When I hear it, when I hear that music, those electric piano notes, pressed by real fingers, back in the ludicrous days when a musician actually had to write a song or play an instrument or sing themselves, roughly in tune, without Simon Cowell to recite the reality TV mantra that ‘you’re the best, you’re so talented’, back when then was then and all that meant, there was this song.
Harmlessly passing your time in the grassland away
Only dimly aware of a certain unease in the air
You better watch out
There may be dogs about
I’ve looked over Jordan, and I have seen
Things are not what they seem.
I couldn’t have written it better myself, even though it was years before anyone invented Jordan. They just didn’t have the technology in those days. And thi9ngs weren’t what they seemed. I went to university later, when people still talked about ‘the revolution’ while ignoring totally the one going on outside their own window. We had The Sweeney and Orgreave. Eeeh, young folk don’t know they’re born these days…
There was always this song, then. Or that song. When there was no such thing as streaming, when the most far-out thing you could do was haul a cassette recorder around with you, on a strap, music wasn’t as much a thing as it is now. It was more of a thing.
There was Top Of The Pops on Thursdays, on one of the only three TV channels that existed. There was Radio One, which was what people in garages listened to. And there was Luxy, Radio Luxembourg. And that strange thing from Keynesham, sometimes on an expedition into the Long Wave or Short Wave dials. I can’t remember which and it doesn’t matter anyway. Old, d’you see?
We didn’t have as much music. We had so much more of it. Without the massive choice, everyone knew the same music. And naturally divided into camps. Apart from Abba. Everyone, but EVERYONE didn’t much like Abba, except for Mums and Dads.
10cc was for what used to be called getting it on, which was pretty much the same as getting off with, but more comfortably, usually. If you couldn’t make it happen by half-way through the second side of The Original Soundtrack then you were definitely doing it wrong.
But Animals was something else. Especially the Sheep track. See what I did there? I know. Anyway, I was going to say that was then, but it really wasn’t. Whenever I hear those first few bars it’s summer.
It’s summer and I’ve got long hair and a Triumph motorcycle and a girlfriend I don’t want and haven’t got the girl I do. I’ve got a boat to sail at school and a friend I didn’t know then was going to be with me all my life, thankfully. I’ve got a bed with an actual eiderdown, which is hideously heavy, because although I’ve seen duvets with my own eyes, there’s certainly none of that foreign nonsense in this house, which I’m regularly told I treat like a hotel. This house where I’m forbidden to have a bath more than six inches deep, in case I use all the hot water and how am I going to wash my hair every day if I don’t, in a world where the only alternative is those stupid rubber things you put over the taps, the ones that come off when they get hot so you suddenly get a head full of cold water.
I’ve got a pale yellow sink in the corner of my room and a metal trunk under my bed. I’ve got a desk for homework under the window I leave open for my old cat to come through, up over the bench and the oil tank and the garage roof, the route we share when I get home after Lights Out and Taps has been sounded, which they may as well have been, some time around 11.
I hear that music and I am back there, where the army’s artillery barrage flickered all over the night sky every summer from the training ranges 20 miles away. Where I could hear someone’s Norton Commando winding out towards the crossroads five miles away towards the hamlet where the girl I didn’t have lived in an old vicarage.
I never got a Norton Commando, or an old vicarage. Nor sadly, her. But I can listen to that music now and any time, suddenly it’s summer. And somehow I’ve got all of that and more.