Ok, I give in (sort of). After being nominated for the ‘album cover challenge’ several times and usually ignoring the request, while enjoying looking at the contributors’ choices, I’ve decided that now my big brother John has tagged me, that I’d better do as I’m told (sort of).
The usual format of this (as if you can possibly have missed it) is to post the cover of a record that has been influential on your music taste, one a day, for ten days, with no further comment, and the latter condition is one of the reasons (sort of) why I’ve never done it before. I can’t just post the covers and say nothing about them (as you are about to find out, in spades)! Imagine ‘Desert Island Discs’ without the chatter about why they’ve been chosen. And usually people end up discussing the music and its significance in the comments section anyway, so I reckon I might as well just save you the bother by telling you why they’re there up front. Also, I haven’t planned this out in advance so I might decide I’m done before 10, keep going beyond 10, get bored part way through and give up, have a hiatus of a few days while I think about my next choice, or do a Christopher Kenworthy and post a load all at once out of impatience.
Then there’s the whole nomination thing. Whenever I fail to respond to one of these ‘challenges’, I always feel really terrible that it will be taken as a snub. Then I feel really terrible that I’m narcissistic enough to think that anyone will give a hoot whether I respond or not. Then I feel terrible that I have such low self-esteem as to think no-one will care. Then I feel terrible that I don’t really feel terrible at all, as I’m not that bothered about anyone else’s feelings. Then I feel terrible that I don’t care enough about other people’s feelings, but am nevertheless hypersensitive about what they think of me. So every possible nomination I might make feels like I’m treading a minefield. “Why’s he nominated her and not me?” I imagine someone thinking indignantly. Or “Oh, he’s trying to smarm his way back into my good books after that arsey put down on that meme I shared.” Or, “Ant who??” Maybe it’s unusual to overthink things this way, but I’m pretty sure I can’t be the only one. Can I? Regardless, it all means that I still haven’t decided whether I’ll not bother nominating at all, or maybe set up some arbitrary criterion that minimises the sense of me choosing people by ‘preference’. (People I’ve never met in real life like Julie Matthews? People who I’ve got no real idea of their music taste already like Michael Hackfort?) ’.
Now I’ve reached this point, to be honest, the music choice is starting to look as irrelevant as my choice of Sumero-Akkadian clay tablet, but I will push on regardless. I’ve decided that I should only include albums that I can clearly feel have a direct link to my music taste now. So that cuts out some early favourites from when I was a child. I remember first getting really ‘into’ music with Pete Addison when we were in primary school. We were both the youngest of our families and influenced by older brothers. Queen, Elton John and Rush are things I recall listening to with him that I wouldn’t be that bothered about now. We even went through a bit of a spell of writing songs together, though neither of us played instruments so all ‘performances‘ were a cappella and emphatically without an audience. I can even remember the entire lyrics and tune to a song we wrote about then Radio 1 breakfast show DJ, Dave Lee Travis. I think we might even have sent him a tape of it, though I don’t think he played it.
It was my brother John’s music collection that I really started getting interested in (having already divined that my other brother’s taste wasn’t up to much – sorry Iain, but Supertramp? Really?!). Perhaps I got a little too interested in his records for John‘s liking, after I actually cut-out all the badges and moustaches and epaulettes and stuff from his Sgt. Pepper LP. On reflection I’m lucky I didn’t get an actual battering for that. I was a bit unsure where to start this musical journey, though. I nearly plumped for Bo Hansson’s ‘Music Inspired by Lord of the Rings’ (I nicked the portrait of J R R Tolkien that came with that, too), which tied in with my brief obsession with all things Middle Earth, and whose moody Hammond organ and synth-driven instrumental is not that far removed from a lot of the post-rock/ambient-ish stuff I listen to now, and which influenced the more dramatic Nordic soundscapes of the likes of Anna von Hausswolff, whom I saw live a few years ago supporting Efterklang in Halifax Minster. Other choices I considered were from the folk-rock genre, such as Fairport Convention (which John chose for one of his own ten albums), and Steeleye Span.
However, the record I’ve gone for is one that admittedly I haven’t actually listened to that much over the years but which can still both take me right back to playing it while still in primary school back in the 70’s, but doesn’t feel to me to belong specifically to that time in the way the more mainstream choices might have done. It is music that I can imagine, if I hadn’t heard it before, discovering on Stuart Maconie’s ‘Freak Zone’ on BBC 6 Music, or ‘Late Junction’ on Radio 3, and thinking that it’s the sort of thing I’d like to check out further. It is definitely a folk-rock record, and while that isn’t a genre that is itself central to my taste, this has a sense of the uncanny, drawing on traditional music but giving it an intense and experimental twist that links to the more obviously ‘proggy’ stuff I would get deeply into in my mid-teens (before rejecting for a time – more of that to come), and the self-consciously subversive yet affectionate mining of a specifically English tradition that is associated with the ‘hauntological’ movement that my great friend and musical mentor Donald would turn me on to in the noughties. I’m pretty sure that the album pictured is the one that John had and which I therefore played. It is a compilation of the two full length albums released by a band led by husband and wife duo, Bob and Carole Pegg. Guys, gals, and non-binary pals, I give you: The Complete Mr Fox: