Monday, 6 December 2010

A Beautiful Noise


Loud.  Quiet.

Boom Blast and Ruin.

Music has always filled my life.  I thought you might like the story of how, what and when.  At least in its simplest form.  

Some of you may have been reading my posts on @maverick99sback's site, reflecting on some of the albums that have shaped my musical taste, others will have read a weekend's worth of Biffy Clyro related posts and know now how much that band mean to me personally for a cacophony of reasons.  I realise that my posts have become more personal, I've given up worrying about it.  This site, this place of mine, is about me and always has been.  You just needed to read between the lines to see that.  Apologies to those of you who hadn't realised that the site became something else entirely because I wasn't feeling the need for it to be so personal.  That's changed.

But I've digressed, again.

The first song I remember loving was by Neil Diamond.  I was three when it was released and Mum listened to Radio 2 a lot.  It strikes me as strange now that it was called Beautiful Noise.  How prophetic.  Neil Diamond, bless him, was pretty much everywhere back then, his rich vocals were a Radio 2 stalwart and he soundtracked a large chunk of my childhood along with the likes of Glenn Campbell.  Listening back to Beautiful Noise now I'm hard pressed to understand what appealed.  But I was three.  Lets not judge.  

The 70s and 80s almost passed me by in terms of actually falling in love with music.  I quite liked Duran etc but I don't recall insisting that I had their albums at all, but I would do that thing where you taped the your favourite songs from the Top 40 onto a C90 cassette.  Ah the early days of piracy.

My Dad was quiet about his musical tastes.  I recall there was a vinyl copy of a Ry Cooder album but not much else until Christmas 1984 when Mum bought him a Queen album and my life changed.  It was The Works and I played it constantly for months.  We followed that up with Greatest Hits, released three years earlier and still in the Top Twenty at the time.  That seems like madness now, but albums would just sit in the best sellers for years back in those days.  My Dad and I bonded over Queen.  That Live Aid performance a year later would cement that even further.  I was getting more and more into music from the 70s, Pink Floyd followed, their live album, A Delicate Sound of Thunder, proving a great introduction to them and a sound that I suddenly felt connected to.

Then we lost Dad and the Queen thing became more a way to preserve that relationship.  Their albums dipped in quality but it didn't really matter because they were 'our' band.  I can still remember one of the last things I ever did with him.  We played squash and on the way to and from the courts, we listened to Queen in the car at ridiculous volume, both knowing Mum wouldn't approve.  It was one of the only times I remember him feeling like a peer and I guess I'm lucky that I got that before he was ripped from us.

Then came Guns 'n' Roses.  I was still at school and they hadn't hit the big time yet.  But a friend had the album and told me I had to have it.  Here was rock and roll at its dirtiest.  And I loved it.  At least I thought I did.  They paved the way for something else that would come later, that critical moment in my late teens and early twenties when I was like a sponge for new sounds and experiences.  

The next big moment was at around eighteen.  My first proper girlfriend (but other than that insignificant to the one that would follow), had U2 albums and a relationship with a band that has lasted nearly twenty years would begin.  The next girlfriend would have more of a direct impact on my musical taste than any other, or rather the influence that her upbringing had had on hers would.  She gave me a mix tape of stuff really early on, most of which I'd never heard and a whole other world opened up.  Classics from the 70s and more recent releases, that dovetailed with finding a new group of friends all into indie bands.  Somewhere between all that I found Led Zeppelin and discovered that Queen had a better too.  Life filled with bands.  And has never stopped.

I wouldn't just absorb the music I'd want to know everything I could about the people in these bands.  Not easy in the days before every tiny bit of information was there at our finger tips.  Q magazine became like a bible and for a few years the NME was as integral as Twitter is now.  I've always been like that with the things that shape my life.  The personality of a footballer was as important to me as what he did on a pitch.  Bono's life and values were as important as the words to Bad.  I know now that I was filling a God shaped hole with information because I had to fill it with something.

As I grew older and my appreciation and understanding of lyrics grew, so did the need to find music that reflected my life.  I guess we all do that at that age.  Maybe because of how my life's turned out I'm still lucky enough to be able to do that.  Some drift away from that as their lives mature, seeking their musical high from others technical proficiency rather than from something born of the soul.  I've never really been like that.  I can appreciate music that is clever, music that had been built on intricate and complex machines but it always lacks something for me.  That's why I'll take The Bends over Hail to the Thief.  If the music has been over thought, sometimes the realness of it all gets buried.  Others just stop listening as their lives fill with distractions.

The 90s shaped where I've ended up I guess.  Brit Pop and Grunge cemented where my tastes have lain ever since.  Every so often a new band will come along like The XX who are young and special but in essence the stuff I love usually has some quiet and then some loud.  And the loud is usually coming from a guitar.

That's about the rush.  About endorphins and about connecting to a noise.  Without those moments of noise the quiet would be devalued.  I wouldn't love Biffy if all they did was make songs like Machines.  It just wouldn't work for me.  Without that other side to them, the venting, angry, angst ridden mess of confusion, those moments of quiet reflection wouldn't have the same worth.

I think maybe I'm past the point where I can keep absorbing new stuff constantly.  I'm not that kid any more.  Sadly.  But Saturday night I could still feel the eighteen year old in me, wide eyed at what three men on a stage could create with a guitar, a bass, some drums and a bunch of amps.  And it's that wide eyed grinning idiot that I'm glad I can still tap into because I'd be lost without that to be honest.

Why did I never learn to play a guitar if it's that big a part of my life?  Another day, another post.

My musical tastes have never been cool.  U2, Queen and all are not ground breaking.  Even Biffy are just a generic rock band.  But it's all about what you hear and when.  How the music slots in next to you and nods in agreement at your frustrations.  It's the stuff that played during the good times and the bad times that becomes embedded in the memories of the past, weaved into them so that the sounds carry you back to that moment, that precise second in time.  All the emotions and feelings of, in my case, thirty plus years ago, can come flooding back.  That's nothing but a good thing.  Even when it is a song by Neil Diamond.  A beautiful noise indeed.