I wouldn’t say I’m entirely indifferent to music but I wouldn’t say that I’m exactly entranced by it either. In fact I’m too indifferent to even call myself middle of the road. I like some mild classical music playing in the background. I could recognise maybe half a dozen classical pieces. Despite repeated efforts on my friend M’s part, the enthusiasm I can muster for opera is severely limited. I really wish I knew more about this. I feel that there is a whole world of entertainment out there that is baffling to me. And, obviously, it’s not so good for the music round of pub quizzes either. I haven’t been to a non-classical music concert (I understand it’s called a gig m’lud) since I was pregnant with the Princess more than four years ago, so it’s not like I’m a winner on the contemporary music stakes either. When I was in my 20s, I was once stopped on the street by someone selling ‘placebo tickets’ my very first thought was, how odd, why would anyone want to buy tickets that weren’t real.
I do like certain songs but more for their associations than the music, which is fine but never central for me. I don’t think I’m tone deaf and I believe I can hold a tune – though I may be mistaken, I suppose. My lack of interest seems to me to be, if not unique, certainly unusual. I am always slightly appalled when somebody proudly says ‘I don’t read books’. It always seems such a loss. There are so many wonderful books, so many different genres, so much entertainment to be had, how can anyone not read? Everyone else in the world feels the same way about music.
My brother and sister both have strong views on music, my sister even spending a significant slice of her income to travel round to see her favourite bands. My father likes classical music – horribly loud – I must have been the only teenager regularly saying to her father “could you turn it DOWN, please?”. I would be very hard pressed to say what kind of classical music though I know he doesn’t like Wagner and neither do I after having seen the Meistersinger of Nuremburg on a very uncomfortable seat up in the gods. My mother learnt piano in school which she didn’t like much and dropped Joan Baez when she married my father: he didn’t approve and her loyalty was to him rather than Joan, there’s a joke about Bob Dylan in there somewhere but I’m not sure what it is. Mr. Waffle’s family are all very musical and I am lost in admiration. His mother and sister sing, his brother is a very successful amateur piano player (winning all kinds of hard competitions for serious amateurs) and his father came out of the pub to hold an umbrella over us last time we went to hear his mother sing the Messiah in her choir.
The other night, rather than sleeping, I stayed up late watching a programme on the BBC about British indie music of the 80s which I found strangely compelling in the way of late night television that you can’t turn off. I realised that the soundtrack to my college years was entirely established by my indie loving then boyfriend who pressed upon me tapes of the Stone Roses, Inspiral Carpets and, of course, the Smiths at the same time I was forcing him to read Georgette Heyer: maybe we should have called it a day at that point, rather than continuing on and off and on and off for years.
In a slightly different category, he also pressed upon me 10,000 Maniacs and the Go-Betweens Not bad, but nothing I would have listened to off my own bat, though I am beginning to think that very little falls into that category. My limited knowledge of the Go-Betweens has lead to continuing mild embarrassment. One of the Go-Between’s more obscure numbers was played at the party of a friend of Mr. Waffle’s shortly after I had begun going out with him (my husband, not the random friend, try to keep up) and I recognised it. The host was delighted and took me to be a genuine fan, which my college boyfriend was, but my interest was tepid, at best. Now, when I see Mr. Waffle’s friend, he is never at a loss for conversational gambits and my attempts to divert him with talk of almost anything else are always headed off in favour of intense analysis of the Go-Betweens. I read recently with the liveliest alarm that they have reformed. I see much social misery ahead building on nearly 10 years of feigned interest in this band.
Yet, somehow, I felt a real fondness for all the music on the telly. I also realised that Johnny Marr must really be Johnny Meagher and that no one in England can pronounce Gallagher including Liam Gallagher but I wouldn’t say that to his face because he sounds like a right git, not like that nice Damon Albarn?? from Blur who is clearly someone you could take home to meet your mother. Mind you Liam Gallagher was funny talking about “Wonderwall” which, he said, appealed to the squares. He made four million in a week. There are a lot of squares. But I’m not even a square. Though I think Wonderwall is quite good, unlike Liam who when asked what its appeal was said ‘I dunno, you’d have to ask someone who liked it’.
The indie music which left me cold at the time had the soft sepia tinge of nostalgia. I was reminded fondly of the unfortunate boyfriend’s remark to the Cork Examiner on the much hyped new U2 album – the antithesis of indie, you understand. Fresh from a Summer working in the States and with an indie crush, he was disparaging about the new album. His remarks were dutifully reported on the front page of the local paper the following day to the horror of his mother: “[X] from Montenotte said that ‘U2 suck'”.
But you know what? They had some clips from the Libertines whom I thought were only famous for providing Kate Moss’s boyfriend and actually, they weren’t bad but it’s not like I’ll be rushing out and buying an album or something rash like that.