July 2019 – The Story of Modern Music in 1,500+ Facts – Part V

Introduction

Okeydokey guitar and music fans out there. If you are reading this 5th part of the series of articles, I hope you know the routine by now, so I won’t bore you with any further preamble and we can get on with the latest episode.

If you would like to (re)visit the first four parts (covering 300 years) of the story to‑date, you can do so here (each link opens a new browser tab):

Before we delve in to the Fifties, I was asked a very good question following the last article, which was…

Question(s): “A young Elvis Presley sang ‘Old Shep’ in a talent contest… he came 2nd. I would dearly like to know who beat the future ‘King’ of rock and roll. Do you happen to know if it was a fellow pop star?”

Answer: Many reports say that the young Elvis came 2nd. However, in a later interview, Presley said that he came 5th. The photograph of the prize giving presentation suggests that Presley may be correct in his recollection as three others are holding prizes while the young Presley, standing on the far right of the photo below wearing glasses, is standing empty-handed. The winners, as far as anyone knows, did not go on to become famous.

Elvis Presley Mississippi-Alabama Dairy Show Talent Competition

This also raises the point of illustrating the facts. I actually have some interesting images for each and every fact listed in these articles. While a picture can convey many words, to add that many photos, each publication would become humongous to wade through. I know people like to see pictures, rather than read volumes of sometimes repetitive narrative. On this occasion, it is probably better not to illustrate each fact. Apologies to all the picture loving people out there.

Once again, so much happened in the course of the 1950s that the decade demands a discrete article to itself. Let’s go…

The Story of Modern Music Part V 1950-1959

For many people, the birth of rock ‘n’ roll heralded a whole new era of popular music. So, as we get to the 1950s, this article will cover what was going on in the world that enabled such a musical revolution to take place and the fundamental cultural changes that went along with it. The world would never be the same again. It is worth remembering that, at the time, not everyone was excited about change and many conservative traditionalists fiercely rejected and resisted such a rebellious and irreversible transformation.

Historical Context 1950-1959

For most developed economies, the 1950s was a period of slow recovery from the severe consequences of WWII. However, the world was not without conflict and warfare in many other regions including in Asia, Africa and South America. The Cold War continued to fester, fuelled by intense competition between the democratic United States and communism Soviet Russia. The bitter rivalry included reciprocal nuclear weapons testing, military escalation and the start of the ‘space race’. The McCarthy ‘witch hunts’ of communist subversive and treasonous American citizens fuelled bitter political conspiracy and widespread public paranoia. The threat of mutually assured destruction maintained a fragile stalemate between west and east. By the end of the decade, as employment and income levels began to improve, individual freedoms and opportunities would lead to a paradigm shift in civilised countries including radical social, political, technological and cultural change that would set the dynamic scene for following decades.

Year

Global Events

1950

The Korean War started between the communist North supported by Russia and China, and the capitalist South supported by America – the war lasted until 1953 when the Korean Demilitarized Zone was implemented to separate North and South.

1951

The precursor to the European Union, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), was formed when six countries signed the Treaty of Paris.

1952

British monarch, King George VI died and Elizabeth II became Queen of the United Kingdom.

Republican politician and army general Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected 34th President of the U.S.A.

1953

New Zealand mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary and Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first people to reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest.

One of the first films to depict youthful rebellion and which would become a reflection on American social tensions, ‘The Wild One’ was released, directed by Laslo Benedek and starring Marlon Brando.

The scientific paper describing the double-helix structure of DNA was authored by Britain Francis Crick and American James Watson.

1954

The term rock ‘n’ roll was coined by DJ Alan Freed and the associated teen culture became hugely popular, particularly in America and Britain.

British athlete Roger Bannister becomes the first man to run the four minute mile.

1955

Renowned German physicist Albert Einstein died in Princeton, New Jersey, America in 1955 at the age of 76.

The Warsaw Pact defence treaty between Russia and seven neighbouring Eastern Bloc states was signed during the ‘Cold War’ standoff.

The classic film drama of teen alienation, ‘Rebel Without A Cause’ was released, directed by Nicholas Ray and starring James Dean.

The phenomenally successful MacDonald’s fast food chain was established in America by Ray Kroc.

The Vietnam War between the Communist North and the Capitalist South started, which lasted until 1975.

1956

The Suez Crisis erupted following Egyptian nationalisation of the Suez Canal, creating conflict in the Middle East.

1957

Russia launched the Sputnik 1, the first artificial Earth satellite into space, effectively triggering the space race.

The European Economic Community (EEC) was established when six countries signed the Treaty of Rome.

1958

The American National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was set up in Washington D.C.

1959

Marxist leader Fidel Castro established the long‑standing communist dictatorship in Cuba after overthrowing the Batista regime.

The British Motor Corporation launched the revolutionary and hugely successful small family car, the Mini, designed by Sir Alec Issigonis. The original model stayed in production until 2000.

Alaska and Hawaii formally become an integral part of the United States of America.

Musical Genre Development 1950-1959

The 1950s was a decade of innovation that saw the massive explosion of musical creativity across many genres, fusing influences and generating many new musical styles. Arguably, it was during the 1950s that modern music ‘grew up’ and any suggestions that the popular music crazes of the time were ephemeral ‘fads’ were finally dispelled. Country music remained popular with artists such as Johnny Cash and Hank Williams at the forefront of a revival.

Johnny Cash

Possibly not a genre in itself but easy listening music became popular in the 1950s and lasted until the 1970s. A form of middle‑of‑the‑road (MOR) music, it found popularity on radio and then extended into various styles of background music, elevator music or ‘muzak’. Easy listening music was often instrumental or vocal interpretations of past popular music standards, rather than anything new in its own right. Some major artists tapped into the appeal, including Burt Bacharach, Henry Mancini, Herp Alpert, The Carpenters and Richard Clayderman.

Burt Bacharach

In the post‑war years, modernistic music, broadly also encompassing experimental and avant‑garde music was being explored by many composers wishing to push boundaries either within existing traditions or by introducing original elements outside prevailing styles. The aim of many composers was to break rules, reject established conventions and challenge audiences in a creative, if frequently alienating, way. Practitioners included Arnold Schoenberg and John Cage.

John Cage

During the 1950s rhythm and blues music, often shortened to R&B, became popular, being a more upbeat form of blues music. R&B emanated from mainly African‑American music that was widespread during the late 1940s. Record companies promoted R&B toward predominantly urban African American audiences. R&B’s popularity was based on a fusing many influences such as jazz, blues, country and gospel to create strongly rhythmic, beat‑based songs. R&B would, in turn, influence the emergence of rock ‘n’ roll and soul of the late 1950s and 1960s. In response to other influences, R&B changed to include other styles such as doo‑wop. Famous R&B artists of the time included Ray Charles, The Drifters, Sam Cooke, The Platters and the Coasters.

Ray Charles

By the mid‑1950s, the cultural clash of blues, jazz and country combined to create a new phenomenon in the United States, rock ‘n’ roll, a phrase popularised by radio disc jockey Alan Freed in 1954. Bill Haley (And His Comets) is often credited as the catalyst although many other artists were instrumental in creating the new youth musical revolution, including Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry and Little Richard. Rockabilly was a very close relation to rock ‘n’ roll at the time popularised by artists such as Buddy Holly and Gene Vincent. Classic rock ‘n’ roll is essentially based on a backbeat dance rhythm performed on electric guitar, bass, and drums, replacing the piano and saxophone as lead instruments. The cultural importance of rock ‘n’ roll cannot be underestimated and its impact went far beyond just a musical genre, influencing lifestyle, film & TV, art, fashion, attitudes, and language. Although its roots can be traced back to the 1930s, it was in the 1950s that rock ‘n’ roll began to pervade modern society, coming as it did at a time of immense post‑war technological, economic, social and political change. On the back of radio coverage, the 45rpm single record would provide a massive boost to sales of rock ‘n’ roll songs to America’s urban counterculture youth. Rock ‘n’ roll began to decline by the early 1960s as other forms of popular music began to dilute its impact.

Bill Haley And His Comets

Musical Facts 1950-1959

During the Fifties, many more household names that we take for granted today came into the world. Modern music began the transition from the traditional forms to more contemporary genres. As younger artists born in the 1930s and 1940s began to create the ‘new’ music, the shift in the balance of ‘facts’ from births, through achievements, to deaths are just beginning to become apparent.

Chris Stein (Blondie)

Day

Month

Year

Music Fact

5

January

1950

American guitarist, producer, photographer and co‑founder of punk/new wave/pop band Blondie, Chris Stein was born in Brooklyn, New York.

12

February

1950

English guitarist, former member of progressive rock band Genesis and now a successful solo artist, Steve Hackett was born in London.

13

February

1950

English solo singer, songwriter and ex-member of progressive rock band Genesis, Peter Gabriel was born in Chobham, Surrey.

19

February

1950

English singer, songwriter, guitarist and founder of rock group Wishbone Ash, Andy Powell was born in London.

20

February

1950

American bassist, guitarist, songwriter and co‑founder of jazz rock band Steely Dan, Walter Becker (1950-2017, 67) was born in New York City.

24

February

1950

American singer, songwriter, guitarist and perennial rocker George Thorogood was born in Wilmington, Delaware.

22

April

1950

English born American singer, songwriter and guitarist, Peter Frampton was born 1950 in Bromley, Kent.

13

May

1950

Legendary American soul singer, songwriter, keyboard player and producer, Stevie Wonder was born in Saginaw, Michigan.

13

May

1950

English guitarist, singer, songwriter and member of Anglo‑American rock group Fleetwood Mac from 1968 to 1972, Danny Kirwan (1950-2018, 68) was born in London.

3

June

1950

Pioneering American singer, songwriter, bass guitarist and actor, Suzi Quatro was born in Detroit, Michigan.

18

July

1950

English business entrepreneur and founder of the Virgin empire including Virgin Records and Virgin record stores, Richard Branson was born in London

2

August

1950

English guitarist and singer, best known for his work with rock band Wishbone Ash, Ted Turner was born in Sheldon, Birmingham.

30

August

1950

English guitarist with, amongst others, Whitesnake and Snafu, Micky Moody was born in Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire.

10

September

1950

American guitarist, singer, songwriter and member of rock band Aerosmith, Joe Perry was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

14

September

1950

Great English guitarist and co-founder off blues/rock band Free, Paul Kossoff (1950-1976, 25) was born in London.

2

October

1950

English guitarist, bass guitarist and founding member of progressive rock bands Genesis and Mike + The Mechanics, Mike Rutherford was born in Portsmouth, Hampshire.

5

October

1950

Great English guitarist and one-time member of rock band Motörhead, ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke (1950-2018, 67) was born in London.

20

October

1950

Legendary American singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer and bandleader of The Heartbreakers, Tom Petty (1950-2017, 66) was born in Gainesville, Florida.

22

November

1950

American guitarist, actor and member of Bruce Springsteen’s E. Street Band, Steven Van Zandt was born in Winthrop, Massachusetts.

22

November

1950

American bass guitarist and co-founder of post-punk alternative rock bands Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club, Tina Weymouth was born in Coronado, California.

9

December

1950

Award-winning British singer, songwriter and guitarist, Joan Armatrading was born in Basseterre, Saint Kitts in the Caribbean.

31

January

1951

English guitarist, producer and former member of art rock bands Roxy Music, 801 and Quiet Sun, Phil Manzanera was born in London.

1

February

1951

Great American blues guitarist and skilled slide guitarist, Sonny Landreth was born in Canton, Mississippi.

4

March

1951

Highly accomplished English pop, rock and blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, Chris Rea was born in Middlesbrough.

6

March

1951

Terrific American blues/rock guitarist, singer and songwriter, Walter Trout was born in Ocean City, New Jersey.

17

March

1951

American guitarist, best known as co-lead guitarist with rock bands Thin Lizzy and more recently, Black Star Riders, Scott Gorham was born in Glendale California.

20

March

1951

American blues/rock guitarist, singer, bandmate and older brother of the late Stevie Ray, Jimmie Vaughan was born in Dallas, Texas.

27

April

1951

American guitarist, songwriter, co-founder and former member of hard rock group, KISS, nicknamed ‘Spaceman’, Ace Frehley was born in The Bronx, New York City.

7

May

1951

Formidable Puerto Rican/American rock guitarist, who frequently played with David Bowie and James Brown, Carlos Alomar was born in Ponce.

7

May

1951

Prolific English guitarist and former member of heavy rock band Whitesnake, Bernie Marsden was born in Buckingham, Buckinghamshire.

21

June

1951

American rock guitarist, often seen as sideman to ‘The Boss’, as well as a solo artist, Nils Lofgren was born in Chicago, Illinois.

30

June

1951

Amazing American jazz fusion bass guitarist, composer and founding member of Return to Forever, Stanley Clarke was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

2

August

1951

English guitarist and member of psychedelic progressive rock band Gong and founder of electronic dance band System 7, Steve Hillage was born in London.

19

August

1951

Retired English bass guitarist for the rock/pop band Queen, John Deacon was born in Leicester.

21

August

1951

English bass guitarist, solo artist, one time member of hard rock band Deep Purple and currently with super group Black Country Communion, Glenn Hughes was born in Cannock, Staffordshire.

7

September

1951

American singer, songwriter, guitarist and founder of post‑punk rock/pop group The Pretenders, Chrissie Hynde was born in Akron, Ohio.

18

September

1951

American punk rock pioneer, bass guitarist and member of the Ramones, Dee Dee Ramone (1951-2002, 50) was born in Fort Lee, Virginia.

2

October

1951

English singer, songwriter, bass guitarist, actor, ex‑member of rock band The Police and successful solo artist, Gordon Sumner CBE, a.k.a. Sting, was born in Wallsend, Northumberland.

3

October

1951

Award-winning American blues guitarist, singer and songwriter Keb’ Mo’ was born in Los Angeles, California.

26

October

1951

Flamboyant American bass guitarist and singer with funk/soul artists James Brown and Funkadelic/Parliament, the illustrious Bootsy Collins was born in Cincinnati, Ohio.

1

December

1951

Influential virtuoso American jazz bass guitarist who worked with Weather Report, Pat Metheny and Joni Mitchell, as well as a solo artist, the incomparable Jaco Pastorius (1951-1987, 35) was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania.

4

December

1951

American guitarist and founding member of Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, Gary Rossington was born in Jacksonville, Florida.

16

December

1951

Influential American jazz, blues and rock guitarist Robben Ford was born in Woodlake, California.

26

December

1951

Talented American jazz/rock guitarist who has collaborated with many great musicians over the course of his career, John Scofield was born in Dayton, Ohio.

11

January

1952

American contemporary jazz session and solo guitarist, Lee Ritenour was born in Los Angeles, California.

20

January

1952

American guitarist, singer, songwriter, artist and long‑term member of iconic rock band KISS, nicknamed ‘The Starchild’, Paul Stanley was born in New York City.

7

March

1952

The influential and popular weekly music magazine, The New Musical Express (NME), was launched in the UK.

7

March

1952

American guitarist (as well as bassist and drummer), singer, songwriter and member of funk band The Isley Brothers, Ernie Isley was born in Cincinnati, Ohio.

17

March

1952

Irish guitarist and member of heavy rock bands Gillan and Ozzy Osbourne, Bernie Tormé (1952-2019, 66) was born in Dublin.

2

April

1952

American bass guitarist with southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, Leon Wilkeson (1952-2001, 49) was born in Newport, Rhode Island.

4

April

1952

Legendary Northern Irish blues and rock guitarist extraordinaire, Gary Moore (1952-2011, 58) was born in Belfast.

14

May

1952

Scottish/American singer, songwriter, guitarist founder of alternative rock band Talking Heads and solo artist, David Byrne, was born in Dumbarton, Scotland.

15

July

1952

American guitarist, singer, songwriter and member of proto punk rock band New York Dolls, Johnny Thunders (John Genzale, 1952-1991, 38) was born in Queens, New York.

19

July

1952

American guitarist and member of southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, Allen Collins (1952-1990, 37) was born in Jacksonville, Florida.

21

August

1952

Hugely influential English guitarist, singer, songwriter, actor and co-founder of punk rock bands The Clash and The Mescaleros, the great Joe Strummer (1952-2002, 50) was born in Ankara, Turkey.

19

September

1952

Legendary American guitarist, songwriter, producer and co‑founder of funk/disco/dance band Chic, Nile Rodgers was born in New York.

1

October

1952

Great American rock guitarist and sideman extraordinaire, Earl Slick was born in Brooklyn, New York.

8

November

1952

The UK’s first ever popular music singles chart was introduced by The New Musical Express (NME) magazine. At Number 1 was Al Martino with ‘Here In My Heart’.

14

November

1952

Versatile and prolific American guitarist and songwriter, Johnny A (a.k.a. John Antonopoulos) was born in Malden, Massachusetts.

1

January

1953

American country singer, songwriter and guitarist, Hank Williams died of drug and alcohol-related heart failure in Oak Hill, West Virginia at the age of 29.

6

January

1953

Scottish-born guitarist and co-founder of Australian rock band AC/DC, Malcolm Young (1953-2017, 64) was born in Glasgow.

10

January

1953

American jazz guitarist who has played with Blood, Sweat & Tears, Billy Cobham and Miles Davis, as well a successful solo artist, Mike Stern was born in Boston, Massachusetts.

20

February

1953

American guitarist and co-founder of psychobilly rock band, The Cramps, Poison Ivy (Kristy Wallace) was born in San Bernardino, California.

19

March

1953

American bass player who has played with many great musicians and has a successful solo career, Billy Sheehan was born in Buffalo, New York.

28

April

1953

American bassist, guitarist, and vocalist of alternative rock band Sonic Youth, Kim Gordon was born in Rochester, New York.

5

May

1953

Highly respected English folk singer, songwriter and guitarist, Martin Simpson was born in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire.

15

May

1953

English multi-instrumentalist, composer and talented guitarist, the man behind ‘Tubular Bells’ in 1973, Mike Oldfield was born in Reading, Berkshire.

16

May

1953

Mercurial Belgian-born French gypsy jazz guitarist and composer, Django Reinhardt died from a brain haemorrhage in Fontainebleau, France at the age of 43.

29

July

1953

Influential Canadian singer, songwriter and bass guitarist with rock band Rush, Geddy Lee was born in North York, Ontario.

1

August

1953

Award-winning American blues guitarist, singer and band leader, Robert Cray was born in Columbus, Georgia.

27

August

1953

Hugely influential Canadian guitarist and co-founder of rock group Rush, Alex Lifeson was born in Toronto, Ontario.

27

September

1953

Great Jamaican reggae riddim ‘n’ dub bass guitarist and producer, Robbie Shakespeare, best known as half of Sly & Robbie was born in Kingston.

18

December

1953

American guitarist and singer, well known for his work with The Cars up to 1988, Elliott Easton was born in Brooklyn, New York.

27

February

1954

American guitarist and member of rock groups Santana, Journey and Bad English, Neal Schon was born in Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma.

16

March

1954

American singer, songwriter, guitarist and core member of the rock band Heart, Nancy Wilson was born in San Francisco, California.

12

April

1954

Canadian guitarist and singer who has collaborated with many artists over the years and is bandleader of the Pat Travers Band, Pat Travers was born in Toronto, Ontario.

10

May

1954

American rock ‘n’ roll pioneers, Bill Haley And His Comets originally released ‘(We’re Gonna) Rock Around The Clock’. The world wasn’t ready yet and it didn’t hit the charts until 1955.

12

July

1954

19‑year old American singer, Elvis Presley left his job and signed his first recording contract with producer Sam Phillips at Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee.

19

July

1954

American record label, Sun Records released the debut single by aspiring American rock ‘n’ roll singer, Elvis Presley, ‘That’s All Right’.

22

July

1954

Virtuoso American jazz fusion/Latin rock guitarist Al Di Meola was born in Jersey City, New Jersey.

28

July

1954

Multi-talented American guitarist and member of hard rock band Deep Purple since 1994, Steve Morse was born in Hamilton, Ohio.

12

August

1954

Influential American virtuoso progressive jazz fusion guitarist, Pat Metheny was born in Lee’s Summit, Missouri.

17

August

1954

Award-winning American virtuoso instrumental rock guitarist Eric Johnson was born in Austin, Texas.

25

August

1954

English punk, pop and alternative rock singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer, Declan MacManus (a.k.a. Elvis Costello) was born in London.

3

October

1954

Legendary American blues/rock guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer, Stevie Ray Vaughan (1954‑1990, 35) was born in Dallas, Texas.

1

December

1954

Australian-born British guitarist, singer and songwriter with punk rock band The Slits, Viv Albertine was born in Sydney.

18

December

1954

German guitarist, known for his work with Scorpions and the innovator behind the Sky Guitar, Uli Jon Roth was born in Düsseldorf.

7

January

1955

The classic hit song, ‘Rock Around The Clock’ was re‑released by Bill Haley & His Comets, entering the UK singles chart. Rock ‘n’ roll had truly arrived.

10

January

1955

German guitarist, best known as a member of rock bands Scorpions and UFO, as well as a successful solo career with his own band, Michael Schenker was born in Sarstedt.

24

January

1955

English pianist, singer, songwriter, bandleader, TV presenter and former member of Squeeze, Jools Holland was born in London.

26

January

1955

Dutch/American guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer Eddie Van Halen was born in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

5

March

1955

American singer Elvis Presley made his American television debut on the KWKH TV show ‘Louisiana Hayride’ broadcast from Shreveport, Louisiana.

31

March

1955

Australian guitarist and co-founder of hard rock band AC/DC, Angus Young was born in Glasgow, Scotland, UK.

13

April

1955

American bass guitarist with funk masters Brothers Johnson, Louis Johnson (1955-2015, 60) was born in Los Angeles, California.

31

May

1955

Australian virtuoso session musician and solo guitarist, Tommy Emmanuel was born in Muswellbrook, New South Wales.

26

June

1955

English guitarist and co-founder of punk rock band The Clash and Big Audio Dynamite, Mick Jones was born in London.

1

September

1955

English bass guitarist, singer and songwriter, best known for his work with punk rock band, The Jam from 1972 to 1982, Bruce Foxton was born in Woking, Surrey.

3

September

1955

English guitarist and ex-member of punk rock band Sex Pistols, Steve Jones was born in London.

12

November

1955

Hugely influential Canadian singer, songwriter and guitarist, former member of Buffalo Springfield, CSN&Y, as well as a phenomenal solo artist, the incomparable Neil Young was born in Toronto, Ontario.

15

December

1955

English bass guitarist best known as a member of punk rock icons The Clash and more recently collaborating with Damon Albarn in The Good, The Bad & The Queen, Paul Simonon was born in Croydon.

4

January

1956

English singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer and founding member of post-punk rock bands Joy Division and New Order, Bernard Sumner was born in Salford.

10

January

1956

The ‘King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’, Elvis Presley made his first recordings for RCA/Victor, including the classic hit single, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’.

27

January

1956

Legendary American singer, Elvis Presley released his classic breakout single for RCA, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’.

28

January

1956

American rock ‘n’ roll singer Elvis Presley made his first national television appearance in America on the CBS TV programme, the ‘Dorsey Brothers Stage Show’.

31

January

1956

English singer and member of punk rock bands Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd, John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten), was born in London.

3

February

1956

American guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer, artist and co-founder of alternative rock band Sonic Youth, Lee Ranaldo was born in Long Island, New York.

12

February

1956

Scottish guitarist and one-time member of rock bands Thin Lizzy and Motörhead, Brian Robertson was born in Clarkston.

13

February

1956

English bass guitarist, best known as member of post‑punk rock bands Joy Division and New Order, Peter Hook was born in Salford.

18

February

1956

Renowned American master luthier, innovator, entrepreneur, guitar maker extraordinaire and founder of PRS Guitars since 1985, Paul Reed Smith was born in Stevensville, Maryland.

12

March

1956

English bass guitarist and founder of heavy metal band Iron Maiden, Steve Harris was born in Leytonstone, Essex.

23

March

1956

American singer Elvis Presley released his eponymous debut album, ‘Elvis Presley’, a milestone that heralded the unstoppable explosion of the rock ‘n’ roll era.

4

June

1956

American guitarist, songwriter and producer, known for playing with David Bowie, Tin Machine and indie rock band The Cure, Reeves Gabrels was born in New York City.

26

June

1956

American singer, songwriter, rock (‘n’ roll) guitarist and actor, Chris Isaak was born in Stockton, California.

15

July

1956

Influential American virtuoso instrumental rock guitarist, Joe ‘Satch’ Satriani was born in Westbury, New York.

27

August

1956

English bass guitarist, songwriter and original member of punk rock band Sex Pistols, Glen Matlock was born in London.

29

September

1956

The rock ‘n’ roll era had clearly arrived when Bill Haley & His Comets had 5 songs in the UK Singles Chart Top 30 including the all-time classic hit, ‘Rock Around The Clock’.

4

November

1956

English guitarist and co-founding member of rock band The Pretenders, James Honeyman-Scott (1956-1982, 25) was born in Hereford, Herefordshire.

6

December

1956

Hugely talented American heavy rock guitarist who played with Ozzy Osbourne and Quiet Riot, Randy Rhoads (1956-1982, 25) was born in Santa Monica, California.

6

December

1956

American guitarist, songwriter and co-founder of rock band R.E.M., Peter Buck was born in Berkeley, California.

23

December

1956

English guitarist, songwriter and long-term member of heavy metal rock band Iron Maiden, Dave Murray was born in London.

16

January

1957

The legendary Liverpool live music venue, The Cavern Club opened its doors for business. The Beatles appeared there an impressive total of 292 times.

27

January

1957

English guitarist with heavy rock bands Gillan and latterly Iron Maiden, Janick Gers was born in Hartlepool.

27

February

1957

English guitarist, songwriter and member of heavy metal band Iron Maiden, Adrian Smith was born in London.

17

March

1957

American singer, Elvis Presley bought the famous 23‑room Graceland mansion at 3764 Elvis Presley Boulevard in Memphis, Tennessee for $102,500.

28

April

1957

English guitarist, composer, producer and member of Bristol‑based trip‑hop group Portishead, Adrian Utley was born in Northampton.

10

May

1957

English bass guitarist with the Sex Pistols, John Simon Ritchie, a.k.a. Sid Vicious (1957-1979, 21) was born in London.

27

May

1957

American rock ‘n’ roll band The Crickets, featuring the late Buddy Holly, released their debut hit single, ‘That’ll Be The Day’ in the US.

2

August

1957

American record producer Butch Vig was born. Vig has worked with many famous rock bands including Nirvana, Sonic Youth and The Smashing Pumpkins.

12

September

1957

Acclaimed German film composer and producer, Hans Zimmer was born in Frankfurt.

22

September

1957

Australian alternative/indie rock singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and band leader of The Bad Seeds, Nick Cave was born in Warracknabeal, Victoria.

24

September

1957

American rock ‘n’ roll legend Elvis Presley released his massively popular hit single ‘Jailhouse Rock’ in the U.S.

10

October

1957

American country music legend Johnny Cash released his debut studio album on Sun Records, ‘Johnny Cash With His Hot and Blue Guitar!’

21

October

1957

American guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer, session musician and a founding member of rock band Toto, Steve Lukather was born in San Fernando Valley, California.

1

November

1957

Award-winning American country singer, songwriter, guitarist and actor, Lyle Lovett was born in Klein, Texas.

8

November

1957

English guitarist and artist best known as a member of the original line up of indie/alternative rock band The Cure, Porl (now Pearl) Thompson was born in Surrey.

8

December

1957

English guitarist and long-time member of heavy rock band Def Leppard – one half of ‘The Terror Twins’ – Phil Collen was born in London.

20

December

1957

American rock ‘n’ roll singer Elvis Presley was served with his U.S. Army draft notice while at his home at Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee.

20

December

1957

English guitarist, protest singer, songwriter, charity founder and political activist, Billy Bragg was born in Barking, Essex.

21

February

1958

The very first ‘modernist’ Flying V guitar, designed by the legendary Ted McCarty, was shipped from the Gibson factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

24

March

1958

American rock ‘n’ roll singer Elvis Presley was inducted into the U.S. Army in Memphis, Tennessee.

27

March

1958

CBS Records announced the invention of the stereophonic record, ensuring that they were backwards compatible with the mono record players of the time.

31

March

1958

American rock ‘n’ roll legend, Chuck Berry released his all‑time classic hit single, ‘Johnny B. Goode’. 2 min. 30 sec. of pure magic.

19

April

1958

London’s (in)famous music venue, The Marquee Club first opened its doors at 165 Oxford Street, its original site before moving to 90 Wardour Street in 1964.

25

May

1958

The ‘modfather’ of post-punk rock, member of The Jam, The Style Council and solo artist, Paul Weller was born in Woking, Surrey.

7

June

1958

Legendary singer, songwriter and guitarist, Prince Rogers Nelson (1958-2016, 57) was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

8

July

1958

The Recording Industry Association of America awarded the first official ‘Gold’ album to the soundtrack of the hit film, ‘Oklahoma’.

9

July

1958

After leaving Sam Phillips at Sun Records, country music legend Johnny Cash signed a lucrative contract with Columbia Records, a successful association that lasted for three decades.

25

July

1958

American guitarist, singer and songwriter with alternative rock band Sonic Youth, Thurston Moore was born in Coral Gables, Florida.

7

August

1958

English singer and on-off-on member of heavy metal band Iron Maiden, Bruce Dickinson was born in Worksop, Nottinghamshire.

14

August

1958

American blues singer, songwriter and guitarist, Big Bill Broonzy died from cancer in Chicago, Illinois at the age of 55 or 65, depending on who you believe.

16

August

1958

American singer, songwriter, actress and entrepreneur, Madonna Louise Ciccone, or as we know her, Madonna, was born in Bay City, Michigan.

29

August

1958

American singer, songwriter and member of the Jackson Five, as well as successful solo artist, nicknamed the ‘King of Pop’, Michael Jackson was born in Gary, Indiana.

19

September

1958

English/American rock guitarist, ex-member of The Runaways and successful solo artist, Lita Ford was born in London.

22

September

1958

American singer and US Army conscript Private Elvis Presley sailed on the USS Randall to Friedberg, Germany to serve in the 1st Battalion, 32nd Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Division.

22

September

1958

American rock singer, songwriter, guitarist, founding member of the Runaways and Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Joan Jett was born in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.

20

October

1958

English bass guitarist, singer and co-founder of jazz/funk/pop band Level 42, Mark King was born in Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

28

October

1958

Scottish guitarist, composer and co-founder of indie/alternative rock band The Jesus And Mary Chain, William Reid was born in East Kilbride.

7

November

1958

American rockabilly/rock ‘n’ roll icon, Eddie Cochran had his first hit with the classic song, ‘Summertime Blues’. It reached number 18 in the UK singles chart.

11

December

1958

American bass guitarist, songwriter, producer and co‑founder of heavy rock band Mötley Crüe, Nikki Sixx (real name Frank Feranna, Jr.) was born in San Jose, California.

17

December

1958

American bass guitarist, singer, composer and founding member of alternative rock band R.E.M., Mike Mills was born in Orange County, California.

1

January

1959

American country music legend Johnny Cash performed his first live concert for inmates at the infamous San Quentin State Prison in California.

17

January

1959

American guitarist, singer, songwriter, actress and co‑founder of pop/rock band The Bangles, Susanna Hoffs was born in Los Angeles, California.

3

February

1959

American singer Buddy Holly and 3 others (including stars Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper) died tragically in a plane crash in Iowa. Holly was just 22 years old. ‘The Day the Music Died’.

7

February

1959

American blues guitarist, Eddie ‘Guitar Slim’ Jones died of pneumonia in New York City at the age of 32.

7

February

1959

The funeral of American rock & roll singer, songwriter and guitarist Buddy Holly took place in Lubbock, Texas.

10

April

1959

American rockabilly/swing guitarist, songwriter and bandleader of Stray Cats and the Brian Setzer Orchestra, Brian Setzer was born in Massapequa, New York.

21

April

1959

English, guitarist, singer, songwriter, co-founder and main inspiration behind indie rock icons The Cure, Robert Smith was born in Blackpool, Lancashire.

4

May

1959

The first Annual Grammy Awards was held in two venues simultaneously, in Beverly Hills, California and in New York City. Winners included Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie and Henry Mancini.

5

May

1959

American guitarist and songwriter, best known as guitarist for Billy Idol since the early 1980s, Steve Stevens was born in Brooklyn, New York.

22

May

1959

Controversial English singer, songwriter and former front man of indie rock band The Smiths, Steven Morrissey, was born in Davyhulme, Lancashire.

1

June

1959

The BBC broadcast the first celebrity music panel TV show ‘Juke Box Jury’ in the UK. Guests judged new record releases as a ‘hit’ or ‘miss’. It was hosted by presenter David Jacobs and ran until December 1967.

14

June

1959

American jazz fusion bass guitarist, famed for his work with Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock, Marcus Miller was born in Brooklyn, New York.

11

July

1959

American guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer and long‑term member of rock band Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.

17

July

1959

Legendary American jazz singer Billie Holiday died of pulmonary oedema and heart failure caused by cirrhosis of the liver in New York at the age of 44.

29

July

1959

English guitarist, best known for playing with hard rock band Whitesnake, John Sykes was born in Reading, Berkshire.

19

August

1959

American country blues and ragtime guitarist and singer, Blind Willie McTell died from a stroke in Milledgeville, Georgia, at the age of 61.

16

October

1959

English guitarist and member of new wave/pop band Spandau Ballet, Gary Kemp was born in London.

Gary Kemp (Spandau Ballet)

Tailpiece

So… by the end of the 1950s, KABOOM! – Rock ‘n’ Roll had well and truly arrived and there was no going back. The significant influence of rock ‘n’ roll had set in motion further evolutionary strands that would continue to expand horizons in all sorts of different directions during a period of unprecedented creativity. New musical genres demanded technological developments in recording, distribution and consumption of music.

Things are only going to get even more interesting as we go forward. I hope you will return and see what happened in the 1960s and beyond. No cliff‑hanger required, just a touch of gentle encouragement to return here next month. In the meantime, I have plenty more vintage guitars that need some tender loving care, followed by some serious playing workouts. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Quote of the Month’: “Exercise your right to be you or regret the denial of yourself.”

© 2019 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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January 2017 – Why music affects us in the way it does

posted in: Observations, Opinion | 0

Welcome to a brand new(-sh) and shiny(-ish) 2017. One hopes that humanity comes to its senses and delivers progress towards a better, fairer, more peaceful world in the year to come. Given indications so far, I doubt it but we shall see. I hope that I’m wrong.

 

What will be different for CRAVE Guitars in 2017? Other than the complete change of lifestyle to a more modest form of living and the absence of any funds to take forward the vintage guitar business, it will be a year of contemplation and formation of thoughts about the future. I have to remain optimistic that CRAVE Guitars will metamorphose (again) and will flourish in some splendid new form.

 

Anyway… back to the present and this month’s topic, in the absence of new gear. One of the things that has fascinated me over many years is why people choose, like, and are affected by, the music they listen to. My iTunes library runs into several tens of thousands of songs, predominantly but not exclusively from the last 5 decades, so the topic is pertinent. This article tries to understand why you might like one song while I might hate it and vice versa, or why we both might like or dislike the same one. While reading, please bear in mind that my roots are completely in modern music, which comprises a massively diverse smorgasbord of contemporary music from the 1960s onwards, right up to the latest releases. While I can appreciate (some) classical or traditional music, it doesn’t impact my life in the way that ‘modern popular’ music does.

 

The cultural revolution (no, not the Chinese uprising of 1966-1976) that began in the early 20th century led up to the seemingly sudden introduction of rock ‘n’ roll in the mid-1950s. However, ‘modern’ rock and pop music didn’t appear fully formed overnight and its roots in blues and jazz go much further back. What the explosion in supply and demand that has occurred over the last 6 decades has done is to open up range of musical types in such a way that defining current genres and sub-genres has become increasingly difficult. In addition, technology (for instance to facilitate composition, recording, production and distribution) provides us with convenient access to types of music that hitherto might have been difficult to reach, let alone appreciate.

 

When I was young, my parents listened predominantly to classical and traditional music. However, this background does not appear to have influenced my personal preferences. So what did shape my listening habits while growing up in a rapidly changing world? The ‘nature versus nurture’ dichotomy doesn’t appear to be a determinant of taste and passing years don’t appear to have modified my listening behaviour significantly. Certainly my musical choices have not been passed to the next generation either, which is more than capable of making up its own mind, helped no doubt by convenient availability of music like never before. Perhaps I am unusual, which may be why I posed the rhetorical question in the first place.

 

You may think that this may be a ‘heavy’ topic for the start of the year (no pics either for copyright reasons! Sorry). However, I am going to try and get inside your head a little bit, so bear with me. The focus is not only on the things we tend to like collectively but also why some of the differences in musical preference between individuals can be so profound. Exploring the foundations of musical preference a bit further provided few satisfying answers and a lot of frustrating dead ends along the way. Although he may have been biased, Beethoven said it more succinctly than I can, “Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy”.

 

To try and get to the bottom of this particular theme and gain some greater insight, I decided to delve a bit deeper into the subject matter. There is an awful lot of pure science behind music, especially the physics and mathematics of music ‘law’. While the scientific aspects are interesting in their own right, it was the psychological impact of music that provoked my curiosity. Let’s begin by breaking it down a bit…

 

One arm of musical science is called musicology. The word stems from the Greek meaning the ‘study of music’, so this seemed like a sensible starting point. Musicology, as it turns out, is largely formed of three different areas of study:

  1. Historical musicology – which is often referred to as music history (in a similar way to art history) and looks at the way that music has developed over a significant period of time. However, while this may explain the main epochs of music, it does little to explain how we ‘feel’ about the music we listen to in the current era. However, it does tend to outline what musical styles were popular through the ages and the access that ordinary people had (or didn’t have) to experience performance music
  2. Ethnomusicology – this area of music study looks at music within a cultural and/or societal context. While this may explain a bit about musical expression described by the generally common behaviours of large groups, e.g. western or far eastern music, it is very broad and doesn’t really get to the basis of individual musical preference (except within the context of a large society)
  3. Systematic musicology – is a term that covers many aspects of music including general questions about the importance of music right through to the specifics of music theory, varying in discipline, ranging from qualitative to quantitative studies

 

There is also a branch of musicology called cognitive musicology, although this looks more at mathematical modelling to explain how the brain processes and interprets music in a similar way to how it might process language, including learning, attention, planning and memory. Empirical studies have shown that there is a correlation between musical training and intellectual growth and a whole branch of neuropsychology has developed around this area. Functional MRI scans have shown that the brain actively responds to musical stimulus – no surprise there. Neuroscience, though, focuses primarily on biological processes, rather than emotional, responses.

 

Music, like language, is an integral part of our cognitive development, which might explain why musical expression is just as important as linguistic expression to nearly everyone on the planet, and has done for thousands of years. However, examining intellectual development does not explain how we, as individuals, respond to music in such a fundamental way. It also doesn’t explain the unifying force of fandom and mass hysteria, i.e. why we congregate in large groups then react disproportionately and often very rapidly to a particular movement in taste (fads?) – anyone remember Beatlemania?

 

Our brains generally respond to sound in a similar way. The auditory cortex works in association with the cerebellum and frontal cortex, and is responsible for processing ‘organised sound’, including music and language. While music also affects many other parts of our brains, scientists have pinpointed the areas deep in our brains that are activated by and cause emotional responses to music, primarily the amygdala and nucleus accumbens. The amygdala determines whether our bodies need to take some form of conscious action according to the sounds we hear, while the latter regulates the release of the hormone dopamine as part of the brain’s ‘reward system’ and plays a part in rhythmic timing. Dopamine is important as it makes us feel arousal and pleasure so, perhaps, music is a drug after all. Medically, our wellbeing can benefit from using music to reduce anxiety or stress, as used, for instance, in music therapy. Our reaction to music may be divided into emotions that are ‘perceived’ or ‘felt’, which might explain why, for instance, why some people enjoy listening to sad music.

 

Conversely, whether consciously or unconsciously, music can also be intrusive and distracting, for instance in public places or call centre queues (e.g. ‘Muzak’), when forced to listen to music we don’t like, or exposed to music inappropriately out of context, it can be linked to production of the stress hormone cortisol within the adrenal gland. One example of cortisol production as a result of an auditory stimulus may be the brain’s reaction to fingernails scraping a blackboard causing a significant antipathetic response.

 

Our clever brains are constantly trying to predict what comes next (technically, the anticipatory response). Many musicians have exploited this characteristic over centuries to tease us and then maximise the ‘crescendo’ effect. Auditory and visual acuity is strongly linked, which perhaps partly explains why we like to go out and watch live music or are drawn to music videos. Closing our eyes while listening to music can suppress the visual stimulus and concentrate the auditory stimulus.

 

So… does a better understanding of musicology or neurology help with this particular conundrum? Unfortunately, no it doesn’t. However, it does provide a broader framework within which further questions can be asked. There are clearly links between the physical mechanics and the psyche of music, so some further delving was required. Where to look next?

 

Music psychology was my next point of call. Music psychology is a different approach that attempts to explain musical behaviour and experience, including how we perceive music (e.g. pitch, rhythm, harmony and melody) and our ability to learn, play and perform music. Why is it, for instance, that some people are content to listen to music (i.e. be affected by it), while others are driven to acquire the skills of musical technique and perform in front of audiences (i.e. to affect others through it)?

 

While the answer to the question above is beyond the scope of this article, emotion is as vital for those making music as it is to the majority of us who listen to what they create. March Bolan once said, “Emotion has to be foremost. When I feel emotional I’m equipped to express myself”, and Debbie Harry also commented, “I do know the effect that music still has on me – I’m completely vulnerable to it. I’m seduced by it”. Jimi Hendrix went a bit further by saying that,Music is my religion”. To many, musical appreciation is as strong as faith, if not synonymous with it. Suffice to say, music is a powerful medium. Keith Richards expressed music in more survivalist terms, “Music is a necessity. After food, air, water and warmth, music is the next necessity of life”. How strongly do you feel about music’s professed omnipotence?

 

Perhaps a more relevant approach is to look at what psychologists refer to as ‘affective responses to music’. An ‘affect’ in basic psychological terms is how an organism interacts with stimuli including, amongst other things, the experience of feeling or emotion. Music is one such stimulus that leads to patterns of behaviour and regulation of our emotions. When looking a bit more deeply, even this area tends to break down into a number of factors that academics have attempted to measure. For instance, in relation to emotional music, the following formula has been postulated:

 

Experienced emotion = structural features x performance features x listener features x contextual features

 

While expressing emotion as an equation cannot hope to capture the nuances, it does indicate that the way we feel about music is actually a complex interrelationship between a number of human actions and situations. Studies have, unsurprisingly, repeatedly shown that music consistently elicits emotional responses in its listeners (duh!), so what is actually going on?

 

Why does some music make the hair on the back of our necks stand up? Psychologists refer to the ‘chill’ effect as ‘arousal’, which is a non-conscious physiological response to an environmental stimulus, caused by the hormone dopamine (again). How strong this reaction is depends on, as you might have guessed by now, a number of variables.

 

The psychology of music and the way it helps shape our genre preferences, again, tease us with answers. However, all it does is to identify that there are notable differences between us but not how or why these differences occur in the first place or why the emotional responses can be so varied and profound.

 

Perhaps delving into the characteristics of personality and self‑expression may provide some insight that has so far eluded my investigations? Some psychologists point to the ‘Big Five Personality Traits’ to explain and measure our ‘personality’. The ‘Big Five’ categories that shape our personality are:

  1. Openness to experience
  2. Agreeableness
  3. Extraversion
  4. Neuroticism
  5. Conscientiousness

 

The first two are called ‘plasticity’ traits (i.e. they tend to vary according to changes in context), while the latter three are called ‘stability’ traits (i.e. they tend to be relatively unchanging in adulthood). In relation to musical genre preferences, the plasticity traits are the ones that have greatest effect on our choice of musical gratification. In particular, researchers have found a link between openness, self‑assessed intelligence and preference for more complex music such as classical or jazz. I would argue, however, that this misrepresents the picture as there is a significant sociological and circumstantial connection going on here. Openness, however, does have an affinity for emotional response from music, as does agreeableness. Openness is also associated with ‘intense and rebellious’ music (including rock, rap, alternative and heavy metal). Extroverts also tend to prefer upbeat and energetic music (including dance, reggae and electronic music). Neuroticism is linked to the use of music for emotional regulation (including slow and sad or upbeat and happy ‘pop’ music, as well as indie music). Conscientiousness tends to be associated with an affinity for up-tempo, driving, powerful and defiant music.

 

Breaking things down into just five discrete factors has been criticised as simplistic, with other sub-traits tending to be incorporated within these five personality ‘dimensions’. There are also a number of other variables that co-exist interdependently of the ‘Big Five’. Psychologists have explored how individual musical preferences are affected by, for instance, age, gender, ethnicity, seasonality, familiarity, peer influence, and self‑perception. To me, location and mood are also key factors that motivate what music I listen to at any given time. What this area of study does is link personality, rather than emotions, to genre choices.

 

As with other studies mentioned above, investigations still focus on what the variances are but not how or why they drive our listening tastes. Clearly, all of these personality, demographic and contextual factors may help to influence genre preference but it is highly unlikely that any of them will ultimately determine it. In my opinion, the various hypotheses tend to generalise, rather than differentiate.

 

Personality studies get a bit closer to the core of the issue. However, it still doesn’t explain why two individuals with a similar personality and societal circumstances can still have completely opposing tastes or respond to the same piece of music in fundamentally diverse ways. Also, does our taste in music change as we age? When I was young, I assumed that I liked popular music because it was a given as part of the prevailing youth culture at the time. I also assumed that, as I got older, my musical tastes would mature into the ‘grown up’ genres such as classical or jazz. Nope. It didn’t happen and it probably won’t now. Neither do I listen predominantly to the soundtrack of my youth, although one cannot avoid the occasional reminiscence. I listen to a lot of new music as well and crave (sic!) emerging and fresh musical experiences. The same applies to guitar playing – perhaps there is a link there. As John Cage once pointed out, “I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones”.

 

In a previous article, I covered personal preference in relation to guitars. In that topic, I likened the emotional response to guitars as similar to the instinctive response that we have to attractiveness of the opposite sex. There is something about that unconscious, instantaneous and very strong, often compulsive, sensual appeal that exists but is very hard to define and articulate. To me, the same applies to music, as well as art, architecture and design. Some music has that ‘love at first sight’ written all over it and has a certain consistency of perceived aesthetic appeal, while others have a ‘grow to appreciate its deeper qualities that aren’t immediately apparent’ characteristic. Quite why some music requires multiple listens to in order to grow appreciation while other music immediately slaps you around the face is not clear. Both have their place; it isn’t a case of one is better than the other, it’s just different.

 

In addition, why does overfamiliarity sometimes reinforce affection in some situations while breeding contempt in others? Why do we sometimes just get bored by repeated exposure while there is some music we simply cannot tune into, no matter what? Why do we sometimes have extreme (positive and negative) reactions to what is, after all, just a piece of music? Why, also, do we adopt often very dogmatic defence of our personal preferences when challenged by others who feel equally strongly about theirs? I would also like to know why we have ‘guilty pleasures’, those potentially embarrassing tracks we really shouldn’t like but for some reason we do.

 

So… after all that, none of the above really gets to the root of why music evokes a strong empathetic sense of deep emotion or nostalgia (as opposed to simple familiarity). What does it say, for instance, about my personal preferences? Not a lot, actually – it’s interesting but in relation to the question in hand, it’s also a bit ‘so what?’ Where do we go from here and what more can we do to understand what makes our preferences very much our own? None of the academic disciplines or studies that I’ve looked at seem to get to the fundamentals of individual predilection.

 

As mentioned at the beginning, my amateur research provided few answers and raised a lot of frustrating questions. I would have expected some sense of surety (and reassurance) about my emotional state of mind. I also expected to discover that millennia of human learning would lead to a more satisfactory (or at least adequate) conclusion.

 

In summary, I have no easy answer in response to the title of this article. Darn it! Academia may provide a lot of informed opinion and (in my view, some refutable) evidence but it does little to satisfy my ardent curiosity. Perhaps a glib qualitative ‘because I like it’ is sufficient after all, despite its crude ambiguity and subjectivity. I therefore challenge the learned professions to come up with something better. I defy anyone to predict my preferences on the basis of the academic studies covered here. Conversely, however, it is probably relatively easy to predict my personality based on my extensive iTunes library. Perhaps we are looking through the wrong end of the proverbial telescope?

 

So, in the absence of incontrovertible proof, I tried to identify 20 tunes that constitute the playlist of my emotional existence. At the time of writing, the list comprises (in no particular order and excluding multiple songs from a single artist):

  1. The song that makes me go all warm and fluffy inside: The Cure – ‘Love Song’ (1989)
  2. The song that makes me sob uncontrollably like a girl: Death Cab For Cutie – ‘I Will Follow You Into The Dark’ (2005)
  3. The song that makes me want to scream with hatred: Buggles – ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ (1980)
  4. The protest song that makes me feel like an angry young man (again): Rage Against The Machine – ‘Killing In The Name’ (1992)
  5. The song that makes me grin like an idiot: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – ‘O’Malley’s Bar’ (1996)
  6. The song that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end: Ben E. King – ‘Stand By Me’ (1961)
  7. The song that makes me think profoundly: The Clash – ‘London Calling’ (1979)
  8. The song that makes me want to hope: Johnny Nash – ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ (1972)
  9. The song that makes me head bang like in Wayne’s World: Blur – ‘Song 2’ (1997)
  10. The track to play air lead guitar to: Led Zeppelin – ‘Kashmir’ (1975)
  11. The groove that makes me want to get up and boogie: Chic – ‘Le Freak’ (1978)
  12. The song that I wish I could have written: Louis Armstrong – ‘What A Wonderful World’ (1967)
  13. The song that I’d like to cover live: Rolling Stones – ‘It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (But I Like It)’ (1974)
  14. The best song to get stoned to: Pavement – ‘Range Life’ (1994)
  15. The song that I can chill out to: John Martyn – ‘Small Hours’ (1977)
  16. The song that makes me depressed: Sex Pistols – ‘Pretty Vacant’ (1977)
  17. The song that lifts me out of depression: The Beloved – ‘The Sun Rising’ (1990)
  18. The song that makes me long for a balmy summer’s day: DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – ‘Summertime’ (1991)
  19. The chart single from my youth: T. Rex – ‘Metal Guru’ (1972)
  20. The album track from my youth: Pink Floyd – ‘One Of These Days’ (1971)

 

Like many of CRAVE’s topics, it seemed an easy task on the face of it, however, as usual it turned into anything but. While contemplating the mix, I kept changing my mind depending on how I felt, which just proves how impulsive, volatile and value‑laden the subject matter is. I am not going to divulge why these particular tracks stir my sentiments, suffice to say that they do. I must stress that these aren’t necessarily favourite songs (especially no. 3!), just ones that evoke some sort of emotive response. What would be your 20 lifestyle tunes? What about all those millions of tracks that one hasn’t even discovered yet? I am not a betting person but I would propose quite confidently that it is highly unlikely that many people would share exactly the same list, and thank heaven for that… but why?

 

In conclusion, and as a final parting shot, I will say that extensive diversity and continual evolution in music are inherently good things. Only through variety and innovation can we closely match the way we feel with the music we listen to. Frank Zappa once stated that, “Music is always a commentary on society”. Indeed, when considered in those terms, culturally, it is problematic to separate the two. While some people are happy caught in that time warp of a certain period or are captivated by a specific genre, others like me are inquisitive and intrigued by what has been as well as what is yet to come. I look forward to ‘the next big thing’. My quest for new musical experiences is prominent and my personal choice is strongly shaped by disposition and attitude at any one point in time.

 

Existentially, I believe that music is essential for the healthy sustenance of the human condition, while the music you or I like is a very, very personal thing that contributes to our overall wellbeing. Leonard Cohen observed, Music is the emotional life of most people, while Robert Plant asserted similarly, “Music is for every single person that walks the planet”. The compromise between global and individual musical engagement is relevant or we wouldn’t have anything to talk (and argue) about. The similarities and, perhaps more importantly, the differences between us continually drive musical development and invention. After all, that is what motivates us guitarists to come together and create our own interpretation of music after all.

 

Anyhoo… I’m off to plink my planks (again) as a cathartic exercise while leaving my subconscious to attempt to unravel the mysteries of personal preference (again). Yay for the former, Sigh for the latter.

 

This month, I’ll finish with a quote by the late, great Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister, who said, “If you think you’re too old to rock ‘n’ roll then you are”. Until next time…

 

© 2017 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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