I grew up in a very music orientated household. My Dad has always been passionate about his music and, consequently, keen to imprint his preferences on my brother and I. Consider this a testament to his success. The following is a recollection of memories that have a soundtrack, songs that still remind me of the corresponding experiences or sentiments from my youth.
Billy Joel - We Didn’t Start the Fire
Interestingly enough, my Dad does not even particularly like this song. As far as I am aware he received the single from one of his close friends. I like to imagine that it was envisioned as a joke on his behalf. Introducing his children to music he dislikes, but will therefore have to tolerate to maintain diplomacy. During my early years in a profoundly religious primary school, my class was encouraged by one of the more malcontent teachers to bring in a song which would serve as the finale of the morning assembly. This song was my selection. I persuaded my Dad to transfer the single to a cassette, who I imagine, at this point was increasingly concerned with the realisation that the teachers would assume that he was a fan of Billy Joel.
Due to the unprecedented popularity of the suggestion that young children would prefer popular music to the archaic drone of hymns, the final selection was to be decided by the majority vote of the classroom. In cruel twist of fate, it came down to two songs. ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’ and my best friend Will’s choice of The Police ‘Message in a Bottle’ Friend was pitted against friend in the battle for musical popularity. Ultimately, I lost with the deciding vote coming from the teaching assistant.
In my first instance of musical elitism, I recount not being upset that I was defeated on the basis that my peers did not enjoy my choice, but due to my profound conviction that my song was better. To this day I aim to share my musical preferences as often as I can. Even at such an early age I heard something special in the song that I desired to share with everyone. Maybe an ensemble of primary school children was not the expected audience for late eighties pop rock but the intention was surely present. As is the bitter reminder of defeat, every time I hear The Police.
The Kinks - Autumn Almanac
Admittedly, I am not certain if this song was playing at the moment in question, but it has since become integral to the experience. The earliest family holiday that I can distinctly recount was a week spent in Norfolk. I am going to state I was around seven at the time, but no doubt I will be corrected. I remember being completely preoccupied throughout the entire car journey with being able to witness the sea. I have this nuance that my holiday does not start till I am gazing across the horizon. Whether it was Autumn Almanac or not, it was certainly The Kink’s that was playing the moment I saw the land cease, and give way to the expansive sea. This song has since become my coastal theme, despite its complete lyrical irrelevance.
I attempted to recreate this moment a few years ago, when I returned to Norfolk for a nostalgic day trip, eager to relive my childhood memories with an adult perspective. Unfortunately, I had underestimated my ability to competently operate the cars GPS and I arrived at the coast to a monotonous, robotic female repeatedly informing me I was going in the wrong direction. What was significant was the similar feeling of excitement. Sixteen years later I was the same boy, sat transfixed, staring out of the car window eagerly awaiting a glimpse of the sea, whilst peacefully contemplating caterpillars and currant buns.
Bob Dylan – Hurricane
There are two interesting memories behind this song. Firstly my Dad’s copy of the album was notorious within our household for possessing a large smear of bird poo adorning one of the sides. Whilst this proved a humorous point of reference for my brother and I, it frustratingly left half of the album largely unplayable. Not that we ever wished to listen to anything except the first song ‘Hurricane’ Besides my Dad’s preference of the single, I am not entirely sure what it captivated in the hearts of two young children. Its lyrical content depicts the false conviction and imprisonment of boxer, Rubin Carter. The subject of racial tension and profiling was incomprehensible to those of our age. I was aware of the story, but naively ignorant to its motifs. I am certain my Dad may have attempted to explain the circumstances involved in child friendly terminology, but Dylan’s song writing requires an attentive listener. His lyrics are frequently filled with heavy philosophical meaning and oblique metaphors that, even as an adult, I still experience difficultly interpreting.
The second memory derives from the aforementioned ‘bring a song to school day.’ This was my brother’s selection and his chance to gain redemption for the Griffin family jukebox. Curiously, he was successful and, I like to imagine, in no way related to his then infamous tantrums. The entire school was therefore subject to the entire, unedited eleven minute version of the song. Not a single student understood the meaning, nor appreciated Dylan’s unique vocal delivery. The most significant response was attributed to the almost prophetic line “Had no idea what kinda shit was about to go down.” Which, naturally foretold the greatest overreaction to a minor swear word I have ever witnessed.
Bob Dylan - Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
There is not particularly a childhood memory or event associated with this song, merely the naivety of youth in regards to lyrical interpretation. I often wonder if the occasion transpired whereby my brother or I delivered our own rendition of the song, innocently proclaiming “Everybody must get stoned.” Ideally, to our straight faced parents, silently hoping the lyrics are not emulated somewhere inappropriate. Understandably I failed to comprehend the now obvious connotations towards marijuana usage. It would have been an interesting insight into my upbringing if I had. Ultimately, a perfect example of age defining understanding.
Roxy Music – Virginia Plain
Throughout my entire life, this song has been promoted as;
“The best song ever written” - Jon Griffin.
I never agreed nor understood its appeal. I was always more inclined towards the relative simplicity of The Rolling Stones and The Kinks which I considered easy listening compared to the experimental approach of Roxy Music. The band far preceded their time musically, an eclectic amalgamation of glam rock integrated with an accompaniment of eerie synthesizers and saxophone. I found the song, perhaps too outlandish for my simple preferences. This was emphasized when I was shown a live performance of the song on Top of the Pops. Bryan Ferry’s idiosyncratic appearance and delivery, adorned in more make up than I ever witnessed my Mom wear, only alienated their appeal further.
The song left my consciousness for a number of years, especially when I no longer became dependent on paternal musical influence. An inclination towards heavy metal dictated my early teenage years and for the first time in the household (besides my Mom’s penchant for Queen and REM) there was competition threatening the once musical uniformity my Dad provided.
It took a chance encounter with a friend at university to alter my opinion of the song. His early musical choices had, similarly been influenced by his father. This reminded me of the nostalgic capabilities that music can provide. Songs have the ability to transport you back to a previous time or state of mind. After neglecting the music I had been raised with for the majority of my teens, I was inspired to rediscover the songs I adored as a child. With my new found appreciation for song structure, instrumentation and lyrical content, I started listening to Virginia Plain again. I still deemed it unconventional, oft peculiar, but for this reason, I now enjoyed it.
Ian Hunter – All the way from Memphis
Whilst I recollect genuinely enjoying the song, the main reason for its inclusion is due to my brother and I finding exhaustive hilarity at the expense of the keyboard players appearance. Looking back now, I believe this is still justifiable.
Valentines Day. The day of object celebration for those fortunate enough to have someone, or is it? Much like my previous writings on the true celebrations of Christmas, I feel the international exaltation of love has taken on a whole new interpretation.
Recounting past Valentines, I can profoundly state that, only once have I ever felt obligated to partake in the tradition based on my own accord. Otherwise, I have felt forced to conform to the said traditions. This has either been due to my partner at the time, or due to our culture demanding that I obediently do so. A day where men throughout the world are wondrously reminded to make their partners feel appreciated with the presentation of cards and gifts and a day to make those without any one to feel increasingly bitter towards the whole affair.
Oh you are just jealous you may say? Not the case, even when I have been involved with someone, any participation in the tradition has mainly been predetermined with avoiding an argument rather than my desire to make the relevant person happy, not because certain retailers have carefully developed this aura of tenderness that, apparently affects only the female population, which naturally, us men must appease.
That is not to state that women are even responsible for their seemingly, high expectations of the day. It is a carefully crafted example of commercialism. Just like Mothers and Fathers day, a creation from greeting card companies hoping to satisfy their post-Christmas financial void; successfully capitalising on their, apparent impressionable opinion of woman kind.
Take into consideration that the day is marketed from the onset of January and appropriate or not, every retailer in the country has some kind of pseudo-Valentines directive they are keen to promote and embed into our subconscious. Take note of how frequently you experience marketing campaigns similar to…
“Show her how you feel this Valentines with a brand new dress, toasting oven, wardrobe, romantic weekend away, car, laser eye surgery.”
Never him , Additionally, What happened to plain and simple sentiment? Why do we need to show our affection with superficial gifts, are words no longer enough? Do we actually have to be reminded of our feelings towards another as opposed to being prompted? Society has been brainwashed. Women suddenly and openly judge their partners based on their enthusiasm towards Valentines and Men suddenly feel obligated to act like the boyfriend or husband they should actually be for the remaining 364 days of the year.
Retailers are essentially, profiting off our insecurities and expectations. The whole day, effectively becomes a competition between couples. To place a personal perspective on the matter, my Valentines experiences have always been overshadowed by the consideration of what others are doing and not what us, as a couple have intended.
“So and so is doing this, why aren’t we doing this? Why are we staying in, where are my flowers and undeserved gifts?”
Where are mine? I apparently did not realise that my company and exalted affection was no longer sufficient on the 14th of February, how naïve of me. Truth be told, I have heard more tales presenting the day in subject disdain than romanticism.
Unfulfilled expectations, jealousy and resentment is, therefore what preoccupies Valentines day, rarely love.
As I awoke on Christmas morning this year, I casually checked my Facebook to find I had been bombarded with a plethora of Christmas related statuses and images, words and images, surreptitiously or not, intended to invoke a sense of covetousness in those that happen to witness them. That is what Christmas is now about; to experience a more festive and effervescent materialistic holiday than those around you. To show those, (that by the main fundamentals of Facebook you should consider friends) that your Christmas day celebrations were far superior to their own.
Think I’m wrong? Then what is the principle reasoning behind sharing with the world, if not to gloat? Numerous pictures of ludicrously expensive games consoles and other gifts, portraits of a seemingly picturesque family meal, complete with meticulously prepared food and traditional Christmas themed hats and jumpers. How very in the spirit of Christmas we all are. A faultless display of perfect family harmony, cemented together by the faint illusion that social media is so adapt at creating.
Additionally when did sharing an image of yourself on Christmas become a acceptable festive tradition?
“Happy Christmas Facebook friends, here is a picture of me, since my visage is naturally so integral to your entire Christmas satisfaction.”
Tis’ the season to relish and delight at your own sense of vanity it seems, especially, when some of the hashtags adorning these photos are taken into consideration.
Naturally you get the, at least remotely relevant, captions such as these I witnessed;
#sexyatxmas, #xmasselfie, #santasbaby #foreverfestive4u, #couplesatxmas.
Then you get the hashtags from the ‘enlightened’ Facebook or Instagram users who are tragically proficient at ensuring their image is promoted as much as possible. Cue hashtags such as; #girlswithtattoos or #guyswithiphones. These are nearly always ‘someone’ with ‘something,’ or unequivocally and more accurately could be defined as ‘self-righteous cretin’ with ‘no discretion.’
Implausibly, this is not an anti-Christmas message. I enjoy my family’s humble approach to the tradition. My parents operate on the same basis as me and sensibly, understand that Christmas is primarily for young children, or those with young children, when no doubt it may be positively exciting watching the expression on your child’s face as they reveal the gifts they presumably, do not deserve.
The majority of my Facebook ‘friends’ however, are all twenty-something’s with no children, celebrating at holiday that when, deconstructed bears no resemblance to its humble pagan origins. No, I am not advocating a restoration of the archaic, religious associations of Christmas either. That is equally as moronic. During the Christmas day news broadcast I was greeted with the hypocritical sight of the Archbishop of Canterbury calling for more assistance and consideration for the poor….
Whilst perched atop his elaborate throne, firmly grasping his equally fancy golden stick. Spare some change Justin?
When I have children, no doubt I may lavish them with gifts and (fabricated) Christmas sensibilities. The difference is our Christmas will not be exaggerated to the world. It will be a stringently family affair, devoid of the intrusion and the opinions of others or the desire to outwardly publicise the day to our digital acquaintances. Today’s dangerous truth…You can receive all the ‘Likes’ available but they do not equate to true sentiment and yes, the world is watching, but, predominantly it does not actually care.
Filter - Under
A dirty and raw performance which certainly captures the essence of the song.
Primus - Those Damned Blue Collar Tweakers
Just look at that crowd. Regardless of whether they are even Primus fans, everyone is caught in the moment of the song.
Nine Inch Nails - Happiness in Slavery
One of the best live bands in history deliver their best performance.
Faith No More - The Real Thing
After a long hiatus, Faith No More show they can still deliver.
Alice in Chains - Nutshell
The greatest live performance of all time. The moment Layne Staley emerges, and the crowds reaction will always send shivers down my spine. Conflictingly difficult to watch given the circumstances regarding Layne’s obvious drug problem.
There is a small grass verge just at the pinnacle of my village. In a similar sense to how I manage to find myself in an air-conditioning induced coma, this spot has always exerted some mysterious control over my behaviour. It was common during the warmer summer months that following a night of merriment, I would visit this verge and gaze at the stars into the morning hours. Once I believe I did actually fall asleep momentarily. There is evidence to suggest that the local invertebrates exploited my unconscious bulk and utilised me as some kind of bridge. This, however, is not what shamed me, Although it did occur here.
One night I had a companion in my zone of tranquillity. A small brown cat, relaxed and spread out enjoying the night-time aura. I thought this place now definitely has some element of mystical powers if it can transfix both men and beast alike. I took a seat next to the cat who was completely undisturbed to my presence.
As I began to pet the creature there were a few preliminary signals indicating that something was not quite right. Firstly the sheer amount of hair that came off in my hands. I shrugged it off as a drastic moult and even deduced to myself at the possibly that I was dealing with a sufferer feline alopecia. Poor little guy I considered.
Secondly, as I went to get a view of the cat’s face I noticed it had a nosebleed. OK, I thought. Something is clearly not right. There is a line to my naivety in gradually worsening scenarios. I had just encountered it. Upon closer inspection the cat did not only have a nosebleed but was also missing a large portion of its head.
Effectively I had spent fifteen minutes contemplating the wonders of the universe whilst gently caressing road kill. I comforted myself with the notion that I had at least displayed a courteous respect for the dead.
This is the earliest instance that I can remember calling upon the ground to swallow me whole. Going back to primary school, possibly around reception years. Most people’s toilet etiquette is still under development at this stage, I was no different. The catalyst in this episode was the shirt that my mother had provided me with. For a rapidly growing toddler, she customarily clothed me in a shirt that would have potentially fitted a child of ten, let alone a child already diminutive for his age. To clarify this shirt hung down way below my belt line.
At this age (like many hopefully) I sometimes required assistance when wiping. Just as a precautionary measure. This safety net, however, was not available when at school. Most teachers are not properly trained to deal with a child bent over unable to grasp the complexities of toilet paper. So I proceeded alone. Job done, no problems at all. A moment of triumph for a infant. One step towards adulthood. Next stop shaving. As the day progressed, however, there was a highly noticeable aroma of poo. Like a faecal black cloud looming over me. The other children had detected it, as had the teachers. I pleaded genuine ignorance. I far as I was concerned it was not emitting from me.
When I returned home the truth was revealed. My mother, possessing the jurisdiction to investigate further, believed me to have soiled myself. Pants down, no unwanted companions. Where was the smell coming from? She felt it necessary to bathe me and narrow down the possibilities. As I removed my disproportionately large shirt a considerable (and textured) stain became visible on my shirt tails. We have the culprit. In my haste whilst wiping I had somehow managed to trap my shirt between paper and cheeks. Effectively, I had ended up wiping my backside with the clothes I was still wearing. I believe this is the fundamental reason for my long term preference for tighter fitting shirts.
On a night of pre-legal drinking around my friends Grandma’s house we decided it would be a fantastic idea to strip down to our boxers, climb out of the living room window and run to the top of the village. Once all of us had de-clothed and exited the house we quickly reached our intended goal of a semi-streak and headed back. In our absence the owner of the house had awoken, assumed we had simply left the window open and passed out in the numerous vacant sleeping bags littered around the living room. She sensibly locked the window leaving us outside in the bleak November chill.
This left us with two options. Awaken a elderly lady from her slumber to answer the door to a ensemble of partially clad teenage boys or run through the village to my house where my parents had gone away for the night. We chose the latter, although it was considerably difficult explaining the situation when we returned for our clothes the following morning.
Another classroom incident; We fast forward a few years to my time at De Montfort University. Judging by my appearance from pictures of that particular era of my life, it is plausible to assume that many believed I was, in fact, living in a destitute home environment and this only validated their presumptions.
This event encapsulates two equally embarrassing circumstances. Firstly, it was kindly pointed out by a fellow student that, in my morning haste, I had worn my boxers both inside out and back to front. A notion I still frequently repeat. After shrugging off the shame of appearing to be unable to competently dress myself I opened my bag to retrieve my work only for a moth the size of a pigeon to soar out and head directly towards the nearest light source.
The lecture commenced with an occasional flickering of the lights and a faint ‘ping’ every time the moth bounced off the light shade. I can only imagine my face grew a deeper shade of scarlet with every passing collision.
Details of the night included;
Whilst at Sixth Form College in Tamworth I was challenged to a burping contest by a fellow student. In this particular classroom the tables were circular so that every student seated could interact with everyone around them. There were only two males in my A level English class and we usually attempted to exert our manliness in the only capacity that we were capable…toilet humour. We had no problem punctuating a silence with a well timed spot of flatulence, however, one day it went too far.
In a display of machismo pride, the apex male of the class was to be decided by the noble burp contest, the winner having achieved the loudest and longest belch. I took this particular challenge with the utmost seriousness and I began to brew a burp of such ferocity that I feared my tonsils may be expelled by the sheer gastric velocity. Unfortunately, something else decided to escape my digestive tract. Just as I was concluding what would have surely been the winning purge a singular baked bean piloted straight from my stomach, having navigated my oesophagus then through my teeth and landed almost exactly in the centre of the table. Everyone around had the impeccable view of me essentially being sick which, simultaneously caused a bout of contagious nausea amongst my peers.
The most intriguing aspect of this incident is that I clearly remember not having eaten baked beans for at least three days before. To think I am always told that I must possess a high metabolism.