Monday, November 22, 2004

All the young dudes........

I decided after the election to wean myself of all media. I was super-saturated with information and I needed a low content media diet. This has been a failure in all but one area -radio. It was my habit to listen to NPR, (public funded radio to those non US readers), on the way to work, and really, given it's quality, this should be the last media outlet I forgo. However, it is so much easier to pop on my ipod than to stop my finger from clicking those links to Salon, Slate, CNN, The BBC or even The Drudge Report, (I know, I know, but everyone reads it, right?).

My commute is shortish, but I can get a half an album in during the ride, a full one if traffic is slow. This mornings soundtrack was Aladdin Sane, David Bowies 1973 album. Bowie was hugely important to my teenage self. Even in the 80's, ten years after their relase, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane and Hunky Dory felt new and exciting; they still do. Bowie had injected his alien personna into every note and groove, but yet somehow still spoke to the bored suburban teenager. Ziggy was one of the first albums I bought, and I wore several needles out listening to it.

Our teenage and early adult years are the only times in our life when we get a chance to really absorb recorded music. Mostly because you actully have time to sit down and listen. I listen to more music now, but its usually whilst doing something else. It's a rare occasion that I can pop on a CD and just chill out with it. Another reason is economics. Due to the usual financial restrictions of youth, my album collection was small, much much smaller than it is now. When you can't afford a lot of records, you are very choosy about what you buy. It also means you really treasure a good record.

There were some minimum qualifications for purchase.

  1. Had been borrowed from a friend, and it's greatness verified.
  2. Some of the album cuts had appeared on a mix tape a friend had made.
  3. Mark Cagney had played it on Night Train - a great late night radio show back in the days...
On returning from school everyday I would make a cup of coffee and stick on whatever record was the flavour of the month. Then I would listen, really listen. I could totally lose myself in the music. In my mind these musicans were my peers. As a young musician, music had yet to reveal it's secrets to me, ( there are many as yet unrevealed), but I could imagine myself playing these songs onstage. I yearned to be able to write and play like my heroes - and at the time it seemed like such a huge hill to climb. As I became a better musician and learned to play more complex songs, music lost a little of it's magic. Once I understood the inner workings of a song or recording, it didn't impress me as much. It's kinda like knowing the mechanics of how the magician makes the pretty girl disappear - the wow factor is replaced my the admiration of the insider.

There is another reason for the importance of music to the young - at a time when you are struggling to define yourself, but with no real life experience to use as a touchstone, music provides definition. Who you listen to is who you are. Bowie and his ilk provided a glimpse of a world yet to be tasted. Not that I really wanted to be a cross dressing, rockstar with a coterie of whores and junkies - but it provided an "other" something outside the usual teenage tedium of the hassles of school, and family.


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