I’ve Got the Music in Me


I was listening to the radio the other day, and I realised my eldest brother and sister have a lot to answer for. I come from a family of six children, and I don’t know if it’s the same in all families, but the eldest in mine, pretty much dictated what we listened to musically. At the time, being a child, I found this all a bit prescriptive. Ann and Ian (my eldest siblings) decreed that we play cool, worthy music around the house. I grew up in the 70s and 80s, and fitting in with your school peers was all-important (as it is now). You had to watch the right TV shows and listen to the right music. Which our family didn’t. So Ali (my littlest sister) and I used to sneak out of the house with our meagre pocket money to buy cassettes or vinyl chart music of the time; things like Madonna and George Michael and Aha. Things that Ann and Ian would have been appalled about back then. Like all kids, I guess we felt the need to rebel.

It’s only now that I’m a grown up that I can actually see what Ann and Ian were trying to instil in us. And it turns out they were quite right. Although I loved it (and as a guilty pleasure, still do sometimes) it’s not that 80s throw-away, chart music that I would go to if I was in need of some music therapy. It’s the music that Ann and Ian played on the turntable, that’s what has seeped into my subconscious and shaped my upbringing. There has always been a lot of fantastic American music in my life, but it was British music that made me what I am; music like this: –

Supertramp:


Supertramp were a British prog-rock band that incorporated pop and other influences into their music. That’s why they were so good, I believe; the mixed influences incorporated into their tracks. It’s only now that I’m in my forties that I really appreciate this band. Their attention to melody was second to none. I absolutely loved Roger Hodgson’s voice – able to hit notes that even I might struggle with. What’s more, he looked a little bit like Jesus (and what little kid couldn’t find that appealing?). They made dozens of amazing records, but ‘Give a Little Bit’ is my favourite. It had to be a song sung by Roger, of course. Whenever I hear it in the car, I’m always cheered up…yes, even a right misery like me.

Gerry Rafferty:

This Scottish singer-songwriter was a firm favourite in our house growing up. Most people will know him for ‘Baker Street’ and ‘Stuck in the Middle with You’, but there was so much more to him than that. It was his sense of tune, also, that gave him such a foothold in our house. I used to love his nasally voice and the way he was unable to pronounce the sound ‘thr’ and replaced it with ‘shr’. If there was anybody who actually influenced my singing voice, it was him. My brother once said I sounded like the female Gerry Rafferty. Or perhaps he didn’t actually mean it as a compliment; he simply meant that I also sang in a nasally way (which isn’t necessarily a good thing – and let’s face it, brothers don’t tend to pay you compliments). ‘Rick Rack’ is an old Gerry Rafferty track (written with Billy Connolly, no less, while they were in The Humblebums). But it’s the one the child in me remembers the late, great Rafferty for. I think I love it for its melancholy nature. I told you I was a misery.

Joe Jackson:

An English singer-songwriter who my late-sister Lynn was particularly fond of. This is the only one of the artists listed in this post that I ever got to see live. I could never understand why Joe Jackson wasn’t more popular than he was. Well, perhaps he was. But he wasn’t popular when I was at school; nobody had heard of him. Most people will know him for ‘Steppin’ Out’. He was an exceptionally gifted pianist, but to me, his biggest strength was to be found in his lyrics. Lyrically, Joe Jackson was unbeatable. ‘Sentimental Thing’ is my number one Joe Jackson track. Maybe I just like sad songs (because I’m a right misery), but I think I love it because it could literally bring you to tears. Especially if you listen carefully to the lyrics – which I believe people just don’t do often enough.

The Beatles:

Well, no music list would be complete without The Beatles, would it? You don’t need me to tell you a thing about them, because there’s nothing new I can say that you don’t already know. But growing up in my house, The Beatles were very regularly on the turntable. We all know that their main success came from their uncanny sense of tune, but also from their ability to adapt and evolve. There will never be a greater band than ‘The Beatles’; the legacy they have left behind is astonishing. Their body of work is just too extensive and too consistent to be topped. But my all-time favourite Beatles track has to be ‘Across the Universe’. Its gentle sense of melody and emotion-evoking vocals is unsurpassed.

There were other bands and artists that shaped me, but these were the big four. I used to sing and write songs once upon a time, not anymore, but I did. I prided myself mostly on my lyrics, perhaps because I was always an author at heart, or perhaps because of the clever lyricists that filled my ears in my formative years. And the music I have listed just shows you, the tracks you grow up with, they are the ones that shape you. I had my rebellious dalliance with the popular chart music of the time (not that all of it was unworthy, because some of it was great). And there are other, newer musical influences that have made a big difference to my life too. But these intelligent and talented artists listed; the ones that I was surrounded with during childhood, these are the ones that had the most profound effect on me. I’d say both musically and as a writer too. And I don’t hold them responsible in any way for me being a right misery.

NB: So what about you? Who were the singers and bands that could be heard regularly around your house as a kid? Did you loathe them or love them? If you loved them, what made that music stick with you for all these years? I’d love to hear your memories in the comment section below.

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24 thoughts on “I’ve Got the Music in Me

  1. Like you, I was a child of the 70s and 80s – albeit across an ocean or two (remind me again how many oceans are between the U.K. and the U.S.?).

    Musically, my favorite era still arguably remains the incredible – or infamous, depending on one’s tastes – 70s disco, followed respectably and very closely by 80s pop, punk rock, R&B, and soul. The sweet spot of course (a sentiment I’m sure countless music lovers have identified with throughout time) revolved, coalesced, and vibrated around those elite artists whose spectacular gifts resonated from one decade into the next – proving their incontestable right to not only survive but also prevail over the relentless mists of atrophy and insignificance.

    Among them all were some of my favorites like The BeeGees (a group of brothers whose hypnotic range of talent cascaded from the waterfalls of soulful romance to the tempests of groovy funk), Diana Ross (whose salaciously delicious voice ranked her on par with fellow titans like Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, and of course Tina Turner), Fleetwood Mac (whose evocative power could carry fans away to an emotional realm ordinarily experienced only in dreams or – for some, I imagine – chemically assisted hallucinations), Hall & Oates (whose versatile command of style was as profound as it was razor sharp), ELO (whose chain of classic hits riveted me as much as it did astonish), Steely Dan (whose pure yet distinct rhythm in my opinion greatly cemented them within the paradigm of 70s music), and George Clinton (the raw, otherworldly funk master).

    Of course, there were many others who also commandeered my deep fascination and loyalty like the one and only Prince, the sultry and seductive Madonna, the uncontainable Billy Idol (for many, the 80s punk rock answer to Elvis Presley), Genesis (who catapulted to solo stardom both Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins), the sledgehammer-and-spike-to-your-skull Metallica, The Isley Brothers (to whose music a lot of teen boys and girls undoubtedly yielded their virginity), Elton John, etc.

    The list goes on.

    As eclectic as my taste in music has been all these years (I also dig big band, opera, hip hop, and classical), the single-most, biggest common denominator has typically been exemplified by one indispensable factor.

    I’ve always gravitated to music and artists that inspired me to dream!

    Melodies and lyrics that succeed in taking my imagination to a place I might not otherwise visit have consistently captivated my heart and mind. I’ve never been much for trendy, flash-in-the-pan, soulless slop a lot of record labels have tossed out for mindless lemmings to lap up with wild abandon. Ya see, no matter the genre of music, I actually prefer a little meat on my steak – not just the unimaginative fat much of it is so often and shamelessly packaged as these days.

    Well, I.suppose I might be too demanding. I guess I just grew up in a time when genuine artistry and creativity were once venerated as something more than meaningless adjectives by critics whose keen sense of musical appreciation seems to have been ripped away by the same tornado that stole away poor little Dorothy and Toto to the fantastical land of Oz.

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  2. Adele- Great list! Supertramp has always been one of my favorites. Of course, I love the entire record, “Breakfast in America.” However, I am particularly fond of “Hide in Your Shell.” Since we are feeling the prog-rock, Genesis & Pink Floyd are also at the top of the list.
    From an early age I was exposed to all kinds of music from the 40’s to the 80’s. My parents were older & part of the Greatest Generation so plenty of Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, & the Dorseys were heard in my house.
    My Mom also had a fondness for Louis Armstrong. She also enjoyed Motown. While my Dad was a lover of the late, great, Nat King Cole.
    Whenever I find myself feeling down, I seek out Frank Sinatra. What more can I say about the Chairman?
    I also like EDM & some of the new artists like Twenty one pilots & Shinobi Ninja. I am a child of the 80’s so I would be remiss if I did not give a mention to Duran Duran, Joe Jackson, Tears for Fears & the list could go on&on.
    This blog really got me going in the right direction. I think it is time for iTunes…..

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My musical tastes have changed a little over the decades, but because my pivotal younger years occurred in the 70s and 80s, that’s primarily what I reach for when I want music that has clear lyrics and far less reliance on high-tech electronics (which often prop up lousy singers these days, in my opinion.)

    However, that said, my mother often played show tunes on her stereo and to this day I adore Ethel Merman in particular. My mother also liked composer David Rose’s “The Stripper.” Probably avante-garde in her time, but one that always made me laugh and feel ever-so-slightly naughty. My mom would parade me and my two sisters around the dining room table, banging on pots and pans to those and other tunes. Of course, I was probably eight or ten at the time, so perhaps this is more of a memory of my long-departed mother than of my taste in music, and its influence on what I came to love most.

    So yes, I primarily ask Amazon’s “Echo” to play music for me from the 70s and 80s. (Carole King, The Carpenters, Diana Ross, John Denver, Tina Turner, Helen Reddy, etc.) But I also adore smooth jazz and now and then classical music, whether I understand it or remember the composer’s name or not.

    Just please don’t ask me to like rap or hip-hop. Hurts my ears.

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  4. Pingback: Music In Our Lives – R. J. Nello

  5. This just goes to show that music IS an international language. I always feel like SA is worlds apart from Europe and the USA. I mean, we are dangling at the bottom tip of Africa. Different hemispheres, different cultures, different languages; and yet “Western” music made its way down to us.

    In our family my parents chose the music. They had a wide range of bands they listened to like Goombay Dance Band, Boney M, Fleetwood Mac, Queen, Pink Floyd, Neil Young, Julian Laxton, Dire Straights, and some local South African bands and singers too. With the result that I have quite a diverse taste in music – I like almost anything except opera and jazz.
    As a teenager during the 80’s I LOVED Roxette and AHA.

    Recently I started hula-hooping as a form of exercise; I was looking on YouTube for swaying island music. When Goombay Dance Band’s Son of Jamaica started playing I was instantly transported back to the lounge in my childhood home with the shaggy carpet, bright orange curtains and macrame pot plant holders hanging in a corner.

    Music is not bound in time.

    As for the lyric thing – my children loathe it when they ask me what I think of their current favourite song and I say something ridiculous like, “Have you listened to the lyrics?”
    To me the words are as important as the melody.

    … doof doof doof “I’m an albatraoz”…. just doesn’t do it for me.

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  6. I enjoyed your thoughts about music and how it has influenced your life. For me, a child of the 60’s and living in Northern California played a large part of who I am today. When I write, I find that listening to my music helps my creative juices. It sparks emotions that I need to write.
    If I am writing something that is aggressive I listen to a lot of the Woodstock Artists; One song is Neil Young’s “Ohio” as an example. If writing a softer part of a story, I can lean on Crosby, Stills, and Nash or the Eagles. I go through a lot of songs until I find the one that grabs me and I listen to it over and over to jump start my emotions. And as you are I am a huge Beatles fan!

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  7. Another great post, Adele, and I’m glad to award you with the ‘Good taste in music’ badge. Wear it with pride.

    But don’t you think how cool it could have been if we had digital cameras and/or smartphones back when we were kids? Then you could laugh at the footage of you and your siblings boogying on down together.

    The one big memory I have when I was a kid was remember when Michael Jackson first released ‘Bad’? It was such a HUGE event. The music video was being released on UK TV at a certain time in the evening and our ENTIRE family – even my 50 year-old dad – were all gathered around the TV waiting to see the video.

    Don’t get that nowadays with the auto-tuned, manufactured, stupid-haircut, drama-school, one-hit-wonders nowadays… grumble-grumble.

    😉

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    • That’s so true, Jack. Music, and their videos, were such a big deal. I blame the scrapping of Top of the Pops for our loss of interest. Mind you, like you say, most chart music is so throw-away and formulaic these days, nobody cares about the new realise of anything… 🤔

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  8. Popular blogpost Adele, resonates with all of us. Music maketh the man/woman .
    My early exposure to music was quite diverse-country, ABBA, Sinatra, Elvis, Kate Bush, Springsteen, Motown (I developed a real love of Motown that stays with me today)
    Later on I gravitated towards Prince, R.E.M., and fell in love with Indie. The list is endless. Today these are still firm favourites with many other bands added to the list.
    Aren’t we lucky to have music for every mood & emotion. I don’t buy CDs anymore though which saddens me a bit. Nothing like the cover of a new CD. 💽 X

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