Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The First Time I Had The Blues

I guess you could say that we grew up in something of a musical vaccuum.

Don't get me wrong: my parents aren't the puritanical rock-n-roll is evil types...they just weren't into music that much.

We had one of those old wooden boxes with a heavy lid that could play 33 1/3"rds or 45" inch vinyl.  It was supposed to be able to hold two or three records and let one drop down after another, but the truth was that most times it would let them all drop, or the sound would just come out warped after the second or third long player had fallen.

My parents had a small collection of vinyl, of which I remember:
1x Elvis Presley Twenty Golden Greats (side two scratched)
1x Cliff Richard 40 Golden Greats (not sure if it was the Elvis or the Cliff that was "Golden Greats" or both)
1x New Seekers compilation (warped)
1x Sound Of Music soundrack
2x albums of Dutch Barrel Organ Music
2x Muppett Show albums (which were mostly for us kids and which i wish we still had if only for Scooter's infamous "Hey Mr Bassman" which may be the funkiest song of all time - see below)

This, along with the bands on Top Of The Pops was my sole introduction to the music world until I became old enough and rich enough to start my own collection.

I guess I started with the music that was popular in the charts or that I took a liking to and then slowly, as I became influenced by new sets of friends I expanded my musical vocabularly

I guess I was already vaguely aware of the Blues but hadn't really been exposed to it until I came to work at a local theatre for nine months.  I was part of the lighting and sound department (LX) and there were often hurried periods of activity spent mostly suspended from extremely high places.

To be honest the run of shows that year wasn't the best and one of the worst of the series was The Asylum, a play about some patients in an asylum threatened with closure set against the backdrop of a pop video being filmed there.  It starred someone who had once been in an episode of Fawlty Towers and a once nearly-famous actress more famous for drinking her own urine than actually being an actress

It was, quite simply, awful.  The only thing that stopped it from being the worst play of the run (the dubious honour of which falls to a touring production of Wuthering Heights in which the actor playing Heathcliff just shouted on the spot for two non-stop hours) was the interval music

For whatever reason the director of the show, who must have realised how appallingly dreadful the thing was, had chosen Robert Cray for the interval music - having made a compilation of his first and second albums and put it onto a big spool that would play as the audience came in, during the break and again as they left.

Every day for a week I heard this amazing voice and superb guitar: I was hooked and for many years I continued to own a copy of that interval music on a cassette (I bet if I looked for it now it would still be somewhere...)

But it was only recently that I thought to check out the internet and see if I could replace my dusty viynl copy of "False Accusations" with a clean and immaculate CD

In the intervening years I've always tried to challenge myself about my pre-conceptions of music: don't like synth-pop eh?  well what about this group?  Don't like hip-hop?  Well have you tried so-and-so?  Don't like Jazz eh... well...I'm still not sold on that one, but you never know.

But in the end it's always the Blues that I come back to: for whatever reason it's that soulful guitar, the haunting voices and the tales of misguided love that bring me back time and again.  Since then I've discovered the wonders of BB King, recently found Muddy Waters and decided that Eric Clapton's From The Cradle album may be the finest album in my blues catalogue

But a special place should always be reserved for Robert Cray: for introducing me to the blues.

For as the wise man once said: there ain't no other colours without the blues 


The Bug said...

We've got that Clapton album :)

The album I remember playing the most when I was a kid is my mom's Peggy Lee - it was a live album from some club. I know we had others, but that's the one I remember most. Then there were the 8 tracks - I wore out my Captain & Teneille (sp?). Ha!

Stephen Hayes said...

Johnny Cash singing "A Boy Named Sue" wore down the needle on our Curtis Mathis record player.

Friko said...

That's what growing up is all about: your own taste in music (and literature, food, drink, theatre, etc.) coming to the fore.

How about the greats: for me Ella, Lena, Billy and Sarah still take a lot of beating. Mind you, I am going back a few years . . . . .

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Bug - Captain & Teneille aren't that well known over here. maybe i should look them up

Stephen - Live from San Quentin is a great album and Johnny Cash is great

Friko - I'm with you on Ella. When i talk about not liking Jazz I should clarify that I'm talking about the endless self-congratulatory instrumentals of Courtney (yawn) Pine and his ilk