' Old Peculiar is off? Better make it a pint of Summer Lightning and not too much head, young lady!í
Born on 23rd December 1957 in London, I was just about old enough to see the changes in the music scene from the fifties crooners whose material was well known largely due to the musical films of the era (Half a Sixpence, Summer Holiday etc) but also including Billy J Kramer, Frank Ifield et al, to the upcoming change in style and tempo that was The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Kinks. Incidentally, the first piece of vinyl I bought was Daydream by the Loviní Spoonful Ė two shillings and nine pence if I recall.
My early musical influence, however, was not the pop of the day but classical music thanks to my fatherís keen interest in the genre and extensive record collection. Bach, Beethoven and Mozart were instant hits with me as was Griegís Peer Gynt Suite and, on the lighter front, Paganini, Tchaikovsky and Johann Strauss. Of course there are too many to list but you get the picture. I was never that enamoured with opera as I considered the melody more enjoyable than vocals, or should I say choral works. The only exception to this was the works of Gilbert and Sullivan because of the catchy tunes combined with humorous lyrics and to this end I have even been to see the DíOyly Carte in action.
Possibly the schools I attended helped pave my way into the heady realms of Ďseriousí music; the independent fee paying schools in my early years made no reference to the popular music of the day, concentrating instead on the great composers; the boyís grammar school I ended up in also concentrated on the classics but the relatively young music master was not unknown to make the passing reference to certain prog bands.
I bought few singles and those I did buy were lucky to get into the top 100. The first two albums I bought were by The Move (Iím still a Roy Wood fan) and Mungo Gerry but it wasnít until 1972 that I first dipped into the world of prog. Iíd heard and seen Jethro Tull on the radio and TV in the late 60ís but as soon as I heard a friendís copy of Aqualung I just knew I had to get it. Soon, all my pocket money was being spent on prog albums that were being released faster than my wallet could contend with. I bought Tubular Bells as soon as it was released before it reached the charts. ELP, Caravan, Genesis, King Crimson, Horslips, Gryphon, Tull, Fairport Convention and Gong soon found a home in my growing collection. Everything stopped for Alan Freemanís Saturday Rock Show on BBC Radio 1 (2pm to 5pm) when I soaked up the enthusiastic banter and glowed in the fact that 50 per cent of the music played I actually had in my collection and at least 45 per cent I wanted to get. There was no need to buy YES as I had all the tracks etched into my skull from friends non-stop playing of various albums.
A friend and I were returning from the pub one evening and he suggested dropping in on a friend of his for a nightcap. He was listening to a Cheech and Chong album when we arrived which didnít take long to render me to tears of laughter. We were discussing music when he said he had an album he was sure I would love and proceeded to put Camelís The Snowgoose on the turntable. That was a big turning point for me and to this day the music of Camel has played a big part in my life (wish it would pay the bills though).
My cousin tried to get tickets to see The Who perform Quadrophenia in 1973 with no luck. It wasnít until 1974 I was dragged to my first gig to see Santana at Birmingham Odeon. Maybe everyone loves their first concert purely because it is their first concert but I loved it. Soon I was going to Birmingham on a regular basis to see Camel, Caravan, Horslips, Renaissance, Peter Gabriel and even Rainbow. My biggest regret was missing Genesis The Lamb tour. A friend had queued for tickets the best part of a day to find as soon as he had the ticket office in his sights that all had been sold. Now, I could have got tickets from the students union but I refused to pay the additional £1 they imposed out of principle Ė it was almost a third of the ticket price Ė so didnít get to see the Gabriel line up. I managed to finally see Pink Floyd on the Animals tour in 77 in Stafford (incidentally or should I say allegedly, Iím fairly sure that Ben Elton was on the same coach as me though he most likely would not wish to be known as a Floyd fan).
When I married in the early 80ís and had weaned my wife off Motown and onto prog, the genre was on the decline big time. We tried Marillion but were not overly impressed. Camel had all but disappeared which left Steve Hackett, Tull and Fairport (and The Enid) and we saw them whenever we could. Of the new bands coming onto the scene, It Bites was a breath of fresh air as were All About Eve. The pop of the 80ís was quite diverse; Ian Dury, the Stranglers, Madness were great, and even Nick Kershaw and Duran Duran had their moments.
My hope for the future of prog arrived shortly before my divorce. Someone at Central Television (now Carlton) came up with the idea of getting prog bands like Caravan and Steve Hackett to perform a one off gig at their Nottingham studio and broadcast the performance under the Bedrock banner. Unfortunately a change in the TV stationís personnel resulted in the cancellation of the series. However, this triggered a mini revival and we travelled the tedious journey to Norwich in 1991 to see the classic Caravan line up complete with the great Richard Sinclair perform In The Land Of Grey And Pink, an album I have religiously played at least once per month since 1973. In the meantime, Camel had a new album, the first since 1984.
After my divorce, I decided to search out some new music that inevitably resulted in the birth of the Hairless Heart Herald after meeting Chris and Danny.
I like complex and emotional music whatever the genre be it blues, jazz, hard rock, classical, prog rock, psychedelia, folk or a combination. I try and keep an open mind. Not to do so can mean missing out on something rather good. In fact anything that requires some grey matter to try and reconcile the strange beat to the melody invariably gets my vote. My tastes tend to veer on the jazzier side of music much of the time, but Iíve also been known to delve into heavier and newer music such as Black Sabbath, Doves, Coldplay, Zero7 etc.
I have an extensive CD/vinyl collection so to list my favourite albums would be extremely hard. You have only to see the Reviews section of this site to see what I have enjoyed this year alone; Sphere≥, Galahad, Graham Greene, Raimundo Roduflo, Big Big Train, Hostsonaten, Quadesh Ė the list is endless. If you want a peak at my shortlist of timeless (and not so timeless) classics read on>>>
Iíll stop there before I bore everyone, although I should also mention IQ, Jadis, Al Di Meola, Manitou, Richard Sinclairís Caravan Of Dreams, Hatfield And The North, Iona, Donal Lunny, Stackridge, Crowded House, Grace, Porcupine Tree and stacks of others who have brought me aural pleasure over the years.
My stomach is rumbling. Time for a Murgh Tikka and a Kingfisher lads?
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