Music is an extraordinary thing. It’s been a part of my life forever, or at least the forever I can remember. I grew up on family gatherings where everyone sang, played or did both. Great Uncle George on the ukulele belting out George Formby numbers well into his eighties. Dad strumming out House Of The Rising Sun and Streets Of London at home and at thrown together local parties with friends on the estate we grew up on. Mum playing piano when we were small and organ when we were bigger. My brother playing drums, me playing guitar and a host of other instruments in between – glockenspiel, recorder, violin.
Before we got married, T and I shared a house with two brothers and my own brother. The house had one TV which you had to climb about four flights of stairs to get to and musical instruments on every floor. The four of us guys were all in a band and our house was constantly filled with musicians. Parties and gatherings were all about music. I remember one extraordinary singer-songwriter with the most incredible voice who used to frequent the place – makes sense really as she’s now my sister-in-law.
Over the last several years my playing days have been numbered but I’m doing my best to turn that around. My kids are already starting to love music and I figure I need to be better at stuff than they are until they are at least eight or nine. Rhys in particular has eclectic tastes. His playlist of requested songs at present is:-
New York Minute by Don Henley
Hooks In You by Marillion (AKA the rock and roll song)
All I Have To Do Is Dream by the Everly Brothers
The Sky’s The Limit by Nik Kershaw (AKA the forest song)
Lightning Bolt by Jake Bugg (AKA the guitar song)
He also seems quite keen on Foo Fighters, Rush and Iron Maiden but don’t tell his mum…
About a year ago I bought some Sonos wireless speakers and signed up to a music streaming service (Deezer as it happens). I was listening almost exclusively to talk radio, was hardly listening to my music back catalogue – no new music at all – and figured this would be a way to rekindle my enthusiasm for music.
For once I was right.
I have probably listened to more new music over the last year than I have at any period in my life. I now listen to more hours of music a day than I have in perhaps fifteen years.
My life is much better because of it. OK my guitar playing is still painfully more sucky than it should be but we can work on that.
Trust me, I hear you when you shout, whisper and think Sure Nik that’s really interesting but what’s this blog post all about?
I hear you, and I will tell you.
Earlier on during the washing up (how very rock and roll) I searched through the four hundred squibillion or so songs that Deezer serves up and decided to listen to the Guns N Roses classic Appetite For Destruction.
I’d somehow forgotten how brilliant an album it is. I’d also forgotten how many memories it would bring back in glorious goose-bumped technicolour.
Life was different back then. Song names mattered. Band members mattered. There was no I’ll just Google that to create some kind of faux rock credentials. You either knew that Slash was really called Saul Hudson and was born in Stoke or you didn’t.
So I thought I’d give myself a little test and propose some albums that made a huge difference to my life and see what springs to mind. Including the names of the band members. I’ll start with Guns N Roses.
Please note. I will make mistakes. I will screw up the spelling of names. But who cares.
1. Appetite For Destruction by Guns N Roses.
Band members? W Axl Rose, Slash, Izzy Stradlin, Duff McKagen, Steven Adler
Highlights? The whole groove of Mr Brownstone. The opening insanity of Welcome To The Jungle.
Key memory? Learning to play Sweet Child O Mine and Paradise City with some assistance form my childhood guitar guru Matthew Harris
Have I seen them live? No. Bugger.
2. Operation: Mindcrime by Queensryche
Band Members? Geoff Tate, Chris de Garmo, Michael Wilton, Scott Rockenfield (how can you not be in a band with that name), Eddie Jackson. Honorable mention to Pamela Moore.
Highlights? Everything. It’s genius from start to finish…but I’d say the one minute of guitar magic of Waiting for 22 and learning the riff of I Don’t Believe In Love
Key memory? Sitting in the sixth form common room playing it endlessly
Have I seen them live? Oh yes. And they played Mindcrime in its entirety.
3. The Real Thing by Faith No More
Band Members? Mike Patton, Jim Martin, Roddy Bottum, Bill Gould, Mike “Puffy” Bordin
Highlights? They are the greatest rock band in the history of the world. There are no lowlights. However…the title track still blows my mind.
Key memory? Being on a geography field trip to Dol-Y-Gaer and being with Paul Jones when he bought it on vinyl proclaiming “I’ve heard this is awesome.”
Have I seen them live? Best gig ever. Cardiff Uni before they became famous. Second best gig ever. Seeing them in Birmingham where they started the gig with a series of exercises like star jumps and press ups.
4. Hysteria by Def Leppard
Band Members? Joe Elliott, Phil Collen, Steve Clark, Rick Savage, Rick Allen
Highlights? The only album I’ve worn out entirely on vinyl.
Key memory? Wandering the streets of my home village with Neil Nelly Matthews with this pumping out of a dodgy ghettoblaster.
Have I seen them live? No. Eish.
5. Powerslave by Iron Maiden
Band Members? Bruce Dickinson, Steve Harris, Adrian Smith, Nicko McBrain, Dave Murray
Highlights? Any album that can start with Aces High and Two Minutes to Midnight isn’t going to go far wrong.
Key memory? Managing to recreate the band logo on a blank sheet of paper (trust me, for a man who stuffs up stick-men that’s some achievement)
Have I seen them live? No…but guess who’s got tickets for a bucket list tick in Cape Town next May 🙂
6. Permanent Vacation by Aerosmith
Band Members? Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Tom Hamilton, Joey Kramer
Highlights? This album is perfect. That is all.
Key memory? Clocking Bubble Bobble on a ZX Spectrum with a combination of my brother and Shane Griffiths.
Bonus memory? My brother proclaiming that “he’s not sure he really likes it”. This is the same man who has since seen Aerosmith about five times, is a member of the fan club and owns tracks even Aerosmith don’t.
Have I seen them live? Yep. Twice. They rock.
There is so much I should say about each of these albums and so many more I could list (Rsuh – Grace Under Pressure, Live – Throwing Copper and Metallica – Master of Puppets immediately spring to mind) but I’ve probably already bored you to death.
I think I may have come through the let’s name all the band members test unscathed but please send in any corrections…
If anyone needs me I’ll be belting out rock tunes as loud as a sleeping house allows and hoping my kids will do the same one day.