Wednesday, 28 May 2008

The new rock'n'roll is... rock'n'roll

A few years ago, at a better than usual works Christmas do, we were asked to write down our top ten Desert Island Discs as a party game – then guess which list belonged to who. I was mortified when someone put my name next to the list that included Joan Armatrading. Mine was the one with Elvis, T Rex and the Clash.

It’s strange how much your sense of self is wrapped up in the music you care about. And I mean ‘care about’. Not just ‘like’. I thought I’d grown out of all that. I was wrong. It’s nothing to do with trying to impress, or nostalgia, or even the soundtrack of my life. (I was in nappies when much of the music I love was being made.) It’s about what makes you feel alive. And what makes you feel alive isn’t necessarily the same for the next person.

For a while, I’d forgotten what that felt like. Then I heard something on Mark Lamarr’s Redneck Music that woke me up. It was probably nonsense. It was almost certainly primitive. (Both are, of course, two of the criteria for the best rock’n’roll.) It made me laugh with joy. And again, more recently, I was watching Later with Jools Holland: normally last bastion of the boring muso, but suddenly good again. And I heard Glasvegas and hung onto every note.

I realised I hadn’t stoppped caring about music. I’d just been listening to the wrong sort of music, and thought I didn’t care any more. There’s the music I used to like, and think I ought to like now because it meant something to me once. There’s the music I used to like and would like still. Except it makes me feel the way I felt the first time I heard it. And I really don’t want to be 15 again. There’s the music I like because it’s the sort of music I like. And the music I like because I know quality when I hear it. That’s what happens when you get middle-aged. And then there’s the stuff that makes you feel alive. It doesn’t have to be ‘quality’. It doesn’t have to be approved by anyone else. It just has to connect. That’s what’s worth caring about. That’s worth forgetting how old you are.

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