The Loneliest Jukebox

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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Duffed up: Music and the Seven Year-Old Tough Guy

My lockdown reading includes Graham Duff's Foreground Music: A Life in Fifteen Gigs.

There's an early bit that reminds me of me:
"From a very young age, I'd loved the theme tunes to TV spy and detective shows ... To me, this is such exciting music. It suggests mystery, tension and menace. Something I don't hear in any of the pop music that comes my way." (p.2)

I remember thinking like that for what seemed like a long time, which is probably why I am rubbish at the '10 influential albums' game on social media. But I remember a time later when I was about 13 and saw this attitude to pop as being a bit weird. If memory serves, this was prompted by Smash Hits asking Todd Carty (then of Tucker's Luck) for his top 10 songs, and they were nearly all excerpts from Ennio Morricone soundtracks. (Apologies Todd, but I'm not enough of a pack rat to have kept that particular clipping.)

Prompted by the death of Dave Greenfield, I was thinking about my own musical development recently. One missing link between spy themes and pop for my prepubescent self was quite different to that of Graham Duff, who says "To be honest, with their sleazy and aggressive attitude and lyrics about sewers and shagging nubiles, I think they sound like the kind of lads I try to avoid at school. Put simply, The Stranglers sound like bullies." (p.13)

Whatever it makes me as a kid sound like now, this side of The Stranglers drew me in at the time. To my TV-obsessed ears, it was tough guy pop music. Plus with a band member older than my mum, I hoped to get her to like them too (no chance!). And with Greenfield's keyboards, I thought I'd got the musical continuity with my beloved safari-suited TV secret agents.

It would take me a few years and experiences to untangle all these conflicting sentiments personally. Foreground Music does similar work in thoughtful and touching detail.

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