Excellent Listeners, you did not let me down: I asked for ideas on what to say, and I was rewarded with a veritable bombardment of majestic suggestions, from the perils of wearing high heels to work, to being a superhero, to bees and calligraphy. A superb spectrum of proposals, I’m sure you’ll agree.
And then the excellent Pieter suggested I say things about music. And that’s what I’m going to do, right this second.
I was brought up on a musical diet of Beethoven, Mozart, Elgar, Chopin, Handel, and all the other excellent dead old dudes; but, like heroin or watching your friends fail, I had to pretend I didn’t enjoy it.
You see, classical music was not cool. Whilst my school chums were singing Take That or Boyzone, or arguing over what the hell Michael Jackson was actually saying in anything he ever wrote, I was quietly listening to The Nutcracker on my Sony Walkman.
This was not cool.
But as I got older, and being cool became less important, I gave in to the wondrous absorbing brilliance of an orchestra bashing their way through the 1812 Overture, or gently sighing through The Lark Ascending, or snapping their strings with the sheer heartbreak of Elgar’s Cello Concerto, or being deliciously creepy in The Rite of Spring – and what’s more, I realised that classical music was cooler than Colin Cool the Penguin cooling himself down with a chilled beverage on an iceberg in the middle of a particularly cold Antarctic winter.
Because what’s not to love about a genre of music that not only allows but expects you to poke out the eyes of everyone near you with a Union Jack and belt out EXCELLENTLY LOUD AND GLORIOUS WORDS THAT NO ONE CAN EVER REMEMBER BUT IT’S OKAY BECAUSE WE’VE GOT A HANDY SONG SHEET, revel in a bit of pomp and circumstance and gradually get LOUDER AND SLOOWWEERRR
There’s a lot of enjoyment to be gained from some swishy synthesized strings with a mellow beat and the occasional stoned guitar player having a casual twiddle. I do most of my writing to chillout music, on account of its ….. laid back…. non-offensiveness…. and …… atmospheric…. ammmbbiiieeeennncceeee…
But chillout music doesn’t always chill me out. Occasionally, after I’ve trawled YouTube for playlists with ambitious and grammatically-indifferent titles like ‘Chillout Euphoric Relaxation Beach Sunset’ or ‘Ambient Solar Liquid Grooves’ or ‘Atmospheric Relaxing Peaceful oh my gosh you are going to be so relaxed you will lose control over your colon’, and settled down to do some writing, I shall have the holy Moses scared out of me by sudden incredibly loud whispering bursting forth from the music and telling me to do things like ‘EMBRACCCCE YOUR SOUL AND BREEEEEEATHE’ or offering useful information such as ‘A NEW DAWN IS RISING’ and ‘THE QUEST FOR HAPPINESSS BEGINSS IN YOUR HEEAARRRT’.
This is not relaxing. This is terrifying and ………. infuuuuuriaaaating.
So while I was desperately trying to listen to Mozart’s Requiem on my Sony Walkman at school, I was also desperately trying to understand what the bloody hell garage music was all about. As far as I was concerned, the genre consisted of flippy beats that sounded like a load of mice in tap shoes scuttling down a gutter, accompanied by random bleeps, quite often an incongruous guitar, and a singer that took their time over most of the lyrics but then suddenlystartedsingingreallyquickly
and then they’ll relax and calm down and continue singing normally like nothing ever happened and they didn’t just have the musical equivalent of an epileptic fit.
But now, at the ripe old age of 29, guess what? The music I once sneered and jeered at has been painted with the brush at which you can neither sneer nor jeer: the nostalgia brush. Yes, Craig David, the Artful Dodger, So Solid Crew, can all propel me back to my school days (sorry, ‘skool dayz’, to quote my garage homies), and I’ll happily admit that I can get misty-eyed over Shanks and Bigfoot. Why? Because Sweet Like Chocolate is a choon.
Ohhhhhhh smoooooooooooooooothhhh jaaaaaaaaaaaazzz. You make me want to have sex with myself. You make me want to drink melted chocolate. You make me want to lie naked in a night-time field and smother myself with dew. You make me want to don a red dress covered in sparkles, smoke through a cigarette holder and drape myself over an old man in dark glasses. You make me want to drink gin cocktails in a bath of Chanel.
There are few things more delicious than a saxophone slinking and oozing its way over a double bass and a piano. As a teenager, I would spend my hard-earned cash in HMV on jazz CDs, from Nina Simone, to Louis Armstrong, to Easy Listening ‘Smooth Jazz’ and ‘Midnight Jazz’ and ‘Smooth Jazz at Midnight’ and ‘Jazzy Midnight Smoothy Smooth’, and I would play them on loops in my bedroom and lie on my desk and pretend I was a lounge singer on a piano in a New York basement jazz club (I’ve said too much).
Jazz made me gutsy. Jazz made me sassy. Jazz gave me the confidence to wear my zebra skin coat to school on mufti days. Jazz inspired me to adorn myself with all the jewellery I owned at every available occasion, and strut through my teens looking like the love child of Barbara Cartland and Judy Garland when she went all crazy and drug-addled. And for that, I thank you, Jazz. You smooth, sexy, naughty beast.
Have no fear, sweet, patient Listener. I have saved the best for last.
Along with food, drink, shelter, and oxygen, musicals are an integral part of staying alive. What would happen, dearest Listener, if, whilst alone in your bedroom of a Monday night, with only the howling wind outside for company, you were not able to break into a spontaneous rendition of Food, Glorious Food or Oklahoma! or Big Spender? What would happen if, on a night in with the girls, you were not able to shriek ‘LET’S SING MUSICALS!!!’ and spend the next four hours delighting your neighbours with songs from The Sound of Music, or Singin’ in the Rain or Sister Act (1 or 2, I don’t mind – they are equally monumental)?
I’ll tell you what would happen. This would happen:
Wouldn’t it be loverly to dance all night to your favourite things? Oh, what a beautiful morning it would be to consider yourself over the rainbow with a spoonful of sugar, to climb every mountain on some enchanted evening, to forget your hard knock life and give them the old razzle dazzle, because you’re going to live forever as long as you remember that anything goes and there’s no business like sitting alone in your bedroom and belting out a show tune.
And if I haven’t made you want to have dinner with your homie Debussy whilst chilling out to some funky ass beats in a smoky candle-lit basement following a matinee performance of Showboat, then I just don’t understand who you are.