The Riff
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The Riff

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s my Brother

Having an older sibling was the biggest influence on my taste in music

Photo by Vitolda Klein on Unsplash

I think I have an eclectic taste in music. I listen to, and enjoy, an immense variety from the haunting, sublime purity of The Sixteen performing Allegri’s Miserere to the simple, toe-tapping twelve-bar blues of Status Quo. Not being a musical snob, I find great pleasure in nearly all of it, from Abba to Zeppelin.

There are some critical exceptions, sounds that feel like a cheese grater along the brain. Discord’s that unfortunately just jar, and make me rush for the off switch. However I won’t dwell on those, there is too much that is just excellent. So why would I?

How does it begin this musical journey of constant discovery? Where is the jump-off point, the starting line to lead the music fan in a certain direction?

I have a brother who is a few years older than me. Whilst I was still playing with toy soldiers and building castles out of Lego, he became a teenager and discovered music. It was his choices in bands to listen to that permeated every room in the house. It was his latest album acquisition that emanated from the dark cave of his bedroom, through every wall and floorboard, drowning out the sound of the children’s television programs I was watching. His was the music, that was played at a louder volume than my father could shout out, “turn that racket down.”

It is a strange thing, but when I was twelve years old, I desperately wanted to be older, desiring the advantages of age. I wanted to go to bed later, at an hour that I thought best and not when my parents told me. I would always try to leave my greens on the plate because at that age, who likes the taste of cabbage? My diet was not my choice, I had to eat the food given to me. It is a strange paradox that now as I enter what will hopefully be a long home run, and of an age where I can choose, I love to get an early night and catch up on my sleep. I still don’t like to eat cabbage, but I will follow health advice and choose to eat an extensive selection of various vegetables to stay fit and healthy.

Back then, in that last pre-teenage year, all that mattered was the wish to have the rights and privileges that only years will bring. Imitation, they say, is the most sincere form of flattery, and I had an older sibling, who was already staying out with his mates, secretly smoking and growing his hair long. He was naturally going to be the role model to follow. I am sure he must have found it far more annoying than flattering to have his younger brother constantly knocking on his bedroom door to ask about his newest record.

Photo by Dimitri Simon on Unsplash

Just like my brother, I found the pop music of the day irritating and banal. Surely only girls and the un-cool kids at school liked “The Osmonds” or “The Bay City Rollers.” Listening to the pop charts became a badge of childishness. I wanted the sounds of adulthood (not the out of touch, and to me irrelevant adulthood of my parents, the adulthood of Beethoven and Brahms,) but the aspired maturity of my first cigarette and my brother’s progressive rock albums with their fantastic eye-catching covers.

I may have even spent more time looking at those covers than I did listening to the music.

Music in those early, influential years was more than just developing a taste in certain styles. Music was the sound of the tribe you belonged to. It was part of an overall package that included fashion, attitudes and so much more. Being part of an identified group gave a sense of belonging and being part of something bigger than just yourself and your friends. I had the pathway already laid out for me, so I joined the same tribe as my older brother.

This is still the music that forms the bedrock of my listening choices. The old favourites that I come back to, again and again. Songs that were the background to my teenage years are not easily forgotten. They were the songs that articulated the passionate emotions which every adolescent feels with the intensity of inchoate experience. The first love and the first heartbreak, all new and youthfully vivid.

With age and experience comes exposure to alternative forms, new styles, and genres my younger self would have not even had the courtesy to try. My life is so much richer for it.

My older brother and I still exchange listening choices. I will recommend an artist to him and he will enthuse about a new album he has just purchased. However, I am still grateful to him for setting out on his journey first and leaving a wake for me to follow.




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Dave Eldergill MA

Dave Eldergill MA

Dave Eldergill travels the long distance paths of the UK. He writes about art, music, history and the encounters he finds interesting on his journeys.

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