Just recently I’ve found myself immersed in a whole new world of reading, mainly about Pop music and its extremely interesting history, little quirks, stories, hidden gems of anecdotes and other fascinating facts that continue to surprise me. I’ve always had an interest in Pop music, but since ‘becoming’ a musician, I’ve been guilty of really ignoring the world of Pop (mainly the manufactured ‘throwaway’ type stuff) and focussing on more ‘serious’ (I hate that term) music. However, of late I’ve managed to have an open mind and listen to the ‘work’ of Pop acts that are more mainstream and mass marketed than I normally would, the catalogue of sensations like Rihanna, Katy Perry and others. .
This new found interest really sparked from reading Bob Stanley’s outstanding and extremely well researched encyclopaedia of Pop history, “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah – The Story of Modern Pop”, which takes you through the last fifty years of Pop history fleeting back and forth over the Atlantic to give an excellent perspective on the time and place of these wonderful records. Personally, it was the short anecdotes and pockets of insider knowledge that I loved; the fact that Marvin Gaye played on Little Stevie Wonder’s first single, or the fact that ‘House’ music was simply named after a club in Chicago called ‘The Warehouse’. The whole thing was fascinating and I can’t recommend it enough. I even attended his talk during the Aye Right Festival and I’ve even made a handy playlist of all the tracks that are mentioned.
During my reading of this book, my wife mentioned that she had heard Stuart Maconie on BBC Radio Scotland talking about a book called “The People’s Songs – The Story of Modern Britain in 50 Records” and that he was in fact planning a talk about this book in the Stirling Tolbooth that very week. I quickly booked my ticket and attended. It was wonderful and gave an insight into Great Britain through fifty songs that clearly indicate what is going on at the time through the music, there was also a radio show that was aired alongside the publication of the book, but the talk was informative, funny, and full of those little anecdotes that I loved from Bob Stanley’s book. Again, I’d recommend this to anyone interested in music of any genre in the last seven decades; from Vera Lynn’s “We’ll Meet Again”, to Dizzee Rascal’s “Bonkers”.
Both these books coincided with my wife’s birthday, and my choice this year was to buy her a turntable. After managing to track one down on ebay for £6.00, we raided our parents vinyl collection and have began to enjoy music on a different level. Listening to music on a turntable (especially when you have never had one at home) focusses you on what you are listening to, and encourages you to stay in the room and listen to the music rather that attending to the washing, ironing, and other household tasks. We now choose a record and sit quietly whilst one of us examines the sleeve notes and artwork. It could be a novelty that will quickly wear off, almost as quick as one side of an LP, but I hope it doesn’t.
I am still fully enthusiastic about Spotify and I love the idea of the entire volume of music available at my fingertips at any given time (3G permitting), but there is something I can’t quite put my finger on when it comes to listening, really listening.