Monday, 29 December 2008

The History of Music 19Seventy Something to The Present Day - Part One

This morning I was reading an article on pre-writing activities for EFL classes. The general idea is that you do a series of things before the actual writing, in order to make it easier yet more rewarding for your students. A good example for this is simply asking your students to 'write a story', to which they reply 'About what? I can't think of anything!' Whereas, compare this to playing them pieces of music, and asking them to decide what kind os scene in a movie this might be the soundtrack to, and they are off and running with a bag of ideas.

One of many ideas with music in the classroom included asking people to write a kind of personal music history, as placing a song in a time and a place tends to bring back lots of memories. You hear a snippet of the song in your head and the memories come flooding back, great for 'jumping off points' for a piece of writing. What did you listen to when you were a kid? What music was in the house? What did your parents listen to? What was your older brother or sister listening to? What about at school? Who were the heroes of the day? And do you and your loved one have that special song too?

Does it work though? As a poor man's muso, with anorak tendencies, I decided to put it to the test. Obviously, I took it to the absolute extreme, and rather than making a note of a few songs I liked, I thought I'd map out my entire listening history, just for the hell of it. And, don't you know, the memories did come flowing back. It was interesting to see how much more conservative my tastes have become, which is natural I guess, but also to notice that essentialy, I always go back to the same. The change in formats mean that you lose a lot of stuff along the way. Jesus there was a lot of rubbish, some of which sems to have come full circle and sound almost contemporary again. So, without further ado (it's a real word, look it up), and with links to all the audio rubbish that makes me who I am today, here is the

Official Musical History of Shropshire Lad Birth to 1980

I looked through the pop charts for 1975, but can't remember anything, although the charts from 1976 throw up clear memories, which would make me musically aware at the age of 7. Showaddywaddy's Under The Moon of Love is a clear memory, as are gangs of Teddy Boys in Blackpool on a day out with my grandmother (I thought they were exclusive to Blackpool at the time). Darts popped up in about 1977 and I loved Daddy Cool. The only punk related memory from this time was some talk of 'the lad round the block', who wore a 'bum bag', although I was never really sure what this was (the bitter Darts entry in Wikipedia reads "The band is still in the Top 250 selling list according to the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles. Despite this, and the fact that they remain Britain's best-known doo-wop vocal group, they receive almost no coverage compared to other doo-wop revival groups of the period such as Showaddywaddy").

I guess we also start with the music in the house, I certainly did. There were plenty of records to choose from including Elvis, (who now lives in Argentina, and may well have gone to the World Cup Final mentioned below), and, though I hate to say it, Cliff Richard's 'Thank You Very Much' live album with The Shadows got a lot of airplay in our living room around 1978. You can't really go wrong with Willie & The Hand Jive or Apache, can you? Also in the rack was Neil Diamond's 'Hot August Night', and his throaty "Good Lord!" at the start of the album got a good airing. It was the heaviest piece of rock in the house, apart from the rocks my Dad brought back from geology trips. I'm not making this up.

Of course, 1978 was the year of Grease, and all those singles seemed to dominate Top of the Pops for ever. For ever is a long time when you're 9. I also had a World Cup Final Birthday Party, and we saw Argentina beat Holland 3-1 (and the fixed 6-0 against Peru before???). I'd end up in a bar in Buenos Aires 25 years later, watching Birmingham v Arsenal with my brother.

1976 may have been the coming of punk, sweeping away the old guard, but it went unnoticed by me apart from an unsuspecting DJ playing 'Frigging in the Rigging' (B Side of the 'Somethin Else' cover) at a Park Junior School disco 3 years later. You'd think the title may have given him a clue to why he'd had so many requests for it. The year it all changed for me was 1979 (we watched The Waltons on BBC2 while we ate our tea), as in the same year up popped The Specials, 'Oliver's Army' by Elvis Costello, and the Smokey Robinson cover of 'Tears of a Clown' by The Beat. This was music by serious people in odd suits. Of course, I was equally as interested in Racey and 'Some Girls'.

The Jam's 'Going Underground', The Specials 'Too Much Too Young', Dexy's 'Geno', The Vapours 'Turning Japanese', all came out in 1980, and were all purchased in John Menzies in Wellington by the future fat Shropshire Lad. But, beating all of them hands down? 'Midnite Dynamos' by Matchbox.

This period was also notable for K-Tel's timeless classic, 'Axe Attack', surely the finest metal compilation to find its way into Haygate Drive. Just reading the track list gives you shivers. It was the music your mates big brother listened to. It was ROCK. Apart from Aerosmith's 'Sweet Emotion', it's music for 12 year olds. If you were still listening to The Scorpions years later you were a bit soft in the head, or coming out of east Berlin. Even then I thought Iron Maiden plainly ridiculous, although you can't knock an album too much that has Rainbow's 'All Night Long' and ACDC's 'Highway to Hell'.


  1. You had to endure Cliff, I had Guy Mitchell.

    You purchased the cool records from Menzies, and I spent my pocket money in there on Adam & The Ants Prince Charming and The Police 'Don't Stand So Close To Me'.

    Looking forward to Part II - I'm assuming it's the U2 and REM years? :-)

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  3. A Wellingtonian Menzies shopper, or just a Menzies shopper?

  4. The one sandwiched someway between what was Tony Cox's casual menswear, and a reputedly fast car tyre fitters.

    Bring on Bob Mould and The Cranberries :-)

  5. Reveal your true identity you fiend!

  6. "Paddy" with the Irish elements extracted. That's two clues (and an unintended minor insult) in one.

  7. I have no idea what the hell that means. It's like a clue by Ted Rodgers on ITV's 3-2-1.

    I suspect you like Depeche Mode and support Wolves.

    Am I right?

  8. LOL.

    Let's see if you're right. Max & Paddy is the title of the popular Channel 4 show starring Peter Kay. If you replace the name Peter with another similar poor sounding name from the '70s, one you're familiar with, you get Niall - and with the Irish elements extracted - Neil.

    You've done Telford proud - you've avoided Dusty Bin, and have won the family collection of folding bicycles.

    Enjoying the blog, btw.

  9. Ha! You have been rumbled sir! I am delighted with the folding bikes and intend to cross the Andes on one.

    Glad you're enjoying the blog and looking forward to the 'Bob Mould Years', which sounds as dull as it will be.

    All the best Paddy.