Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Now, do you believe in Rock and Roll and can music save your mortal soul? ©

I was listening American Pie yesterday and as usual, couldn’t help but stop and focus on the poignant lyrics as Don McLean pays homage to music in one of the 20thcentury’s most memorable songs. Appropriately for a song about the power of music, the song has an infectiously catchy chorus:

Bye bye, Miss American Pie,
Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry
Them good ol’ boys were drinking whiskey and rye, singing…
This’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

and yet whenever I play this song, I always think that’s a shame that the majority of people will remember this rhyme alone and lose the message conveyed in the rest of the song.  American Pie opens with the lines…

A long, long time ago
I can still remember how that music used to make me smile
And, I knew if I had my chance that I could make those people dance, and…
Maybe they’d be happy for a while

… which I find sad and uplifting at the same time, as it simultaneously recognises people’s need for music to lift their spirits during the dark times and the euphoria that it brings during the happy, carefree periods of our lives. Sometimes our lives are neither dark, nor euphoric and yet music is always there for us, bringing relaxation or release from stress, taking us on myriad trips down memory lane and providing company when we’re alone.

We all have our favourite songs, songs that never grow old no matter how many times we play them and touch us in different ways. I don’t remember ever having this conversation but I feel sure that, as I do, each and every person reading this will, from time to time, listen to a song not for any other purpose than simple enjoyment. I did this for an hour or so last night and first listened to the acoustic version of Tom Petty’s Learning to Fly that I find extremely relaxing and liberating, its Californian spirit reminding me that most of us are free to one degree or an another and there’s a big wide world out there, just waiting to be discovered! I then switched to a song with a different, more melancholy feel: a live version of Separate Ways by Gary Moore. Listening to the gentle opening guitar solo of this track, I can’t help but feel that all is right with the world, such is the beauty of the melody. This song has become all the more poignant since Gary’s untimely death in February of last year at the age of 58. Rest in Peace Gary, you will live on through your music.


I love poetry in lyrics and I think that songs often allow people with no apparent interest in poetry to discover a literary or more sensitive side to their character: this was definitely the case for me. And yet I also love instrumentals that caress the senses, lulling us into a peaceful state and allowing us to become completely in sync with the music. Last night as I listened to the guitar solo opening Separate Ways, the speakers pulsing like a beating heart, I realised that music really is the lifeblood of humanity and a tangible thing in itself.

Musical tastes vary enormously as each of us is drawn to the music that speaks to us. I always find it interesting to see who enjoys a power ballad, privately adding them to my list of closet romantics. Similarly, interests in other types of music can give insights into their character. And I find people are often guarded about their favourite artists, perhaps conscious that it gives something away.


One thing is for certain though, no matter your age, sex, culture or religion, music is sure to be a part of your life to one degree or another and concerts, like great sporting events, bring people together, uniting them for good, which can only be a positive thing.

This is a fairly incoherent ramble but I’ve been thinking about the effects of music for a while and thought I’d get them down while I was feeling inspired by the work of Tom Petty and Gary Moore! Maybe one day, I’ll put these thoughts into some sort of logical order but for now I leave you with my list of five essential tracks, my personal desert island discs.

1)    A song for euphoria: nothing quite gets me high like Tunnel of Love by Dire Straits. That epic guitar solo gives me goosebumps, every time.
2)    A song for reflection: the New York Sessions version of Idiot Wind by Bob Dylan is so full of beauty, poignancy and wisdom, it is hard to believe that it was written by one person. But such is the extraordinary genius of maybe the greatest poet of our times.
3)    A song for romance: tough one but I love In Your Atmosphere by John Mayer. We can all identify with it and John’s voice is just incredible.
4)    A song for relaxation: the acoustic version of Learning to Fly by Tom petty. California rock at its finest.
5)    A song for memories: the Fields of Anfield Road sung to the tune of the Fields of Athenry reminds me of one of the best nights of my life.

And a few interesting quotes:
Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent – Victor Hugo
One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain – Bob Marley
Music is my religion – Jimi Hendrix

Music to my ears!
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