Saturday, February 2, 2008

HOW IT ALL BEGAN.

FrogPrincess's query this week re. the source of our noms de plume has triggered a similar thought. I think we're a rather odd group by traditional standards, we're probably all to some degree fairly obsessive about our music and our collections and I suspect that each of us could point to a specific act or situation that initially triggered our lifelong interests in music. Here's mine:

I was about 14 in 1948, I went to Woolwich Polytechnic High School, I remember one day standing in a classroom before class and there were 3 other students close by. One of them, his name was Umanski, was telling the other two in a most excited and passionate manner about someone he'd discovered called Louis Armstrong, the name meant nothing to me but I was so intrigued by his passion that I made a point of finding out who this person was. I bought a book called 'Jazz from Congo to Swing' by Robert Goffin, it was probably the first book I ever bought, I've still got it, complete with my underlinings and scribbled notes.
This was immediate post war England, BBC had only two channels and neither played jazz, well one had a 30 min program once a week but that was all. Fortunately for me there was, less than 100 yards from the school entrance, a record shop that sold exclusively jazz records, it was run by a trad jazz trumpeter called Owen Bryce. Once I'd discovered who Louis was I haunted that place every lunchtime, there were always New Orleans jazz records playing so I'd hang out there.

That's how it all started for me: what got you lot going?

24 comments:

goneforeign said...

I just read this piece to my wife, she asked 'Have you ever tried to find that guy?' [Owen Bryce] I had years ago but I just googled him and he's still going strong with a trad jazz band in Northampton! Just sent him an email and told him about t'spill.

treefrogdemon said...

For me, it was pirate radio...Long, long ago, youngsters, the only radio was the BBC's Light Programme, Third Programme and Home Service; no pop music, no no no. I had a crystal radio set (no, I'm not THAT old - it was from a science kit for kids sold in the 50s) and used to listen to Radio Luxembourg under the covers after bedtime, but the signal kept fading out, and I would often wake up in the morning and find, embarrassingly, that my mother had come in and removed the headphones while I slept. Then, SHAZAM! Radios London and Caroline began and after that there was no looking back for me.

Frogprincess said...

I have to say that it was my parents from the very beginning. There was always music at home. Dad played the fiddle - as I do. We always had instruments to play with as kids and I have a great memory of a real old "hammond" organ with a 2 layered keyboard and great buttons to push. Explains why I love JTQ no doubt. My first musical experiences were my parents' vast collection of 4 LPs (4!): Swan Lake and the Nutcracker (on one record), the Brandenburg Concertos, Chet Baker swings Pretty and an evening with Tony Bennett. I tell a lie - there was a James Last one too which I've conveniently forgotten.

Tim (Kalyr) said...

I thought there was a Guardian Music Blog on this subject a few weeks back?

In my formative years I was force-fed a lot of classical music by my parents. Then in the late 70s I discovered rock and roll, and started listening to things like Nicky Horne's evening rock show (Called, ironically, "Your mother wouldn't like it").

One evening he played the album track "Eyes of the World" from Rainbow's "Down to Earth" album. It was nothing like anything I'd heard before; that neoclassical intro (Stolen from Holst's "Mars"), and that incredible shredding solo in the middle. To my teenage ears that was incredible stuff, rocked like hell, but with far more depth than most of the new-wave stuff that was in vogue at the time.

Not long after that I discovered Tommy Vance's Friday rock show, which introduced me to a whole range of music that I never knew existed because it didn't get played on top 40 radio, most notably Pink Floyd. (My first 'proper' album was The Wall)

I guess my early exposure to a lot of classical music means I can appreciate the greater musical complexities of classic 70s prog rock which many people don't seem to be able to get their heads round. Unfortunately it also means I find most new wave/indie/alternative rock profoundly unsatisfying; to me it just lacks any harmonic depth.

glasshalfempty said...

Yeah, I was under the covers with treefrogdemon (so to speak) listening to Luxembourg on a home made transistor radio (I had a radiator near my bed, so reception at night was OK). But I also benefitted from a music teacher (who was an Auschwitz survivor), and he let us bring our own records in and play them for the class. So my cooler classmates turned me on to everything from Baez to Brubeck, and I never looked back.

treefrogdemon said...

I should add that the first abum I bought (not the snigle, which I've already confessed to) was The Freewheeling Bob Dylan in 1963 or so. How cool am I?

TracyK said...

It was the parents what done it! My mum and dad met through the Birmingham mod scene. My mum always told me that Grandad was terrified she'd come back with a black bloke,because she spent all her time at soul nights from 15 onwards. Different times! Anyway, mum loved her soul, Tamla and Stax mainly, so remember her dancing me round the room to Otis and Aretha from when I was tiny. Dad had his teenage record collection nicked at a house party in 1969, and, finding himself married with a child on the way by 20, never replaced them. I was always fascinated by his 70s lps though, The Strawbs, Moody Blues and Yes sleeves entranced me, though I didn't like the music, except for Queen.
My mum's brother (70s hippy:tall, bearded, sandals, Greek beach tan: I thought he was Jesus for my formative years) had a massive folk collection on vinyl, which he allowed me to play when staying with the grandparents, hence my love for Steeleye, Fairport and Simon and Garfunkel. Being surrounded by people passionate about music ingrained it into me and I've spent most of my life around djs and bands.

Tempusfugit said...

I started with the Pirates - Luxembourg mainly, followed by Caroline. My mum loved to have music playing at home doing the chores - 2-way family favourites was a Sunday lunchtime staple. And the barber used to play the BBC Light Programme ( I also got into the wonderful comedy programming then, from Hancock to Round the Horne). My first record player was a big Dansette (in 1963)which came with a bunch of 78s, including Winifred Atwell and Guy Mitchell's Singin' the Blues. My first album was Hard Day's Night, which I still have. Saw the movie at the Newcastle Odeon, where girls were screaming for the Beatles throughout. In my teens, I also had a music teacher who allowed us to bring our LPs in once every couple of months to listen to. He would also sell off clasical LPs from the school collection at a huge discount. My love of Debussy stretches back to then.

Abahachi said...

I grew up without television and with the radio tuned permanently to Radio 4; the only non-classical records in my parents' collection were the Rolling Stones' 'Big Hits (High Tides and Green Grass)', Dr Hook's 'Greatest Hits' and Max Boyce Live at Treorchy. It hasn't occurred to me before, but looking back over my own songwriting and recording career those three influences shine out unmistakably...

Anyway, up to about twelve or thirteen I was wholly oblivious to pop or rock music; a couple of friends at school were easily able to convince me that they had formed a band and got a record deal, and we would call into the local shop to ask whether their latest single, 'Baggy Trousers' was in - but that wasn't much fun for them, as being in a band and having a single out simply didn't mean anything to me.

Then I was hit by several things more or less in the space of a month - a clip of Abba doing Super Trouper on television, one afternoon at my grandparents; mistuning the radio in search of crickey commentary and picking up 'Going Underground'; Ultravox's 'Vienna' from I know not where - and was transformed into a voracious consumer of every sort of music I could get my hands on.

Didn't have a lot of pocket money, and the local record shop - to be precise, the record section of the department store - was limited and eclectic, so some of my tastes were formed just by what was available in my price range at the time. Friends introduced me to the predictable adolescent heavy and prog rock; the Top 40 was indispensable. Having taken up the bass as the best way for an introvert to get into bands, I headed off in a soul/funk/jazz direction on the basis that it was less tedious than going 'bom bom bom bom', four to the bar every bar in every single sodding rock song...

Acquiring stepchildren in their early teens then put me back in touch with contemporary rock and pop - most of which sounded like poor cover versions of the early 80s, admittedly. Stepson is now at university studying music performance, and is heavily into improvised electronica and the use of silence, so I try to get into some of his stuff and listen to some of my own in a different way.

It doesn't ever stop. My 'Desert Island Discs' change more or less on a weekly basis...

Mnemonic said...

There was a blog on this a few weeks ago. I think it was Michael Hann's.

Same answer though, my brother gave me Miles Davis's Porgy and Bess for Christmas when I was in my mid-teens. With the money from my first holiday job, I bought Sketches of Spain. Pop music, with very few exceptions, was something to be despised. We had several local folk singers around and Joan Baez, Ramblin' Jack Elliott and Peggy Seeger records passed from hand to hand like gold dust. The in 1962 I heard Bob Dylan in that televison play, "Madhouse on Castle Street" and I bought his first four records the week of release. The first time I heard the Beatles (Love Me Do), I thought "Oh, they sound a bit like Bob Dylan".

My brother went to university in London in 1962 and I would go to spend my half-term holidays with him, on an orgy of live music, all night film shows, and "exotic" Indian restaurants. I'd get the night train back to Penzance, my mother would meet me at the station and drive me to school, with me changing into my school uniform on the way.

Then I heard the Rolling Stones...

Sarah G said...

We always had music playing at home, and my mum sang in the choir at our local church, but I was really 'hearing' all this rather than listening. Things changed when I was about seven and became friends with Lis, whose mum also sang in the choir. While my mum enjoyed songs from the musicals and light classics, Lis' mum was into the Who and Led Zep. I still have a very clear memory of sitting on their living room floor with Lis, playing with our dollies with Led Zep 2 blasting out. Nothing was the same after that. We progressed to radio Caroline and despised the disco girls at school while writing and re-writing our personal top 40s (usually various Zeppelin and Purple tracks with Tangerine Dream and Robin Trower thrown in for good measure). 40 years later, Lis and I are still friends and although our musical tastes have broadened we still enjoy a good blast of something heavy whenever we get together.

Maybe we should do some desert island discs playlists?

ejaydee said...

Unlike goneforeign, I can't recall a specific trigger. It all came in different steps. People tell me that in my very early years my mother trained me as some kind of classical music robot, who could guess who composed what (I think my database contained actually 3-4 pieces, but hey that's how legends grow), so I guess my subconscious introduction to music was classical.
Although my parents are music enthusiasts, I don't remember them playing a lot of music. If we weren't listening to (talking) radio France Inter, it was classical music. I do remember the soundtrack to Good Morning Vietnam, and a bit of Boy George as well.
My personal early record collection was mostly consisting of Disney play-as-you-read 45s, and then the odd Astroboy theme song or novelty record.
Having grown up in the 80's, music videos have played a big part in my appreciation of music, which is why, I admit solemnly before you all, and in trust, that I begged for Genesis' We Can't Dance.
The one who "discovered" something was my older brother, who got into Hip Hop. Since I spent most of my time copying him, I would listen to the music he listened to, watch Yo! MTV Raps with him, and we would be enthralled by this fresh thing that was cooler than anything in every aspect. At the same time I also listened to mainstream radio in the morning to wake up, (I think the last tune I liked from it was Brian Adams's Everything I Do... Hey I was young, Robin Hood was a hit movie and I was a romantic)
So eventually Hip Hop stopped being my brother's music and became mine, and at the same time a despise for pop grew. Somewhere in the middle, Crooklyn by Spike Lee came out, with its soundtrack. that got me into Soul and Funk, and gave me an ear for latin music (El Pito). So for a long time it was a strict regime of soul and hip hop, a Jimi Hendrix collection, and a dash of R&B thanks to prospective future wife Aaliyah's work with Timbaland as well as Missy Elliott. My brother being a DJ, I was fortunate to be constantly fed the new stuff.
Then I moved to London, which is the final step of the formation of my music tastes. It started in the most unlikely of places, the big HMV at Oxford Circus (I was at Westminster University which was right on the corner). I was browsing around and wandered down the Jazz section, there was the Essential Miles Davis compilation available for something like £5, I thought to myself I should check him out, I think he's the one who did that song I like that starts with a quiet piano, and then a trumpet thingy. So that was that for Miles Davis.
At the same time, I had my curiosity aroused by the odd compilation or film soundtrack, and that's how I discovered a lot of rock (24Hr Part People played a big role). Lastly, one night, as I was I hanging out with a friend in my parent's house in Paris, it occured to me to check out this row of vinyls. Lo and behold, my dad had quite a collection of originals (The Who, The Beatles, Motown, etc.)

ToffeeBoy said...

I can definitely blame the parents for my obsession with music. Not that I particularly liked their music when I was growing up (Elvis, Jim Reeves, Lonnie Donegan, Cliff Richard...) it was just that it was always there. Every Sunday evening we'd listen to the countdown of new top 30 on Radio 1 - it was one of the few times we were all together enjoying the same thing so I guess that's part of why music became such an important part of my life. Having a brother two years older than me also meant that I was always listening to music that was that little bit 'cooler' than the stuff my contemporaries were listening to. And I'm using 'cooler' as a slightly ironic term here as what it really means is that I was into Genesis while my classmates were still listening to T Rex and Slade!

What's certainly true is that while other interests have come and gone over the decades, there's never been a time when I haven't felt a genuine passion for music - it was my first love, and...

steenbeck said...

This is a good question, goneforeign, I'm enjoying the responses. Here's mine... My mother is a classical musician (a cellist) and a professor of music history. So it was all classical growing up, and I still love classical music. I played piano, viola, viola da gamba, sang in choirs. Came sort of late to any other kind of music. Stayed in London one summer and discovered the Smiths and Billy Bragg, which led to the Cure and all of their ilk. Fell in love with REM for a while. I think by the time I was more of who I am now it was Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Tom Waits, James Brown, John Lee Hooker, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Hmm, all men. I honestly don't remember the first time I heard any of them. I've been sort of cut off from popular culture since the late 80s--we don't have cable so no MTV, I don't really listen to the radio, so I feel like I stumble around, find things I like, they lead to other things...

scarymonster said...

I really must be exercise greater self-discipline, but if it's a choice between financial projections and musical recollections, there's no competition.

When I was two years old, I was knocked down by a car outside our house and was later discharged from hospital to recuperate at home, broken legs in traction in a hospital cot.

Plagued by night terrors (which nearly drove my mother to the brink), the thing that soothed and sustained me during those weeks was the sound of radio 1.

Noticing how I'd sing along to all I heard, my mother borrowed a reel to reel tape recorder and somewhere there exists a single tape with me singing my heart out to, amongst others, The Moody Blues, Beatles, Tom Jones, Hollies, Cilla Black and Esther & Abi Ofarim (yes, my quality control issues stem back to those early years).

The first single (yes I know that's another blog) I bought with my own money was Blockbuster by The Sweet. A true popsessive, I didn't even have a record player at the time, so it was many weeks before I even heard it, but I often used to remove it from its RCA paper sleeve and gaze adoringly at the vinyl.

In 1987, history repeated when I began buying CDs some years before I could afford to buy a CD player...

A suitable case for treatment, don't you agree ?

SM

goneforeign said...

I hope I'm not being too greedy. Like Steenbeck I'm delighted by these responses, I find them so interesting and they fill in lots of holes in this community of ours. Since I stopped right at the moment of my initial conversion I'd like to add a little filler.
Once I was hooked by New Orleans jazz I would often daydream in class creating the ultimate orchestras, usually 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, 5 sax and 3 rhythm; most of my orchestras were composed of only N.O. musicians, like Louis, King Oliver and Bunk Johnson on tpts, Kid Ory, Vic Dickinson etc. on tb. Mine was probably the only big band in history with Bechet leading the sax section. Humph was very important to me, I loved his music and as he softened so did I gaining an appreciation for Kansas City jazz and thence onto NY. Bebop was a problem, hated it, but the more I heard Charlie Parker the more I liked him and subsequently came to accept bebop also. And then there was Duke, I found his early stuff [1920's] to be wonderful, a whole new form of music; it was like discovering an entirely new culture. That started a lifelong obsession, I collect Duke's albums. And talking of collecting I recall arriving in the new world on a Friday in 1958 and going to a grocery store on the Sunday and being blown away by the fact that they sold albums; I bought two for 88c. each, A Duke Ellington and a Mel Torme. Still got 'em.
Over the years I've collected records avidly to the degree it's become a real problem whenever we've moved, but I enjoy RR because it forces me to spend far more time with them than I did before I discovered it. There's been lots of side trips, the folk music of the '50s, the Beatles and Stones etc. pointed me in an entirely new direction as did an increasing awareness of classical music, but it was BMW's first album plus 'The harder they come' in 1972 that changed everything, I became totally involved with reggae, I thought it was a really important musical form and spent quite a bit of time in Jamaica. Bob's death and the subsequent changes in the music caused a loss of interest and it was replaced by a discovery of African, Brazillian and what came to be called 'world music'. And then relatively recently along came RR which has opened dozens more doors and exposed me to names I never knew.Thank you all.

DarceysDad said...

I've been thinking long and hard about this, because I'm another one without any particular trigger reason to be so obsessed.

Parents? I don't think so: no musical ability and less than a dozen records between them that I ever wanted to listen to. Although Thursday's TV Top Of The Pops and Sunday's Radio Top 20/30/40 countdown were rarely missed, so maybe ...

Grandparents? No: a publican, a brickie, a housewife and a footballer (which at least partly explains THAT part of my life).

Siblings? No, I'm the eldest of my generation among immediate and extended family.

Musical shakabuku? Well, not initially. The first record I really remember is The Scaffold's Lily The Pink, not exactly a high point for musicianship. The first one that got me excited in a way I didn't understand was *gulp* Gary Glitter's I Love You Love.
But the start of my lifelong obsession with music - i.e. when it became a major time/financial/emotional commitment out of reasonable proportion - CAN be put down to one song: UFO's Only You Can Rock Me, from (cue Twilight Zone music) the album called Obsession.
Don't ask me to explain why ... you all know I'm fairly poor at that kind of descriptive analysis.

But there you go, thirty years later and what do I have to show for it? Slight mid-range deafness, a large collection of fading black T-shirts, and a CD collection that requires specific attention whenever I move our Home Contents Insurance.

Ho hum.

Anyway, back to my late-night emulsioning, soundtracked by the Superbowl on the telly!

steenbeck said...

ejaydee, in France do they say 'eep 'op?

ejaydee said...

they do say 'eep 'op actually, but in my days I always called it Rap though, still do.

I forgot to mention in my (too) long comment, that for the last 10 years or so, I've discovering all this music with a teammate, my friend Jeremy. How it usually works is, he'll play me something, knowing perfectly in the back of his mind that there's a good chance I'll predictably buy the relevant album or recording.
I should have also pointed out that the essential element in all this is curiosity. You hear one song about someone and you decide to check out something else this person has done, you see a TV program about someone or a specific scene, and you go on and research that, etc. Like stones in a pond.

goneforeign said...

Ejay: I call it obsessive, I hear one thing I like and before you know it I have everything they've done. At least that's what you'd think if you saw my records.

steenbeck said...

That's one of the things I love about eep op. You do a bit of research into the samples and you discover new things to love. Or the collaborations, it's like a beautiful community that leads you to amazing new artists.

ejaydee said...

Yes the samples! Again browsing at the big HMV (back then you could buy, open, listen, exchange, continuously, so it was almost like a rental store), I saw this collection of sampled songs. Their greatest hit was turning me on to Shuggie Otis.
Reading The Source every month, I knew way too much about rappers and their crews, their little neighbourhood, etc., there was a point close to 2000 when it became ridiculous and every rapper's bodyguard was releasing a record out of nowhere.

ejaydee said...

Yes the samples! Again browsing at the big HMV (back then you could buy, open, listen, exchange, continuously, so it was almost like a rental store), I saw this collection of sampled songs. Their greatest hit was turning me on to Shuggie Otis.
Reading The Source every month, I knew way too much about rappers and their crews, their little neighbourhood, etc., there was a point close to 2000 when it became ridiculous and every rapper's bodyguard was releasing a record out of nowhere.

Catcher said...

I'm similar to DarceysDad on this one - i don't think my parents owned single record, and I'm fairly sure that a cassette recorder I requested for Christmas was the first item in the house that could play recorded music. Didn't have an older sibling, either. The radio played a lot, but that doesn't explain how my tastes went so leftfield so early. Funny I never hought about this until this post, and now I'm intrigued as to how it happened. If I come up with something, I'll post again.