Music, Music, Music

Music has always played a hugely important part of my life, from pretty much as far as back as I can remember (which is longer than I care to think about too much!).

I remember when I was a young boy playing my first record – a ’45’ vinyl single (anyone else remember those? I’m really showing my age now aren’t I?!) – on my little plastic record player in the garden, playing it over and over again and driving my Mum and Dad insane!

Music has seen me through tough times – still does – and has kept me (relatively) sane during particularly tough times. Although that assessment is probably up for debate!

It even played a major part in the birth of my twins Jake & Ellie. The anaesthetist-come-DJ was playing Beyonce tracks during the birth and I’m pretty sure ‘Halo‘ was playing as they emerged! It’s been my theme song for them ever since.

 

In recent years too I’ve begun playing & writing music, relearning the acoustic guitar, to the extent that I am now a semi-professional musician. I love it!  But that’s another story.

As with so many other things, listening to music seemed simpler in the past. I’d buy a record / cassette tape / CD of what I liked and play it. Simple! After the iPod turned up I started ripping CDs onto my PC or portable player – now my smartphone. I loved this and still do – all my music available in a few clicks. Then music became available to download, as a purchase or free from now-infamous piracy sites. Now we have the likes of Spotify where you can stream almost anything you like as long as you have an internet connection. Then of course there is also now the ubiquitous YouTube. It’s a Brave New World!

I’m still coming to grips with streaming tech to be honest; it’s meant a radical adjustment in how I listen to music. I listen to Spotify a lot but the bulk of my music is what I’ve bought myself, mostly on my PC. I currently have 66,000 tracks there, which I’m still adding to, including a pile of CDs I haven’t listened to yet!  I still download tracks if I want them on my ‘phone for when I’m out, but I’ve pretty much stopped buying CDs now.

I like to work from home as much as I can, not least because that means that I can listen to music that I like while working. In those simpler times my regular ‘Playlist’ would just be my CDs, but it now includes streaming & downloading as well.

So – and this is actually the point of this post! – here is what I’m currently listening to:

Spotify’s ‘Discover Weekly’ Playlist

This is a playlist created by Spotify specifically for each user based on what they listen to there. It’s usually pretty good.  My favourite this week was from a musician I’d never heard of before: ‘Soft Rain’ by Damien Dempsey. A lot of it is spoken: his wonderfully expressive Irish lilt against a backdrop of chilled and relaxing but uplifting soft electronica, with his beautifully toneful singing voice bursting in on the chorus. Give it a listen: I think it’s wonderful!

 

The BBC 6 Music Playlist on Spotify

The BBC 6 Music radio station has become a national institution, even in its short history, in my opinion. It’s perfect for mature music lovers like me, who love not only classic ‘quality’ music, but also want to hear sounds that are new and innovative. There’s always something unexpected here! My recent favourite isn’t there at the moment, but is a real stand-out track: the collaboration between Underworld (remember ‘Born Slippy’ from ‘Trainspotting’?) and the living legend that is Iggy Pop. It’s called ‘Bells & Circles’ and it’s what you’d expect: crazy, high-energy, high-octane, dancilicious* brilliance!

* yes, that is a word. It is now, anyway…

The NOW UK Top 20 Chart on Spotify

Yes, here’s where I ‘let the side down’. ‘My generation’ – whatever that is – (especially the male side) is meant to be disdainful of ‘modern music’: “what do these kids know about music / it’s all computers and bleeps and manufactured” etc, etc. Well, yes, some of that may have some truth in it, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable, for me anyway. Also, “manufactured music” has been around for much longer than I have, and isn’t necessarily bad: ‘Motown’, anyone? I’ve always been partial to a bit of ABBA, for instance,  so I don’t have a problem with good pop, and sharing the musical loves of my 8-year-old twins helps immunise me to a lot of modern pop too! I do often skip a few tracks, but right now I’m not at all and I think it’s actually not too bad! My pick of the current bunch is the rhythmic guitar-based pop-rock of George Ezra’s ‘Paradise’. It’s great for singing and playing on my acoustic guitar, although harder than it sounds!

 

Stalking Following Facebook Friends on Spotify

I like the social aspect of Spotify and I wish there was more of it. You can see what your Facebook friends are listening to, if they allow it, and it’s always rewarding! I love having a further insight into the likes and loves of people I know in person or online; it’s also another great way of discovering new music. So what stands out at the moment? Let’s see… And the winner is: a very talented local musician called Harvey, who chose: Psycho Killer (live) by Talking Heads!  This is a great live verison: mostly acoustic, and predictably eccentric. It’s also a song both Harvey & I love to play on our acoustic guitars. Your prize is in the post Harvey! Probably.

 

‘I Know of You’: My Own Spotify Playlist

This is made up of songs I’ve heard and liked and want to listen to again, and is the latest of many. It’s hard to choose a current favourite, but I’m going for: ‘Living in Disgrace’ by John Smith. I love the chiming, rhythmic guitar & his raspy but beautifully expressive voice. A real gem!

 

Spotify Album: ‘Melodrama’ by Lorde

I first knew of Lorde from her breakthrough and record-smashing song ‘Royals‘ (another which I love to perform) but it wasn’t until I saw her Glastonbury set (just on TV, unfortunately) that I realised how amazing she is. Still a teenager, she is multi-talented: a writer, singer, producer, dancer, trendsetter. A true young auteur! Also, being from my country of birth New Zealand – and those who know me ‘in real life’ will know we also have something else in common – it’s probably illegal there for me not to like her! This is her second album and is full of more great songs, both up- and down-tempo, but always engaging and thought-provoking. My pick is the very moving, heartfelt and personal ‘Liability‘, which despite the difference in our ages, gender and experiences I can still very much identify with it. It’s a theme for the ‘outsider’, the one ‘who doesn’t quite fit in’. As an ex-pat Kiwi I also love hearing someone who sounds like me!  It’s a very beautiful song.

The sound quality on this video isn’t the best – it’s fan-recorded – but I had to choose it as it was live from my old home town! Not only that but her introducton and explanation of her deep love of writing and music is very moving. (Contains some ‘strong language’).

 

I’m listening to a lot of music at the moment! I see this is a Very Good Thing.

I’ll post about the CDs I’m also currently enjoying another time; tomorrow if I have the time.

In the meantime, “If music be the food of love, play on!”.

 

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Music Monday: The Great Gig Meme In The Sky

So MusoDad is a ‘session blogger’ now – brilliant!

He’s started a musicky meme for which the equally terrific slightlysuburbandad has tagged me.

Like him I’m delighted to have been tagged as I love music & spend a lot of my time listening to it, blogging about it & tweeting it. And yes, I do have a “not-so-secret music sock puppet on Twitter”.

The meme is very simple: name your first / worst / best / last / dream gig, and select a song from each act to add to Musodad’s Spotify playlist. And I’m incorporating it into my regular Music Monday post, so I hope nobody minds my sticking some music vids on here as well.

First gig: Split Enz, Christchurch, New Zealand

I’m not entirely sure about this one, but I think my first gig was probably Split Enz in a small indoor venue in my home town of Christchurch, New Zealand. For those who don’t know Split Enz were a NZ art-rock band known for their glitzy outfits & quirky style. I loved them then & still do now. Their main man was Tim Finn, older brother of fellow band-member Neil who went on to form the more well-known Crowded House. The gig was televised & my main memory of it is watching myself leave at the end in my favourite & I thought oh-so-cool shiny brown vinyl jacket. Thankfully there are no photos.

Track added: My Mistake. I’m pretty sure they played it there, & it’s a great, odd little song.

My first big gig was probably the great Mr David Bowie at Christchurch’s QEII Stadium. It remains one of my all-time favourite gigs. At the time major international acts on a world tour would gig in Australia & if we were lucky do a night in Auckland, both of which were out of my young reach. Bowie – & he was huge at the time – was one of the few to venture south to smaller NZ cities & for this he will forever have my love.

Worst gig: Zero 7, Brighton Pavilion Dome Theatre

I struggled with this one. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a gig I would call bad. I adore Zero 7 & their music & they played beautifully here, from what I could hear. And there’s the problem: it was totally spoilt for us by massed ranks of drunken kids who did nothing but shout through the whole thing as if they were down the pub. Zero 7’s music is mostly quiet, slow, chilled, wonderfully relaxing & scintillating beautiful. It’s the very last sort of music that you don’t listen to & shout at your mates over. I really don’t know what the hell they were doing there. I asked the bloke behind me, actually quite politely, if they could be a bit quieter & I heard them plotting to ‘get me’ at the end. We asked to be moved but it was the same in the new seats. A gig my wife & I had been so looking forward to was utterly ruined for us.

Track added: The Space Between, 1 of my all-time favourite songs


Best gig: U2, Wembley Stadium

Yes, I know: U2, Bono, probably loved & hated in equal measure. They just happen to be my all-time favourite band, & I plan a post sometime about how they helped keep me sane in the 90s. I love their passion! So I guess this makes me very uncool – which is good as I’ve never tried to be cool. Apart from wearing haute-couture shiny brown vinyl jackets, obviously.

For me live music will never get better than this, & I will never go to a gig that rivals this one: this was once-in-a-lifetime, a dream come true. It was at the height of their Zooropa / Zoo TV tour, following on from the success of their great album ‘Achtung Baby!’. The opening acts Aztec Camera & PJ Harvey were worth the ticket price alone, & the set was astonishing. Huge, overwhelming light displays synched to the music. Massed banks of screens, many of which were screening live random TV, which Bono used during the show & which allowed a virtual duet with Lou Reed on ‘Satellite of Love’. A massive catwalk for Bono & the boys to prance around on & which was used for the more intimate, acoustic songs. Naomi Campbell guest-starring & filming with a hand-held vidcam linked to 1 of the big screens. A ‘phone call to Salman Rushdie soon after he had received his fatwa, who then answered from within the crowd. Fantastic, overwhelming, a concept gig! But most importantly, of course, the music. U2 are simply the best live act I’ve ever seen, & for me can’t be rivalled. If I had to choose 1 day to take to my grave with me – up until the birth of my twins – this would be it.

Track added: Where the Streets Have No Name. Probably the gig’s highpoint (along with ‘One’), & another of my all-time favourite songs.

Last gig: Faithless, Birmingham NIA

Still the only gig I’ve gone to since becoming a Dad, & a fantastic one, one of the best. Faithless are one of my favourite bands, & I had heard they were terrific live. So when I saw that they were gigging in nearby Birmingham I knew I had to try & go see them, even though the twins were only 9 months old. I did, & I wasn’t disappointed – they were fantastic. I did a rather gushy, slightly drunken review of the gig on my other blog, including scratchy live audio of most of it. I really should try to get out more!

Track added: Insomnia, 1 of their great dance anthems &, for me, the gig’s highlight

Dream gig: Pink Floyd

For this I mostly thought of regrets: gigs I should have gone to, or at least tried to get to, & didn’t: Dylan in 2010,  Led Zep when they reformed for the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert, Massive Attack when they gigged in Brighton & I somehow didn’t know about it. But the one that really got away & is still achievable, although sadly with a different drummer, is Pink Floyd, musical heroes since my youth. There’s never been anyone like the Floyd & never will be, another of the great live acts.

Track added: The Great Gig in the Sky. Well it had to be really, eh Musodad? The electrifying ‘song without words’, the last track of side one (yes, I had the vinyl LP!) of  ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’.

This is the bit where I’m supposed to tag a few people to do the meme, but to be honest I wouldn’t know where to start – except I’m going to see if I can once again tempt the terrific Daddacool to break his meme ban! So whoever is reading this then consider yourself tagged, OK?

The Great Escape

So crank up the volume, feel free to whistle, refresh the screen to restart the show, & enjoy

‘Jallie’s Great Escape’.

This is a follow-up really to my last update Viva La Difference: I Get Around about how the twins have developed so differently & individually, in this case to do with their mobility.

Well Jake definitely seems to be the leader of this little gang: not only is he now crawling, standing & climbing as well as Ellie  – but he’s now become very good at opening doors.

We live in a house with ‘character’: which is Estate Agent-speak  for “old”. (I couldn’t help but smile when I saw Mañana Mama’s ‘Dear So & So’ to Estate Agents). This means, among many other things, that some of the doors don’t shut fully. Including in the lounge, which is now the twins’ downstairs playroom (trans.: where we can watch them while we get to watch some TV…).  It’s not healthy for them to be in the upstairs nursery all the time they’re inside anyway, even though their cots & changing table are there or in adjacent rooms.

A baby figuring out how to crawl can get them very excited, & ours are no different. Suddenly a whole new world has become available to them: & they want to see it all, & NOW! So when they see a door with “something unknown” just visible behind it, trying to get there seems to become an irresistible urge.

He’s honed his technique, but basically it involves grabbing the edge of the door until it moves. If he finds he’s in the way he has the nous to move himself & try again until – TADA! – he can crawl through.

I originally had in mind to have 1 of these photos for Mocha Beanie Mummy’s Silent Sunday, but then I realised it should be anything but silent. In fact I think it’s pretty much required to listen to this (Spotify), or on Grooveshark while watching.

So crank up the volume, feel free to whistle, refresh the screen to restart the show, & enjoy

Jallie’s Great Escape’.

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In case you’re wondering why the floorboards are in such a state, the story (in part) is here