Saturday, 9 January 2016

Don't stop...

It's probably fair to say that my formative years were in the 1970s, certainly as far as music is concerned. Living in a small hamlet in rural, yet industrially-scarred, County Durham, we wanted for nothing, as far as I could tell. Didn't everyone have an outside loo, a single coal fire and no radiators, ice on the inside of the windows in winter, and two pianos?

I vaguely remember my folks purchasing a radiogram and their subsequent growing collection of vinyl albums which fed it, a huge percentage of which seemed to be by James Last. 

When the time came for me to begin my own musical adventure, I don't recall many 7" singles, it was nearly always albums. Looking back, I can only guess that I didn't want to be bothered having to change the record so frequently. I was born for Progressive Rock. And perhaps those two pianos seeped into my psyche more than I thought. Keyboards were the main driver of the music I listened to, a blend of traditional ivory mixed with howling synthesisers, fused together by the theatrical Keith Emerson of ELP.

Guitars came much later, with a Damascene moment that occurred in the sixth form common room of Wolsingham Grammar School. Nothing salacious, you understand. In fact, I wasn't even in the common room at the time (I was in the quiet study room, bludgeoning my way through some maths homework), but a song was being played on the turntable in the common room that could be heard throughout the building. It had guitars, many of them, and more riffs than seemed appropriate for a weekday lunchtime. And it went on forever, well, at least until a frenzied crescendo which morphed into a sort of gentle afterglow. No connotations there then!

Let me tell you, quadratic eqautions are no match for nine minutes of southern boogie. One of my fellow conscientious and studious colleagues gave in to temptation before the rest of us and went to ask what the record was.

Freebird by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

It was the day the world changed.

Some few years later, I found myself in The Hungry Years Gathering Place, a rock disco in Brighton, in the company of the lady who would become my wife. We rather liked Freebird. Even on the night when I forgot to get up to dance to it and we had a blazing row - but that's another story. In fact, the Years played many songs that we liked, another favourite being Don't Stop Believin' by Journey. This usually came on during the part of the evening when the repertoire was a little less heavy and allowed the girls to command the dance floor. This didn't hold me back, mind, as it's a stonking song. So, sadly, I can't claim to have kicked off the New Man/metrosexual lifestyles of more recent decades. I was just enjoying all the swirling long hair and patchouli oil (no, not mine).

Bringing things into more recent times, my mobile phone has a few tunes on it. Not a huge amount, though, as there's a strict set of rules for being downloaded to the Tense phone. I only allow myself one song from each artist or band, so choosing just the right track is often tricky. I don't know why I have this rule, other than building up a songlist that is multi-genred and occasionally quirky. Some of my favourite artists aren't in it yet, as I just can't decide on the quintessential song - if you're only allowed one, it has to be either very significant to my life or demonstrate everything that the band means to me.

Journey are in there, with Don't Stop Believin', but Lynyryd Skynyrd haven't made it so far because, despite the life-changing nature of Freebird, there's several candidates for Fave Skynyrd Tune.

However, in some sort of multi-generational, fusion, crossover malarkey, when First Born was wed, Don't Stop Believin' was on the bride and groom's playlist at the reception, as it means something to them too. Sweet as!

And so, without further ado, Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you (well, YouTube gives you)...



Mark said...

Sad story behind Freebird, on the following album the band members were going to have their faces superimposed in the sky with flames on their heads but there was a tragic plane crash and some band members sadly lost teir lives!Poignant don't you think? Obviously the album cover was changed but the track is timeless. I'm a YES man myself. Regards Mark.

Imperfect and Tense said...

Hmmm, I have previous where YES is concerned.

Regarding Skynyrd, I have an original Street Survivors LP, with the flames on the front cover (Freebird was from the 'Pronounced' LP). Who knows what the group might have achieved if their line-up had not been so tragically altered.