I didn’t formalise it as a New Year’s Resolution, but I was kind of disappointed in myself at the end of 2022, when I realised how little music I’d listened to. It’s not as if I wasn’t listening to audio content, but my obsessive consumption of podcasts had taken over at the expense of my first love, music.
So I’ve been dedicating some time to listening more this year, but I also want to get away from wallowing too much in nostalgia. I used to listen to a lot of new music, and that is what has been really missing from my life.
So on nights like this, I sometimes turn the TV off early, and go into the Music app on my TV and fire up some songs, just like somebody on the internet.
But here’s the thing about that. It’s making me feel lonely. No matter which way you come at it, music is something you impulsively want to share. Playing the remixed Too-Rye-Ay by Dexy’s Midnight Runners, I was infused with a feeling of times long gone, people I used to hang out with forty years ago. Nostalgia, yes, but also an acknowledgement that, introverted as I am, I did use to go out sometimes, drinking in pubs, hanging out in people’s houses. Nights as vivid to me now, thanks to working on The Obald, as anything that happened more recently.
I envy my OH and her friendship group back home, which is still fully intact. My younger daughter and I marvel at her ability to talk for hours on end with people she has known fifty years, and yet this is something she gets to do.
My problem with music is more acute. Music has always been such a huge part of my identity, and I am so very fussy about it, and that fussiness has left me dying on this hill with nobody else around. Because it’s not just the nostalgia that leaves me feeling lonely.
The other night, I listened to the new Dierks Bentley album, Gravel and Gold. Which is great. He has a distinctive (gravelly, yes!) voice and his records are beautifully recorded with the usual top-drawer Nashville musicians, and the songs are great (gold, yes!), a real cut above the dross that’s out there, in the current country landscape of trucks and beer and baseball caps. It’s so good, and yet I know nobody who would take the time to listen to it or even, probably, recognise the artist’s name. The lonely feeling is compounded by the sense that your (meaning my) online presence is largely pointless, with very few people even seeing your tweets, let alone “engaging” with them, and a few people on Mastodon sometimes acknowledging that you exist, but not many and not consistently.
So, yeah, I could post a link to a YouTube video or audio, but nobody’s hitting Play, so it compounds the loneliness really, enhances it. Tumbleweed.
Why is this bothering me so much now? You can’t help noting the turning of the calendar pages, and I’ve been feeling dissatisfied with aspects of my life, the working life, and I’ve been ill since December. But you can turn 60, and at the same time still inside you is the 17 year old on his knees in front of the record player with a mix tape and a mission.
This is what has changed. The streaming. As Rick Rubin says in his interview with Dan Carlin, there’s a conveyor belt of stuff and it goes by so fast that your relationship with what you once loved has changed.
So I find myself listening to Quietly Blowing It by Hiss Golden Messenger and thinking how fucking tragic it is that there is nobody with whom I can share the beautiful music. And then it has gone.
It’s a big wash, said my friend Roy back in the mists of time, and we had no idea, back then, of just how much of a wash it would turn out to be. The stream of media coming at you all the time, including this, including that, all my stuff, all your stuff. Everything you do is part of the problem, but what are the options? Where is the exit?
So here’s how that’s going. Maybe my 2022 self, who didn’t listen to much music, knew where it would lead. Knew that playing “Come on Eileen” (in any version) would put me back in that room with Kim Moles at the 1982 office Christmas party looking out of the window at the lights of the town and yearning.
This is what music does, it wrecks you.