So this is the first of these assignments I’ve carried out, and a great place to start because I can’t imagine my life without it being filled with music. Beware the nostalgia wallow to follow…! My father loved Neil Diamond, my mum Cliff Richard (this apple fell quite far from that particular tree!). Before they split they ran a pub in which there was a solitary turntable that cranked out late 70s singles, including the phenomenal Gordon is a Moron by Jilted John, and Ian Drury’s Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick.
At the same time my big brother was falling in love with metal. AC/DC, Led Zep, Iron Maiden, Rainbow, Slayer, Black Sabbath, The Scorpions – the first posters on my otherwise pink bedroom walls were his discarded Rainbow pics (‘it’s been only an hour, since they locked her in the TOWER!’ – 20th Century Greensleeves). I was designated his personal slave at this point of our relationship and every Saturday after the night before he’d lie stinking in bed and I would have to change his records for him (he cringes when I remind him of this now!). He also loved the theatrical – Meatloaf, ELO and Queen. Through him I had a solid metal education which stood me in good stead with the long haired boys of my clubbing years – whilst my personal tastes were decidedly goth, I could talk Ozzy with the best of them.
As I am the only person left in the family with a turntable I have now inherited his entire vinyl collection. At Christmas last year Big Bro turned up with several boxes, and his lovely wife also gifted me her alternative 80’s (including most of the Smiths back catalogue). Christmas Day 2013 then became an epic sing off in the dining room, much to my mum’s horror. All was going well until my brother and I decided to have a duel to ‘Whole Lotta Rosie‘…
During the late 1980s and early 1990s I spent time in my bedroom wearing black, fingerless gloves indoors in summer and listening to the Cure, All About Eve, Jesus and the Mary Chain, The Mission etc etc like a proper baby bat. These years didn’t have a great deal to offer for the local goth in Newcastle, so we all mushed in with the metallers in Trillians rock bar and then the Mayfair nightclub. My best friend Heather was – and still is – an uber-rock babe. I’d be swathed in black cotton or velvet, she’d be strutting about on podiums in faux leather hot pants and bustier. All the boys in sixth form were into Guns and Roses, Anthrax, WASP and the Kings of Hair Metal – Motley Crue. It was as if the 1990’s grunge era bypassed Newcastle – like me it was stuck firmly in the 80s though I did an impressively bad dance floor stomp to Smells Like Teen Spirit.
I still love this music. It reminds me of a time when life wasn’t so complicated. It was light in world that was otherwise swathed in shades of black. It was my openly guilty pleasure. It brings my family and friends together, bonded under a common thread of nostalgia.
This music has also wound it’s way into my writing. Each book I’ve written, or story I’m plotting, has a playlist. The metal era informs my 1980’s coming of age novel, Poison Prince, where every chapter heading is a song from the 1980s. I have I-Pod playlists set up accordingly – for novels each one has a total of 31 tracks for no reason that I have yet fathomed. I’m currently researching music of the Great War which is taking me into completely uncharted territory – hymns, classical music, war ballads etc. The playlist isn’t complete yet but it begins with Vaughan Williams Lark Ascending, which was written on the eve of war.
Tonight I’m off to an alt / goth gig. Right now I’m off to crank up my old turntable again, and shake my ass to a Queen crescendo. Have a great weekend, people.