I have a deep love of 20th century music. From african jazz-funk and electronic post-punk to garage psychedelic rock and traditional european folk music.
I put it down to having a great musical upbringing.
When I was a child my parents played an enormous amount of very diverse music at a pretty constant rate.
From the drone of Seamus Ennis‘ uilleann pipes, to The Rolling Stones Satanic Majesty’s Request.
From Kate and Anna McGarrigle’s French Record to Brian Eno‘s Another Green World.
From Arlo Guthrie‘s Last of the Brooklyn Cowboys to Carl Orff‘s Cantiones Profanae.
From Ladysmith Black Mambazo Shaka Zulu to Frank Zappa‘s Overnite Sensation.
One of my earliest and strongest memories is of seeing my old next door neighbor Mr Bailey (a usually very pleasant man who ran a baptist church out of the town nearby) banging on the front door early in the evening and demanding that my father turn off his record of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells.
This was in the mid 90’s.
A faith-strong elderly man, he and his wife had convinced themselves that my father was trying to summon some kind of demonic force into being to ravage our quiet riverside community. If you are familiar with the record, this was all taking place at about the same time that those guttural, cromagnon bellows and whoops show up. To be honest I was a bit freaked out myself, and couldn’t have been older than six at the time.
My dad wasn’t having a bar of religious bullshit that night, and handled it coolly without backing down. Soon after we were watching the older fellow trudge back down the driveway into the dark of the night – defeated.
Every year just about, I return to that memory and try and figure out if it had anything to do with how much of a weirdo i’ve turned out to be. And I guess the overarching lesson a kid might glean from it is this: if your dad is prog-rock refugee who embraces weirdness it’s okay for you to do the same.
With that spirit in mind, here’s another more recent occurrence.
A good friend of mine had been purchasing a plethora of new LP’s a few months back and invited me around for dinner and a listen. About half way through the meal he shot up out of his chair and ran over to the cabinet. This compilation record came out.
BEAUTIFUL RIVERS AND MOUNTAINS:
THE PSYCHEDELIC ROCK SOUND OF SOUTH KOREA’S SHIN JOONG HYUN
I have to say, I was blown away by this record. It is perfect pop, perfect psych. It is lilting melody and soul, rhythm & blues and rock & roll. There is something very Korean about it too.
The idea that this guy was toughing it, largely unappreciated, for so long and has only very recently been internationally recognized…well it’s a real fucking shame. Who knew the South Korean music scene of the 60’s and 70’s had the capacity to produce such transcendent, moving, timelessly cool and beautiful art. Who knew there was a South Korean music scene back then that wasn’t just vomiting forth more sickly american-style schlager-pop?
It was when he played me this tune in particular though, Towards the Sun, that I really flipped my wig. The beautiful voice of Kim Jung Mi, on top of those oh-so-simple yet aesthetically gorgeous arrangements, sent me into a swoon.
Simply put this record, and this tune in particular, transcends language, race, time and space babe face.
I suggest you get yourself alone, smoke up and weep with the joy only the sun can bring.