Gentle reader: When and how did music come into your life? When did music “begin” for you? The tinniest little noise can spark a lifelong love.
For most of us, there will be a moment when the magic of music reveals itself fully for the first time.
It might be one single song clicking like nothing ever clicked before. It could be that a particular tune soundtracks a key moment in life. Hearing it again will always take you right back to where you were.
I’d love to know when music began for you. What tune kicked it all off for you?
…weak, like clock radio speakers
I realised this week that there was a clear moment when music “began” for me.
The BBC4 Top of the Pops 1983 repeat* the other day (Thursday 9 February 2017) was first broadcast on 3 March 1983 – the day before my 10th birthday.
The year I was 10 was one of the happiest of my life. Not least as my lifelong love of music began on my 10th birthday. I was so fortunate as to receive my first-ever music listening device, in the shape of a clock radio. It was tuned to Radio One when I got it. Thus, I listened to Radio One on that thing round the clock for years (eventually discovering John Peel, who really helped broaden my musical horizons). So from March 1983 on – undiscerning new discoverer of the delights of music that I was – I will probably know every single song on the next wodge of ancient and dusty repeats of “the Pops”.
For the discerning listener…
In Porcelain,** Moby describes this first rush of loving everything that music has to offer (and of assuming that what you’re hearing is all that is best) better than I could ever hope to:
“I was indiscriminate when it came to music: if it was played on the radio, I loved it. I assumed that the people playing music on the radio knew exactly what they were doing and wouldn’t, under any circumstances, play music that wasn’t perfect. I didn’t have favourites – I loved them all equally and religiously. I just accepted that all music played on the radio was worthy of my complete and undivided worship.”
Watching that 1983 Top of the Pops
again as a supposedly more “discriminating”*** grown-up, most of the music was probably not exactly “for the ages”. But does all music have to be?
When you hear it, you know it
Your relationship to a piece of music
could be a delightful flirtation as short as the life of a butterfly. Or it
could be a true and instant love that lasts your life.
Henry Rollins has written some fine words on finding music that stays with you for life:
if you’re really lucky, you find music that you’ll be listening to for
the rest of your life. It’s one of the best and completely unconditional
relationships you can ever forge. When you hear it, you know it. That’s
how I felt about the Stooges and the Velvet Underground[****] as soon as I
heard them. They are so real, I can’t imagine life without their music
at the ready.”
Over the years, I’ve been lucky to have found – or been found by – so much music that has remained and will remain with me for life.
Tomorrow’s just another day
But as transporting as I find the top 40 songs of 1983, it’s not music to whicih I return today.
I own a recording of just one of those songs. The loveliest moment of that 3 March 1983 episode of “the Pops” was a little snippet of the first single I ever owned: Tomorrow’s (Just Another Day) by Madness (as a kindly soul gave me the 7″ single as a birthday present – and I still have it to this day).
Even If I’m not tuned in to the music of 1983 in 2017, music will never sound the same as it did on that clock radio.
The tinniest little noise can be exciting
In his 1995 hip hop masterpiece Liquid Swords, Wu-Tang Clan’s Genius/GZA (delete name according to preference) opines that his hip hop opponents’ “lyrics are weak, like clock radio speakers.” Admittedly, the sound from my Morphy Richards clock radio was probably not all that. But the sound of the music does not matter. It is how it makes you feel.
Paul McCartney put this best in a 2014 interview. “The tinniest little noise can be exciting,” says McCartney. He continues:
“I’ve come through vinyl, tape cassettes, CDs, digital downloads … all along, the constant was that a song is required. The delivery system isn’t important. For me, I’d love people to be listening to the music in the most perfect way, so they can experience exactly what we made in the studio. But then it’s the difference between looking at a painting in a gallery and looking at a postcard of it – there’s still something good about that postcard.”
The tinniest little noise can spark a lifelong love.
When you hear it, you know it.
When did you know music was going to be one of the loves of your life?
For younger UK readers and non-UK readers of any age, Top of the Pops was an extremely long-running BBC music programme, each week showcasing a selection of in-studio lip syncs (for your life) of songs from that week’s charts, and hosted by a rotating cast of Radio One DJs. UK types can watch the 3 March 1983 edition on iPlayer, while folks worldwide can view a snippet via youtube. It would be remiss of me not to mention that a number of episodes of “The Pops” can never be broadcast again, due to the recently-revealed terrible notoriety of one particular former host, and the despicable behaviour of some others. If you have the slightest interest in learning more about this, I strongly recommend a listen to Paul Gambaccini’s extraordinary 2017 Word In Your Ear podcast appearance, in which he describes how his life was ruined for a hellish year by the taint of the DJ he describes as “he who cannot be named.”
** I really am going to have to start rationing the amount of times I quote Porcelain on this blog. But honestly, it’s great. Do both me and yourself a favour and give it a read.
*** I can’t honestly make any claims to be discerning or discriminating when it comes to music. My tastes are very broad, and to most people what I like would probably be unlistenable rot. But it makes me happy.
**** Just for my lovely friend Tash Stallard – who has been on a mini Velvets kick of late – here is a little spot of VU.
- Wikimedia Commons was the source for both the image of the distinctly unimpressed kid and of the dinner-jacketed DJ gent.
- Rollins pic via BBC 6Music.
- Sonatel CR319 transistor clock radio pic via Richards Radios. I make no claim to the copyright for this image, and will remove it from this post immediately if required.