What influenced my musical taste?

Facebook; if you do it, you do. If you don’t do it then that’s fine, it’s not compulsory.
Every so often these things come around; choose your top 10 or 12 favourite… albums, books, baked beans, post a picture with no explanations, one a day for 10 or 12 days, and nominate somebody else to join-in and play. You get the idea.

I was nominated a few years back, top 12 favourite record albums.
I thought about this for a while and then, breaking the rules, posted all 12 album covers in one go and didn’t nominate anybody else to join in but intimated that they could if they wanted to.

Actually, now I come to look into it, I’ve been nominated a few times over the years for this favourite album lark and two years apart I posted two different lists, which, just for the sake of completeness and because I can, I will reproduce here:

From 2016, top 12 favourite albums, in no particular order:
Relayer — Yes
Brave — Marillion
Foxtrot — Genesis
Animals — Pink Floyd
Wabiąc Cienie — Albion
(Redacted) — Also Eden
The Seventh House — IQ
The Dreams of Men — Pallas
Floodland — The Sisters of Mercy
Misplaced Childhood — Marillion
Trilogy — Emerson, Lake and Palmer
Chocolate Kings — Premiata Forneria Marconi

From 2018:
Top 10 favourite albums, in no particular order.

Relayer — Yes
Signals — Rush
Wabiąc Cienie — Albion
Moonmadness — Camel
The Seventh House — IQ
Misplaced Childhood — Marillion
Trilogy — Emerson, Lake and Palmer
The Dark Side Of The Moon — Pink Floyd
Fate Outsmarts Desire — Kaprekar’s Constant
Chocolate Kings — Premiata Forneria Marconi

As you can see, some are the same, some have changed but I think that’s inevitable, there is a very small group of albums that again and again I return to and then there are the ones that I’ve been listening to recently so they are uppermost in my mind. And then of course there are new ones that come along and the ones that simply escaped my memory when asked to compile a list because you see, at my time of life there have been a lot of albums, if you get my drift.

Hang on a mo…
Just recently I was nominated again, by a couple of people, to list… but no, hang on a mo…
Not my top 10 favourite albums but “Ten albums that greatly influenced my taste in music”.
Hmmm, that’s a whole different kettle of fish.
Albums that influenced my taste in music, well, that rather rules out most albums that I bought because I already liked the artist or had other albums of theirs
Yes, that one really got me thinking.

Rewind half a century or more, my mother is in the kitchen singing along to the wireless, well, there’s the first influence but unfortunately I can’t pin it down to an album, EP or even a single. It would have been whatever was in the hit parade in the early sixties.

The first music records I clearly remember listening to, even choosing to listen to, on the radiogram of course, were a 7” EP of four Strauss (Johann Strauss II) waltzes and the 7”single, “A Windmill In Old Amsterdam” by Ronnie Hilton.

I can’t remember which (or should that be what) waltzes were on that EP; Blue Danube and Emperor most likely and two others but I do remember that I liked the music, there was something that even as a young boy, I found grand and imposing, like looking through a hole in a fence or hedge at somebody else’s garden that you wish you could play in. So from an early age I was exposed to “classical” music and that has certainly had a profound effect on my musical tastes.

As for “A Windmill In Old Amsterdam”, I liked the story telling nature of the song and I liked the comedy, I still do like a song with a good story. The B side of “Windmill” was “Dear Heart”, I do remember that I didn’t like the B side but surely that’s okay isn’t it, I mean, that’s what B sides are there for, isn’t it?

Another single that nestled inside the radiogram in that carefully designed little rack next to the turntable was “Hello Mudduh, Hello Fadduh!” By Allan Sherman, another “story song” and indeed another comedy record. The B side of “Hello Mudduh, Hello Fadduh!” was a little ditty called “Rat Fink”, not something I could have told you off the cuff, but the benefit of t’internet I looked it up on Discogs and as soon as I saw it I knew that it was the song on the B side. Then I searched for and found Rat Fink on YouTube and listened again, absorbing the information that it was a parody of a record from the previous decade; “Rag Mop” by the Ames Brothers from 1950. There’s no obvious “story” to Rat Fink, it’s just Alan Sherman spelling out the words Rat and Fink to musical accompaniment but it has a certain comedic quality to it.

One last record from the days of early childhood is a marvellous song called; “Fire! Fire!! Fire!!!” by Jack Payne and his BBC Dance Orchestra. Another story/comedy song, this was a 10”, 78 rpm disc that got played to death back in the day. Again, with the benefit of a little technology I read that this was originally released in 1930, how and when it came to be in the family record collection in the early 1960s I don’t know but I’m glad that it did and moreover, I still have it, very playworn but still playable – on an old portable gramophone player I bought specifically for the task.

Hmmm, the spell checker thingy is moaning about “playworn”, one word or two? Hyphen-ated or not?

Executive decision; oneword.

Growing up in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, I was at a young age enrolled in a Sunday school hosted in a curious green, corrugated-iron building which served as the church hall for the Church of St, Michael and All Angels, Sunnyside or “sunnysidechurch” as it seems to have re-branded itself with a nod towards todays modern corporate nonsense.

From the age of five I went to Berkhamsted’s Victoria, Church of England school, having just missed the 1963 intake I was amongst the eldest children in the next year’s intake and from 1964 to 1970 I was regularly hauled off to St. Peter’s Church to attend services, as one does or at least did in a Church of England school.

Now, I’m not in the least “religious”, not now and not then, having resolved at a fairly early age and in spite of the Sunday school and church services that religion was just something made-up by mortals to keep other mortals in their place — but during those church services I was introduced to hymn music and the glories of a church organ. I didn’t of course have any truck with the lyrical content of hymns, but I was entranced by a lot of the tunes and often stood, hymn book in hand, mouth slightly agape as if I might have been singing, just listening to the organist playing the tune. The church or pipe organ to this day is one of my favourite instruments.

Skip forward with me just a few years to secondary school at Ashlyns and one day we were all gathered in the school chapel for assembly but there was some sort of delay, one of the music teachers (whose name I forget) seizing his chance to stave off boredom from the chattering ranks of pupils, sprinted down the nave and ascended to the console and proceeded to knock out… no, not Toccata & Fugue in D minor by Johann Sebastian Bach, but one of my then, as now favourites, the Toccata from the Fifth Organ Symphony in F, Op 42 #1, by Charles-Marie Widor.

The chattering stopped, I stood spellbound for a couple of glorious minutes as the music seemed to fill the entire world. If you know the piece then you know that it starts in quite a high register but soon a much lower theme starts, the organ thundered. All too soon whatever hold-up there was had been resolved and the impromptu recital ended but it had been magical.

These then were my musical influences from about 1962 to 1970-ish, the rest was taken up with long summer days of childhood, train spotting, fishing in the cut, gazing at stars, sailing toy yachts, climbing trees and grazing knees.

It was upon starting at the then new Augustus Smith Middle School, that I started to take an interest in music, this was fostered by meeting and making new friends. Radio play formed a large part of this, the Top 40 on Radio 1, Folk on Friday on Radio 2.

By 1973 of course I was in secondary school and the go-to source for rock and dare I say, progressive rock music, was Alan Freeman’s Saturday Rock Show on Radio 1. Again, I can’t pin down a specific album, it was just a style of music that I was getting into and a pretty broad style at that.

Here, because these things are possible, is a track list from a 1973 Saturday Rock Show, 7th July 1973. There is a website
listing several of Alan Freeman’s shows through the 70s and beyond

Doobie Brothers — Without You
Ike & Tina Turner — Work On Me
Todd Rundgren — I Saw The Light
Derek And The Dominos — Layla
Rolling Stones — Let’s Spend The Night Together
Glencoe — Roll Of Bliss
Roy Buchanan — The Messiah Will Come Again
Mud — Hypnosis
Supertramp — School
Jaki Whitren — New Horizon
Pink Floyd — Money
Mike Hugg — Stress And Strain
Queen — Liar

Here’s another track list from 8th February 1975.

Stevie Wright — Hard Road
Maggie Bell — Suicide Sal
Barclay James Harvest — After The Day
Mike McGear — Givin’ Grease A Ride
Sutherland Brothers & Quiver — Last Boy Over The Moon
Clear Light Symphony — Extract From Part 1
Chopyn — In The Midnight Hour
Doobie Brothers — Down In The Track
Stackridge — Dancing On Air
Jethro Tull — Hymn 43
Michael Chapman — Among The Trees
Baker Gurvitz Army — Help Me
Ann Peebles — I Can’t Stand The Rain

I chose this particular list because it contains “Help Me” by the Baker Gurvitz Army, a song which at the time was one of my favourites, it still is I suppose, but it was to be quite a few years before I actually owned the album from which that song came and even then I bought it second hand from one of the Record and Tape exchange shops up in London.

On other radio shows and talking singles, I was quite taken by the likes of, and this isn’t an extensive list:
Don McLean, Alice Cooper, Slade, 10cc, Hawkwind, T Rex, The Sweet, Elton John, Mott The Hoople, The Carpenters, David Bowie, Wings, Stealers Wheel, ELO, David Essex, Abba (yes, Abba…), Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Cockney Rebel, Golden Earring, Queen, Roxy Music, Leo Sayer, John Miles, Barry Manilow, Sparks.

Sparks — “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us” and “Amateur Hour”, they were a little bit different, verging towards Prog, that was the type of thing I was coming to like.

The first album I bought, well, as I’ve written elsewhere, the first album I bought was probably a toss-up between Tubular Bells and Brain Salad Surgery, at this remote I really can’t remember but I was buying albums based upon what I was hearing on the wireless and at parties. A party 7, half a dozen albums and a handful of joss sticks and we were away, with the music, in the groove, man.

Notable album influences were:
ELP — Trilogy
Camel — Moon Madness
Yes — Relayer
Rush — A Farewell To Kings
Led Zeppelin — ‘4’
Hawkwind — In Search Of Space
Mike Oldfield — Tubular Bells
Nucleus — Elastic Rock
The Nice — Five Bridges
Rick Wakeman — The Six Wives of Henry VIII

By the time I was earning money I was also buying “classical” albums:

Holst — The Planets
Rimsky Korsakov — Scheherazade
Dvořák — New World Symphony
Beethoven — Symphony No. 9
Sibelius — Finlandia/Karelia Suite et al

The usual suspects I know but it was stuff I liked to listen to and still do.

So there you are, these are the sounds that have influenced my musical tastes in general. Overall though, of course, musical taste is a thing that moves and evolves. There are things I like now that I didn’t like years ago and to a lesser extent vice versa.

Iron Maiden for example, I came late to Iron Maiden, I just didn’t like the album covers, that awful what’s his name, Eddie. My brother Michael was a fan, I was not, I eschewed the band based simply on their choice of album artwork, silly really I suppose but there you are. It was some time in the early 2000s, 2004 probably, when a friend lent me a copy of “Dance of Death” and suddenly, I “got” it, Maiden, yeah.
So I suppose I should add that album to the list.

Fire!  Fire!!  Fire!!!” by Jack Payne and his BBC Dance Orchestra

Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh by Allan Sherman

A Windmill In Old Amsterdam by Ronnie Hilton

3 thoughts on “What influenced my musical taste?

  1. My goodness, so much of what you have written really resonates with me but what really made me chuckle was your reference to Alan Sherman. We had a whole Lp which I used to listen to over and over again, interspersed with Peter Sellers and tom Lehrer. n such comic outlets now I fear.

    Liked by 1 person

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