Music And The Subconscious Association With Life Events

Somewhat quiet on the gig front in Edinburgh this week, but that’s what meetings with lawyers will do to you…sap the very life force out of you…with no offence intended to our lawyer mates out there or anyone else who was savvy enough to end-up in a profession whose elite can charge you £200 per hour to teach you how to suck eggs!

High powered music industry lawyers typically won’t get out of bed for £200 per hour, but hey, this is Edinburgh not the Sunset Strip in LA….certainly not today with the rain and sleet (!).

Rumour has it that tickets for the magnificent James Grant’s gig at The Queens Hall on Friday night have not been selling as well as a man of his consistent quality deserves, so if you want a wonderful night of extrovert guitar playing combined with songwriting of the highest standard and dour humour, then look no further.

In the absence of a gig review to post this evening, we thought we’d explore what it is that we as music lovers associate with when we hear a particular piece of music.

One of my first musical memories was as an eight year old listening to the incredible voice of Julie London backed by the James Bond moviesque string arrangements on Liberty Records’ “The Best Of Julie London” which my mother played incessantly, particularly before a night out at the local dance hall with the big bands.

The Best of Julie London, Liberty Records, Inc. 1961 - Mono recording
The Best of Julie London, Liberty Records, Inc. 1961 – Mono recording

Four decades later I found a pristine copy of said mono recording at a vinyl record fair at Caird Hall in Dundee (thanks George Robertson of andmore records!) and it immediately took me back to the early Sixties and my mother coming in to our bedroom at midnight, the sweet smell of whisky and coke on her breath, only partly disguised with a Polo mint, as she tucked me and my brother up in our bunk beds and said good night to the babysitter.

Fast forward to my very first record player, a second hand mono Dansette, affectionately nicknamed the “old tin box” which my parents bought me when I was eleven from one of their friends.  It came with a few singles which I soon got bored with, when my very hip architect neighbour presented me with a first issue copy of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” LP on the Vertigo swirl label which he said was “too heavy” for him.  Soon the sounds of “War Pigs” and “Iron Man” were blasting out noon and night, although I was always more taken with Tony Iommi’s dexterity on “Planet Caravan” a la Django Reinhardt.

Black Sabbath - Paranoid, 1970, first issue, Vertigo swirl label
Black Sabbath – Paranoid, 1970, first issue, Vertigo swirl label

Don’t let anyone kid you Sabbath were heavy metal headbangers.  There is such a strong jazzy influence on this album it could have come out on Blue Note Records and Geezer Butler and Bill Ward were the tightest of rhythm sections that put Sly and Robbie to shame.  Unfortunately the antics of Ozzie and At Home With The Osbournes has obscured the inherent musicality of this legendary English band.

Some unidentified sod at Glasgow Tech borrowed this from me between 1977 and 1981, never to return it and I have yearned for my very first vinyl LP ever since, but of course fellow vinyl anoraks it had to be the first issue release on the Vertigo swirl label, no other would suffice.

My odyssey in search of my own personal golden fleece ended only in January of this year when Andy of Edinburgh Film House fame was selling an immaculate copy at Dundee Record Fair.  I looked at it lovingly, but walked away the first time when I saw the £250 asking price.  A few weeks later at Edinburgh Record Fair I approached Andy’s stall again and asked to see again the love of my eleven year old life, which he kept under the bench due to its value.  I pored over it again, searched my conscience to determine if I really could cough-up £250 for one piece of 12″ vinyl, but there it was, looking as if it had just left the pressing plant in 1970. Sadly I walked away again…after all, even if you can never have enough vinyl mortgage payments do have the annoying habit of getting in the way.

Fast forward four more weeks and there I was back again at Caird Hall, resolved this time that my first love was not getting away a third time.  I casually approached Andy, who in his strong Geordie accent said “OK, we’ve kissed; we’ve done tongues; are you going to shag me this time?”.  Classic!  A deal was struck and after acquiring some of Andy’s very fine kraut rock LPs I had my prize, for £180.  And it could only be played back home on one thing – a 1967 Fidelity mono “old tin box” which I have, as I continue to…..yes, you’ve guessed it….search for that Dansette, the exact same model and colour.

Anyway, the point is music strikes a very deep emotive chord (awful pun, I know, but it is 1:30am) in those of us who have been seduced by it at a very early age and continue to mark key events in our lives by what we were listening to at the time, or vice versa.

Some other briefer examples:

  • Alice Cooper – “School’s Out” and Hawkwind – “Silver Machine = always evokes images of the ironmonger’s in Huntly, where I bought these singles in the autumn of 1972.  Huntly didn’t have a record shop, just a few racks of vinyl tucked away alongside the tools.  Must confess I fell in love with Stacey, Hawkwind’s dancer, at the Usher Hall in 1975….or was that because she took her clothes off on stage and I was a sexually obsessed 15 year old?  Still have my ticket stub.

Hawkwind Ticket Stub, 1975
Hawkwind Ticket Stub, 1975
  • Culture – “Two Sevens Clash” = September 1977, first year at Glasgow Tech and the first LP I ever bought in Glasgow from the old 23rd Precinct record shop on Bath Street.  Never forget their gig at the Usher Hall a few months later when the whole hall was so thick with ganja smoke you could have cut it with a knife!  Happy days…

  • The Blue Nile – “A Walk Across The Rooftops” = Andy Peebles Saturday afternoon Radio One show as I was in the midst of wallpapering a bedroom and tiling a bathroom in my first rented council house in the summer of 1984.

  •  The Blue Nile – “Headlights On The Parade” = car park of Bankton House in Dedridge, Livingston as I pulled in to the car park on a Saturday night en route for chicken’n chips in a plastic basket and a few pints of Belhaven.  This was played as a follow-on to the announcement on someone’s radio show in October 1989 that five long years after one of the best debut albums ever, “Hats” was to be released.

  • Ian McNabb & Crazy Horse – “You Must Be Prepared To Dream” = winter of 1994 preparing to move the young family I had from Scotland to the San Francisco Bay Area and feeling sad about leaving the old country.  Listen to how prophetic the lyrics were!  Scary!  McNabb at his best BTW.

  • Jimmy Page & Robert Plant, with Egyptian Orchestra – “Kashmir” = outdoor gig at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California, October 1995, on a very balmy Fall night with my buddy Glen.  Never saw the original Led Zeppelin line-up live, but this was almost as good and love this take on Kashmir.

So what associations does music trigger in your minds I wonder???

Answers on a postcard and remember….you can never have enough vinyl.

One thought on “Music And The Subconscious Association With Life Events

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