Tuesday, August 9

Early ears

1. The Very Best of The Beach Boys
I was sitting on my best friend’s bed on a warm day in late spring. We were twelve. ‘This one’s got a palm tree on it and surfer writing,’ she said to me. ‘And this one’s similar but in pink.’ Holding up the t-shirts for me to inspect, she added, ‘they were £3.99 for two, from this shop called H&M.’ 

Get Mum to take me to H&M, I told myself. Then I noticed the CD lying on the bed next to my friend’s feet. A blue silhouetted surfer riding a wave under a yellow sky, the words ‘The Very Best of the Beach Boys’ typed across the top. Suddenly I recalled a drive with my aunt and uncle on the way home from the Year 6 disco three summers ago. My undersized ears were full of DJ Otzi’s Hey Baby, the closing song at every school disco, and my aunt was trying to undo the damage with a tape full of sunny jangly guitars and soft harmonies. The tape was faded green and black with a photo of a white goat on the front. It sounded ok, but I was more interested in remembering how we’d all punched the air at every ‘ooh, ah’ of Hey Baby. 

The CD came from a bargain bin in HMV, bought by my friend's older sister. We played it, and Fun Fun Fun ran through my head for days afterwards. It wasn't long before I had my own copy of the CD. I never found those t-shirts though.

(twelve, reading a teen music magazine while waiting for my second Busted show - practising for future Springsteen pit queues maybe - and feeling far more excited than I look)

2. Eye of the Tiger
State schools don’t offer much in the way of music lessons. One hour a week until you’re fourteen, no grade 8 cello players in sight. We did attempt the basics of reading music. But then we also spent two weeks learning about the Tudor pavane. Inedible and pointless for a group of kids who mostly consumed rap music.

Then, aged thirteen, a glorious half term devoted to rock and roll. Nobody else seemed that bothered, but I loved learning the basic riff of Rock Around The Clock on piano, and a simplified version of When I’m 64. I practised secretly for days until my hands fell in sync with each other, so that when it came to playing in front of the class, I was pretty fluid. One week, a pared down drum kit sat in the middle of the room and we were taught how to drum along to Eye of the Tiger. At home I constructed makeshift drum kits out of jars and pots in the kitchen: babysitting, I found the children’s toy drums and practised on those: until again I hit that moment where my body and the music worked together in one rhythm.

Frustratingly, I never went on to learn piano, or guitar, or drums. I was too interested in books to make time for anything else, too shy to make noise, didn't like trying new things, and didn't know many other kids who played instruments. Maybe this is where state education failed me: I had the interest, but not enough external push to kick my stubbornness up the ass. Something stuck though, from those hours of listening to Bill Haley over and over. When I look at the music I love today, I realise how important that basic Beatles riff on a sticky school keyboard must have been. 

(fourteen years old, then twenty-four years old, and still no better at guitar)

3. Biro tattooed Converse

I only did my Catholic confirmation because I had a vague crush on one of the boys in the group. We were fourteen, and once a week we sat in the cold function room behind the church, which smelled fusty like those dark green bricks you stick plastic flowers in, and talked about God stuff. Orange chairs arranged in a circle, an overenthusiastic nun, and twenty teenagers looking at nothing but the floor. I did not believe in God, but I believed in all the band names I’d tattooed in biro across the sides of my Converse, and I believed in the way the boy I had a slight crush on cocked his head to read those names and nod approvingly. Blink 182. White Lies. Dashboard Confessional. The Jayhawks. The Libertines. Green Day. Jack Johnson. The Killers. 

A giant Federer tattoo sits on top of most of those names now, but look closely underneath and you'll detect a few of them. Ten years on, I still wear the shoes.

1 comment:

  1. You know what I like Kates... the things that resonate and seem important to you are things that are deep rooted, that you feel at the gut and soul level - and you remain loyal and multi-monogamous to those things ..... your music, your federer, that springsteen guy. You knows who you ares. Lovin your work and your sharing. Beautiful stories Kates.