So there I am, aged 14 or so, happily listening to my cassette of Tango in the Night by Fleetwood Mac, my Iron Maiden albums and my Bon Jovi singles * when, on a holiday in the Lake District, my friend Andy plays me a scratchy tape copy of a song called Slow by My Bloody Valentine and all of a sudden I’m catapulted deep into droney shoe-gazing music, growing my hair and pestering my mum to buy me some 8-hole DMs.
I still remember what it felt like. In a moment I realised all I knew about music was suddenly wrong. Or if not wrong, then certainly out-dated and a bit embarassing. This new music had been made for me, by people that understood exactly what I like, how I felt, what appeals to me and what makes the hairs stand up on the back of my next. It felt like that song was a metal bar laid across the tracks of my musical taste, and when I hit it, it sent me careering in a new direction on a voyage of discovery.
These moments happen to us all. At least I hope they do, I can’t imagine being stuck with the same taste in music for ever and ever. If this is the sorry state you find yourself in, please accept my sympathies. Anyway, as my music taste expanded these moments happened a lot at first and less often later on, as finding anything genuinely unlike anything I’d ever heard before became statistically less and less likely.
It’s worth noting that these musical derailments aren’t necessarily caused by songs that go on to be your favorites. The second one I experienced was The Orb’s Peel Session version of the mighty A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld (Loving You). It was released in 1991 and played as part of Peel’s festive 50, to which I listened on my little radio in the dark when I was supposed to be asleep. It’s not my favorite Orb track now – in fact it’s not even my favourite version of A Huge Ever Growing Brain… ** – but it will always remain the tune that made me realise how spectacular electronic music can be.
So, after The Orb sent me sideways, the next moment came courtesy of Acen’s Optikonfusion remix of Close Your Eyes, a slab of hardcore rave music with a pitched up sample from The Beatles’ Here Comes The Sun that signalled the beginning of my long love affair with rave, and the next when I heard Q Project’s Champion Sound, the track which led me deep into the heart of the jungle.
After many years of listening to electronic music to the exclusion of pretty much everything else, I was reminded how good real music is by Badly Drawn Boy’s Bewilderbeast and how good rock music is by The White Stripes’ Ball and Biscuit. In 2006 I finally worked out that folk music is a thing of wonder thanks to Flook and their track Gone Fishing. Most recently I discovered that a bit of country is a beautiful thing when I heard Dolly Parton’s stunning Little Sparrow in a youth hostel in Betws-y-Coed.
As I said, these moments are fewer and further between these days and I haven’t had one for a good few years, but I’m always looking for them because nothing beats that feeling of freefall when you realise everything you thought before was wrong and the world has just got a little better.
*By the way you’ll be pleased to know I have re-embraced Fleetwood Mac and Iron Maiden since that moment… but not Bon Jovi I’m afraid.
** This is my favuorite mix of A Huge Ever Growing Brain