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Tuesday 31 January 2012

A Shared Listening Experience.

I am currently reading the autobiography of Andy Kershaw, "No Off Switch". For those who might not know of him, Andy is a UK radio DJ, presenter and journalist.

Over the past few years i have have read several autobiographies of other radio DJ's and musicians, all of whom seem to have been born within a few years of myself. It was a golden age obviously.

Apart from all of these books taking me back to a long gone past, they all have something else in common.
They have all reminded me of the way in which i listened to music back in the 1970's. Especially the early and middle years of that decade.

Back then, a lot of my music listening was done in the company of other people, usually my close friends. Something very different from the way in which we tend to listen to music today.

Andy Kershaw talks of riding around in a friends car, which had a stereo cassette player and blasting out his friends favourite guitar player, Rory Gallagher and his album "Live In Europe". An old favourite of mine as well as it happens.
He then talks about being at his friends house, with others and listening to artists such as Pink Floyd and their "Meddle" album. It was in this way that Andy Kershaw was introduced to those artists.

My own experience is very similar, although a car didn't come into the equation until a few years later. And when it did it was an 8 track cartridge player, instead of a cassette. Anyone remember 8 track cartridge players?
What i can remember though is the album that my friend used to play, or that i asked to hear all the time on his cars cartridge player. It was Humble Pie's "Thunderbox". Funny how these things stick in your mind isn't it?

A good friend of mine back then had an older brother, with an extensive album collection and a few of us used to go back to their house after school. We would then trawl through that collection, seeing band names on the spines of the album sleeves that we'd only ever read about in music papers, pick out a few and play them.
In that way i was introduced to bands and albums that i may not have heard otherwise.

The one that sticks in my mind from that time is the Rolling Stones album "Goats Head Soup" and especially the track "Star Star". That was probably the first time that i ever heard the word "fuck" on a record and back then it was so shocking that we just couldn't resist multiple plays and sing-a-longs.

My next door neighbour at the time, who was the same age as me, always seemed to be getting new albums regularly. I can remember him compiling 'wanted' lists for his birthday and for Christmas. Consequently, i spent many hours at his house and many more listening through the dividing wall between our houses.
As before, there is one album that instantly comes to mind when i think of that time and one that i asked to hear just about every time i visited that house. It is Roxy Music's "For Your Pleasure, both for the music and for the gatefold sleeve.

All of these examples remind me of the shared listening experiences that i had in my youth. But, the thing that sums it all up for me is when a group of my friends would get together to listen to music and the album of choice would be, Pink Floyd's "Dark Side Of The Moon".
For people of my age group that is, probably, the one album that many of us can remember listening to with our friends. I have heard that particular shared listening experience relayed on radio programs and many conversations.

I have spent many hours laying on the floor, in darkness, or in candlelight, listening to "Dark Side Of The Moon". I can remember that sometimes being a strangely, spooky experience too. When the album faded out we'd all voice our own interpretations as to what on earth the album was all about. Helped by nothing stronger than tea and cigarettes. More interesting stimulants came later.

Although music is a very personal thing, that shared listening experience made the music all the more powerful and memorable.

In these days of iPods, mp3's, iTunes and in-ear headphones that shared listening experience has gone, or is fading fast.
When was the last time, outside of a club or disco, that you listened to music in the company of friends? And when i say "listened to music", i mean without any other distractions and in a private place.
And for that matter, when was the last time that you listened to a complete album all the way through?

How times change.

Don't get me wrong i'm all for new technology. I love the fact that i can carry my entire music collection around with me, listen to any track at the touch of a button and do so in the privacy of my own headphones.
But, i wouldn't have missed those days of a shared listening experience for the world.

Those poor kids of today just don't know what they're missing do they?


  1. Yes, the excitement of bringing home a new LP and, with friends, giving that first listen at top volume. And the artists you mention here all bring back those memories ... when was the last time I heard anybody talk of Rory Galagher, and that worn-out old Strat of his? Great post.

  2. Thanks Ken. I was a big fan of Rory Gallagher & saw him live a few times. A great performer. I still get the chance to play him on Hastings Rock & educate a few more people about him.
    Yes, i remember that excitement very well. Not quite the same with an mp3 is it?