A curious thing happened the other day. Well, I thought it was curious, anyway. I was having a cuppa with a mate who’d popped round for a natter & I had my mp3 player plugged into the speaker system in the living room. I had it set to random shuffle, so my entire music collection of 500 or so albums was being regurgitated in a manner which paid no heed to age, genre or artist. A little Metallica followed by some Frank Sinatra or Beethoven, then Nina Simone or Status Quo leading into Green Day… that sort of thing.
Anyway, there we were, two middle aged blokes bemoaning the state of the world (as you do), when he suddenly stopped mid-sentence. It seems that the track which had suddenly burst forth from the speakers had put him off his stroke a little. The song in question was an old Euro-pop hit from the ’70s – “Movie Star” by Harpo. “Oh my God” he said (neither of us are of the generation that would actually say “OMG”). “I remember this tune! This brings back some memories, doesn’t it?” And it’s true, it’s one of many tracks which take me back to the long hot halcyon summer days of my childhood when it never rained, there was endless fun to be had from riding a Raleigh Chopper & climbing trees and the most you had to worry about was whether to spend your pocket money on a bag of sweets or The Beano. This is why I have an entire compilation of about a hundred tunes from the mid-70s permanently loaded onto my mp3 player. Nostalgia, pure & simple… one of the joys of hitting of middle age.
What’s curious about any of that then? Well, what shocked me was his next reaction when I’d told him about my 70s compilation. “Oh, that sounds brilliant, can you do me a copy? I can listen to it when there’s no-one else around.” When I enquired about his plans to enjoy the soundtrack to his childhood with the curtains drawn & the doors locked, he told me that whilst he would get much pleasure from reminiscing along to this music, he wouldn’t want anyone to know of his “guilty pleasure” as he called it. What’s more, the way he put it was as if he thought it was obvious… “Well, you wouldn’t want anybody to catch you listening to that kind of stuff would you?”
His reticence puzzled me but without making a bigger deal of this than I wanted to, I couldn’t pick at it any more. However when the She-Boss got home, I told her about the exchange & she looked at me as if I were enquiring about why someone would not want to be caught sleepwalking naked down the High Street. “Well, perhaps he’d be embarrassed.” She said. “Maybe he doesn’t want people to know that he listens to all that old stuff”. It was at that point that I realised there was an entire phenomenon that I’d managed to live nearly 50 years without knowledge of… the aforementioned “guilty pleasure” of enjoying music which would somehow embarrass you if people found out you enjoyed it. Seriously, I’ve bumbled along throughout my entire adult life blissfully unaware that music could have this effect. How many times has someone cast an eye over my music collection and had a little snigger to themselves & thought “Oh… Really? You forgot you’d left THAT one on show hadn’t you?” Has the world always been this way? Or did I blink and miss the moment when it stopped being OK to just like what you like and not worry what people thought?
Maybe I genuinely don’t give a hoot about what other folks think of my tastes, but I find it truly bizarre that a person’s taste in music should be a source of red-faced embarrassment to them. Granted, I would find it a bit odd to come across a middle aged person listening to One Dimension or some other teenybopper act – let’s face it, once you’re past 24 years of age, you’re not part of the target demographic for that kind of stuff. However, the cheesy pop that was in the hit parade (as it was called in those days) when I was a callow youth made a big impression of me and every now and then I enjoy a trip down memory lane. This does not cause me any sense of shame whatsoever. Why should it? Will the teenagers of today be mortified in twenty-five years time to be caught listening to the likes of Katy Perry? They will have all sorts of happy memories associated with this kind of music so why should they deny themselves that pleasure in years to come. Likewise, why should I feel any sense of discomfiture when I enjoy a hit of Showaddywaddy every now & then?
Perhaps the biggest chart act of my formative years was ABBA. Upon investigation (ie asking a few mates) they all admitted to loving ABBA songs when they were growing up but were a bit cagey about whether or not any ABBA songs resided on their iPods these days. Take any ABBA song apart & you will find well crafted, clever chord progressions; stunning production values; memorable hooks; rhyming schemes which manage to avoid tired cliches; and superb vocal harmonies. Why aren’t these songs judged on these merits? Especially when they may hold all sorts of happy memories for the person listening? Why is it that many people who spent their childhood in the 1970s will be uneasy at having an ABBA track blasting from their car window, and will only listen to it one headphones? It seems the answer is that ABBA, along with many other bands I love listening to (Dire Straits spring to mind) are simply not “cool” now.
I can’t imagine how complicated it must be to have to live your life by factoring the “cool” element into everything you do. I mean I know it applies to clothes (not that I take any notice), and now I learn that it applies to the music you’re “allowed” to enjoy too. Does it also come into any decision you make about what to eat? I imagine it probably does… “Oh, I love a cottage pie… but that’s SO last year, isn’t it?” There are undoubtedly people out there who think like this – if they regard their musical tastes in this manner why would they be any different with their other likes & dislikes including food, after all?
Well, stuff it. I’m not cool and I don’t try to be. I like what I like and I don’t care a tuppeny damn what the fashion police think. So there! To round off, here are the 1st ten tracks that came up when I shuffled my mp3 player & I’m not ashamed of a single one of them:
- Every Time You Go Away – Paul Young
- Patricia – Art Pepper
- The Beatles – Love Me Do
- The Feeling – Never Be Lonely
- The Jarrow Song – Alan Price
- Positively 4th Street – Bob Dylan
- Some Girls – Racey
- Piano Sonata No.8 in C minor – Beethoven
- Hysteria – Muse
- Blues To Elvin – John Coltrane
Until next time, have fun!