A little while back I was at a wake, my preferred social engagement these days, and a young man engaged me in conversation. He asked me what music I am listening to these days.
I’ve always been very uneasy about this line of questioning as I don’t like being pigeon holed. If I’ve been listening to Bach I must like classical music which I don’t particularly, if I cited Status Quo I would be labelled a Quo fan, I loved them for 4 years and then never cared whether I heard from them again. And so on, what music do I like? well I like all of it… a bit.
But there comes a time for the dedicated music fan where we feel the need to justify that we have listened to ‘new music’. Over the last couple of decades this has become something of a marathon. The casual listener tends to be stuck in the time that music really mattered to them which was probably between the ages of 14 and 24.For these people there was a golden age whether it was Elvis or the Beatles or Abba or the Sex Pistols or the Chemical Brothers and that’s the music which always going to get them on the dance floor.
But the dedicated music fan realises the need to keep going and take in ‘new music’ its a case of listen or die.
But life takes over and the music never stops coming, it doesn’t stop for marriage or kids or careers or illness and its inevitable to get left behind because you don’t know what the new music it anymore.
So the ‘what are you listening to these days’ question used to be a bit threatening because it involved the tacit admission that perhaps you were listening to the same old stuff you’ve always enjoyed and, horror or horrors, you had lost touch.
But I’ve learned to live with that by simply not caring.
The 70’s experienced some of the most innovative and challenging music ever. Whether you like it or not progressive rock had no precedent. Bands like Van Der Graff or King Crimson are totally unique there was nothing like that before them and there’s been little since.
But the unique does not always have to be esoteric, take reggae for example, when I first heard it I couldn’t make sense of it. I wasn’t alone, experienced musicians struggled to make sense of it for a couple of years, witness the LA session musicians trying and failing on a Linda Ronstadt Album of your choice.
When I first heard the Ramones I just couldn’t get my head round how a guitar could sound like that, it didn’t even sound like a guitar it sounded more like a piece of industrial machinery to my ears. It now sound tame of course, within a few months we had assimilated that noise and made sense of it.
Most of the elder statesmen of music the Claptons, Jaggers, Townsends etc always talk of that apocryphal moment when they heard Elvis or Muddy Waters or Little Richard or whoever and how that changed their life. And of course today those records are still great but they don’t take the breath away we are just too used to them you can only make an initial impression once.
And that’s why new music isn’t what it was because it is barely new, we are now music literate it is now possible to have a recipe, a bit a Byrdsy guitar, some dub style bass, a bit of funky drumming and whoops we’ve created The Stone Roses!
I know for a fact there are people who think the Stone Roses are the best band in the world but I suspect they are not those who lived through Elvis or the Beatles or Bowie first hand. That’s the problem about trying to find new music its not really new its just variations of stuff we’ve heard before. That’s not such a criticism quite often the new stuff is improved.I find a lot of the new Folk artists much more palatable that stuff from the 60’s 70’s and 80’s but by its nature it is not new it’s a better version of old stuff.
So I asked the aforementioned young man what music he was ‘digging’ these days and he informed me the new Suede album was very good. And so I felt vindicated, I’m sure the new Suede album is very good and I would happily listen to it but I suspect they are not going to tell me anything musically or lyrically they couldn’t have passed on 15 years ago.
And so ‘new music’ is simply music we haven’t heard before. Until last year I had never heard The Groundhogs then I did and I enjoyed them and went to the local record shop and bought ‘Thank Christ for the Bomb’, the guy behind the counter congratulated me on my my good taste and I scored some pop points by telling him how Cherry Red records got their name.
That was my new music. I suspect that I will never hear anything again that will stop me in my tracks in the same that ‘Layla’, or ‘Marquee Moon’ or ‘London’s Burning’ or Larks Tongues in Aspic’ did but I’ve got a lot of listening to do.
Hope my ears last !
Oh heres some new music…its from 1972