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Chris's Thoughts

 

 

 

Nag's Head - Chris

 

' They've got it nice now haven't they? Yeah. And crisps, thanks'

Well then, many years ago when I was about fourteen, my parents and I were visiting a cousin in York. While we're sitting around catching up on news he puts on a little background music (being a civilised sort of chap). At the time the only musical influence in my world was Abba (I was young and foolish; what can I say?) Anyway the music in question was 'Tubular Bells'. I'd never heard anything like it and it made a lasting impression. I saved my pennies and bought the album followed by any other Mike Oldfield I could find or afford (£3.99 an album!) as and when it appeared up to 'Boxed'. Platinum had its moments but by and large the singles albums didn't do anything for me.

Music had to be long and complex. Ah, a progster in the making! Our milkman at the time (no kidding!) got me into Yes and the Stafford Bingley Hall night of the 1977 'Going for the One' tour was the first gig I ever went to.

At fifteen years old or so good friends introduced me to Genesis and ELP. Bits and pieces of Emerson, Lake and Palmer 'took' but my admiration was patchy. However, a cassette of 'Pirates' is one of my musical treasures to this day. Sadly, I came to appreciate Genesis too late to see them with Gabriel (so I didn't bother going to see them without him!).

Down the years I've found little to compare with these masters. It's not the nostalgic glow of that period, either, that makes them seem better in retrospect than they were. They still sound better to my ears now than anything that has appeared since. The only pieces of recent years that really hold me are 'August and Everything After' by Counting Crows, 'God Shuffled His Feet' by the Crash Test Dummies and 'Seeds of Love' by Tears for Fears (and, incidentally, I loathe ever other thing they've ever done so work that one out!).

Of course, along the way, I was introduced to Jethro Tull but, like many other folk, I'm a bit fussy about which musical 'version' of Tull I listen to. 'Songs from the Wood' used to be a steady favourite but I have to admit I've cooled on that over the last few years. Floyd hove into few around the same time. 'Wish You Were Here', 'Learning to Fly' and 'Comfortably Numb' are perennial favourites.

I'm frequently disappointed at the lack of talent and imagination on display so when I joined a self-financed rock club I discovered a rich vein of unrecognised (by the mainstream media) talent. I.Q and Jadis still remind me of some of the best gigs I ever went to.

I think what I most enjoyed in albums like 'Foxtrot' was the strange storylines (and the fact that they had one!) The richly textured layers of rhythm and melody (It was a source of pride to be able to tap out the bass line of 'Apocalypse in 9/8' on your knee without dropping the rhythm. Though, to my shame, never managed the one in It Bites' 'Old Man and the Angel').

This stuff was always worth listening to and I've always come away from it feeling I've been given something far more valuable than a tune to whistle when I'm bored. Let's face it; after most progressive rock gigs you feel like you've had an emotional and spiritual workout. I know I do! That's a very special and precious experience, one that comes from a performance by gifted and driven artists. The music business having become the plastics factory that it is, we're lucky to see the like these days so my fingers are tightly crossed at the news that my favourite line up of Yes are back together. I can only hope that they'll prove that their best work is not behind them. Having just read about Graham Greene on this site though, I'm looking forward to discovering some new music that moves me as much as I need it to.

Looking back at my first introduction to prog it was a time of enthusiastic discovery and album swapping. All good clean fun and most of it inspirational to this day.

Chris White

 

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