Saturday, 18 February 2017

I Think I'll Make A Playlist or How I Learnt to Love Weird Stuff.

When I started taking music seriously in the mid/late 1970s money was at a minimum so I had my cassette recorder attached to the radio much as everyone else did. So my early listening was nearly all playlists, made up of tapes of stuff from Radio 1. Early on I got organised and had the contents of my tapes written down in exercise books so I could find a given song when it was required. The random nature of recording stuff off the radio meant that the tapes weren't planned and as I always had a fairly broad taste you could find Punk next to Prog next to Pop.

I think the broad taste came from early exposure to some slightly unusual choices of early records and most importantly the radio. Having a Dad who owned a TV shop meant I had a rather better stereo than many 12 year olds, but not much to play on it. My first (proper) single was nearly 'Bohemian Rhapsody' but John Menzies in Keynsham were out of stock so Mum came back with 10CC's 'Art for Arts Sake' for god's sake. My first L.P. was a copy of The Moody Blues 'In Search of the Lost Chord' that got left in our shop, I played it for a few weeks, failed to understand what was going on and moved onto my first album choice E.L.O's 'A New World Record'. Then the world shifted. I started listening to John Peel in the middle of 1977, and was hooked quickly. Received wisdom says he was playing punk and only punk then, well over the first year or so as well as the first play of the Sex Pistols album with the thrill of hearing 'God Save The Queen' then "banned" on the BBC, I heard him play Little Feat's 'Waiting for Columbus' which remains a favourite, Bob Marley's 'Babylon By Bus' folk, country, Viv Stanshall and Ivor Cutler.

At the same time I was listening to Alan Freeman on a Saturday afternoon. The Friday Rock Show Wiki has some show lists of Freeman's programmes as well and this is a typical one. I could have made that playlist. There was also on Radio 3 of all places a "popular" music show called Sounds Interesting (mmm nice!) hosted by Derek Jewell who introduced me to Joni Mitchell's 'Don Juan's Reckless Daughter', Weather Report's 'Mr Gone', and above all Steely Dan. Aja remains one of my top 5 albums and is as fresh now as when I first heard 'Home At Last' on Sounds Interesting in 1977.

So playlists were important then and important now. I have artist related ones and genre related ones, although these never seem to stay in the categories I tell them to, but the best playlists are still the ones with the unexpected meeting of songs such as Yes' 'Leave It' meshing perfectly with Abba's 'Dancing Queen' , try it you'll see I'm right.

I think Steve Jobs must have had similar early listening experiences to me, how else would he have come up with shuffle feature on iPods. Is it just me or does your iPod have a sixth sense when it comes to shuffling, mine never seems entirely random and often throws up music I wouldn't have picked but suits my mood exactly. Paranoid? Me?

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