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Music Memories: Soundtracks

On Thursday, I was sat in one of the 600 cinemas across Europe showing The Rocky Horror Show Live. And, sadly, time has passed with not a moment to write about it. I have talked about it at length with friends and colleagues, but have not had the chance to review it.

So instead, I shall place it as number one on my list of favoured soundtracks from my youth. It would be up in the top five regardless, though perhaps not taking the top spot. Still, it is worthy of a top spot here and there.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

I don’t recall how old I was when I first watched the film, but I imagine it was at home with my parents. They were not against us watching controversial shows. However, I know I had watched it several times before my twelfth birthday, as that summer my family – my mother, brother and I – dressed as transvestites for our local carnival. The sports club in which my parents worked had a float in the parade every year and had a bit of a reputation for being the loudest of them all.

My brother and I loved the parade, watching those in the darts team dressing up and dancing down the street. And that year was one we would never forget. I remember wearing a lycra top which was utterly inappropriate in any other setting, and I recall seeing far too much of one of my older friends who dressed in his mother’s lingerie to assume the role of Frank-N-Furter.

Safe to say, we were a hit with the locals. So much so that for the next few years there was always a Rocky float trying to achieve the reaction we had (I am sure they failed; as far as we were concerned, we were always the talk of the town).

I didn’t see the stage production until a couple of years ago, when Rhydian performed as Rocky, so sitting in the cinema was only my second live production. And it was amazing to see Richard O’Brien as part of it.

I’ve decided that, although Tim Curry will always be the shining star of the beautiful men who have played that iconic role, David Bedellla is taking up a close second.  As soon as he comes on stage, your eyes are drawn to his lips, large and glittery and one aspect of the most beautifully wicked smile!

My favourite character however, has always been Eddie. How could he not be when played by the wonderful Meat Loaf who so punctuated my childhood with his stunning ballads. When everyone else was singing Time Warp, I was singing Hot Patootie. So, here’s Hot Patootie:

The Last Unicorn

A classic of the 80s, The Last Unicorn was produced by some of those who went on to work for Studio Ghibli. The soundtrack is by America and is one of the most beautiful soundtracks I have ever heard.

This film was one of the go-to films for our babysitters, knowing that we would be drawn into the story for the full length of the film.

It is one which reminds me of the innocence of childhood, one which takes me back to that time when your dreams were as real as they could be. And I am still often glued to my seat for the entire film even though I’ve watched it many dozens of times.

Labyrinth

I don’t think there’s a child of the late 80s – early 90s who hasn’t seen this movie, and who hasn’t felt that David Bowie’s package wasn’t a significant aspect of their youth.

I loved David Bowie’s music, my mum being a fan (much of my early music taste was based on my mother’s). And I loved his portrayal of the Goblin King in the movie, developing quite the imaginary love affair. I don’t recall performing the role of Snow White or Sleeping Beauty, waiting for my prince to come and rescue me with a kiss. As a child, I opted to replace the character of Sarah Williams with my own personality. I wanted to meet strange creatures and dance in a giant dress at a masked ball. I loved the magic of it, as well as the music.

The Lion King

As I am sat writing this, The Lion King is playing in the background. Adka (who I introduced in my – our – review of The Big Gig) is a big fan of ‘Baby Lions’ and so we are watching it at least once a day at the moment.

I was 8 when it first came out, but did not become attached to this film until 2001 when my youngest brother was a year old. Just as with Adka, putting this film on would both pacify and entertain my brother for almost an hour and half. We would sing the songs together and dance to Hakuna Matata.

Whenever I think of my brother as a young baby, I think of Lion King. Before he was interested in football or Minecraft, this was his ecstasy.  And it was my ecstasy too, for I loved to see him happy.

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Christmas Music Memories

It’s that that time of year again. When the dark night draw in the cold, but there are classic movies on every other channel. When brass bands and choirs play for money outside shops filled with tacky gifts and novelty jumpers. When the nation is divided between those who embrace the festive spirit and those who attack it.

I love Christmas. For me, it starts in September. My mum’s birthday is the last big birthday of the year, and so Christmas shopping usually starts the day after. And, of course, the shops have already started putting out the Christmas chocs and giftsets of body lotion nobody will ever use.

It really becomes Christmas when the first song is heard in the shopping centre. Usually mid-November. By now, every store has its own Christmas playlist.

I haven’t written a ‘Music Memories’ for a while. I’d hoped to make it a bi-weekly feature, but preparation for the future got in the way of remembering the past. Christmas, however, is a time when the past is mulled over with a glass of wine and cheery tune.

Here’s my Christmas playlist:

#1 Wizzard – I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day

We used to live close to lead singer Roy Wood, and as a naïve youngster I was always surprised that he didn’t have long white hair. We’d see him at the local store where my mum used to work, getting his milk or bread, and we’d get so excited. No matter what time of year, my brother and I would start singing this tune; often out loud enough for him to give us a very dirty look and the tiniest of a smile. We were too young to know any of Wizzard’s other songs, but we loved this one.

And a Christmas playlist wouldn’t be the same without it.

#2 Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas? (1984)

This song defines Christmas for me. A time when we think of everyone: those we love, those we used to love, and those who need our love.

I’m quite a charitable person. I don’t have a million direct debits to faceless charity organisations or sponsor a zoo of animals across the globe. But I’ve always believed that you should do as you preach, and I believe a pure heart is a charitable heart.

When I was a kid, too small to roam the streets alone but living in a safe enough community that my parents didn’t worry too much, we used to give out mince pies to the homeless. I don’t remember whether we made them at home or at school, or even a combination of both. But I remember handing the warm handmade pies, all lopsided and spilling with mincemeat. It wasn’t much, and it was one night of the year, but it made a difference.

Band Aid 30 has been slated this year but it still got to Number One. Because it isn’t much, and it’s only once every ten years, but it makes a difference.

#3 The Pogues feat. Kirsty MacColl –Fairytale of New York

This is one of my favourite songs, and is the first to be placed on any Christmas playlist. A hauntingly beautiful sound, bringing together all the emotions of Christmas time.

And I love the video because one my first ever celebrity crushes features as a police officer who arrests MacGowan in the opening scenes. I loved Matt Dillon as a teenage girl; always did go for the bad boy with the cute smile.

Besides, Christmas is the time of year I drink the most alcohol, so a song sung with a drunken slur fits the bill.

#4 Stille Nacht

There are certain elements of my German heritage which I am incredibly proud of. Just as much as my English/Welsh heritage, but somewhat ignited by the anger people still have for the nation.

When Nana was alive, we opened presents with her on Christmas Eve, as is tradition in Germany and many European countries. Our Christmas dinner comes with about six different types of veg, as we have Sauerkraut and Rotkaul alongside the peas and mashed potato. I actually can’t stand either of these German side dishes, but I would certainly pass up on Christmas cake or Christmas pudding for a slice of Stollen.

Now, because she isn’t here to celebrate with us, we visit her grave on Christmas Eve, decorating it with flowers just as she would want it.

And for as long as I’ve known, whenever the song Silent Night is played, I sing the German chorus.

#5 Manic Street Preachers – The Ghost of Christmas

It was difficult to select which Manics Christmas song to choose – this or James Dean Bradfield’s version of Wham’s Last Christmas. But this one is perfect.

A song of nostalgia, looking back at their childhood Christmases. Of a time when imagination came in the sackload and the football wasn’t on the screen of a brand new flat screen.

This is what Christmas will always be about for me. The gifts and the silliness. It reminds me of some of the best Christmases.

The year my brother learned how to crawl onto the kitchen counter and downed Mum’s Snowball. He slept well that night.

The first year Christmas was just Mum, Johnnie and me. We both got new stereos and we spent Christmas morning wrapped up in our dressing gowns on Mum’s bed listening to our favourite tunes.

The Christmas Eve I had to work, when Mum drove to Lincoln to pick me up at 8am on Christmas morning so that I could spend the day with family. I looked a mess – pretty much straight out of the shower and into the car.

Christmas is a time for joy, but sorrow hangs so easily over our heads at this time of year. I’m not ashamed to admit that I cry every year when I write my Christmas cards – for those who I no longer need to write them to and those who I should be handing them over to instead posting far far away. Not writing the word Grandad broke my heart only this weekend.

But Christmas is a time to remember. Memories of the good times. Getting my first CD player. The day my baby brother was born. Standing at the back of the local chapel, with the man who baptised me at the other end of the aisle, and my grandparent’s singing Christmas carols. And the clip Graandad once gave me when I sang the ‘wrong words’ to Silent Night a little too loudly.

This is my Christmas playlist, scattered with glittering Christmas memories.

Music Memory #2 (feat. A Plug)

As a child. I spent a lot of time with my dad’s parents. Yet it was this year, at my Grandad’s funeral, that I learned he used to sing in a choir.

Grandad JackI always remember it as my Grandma who put the radio on in the morning, who sang loudly at chapel and quietly to herself when baking. I knew she loved to sing, and that she loved the stories told in song. She would comment on how she didn’t like “that music” my brother and I were into as teenagers; loud, aggressive rock and metal with beats to send you into a heart attack and screechy voices which distorted the lyrics.

When he passed away, we sought to remember what we loved about Grandad and the times we spent enjoying his company. I recalled many a-time simply sitting with him in the “men’s room” while my brother and cousins played out on the lawn and the “ladies” chatted over pots of tea. It sounds so old-fashioned, but that was what I loved about it all. So often visitors would ask my Grandma where I had possibly run off to – we pretty much had free rein, and would often run down the road playing hide and seek or disappear into one of the cow fields – and she would always say, quite calmly, “with the men”.

Grandma, Grandad & Pollyanna

What I loved about it most was the simplicity of it all. They would chat, but it was not chatter. They would reminisce. They would recall. They would tell stories.

And, with the influence of my mum’s side of the family – who mostly hailed from fishing-port Grimsby – I developed a love for sea shanties and pub songs. Loud, repetitive tunes which told a story of some woman, usually getting herself into trouble or waiting for her man to return to her. It was as simple as telling a story over a glass of whiskey in the room reserved for the men, and I could sit silently, as I often did as a child, and just bathe in the words and the emotion of the room.

This is what the genre of Folk Music means to me: stories told with glee.

Hull is hosting their second Hull Folk Festival, which has taken the tradition of the Maritime festival. Having had preview events on throughout the week, the festival kicks off at on Friday with a ticketed set at Fruit, featuring Martin Simpson and The Young ‘Uns. Saturday and Sunday will feature three stages, free to the public, with a variety of music. The main stage will be located outside the Minerva, with stages in walking distance at Green Bricks and Thieving Harry’s.

Speaking with one of the event organisers from company Sowden and Sowden, she explained that the aim is to keep Hull’s heritage alive through varied strands of Folk music. There will be everything from The Dyr Sister, a one-woman band using a range of instruments and kitchen utensils to tell modern ethereal fairytales, to poetic voice Jody McKenna to the Folk headliners The Hillbilly Troupe, alongside workshops on traditional dance and the docking of the boats.

Hull Folk Festival is something which touches my soul, bringing me closer to the love of storytelling my dad’s parents had and the maritime history associated with the men in my mum’s family. For more details, go to www.hull-folk.co.uk and share your thoughts on Folk music using the hashtag #hullfolk.

Music Memory #1

It’s difficult not to create a subliminal soundtrack to your life. Every significant celebration tends to be punctuated with a tune: birthdays, weddings, funerals. TV and radio are littered with jingles as well as the promotion of the latest talent show winner.

And so often a song will play, out of the metaphorical blue, which twists your mind, transporting you back when…

I start not at the beginning. Instead, I shall try to describe the emotions music has made me feel, rather than the music I associate with a specific emotion or event. These two events were what music meant to me.

Thunder was the first band I saw in the flesh, albeit from the front row of the balcony section of wherever it was I saw them. I don’t remember the details – I was young enough for memory to have erased such simple things as where and when. I’m pretty sure my parents had recently split, and my mum was relishing her newfound freedom to enjoy such things as live music. The band, formed as Thunder in 1989 (when I was 3), was the favourite band of my Auntie S. They consisted of Danny Bowes, Luke Morley, Gary ‘Harry’ James, Mark ‘Snake’ Luckhurst and Ben Matthews. Their most well-known, though not most popular, hit was Love Walked In, which reached 21 in the singles charts.

As I said, I don’t recall the details, but my brother and I were the youngest members of the audience. I know this as fact because Auntie S, in her wonderful way, told someone important enough to get us a shout-out. I was quite happy screaming “Harry, Harry, Harry!” (always loved drummers) until I went blue, only to have the shade of my face turn to the other side of the spectrum when Danny Bowes called our names from the front of the stage. With us dangerously hanging over the railing in pure awe, Bowes commented on our leather jackets and my brother’s mullet hairstyle. He called us “rock and roll” and we almost cried with joy. Instead we most likely went back to screaming “Harry, Harry, Harry!” who then probably slammed his drumsticks together and introduced the next song.

The details weren’t important, but the memory of that second where our names hung on the lips of a man who could only be described as a rock legend clings to you forever.

But, I didn’t stay rock n roll as such. I took on my parents’ joint love of rock music and their open-minded view of politics and society, delving into a world encompassed by the Welsh wonder that is the Manic Street Preachers.

Formed in 1986 (the year I was born), this band became a solid part of my life and soul after the release of their fifth album This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours. I get quite floaty when I talk about how the Manics have been such a constant part of my life, so I shall not dwell. TIMTTMY was released in 1997, the year I started secondary school. It became my dream to connect with them in the way I felt when I saw Thunder live; to transform from the polished, shiny carcass of a CD played over and over and over each and every day, to the physical form standing before me in all their imperfect glory.

And at 21, I decided that nothing could stop me. I’d tried to see them live before, but life just got in the way. Parents of college friends freaking out over the train journey to the city, or cancellations, or simply being unable to fund the venture were hurdles to teenager. But for my 21st I decided that I would celebrate all the things I loved and all the things that made me me. And I would get to see the Manics live. Even if it killed me.

Do you remember your 21st birthday? Few do. However, I had managed to get tickets for the day of my birthday to see the Manics at Sheffield Octagon (in planning, it was perfection). So, all the drinking went on prior to this. Alcohol kicked me in the head, lack of sleep slapped my senses about and no sign of decent food shot my immune system. I turned up to the gig of my dreams with the worst flu I’d ever experienced. I could barely stand up straight. I was terrified that I would infect the band members.

Standing as far back as I could so that I could just see James Dean Bradfield’s face across the crowded room, I swam in the perfect bliss of simply being there.

I didn’t care that I wasn’t wearing a leopard print jacket, that I couldn’t put eyeliner on because I couldn’t actually see clearly enough to manage it with a fever temperature, or that I hadn’t spray-painted some literary reference across a t-shirt (all things I noticed ‘hardcore’ fans had done for the occasion). I just wanted to be there and feel the beat of Sean Moore’s drums, to hear the beautiful voice of James Dean Bradfield, and to taste the energy Nicky Wire brings to the stage.

These moments hang in my mind like pearls hang on the lips of an oyster. They never leave me. Details skip and jump and play around, but the intensity of the moment is always what cuts through, remaining a true and solid form. They are memories I can recall without much effort, because they are moments in my life which I shall never forget.