Saturday, March 14, 2020

All the right notes but not necessarily in the right order

Last Monday we recorded interviews with Pete Paphides and Dan Franklin about their books. Both interviews are published as podcasts right now. You can get them at the Word Podcast or usual suppliers.

Given the circs that's likely to be the last Word In Your Ear for a while. We've postponed the April 14th event with Paul Gorman for the moment. If you've got tickets, don't worry. You'll be contacted when "Magic" Alex Gold returns from the Caribbean where he's being evacuated from a cruise ship as we speak. (He hasn't been cruising himself. He's been entertaining the cruisers.)

Pete's book "Broken Greek" is the story of how pop music provided a lifeline for the son of a Greek Cypriot family running a chip shop in the Midlands in the 80s. Dan's book "Heavy" is the story of how heavy music spoke to somebody growing up in the suburbs of north London in the late 90s.

In both cases the music that appealed to them had already happened many years before. When Dan went to see Ozzy Osbourne as a fourteen-year-old Black Sabbath were a distant memory. The Guns N' Roses album was bought for him by his Dad because it reminded him of Led Zeppelin. When John Lennon died the young Pete was amazed to discover that Lennon, who he only knew from "Double Fantasy", had once been in a group with Paul McCartney out of Wings. Surely they must be some kind of supergroup?

I always say that being born in 1950 gave me the winning ticket in the lottery of life, as far as pop music is concerned. It certainly allowed me to say that I was there for all of it and therefore most of the time when I've encountered music it's been on its first time around. But given that my first memory of "Roll Over Beethoven" was via the Beatles rather than Chuck Berry, that's not entirely true. The difference was that in those days there was a lot less to keep tabs on and therefore even the people whose music I didn't know first-hand I nonetheless had some kind of awareness of.

Nowadays there's too much to know and people will increasingly encounter "the right notes but not necessarily in the right order", as Eric Morecambe explained to Andre Previn. It's inevitable that as rock music heads for its 70th birthday it becomes detached from the eras in which it was birthed and can no longer be understood in the way it was understood at the time. Fortunately, as these two books in their different ways prove, subsequent generations will misunderstand them in their own ways and we'll all be richer as a result.

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