was something like 1250th in the queue; in about 20 minutes I was through. But I didn’t have to wait there doing nothing while I waited. And I got the tickets I wanted. Restricted view, but I know those seats and they’re good enough for me.

We’ve come a long way in the last 30 years, even if it doesn’t always feel that way. Priority booking for registrants. Alerts and offers based on profile and preference. A humane, almost-friendly queueing system, with excellent feedback loops. Keeping the customer informed.

All that, in the month before I get to see Santana for the first time, Winwood for the nth time and Jeff Beck on his own for the second time.

I’ve got to admit it’s getting better…..

4 thoughts on “Getting Better”

  1. Your comment about the Golden years of music applies to film and just about all artistic expression that embraced peace and love. It’s a unique time in history that I’ve listened to some interesting explanations for. Terrence McKenna’s novelty is my favourite even if it’s a bit out there.

    I watched Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock last night. It was panned by the critics because it’s not typical Ang Lee narrative but as a history piece and a story it’s very solid and a lovely gift to future generations about the power of music, collective aspirations and the positive effect that peaceful people have on smaller and less enlightened groups.

    I put on Matthews Southern Comfort after the movie and not for the first time wished I’d had a chance to experience this inspirational part of our collective history.

  2. I have fond memories of spending the night, with several hundred other people, camped in front of my local ticket office to get tickets for Bob Dylan some time in the late 70s. I was still at school at the time; my mum must have been scared to death but she was good about it.

  3. @charles I wish one day I could do a doctorate or something like that just on the music, films and books of the period 1966-1975. Wonderful memories.

  4. @Alan Yes even in the early 1980s the queues were great places to be, no fights, no hassles, a friendly community of people crazy enough to queue for hours on end….

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