Friday, February 12, 2010

a taste of sourpus

I was on the bus today, reading the latest Uncut magazine, and was pleased to see an old Leicester musical comrade, Kevin Hewick, interviewed as part of an article on the death of Ian Curtis - as some of you know, Kev was briefly considered to replace Ian in Joy Division. It reminded me of my first meeting with Kevin, when he approached me aeons ago in well-known city guitar emporium, as I sat softly strumming a Gibson acoustic 1974 Heritage series - as you do. He was impressed that I both knew and clearly loved the song I was playing, which was 'Treat me well' by Nancy Wilson (of the band, Heart). Turned out he was a massive fan of theirs and had thought himself a very rare breed. I too was surprised, approximately familiar with Kev's work, that such a man should be such a big fan of a band I had thought had touched no one in the known universe (which I knew only as Leicester) but myself.

So what is it about this band and why do they seem like the best example I have of 'unexpected listening' from me? I had been thinking about the last few posts on this subject and thinking that a) my taste is just too broad to make anything that surprising and b) not that much is actually known about my core taste here at the Spill. So, with your indulgence, I can kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.

Although music has been the (pivotal) point of my days since before I can even recall, and although I'd soaked up a household full of influences from my mum (30's and 40's dance music, 'easy listening') my elder sister (Motown and Stax, fifties rock'n' roll, sixties pop and rock) and brother (punk and new wave, reggae, ska, rock, northern soul, funk, electronica, etc., etc.) not to mention their friends, my friends and acquaintances, TV, radio and the like, I have always felt that I didnt really start to form actual taste of my own until I was about 17 years old. Since I was a practicing musician from the age of about 12 (I had my first band then) music also comes to me through the prism of my own playing. With all this in mind, I can say that I had three main influences, springing from my listening taste, but forming me as a musician.

a) Bob Dylan
b) Jonathan Richman
c) Mark Eitzel

I have never tried (nor would I - I'm English for a start) to sound like any of them. But Bob became the ground on which almost everything thereafter somehow stood, Jonathan Richman was my musical and spiritual role model and Mark Eitzel showed me how far a performance could go. These three performers and their music spoke to me more personally and powerfully than any others and they really stood out.

Heart, I first heard in 1976, when Eitzel was still at school in England and Jonathan Richman was just getting his Modern Lovers Mark 2 together, and before I had really begun listening to His Bobness properly. In retrospect, Heart were actually my first attempt at forging taste of my very own. I used to sit on the floor, with cushions from the sofa strewn around me, drumming along, with a pair of my brother's (borrowed) drum sticks, to the whole of the Dreamboat Annie album. I was 12 years old and it was the sound of it. It sent me some place else. It was my own private world of ecstatic joy and release. I was too young for punk. But this band 'belonged' to me. Almost no one else was that interested.

Until I met Kev.

He was at least a Led Zeppelin fan. Some of my friends were big Zep fans, but not me. And I still think Heart's first five or so albums are uniquely exciting and wonderful, even though nothing else in my tasteworld would make sense next to them.

That's it. That's my story. Perhaps it is only actually me who is surprised?


goneforeign said...

Nice piece but I was looking forward to your playlist of a, b, c. and Heart.
ps; do you read Russian?

sourpus said...

Perhaps I should have gone with the playlist, you're right. But I had the feeling nobody knew what my taste was really like..dont know why..

If you mean 'can I read cyrillic?' then the answer is (more or less) yes. But it's been a while since I had to do it regularly and I dont practice at all, even though I enjoy it. Why do you ask?

Abahachi said...

Do I lose all credibility by admitting that Alone was one of my favourite tracks of 1987, or just most of it?

goneforeign said...

Sour:I thought you might, I have a poster that Yevgeny Yevetushenko signed for me, trouble is he wrote something in Russian and I've no idea what it says, I could post a picture?

sourpus said...

I'll give it a go - sometimes handwriting can be tricky

sourpus said...

Also, I dont know if you can imagine, but being a big 'Heart' fan (at least until around 1981) was not exactly going to make me popular in the yard of the local comprehensive where I went. I kept it to myself pretty much all these years - only Kev was privy to the truth; and now you all!

Listening to them now though, there is something about them. Their songs are exceptionally well put together and yes, sometimes romantic, but also gutsy and varied. Their male guitar hero (Roger Fisher) was also obviously a man after my own heart - apparently, he now lives in Prague full time!

sourpus said...

Abahachi, I must admit, I DID like the Alone and These Dreams singles - although I kept that pretty much to myself as well. The albums they made in the late Eighties and Nineties I didnt really like overall. Much too 'big' - it really wasn't necessary. If you think liking 'Alone' is embarrassing, imagine that I still own every single Heart album, up to and including Passionworks. I kept buying on spec because I was always willing them to return to form. In more recent years, in some ways, that's exactly what they have done.

lambretinha said...

Loved this post, Sourpus. Actually, Heart is one among countless blind spots in my musical knowledge, but I'm curious about them now.

Oh, and I'll kill two birds with one stone myself too, and congratulate you for your post re: John Hiatt & Lyle Lovett's gig (and for being there too!)

Shoey said...

Possibly the most disturbing 'Spill post title yet. Good heartfelt (pun alert) bit of bloggery. Can't share any enthusiasm for Heart - but then it would be a little dull round here if we all agreed on everything.

Makinavaja said...

Great read. Quite fond of them myself.

ejaydee said...

Don't think I've ever heard of them, but i liked this song.

sourpus said...

thanks lambretinha..shucks.. I just wanted to inspire some others here to maybe be there tonight in London. I had a feeling it would go one better than seeing them in Austria. The Austrian shows ive been too, just had that 'Austrian' feeling - no offence meant to Austrians, it's just somehow different from what I would expect in London.

Thanks a lot for all the compliments and thoughts about Heart. I still think they had something special - Anne and Nancy Wilson had mojo, but then, so did the whole band for a good while.