Do you remember the piece of music that turned you into a bonafide music nut? A song that captivated you, made you feel things you’d never experienced, and tipped enjoyment into fiery obsession. Perhaps it was an early concert with your family or a music video. Perhaps it was a cassette you rewound over and over again. Perhaps it was the Eastenders theme tune (guilty).
The recent BBC documentary How Music Makes Us Feel got me thinking about this last night. Composer George Benjamin cited the combination of music and imagery in the Disney film Fantasia (1940) as the moment that changed his life. “From the first moment I was transfixed like I’d never been transfixed by anything else in my life,” he explained.
‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ is the first song I got really obsessed with. As a 9-year-old I’d listen to it over and over and type out the lyrics on my Fisher Price typewriter. I’m afraid there were dance routines and a lie to my school friends that my parents had named me after, erm, lysergic acid. The mixture of spacey imagery and the simple Lowrey organ intro sent me wild. Tangerine trees? Marmalade skies? Rocking horse people? Marshmallow pies sounded delicious! And WTF were newspaper taxis? It was a world I wanted to live in. The next couple of profound moments that fuelled a full-on crazed obsession were the soundtrack to Zulu and Snow’s ‘Informer’, so we won’t go into those.
Here are a few personal moments from the NME office. Let me know yours in the comments.
‘I Should Be So Lucky’. It was my first cassette and I was so fascinated by the sound and how it was happening that I took the cassette out of the player and started to pick it apart. I unwound all of the tape and sat in a pile of it then frantically tried to wind the tape back in, slammed it in the machine but it was too late. I had destroyed the tape. I cried and cried because the song wouldn’t play and I thought I’d never hear Kylie again. I was three. This is one of my earliest memories.
My earliest memories involve music playing in the house. Beatles, Stones, The Who, Dylan, Led Zep, Neil Young and Motown – basically all the standards for someone whose parents were born in the early 50s. The first music I heard that felt like it was my own was ‘Song For Whoever’ by The Beautiful South. They were performing it on Top Of The Pops. I was eight, and couldn’t understand why the singer sounded so unhappy if he knew all those ladies, Jennifer, Alison, Phillipa, Sue etc, while the idea of loving someone from the bottom of your pencil case made me smile. If the bottom of Dave Rotheray’s pencil case was the same as mine – littered with Panini stickers and ink cartridges – it didn’t sound very romantic at all.
My earliest memory of music being this immersive and overwhelming thing is probably aged seven, in my bunk on a barge holiday, listening to Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Tango In The Night’ on repeat until the walkman batteries died and the music slowed to a halt. I remember feeling cocooned in the warm, twinkly quality of the production, and being transported by the exotic jungle scene depicted on the cover. The whole thing together, like all the best albums, was a whole world you wanted to dive into.
‘Head Over Heels’ by Tears For Fears. My older sister was really into them when she was a teenager and used to play it all the time, so that was probably one of the first songs to make me actually take notice of music. It has a GREAT intro. Although Whatever by Oasis was the first song I got properly obsessed with. All my friends were really excited about things like Mark Morrison and The Outhere Brothers and I wasn’t interested. I found ‘Whatever’ on a ‘Now!’ cassette so it was a fairly labour intensive process to keep rewinding it to listen again, but it kick-started a massive indie obsession for me at the time.