For New Year’s Day this year, I’ll be up quite early and volunteering at a ParkRun. At other time’s of the day, I’ll do what I typically do on the first day of the year, which is to take it quietly and, with that, listen to music.
Today’s post then is simply sharing a few tracks of beautiful music that I come back to again and again and that I discovered along life’s journey.
The post title comes from the line that struck me most from “No Woman, No Cry” as an uncertain teenager in the late 70s looking for answers in music.
I could pick so many tracks, but today choosing only five and in chronological order of when I discovered them. These are all from my early teens to my early twenties, so from the late ’70s to late ’80s. Perhaps a later post may bring forth some newer influences. The stories and track links are below, the listing:
- Bob Marley and the Wailers – No Woman, No Cry
- Oscar Peterson – Bye Bye Blues – live at Montreux 1977
- The Specials – A Message To You, Rudy
- John Martyn – May You Never
- The Whole of the Moon – The Waterboys
Bob Marley and the Wailers – No Woman, No Cry
“Everything’s gonna be alright”
In the late 70s, I was in my early teens and, hey, a pretty insecure kid on the inside, even though I was that “high achiever” on the outside at a top grammar school outside London.
On a visit home to Glasgow, an older cousin introduced me to reggae and, in particular, the music of Bob Marley. I was transfixed, instantly, beginning a life-long love of the great man and his music.
Little was I to know that, only about a decade or so later, I would be living in Cayman and travel to Jamaica for the first of many visits.
The version I’m sharing is the definite live version from the Lyceum in London in 1975. Wow, what a concert that would have been to be at!
“Everything’s gonna be alright”
Oscar Peterson – Bye Bye Blues – live at Montreux 1977
Every day for years during my teens I practised on my father’s grand piano. Though it was always classical music I was learning, my father was and is a jazz pianist and it was jazz I aspired to play.
Dad introduced me to the music of so many wonderful jazz pianists, including Fats Waller, Errol Garner, Art Tatum, George Shearing, Earl Hines and more.
Over and above all, though, was the music of Oscar Peterson, and one album in particular: “Oscar Peterson Jam – Montreux ’77”, five sublime live tracks, ending on a crescendo with a virtuoso performance of “Bye Bye Blues”. The piano solo starting at 5:28 in is beyond words, the roaring applause as it ends of the crowd so clearly in rapture stands out to me as a truly transcendent musical moment.
The Specials – A Message To You, Rudy
In 1979, The Specials blasted onto the UK music scene, launching the genre known as “Two-Tone” taking traditional ska and mixing with punk and new wave. Other bands at the forefront of this included The Beat and The Selecter, Madness, Bad Manners.
The UK at that time was seeing the rise of Margaret Thatcher and also of racial tension, rising to the riots in 1981. The city outside London that I lived in as a teen, High Wycombe, was very much part of that, the tension was palpable.
To me, then, two-tone was about more than music, it was key that the bans were made up of musicians white, black, brown, with no mention made of it, they were simply musicians playing together, blending together their own influences musically, culturally, politically.
I still listen to two-tone bands to this day, sometimes finding it scary or sad that the messages in their songs from around forty years ago about society and politics still resonate.
John Martyn – May You Never
By the early 80s, I was a student In Edinburgh and worked weekends in a pub in the Scottish Borders. One of the “regulars” was a gregarious and charismatic gent who certainly liked an alcoholic drink or two. One day I was told “that is John Martyn!”. I had no idea he was a musician, but soon found his music and I was hooked.
Between that time and when I moved to Cayman in 1989, I must have seen John Martyn play live at least twenty times. A beautiful and tormented soul, he was terrible at his worst, exquisitely wonderful at his best, including this live recording of perhaps his most famous song. The combination of his amazing voice, virtuosity on guitar, his melodies and his lyrics.
To this day, my favourite solo musician is the late, great “Big Muff”, John Martyn.
The Whole of the Moon – The Waterboys
I pictured a rainbowfirst verse lyrics, The Whole of the Moon
You held it in your hands
I had flashes
But you saw the plan
I wandered out in the world for years
While you just stayed in your room
I saw the crescent
You saw the whole of the moon
John Martyn is my favourite solo artist, The Waterboys are my favourite band.
Like many, I first discovered them through this, their most famous song, released in 1985. I was living in Edinburgh then, had this song shared with me partly as Mike Scott is an Edinburgh lad too and their was a sense of pride in the local music scene at him making it really big with this (The Waterboys were already a hit band, but this was massive!)
Since then I have loved their work for over three decades. They are simply fantastic in concert, always changing, always fresh. Go see them if you can.
Most songs I love have both an exquisite tune and great lyrics. This opening verse, wow.
I also love that the song is used again and again in soundtracks, including recently as Fiona Apple covered it for the season finale of a hit TV show called “The Affair”.
Also published on Medium.