Wednesday, 19 October 2005

Musical memories and discoveries

I started writing this as a reply to Pete's comment in the Cold Fact post, and then realised it was probably worthy of a new post of its own.

I made a statement in that post that music rarely does it for me as much as it used to. Pete made the following comment:

I think too that we tend to romanticise that part of our life a bit much, and it may be that your memory of the music's effect at this time is a bit clouded... but then again, I agree, it ain't what it used to be.

I agree that it is human nature to romanticise the past when thinking about musical memories and discoveries. But there's still no denying the fact that music still doesn't do it for me as much as it used to.

Ahh the memories...

There was this cool library in the Union Building at Monash Uni where you chose a record from their collection, gave it to the attendant, and spent an hour or so just kicking back on the couch with earphones, listening to the record. A great way to kill time between lectures. The first time I heard The Smiths' The Queen Is Dead and Elvis Costello's My Aim Is True was in that library at Monash. I'd never even heard ANY Elvis Costello at that stage, and in hindsight this probably wasn't the best album to get into him, but I'll always remember hearing it in that library. While it probably wasn't as exciting at the time as I am now making it out to be, it's still a fond memory nevertheless.

Discovering Beatles in the mid-late 90's was another big musical turning point. Of course I knew their hits, but I didn't really know their albums that well. There was of course the infamous Beatles night. But I also have a fond memory of copying Rubber Soul and Revolver off Brett on to 2 sides of a 90 minute audio tape. I remember there being something wrong with one side of the tape near the start, so from Taxman until halfway through Yellow Submarine, Revolver didn't quite "sound right". I could still make out the tunes, but the pitch was off and it sounded slow in parts. It was only when I bought the CD a few years later that I got to hear I'm only sleeping and Here, there and everywhere as they should be heard. These are now 2 of my favourite Beatles songs.

But now I have all the Beatles albums. I know them all so well. Despite the fact that they have many great albums and songs, the discovery has been made, and the magic is gone. Never will listening to The White Album thesedays recapture the magic of hearing it for the 3rd or 4th time, when I was just beginning to realise how brilliant it was.

Discovering Elvis Costello was another adventure. A friend (Adam) had lent me his best-of CD in an attempt to get me into his music. He also lent me his album Brutal youth. I tried and I tried but I simply couldn't get into it. Eventually I gave the CDs back to him, and resigned to the fact that I'd never get into his music. As mentioned earlier, eventually I gave a listen to My Aim Is True at Monash uni. Even then, I didn't get into him.

Many months down the line, I suddenly got an urge to listen to some Elvis Costello clips on Amazon. I listened to the low quality clip of Indoor fireworks, and after only listening to a 30 second 64kb/s clip, I couldn't get the song out of my head for a week. I had to buy his greatest hits CD. I did, and I loved it. I'm not sure what I missed the first time. In the next few months, I had to buy all of Elvis Costello's albums. Now I have them all. He is still one of my favourite artists, but the magic is gone.

And that's the problem with music. It takes time to discover it, but eventually the magic will go. And it's not often that I get that magical feeling again. It seems that as I hear more and more music, I compare it to other things I've got in my collection. The chance of a particular album or artist standing out from the crowd diminishes over time.

I think I can summarise it with the following line:

The potential for getting that giddy feeling from listening to music is inversely proportional to the amount of music one has already been exposed to.

Sorry for nerding it up, but it's true.

It's not every day that I get to discover a band as amazing as The Beatles, and that's what I really miss. But every now and then, an album comes along that brings back that feeling of discovery. Cold Fact was one such album.

I'd be interested to hear about your musical discoveries, and whether you agree with what I've said here.

1 comment:

  1. Although I previously put forward an alternative hypothesis, I do agree with what you've written. As I mentioned to you over email, anything moderately good will blow your mind if you've been brought up thinking Johnny Farnham wa the King of rock and roll. He's not even King of the Divan. Ca plane pour moi.
    Some of my favourite musical discoveries are: first listening to The Smiths' debut on a cold and depressing Melbourne winter's day, I still love that opening line; first listen of "This is my truth," it was so much better than anything else I had heard before; and You Am I's Hourly Daily, the title track, in a caravan in Rosebud in 1996, with a friend I've since lost contact with.


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