One of my favourite folk out there in cyberspace is The Robster.
This time last year he decided to start-up a blog called Is This The Life? which aimed to tell how music has had an influence on his entire life, warts and all. He wasn’t going to kid anyone on that he’s always had a really cool taste in music which he demonstrated with one of his very first postings as he professed an undying love for The Bay City Rollers, The Rubettes and The Wombles – click here to see for yourself.
The Robster made a great observation about how everyone’s story begins with their mum and dad as that’s where a love for music is nurtured. My mum celebrates her 76th birthday today and come September my dad will hit the grand old age of 80. They have always loved music and to this day they head out to Glasgow city centre every weekend to pubs where live singing from the drinkers is encouraged and welcomed, accompanied by someone on either keyboards or an acoustic guitar. That’s my mum pictured above back in June 2013 belting out something on the floor of one of those city centre pubs….it was the day that The Stone Roses played a huge outdoor gig in the city and the pub had a fair few of their following drinking the place dry….to be fair to them, they joined in the fun with the old folk who were the regulars and applauded their efforts on the mic (and I still think my mum is a better singer than Ian Brown).
I appreciate just how lucky I was to have parents who liked and appreciated music but thinking about it they were equally as lucky to have been raised in homes and in environments where music and singing were a huge part of their upbringing. I can vouch for this as probably my very earliest memory of music goes back to when I was certainly no more than 5 or 6 years of age and it concerns a huge cupboard that had pride of place in my gran’s house – the sort of thing that sits at the top of this blog.
While there was a record player behind one of its doors, the thing that fascinated me most was what lay behind the other door, the main attraction of which was this huge round dial that could turn so far in one direction before you twisted it back in the opposite direction until it could go no further. All the while a thin red line would go across a screen in the direction that you were turning the dial and it passed all sorts of words that made little or no sense And all this effort produced eerie and strange noises that sounded as if they belonged on the set of Dr Who.
Being a curious sort of kid, I asked what all the words meant and what some of them said to be told that they were cities from all over the world and the when the red line hit that word, what I was hearing was songs and talking from a radio station in that city.
Turns out that I wasn’t the only kid fascinated by such a thing :-
mp3 : Martin Stephenson & The Daintees – Sunday Halo
Incidentally, the vocalist announcing all the places on the dial with the ‘Berlin, Munich, Brussels, Bonn etc’ refrain is Cathal Coughlan whose band The Fatima Mansions are responsible for Blues For Ceaucescu which is one of my favourite songs of all time. But I digress…………
To this day, I’m not sure if it was the sounds that came out of the cabinet or the fact that I was allowed to play with the dial as I would with a toy that led to me establishing a love for music. But I think it speaks volumes that while I can barely recall all that many details about things in my life from the best part of 50 years ago – for instance I have no recollection at all about my first day at school or certain Xmas Days when I was lucky enough to get the present I had always wanted – I can still picture the radiogramme and smile at the memory of the strange sounds I could get it to make as I played with the dial.
My parents never owned anything quite as grand as a radiogramme, but we always seemed to have the very latest and best radio to go alongside what was a modest sized record player. Thinking back,the first houses I lived in were probably too small to have anything else.
At the age of 9, my family moved to a new house which was slightly bigger than where we had been before in as much that it had a decent sized living room. I think it was about a year later when my parents had saved up enough to buy a new record player with wall mounted speakers and it was genuinely fascinating for all us to listen to the stereo effect as the music glided across the wall above the fireplace as if by magic.
The other great thing about this was that they passed down their old Dansette record player which meant I could play my music in my room (shared with two younger brothers) as and when I wanted. By now I had been getting Record Tokens for birthdays and for Xmas and I was buying singles by the likes of Gary Glitter, The Sweet, David Essex, Alvin Stardust and The Average White Band – yup, Pick Up The Pieces was one of the first records I ever bought!!
But of course I was still exposed to the music my folks were listening to at the time, particularly my dad. His was, of course. music for grown-ups that was never played by Tony Blackburn on the Radio 1 Breakfast Show nor would you ever hear any of his favourite music by the likes of Neil Diamond, Johnny Cash, Paul McCartney & Wings or Supertramp on Top of The Pops. Mind you, he also loved Status Quo, and they seemed to be on every week.
Such was my continued exposure to these acts that I knew all the words to my mum and dad’s favourite songs. And its a frightening fact that I still do so many years later – but I’m not complaining as it has given me a wonderful grounding to be able to turn to any Neil Diamond song of old when it’s my turn at the karaoke….
Like all teenagers, I ended up rebelling against my parents tastes. From about the age of 14 till I was 30 years of age I had a knee jerk reaction that said ‘anything my folks had liked was simply awful and unlistenable. And then, out of the blue, I decided to start listening to Johnny Cash, mainly as Billy Bragg had been name-checking him as a huge influence. It wasn’t too long before I acknowledged my attitude to my parents music was, for a substantial part completely wrong, and that I in fact had a huge hole in my own now bulging record collection.
So I want to use today to say a big thank you to my mum and dad for encouraging me to enjoy music as I was growing up. Here’s a couple of songs that I know they are fond of that I am now the proud owner of:-
mp3 : Johnny Cash – One Piece At A Time
mp3 : Neil Diamond – I Am I Said
And here’s one of my mum’s all time favourite singers:-
mp3 : Kris Kristofferson – Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down (live)
And as I said…..happy birthday mum (not that she reads this nonsense!!!!!)