After three years of accepting that my LP record turntable didn’t work, I suddenly got the urge to try again, after setting up my stereo in the old house and… guess what. I’m still not sure how it happened. Fiddled with the stylus, changed some settings on the amplifier and got sound from the headphones. Changed some more settings on the amp and got a distorted sound from the speakers. Fiddled with the stylus some more and… success. I can’t express the joy I felt from listening to some of the old records again. Sipping a glass or four of good red, I was transported back to cathartic times: high school, university, flatting in inner Sydney, backpacking around Europe, learning songs for the band repertoire; ah, the memories (and have I got some classic vinyl).
The best, truly exquisite, power of music is how it can emotionally transport you back to a specific time, or person and subsequent feelings, that in your mind will always be associated with a particular song or album. Just a few bars of the first song on David Bowie’s “Hunky Dory” and I’m a uni student again back in the listening room of Fisher Library, University of Sydney, remembering the stress of final exams. Listening to the album “Rodriguez” and it’s not long before I’m twenty years old again and sitting in a darkened lounge room at 160 Bourke St. Darlinghurst with Jo, and feeling the heartache of when she left for Broken Hill. To hear those famous song lyrics “and the coloured girls go do, do do…” from Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” and suddenly I’m at the Horden Pavilion, Sydney, with my friend Laurie, who later became addicted to heroin. When I hear the song “When You See a Chance, Take It” off Steve Winward’s solo album “Arc of a Diver”, I can’t help but picture myself in a bedroom in Kensington, London, breaking up with a beautiful girlfriend, reliving the whole shameful scene again. Listen to the brilliant Stevie Ray Vaughn’s “Cold Shot” and I’m on stage with the boys at “The Tavern” night club in Bathurst, Australia, on the long weekend in October 1995; what a great night.
Last night, I just had to play the album “City to City” by Gerry Rafferty. Most people recognize the second track on that album; the hit song and FM radio perennial, “Baker Street”. It has that killer sax intro by Raphael Ravenscroft that is also the lead break after the first and second verses, coupled with a screaming guitar solo by Hugh Burns after the middle eight, after the second verse; brilliant arrangement and mix. I always feel a strong connection with that song. I was working as a barman at the Café Royal, Piccadilly Circus, London, with an older Spanish guy called Pepe. He told me a story about when he used to work as a waiter in a famous Chinese restaurant on Baker Street (the name of the restaurant escapes me right now). He remembered Gerry Rafferty coming in for a meal every now and then. He also told me about the doorman, an habitual womanizer and heavy drinker. The doorman liked to tell everyone how someday, he was going to stop fooling around with women, make some real money and move on. He used to tell anyone who would listen how one day, he was going to “buy some land, give up the booze and the one night stands, and then he’ll settle down in a quiet little town, and forget about every thing”. I always wonder if the doorman ever achieved his dream, and if he knew that “Baker Street” was written about him.
I think it would be interesting to write a series of short stories that revolved around, or somehow featured, famous songs.
Pepe also told me a funny story about when the Rolling Stones came into the restaurant to celebrate a birthday.