Sometimes in life you have those lightbulb moments when you finally consciously realise something that has been obvious for years. It not only becomes suddenly apparent but carries with it a deep sense of gratitude for whatever it is or means.
In my case, I just had that moment when I realised much of the music I love was introduced to me by my parents, especially my father.
When I was a child we took regular road trips up to Queensland and northern New South Wales. Much of the journey would be soundtracked with my dad’s cassettes of Queen and Billy Joel while I watched the Australian countryside slide by the window.
Later in my teens I started digging into his vinyl and CD collection, discovering in depth the likes of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.
There were other artists and bands in there that I never really cared for like Van Morrison and Gordon Lightfoot. There was Jethro Tull, who I just never understood.
There was also Paul Simon’s Graceland album, which many consider one of the best albums ever produced, and it’s hard to argue the point. 35 years after its release the quality still stands up it terms of technical recording aspects. The songs themselves are timeless classics featuring a vast array of instruments, faultless structure, beautifully poetic lyrics and some of the best bass guitar tuning of all time.
It was this album that caused me to have this recent revelation. I happened upon the clip below and began reflecting on my childhood and teenage years and the music that resonated in my house during those times. I would often find myself out in the backyard playing sport or just mucking around with the lyrics to Boy In The Bubble or Graceland still bouncing around in my head because my father had been blasting his old Sansui stereo again.
Sure, I was also into modern music (modern at the time, at least) so the alternative rock scene of the 1990’s still features heavily in my collection. Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Soundgarden were the staples, but other like Collective Soul I have grown to appreciate much more over the years. Either alone or with friends I discovered the back catalogues of Metallica, Guns N Roses and more.
But as I have grown older and wiser my appreciation of the music that came before me has depended.
In my mid twenties I became infatuated with The Wall, playing it on repeat in my car to and from work for months. I ended up going to see Roger Waters’ tour the album and it remains the most spectacular live show I have ever witnessed in person.
A few years earlier my father took my sister and I to see Billy Joel live. I enjoyed that so much more than I expected to, partly because I knew so many more songs than I realised. But also because – even though he was getting on a bit in 2006 – Billy and his band all still sounded incredible. Talent and brilliant songwriting don’t age. They are timeless.
In the last few years I have binged on clips like the one below, basking in the glory of a band that should have been too old to pull off a show like they did but did it anyway. The clip has 106 million views at the time of writing this and I feel like I’m responsible for at least a quarter of them.
My mother was less influential but still taught me some classics. Her favourites were Joe Cocker, Bryan Ferry and Roy Orbison, among others.
She was also a big Ray Charles fan, but I already knew all about him because my parents introduced me to the cult classic The Blues Brothers at a young age.
Yep, they taught me well. All the important bases were covered!
With age and maturity I have learned to love many of these bands and musicians just as my parents did, if not more. It’s funny, because back when I was a kid I sometimes dismissed some of what my parents were in to because “it was old, who cares?” but over time I realised my parents actually had great taste in music.
As an example, Roy Orbison kind of creeped me out when I was young so I never listened very closely. But man, his voice was smoother than a bowling ball. I realised this when listening to The Travelling Wilbury’s where even alongside the other great singers and songwriters in that band the voice of the Big O still stood out as a thing of beauty.
In all honesty, I’m not even sure what the point of this post is. I think I just wanted to thank my parents for enriching my life with great music.
It is truly a gift that keeps on giving.