Love & War

Music is powerful.

It is to me. Pop music anyway. I can hear a song and it takes me right back to a particular time or experience. Likewise I can often work out what age I was at a given time by remembering which songs were in the charts at that particular moment in my history. For example, a whole fistful of New Wave numbers takes me right back to those halcyon 1979 days when I was leaving school and about to start a full time job.

 Lately I’ve been listening to a clutch of songs from the 70’s,

and two have particular power to transport me back. They are I admit not classics, but that’s not the point. They are tied to specific experiences in such a graphic way as to grip my by the collar and whisk me right back in time whenever I hear them, faster than any plutonium powered Delorean. One takes me back to 1974, and the tender age of 11, the other to 1978, when I was 15. In ’74 I left junior school in my home village of Illogan, and moved up to Redruth Grammar school. In my early days there I recall a dark, powerful, haunting moment, linked with a surprisingly cheesy, happy song. I was in a queue for something or other, football socks or an inoculative injection, the kind of thing we got as new intakes in the mid 70’s. Across the corridor, in another line of boys, one young chap spotted the approach of a slightly older boy and broke into the song in question here. Beach Baby by First Class. No, I don’t expect you to recall it. It was a happy summer disco number. The song contained a reference to the name of the guy approaching, and whether he had a particular grievance against the singer, or whether he was just fed up of people singing this song as he passed by I don’t know. But he launched at the younger boy, gripped his face in his hand and shoved it back against the wall, uttering a threat of some kind or other. I had never seen such violence before, such vicious intent. The sudden raw attack made something in me flinch and recoil. There were no punches thrown, no knives or bottles in evidence, but the manner of the onslaught was enough. It sickened me. Opened my eyes to a kind of anger I had not seen in my young 11 years. No damage was done and it was all over in a few seconds. But forever more that song was destined to take me back to that corridor in 1974, and the capability of people to want to hurt one another for seemingly trivial reasons.

The other memory is a happier one,

and reaches back over a period of months, rather than a single day. Suzi Quatro had been a big star of the glam period but was on the wane by the late 70’s. Then she strummed along to the likes of If You Can’t Give Me Love and suddenly she was all over Top of the Pops. And all over my record turntable. I played the 45 to death, at a period in my life when I was young, hopeless and romantic. And heartbreakingly single and shy. Girls were a foreign land to me, a country I was desperate to visit but had no idea how to get a visa. And somehow, in a way that only a 3 minute pop song can, this ballad of love, disappointment and rejection summed up exactly how I felt. When I listen to the lyrics now I realise it was hardly relevant really, but somehow at 15 it was perfect. So perfect that I only have to hear those opening chords and I’m right back there in those heady days of ’78.

At the turn of the millennium I was working in a Theatre in Woking when Suzi Quatro turned up with the Rubettes and Alvin Stardust doing a retro show for those of us old enough to remember. Needless to say the best part of the thing for me was finally getting to see Miss Q sing that song live on stage, and once again I was back in 1978. Music is powerful, and perhaps especially the music that we grow up with, nothing beats that adolescent soundtrack. But whatever age, and whatever the style, it has the power to stir the soul. What about you? Any musical memories?

The Bible is jammed full of songs,

though we have no record of the tunes. Some of them worship God, some of them celebrate events and key happenings. Some do both. In 1 Samuel 18 there’s a number which David and Saul would surely remember all their lives. David because it celebrated the best day of his life, when he killed the bad guy and he was the people’s hero. Saul, on the other hand, would have been haunted by it. It was most likely top of the pops for quite a while, people singing it in the streets and shops wherever he went, and it would always remind him of the day when he failed to step up to the mark, and instead let a young, uneducated shepherd do the job, take the glory and steal the thunder from him.

In the end it probably drove him nuts.

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