Music is a rite of passage. Especially when we are still young - in our puberty for preference. Its assault on our senses, its power to evoke, yes even to soothe the savage breast, to validate rebellion.
Gee, us Geezers really are sentimental old coots aren’t we?
I have recently been boring my Facebook friends with my 50 favourite rock songs of the sixties.
That’s a time when my children assume – and viciously opine such – that you could still spot a triceratops roaming through the bush in Glenfield, where I grew up. I don’t mind such insults. I just smile a toothless grin and hum something from MacArthur Park and that soon clears the room of malcontents.
Music, it is said, has charms to soothe the savage breast.
I don’t know that you’d call my breast savage these days: more of a pirate’s dream of treasure, i.e. sunken. But it doesn’t take much to bring a tear to my languid eyes nowadays, as I flip through the back catalogue of the Small Faces and Joni Mitchell and realise these guys were my poets.
Whether it’s Mitchell’s glorious anthem to lost love and the coming snows – “the warriors of winter give a cold, triumphant shout,” or the Faces’ arcane tribute to Oxford – being on “the Bridge of Sighs, under dreaming spires, to Itchycoo Park, that’s where I’ve been,” I feel I grew up in an era where great lyrics entered my chest and gave my heart a squeeze.
There's a scene in the movie Amadeus where Mozart's great rival Salieri picks up a piece of Wolfgang's music and he says …
“On the page it looked nothing. The beginning simple, almost comic. Just a pulse - bassoons and basset horns - like a rusty squeezebox. Then suddenly - high above it - an oboe, a single note, hanging there unwavering, till a clarinet took over and sweetened it into a phrase of such delight! This was no composition by a performing monkey! This was a music I'd never heard. Filled with such longing, such unfulfillable longing, it had me trembling. It seemed to me that I was hearing the very voice of God.”
One or two would be bound to ask - what makes the restless, paradigm- busting 1960's even worthy of comparing with the works of the great composers?
Why? Because Music is a rite of passage. Especially when we are still young - in our puberty for preference. Its assault on our senses, its power to evoke, yes even to soothe the savage breast, to validate rebellion.
Whether it's the mad shake of Keith Moon's mop in Substitute; the honeyed-tones of Roy Philips in Misty; the naked scathing of Steppenwolf in The Pusher; or the gut-searing harmonies of Lisa Fischer, in that achingly brilliant version of Gimme Shelter … these are the threads that are indispensable for weaving the life of a boomer.
And they do calm my savage breast. Some days it is all that makes finding an answer to the primitive, mindless savagery in some parts of the world, a bearable cause to espouse.
Never stop the music! Who knows when one may be hearing the very voice of God?
So, my friends, if you happen to pass by my porch and see an old coot with his headphones on, his eyes dim, his gait unsteady but his face betraying ecstasy … don’t interrupt me.
As the young Jewish kid in some movie I saw once, told his date’s father as he dropped him home, “I’m not ready to get out of the car just yet.” The quizzical Dad cocked his head and wondered why …
“Because …” said the boy, pointing at the car radio, his eyes begging everyone else to shut up, “Sir – nobody interrupts Mr Sinatra.”
ROB HARLEY IS ONE OF NEW ZEALAND'S TOP DOCUMENTARY MAKERS, AN AUTHOR, AND A HIGHLY INSPIRATIONAL SPEAKER. HE’S A WORLD RENOWNED STORY-TELLER, SOMETIMES HARLEY-DAVIDSON RIDER AND A GREAT KIWI BLOKE.
Issue 1 2015 Geezer (180 KB)