Monday, 12 March 2012

I’ll play mine if you play yours.

The snow came tumbling down last month. I was out and about getting wet, wet, wet as the metropolitan city ground to a halt and I ended up staying over at a top soul brother’s residence.

Not getting home to the kids.

I guess there’s a presumption that because it’s the city you can get straight home – that somehow the snow won’t wreck the plans of commerce and pleasure. But it does and it will. So stood drinking and discussing George Harrison’s Electronic Sound and the reverb set ups created by Larry Levine – we didn’t notice that the snow was settling that little bit faster and traffic was slowing up and coming to a standstill – The Pineapple can have that effect. It’s a wonderful public house The Pineapple – a stone’s throw from the Imperial War Museum.

Back in Scunthorpe – getting home meant a walk if it snowed – wet trousers and cold feet – falling over and falling in love as you negotiated the ice around Britannia Corner and over the railway bridge. Through bends and drifts hands held and helping hands. Here it was wet concourses and low level announcements – basically a mild apology but a certainty that you’re not getting home.

No headphones – just cold ears and the beers that I’d drunk swishing inside – well cider – you know me – I am a cider drinker.

But as we were wont to do in that flat – we played music. Not overly loud – you know we’re in our forties – we get on with our neighbours – we’re not a bunch of ravers – diddlee di di sharing tunes and experiences late into the night with brandy and cigarettes. Over the years I have found myself in rooms with friends playing songs that cheer the heart as the head begins to hurt. Those morning moments that lead to a find that stays with you forever – where once it was 7 inch singles revolving on stereos or 12 inches on 1210s – it’s mostly digital digging that we’re doing – but with the same outcomes.

Richard played me Nilson. I played him Euros Childs.

We marvelled at the simplicity of music to bring us to our knees. It seems that music has a habit of running at you head first in the dark – when it’s different outside – when the curtains are drawn and you know you should be sleeping. It’s that hazy appeal as your head fights the inherent tiredness creeping into your bones but you feel alive as the tune brings a rush of energy sweeping through those old [and in this case cold] limbs. And this post could be about so many of those late moments – in cars, in clubs, on tapes and vinyl as people played tunes that would you would never tire of listening to.

But this one is about the mamas and the papas.

Paul and I used to travel to Leeds and other northern towns in search of heady inspiration. And as we would often be found waiting – after Kaleidoscope Pop had shut its doors – for a milk train to take us back to the old town we would sometimes end up at kind soul’s house. Two Scunthorpe waifs and strays – avoiding the return to the industrial streets and skies. That house was invariably on Harold Avenue – the home of pop – past the menacing streets of Sutcliffe’s stalking to inviting cups of tea – or take out bottles and Big Star’s Third or Dinosaur’s first. We sat and talked with like minded fellows about this and that – as tiredness crept in but the tunes would flow and somehow I knew I would make it in on time to college the next day – because I had heard ‘Kangaroo’ and that would keep me going – as it still does.

But Ian of Pale Saints placed a simple greatest hits record on the downstairs dansette – and out of the speaker came that simple strum and build of Twist and Shout. Yet this wasn’t the cacophony of Lennon and company in full leather and volume. No this was all delicate chiffon and corduroy and harmony and yearning. I don’t think at that point I had quite got the mamas and the papas – but in that sleep deprived moment – it worked. And I haven’t been able to escape it since.

The simplicity in slowing it all down and turning that twisting and shouting into romance and wanting – as John Phillips tells us that she’s got him going – like she knew she would. And the harmonies build and fall and lap over one another until we’re wrapped right inside the song. That walk for the train as the dawn exploded in Leeds was a joyous one as Mama Cass rang in our ears and our hearts.

Whenever I’m stuck as to what should come next on a compilation tape [ok – CD – we don’t make tapes anymore or should it be some sort of ‘playlist’] then this seems to worm its way on to it. Too be honest it’s obvious why. Those late night moments hang around – I find I can’t do them anymore. I mean it took days to recover from my night ‘on the town’ with Richard and small children waking in early hours means that listening in daylight can be hard enough.

So here’s to the beauty of one person playing something different to another. It’s called sharing and the world is a better place for it.