“Music to my ears…”

The rock band Modest Mouse said, “Music is to the soul what words are to the mind.”

In terms of the mind, I shared which books had the greatest influence on my life in my blog ‘B(u)y the book‘. Now, while I am waiting for reviewed texts from my editor, I thought I would search my soul for some favourite music albums. Especially given current social media challenges for friends to name their top five.

Let me start my saying that I love music. My first serious purchase as a youth was a Yamaha amplifier, a tape-deck, a receiver and Celestion loudspeakers. Often avoiding popular radio, I preferred to discover new music. As a student without TV, I would listen to the Dutch VARA in the evenings and hear recorded concerts of unknown or little heard of bands. I had friends who were into music too, both older and younger than me, which further stretched my repertoire.

Over the years, I’ve continued to lean towards rock: Blues, Folk, Garage, Grunge, Hard, Indie, Metal, Progressive, Psychedelic and Punk. But from my album choices, you wouldn’t necessarily see this. Rather than just choosing ‘just’ a good album – there are too many out there – I’ve decided to select my top five based on influence and impact. In chronological order, three on vinyl and three on compact disc (CD):

Upstairs at Erics – Yazoo.

This Synthpop album was my very first, bought when I was sixteen. Growing up in the eighties, the synthesiser sound dominated and I still enjoy the music today: Bronski Beat, Depeche Mode, Eurythmics, Howard Jones, Talk Talk, Ultravox and of course Yazoo. Vince Clarke was the master, aided by the wonderful voice of Allison Moyet, though when solo, she became too nasal for my liking.

Fugazi – Marillion.

My cousin Jacco, who had an even more impressive audio system, introduced me to the Prog-rock band Marillion when I was around 19 years of age. They count as one of my all-time favourites, especially with Fish at the helm. There is so much poetry and mystic in the music: Fantastic prose, impressive album covers and a wonderfully orchestrated story across four albums. I watched them perform twice. In one word, Brilliant!

Plays Live – Peter Gabriel.

Willem from my basketball team in Zwolle opened my ears to the sound of the 70’s: CCR, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Rainbow, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and much more. Eternally grateful, I also got to know Genesis who were never the same after Gabriel left. Still good music, but without their front-man they lost some edge. Regretfully, I never saw him live, but this album is sensational. “Biko” is just chillingly awesome.

Electric – The Cult

This album was my very first CD. I had hardly heard of the band but was gifted the album by good friend Marcel in a swap deal involving a CD Player. As a student, it took a while to save up for my second CD, so in between radio broadcasts and tape recordings, it’d be The Cult. Marcel is still my main music mate today. Each year he comes all the way from East-France for the acclaimed Rock Werchter festival near where I live. Guaranteed fun.

The final cut – Pink Floyd

Many will claim Dark Side of the Moon is the best Floyd album, perhaps it is. All of Pink Floyd is simply the best. In fact, in London my fiancee persuaded me to buy the box set ‘Shine on’ commemorating 25-years. But this album, not included in the set, is my favourite. The use of spoken word and effects, characteristic of Pink Floyd, is just magnificent. The whole flow of the album made me appreciate even more the genius of Roger Waters who later made other albums including the wondrous ‘Amused to Death’. I have seen Waters in Concert twice. Impressive.

Sixteen Stone – Bush

I know. Naughty. But I’ve added a sixth so that my images align nicely. Perhaps an unexpected choice, but I guess this represents my appreciation for Grunge. Though typically a Seattle sound Bush is British. For years I actually thought they were from down-under because I bought the CD in Sydney in 2000. Other Grunge favourites include the Stone Temple Pilots, Nirvana and Pearl Jam.

When I look back at this list I miss so many greats and I wonder whether my choice would be different tomorrow. It is mind-boggling to think how much good stuff is out there. Though I used to enjoy browsing for hours in record stores, I’m intensely happy I can now search Spotify in minutes.

The same goes for books: it’s now much easier to browse new authors and discover new books. It was Roger Waters that said, “Either you write songs or you don’t. And if you do write songs like I do, I think there’s a natural desire to want to make records.” I know exactly what he means. Having written stories, I also feel compelled to publish them. My third thriller DEATH IS A RIDDLE is coming soon. In terms of time, it’s a shame that a song takes only three or four minutes to listen to whereas a book will take three or four days. But then again, if the experience is enjoyed, the pleasure is prolonged too.

Feature image by: Ana Grave@anagrave (Unsplash)

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