I, Me, Mine
I was only five when man first walked on the moon, twelve when Johnny Rotten swore on teatime TV, nineteen when Duran Duran set sail for the high seas of the 80s. But the extraordinary, otherworldly sounds of the late 60s – etheric, electrifying , antique harpsichord and sliding strings caught up in a Leslie cabinet’s whirl – seem always to have been there, underscoring childhood, adolescence and adulthood alike.
This can’t be just a matter of nostalgia. I was a child of the 60s only inasmuch as I was born in 1964. The Beatles were Number One with Can’t Buy Me Love but my parents would more likely be listening to Eine kleine Nachtmusik. Yet it feels as if I must have heard at least Yellow Submarine, surely I Can’t Let Maggie Go – not to mention some of those quirky Deram oddities. But I can’t say where, when or with whom. All I can say is that, looking back, it feels as if that music was there with me. How could it possibly not have been? Or perhaps the open-plan optimism of my childhood – our hallway’s textured bamboo exotica wallpaper, my mother’s flowery chaise longue, an olive and orange lava lamp – later became synaesthesised with the music of the time (I didn’t properly discover the Beatles until the early 1980s).
Looking through crystal spectacles
Some things I can say.
In the early 70s, wonderful Radio 1 wafted across our garden from next door’s kitchen radio. There might have been some rays of Piccadilly Sunshine amidst the glam.
In 1985, the joyous Flowers in the Rain leaked from the orange, spongy ear-pads of my newly acquired Walkman on a morning sprint to catch the 8.09 to Guildford for that year’s summer job.
The early 90s brought new delights found in an album’s well-worn grooves – The Trees, Quintessence, Richie Havens – the fruits of a Sunday afternoon’s rifling in Camden’s second-hand record shops.
Sometimes the sounds of the 60s rang out loud and clear but mostly they were submerged, whether by my parents’ early training in classical music or comprehensive secondary’s onslaught of bespittled punk. Sometimes they have found me but more often than not I’ve found them. And when I have, it’s like hearing something which I always knew was there. Through the transport of delight there‘s a strange familiarity.
Maybe it’s because those sounds seem to emanate not just from my half-remembered early childhood but from a largely vanished England, remnants of a project which died a thousand deaths – Ronan Point 1968, Hendrix and Joplin 1970, the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979. Perhaps an aftermath still lingers around the sky-high exuberance of Centre Point, even as it is re-designated as multi-million pound apartments for absent overseas businessmen. And there’s a certain kind of magic when the sun glints through overhanging leaves which whispers of the-land-of-doesn’t-have-to-be.
Oh if you will listen…
I am writing this in my south-east London flat with The Millennium’s There is Nothing More to Say playing through my PC‘s speakers. Curt’s voice drifts across the bedroom as my boiler quietly hums, a car alarm beeps from several streets away and somewhere a plane flies overhead. Someone is felling a tree. Still Curt sings: ‘Oh If you will listen I will sing in your ear of some words that perhaps will sound strange…’
It’s just as it always was – sounds from a distant shore beamed from another planet to the here and now, colouring our everyday.