That Sound

I was thinking about music, trying to find something I’d like to listen to that I hadn’t heard before but I’d like. The impossible challenge. Impossible until you find it anyway.

That Sound

I was thinking about music, the way you do.

That feeling that you’d really like to hear something different,

Something new but when you do, it really isn’t.

I was thinking about music, the way you do

What is it about that sound?

It’s like buying a car or a guitar

Made before you were even born.

Louis Jordan said it the first time:

You cain’t get that no more.

It’s sort of ok to mourn the past if you’ve lived it

But really, what is it that you’re looking for there?

What is it about machine heads going slack,

Ivory grooves worn by strings you can’t buy anymore

All to get that authentic tone that half the guitarists

Back in the day cursed because you can’t play

That way now and they didn’t plan to then?

You can’t do that. You can’t hear that.

You can’t get that sound on a modern guitar

Because the strings don’t stretch.

Because the pickups are wound on a machine

Because smaller Oriental hands fit inside a hollow body

And yours don’t, or not so well.

Because so many things changed

When they made it in Mexico or Korea or China

And all the time you thought it was about the music

When really it was about the bottom line.

What is it about that sound?

The jangly guitar in Tom Petty songs

That echoes something from the sixties

The decade Tom’s living now. When did that happen? Exactly how?

Remember that boy with the thin face

And a bullet bandolier? singing about how it don’t really matter

If she don’t or if she do?

Long time since Tom’s wallet let that happen, probably.

That sweet whine of Clapton’s SG or Knopfler’s Strat when he sang

About the Sultans of Swing, and Swing that swung back when

There was nobody here but us chickens.

This is what we’ve always done, it’s what we do,

We idolise a past we never knew.

The Stratocaster name came from the stratosphere

Back when they’d just started going there

Back when a guy from Leiston airfield broke the sound barrier.

Hey, give me a major chord, Marketing’s got something here.

So Tom Petty played the ‘60s jangly guitar he grew up with

Or his guitarist did. It wasn’t Tom who played that speed riff

In American Girl. Knopfler had to have a guitar

Built back when blaggers robbed steam trains without a shooter.

Jay Kay played kitsch disco back in ’92, chilling out

To the bump and grind he’d heard in the womb.

But it was mind-filler then, back when Noddy Holder shouted out

‘It’s Christmas’ and every wannabe bad girl copied his spelling,

When cool kids knew the Blue Oyster Cult

Was nothing to do with Greenpeace or Jonestown

Which was nothing to do with

The massacre at Alice’s Restaurant

Or even Greenpeace.


Is this all there is? One big circle

Holding hands like the von Trapp kids?

But maybe better that than saying

If it happened before me

Then it didn’t really happen at all.

So let’s hear it for the Platters and the Ramones,

Mozart and Miller, Abba and Patti Smith,

The Beatles, Bach and Bartok.

Augustus Pablo, Sid and Nancy

Even Jay Zee and Haysi Fantaysi,

And the Mighty Diamonds. Maybe it’s true.

‘This is 1976, we don’t want no more war.’

That one didn’t quite pan out.

But you can’t hear it fresh any more.

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