I don’t think it really struck me how important music was to me until I started to work in Elland. Looking back on life I can see now that music has always been an important part of my life but I didn’t really realise this until I started walking to work, when I worked in Elland.
My journey to work in those days took between 30 and 40 minutes, dependent on the weather. It was probably late 2001 when the company I worked for at the time moved from Halifax to Elland, a short couple of miles from my home as the crow flies. I would set out around 07:20, up Crosland Road and across Lindley Moor, over the M62 and down through Blackley into Elland.
It was an awesome route, with fantastic views down into Calderdale. Despite being a lonely and solitary commute, the walk actually made me feel more involved in the community, I don’t know why.
In the early days, I tried to listen to my portable CD player. I had hordes of CD-R compilations that I’d recorded for the commute to Leeds in earlier years. The difference in this case was the seclusion; you can’t really sing along on a train and the background noise seeps in. Walking allowed me to fully appreciate the music I was listening to. As time went on I upgraded to a Creative MP3 player, 40gb of ripped CDs and my favourite compilation discs translated into playlists.
I still listen to music on my commute to work, although buses are no better than trains for listening to music – and I feel guilty if I crank the volume up high enough to drown out the noise. Those days walking to Elland though, they showed my just how integral music is to me. Over those years I came to realise just how much of my philosophy and ideas were based on music; on the lyrics or the way a song made me feel. I realised that a well performed piece of music could actually make me cry – it actually all clicked when I read American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis; music is integral to the inner workings of Patrick Bateman‘s mind.
Since those days, my taste in music has diversified incredibly. I’ve taken time to seek out artists that move me; I’ve also paid attention to recommendations from colleagues, family and friends, to the added benefit of my music collection.
Looking back over the years I can see that I’ve always been heavily influenced by music, maybe we all are. I remember babysitting for my cousins and listening to my uncle’s CDs (I think before we had a CD player at home – or at least CDs); Talking Heads, Big Audio Dynamite and Yello – over and over again like some kind of obsessive compulsive. I still do that when I hear a track or album I like, playing it over and over again until I’ve absorbed it all.
Earlier than that I remember listening to tapes from friends at school – or that my Father would bring home from colleagues at college. My early high school days were all Pet Shop Boys and Queen, slowly moving into Faith No More, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Megadeth and Guns n’ Roses. College itself was all Brit Pop and Grunge; Echobelly, Cud, Nirvana and Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine mixed with Ozric Tentacles, the Orb and the Doors for good measure. Talking Heads, The Police and The The also feature in those halcyon days.
Early family holidays are coloured by the tapes my Father would play in the car. Huey Lewis and the News (another favourite of Bateman’s), The Christians and Paul Simon (as I think about it I can I see where Neil Gaiman might have got Fat Charlie from).
Earlier still we find the staple foundations to my musical taste. The first song I remember is Brown Girl in the Ring by Boney M, followed by the themes from Sapphire & Steel and Monkey then later by various Pink Floyd and Queen tracks. In my memory of the early 80’s I would definitely classify myself as a new romantic but wasn’t everyone back then?
Over the years I’ve developed a strong connection to certain artists over others. These are artists that I can listen to again and again without getting bored; they are also artists that have had the most profound effect on my psyche. Some of these, like Kate Bush, The Police and The Doors are definitely down to a parental influence during my youth, the others are artists that I’ve collected during adulthood, like Killing Joke, No Doubt and Kelli Ali (the first artist who ever made me cry listening to a song).
The strongest influence I have noticed about music is the way that it can instantly evoke memories. If I listen to Dire Straits, Brothers In Arms i am taken back to the second of Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently books; the first can be evoked by T’Pau’s Bridge of Spies. Listening to Nirvana always brings to mind my reading Mark Morris‘s Toady – just as strongly as burning Poppy Incense reminds me of the first Baldur’s Gate PC game.
The strange thing is, I don’t really perform musically. I played clarinet at school and am still trying to learn to play the guitar but I’m no musician, I struggle to keep up with guitar games on my X-box. I can hold tune passably as a singer but nothing to write home about. I envy musicians immensely they have a way of sharing their feelings with the world that goes beyond words and pictures. Maybe I’m a musician trapped in a programmer’s body, maybe I’m yet to find my medium?