Thursday, 5 May 2016

Musical Foundations

I noticed most of my recent [and sadly, rare] posts on this blog deal with music. I can see why; music represents something nice to fall back on in times of stress. But I can also see another reason: music acts as a pillar on which my identity rests.
When I ponder this last point, I can conclude there are several distinct eras in my life, as far as music is concerned. These are firmly defined by available technology and the financial means at my disposal. In this post I want to focus on the second of these eras. That was the era when I was still too young to have my own music but old enough to be able to play the music available to me, through my older siblings, to my musical pleasure.
Given those were the true heydays days of vinyl (unlike the current pseudo retro resurrection with all the cool folk), I didn't have that much to play with. But my siblings did have a substantial collection, by the era's standards, and I did have much to listen to.
It is important for me to emphasise how important this collection and its substantial nature were to me and my personal development. Nowadays we are all spoiled by streaming, but up until a bit more than a decade ago people's musical tastes were dictated primarily by one single factor: scarcity.
Think and rethink that point, as we acknowledge that scarcity problem was solved by one single factor driving the industry to change: piracy. Blessed are the pirates!
OK, back to the main theme. Of all the albums in the collection available to me, there were three albums that stood apart, the albums I kept listening to again and again. I am here to name and praise them.

1. The Police: Reggatta de Blanc
Many things conspired to attract me to this album. The cover, for a start, or rather the back cover depicting the backs of the heads of the trio that was The Police. The ongoing discussions about the gibberish record titles The Police liked to pick. (Which, now we know, was not gibberish at all. Allegedly, Sting never liked rock music, and decided to come with with white people's reggae - Reggatta de Blanc - as an alternative). To this budding science fiction fan, the lure of Walking on the Moon was also a substantial factor.
But most of all, it was the music that stood out. I recall having arguments with my sister, who liked to complain I listen to this album way too much. I should, she argued, listen to proper reggae instead, "like UB40". To which I will say, with the benefit of hindsight: In your face!

2. Dire Straits: Making Movies
To give credit where credit is due, Dire Straits were probably my overall biggest music love at the time. I loved all their albums I had available at the time, Dire Straits, Communiqué and Making Movies; it's just that I deemed, and still deem, Making Movies to be the best of the lot (including the albums that came later).
I think it is obvious to say that it is Mark Knopfler's fault that I love the electric guitar as much as I do. No other instrument comes close.

3. Pink Floyd: Animals
I hear you asking why, of all the Pink Floyd albums, did I pick Animals in particular? The answer is simple: that's the best Pink Floyd album I had available on vinyl.
Many things attracted me to this album. Again, the cover played a factor, with that pig hovering over the big power station (when the time came and I visited London, I made sure I took all the photos I could of that rather ugly blight). There were the pig oink sounds that opened the song Pigs ("wow, is that music?"). And there were lines along the lines of "hey you White House, charade you are"; I mean, this was the first time I was exposed to such a blatant anti authoritarian call.
Over the years, Pink Floyd grew to be my favourite band, by far, and the makers of my favourite album, by far (an album that preceded Animals, but not for me). It was that last point, the political, that probably touched me the most. Given this piece is written under the assumption music is a pillar to my identity, the point is worth elaborating on.
What are our political opinions made of, anyway? Let us be honest, most of us shape our views from ideas we gather along the way. In other words, we are influenced by the political opinions of others to whom we are exposed. In the case of Pink Floyd, one can argue that the person I am today shares the bulk of his political views with Roger Waters, the band's main creator during its peak years and a guy often accused of owning up to scandalous views. I think I owe Waters a lot, particularly for The Wall in the worldview department and The Final Cut in the political department.
To the point of wondering whether I agree with Pink Floyd because of mere coincidence, a case of great minds think alike, or whether it was actually Pink Floyd that shaped me to be the person I am today. It's probably both.

Copyrights for the album cover images belong to their matching labels; reproduced here under the assumption of fair use

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