You know the Leonard Cohen song, ‘Hallelujah’? Yes, you do, that Alexandra off the X-factor released it as a single after her spectacular win in 2008, which caused all the nerdy little music purists to get their knickers in a twist because Jeff Buckley once released a less commercial cover and – until the nerdy purists launched a campaign against the X-factor version – hardly anyone knew about it.
Alex had loads of candles in her video. (Did Jeff Buckley? Probably not. I bet he didn’t even have a video.)
Anyway, I mention ‘Hallelujah’ here because I always wonder if Cohen wrote that song for me. I mean, he probably didn’t because I’ve never met the bloke, but still – there’s this one line that really sums me up. It goes, ‘you don’t really care for music, do you?’
‘That’s correct Len,’ I want to say whenever I hear it, ‘I don’t, really. Although I will make an exception for this song and 90’s gangsta rap. And, alright, if you really push me, Madonna’s Immaculate Collection and “Cocaine Blues” by Johnny Cash.’
Don’t get me wrong, readers, music is pretty hard to avoid and I don’t actively mind it. It can even be fun – like Britney Spears’ ‘Radar’ and that song about smashing car windows when your lover’s been unfaithful that Mercedes sang in Glee. Some of Tracy Chapman’s lyrics make me cry.
And when we have a family party I sing ‘Harper Valley PTA’ with my siblings doing the backing vocals. I’m not heartless. It’s just, this is the thing: when I’m listening to music I prefer the words to the melodic noises, and also, I don’t define myself by it.
As teenager I was not an ‘indie’* or, the only alternative at my school, an urban RnB diva with anger management issues and South East London swagger. (We didn’t call it swagger then, we called it attitude, but that doesn’t offer the requisite alliterative humour I was trying to achieve in the previous sentence.)
Although I could bear the Cranberries and even quite liked Usher, Jennifer Lopez and that song ‘Case of the Ex’, they featured more as background concerns for me.
Music was not the main event – it was the soundtrack to the feature film of my youth**. It was the mood – the atmosphere in the club, the colour of my friend’s jealousy, the memory of fleeting kisses with youths who tasted of pineapple Bacardi Breezer and wore jeans, loafers and Ben Sherman shirts. Or, more often, it was being switched off because it was annoying.
I’ve never listened to a Top 40 chart show on the radio of my own volition – in fact the only time I ever listen to the radio is when someone else is driving me to a place in their car.
Okay, I do like to have hip-hop playing when I do housework, but I totally fail to understand why anyone pays to hear music played live. Surely it’s always better on a CD or iPod or similar – where technical processes have edited out the bum notes and you can listen in the privacy of your living room instead of in public with many tens or, sometimes, hundreds or even thousands of people singing along and drowning out the sound of the professional performer you have paid to listen to?
As we’re on the subject of live music, I’d also like to say this: I swear, one of the only joyous things about approaching one’s 30s (without a lover, children, any money or assets to speak of) is that it becomes acceptable to refuse invitations to music festivals.
To be honest, I don’t know why anyone who has been to a music festival with me once bothers to invite me again. It’s an environment – loud screamy music, the outdoors, broken showers, other peoples’ poo sticking up in mountainous peaks from rancid portaloo basins, warm cider, mud, friends of friends overdosing on Miaow Miaow – that brings out the very worst in me.
I just sulk and cower in my tent until whoever has driven me there is ready to go home. I don’t know why I’ve said ‘yes’ to attending more than one. I suppose I was hoping music festivals would be like sex and get better with practice. I was wrong.
Like everything, not really caring for music has romantic consequences. For example, almost every online dating site has a quiz bit where they ask you what music you’re into. And all the hot blokes list stuff like, ‘gigging, guitar, Glastonbury’ under ‘interests’. Even in the real world an alarming amount of eligible, proper adult bachelors try to engage you in discussions about bands and albums and clubs and send you links on SoundCloud to songs they’ve written in their bedrooms.
All this makes me scared that, if I were to start dating, I would be forcibly made to engage with music as though I were some kind of ‘fan’.
I don’t know if I’ve made it clear enough yet but I’m going to put it in capitals here so you can be totally sure: I NEVER WANT TO LISTEN TO MUSIC IN A FIELD AGAIN. AND I’D ALSO RATHER NOT BOTHER IN AN ARENA OR A PUB UNLESS WE HAVE ALLOCATED SEATS SO I CAN SIT DOWN AND DISTRACT MYSELF WITH TWITTER ON THE IPHONE. IN FACT, UNLESS WE’RE CLEANING OR HOSTING A PARTY I’M UNLIKELY TO WANT MUSIC NEAR MY EARS AT ALL.
Is that clear? Is there anyone left who wants to date me now I’ve revealed this fairly unattractive character trait? I mean, I know there wasn’t anyone who wanted to date me before I revealed it, but think about it: the girl in that Leonard Cohen song sounds quite hot, if a bit fucked up. And she’s just like me.
*I think this was the 90s version of the ‘emo’. (Do people still say ‘emo’, or is that passé now as well?)
**When I was about 15 I thought that ‘The Soundtrack to My Youth’ would be a brilliant title for my memoirs. I still think it’s quite excellent – snappy and you can see it appealing, commercially, to quite a big cross-section of the consumer public. However, it does rather imply that the contents of the memoir would feature music more heavily than would actually be the case. It would mainly feature stories about me getting drunk and saying embarrassing things to strangers and elderly members of my extended family. Which is why no one has offered to publish it. Yet. However, I am feeling benevolent and loving and generous so if you are currently writing a music-based memoir and are struggling for a title feel free to steal mine. Seriously, have it. (I would like a credit in the acknowledgements though.)