It is with great trepidation that I want to start this blog with "When I was young" because the sub-text reads "I am old now". Perhaps it's not about age, perhaps its about technological advances, which have been vast over the last 48 years? Such changes make the way things were and the way things are now result in making me feel wise and experienced. See how I steered that away from using the 'old' word there? I am talking specifically about the way I listened to music and was introduced to new music because it is so very different to the way that happens now.
When I was growing up in my house we had a television and a record player in the living room, a radio in the kitchen and when I got to be about 14 I had a portable record player in my bedroom which sat on the floor. The living room was where the records, 45s and LPs, were kept in a special stacking unit under the teak display cabinet next to the telly which had 3 channels. The only progress I remember was when we got a colour telly which meant we could watch Play Days on BBC2 in colour. We also got a music centre which meant we could play the radio, cassette tapes and records on the same piece of equipment. All of these music playing machines were kept in the same corner of the living room.
Parent's Music Taste
The way music was played back then meant that everyone in the family got to hear your choice of music. My mother liked John Denver and my dad liked Irish folk music. When they put their records on I listened to the tracks. I learned the words of many songs just because they were being played in the background while I went about my business. When I played my records they listened to my choice. When I was deeply involved with Donny Osmond's Puppy Love and played it loud enough so I could hear it in the garden (with the arm across so it repeated) there was a few tuts but I continued to listen and so did they. When my brother was all consumed with Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel and what became a life long love of punk I also became knowledgeable about punk music even though I only owned The Osmonds and David Essex LPs.
Top of the Pops - BBC Radio 1
Then there was Top of the Pops and Radio 1. That was the way I heard new music and decided if I liked it enough to buy it. The new number one was announced on a Sunday and I would listen for hours to ensure that I knew who it was so I would be all knowledgeable on a Monday morning at school. And then on Thursdays that number one song would be the last to be played on TOTP.
There was a time when me and my brother would attempt to use our small cassette player to record music from the telly. This meant standing by until the disc jockey had announced the band (sometims that would be Jimmy Saville) and then pressing record and play simultaniously and then, most importantly, remain totally silent until it had finished thereupon jumping up to press 'stop' so as not to get Jimmy or Tony or Dave or Noel's voice on the recording.
I remember this proving really difficult during Sugar Baby Love by the Rubetts because the lead voice was so incredibly high it made us convulse into fits of laughter and have to go in the kitchen until that bit was over.
Based upon my exposure to music via Top of the Pops or Radio 1 I would decide whether I liked a song enough to buy the single and then if I really liked the artist whether to go the full distance and buy their LP, which would have tracks on both sides, that I'd never ever heard and was taking a huge risk shelling out my hard earned Saturday girl money for.
When I got home and put the record on everyone else got to hear it. I took it rounds my friend's house sometimes so they could hear it too.
These days the way I listen to music and find out about new music is completely different. It is hardly ever from the television and when I listen to the radio I do it through a podcast of various BBC shows and for copyright reasons I can only listen to the voice of the DJ, the music is not available. The people around me do not pollute my space with their music. That would be rude.
They play their own personal music through earphones into their brain. So my question is how do we know about other people's music and new music? I feel my music education happened because I had to listen to the music of others and be exposed to various different tastes. I had to listen to music I didn't particularly like so as to get to the stuff I did like.
Now it is possible to only buy selected tracks from albums which I think is a real shame because when you have a whole album you start off liking some tracks and then you might warm to the others over time. But if you never gave yourself the chance in the first place and only bought a few tracks then you could be missing out?
Earphone wearing has its benefits - I understand that. But as we all go about our business listening to our own personal music through earphones we may fail to be exposed to music of different eras and genres because although the range of music available to illegally download via You Tube is vast, I suspect only a small amount is explored because it seems that the same narrow range music is being listened to all over the globe in the same way as T-shirts and jeans are the most common choice of dress all over the world.
There are homes all over the world where 3 or 4 people may inhabit the same living space but no one plays their music out loud into the room, they all listen to their own private music pumped into their ears via earphones and thus depriving the rest of the household from saying 'turn that bloody noise down' or even better 'is that a girl or a bloke singing that?"
Children can be sucked into their own You Tube Itunes world and never know the musical taste of their parents, never have to suffer their parents Radio 2 choice of music, never know all the words to American Pie and never have the opportunity to get to know where the original track came from.