A journey that continues…..
My earliest recollection of being ‘into’ music was as a young teenager and listening to the Beach Boys. I loved their stuff when everyone else was into T-Rex, Roy Wood, Wizard the Slade and all those other 70’s icons.
As much as liked the happy surf vibe I remember being drawn to the sadder and minor-chord tinged tracks such as ‘Don’t Worry Baby’ and ‘In My Room’ – a particular favourite to this day. Even back then I would delve into an artists catalogue, God knows how back then, but I did. I recall searching in record shops for albums that were less popular and seeing the cover for ‘Surfs Up’ – a haunting figure of a wilted man on a tired horse in sepia-blue tints.
This was a major discovery.
Dark and dense, involving and difficult, the music was stunning and the definite weirdness of the title track, ‘Feel Flows’ and ‘A Day in the Life of a Tree’ would define my musical journey in the coming years. Odd time signatures, raw emotion, depth of feeling and musicality would all surface on most of my discoveries.
The re-emergence of Brian Wilson in the past few years has been a welcome sight and it is good too see his genius recognised whilst at the same time another genius of the same surname is making his mark in the modern prog world.
I remember the day I was listening to a stunning track (‘Leaving This Town’) on the Beach Boys’ less well-known album , Holland, when my older brother popped his head round the door and said “Hey, titch, listen to this..”
The next few moments were to define the rest of my teenage years and were probably responsible for me making a complete mess of my Grammar school education !
‘Dark Side of the Moon’ was playing, can’t remember which track, but I remember standing there thinking how stunning yet strangely familiar this music was. Needless to say the whole Floyd thing was huge – they are still one of my favourites and recently seeing Brit Floyd live (and doing more than justice to the original band) just reminds you how strong and involving this music is 30 years later.
‘Animals’ stood out for me as it was released at the height of punk in the UK and created a huge stir, even to the extent of NME (New Musical Express) eulogising about it at a time when the Floyd, Genesis etc were seen as dinasours.
Perhaps the next milestone was the Rush era.
As ever, I seemed to be into something only a few other ‘chosen’ people understood but the chancing upon ‘2112’ was as strong a feeling as the Pink Floyd moment. I’ve mentioned this on tweet before, but we even queued outside Manchester Apollo overnight, on the pavement, in sleeping bags to get tickets for their ‘Farewell to Kings’ tour. We had races across the road to keep ourselves entertained, hopping like idiots in our sleeping bags.
We got tickets for the front row for the first three nights and also tickets for the front row of the circle for the last two nights so we could watch the lightshow !! Five nights in a row – and I remember being amazed by ‘Xanadu’ each time.
Brilliant times and again, glad to see them doing so well now even if my enjoyment of them now is not quite the same.
The dead years intervened when kids, career and growing up got in the way of music but not without regular forays into post-rock (Godspeed You Black Emporer, Mono, Explosions in the Sky et al) and more avant-garde stuff like Sigur Ros in their earlier days (Aegetis Byrun and () ). Even trips down alt-Americana way proved fruitful with magnificent artists like The Willard Grant Conspiracy, The Walkabouts and others showing you don’t need to stick rigidly to one genre.
And so to the present, and what a bloody fantastic present time it is with an overflowing and wonderfully euphoric progressive rock scene.
A chance reading of a Sunday Times article which mentioned someone called Steven Wilson led to the Pandora’s Box of Porcupine Tree which is about as good a back-catalogue as you will find. A massively deep collection of stunning tracks with wide-ranging influences that just get better with each listen. A whole scene has been re-discovered and a scene that is lively, modern, relevant yet harks back to the days when music was made for music’s sake and not just to fill stadiums and top the charts.
I recently saw The Pineapple Thief live in Manchester, standing on the front row, about two feet away from them, and was stunned by how skilful, committed and talented the people in this scene are.
And finally, in this brief whirlwind tale of JD’s musical journey, we come to what is quite simply the best music I have ever heard – Big Big Train.
Those who may know me from Twitter will probably know that I run, bike and hike on the hills in my area and I have never known music that connects so sublimely to what I do and what I like. ‘The Underfall Yard’ has a collection of tales that paint a gloriously evocative picture of the engineers that built England. Heroic characters propping up cathedrals and teams of men digging tunnels through the landscape, set to the most note-perfect and emotion-wrenching music you can imagine.
Their recent masterpiece ‘English Electric Pt 1‘ has been detailed enough in these pages (and by a certain Bradley J. Birzer) that I cannot improve on the reviews or details provided by better people than me !
So there you go, a snapshot of 35 years or so condensed into a few words.
Thanks for listening ! There will be more to come ….. J