Let us assume that is true for a minute. Not the slug bit. There's enough science nerdery around here without me hypothesising about slug evolution. (Like, this morning, conversation in the car was about whether the Earth or the Sun came first after the Big Bang. Who gives a shit? Has Madonna had a brow lift, or just fillers? Can I afford another Sonia skirt?) That I am a spent husk and have nothing else to say. That lets me off the hook and I can be a boring bastard today and just deal with one of the memes I have been ignoring. The voices are telling me very insistently at this point that I am Selling You Short! Again! But I will soldier on. I have only negotiated an hour hiding from the gardening apocalypse that I can hear taking place beneath me, so I must press on.
Mrs Jones asked me this question.
Think of 20 albums that had such a profound effect on you that they changed your life or the way you looked at it. They sucked you in and took you over for days, weeks, months, years. These are the albums that you can use to identify time, places, people, emotions. These are the albums that, no matter what they were thought of musically, shaped your world.
There are NO albums like this in my life. The older I get, the less I want to listen to music, and as the CFO will testify, the wrong music at the wrong time (arbitrarily decided by me) is like unglazed pottery scraping across my soul. I am a freak. Also, I really like silence. Mmm. Silence. It is such a rarity. I do not come from a loud family. For ten years it was just me and Mum, and after a couple of years of the Space Cadette shrieking like a rabbit in a trap, we returned to companiable silence, each in a corner of the house with a book (and the Space Cadette probably out saving whales or babies or trees or giving her clothes to beggars something). Now, to my eternal bewilderment, I live in a loud family. Everyone must speak simultaneously or the world will stop spinning on its axis. Everyone must have the last word, and if the word can be shouted, bellowed or shrieked, all the better. Also, why say something once quietly when you could roar it until your head threatens to fall off? I am sitting on my bed and you would not BELIEVE the cacophony from downstairs. My ears are permanently bleeding.
Uh, where was I? Got distracted. This happens a lot, what with the Mamaaaaaaan woof woof Shackass Bordel de chien Je vais compter jusqu'à trois il m'a poussé waaaaaah mamaaan??? And of course, here comes a child, wishing to sleep quietly with me (ha! ha!) because an hour alone is too much to ask.
Music. Yes. I no longer seek it out and 90% of what the CFO would choose to listen to is aural torture for me for one reason or another. Does this make me fucked up? Probably. But Everything But the Girl, Squarepusher, Chopin Nocturnes IN THE MORNING make me physically ill. Sorry.
So I had to cast my mind way back when music was actually important and exciting to me to think of any albums that made any kind of impression. And even then, it's more about what the moment in time than the music. These aren't my favourite albums, but the minute I hear them (in several cases never because they've sunk without trace) they take me to somewhere utterly specific.
1. Voice of the Beehive - Let it Bee
My god, I listened to parts of this again on YouTube today and it took me right back to being 13, but the good bits (probably about 4% of the total of being 13). I can even tell you it must have come out in the summer, since I associate it with the merciful summer uniform of blue skirt, rather than the cruel winter maroon kilt. We listened to this (on Natural History field trips, in pottery class, in my bedroom) until the tape wore out again and again. It's still quite listenable in a bouncy daft pop fashion. And the outfits! That whole polka dot, tulle, full skirt, black opaques thing they're wearing on that video? It got its claws into me early and hard. I still love it.
2. Bob Marley - Legend
This was our car album growing up (looooong tedious journeys to a field somewhere, Prog Rock with his one legged glasses and a those strange floury sweets that come in round golden tins, with one of us inevitably being sick. I have the dubious claim to fame of having been sick on a live guinea fowl once), and we still have it in the car now. It's the album of long journeys en famille, and better than most at making the bitter recriminations over who was supposed to bring the camera/map/passports dissipate. We had No Woman No Cry at my mum's funeral and it was beautiful and gentle and right. It didn't even make me think of vomiting out of the window of a Citroen BX somewhere in the Scottish Highlands once. I couldn't listen to it for a couple of years after that, but I've got past that now and it's back in the car.
3. Colourblind James Experience - The Colourblind James Experience
Another one I haven't even thought about for years, but all the lyrics came right back to me as soon as I did. This one is from my chin stroking, NME reading, desperately serious muso phase (ages 14-17). It is so obscure that there isn't a single clip on YouTube. Anyway. The music is sort of demented circus Cajun and the lyrics are weird as fuck but I used to love it. It's hardly seminal and isn't associated with any pivotal moments in my life. Um, remind me what I am doing again? Oh yes. But it does remind of actually being fascinated by music, treating ugly black band tshirts like the Turin Shroud and reverently recording every single utterance of John Peel. The other option would have been Shonen Knife, but the bastard boyfriend who chucked me in the Kings Arms pub in York kept it, so I don't remember it quite as well. Asshole.
4. William Sheller - Sheller en Solitaire
Ah, this represents my "Oh god I'm miserable my life is complex and agonised and HAVE YOU NOTICED? I LISTEN TO FRENCH MUSIC because I am unutterably cultured and exotic" phase at Oxford. Especially this song. Gah. I'd rather rip my ears off than listen to it now. I find myself at this age thoroughly ridiculous in hindsight, though I know it was no joke at the time. I should be a little more charitable with my 20 year old self. It's hard being that age and having a gloomy Frenchman living in your cupboard as you try and write a 25 page essay on Henry II in a day that will be dismissed as trite.
5. Joni Mitchell - Blue
This is my mum's album and as a result it's my childhood album. Every track is full of her. There were a couple of 70s female chanteuse type things in a similar vein she listened to a lot. I could have picked Dory Previn's Mythical Kings and Iguanas but then I looked at the clips and they scared the holy crap out of me. That is a hell of a hair/glasses combo. She'll be chasing me through my dreams tonight. Or Janis Ian. But Joni, I actually still love. She has a fantastic voice and Carey is one of my favourite songs ever. Also the introduction to California. Ah, all of it really. Hippy scum that I am.
6. Cerys Matthews - Cockahoop
I listened to this in labour with Fingers. It's a very short album. It was a very short labour - only 2 hours, enough time to listen to Cerys, walk down Tottenham Court Road wincing, get to the hospital and have him (with only time for a brief comedy interlude with a suppository and a medical student, and a brief ER moment when his shoulder got stuck and suddenly 800 people were barrelling down the corridor carrying scalpels and the like. Thankfully averted by immensely cunning midwife.). Funnily enough, in labour with Lashes (late at night, that one) I listened to John Peel. I like this track best on Cockahoop, though I can't really listen to it at the moment. It's another album I associate with my mum, from our last holiday in Dorset, July 2003, when I told her I was pregnant again, and also nearly drowned on Burton Bradstock beach. Cerys Matthews has of course now lost any shred of edginess or mystique she ever had after going on I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here and dating Gianni de Marco from Eastenders. Fie, Cerys! Fie! Fie!
I have to stop now. I have totally overrun my allotted hour, shouted at Fingers and left Lashes to deal with the Jehova's Witnesses. I encourage you to do this (the album thing, not leave your six year old to reason with two spookily polite young people intent on telling you how the octopus beak is proof of a divine creator). Stick one in the comments and tell me why. It was oddly poignant. Unfortunately now I REALLY want a tulle polka dot skirt but no longer have the legs for it.
Because this post is pretty crappy, I am giving you a bonus quote much favoured by Mr Ross, the Quaker school French teacher who had a nervous breakdown after 2 months trying to teach Tricolor to children called Seth and Silas in hand knitted jumpers with pictures of pigeons on. Those are the ones you need to look out for, Mr Ross. I bet Alfred de Vigny could have taught you a thing or two about the perils of shaggy haired children in handknits. He used to mutter it to himself as the blond twins who spoke their own special language performed ritual sacrifices at the back of the class.
"Seul le silence est grand, tout le reste est faiblesse".
I think it's a bit portentous and crap, but tonight after 18 hour aural assault, I kind of see where he was coming from.