Rings a Bell

I was having a conversation (OK, an email exchange) the other day with a younger friend of mine who is, and has always been, a massive David Bowie fan, about why people have such odd music tastes. Until last year she had felt well out of things in her peer group as until the former Mr Jones decided to come out with a top selling album from nowhere, most of her contemporaries had no idea who Bowie was never mind having a view on his music.
It got me thinking about what engages people with a particular type or types of music. I specify those that are engaged as I know a number of people for whom music is primarily noise in the background. That’s just the way they are made and they have other things to evoke mood or emotion.
For my friend, it came from parental influence and that is certainly one source of input.
I think most of us either hate the music our parents listened to (and forced us to listen to by default or design) or openly or secretly like it (depending on how embarrassing it might be). I was pretty lucky, as my parents ploughed a late 1960s furrow of 45s that included a wide selection of Beatles, Lulu, Nancy Sinatra and Johnny Kidd and the Pirates. It was quite a diverse group of stuff from a limited time period, but that diversity probably influenced the eclectic nature of my music tastes. It also meant that I know more about 1960s pop than I should but that is no bad thing – some of it is very good indeed.
Then again, Val Doonican and Barbara Dickson probably do not get pushed to the front of the CD cabinet.
Then there is the first record you buy (‘Material Girl’ by Madonna), first album (Erasure – ‘The Innocents’) and that stuff that dominates your teen years – for me a heady mixture of Queen, Ultravox and Genesis, with Eurhythmics and Chris Rea thrown in for good measure. This is a key time for most of us leading through university and starting out on adult life, and the soundtrack of this time does stay with us.
And connected there is the connection of music to something good (or indeed something bad… Madonna’s ‘Power of Goodbye’ pretty much sums up the pain of my first relationship).
Here my music tastes take a dive. But then some of the happier times of my life were holidays off the Northumbrian coast, an orgy of rock pooling, castles and fish and chips. Fish and chip smell takes me straight back there to my preteens, but unfortunately so does the music of the late 70s summers; bright, vacuous and frequently disposable. There are things I like from this period that make me cringe, but it is a cringe with a grin. Some people argue that there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, but people that is not true. I am definitely guilty of crimes against musical taste in perpetuating some of this stuff.
As I go along through life I do also see the difference between people who stay in their period with what they love and those who constant experiment and add to their music collection. Again, each to his or her own, although personally I have a dangerous tendency to explore new music, although hardly in an experimental way – just as well the Lovely Wife is much the same, or she would be more upset at the numbers of CDs I buy (note, I might like new music but I do like a nice shiny disc, a simple download does not really do it for me, although space may force this).
But I do recognise that the sounds of 2013 may not stay with me for too long, bar a few exceptions. While for some people “Get Lucky” will be a nostalgic touchstone for their lives in the same way as dance floor favourites of my college years – ‘Stop!’ by Erasure (again) and Black Box’s ‘Ride on Time’ for example – are to me.
Some will survive, though. I suspect my personal favourite track of 2013 – Bastille’s ‘Pompeii’ – will be in my favourites list for some years to come. Why? Because the subject matter has always fascinated me, and the Pompeii/Herculaneum exhibition last year at the British Museum was fascinating and effecting. So now the confluence of these two things – exhibition and song -is locked in my head.
Oh, and it is a storming track too, of course. But I wouldn’t be foolish enough to try and persuade anyone of that, as it has a special place in my personal soundtrack.
But not as much as some piece of music that to me are truly unique, but more of that to come…