Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Stardust Memories

Anyone get music for Christmas?  Be very careful how often you play it – some albums may never find their way out of your head...

As most of us have now begun our summer holiday, here’s a not-especially proud look back at some of the albums , Christmas presents or otherwise, which somehow came to embody certain of my summers long past.  You probably have your own – music which either by choice, necessity or desperation became inextricably entwined with memories of certain December/Januarys when summers really were long and hot.  So why don’t you tell me about them - as a wise man once said: “When we share, we heal”.

Summer 1977
First I can remember would have to be The Story of Star Wars – the first album I ever owned.
Videotapes and DVDs were as much a part of the future as droids and lightsabres, but the magic of audio cassette technology condensed the film soundtrack down to roughly 24 minutes on each side, and provided wonderfully baritone linking narration from Afro-American actor Roscoe Lee Brown (To Kill a Mockingbird). I could now replay Star Wars as many times as I wanted – and I did: again, and again, and again.  Every moment from the opening 20th Century Fox fanfare to Alec Guinness solemnly wrapping up by promising that: “The Force will be with you, always” became indelibly embedded in my 11-year-old mind. No wonder it was going to be many long years until I finally got a girlfriend.

Summer 1980
I’m probably even less proud of this one, but it really wasn’t my fault.  Leaving town on a two week family holiday to the Nelson Lakes National Park, perhaps inspired by the name of our destination (I can think of no other justification) my father picked up the cassette of a Willie Nelson album called Stardust.  I think we’d call it a ‘covers album’ these days, and it got thrashed severely over the following fortnight. At the end of ‘Georgia’, possibly his most well-known effort, Nelson repeats the line “on my mind” over and over again, which I now believe was actually some kind of insidious audio-brainwashing. Because even now, in my poor mind perfectly good songs like ‘Moonlight in Vermont’ and ‘Sunny side of the Street’ are forever associated with Willie’s arid, quavering warble.

Summer 1984
My first year away from home must surely have developed some more refined musical tastes.  Mixing with ferociously-trendy design students from all over the country must have exposed me to many new and challenging kinds of music?  Well, yes…it did, but what I chose to play this summer was the soundtrack to an unknown movie called FM. (It apparently went on to ‘inspire’ long-running radio station sitcom WKRP, which perhaps gives some idea of its flavour.)
Although often found at the bottom of bargain bins, this album showcased tracks from Foreigner, the Eagles, Steely Dan and that colossus among one-hit wonders – Boston’s mighty “More than a Feeling”.  A camping holiday with friends in the wilds of Marlborough’s back-country was spiced up no end by this collection of ‘past-its-sell-by-date’ 70s rock and our air guitars got a damn good work-out that summer, I can tell you.

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