It’s a cliché really, remembering parts of your life by the songs you were listening to, but in these days of instant access to online music it is easier than ever to reflect on music and days gone by.
I have been a music fan for as long as I can remember – I have seen the transition from 8-track (ask your parents) cartridges in the car, through getting my first record player, tapes, CDs and, most recently, the MP3. Yes I am actually that old (although if you believe this article turning 40 is nothing to be afraid of any more!) and I find myself appreciating the music of my youth even more nowadays, even listening to things I would not ever have admitted to enjoying “back in the day”.
The soundtrack to my life is an eclectic mix, ranging from the classical, Beethoven’s 5th Symphony on CD when I had my first sports car – a Toyota Supra when I was 25 – to Sinead O’Connor’ s Nothing Compares 2 U (although not a patch on the Prince original) when I was going through my military basic training at the tender age of 17 (the video seemed to be on constant repeat on MTV!). I can tell you what I was listening to when my daughter Emilia was born (Coldplay, a compilation I had made and my wife wanted on repeat for the 5 hours of labour!), the song I asked the DJ to play on my 18th birthday (New Order – True Faith) and the first dance at my wedding (Robbie Williams’ Angels)
Certain songs remind me of places; You Oughta Know by Alanis Morrisette reminds me of being stationed in North East Scotland, Propaganda’s Duel/Jewel of driving back to Peterhead from the North East of England to see my then girlfriend. Runrig and Caperceille will always remind me of my 2 years in the Shetland Islands and The Brand New Heavies version of Midnight at the Oasis will always conjure up images of dancing round a pool table with a lit candle strapped to my head in the Falkland Islands in 1994 (a long story that needs lots of beer to understand!).
Some songs remind me of people, Ace of Bass – All That She Wants of a neighbour who only seemed to own one CD (although after a good night out with friends in Gothenburg last week this association may change). But the associations are always there, provoking my memories and often raising a smile (Arctic Monkeys version of Love Machine)
The digital music age has become my diary, my memory device to remind me of times good and bad in my life so far. Maybe it is because I am approaching 40 that I am taking time to pause and reflect on how important music has been in my life, maybe I knew it all the time and actually take great pleasure in being a music geek – able to chart my life through the medium of song. I get depressed without being able to listen to music; I cannot pass the radio in the morning without switching it on and often fall asleep listening to my MP3 player (Guillemots’ Redwings being my tune of choice this week!). My wife despairs – if I am cooking the first thing to be put in place is my iPad for some tunes (Arcade Fire – Rebellion/Lies is particularly good for chopping carrots). If I go away anywhere with work the first thing to be packed is my laptop and hard drive full of music. What the digital age has saved me from is storage issues – my 2 Ikea racks full of CDs have been faithfully converted to digital then stored in the loft (just in case…) but my obsession is real. I will take hours making a compilation CD for a car journey (don’t have MP3 player connection in the car yet!), sometimes taking longer to sort the soundtrack than the journey takes (Manic Street Preachers – Small Black Flowers for my first trip away with my now wife).
Some songs will inevitably remind me of sadder times (plenty of imploding relationship stories here) like Steps – 5, 6, 7, 8 when I came around from a coma in 1997 (my nurse was obsessed and sang it all the time – she also used to sit on my bed and watch Top of the Pops but that’s a story for another day!).
So I urge you, whatever your age, take the time to sit down and work out what songs mean what to you – you may find some pleasant surprises lurking in your CD rack.
If we are to believe the popular press, Simon Cowell and Co. have killed music. It is stone dead and beyond resuscitation. Should we believe that this is the case?
Last week, Radio 1 ran their annual New Music Week. They hand over the airwaves to specialist DJs who bring non-chart music to the masses. There would seem to be no shortage of this new music, suggesting that music is not dead. The problem seems to be that the music industry cannot market what is available effectively.
The BBC used to run Top of The Pops, their flagship music programme aimed at teens. It was most kids’ exposure to pop music (apart from taping the top 40 on a Sunday). They were somewhat guided in their purchases. Now they have more music channels than they can watch, Internet radio and the ability to access almost any song instantaneously. Bands can engage with their fans in ways that they could not have imagined when I was a teenager. Artists can produce and distribute from their own bedrooms. There is no need for a record deal in the digital age.
And this is exactly why labels will say music is dying. Because of teenagers huddled over their MacBooks laying down their beats, sending it to their friends via Facebook who send it to their friends ad infinitum. If you are a singer/songwriter all you need is a webcam and a good broadband connection.
Music is far from dead, it is where it belongs – with the masses. Get on YouTube, legally download some tunes (hey, musicians need to make a living too), and embrace the revolution.
Let the music live!