Monday, November 14, 2011

Trippin' down memory lane

I was going through my old posts and when I say 'going through' I mean reading the titles and trying to work out from that, whether I'd written anything in a similar vein. Deciding that I haven't, I'll continue.

My last post was talking about signs you encounter that reinforce the old age gap and one of the things I mentioned was liking the music on commercial radio now. Especially the 'oldies' station. And when I say old, I'm talking few songs before 1978 - the year I started high school. One of my regular commenters - UB - mentioned that the music you grew up with is the music that stays with you. And he's completely correct. But I also replied that, the music I grew up with is kind of embarrassing. Which is also correct. So, come with me now as we explore "tennysoneehemingway's guide to what he listened to while he was growing up." Bit long for a book title I suppose but, whatever.

For the most part of my formative years, I grew up on talk radio, jazz and classical music. My father was a musician in the RAAF for over twenty years so, the first music I can ever recall hearing was something they played. It might have been a march, it might have been a swing arrangement, it may even have been something classical. I can't remember that much but it would have been something from the archives of the RAAF band. Other than that, my dad listened to heaps of jazz so I was exposed to Benny Goodman, Buddy Rich, The Modern Jazz Quartet, Oscar Petersen, Lionel Hampton, Ted Heath and Duke Ellington. Not a bad education I suppose but not really something you want to hear when you're twelve. I wanted rock and roll man!! ROCK AND ROLL!!!!!!! Which I got from the only rock station in Victoria - 3XY.

There will be very, very few of my readers out there who know what it was like to only have AM radio. Certainly not my American readers, who've had FM for far longer than I even knew it existed. We, in Australia, didn't get FM radio until 1980. Yeah, that's right, 1980. So the only 'alternative' radio we had, was 3XY. And they did a pretty good job too. First place I heard AC/DC.

But this is getting off track. Talk radio, jazz and classical - my bread and butter. It wasn't until I hit high school that I even knew guitars existed. Or that, if you wanted, they could be loud. But even then, I didn't embrace that for a long, long time.

I've always had an inherent distrust of anyone who can instantly tell me their favourite five whatevers. Be they bands, records, films, books, TV shows, food; to me, it smacks of giving up. 'I like other things but THESE are my absolute favourite.' I always struggle when people ask me that. I can't instantly name five favourite anythings because I'm always on the look out for something new. Or different. I don't even have a favourite musical genre. I like a lot of different things, depending on my mood. I hardly even go back to things that were favourites. Having five favourite whatevers sets you in a time a place forever. To me, at least. I used to listen, almost exclusively, to U2. All their albums up to Joshua Tree would get constant rotation on my stereo. I still like all that old stuff but I haven't listened to it for years. Once upon a time though, they would have been in my top 5 'favourites.' There is something for holding onto the classics though. But keeping them as your favourites? I just don't know.

However I do break my own law when it comes to one. I have several favourite 'ones.' For example, my absolute favourite - always has and always will be - song is Dancing Queen by ABBA. Loved it when I first heard it and never lost that love. So what's the difference? Well, I think having a favourite one gives you more room to move. You're not locking yourself into only. You're not a punk, or an intellectual, or a dilettante, or a water colorist, or any of a hundred different tropes. My love for Dancing Queen doesn't preclude my love for The Menstruation Sisters, or Andy Warhol, or even Two and a half Men. Besides, Dancing Queen was one of those songs I grew up with. One of the less embarrassing ones.

I suppose that defining what you grew up with, also means defining the time that is 'growing up.' For me, I think that's high school 12-18 (depending of course, where your birthday falls). For me, high school was 12 (going on 13) to 16. 1978-1982. Not exactly Golden Years for music. Unless, of course, you followed the massive outbreak of classic Punk from that period. I did not. I look back now and think, 'I was the perfect age for Punk to really affect me; what happened?' and the only conclusion I can come to is that I was born in Australia. No, that's probably not very fair. For all intents and purposes, The Saints released the first punk single in 1976 - the brilliant I'm Stranded. There will be many schools of thought to this so, let's just say this is my opinion. But it still came out fully two years before Never Mind the Bollocks - still considered the standard Punk release. But I was living in Geelong and listening to...well, not really very much. I honestly don't remember much about music from when I was in high school. I certainly don't remember anything like punk. I remember there being punks at my school but it never connected with me. I guess I liked pop music. But even then I might be mis-remembering.

So what did I grow up on? Talk radio, classical and jazz. But even then I was a devotee of Countdown, the only music show on TV. Kind of Australia's precursor to MTV. Except not. More like Top of the Pops. And I, like most people around, worshipped pretty much whoever was in the Top Ten. That could've been ABBA, or the Little River Band or Air Supply, or 10CC or Fleetwood Mac. If they were in the Top Ten, then I liked them. For no other reason than they were in the Top Ten. I wasn't discerning enough to hate anything back then. Except 'Fernando.' Man that song was No.1 for so long, I REALLY hated that after a while.

Look at those names; I grew up on some of the lamest, whimpiest, soul-sucking, GREATEST pops groups of all time. Some of these bands released their greatest works at the time I was listening to them. Fleetwood Mac - Rumours; ABBA - Arrival; 10CC - I'm not in love; Air Supply - All out of love; Little River Band - Reminiscing; the list goes on. And this was only the stuff that filtered through to Australia. No Internet back then. No MTV. No FM Radio. Just whatever got on AM, that's what I had. I'll bet if you Googled 1978 now, you'd come up with piles of great stuff that was released. I mean, I still remember going to the drive in to see Star Wars - and that was 1977. What was I saying about Golden Years again?

The point is, I grew up on some truly shitty music, if you consider some of the gold that my parents grew up on. But then I think of the Generation that came after me - which includes a fair whack of my readers - and they're referencing things I grew up on as 'classics.'

Maybe beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder.


Gorilla Bananas said...

Dancing Queen was voted the 2nd best ABBA song after The Winner Takes it All. I think it became something of a gay anthem too. Did you also like YMCA by Village People?

The Unbearable Banishment said...

It's all so subjective. Who can say what's truly shitty and what's classic?

Well...I don't listen to everything from my youth. I can't remember the last time I threw Rush's Caress of Steel on the turntable.

I'm raising my daughters on a fairly steady diet of Beatles, Patsy Cline, Ella Fitzgerald and the like. It's a solid foundation!

(Brag alert.) I saw Buddy Rich's big band perform! Twice!

*uncorked said...

"I've always had an inherent distrust of anyone who can instantly tell me their favourite five whatevers."

This might be my favorite sentence you've ever written. I've always felt that way too and have never actually written it or said it.

Great post.

tennysoneehemingway said...

GB: I was always more of a Macho Man kind of guy.

UB: Ah, you're a Rush fan too? Are you sure you're not my older brother? Nice brag alert too - of course I'm jealous. My dad was going to see him when he came out to Oz in the '70's but his car broke down on the way and missed out on his only chance.

V: thanks honey. Don't know if you read these comments but, if you do, what's Lola doing? She's been away for a while now.

Harmony said...

"I've always had an inherent distrust of anyone who can instantly tell me their favourite five whatevers." ~ Like, Uncorked, this really struck a chord with me. This train of thought, is precisely why I have never been able to get a tattoo, I simply do not think that I would absolutely love anything long enough as a tattoo would last. We are ever evolving creatures, I agree, people should not limit themselves to such tiny list.

I grew up listening to Kansas, U2, Yes, Moody Blues, Horse Lips etc.. I still love this music and my boys do as well. Through High School 1990-95 I have added to my list of music that I like..but I continue to add. I love having a wide range of music to hop around in on a daily basis. One thing that I do love is Covers, I love a good cover...especially when it crosses gender.

Great post! You've got me thinking.