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CONFESSIONS OF AN AGEING ROCKER

22-11-2006

Laurance Inman muses on growing old - with a record collection to match. Then hears something that blows his ear trumpet apart...

I am not old. I am, however, beginning to approach the foothills of early middle-age. Actual middle-age is the higher ground I can just about see in the wispy mist ahead of me. The steeper terrain after that is lost in heavy fog, as is the far distant snow-capped peak of actual age and the precipice after that, heading who knows where….

Anyway, I'm definitely not old. Let's get that straight. If anything, I might be seasoned. With my exercise programme and carefully controlled diet and keeping regular I could last for months yet. If only I could remember where I'd put my bran flakes.

However, I have begun to notice certain things about myself, things which, looked at in a certain light, might lead one to draw certain conclusions about my ability to function properly as a member of modern society.

For instance, I catch myself saying things that I last heard coming out of my father's mouth. I am unwilling to do things which once filled me with quivering anticipation, especially after a certain ‘time of night.' I no longer care much about what I wear, or how I look, or what I say, or when I say it. Bits of me are aching that did not ache before…when ?

That's another thing! Memory. I've bought the same book twice, or even three times, from Oxfam, then found the other copy (or copies) at home, dated only six months ago. I always date my books. I think I might stop doing it. Even worse, I have started to be convinced that I have bought books, and have spent all day searching for them, when actually I have never bought them. It's driving the family mad, because I blame them for moving these non-existent books to other places.

It may be that I am turning into the version of myself I pretend to be in my stand-up act: a bad-tempered Brummie, baffled by the modern world, irritated by young people and their enthusiasms, gleefully looking forward to their decline. Perhaps I'm turning into that persona. Now, this is serious. Philip Larkin knew it. He could see the real significance of our attitudes and assumptions:

They're more a style

Our lives bring with them: habit for a while,

Suddenly they harden into all we've got

And how we got it.

I have, of course, meekly come to accept that in one important area of life I am being passed by: modern rock music is not written for the likes of me, so it doesn't matter what I think or say about it. I can safely ignore it. Except I can't.

Let me explain. Like every man approaching early middle-age I have a list in my head of rock greats who never fail to deliver. The Beatles. Dylan.Van Morrison. Joni Mitchell. Pink Floyd. Captain Beefheart. Alma Cogan. It's very predictable.

After the sixties, not much apart from these really moved me. Steve Harley, Dexy's Midnight Runners, Ian Dury, Neil Young perhaps, Talking Heads. Nick Drake. Certainly not punk or Springsteen. It is impossible for me to really, honestly see that much to get excited about in Queen, or the Stones, or Elvis, or Elton John, or David Bowie. Then the eighties! I still can't for the life of me get the point of U2, or Paul Weller. It's probably their self-importance that gets up my nose. And is there any way of telling one Jamiroquai song from another ?

But, every now and again an artist makes a real impression. Pete Doherty is clearly a genius. So is Shane McGowan. Ron Sexsmith. Thom Yorke. There are a couple of others, but they've slipped my mind.

So this, you see, is proof that I am not yet a fossil as far as musical appreciation goes.

And now, something has happened in music which has excited me so much that I must tell you about it. It's what these meanderings have been leading up to all the time. On November 6th, an album appeared among us which is clearly a timeless masterpiece and is certain to take its rightful place in the Pantheon. That's the collection which is beyond any merely personal list and which consists only of musical creations which are incontrovertibly, unquestionably original and great: Revolver, Pet Sounds, Blonde on Blonde, Astral Weeks, All of Bach's sacred choral music, the late quartets of Beethoven, Parsifal, Peter Grimes.

It is Ys by Joanna Newsom.

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