Songs in the key of your life?


I saw this image recently on social media. It was on Janis Ian’s Facebook page. At the time of my youth she was a well respected singer song writer. She still is a well respected singer song writer among many other things now. I found this very thought provoking. It took me right back to the early 1970’s and days of musical discovery and early relationships. With Valentine’s Day just gone it also made me think of first love and love in general, unrequited or not. This is not a review of specific artists but more of a statement on how we enjoy music and how it triggers memory.


Curiously my first album purchase was a mature choice for a 14 year old . I was very fortunate to have a friend with an older sister. Her record collection was incredible and on Saturday afternoons we would sneak into her room and I would get to listen to some amazing music. It was a hallowed place with records carefully removed from the shelf and handled as if they were ancient religious manuscripts. The Doors, The Allman Brothers, Santana and Jimi Hendrix. Mostly American acts but also later discovering Free, Jethro Tull and Irish guitar legend Rory Gallagher. I never got to thank her but I will now. 

‘Thank you Pauline for setting a very high standard in my musical appreciation journey. You had already seen the whole of the moon at that point. We were just starting out. We just stayed in the room.X.’ 

…she had even been to the Isle of Wight Festival!


Listening to that first album and others at that time was always done with a kind of reverence that comes with handling a piece of vinyl and placing the stylus of the record player on the groove and listen to it crackle just slightly before the first notes were heard. No drugs or alcohol involved just sound. The title track LA Woman is a favourite as is Riders on the Storm with its lashing rain and lightning sound effects and its theatrical delivery by singer and writer Jim Morrison who had already died by the time I had picked up on his work. Picking out every instrument the drums, guitar and most of all Ray Manzerak’s amazing keyboards.

Music was quite a lonely almost monastic pastime limited to my bedroom with the walls covered in paper middle page posters from Sounds a music paper I bought regularly. (Mainly for the free posters)

Becoming old enough to be going out with girls would soon change all that. Long telephone conversations sitting on the stairs hugging a very chunky BT telephone handset and not wanting to end the call come to mind. Then the shout from your parents. ‘Is he still on that phone?

Marc Bolan another fine artist gone too soon.

Sharing music tastes with other people was pleasing. Despite not quite getting the fandom thing I saw girls express I loved the music and the style and artistry of Bowie especially and T Rex was a firm favourite of my girlfriend. Loved seeing the reaction to the new albums coming out although I was more of an ‘Electric Warrior’ with Get it on still a song I would play today. We had met quite late on at school and we kept in touch for a good while as we both went to university and teacher training college respectively. Musical tastes mingled for a while as well with a shared love of Stevie Wonder and some of his classics still remind me of campus visits and bus journeys home from there.

Superstition is a song that takes me right back to the first time I heard it. It’s got such quality and depth to it I love it still. Just watch this live version filmed for Sesame Street.

From there on in life got more complicated and somewhere along the way the appreciation of music ebbed and flowed. Live music was great but as I have got older I have recently discovered my hearing is going. Maybe I overdid the volume? 

Punk and New Wave came and went and Ska and Reggae were mixed in with it. Loved all of it, and Ian Dury gave me plenty of reasons to be cheerful.

The mix of music and politics and social issues took my music to a new level. Some of it was angry, quite rightly so, but some of it was also very beautiful.

The Clash the sound of my late 70’s and early 80’s


They say ‘Rock will eat itself’ and all music is an endless repetition of styles down the years. Many young people me included will discover their own music by sneaking into big sisters or big brothers bedrooms and discovering what is ‘new’ music to them. Let them. ( Digital devices might not let them do what I did)

Debbie Harry introduces original film of ‘Sunday Morning’ by the Velvet

Just now my enjoyment of music seems to have diminished but Janis Ian’s picture has just sparked off a thousand memories. It is no wonder that people use the power of music when working people with dementia and their carers.

Everyone has a favourite playlist in them somewhere. What is yours? 

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5 replies »

  1. I left reading this, until I’d checked other stuff on t’Internet, as I knew I’d find it to be of interest.
    What’s to say? Music – soundtrack of our lives.
    And, if we’re lucky, all kinds of music.

    Here’s a wee tale …….

    First, I’ll mention that …Mike had been aware of Stevie Wonder – but only his more ’pop’ stuff – until I introduced him to the Stevie classic albums – he describes this as being “a revelation”.

    And now for the tale –

    My parents loved traditional Irish and Scots music (Mum also like Elvis, and the old Blues folk, too – a very groovy Mum). One of Mum’s favourite traditional singers, was Bridie Gallagher – a sweet, sweet voice.

    Recently, in a charity shop, Mike came across a CD of Bridie Gallagher songs, which he brought home for me. I put the CD on and knew every song – even after all these years.
    It was stepping back in time – Mum dancing round the kitchen, singing along to Bridie, catching me up, and us waltzing around, together.
    Last Saturday evening, Mike was making tea, while I watched the telly. I turn the sound off on the adverts – people shouting at me, trying to sell me things I don’t want – some things – I don’t even know what they are!
    With the sound off, I heard, through from the kitchen – the sweet voice of Bridie Gallagher. Mike was listening to the CD. I went through to the kitchen, and we waltzed around, together, with me singing along.
    My lord, what a memory.

    Then there’s the fact that we were a family of five – eldest sister Bid (see ‘comment’ to ) liked ‘Crooners’ – we used to tease her about liking Johnnie Ray. Next sister, Reene, an out and out Teddy Girl – rock and roll all the way. Brother Tony – folk – Joan Baez, Julie Felix, Woody Guthrie, Simon & Garfunkel. Next sister, Tina – The Beatles, and The Stones – people didn’t usually go for both ( the Blur and Oasis of their day!), but Tina did.
    So, I got to hear all these kinds of music.
    Then, school days in the sixties and early seventies – the music that was around then – and then, College – hippie music – followed closely by Punk – and so on and so on.
    Like you, my hearing is a bit gone, and I say it’s from listening to so many loud bands in small spaces – it was worth it though – my lord, it was worth it.
    As Curtis Mayfield would say – “keep on keeping on” – listening………!

  2. Bernie,

    I met Bridie Gallagher several times when I was a child as she lived in Belfast, and my uncles knew her, as she loved close by. I’d forgotten that until I read your comment!

  3. Holy Moly Eamonn – you met Bridie Gallagher! My Mum will be smiling on you.
    Mike and I were waltzing to ‘Moonlight in Mayo’ – you probably know it?

    It has to be said though – Eamonn is a music man, who has met – well who hasn’t he met – here’s an extract from my review of his recently released CD, in collaboration with Keith Gooch – ‘Blame it on the Thunderbird’ –

    “Eamonn has played everywhere, and has met everyone ( see his piece about Phil Lynott’s guitar – PHIL LYNOTT’S GUITAR!!!). On moving to Orkney, he stepped into the music scene here, and already has successful appearances at the Orkney Blues Festival to his credit.”

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