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This article came about by accident. I was just browsing a bookshelf in the house when I spotted an old looking cover that I had either never seen before or had completely forgotten, the cover of a book claimed in a house clearance of a deceased elderly family member some years back. I pulled it off the shelf to find it was called, ‘The Heritage of Music’, a series of essays by a number of writers about a range of famous composers. My interest stirred, I started into the first chapter about a composer of the fourteenth century. Because I am a musical ignoramus there were a number of words I simply did not understand. However I ploughed my way to the end of the first essay and then thought, “YouTube!” True to form YouTube had the work of this distant-past composer and the first piece that came up turned out to be over six hours long. I listened to the first few minutes of ancient choral song, moved the slider along twenty minutes. It seem identical. Moved it to two hours, then four and then to the end.  To my untutored ear it sounded like six hours of (not unpleasant) identical sounding music. I apologise to those of you who may be addicts of ancient choral music, it’s my lack!  

Having caught the bug (perhaps not a good word to use in the present time) I clicked on various other links and spent a happy couple of hours catching up on musical memories.   Now these articles, as we have commented many times, are about the lives and times of the older retired generation, hence ‘silver surfers’, and very often what we try to do is recall the past and see what we have learned along the way.

My earliest recollection of music when I was a young child came from old twelve inch records, I think they were, that my parents owned and the only name I can recollect from back then was ‘The Inkspots’. Amazingly you can find them on YouTube today and I noted the first was over two hours of ‘The Best of the Inkspots’. When I clicked on it, I heard an old song and thought, “Did all their songs sound the same, that’s what I remember, but I’m sure it was not this one?” This famous American vocal jazz group who were around in the 1930s and 1940s are still around thanks to our technology. As I said, Amazing.

Music through my young years came, not so much from the limited collection of my parents’ old LP’s, as  in the form of ‘Uncle Mac’ on Saturday mornings with ‘Children’s Favourites’ that was on the BBC Light Programme until 1965, I think it was, when it was superseded by ‘Junior Choice’ with Ed Stewart on what I presume must have been Radio 1 in 1967. Do you remember those days?

Before getting into the song memories, it is perhaps worth reminding ourselves a little of the pop music broadcasting phenomena of the sixties that we experienced and of which younger generations have no knowledge. Radio Luxembourg had been broadcasting since 1933 from the Continent and really featured in the surreptitious listening habits of the younger generation in the UK in the 1950’s and 60’s – before the pop movement arrived and teenagers became teenagers!

The 1960’s became the decade of the pirate radio stations (the BBC had a legal monopoly of radio broadcasting on UK territory and were prohibited from all forms of advertising), the first being Radio Caroline in 1964 broadcasting off the Essex coast, followed by Radio London and a number of others, forcing the BBC to eventually restructure to form BBC Radio 1Radio 2Radio 3 and Radio 4. Without doubt this energized the music world giving it the kick-start that produced the world of pop music we now know today. It is strange looking back at the straight-jacket thinking of a ‘no advertising’ world of the 50’s and indeed the various stages of change that took place in what we might loosely call ‘the pop music world’.  

The arrival of Rock ‘n Roll first changed everything back then. Bill Halley and the Comets were making waves between 1954 and 1956, most notably with ‘Rock around the Clock.’ Meanwhile another American hopeful by the name of Elvis Aaron Presley, who had kicked off his musical career in 1954, in 1956 brought out his first RCA label song, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’. The world was never the same again, it seemed and the Elvis phenomenon continued until his death in 1977. Also in the mid 1950’s a young Harry Webb changed his name to Cliff Richard and with a backing group that eventually became the Shadows started his climb to stardom with his first song, ‘Move it’, going to No.2 in the charts in 1958, and then ‘Living Doll’ to No.1 in 1959, and ‘Travelling Light’ to No.1 several months later in 1959, and the rest, as they say, is history.  At the time new names were all over the place: Tommy Steele had already reached No.1 with ‘Singing the Blues’ in 1957 while ‘King of Skiffle’, singer Lonnie Donegan, brought a different sound with ‘Rock Island Line’ that went to No.8 in 1955 and later got  a Number One  with ‘Cumberland Gap’  and ‘Gamblin’ Man’, both in 1957. The names of the 50’s pop idols is a memory lane essential search, with a few of them turning up in the 60’s list. OK, enough of the pop world which grew like Jack’s beanstalk, up into the clouds, and which would need half a dozen pages to really say something meaningful about.

A brief mention. The Beatle rage grabbed many of us in the 60’s and turned from a ‘singles’ to album, from live concert to recording studio only phenomenon. Sorry to keep using that word but spectacular sensation is the only way that describes the hype that went with some of these early singers or groups. Even Perry Commo had his adoring fans! If the Beatles were before your time then a quick trip to YouTube, typing in “A Brief History of the Beatles” will give you a concise 26 minute introduction.

Initially at least they were clearly not everyone’s cup of tea for apparently they were initially rejected by such labels as Pye, Colombia, HMV  and a few others, with Decca apparently telling their manager, “Guitar groups are on the way out,” and, even worse, “The Beatles have no future in show business,” which is the equivalent of (sorry can’t help dropping them in here) my favourite computing ‘regrettable quotations’: “I think there is a world market for about five computers” (attributed to the chairman of IBM in 1943), and “There is no reason for anyone to have a computer in their home” (attributed to the president of the Digital Equipment Corporation in 1977) and we shouldn’t forget, “I can assure you on the highest authority that data processing is a fad that won’t last” (from a business books editor of a big publishing firm).  

If you object to the omission of Elton John, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Abba, Led Zeppelin, Bee Gees, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart, and the like, let me just say they were just the tip of a massive iceberg and I’ve only mentioned the ones I have to just acknowledge the iceberg! But then ‘pop’, ‘rock’ or a whole spectrum of these genres are just a small part of the big picture called ‘music’. Don’t forget I’m just gently stirring the memory cells.


I suspect there are a variety of reasons we each choose the music-listening we do (if we do!). A little transistor radio took me on from the old ‘Superhet’ valve multi-band radio abandoned by my parents and tucked in a corner of my bedroom. But you grow up, life changes and you get busy and so I am now excluded from the world of ‘The Chase’ and other similar quiz programmes because my knowledge of ‘pop’ for the 1970’s on is abysmal. I confess it.

But I also  inherited an old Readers Digest box set of (?) 10 LPs of classical music (sadly I no longer have it) which opened up the world of orchestral music. Avoiding the unusual (except when I am YouTube experimenting) watching a night at the Proms in the summer brings delight as you watch the conductor and various musicians giving their all (see later). Here I could wax eloquent for quite some time. However, as a complete variant, somewhere along the way I picked up on the sublime music of the Modern Jazz Quartet and an evening watching those formally dressed cool black musicians on the South Bank in London remains a strong memory. Modern jazz, of that type at least, has been a favourite ever since, as my CD collection proves.

An area we haven’t touched on but is fun to follow is film-theme music. What are the most memorable ones for your memory? For me, going right back, there’s ‘The Big Country’, more recently ‘Jurassic Park’, obviously ‘Star Wars’, ‘James Bond’ and how about ‘Downton Abbey’?  If you want to make it hard how many TV series theme tunes can you remember. Easy start: The Avengers or Danger Man.  (Young people, not for you!!!!) And if you want to go searching, we haven’t even touched on individual composers or musicians or singers or even instruments. Got a spare afternoon, then have fun searching out musical memories.  

And this is it, we probably all have our memories and they are all different with different likes and dislikes. Blues I find too moody, you may love it. The world of ‘music’ appears like a changing kaleidoscope, multi-coloured, multi-shapes.  My only concluding comment, is like what you like and don’t look down your nose at the tastes of others.

From a Google search: “Music is a form of art; an expression of emotions through harmonic frequencies. ... Most music includes people singing with their voices or playing musical instruments, such as the piano, guitar, drums or violin. The word music comes from the Greek word (mousike), which means "(art) of the Muses".  I don’t think the erudite writers of the book that started me off down this Alice-type rabbit-hole would appreciate that simplicity but that’s the amazing thing about this part of our lives, it can be incredibly simple or incredibly complex. If you don’t believe me, trying looking up ‘Plainsong’ on Google, and then listening to ‘"O Viridissima Virga" performed by Emily van Evera” on YouTube and compare it to, say, the Beatles “Magical Mystery Tour” and then say, Gustav Holst's “Planet Suite” (especially Mars being played at the 2015 Proms – awesome! – conductor Susanna Malkki is something to behold! ). I don’t ask you to like them (none of them may be your flavour), just to note the comparisons.

Well that should be enough; we’ve ambled down some familiar lanes of the memory. I hope it has stirred yours and given you fuel to go searching. Have fun.  


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