Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Day Thirteen - Appreciative August


I think Sally Albright's best friend (Carrie Fisher)said it best when she tells her boyfriend, "Look, everyone thinks they have good taste and a great sense of humour, but we can't possibly all have great taste so...." she wins the argument and he's forced to leave his wagon-wheel coffee table outside on the kerb.

The same goes for music. We all have our obscure bands that we loved and either hoped they'd make it big (to prove our skills at finding real talent) or remain alternative and undiscovered if only to increase our own coolness factor.

If you're firmly in FM-playlist territory, this is easy to fake by inventing any weird name in your head, citing them as your favourite band, adding, "...but Flunkey Munkey and the Fudge Buckets were really only big on the US college circuit and the indy scene for a short time but were fantastic to see play live...." People will politely say, "Oh..." and leave it at that; mercifully granting you one less sneer at your daggy mainstreamishness.

Our first loves in music, of course, were nowhere near as mannered and as consciousness as they are now. When I first heard ABBA sing 'SOS' in 1975, I was immediately smitten. Sure, being only seven years old at the time had limited my capacity to analyse a well-written lyric or wardrobe, but the love was real, and has endured over the years.

I'll never forget the disappointment at not being allowed to go to the Abba concert at footy park in 1977 ("The tickets are fourteen dollars each - that's far too much!") but made do with a t-shirt transfer given away in Bata school shoe boxes, eating their pink bubble gum, subscribing to their monthly fan magazine and grabbing every single poster, annual or book I could lay my hands on. They were so melodic, so Swedishly beautiful (yes, I was always Agnetha and my brunette neighbour Jodi was Frida, or my little brother was bodily forced to take over if Jodi was unavailable) and it seemed as though everyone's Mum and Dad liked them so we got to hog the family radiogram (in 'clear mono sound') or early stereos without being told to turn it off.

Abba were such a departure from what my parents inflicted on us - The Ray Conniff Singers, Roger Whitaker (good whistler, but not really enough to sustain an entire music career), Nana Mouskouri (resembling an earnest English teacher), Neil Diamond (I forgave them for Neil as his 'Hot August Night' double set is now also in my collection), Simon and Garfunkel (ditto) and anything that 5MU played in between announcing the Saturday sports results after tea.

In January 1989 when I bought my first serious stereo system complete with both a turntable and a CD player, I shamefully hid my ABBA CDs under a pile of the more acceptable (at the time, at least) albums by Icehouse, Ian Moss and Midnight Oil. I daresay I was one of the very few 20 year olds who had spent their first real paycheque on buying CDs of every single one of ABBA's albums which I already owned on vinyl. Even now when I hear 'When I kissed the teacher', I still pause where the record used to skip before realising that it doesn't happen on the CD.

By 1979, I was eleven and boys had started to feature as serving a purpose other than to chase, pummel and give a dead leg to, and rollerskating became my main passion. Round and round the cement path of our house, with my transistor radio fastened to my jeans with one of Dad's old belts. Or better still, dropped off at the Murray Bridge basketball stadium with three dollars so that I could hire a pair of real rollerskates (the boots, not the-strap-your-sneakers-into kind) and wheel around the double courts for an hour in an anti-clockwise direction before the bored manager would holler out, "REVERSE NOW" for the remaining hour. I'd limp home with heels covered in blisters, legs shaking in exhaustion and a huge smile on my face.

Part of the attraction was the music - 1979 saw an end to dodgy disco (which I'm proud to say that I never liked) and the obsession with John Travolta (Grease - bleugh) and an emergence of post-punk edginess. The rollerskating entrepreneurs only had the one soundtrack, but thank fully it included 'Video Killed the Radio Star', My Sharona, Turning Japanese, Billy Joel's 'It's still rock-n-roll to me', Ian Dury and the Blockheads' Hit Me with your rhythm stick, lots of Blondie, Boney M, Racey and the entire song list of Voulez Vous.

The eighties found me watching Countdown on Sunday nights religiously and only playing the ABBA records on my own - like an old friend that I didn't want my new, cooler mates (or tapes) to find out about. Madness, The Police, Styx (yes, *sigh* yes....), Foreigner, Huey Lewis (yes, the 1983 album. But only in 1983) and anything seasonally marketed: 1980 Full Boar (with a fetching photograph of a severed pig's head wearing a pair of massive headphones); 1982 With A Bullet, 1983 In The Sun and 1984 Choose Life!

Senior highschool and university saw Midnight Oil, U2, Hunters and Collectors, Joe Jackson, Spy vs Spy, Hoodoo Gurus, Oingo Boingo, The Damned and Bruce Springsteen take over. Sadly, some have become stuck on the constant rotation of FM 'classic hits' playlists, but at the time they were chock-full of energy, aggro and life and were the soundtracks to pub crawls, 18ths, 21sts, housewarmings, all-night essay fests and camping trips. Kissing Sean to Bruce's 'I drove all night', yelling drunkenly along to 'Am I ever gonna see your face again' at the Dover pub in North Adelaide; throwing myself down onto the carpet during 'Rock Lobster' and listening to Fine Young Cannibals 'Good Thing' in the car on the way home from my graduation.

Ugly Kid Joe doesn't automatically spring to mind as a band known for romance, but their remake of the song 'The Cat's in the Cradle' was on heavy airplay when I was heavily into Love Chunks. I danced with baby Sapphire to 'Blue-da-ba-dee' as she giggled with glee; pretended to ballroom dance with her at three years old to 'Rollercoaster' and now lie on her bed with her, reading our respective magazines and absent-mindedly sing along to the Mamma Mia soundtrack. "Slipping through my fingers all the time...."

These days, music is much less at the forefront of my consciousness and is more like the clumsy kid with the red cordial allergy who accidentally plummets into wet cow shit on the farm excursion and is now sitting alone at the very end of the bus: loved in his own way, but not entirely wanted right now.

In my more stressed-out career moments, the clueless fumblings of new parenthood, unforeseen depression, exhaustion, insomnia, migraine-recovery, meditation with L plates and simply hanging around with Sapphire it has been silence as the preferred soundtrack to my life. Preferably with a good glass of red or icy cold Farmers Union Iced Coffee in hand as well.

Until now, that is. After being given an iPod for Christmas 2005, I've finally got around to using it. A full weekend of copying, downloading, developing playlists etc for running, power walking and themed albums has taken me right back to 1984 when I was the proud owner of a double tape deck. The sound quality's much better these days but the aim is the same - putting together a playlist that shows what great taste I have.

"If you change your mind, I'm the first in line, Honey I'm still free, take a chance on me......"


Chestnut Mare said...

I was there rollerskating at the basketball courts, at the showgrounds too. The tune I remember most is Stevie Wonder's "Master Blaster". Everyone would get up for that one!

Anonymous said...

Hey, tickets to the ABBA concert were *fifteen* dollars, not fourteen. This was outrageous at a time when the standard ticket price was $9.90

(I still recall listening in 1973 to my older brother on the phone to a friend explaining that no, $5.00 was just too much to pay for a ticket to see the Rolling Stones at Memorial Drive)

And interesting that you should say your iPod is full of 1984 music - I read something the other day where some bloke was claiming that one's musical taste is formed in the early teens and rarely wavers thereafter - reckon he might have been onto something.


Kath Lockett said...

Ah yes, 'Master Blaster' - you're thinking 1980, my friend, not 1979! Add 'Echo Beach' and even (gasp) Cliff Richard's 'Dreamin' to that list, and I was there too!

BS - I stand corrected. I also remember paying an enormous $42 to see Dire Straits at Footy Park in early 86, which was a big step from shelling out $28 to see Midnight Oil at Memorial Drive in 1985...

myninjacockle said...

I had no chance to form musical taste in my early teens - our mobile houshold had one am tranny reserved by dad only for the cricket, and a record player and associated stack of records of which the 1812 overture, captain beaky and johnny cash live at san quentin (which does rock)were the closest things to popular music.

I got a walkman for my 14th birthday and am still proud that red sails in the sunset was my first purchase.

franzy said...

My god.
I hate every single song and artist mentioned in this post. Everything you've listed or even mentioned I have never willingly listened to, instead I've been forced into it by FM radio, musak, working at weddings, parties. Every piece of music here represents the ubiquity of Baby-Boomer/Gen-X culture over pretty much everything since and is why pretty much everyone I know doesn't like my taste in music.

That said, I can understand completely why you love every single thing you've listed. They are (mostly) all great songs and artists and hearing ABBA for the first time would have been magic.

Anonymous said...

Do you think you'd have liked them any if you hadn't been forced to listen to them?

River said...

Two and a half YEARS before you used your i-pod?? Wow,that's a record I'm sure.

gigglewick said...



I grew up with a dad who was heavily into music and a former member of the atrociously named ‘Soft White’ acoustic duo circa 1974 Melbourne pub scene. One of my vaguely coolsie claims to fame is that my parents met in a pub and eloped (not on the same night).

My youthful music consisted of whatever my dad put on (which meant Cream, the Yardbirds, the Eagles, and Santana). The first gig I ever went to was Goanna and Cattle Truck (jeeze what happened to Cattle Truck???) and the second was Men at Work, both when I was eight.

As a little ‘un I loved Kiss but then developed an enduring love of Split Enz. As a kid I liked pretty much whatever was going including but not limited to Cyndi Lauper, Crowded House, Hoodoo Gurus and Madonna.

As a teenager it became the Pixies, The Church, the Chills and the Clouds. By the time I was seeing bands illegally but of my own choice it was the Badloves, the Mavis’, Dead Salesmen and Spiderbait. And whatever local death metal was going – that seemed to be the thing in those days (the mid 90s).

At the moment I seem to be listening to ‘Employment’ by Kaiser Chiefs on almost constant rotation with ‘Veneer’ by Jose Gonzalez, 'Broken Boy Soldiers' by the Raconteurs and ‘Graceland’ by Paul Simon occasionally making an appearance.

I like to embrace my inner dork. It makes the (very) occasional flashes of coolness seem that much more surprising to people.

Naomi said...

Great post Kath! Confession time, I downloaded the mp3s of all the tracks off the vinyl 1982 Out of the Blue and have them as a folder on my I-Pod, sad but true - Flock of Seagulls, Hooters, Huey Lewis and the News too funny!!!

Now my young guitarist is into Metallica, so I have had my share of exposure to them and system of a down!

Kath Lockett said...

Franzy - I *knew* you'd hate the ones I mentioned - I hate most of them now too, precisely for the reasons you (and I) mentioned earlier.

Gigglewick - Soft White conjures up all sorts of unpleasant images

Myninja - Red Sails was my most listened to TAPE of 1985. It helped me survive matric! (sick to death of it now of course)

River - I got it during my 'I hate the Beyonce, rap-crap, nickelback shite on FM and the utter shite on the ad-free JJJ' stage, and preferred silence. Now I'm addicted to the treadmill, I started to use it. And like it. And am keen to find new music to put on it, not just old faves...

Naomi - apparently the 'System of a Down' guys have a new album, 'Scars on Broadway.' I got it to review, but it's ~ahem~ a bit too harshly sexist and brutal for my tastes.... maybe I could fling it to you for pre-listening and then one of your boys could have it?

Anonymous said...


"And you just thought you were weird...

Psychiatrists assessing their patients should consider their music taste in their assessment, says a study published in the “Australasian Psychiatry”. It found that people who listen to pop music are insecure about their sexuality, jazz types are loners and misfits, rap and metal fans are more likely to drive drunk and have unprotected sex, while fans of metal, trance and emo are more likely to suicide."

ashleigh said...

Hmm. I used to listen to all sorts when growing up. Dad was (and is) a classical nut and audiophile (see my series about repairs to the Quad speakers, a mere $25K a pair) so we had that all the time. But on my own I listened to everything. Well, everything you could, back in the 1970's and 80's.

These days, the kids have the ipod clones at $69 on ebay (I'm tight, and they learned off me), and I like the sounds of silence. And not Simon and Garfunkle. Which was fantastic in about 1986, but these days, real golden silence. We get so little of it. Everywhere you go, bloody muzak or a radio channel. Shopping. Doctors waiting room. Dentist. Commercial buildings. And evil shit neighbours who decide that I need to listen to their music when in my lounge. With the doors and windows shut. And bolted. Hey you prats, I'm not asking you to ENTERTAIN ME. If I want that I'll do it myself, thanks. And my taste is still back in 1986, so kindly F*$% off.

Silence is underappreciated, and gives time to think. Without thinking we are lost. No wonder our civilisation seems to be heading to doom. All that mindless crap music repeated over and over in 3 minute cycles. Nobody thinks. ARRRGGHHH.

Kath Lockett said...

Anonymous 2 wrote "It (a study) found that people who listen to pop music are insecure about their sexuality"
..... well that would be about 99.9% of us, wouldn't it?
As Rob Gordon says in the movie 'High Fidelity', "What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?"

Ashleigh, sweetie-darling-sweetie, you need a holiday!

Baino said...

Great post . . brings back the memories alright. There is ALWAYS music in my house, I can't stand the silence. I'm always surprised as a uber loyal Double J and now Triple J listener that I know the words to more pop songs than I should! Probably due to the influence of the musak and the fact that we listen to commercial radio at work that keeps dredging up the hits of the 80s and 90's. Appart from a period of appalling bad taste during my yummy mummy days, I've had pretty eclectic taste but was never an Abba fan . . until recently. . .saw Mama Mia on the stage a few years ago and loved the music. I must be insecure about my sexuality, more likely to drive drunk and have unprotected sex,with a propensity to suicide! I'm a psychiatrists field day if my musical tastes are to be analysed! (can't stand Jazz or Opera)

TOM said...

"You are a Dancing Queen"

I remember being in Oakland Colosseum in the 1979 to see the Rolling Stones "Some Girls Tour" and on stage before the show there was a guy announcing a "Smash Your Disco Records" event and starting a "Disco Sucks !! " Chant..I didn't have any disco records so I didn't go. There was a Disco in San Francisco at the time called Dance Your Ass Off Incorporated, I did go there once but I didn't dance. I didn't want to hurt anyone !!

River said...

Anonymous, what does the Australasian Psychiatry have to say about people who listen to country music? The happy country/rock stuff not the "woe is me, my darlin's left me" stuff.

Kath Lockett said...

River, that reminds me of a song I heard about twenty years ago - Drop Kick Me Jesus, Through The Goal Posts of Life....

Naomi said...

Oh yeah fling away - I'll do the required "mum" screen and see how we go the "mum" screen I find it all quite hilarious since I am actually only masquerading as a mature adult!

ChrisMooreMusic said...

I can't believe I've never been to see Billy Joel live, even when both he and Elton John came around a few years ago. I love Billy Joel songs and I love how he tends to stick to his own material and not play as many cover songs. One of these days...