Everything’s black and white when you’re 14.
While hormones, acne, cheap beer and angst join forces to whip up a storm of confusion in your maturing mind, you need something certain to hang on to.
That need is sharpened by peer pressure, as the people you admire, fear, fancy or despise demand to know ‘what are you’?
In my day, the choice was pretty simple: Punk, Ska, New Romantic or Heavy. Those were the tribes, and you’d best pin your colours to your lapel or risk being cast out into the cold hinterland of geekdom.
My Heaviness came with a price. There were commandments to be followed.
- Thou shalt not have a short haircut.
- Thou shalt sit on the sidelines at discos looking sullen until Rainbow’s ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ is played, at which point you must make an arse of yourself on the dancefloor while girls look on in pity or contempt.
- Thou shalt shun all other genres of music.
The last one was the toughest for me. I loved AC/DC, Rush, Rainbow, Whitesnake alright, but there was so much more that had to be enjoyed furtively, in secret, always fearing that the heavy police might find you out and strip the epaulettes off your Italian army jacket.
Now, a few decades on, I feel just about comfortable enough to come out of the closet and admit my filthy musical secrets.
So here’s my top ten non-heavy faves.
I’m here, I’m Easy Listening – you better get used to it.
- John Denver. Boyish, wholesome MOR country boy with a surprising propensity for drink-driving and fatal plane crashing. This is the man who, with Angus Young, made me want to play the guitar.
- The Carpenters. Songs to melt a metal man’s heart, and a voice that’s never been bettered. Karen was a huge Led Zepellin fan, apparently.
- Rodrigo. Spanish composer who created an achingly wonderful Concierto de Aranjuez. Later teamed up with Gabriela and became much more hip.
- The Stylistics. One of my mum’s favourites, seldom off the radiogram. They made me feel brand new.
- Nat King Cole. Best male voice ever committed to vinyl. Must have been all those ciggies he smoked before they killed him.
- Johnny Mathis. Poor man’s Nat King Cole. Loved just about everything he sang but drew the line at ‘When a Child is Born’. I do have some pride.
- Anything from ‘The Sound of Music’. Raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, watching Julie in a nun’s outfit and becoming ‘confused’. Those were a few of my favourite things, I can tell you.
- The Wombles. The closest I ever got to underground music. They made me feel clean again.
- The Osmonds. The heavy mob might just allow me to like ‘Crazy Horses’, but I went further than that, well into ‘Love Me For a Reason’ territory, God help me.
- The Monkees. Loved the telly show, bought the albums, hated myself.