In 1982 I was nine. I say this so that you will forgive what is about to happen. If I were a weak man (and I am) I would blame my mother for exposing me to this music, but she reads this blog so I can’t really do that.
This story of shame begins when I discovered that the online New Zealand charts let you look at historical album charts (I had just been looking at singles). It has long been true that teenagers buy singles, and grown ups buy albums so an album chart shows us what all the grown ups were buying in January of 1982. As a generation I think you should hang your head in shame. I know I am, because even though I was only nine, I liked a lot of these albums.
Actually, by 1982 Gheorghe wasn’t doing this he was doing Classics by Candlelight with Harry van Hoof, but I just can’t bring myself to even listen to this, and anyway – The Lonely Shepherd is the song every one knows Gheorghe for. So lonely. So sad. So funny watching a man blow a pan flute. For a while every second busker on Cuba Street had a pan flute. It does have a lovely sound, but… well, I don’t know that I want to hear Mozart played on it.
Much, much worse than Gheorghe though was Richard Clayderman. Richard who had three albums in the charts (THREE!) at the start of 1982.
This song just makes me want to cry; tears of bitter, hot shame. I remember sitting in a friend’s car on some trip somewhere listening to a Richard Clayderman album with great enjoyment. I remember having favourite tracks, and favourite bits in those tracks. Oh sweet Jesus have mercy on my soul. His videos freak me out. There always seems to be a part where he looks up and just sort of stares at you in a bland, but slightly intense way like he really wants you to go away.
The first musical instrument I dabbled in (i.e. my mother sent me to lessons) was the piano. I had no patience with it, and the teacher seemed to have no desire to have me play a simple tune to keep me going. It was all about scales and learning to read music. Having just managed to learn to read words I was in no mood to tackle crotchets and quavers. I was already pretty hacked off with Maths for introducing me to algebra. How, I ask you, how is it possible to have letters and numbers together? This is just wrong.
The other problem with the piano was that my childhood friend Matthew was insufferable when it came to things like this. We always ended up doing the same hobby and he always was better at me. Learning German (don’t ask) = better than me; playing chess = better than me; playing cricket = better than me; playing piano = better than me. It was incredibly annoying. Luckily he was weird about food, and all I had to do to make myself feel superior to him was have my birthday dinner at a buffet once a year and watch him struggle with food selection (“…strawberries have funny pips on the outside, tomatoes have funny pips on the inside, peas are round…”). What a dick.
Number 23 on the album chart at the start of 1982 was Abba The Visitors. I actually bought this album for my mother as a present, so I guess I got it in 1982. I bought this album independently – it was an actual surprise – and I bet Mum really was surprised. Thinking back on it I must learn to master the studied delight my mother expressed on receiving Abba’s worst album before it is my turn and my daughter’s begin to buy presents for me. I think that this album was played exactly once in our household, and never again. Still, it will always have a place in my heart.
And finally, at number three (down one), was Hooked on Classics. I have this on vinyl. We used to have it on cassette. It represents all that is bad and nothing that is good about doing a mash up. The same, terrifying beat relentlessly drives its way through the heart of some of the finest achievements of Western musical civilisation. It is a curious listening experience now. When it starts there is the thrill of rediscovering something cool from the 80s, but by the time you have reached the end of track one you feel utterly depressed.
Better put Memories by Barbara Streisand on for a spin to cheer me up.
Neil was at number 22 on the album chart with the curiously titled On the Way to the Sky. This song came on the radio yesterday and Cathy started singing it.
I think this was a hint.