Music is magic. Music can touch your soul. Music can inspire you. Music can lift your spirits. Music can make you think about the world. Music can make you want to cuddle your loved ones. Music can make you dance and sing. Music can make you want to cry. Music can be deeply moving. Music can hold so many memories. Music is magic.
I have been to hundreds of gigs and festivals over the years. Many of the festivals have a separate page on this website with a write up and pictures. A lot of the gigs I have been to have a write up and pictures on my blog.
My relationship with music started at a very young age, my parents bought me vinyl records of ‘children’s’ music, the one that sticks in my mind is a Wombles album! My dad was in a job where he got a new company car every year and I was still very young when he started getting cars with tape players in. He used to have a variety of tapes he would play. Early on I remember Neil Diamond, The Beatles and The Beach Boys.
Around the time I turned eight years old the film Grease came to UK cinemas. I went to see it and loved it. That Christmas I got the soundtrack on tape, my first album that was more adult! A couple of years later I heard Soft Cell’s Tainted Love on the radio and something about it captured me. I have no idea what it was as I was only just about to turn ten and had no experience with anything in the lyrics!
I spent the early part of the 1980s listening to popular chart music like Duran Duran, Wham, Spandau Ballet, Madonna, Culture Club, Rod Stewart, Depeche Mode and Tears for Fears. I also discovered the Two Tone and Mod scene, bands like The Jam, The Who, The Beat, The Specials and Madness became firm favourites. By the mid-1980s as I was approaching fifteen years old I discovered Billy Bragg who through his music started making me question the world around me and take an interest in politics.
Around the time I was leaving school I had become an avid fan of Psychobilly music through the scootering scene of the day. I also, through the same scene, became aware of Northern Soul music. At seventeen years old I moved from the small white middle class town I had been raised in to a multi-cultural city. My bedsit was in the most diverse part, with the main street where I lived full of Asian and Jamaican food shops, a Jamacian café where reggae would be pumping out and a whole different scene to what I had been used to.
It was through living there that my love of reggae started but also many other types of music as I was mixing with so many different people. The 1990s brought the rave scene and a whole new musical journey began for me and has never stopped. I continue to discover new music and not always new in the sense that it has only just been released but new to me, sometimes it can be fifty years old or more!
The first live gig I went to was when I was fourteen or fifteen, it was a Youth Club trip to see Depeche Mode in Birmingham Arena. It was good but typical of big arena gigs where the majority of the audience is so far away you don’t have any vibe with the band and can end up watching the show on the screens to the side of the stage. The following year the trip was to see The Alarm at Bristol Colston Hall which was a much smaller venue. Later I would see many bands and have always preferred the much smaller intimate venues.
I have already mentioned a few artists and bands that have impacted on my musical journey and I will later mention some more but there are four bands that have had such a big impact on me that they deserve special individual mentions.
I’d first heard a couple of Levellers songs in 1992 but really got in to them the following year when they released their third album ‘Levellers’. My sister had got that album and their previous one ’Levelling the Land’. I taped them and bought their first album ‘A Weapon Called the World’ and listened to nothing else for months. The next year I went to see them live and it was at the time the best gig I had ever been to. I ended up seeing them at least thirty times over a fifteen year period. I agreed with a lot of what they say in their songs, it was so relevant to my life. I loved their punk folk sound and the energy of their live shows. I loved these guys so much, their music changed my life.
More about them at THE LEVELLERS
I first heard Zion Train on John Peel’s radio show in the early nineties. For ages I just had a few tapes of them recorded off the radio. I saw them a couple of times in Cheltenham during the nineties and I thought they were excellent. I bought their album ‘Love Revolutionaries’ in 2000 and through that album they became so much more than just another band I liked. Their beautifully crafted dub tunes made me want to sing and dance and their live shows just got better and better. I loved Zion Train to bits they have taken me places higher and better than any drug in the world and have been a great inspiration to me. Like The Levellers, I ended up seeing them at least thirty times over a fifteen year period.
More about them at ZION TRAIN
Radical Dance Faction (RDF)
I first heard RDF in 1997 and by then they had already split up. All I had was a very old battered tape with their ‘Wasteland’ album on one side and their ‘Borderline Cases’ album on the other. The tapes gave up eventually but I managed to get those albums and ‘Ragamuffin Statement’ on CD in 2003. It’s raw, not highly polished or over produced. The lyrics are amazing, Chris Bowsher is in my opinion by far the best wordsmith out there. The songs are pretty grim, pain and suffering being high on Chris’s agenda. Growing up in Thatcher’s Britain also plays a part in the words of this man. Terrorism, oppression, addiction all influence the lyrics he writes. I love RDF they opened my eyes and made me think about a lot of things. Thankfully they reformed in 2006 and so I finally got to see them live and even better they usually play at all my favourite festivals!
More about them at RADICAL DANCE FACTION
I had heard Dreadzone back in the early nineties on John Peel and even had some of them on tape but didn’t buy any of their stuff. I had always wanted to see them live but had never been able to until 2003. They played at Beautiful Days festival and blew me away! I went home and got their last two albums ‘Sound’ and ‘Biological Radio’ followed by the classic ‘Second light’ and ‘The Radio One Sessions’. I went to see them twice on their tour that year and continued to do so for the next 10 years. Their tunes are so uplifting and full of energy it’s impossible not to want to dance! I loved Dreadzone because they rocked my world!
More about them at DREADZONE
Some of my other great musical loves include Bob Marley, Love Grocer, Iration Steppas, Dubdadda, Ms Dynamite, Massive Attack, The Streets, Dub The Earth, The Fugees, Mad Professor, Tricky, Roni Size, Lee ’Scratch’ Perry, Ijahman Levi, Powersteppers, Mighty Diamonds, Rhythm-ites, P.A.I.N., Senser, Blink 182, Ozric Tentacles, Blur, Pulp, Skindred, Eat Static, Revolutionary Dub Warriors, Beautiful South, Wu Tang Clan, Mary J Blige, Linkin Park, Nitin Sawhney, The Verve, Pink Floyd, Asian Dub Foundation, Dido, Dillinja, Adrian Sherwood, Max Romeo, Bush Chemists, Mungo’s HiFi, The Style Council, Linval Thompson, Earl 16, King Tubby, Peter Tosh, Horace Andy, Scientist, Half Man Half Biscuit, Fun Boy Three, The Kinks, Sublime, King Kurt, Guana Batz, Torment, The Meteors, Frenzy, The Cramps, The Prodigy, Green Day, No Doubt, Chumbawamba, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Squeeze, Arrested Development, Black Grape, Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, Manic Street Preachers, REM, Nirvana, Terrorvision, Audioweb, Bentley Rhythm Ace, Suzanne Vega, The Wonderstuff, Finley Quaye, Nenah Cherry, The Housemartins, Portishead, Mickey Finn, Kenny Ken, Culture Shock, AOS3…… the list goes on and on!
Lyrics have always had a massive influence on me, some just for singing along, some for what they are saying to me. Here are some of my favourite lyrics……
Terrible dream you're down in the rush, caught in explosion turned to dust. Terrorist incursion the law breaking in, deathly illness carried by sin. Harder, harder to survive. Hope for us is a very long road, it’s a long long road to walk down. Walking the streets do you know what I mean? Walking the streets do you know how it feels? Sometimes it seems like peace ain’t here at all. Sometimes it feels like love ain’t coming home. Charged we're charged one more day dawning, got to rise up to live again. Charged we're charged one more day dawning, find a reason to live again. Freedom is a long time coming. Whole populations struggling to be free, so the nations got the people down on their knees. Even the rich they suffer in this time, if you're not stopped or fooled let me hear you cry. Hope for us is a very long road, it’s a long long road to walk down.
From Hope by RDF.
So he walked through the valleys, the trees and the fields, and he came to a river where she waited for him, and they looked at the water of life flowing by, and he heard a voice saying "you're not alone in the fight." I’ll be your queen, I’ll be your mother, I’ll be your mystical child, be your best friend, your lover, your wife for all time.
From Elation by The Levellers.
In these days it's all about survival, finding food and bettering our rival. Now you say you want me to move over, you won't lean on any bodies shoulder. You don't know, you say this is your time, even though I’m telling you it's mine.
From Different Planets by Dreadzone.
Check out the real situation, nation war against nation, where did it all begin, where will it end? Well it seem like total destruction the only solution.
From Real Situation by Bob Marley.
And suddenly they all flashed before his eyes, the kids that he sold to, and their mother’s cries. Every child is someone’s child, you have to mind what you do, cos karma gonna bring the drama back on you. Do what you got to do, but nigger when it comes to them youths, there's no excuse, our future that, we supposed to nurture that, not let nothing or nobody hurt that.
From Seed Will Grow by Ms Dynamite.