A few weeks back I wrote a post about things I couldn’t do without. It was pretty light hearted and I wrote it after reading a similar post in which the things that the writer couldn’t do without actually turned out to be things that not only could I fully do without but in fact, didn’t even care about at all.
One particular thing that I didn’t mention in my post was music.
It was a little like the time I worked out my top 10 favourite films of all time and then later, realised I missed out one of my absolute favourites. It was a momentary error, a quick brain fade but something that needs redress. So here it is, a post about music and just to make it more interesting, I think I’ll throw a few links in to some of my favourite tracks.
This isn’t the first music post I’ve written. I did one a few years back called The Soundtrack to My Life. It was all about my favourite singles and then I followed it up with one about my favourite albums and as I wasn’t feeling particularly creative that day, I called it The Soundtrack to My Life Part 2.
Way back in 1972 when everything was black and white and the internet hadn’t even been invented and wireless was an old-fashioned word for the radio, on Christmas Day that year my brother and I received a joint Christmas present. It was a stereo record player. It was a compact model and the twin speakers clipped onto the top and there was a carry handle making it easily portable.
Another present was a record to go with our record player. I can’t remember if it was another joint present but the record was The Persuaders. It was an album of TV and film themes by John Barry who wrote much of the music for the James Bond films as well as the theme from The Persuaders. I still have that album today so it was either my personal present or I have just managed to keep it away from my brother for the past fifty years. (Fifty years! I can hardly believe it’s been that long. He kept the record player by the way so I think I can count the record as mine.)
The following year, 1973, I was keen on expanding my record collection and I began to purchase a lot of similar TV and film themed albums. Then I discovered Radio One and I moved on to the pop music of the time. Back then the new Top 20 was released every Tuesday and the Radio One DJ Johnnie Walker did a show counting down through the new chart, finishing with that week’s number one. Later on Thursday, the BBC show Top of The Pops did a similar thing on TV.
The first single I ever bought was by Olivia Newton John, my teenage heart throb and in fact it was two singles, Banks of the Ohio and What is Life and as they were no longer in the charts, I managed to get them for half price which initiated a lifelong passion for flipping through half price vinyl singles in record shops. I say lifelong passion but then again, these days in 2022, finding a record shop isn’t easy and even if I could find one, I doubt if there would be many 7-inch singles on sale. Having said that, I keep reading that vinyl is making a comeback so maybe it’s not impossible after all.
Back in 1973 I started a record collection that just grew and grew and today occupies a great deal of space upstairs in my back room. I’m not sure what was the very last vinyl single I ever bought. I guess it was sometime in the 1980’s but one day I’m going to go through those records and find out what the heck it was. One day I started buying CDs and today I must have two or three boxes of them although only a few are CD singles. I used to spend a lot of time in places like Woolworths flipping through CD collections in the reduced section. One of my best buys was a compilation that I bought just for one track which was A Horse With No Name by America. I love that track but another track on the album I was surprised to find was Desiderata by Les Crane, a musical version of the poem by Max Ehrmann, a track I love which I hadn’t heard for years.
I’ve got a lot of Beatles CDs, in fact for a while I decided I was going to buy, one by one, all the Beatles albums on CD. What I found though, and I’m guessing this might be a bit controversial, was that a lot of their album tracks just weren’t that good. Their hits are of course, absolute classics but a lot of their other album tracks really weren’t my cup of tea so after a few disappointing buys I gave up on that particular project.
A similar thing happened with Elton John. I stopped buying Elton’s albums in the 1980’s after all, people get older and tastes change. Later I started buying his albums on CD, not all of them, just the ones I particularly liked which were mostly his pre-1980’s albums. One later album I did like very much was Elton’s Made in England. I’d seen Songs From the West Coast get some great reviews and picked it up in my favourite music shop HMV. As I was about to pay, I saw Made in England in the reduced section and picked it up. Songs from the West Coast wasn’t that good so I never played Made in England which was a pity because when I finally picked it up months later, I thought it was outstanding.
Nowadays, even CDs seem to be on the way out. The usual way to purchase music today is to either download it or stream it. I have downloaded a few albums even though I mostly burn them to a CD and play them in my car. If I want to listen to music at home, it’s so easy just to click on the Spotify app on my iPad and slip on my earphones. In fact, I’ve got so used to Spotify I wish there was a way I could perhaps link my phone or my iPad to my car radio and play the stuff I listen to at home while I’m driving.
A few years back I decided to compile my personal top twenty. I did it years ago back in the 70’s and in fact my old friend Steve and I made a short audio tape in which we interviewed each other and talked about our favourite music Desert Island Discs style. When I went to do it once again a few years ago I found it was pretty hard to do, in fact I ended up making a list not of my top 20 but my top 100. I even made it into a spreadsheet so I could sort it by artist or year of issue. Later I made it into a Spotify playlist. Technology, isn’t it wonderful?
I like all kinds of music although opera and rap really don’t do it for me at all. I’m not a great classical music fan but there quite a few classical pieces I enjoy and interestingly most of those have come to me through my love of the cinema. Things like The Blue Danube by Strauss from 2001 A Space Odyssey and March of Pomp and Circumstance from Young Winston.
Just recently I saw a short video on TikTok. It was a young lady playing the cello in a wood and as she played, animals from the wood cautiously came forward seemingly to listen to the music. I loved that music so much I had to get it on a CD. It was Bach’s suite number 1 for cello.
A lot of the music I listen to these days is chilled electronic music and one of my favourite artists on Spotify is Nora Van Elken. Now I’ve never seen a CD on sale by Nora. Not only that I have no idea what she looks like or even if Nora Van Elken is a group rather than a person.
Having said that I thought I’d do a quick search on the internet. The answer from cyberspace is that she is an American producer and DJ. I couldn’t find much else about her but does that mean she doesn’t write songs but just produces them? Basically, I don’t know so I might as well plug my earphones in and just carry on listening.
My Top 100 singles can be downloaded as a spreadsheet. https://commendatoreblog.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/100besttracks.xls
Listen to my Top 100 on Spotify! https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3QSNCQYaOpE6W49AdWN3RY?si=ZD41K1M1S7C7TA3GeFpnQw