Monday, April 13, 2015

Top Forty: Music

"Hey Pop Pickers! Time for a countdown! Not 'arf!"

In 2002, prior to travelling around the world, I was visiting some friends for dinner. After playing various tracks of various types of music, some of which I was familiar with and some not, our host suggested to me that my musical taste must be "quite eclectic".

"I suppose so," I replied. "I will listen to a good variety of stuff and usually enjoy it, even some early Elton John." (At the time it was still not quite socially acceptable to like Elton John, even the early stuff from the 1970s.)

Later that year, preparing for the round the world trip, it was time to rip up music onto the laptop in prep for six months without CDs - remember this was before iPods were totally ubiquitous and the iPhone itself was still five years away - and I realised the stuff I listened to was pretty varied. Not that I didn't listen to Capital FM regularly (Chris Tarrant was still doing the breakfast show back then) but I had obscure CDs from bargain buckets with one or two tracks that I really liked, along with stuff I'd grown up with in the eighties and a smattering of instrumental, some of which could legitimately be described as 'classical' and some clearly not. And over the years since then the situation hasn't changed much: the number of tracks has increased but largely the proportion of popular stuff to unknown stuff, along with the variation of the genres, hasn't really altered much.

Before we begin, I do wish to state that I know everyone's experience in this area is highly unique. I doubt there's anyone in the world - probably not one person - who would match more than half of my top forty with theirs, and I mean that. As I put the list together I realised that my favourite music to listen to (some of which I don't listen to MUCH, but just enough that it doesn't lose it's magic) is so wildly varying that I'm pretty sure nobody will have even heard of all forty.

And hopefully that's one thing that can come out of this: not that I'm saying it should suddenly all become YOUR favourite stuff, not even that you might like it, but it might be something new and different. Some of it will seem crazy - just bland pop music perhaps - but I'll try to explain what it is, musically or lyrically (usually musically) that stands out. There WILL be some 'classical' music in there and that stuff will tend to be well-known, not just because I've not been exposed to less popular classical (although that's part of it) but because some of the most amazing music ever made IS in that genre, IS well over a hundred years old (sometimes much older) and has not only survived the test of time but risen to the top. That said, there's no Mozart (I'm a fan, but no one piece stands out to me) and no Bach (yes I know he's a genius etc etc but I just can't get into it, it's like listening to Joe Satriani on guitar, you KNOW it's good and clever but it doesn't ever seem to GRAB my soul). Similarly there's no Beatles and no Rolling Stones, no U2, no Coldplay, no Queen and even Stairway to Heaven only made the long-list before being cut at an early stage.

There IS, conversely, some amount of what might be termed 'spiritual' music, whether it's Handel (trying to avoid spoilers but I think we all know what that one's going to be), some modern Christian settings of Biblical verses, some of what might be termed 'new age', and some regular popular songs with a definite spiritual theme. For example, one song that didn't make the final list would be 'Let It Be' by The Beatles, which despite being a secular song and not holding to any strong theology, clearly has a spiritual theme. Lyrically, as much as lyrics matter (and they don't matter TOO much in this list actually), I have found that I do prefer songs that seep a little into the mystery of the spiritual side of things. Theologically I'm pretty much a mainstream protestant Christian without any major denominational bias, but musically I seem to have a tendency to anything that probes, questions and explores the far more diverse category of 'spirituality', without it particularly affecting my personal core beliefs.

But no Bach. I mean if I want to listen to fifteen different tunes at once I'll just open up a load of YouTube tabs and set them all going.

One final note: I'm going to attempt to put a good, suitable link to the music in with each post so you can hear it for yourself. I'm not trying to break any copyright here so generally I'll use stuff that's already out there, official where possible. For some it's out of copyright anyway, and for some the video that goes with it is perhaps part of the reason for choosing the tune. So I'll do my best and we'll see where we are forty days from here.

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