For as long as I can remember music has been important to me.
I suppose if I think back to the age when I tuned into "The Clithero Kid", "The Navy Lark", "Mrs Dale’s Diary" & "Around the Horn", I might say music wasn’t vital to me then. But I remember enjoying "Two Way Family Favorites", and I can’t have been older than ten then. I remember "Stranger on the Shore" by Acker Bilk as the first record I ever owned. And, from "The Young Ones" (Cliff Richards) on, I was addicted to the Top Twenty show by Alan Freeman.
Radio Luxemburg under the bedclothes on a small transistor… Radio Caroline too… Johnnie Walker… and, most influential of all, Radio London. I remember the excitement I felt when I found that station on the radiogram in the drawing room. Picking up such a ‘cutting-edge’ station, which seemed to have a hit parade chart all of its own (about four weeks ahead of the official Radio Luxemburg one), was wonderful. I think I rushed into school to brag to Bill Whelan and John Cosgrove (both classmates and great friends) about it. We three formed a triumvirate of cognoscenti: I certainly felt we three were ahead of the posse in Limerick.
I was greatly influenced by Bill Whelan whom I associate with the Beachboys, Sergio Mendez, Frank Zappa. But we three went hard at it critiquing the exciting trends that flourished throughout those Beatlesyears. I wasn’t a Rolling Stones head, but I did rate them. I was on the side of John, Paul, George, & Ringo.
I kept a book in which I recorded the progress of records through the charts and I could say things like "Pretty Flamingo" came in at 14, went to 6, 2, 1,1,1, 3, 9 & 16. That must have been the only systematic recording keeping I’ve ever done. I was no good at stamp collecting.
One week I owned 19 of the Top20. My mother had been rash enough to encourage a saving habit by promising to match anything I saved with an equal amount. I got stuck into gardening, cutting grass for money and growing bulbs which I’d sell to her. That’s how I accumulated a big collection of 45s and went on to LPs too.
Meanwhile Whelan built a recording studio in his house and got into 8-track, and maybe 12-track, recordings. He was a musician. I was someone who could talk about music, and listen like mad, but not reproduce a decent note by any means. I suppose I wasn’t bad at remembering the lyrics too but Whelan and Cosgrave were in a different league. The important thing for me was the passion.
The reason I’m writing this now
is that I’ve been listening to John Kelly Ensemble on Lyric FM. What an excellent putter-together of music he is. I imagine anyone serious about music in Ireland knows of John Kelly and rates him. It’s only been a few days since I started to rate him. Since the depression has lifted, I’ve been listening to Lyric FM. Listening to classical music again, Jazz too and sounds that I wouldn’t know how to classify. I’m able to love music again.
I wasn’t able to listen while I was depressed: I got no pleasure from it. I listened to talking heads instead: lots of Newstalk and RTE1. I was too agitated to relax into the music, and anything with a strong rhythm and beat bothered me too much. A couple of days after the depression began to leave me I began to enjoy music again.
And the great news is that
I’ve booked to see an opera this coming Saturday. Verdi’s "Ballo…" and it’s over a year since I’ve been to live opera. That’s the longest gap since I fell head over heals in love with opera in 1975, the longest period of abstinence from opera in 33 years. Wow.
You see I became an opera-nut, such a lover of it that I hadn’t time to listen to any other type of music. I specialised in one form of music and confined my attentions to that for perhaps 20 years. Gradually, after leaving London, there were longer gaps between operas. While I was a bus conductor 1975-8, I used to go to live opera three, even four times a week when I was on early shift. I was just as obsessive as any lover. I once met a man who’s was seeing his 102nd "Madame Butterfly" and who told me he was married to a woman who’d only seen five operas in her life and those were mainly poor performances. So I felt fairly normal in my obsession.
The good thing is that I never denied that there were other brilliant forms of music. So, as it became harder and harder to make it to live performances at Covent Garden & English National Opera, I broadened my tastebuds and became a more catholic listener. I still wish I could sing. And haven’t found it helpful to be told that ‘everyone can sing… you only need to practice…’
I sort of looked down on John Kelly as a DJ
when I first came back to Ireland. I wasn’t much interested in the chat. But I’ve just realised how good he is at putting together a series of music from many different influences. Now I find my musical sensitivities being educated by JK. I must set up this office so that I can listen to his show while I work at other stuff. I think I could write while he plays.
Enough. I’ve broken every resolution I ever made about short posts. (Sorry David…) But I needed to own up to what’s been going on.