The first album I can remember holding in my hands was a Beatles album: A Hard Day’s Night. Until then, my musical upbringing was largely Western classical, jazz through the ages, fifties musicals and crooners. Not surprising, given that I was born in 1957 and lived in India.
It was a good upbringing to have, as far as Western music was concerned: Perry Como and Pat Boone, My Fair Lady and South Pacific, all interspersed amongst the Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Lionel Hampton, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and accentuated by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Mussorgsky and Ravel. It wasn’t a question of choosing either: we listened to what our parents listened to, and that was that. It didn’t occur to us that some people thought musical taste was an individual thing; music, like food, like reading, like life itself, was a social thing, enjoyed best in the company of others.
I must have been around 10 when we bought ourselves a new gramophone player for the house, and shortly after that a few albums emerged that were different from the others. Peter, Paul and Mary’s seminal In The Wind. The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s Time Out. And of all things, Edmundo Ros’s Bongos From The South.
And the Beatles, with A Hard Day’s Night. The start of a wonderful trip through the music of the age.
Over the next ten years, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of albums flowed through the house. No sense of ownership. We bought some; traded some; some were parked there by friends, loaned indefinitely; some just turned up, forgotten leavings.
We were eclectic in our listening; if there was a bias, it was towards singer-songwriter folk rock, but it went a lot further than that, starting with the Beatles (together and solo) and Peter, Paul and Mary. Dylan. Simon and Garfunkel. The Grateful Dead. Traffic. Cream. John Mayall. Jethro Tull. Joan Baez. Dave Mason. Crosby Stills Nash and Young, together and separate. Buffalo Springfield. The Who. Emerson Lake and Palmer. Yes. Neil Diamond. America. Janis Joplin. Kris Kristofferson. Joe Cocker. Creedence Clearwater Revival. Santana. Donovan. Don McLean. Clapton. Hendrix. Jim Croce. Cat Stevens. Leonard Cohen. Allman Brothers. Elton John. Lindisfarne. Led Zeppelin. The Rolling Stones. The Doobie Brothers. Joni Mitchell. James Taylor. Carole King. The Band. Jose Feliciano. Melanie. Seals and Croft. Loggins and Messina. The Doors. The Eagles. Steely Dan. Poco. New Riders of the Purple Sage. Ten Years After. Deep Purple. The Kings. Herman’s Hermits. Iron Butterfly. King Crimson. Pentangle. Queen. Police. Elvis. Stevie Wonder. The Temptations. The Jackson Five. The Moody Blues. Pink Floyd. John Martyn. Gordon Lightfoot. Chicago. Blood Sweat and Tears. Van Morrison. Harry Nilsson.
You get my drift. One paragraph. My pantheon from 1967-1980. Not that much into heavy metal. Not that much into pure pop. Deeply into rock, but mostly based around a folk-rock foundation. Usually singer-songwriter, usually able to play an instrument or two, usually in harmony.
I just loved the music. Really really loved it. At the time I felt like there were a couple of hundred albums that were all I ever needed to listen to, with songs that were full of life and stories and joy and sadness and melody and poetry. And memories.
That’s how I used to think, in my teens and early twenties. I felt rich in the music I knew and loved, and felt no real reason to step out beyond that area.
Guess what? It’s largely stayed that way. Thirty, forty years on, that’s pretty much all I listen to. And I’ve been very privileged, able to watch many of my childhood idols live since then. In fact, tonight, I’m off to see Bob Dylan at the Hammersmith Apollo, and already holding tickets for Jethro Tull next April. I was always sure I’d spend most of my life listening to Sixties and Seventies music. I hadn’t quite considered that it would mean going to concerts where the musicians were in their sixties and seventies!
To all of them, I owe an enormous debt of gratitude, for filling so much of my life with pleasure, with joy, with delight.
Thank you Sixties and Seventies musicians. Particularly those who believe that music is a performance art, not something to can once and exploit forever.