WHAT TRIBE ARE YOU IN?

What type of music do you enjoy? Rock? Jazz? Indonesian Gamelan music? Perhaps you do not even think about types or styles of music. But some people do and seek out or avoid others with tastes that complement or conflict. And we all fling about opinions on what is ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’.

That font of all knowledge, Wikipedia, lists – courtesy of Allmusic – the following genres of popular music.

African

Asian

Avant-Garde

Blues

Caribbean and Latin American

Comedy

Country

Easy Listening

Electronic

Folk

Hip hop

Jazz

Pop

Rhythm and Blues

Rock

Ska

Other

Just to play safe and avoid law suits, there is also an ‘Exclusions’ category that includes ballroom dancing, incidental, religious and national music, and sea shanties.

Tales-Yes-Cover

Looking at the above list, you may be thinking, ‘OK, I can get my ears around those’. There are probably a few that you could put a line through straight away and others that seem too broad to be useful.

That’s OK, because these genres contain sub-genres. I’ve selected a few of the more relevant categories and hired a small team of children with abacuses to count the sub-genres.

Blues: 29    [embracing Soul Blues, British Blues, Electric Blues and Punk Blues]

Electronic: 21    [including Trance, Chiptune (a personal fave) and Post-disco]

Folk: 14      [gathering Indie-, Anti-, Freak- and Celtic. And sung poetry]

Jazz: 53     [lovers of Chamber, Modal and Ska Jazz are covered, amongst others]   

Rock: 31    [a pretty modest number, eh? But wait…]

You didn’t think it would end there, did you? ‘Course not. Some of those sub-genres have further subdivisions. Sub-sub-genres, you could call them. The need for further definition is apparent in some sub-genres. Alternative Rock, for example, obviously needs a few more filters to be useful in categorising artists as diverse as Cocteau Twins (Dreampop) and The Hives (Post-punk Revival). While over in Progressive Rock, most aficionados would be familiar with the five sub-subs (Canterbury, Krautrock, New Prog, Rock in Opposition, and Space Rock). But the one that blew my mind was Heavy Metal. Think that metal is simply about thumping rhythm sections and fret-melting guitar solos? Think again. This is so brilliant I have reproduced it whole.

  • Heavy metal
    • Alternative metal
      • Nu metal
    • Black metal
      • Viking Metal
    • Christian metal
    • Death metal
      • Melodic Death Metal
      • Technical Death Metal
      • Goregrind
    • Doom metal
    • Drone metal
    • Folk metal
      • Celtic metal
      • Medieval metal
    • Funk metal
    • Glam metal
    • Gothic metal
    • Industrial metal
    • Metalcore
      • Deathcore
      • Mathcore
      • Djent
  • Power metal
  • Progressive metal
  • Rap metal
  • Sludge metal
  • Speed metal
  • Stoner rock
  • Symphonic metal
  • Thrash metal
    • Crossover thrash
    • Groove metal

The alert reader will have detected a further stratum in the above list. Yes, there are sub-sub-sub-genres. Forget Deathcore, by now we are so deep that we must be close to the Earth’s core. I wonder if serious metal fans have separate sections for their 32 sub-sub- and sub-sub-sub-sections. I also wonder what Djent is, but I’m much too cowardly to find out.

Fountains-Of-Wayne-Utopia-Parkway-570x570Unknown

Meanwhile, back in the zone of sunlight and fresh air, you may be wondering where this ramble is heading.

Well, here’s the thing. With 17 genres, over 200 sub-genres and fuck knows how many sub-sub-etc genres, it is manifestly impossible for anyone to be a universal expert. No one person could acquire anywhere near the breadth of knowledge to be able to rate or denigrate artists or albums across this almost infinite constellation of groupings. So mostly we ignore it. Yet closing our eyes and ears to music out of our normal range doesn’t make it go away.

Conclusion? There is no Best, no Worst, no reasonable basis for asserting that my choice is more valid than yours. There is only what we enjoy, what moves us, what connects us… and whether we are prepared to try something new.

03_king_crimson_lizard_front

 

Here are a couple of alternate, non-competitive questions to play with.

What artist/album do I turn to for comfort? To celebrate?

Which album/artist was the most musically influential for me? How?

If I were to expand my musical boundaries, what direction would I turn?

 

It would be brilliant to see a variety of answers. New voices always welcome.

 

coltraneKulu

28 comments

  1. Well said. I enjoy a little bit of music from every section of the music store, anyway. I think that’s important. It is for me anyway. As to your questions:

    What artist/album do I turn to for comfort? To celebrate?
    – Usually Kiss, early Kiss.

    Which album/artist was the most musically influential for me? How?
    – Again, Kiss. They were the first band I LOVED rather than LIKED. They opened all the doors, because of the variety of music within their catalogue. I wasn’t afraid to try diffferent styles, because Kiss had.

    If I were to expand my musical boundaries, what direction would I turn?
    – I don’t know, I like surprises! But I am endeavoring to add more jazz, blues and country to the collection.

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    1. Love that image of wandering a music store and collecting samples from different sections.

      Sounds like the masked rock marauders were a first love. And we never forget or ever really reject that early infatuation. I don’t think I’d realised (not being a Kiss aficionado) that they had explored other rock styles. Just goes to show, eh? But that idea that it’s OK to explore and change is such a potent one. Hope it continues to bring you delight.

      Thanks for firing off an opening salvo, Mike.

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      1. No problem!

        With Kiss, they did Disco, heavy metal, just plain rock n roll, progressive rock with orchestras, and even stuff that sounded like country music. What a gateway. Then I discovered other bands, like Queen and Zeppelin that were even more diverse. Without those bands I may never have gotten into Robert Johnson, Rod Stewart, and all the rest.

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    2. That would be another fascinating question: What artist or album was your gateway into new musical worlds. Think I’ll file that for future use. Thanks!

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      1. Great idea! Of course I’ve given my answer prematurely!

        I should also mention, that growing up with the Star Wars soundtracks made it easy for me to get into classic music later on. Holst = John Williams.

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  2. Joy of joys today – backing off from a ‘Love Supreme’, I listened to Coltrane’s ‘Afro Blues Impressions’ for the first time and it was fan-f-ing-tastic! and I am not sure if I could have done that without a lot of listening to things that I searched out because someone else liked them and spread the news, or because I simply stumbled into a new alley.

    Having enjoyed ‘A love Supreme’ for only the first time earlier this week, I can report that I got over my past discomfiture via Monk’s ‘Brilliant Corners’ and his ‘Music’. There is something about Monk’s composition and playing that helped me learn to listen to implied and broken rhythms and perhaps even detect implied and broken melodies, harmonies and themes. But before Monk, there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing around the 50’s and 60’s of Jazz, returning often to Miles Davis and particularly to ‘Kind of Blue’ for comfort, joy, wonder, enlivenment.

    Indeed, I’ve to-ed and fro-ed back and forth in Miles’ diverse genres during the last 18 months, exploring haphazardly and with help from people like yourself, Bruce. I even used ‘Doo-bop’ to soften my calloused hatred of Rap and all its dominions and have listened without grating teeth in the mornings to 2 Pac, one of the choices of stuff-that-once-was-shite-to-me chosen by a disabled client, whom I bathe, dress and ready for school each weekday morning.

    When I need a base that steadies me for a step to a new genre/ sub-genre, I can generally rely on Mingus and as to celebration, singing out ‘Oh Yeah’ is as good as a celebration for me.

    Unchanging, simple, persistent beats tend to grate on me. In retreat, it’s mainly Sinatra, Torme, Holiday, Noel Coward and Chet Baker who let me regenerate my skin.

    As to direction, I am loving the haphazard journey that began with a resolution ‘to explore what flowed out of the cool’, which fell out of a 2012 present – Oscar Peterson’s ‘Night Train’ (thanks Nina) and because shortly after that I stumbled upon a ‘Kind of Blue’ at the local library.

    I don’t want to sharpen my objective nor change the erratic and disorganized process of discovery. I’ve listened to over 200 albums since that birthday and it’s been fun. And it’s been more fun because of people like yourself, Bruce, people who care enough to share their thoughts and their music.

    Thank you,

    DD

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    1. That surge of excitement when some new music grabs you is one of life’s great moments. Lovely to hear that Mr Coltrane provided one.

      Like you, I have often – especially with jazz – used the chronology as some sort of guide-rope. It helps map the territory I reckon. But then, as you observe, things drop in on us and just like guests, that can be welcome or, er, otherwise! But when it works (e.g.: Night Train) it is glorious.

      Now with Miles, he’s a sub-genre all on his own. If you add in the artists he profoundly influenced, maybe even a genre. How amazing that you can articulate off Miles into so many styles and periods, from bop thru’ jazz-rock-funk to rap.

      Finally, thanks for your kind words David. I love writing these posts, but sometimes get a bit despondent over response rates (in which you are a treasured exception). Today’s comments are a balm and a fillip.

      PS. Listening, as I write, to the John Surman album “The Amazing Adventures of Simon Simon” (ECM, 1981). Can’t imagine having enjoyed it without having immersed myself in ‘A Love Supreme’. Which illustrates your point neatly.

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      1. Nina who plays/ teaches classical piano asked ‘What’s that weird music?’ when I found and started to play Nestor’s Saga from “The Amazing Adventures of Simon Simon” on YouTube. (She and Zhuo are discussing all sorts of things in the kitchen behind me – half in English half in Dialect – adding another dimension to this experience). Unfortunately most other tracks have been deleted but it will encourage me to have another crack at Eric Dolphy, especially the 1961 Impressions album with Coltrane, if I can track it down.

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  3. Great post and I agree that it’s all just tastes and opinions. But I reserve the right to fully denigrate “Kiss is on my List” at every given opportunity! Lol!

    What artist/album do I turn to for comfort? To celebrate? Comfort: Neil Young, Decade. Also The Beatles, Abbey Road. Also Gregg Allman, Laid Back. Celebrate: uuummm…I guess I pick Santana, Abraxas. That album makes me happy and I like to play it at parties and listen to it while I cook so I can dance in the kitchen. 🙂

    Which album/artist was the most musically influential for me? How? That’s a tough one. I’ve never really thought about it before. But I guess I have to go back to the albums that introduced me to the different sub-genres, thereby creating an interest in that particular “sound”. Some examples would be Prog Rock: Pink Floyd, DSOTM. Yes, Yessongs. Singer/Songwriters: Carole King, Tapestry. James Taylor, Sweet Baby James. And etc., down the line through the rock sub-genres. You get the picture. The big, mammoth hit albums in the various genres led me to seek out more of that sound from lesser known bands. Not really a direct answer to your question, I know, but that’s how my musical tastes and small amount of musical knowledge developed.

    If I were to expand my musical boundaries, what direction would I turn? Alternative country. I actually dislike mainstream, contemporary country, but lately I’ve heard some stuff that would fall into the alternative country genre that sounds pretty damn good. Has an authenticity to it, with a bit of an Allmany edge. I look forward to hitting a couple alt country dives up in Nashville this summer when I go up for the Yes concert. 😉

    This was fun! I guess I never get tired of talking about myself and my opinions haha! Hope you are feeling better and are having a great weekend!

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    1. I didn’t write – but do think – that dissing Top 40 pop is not just OK, but a duty. 😉 So lay into Hall and Oates for all you’re worth!

      ‘Abraxas’ is a great celebratory album, I agree. I can read in your response how deep the love and appreciation of quality singer-songwriters goes for you: Young, King, Taylor, even Greg A at a pinch. And I think you’ve nailed something with that comment about seeking out more in a similar vein. Though it doesn’t always work. Looking for more of what I loved in Genesis never resulted in a connection with Marillion, sadly. And desperation for more Yes when there was no more resulted in a couple of Starcastle albums. As Peter Green said, ‘Oh well’.

      I guess Wilco is alt-country. I enjoy their music a lot.

      Thanks for sharing your signposts Marie.

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      1. A brand of sick-making populist Country music tends to invade the kinds of shops you tend to need to go into when you holiday in Queensland, Australia (a common Winter retreat for Southern Australians). I have to leave the shops. Please send them a list of your choices Marie.

        But seriously, you made me review my lot and there is a Country album which I periodically take from the rack and play … and love. It is James Blundell’s 1990 ‘Hand it down’,. It explores Australian country themes and some might call it mawkish or sentimental but I find it insightful, moving and sincere.

        Coming back to Bruce’s question about the most influential artist (but not album, which is really hard to pinpoint), I percolated overnight and came up with ‘The Daly Wilson Big Band’. Thanks to an oversight in or around 1970, my friends father forgot about a school parent and teacher interview and asked me if I could take the younger of their boys to this Concert. That established jazz as a pathway for my inconsistent and, up until now, often inattentive listening. (Thanks Victor).

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  4. What a great post! I’ve been thinking on it a lot since reading… Well, I guess I’m in the metal tribe! But I agree the bests and worsts are purely subjective and I do have a fairly varied listening. I can’t honestly say it’s all over the shop. I’ve tried many things with an open-mind that just haven’t stuck with me… which is not to say they might not in the future. I think any exposure to non-Metal music always helps strengthen my love and appreciation for Metal too. I’d hate to live in a Metal vacuum. And I’ve found that Metal does often point you beyond the genre. It’s a great gateway to all kinds of music, movies and literature!

    As far as the questions:
    What artist/album do I turn to for comfort? To celebrate?
    Manowar. Always Manowar. They make me feel like me.

    Which album/artist was the most musically influential for me? How?
    I echo Mike’s answer for KISS but I would maybe say Metallica too. They are one of those gateway bands that are good at pointing you elsewhere… and I pretty much learned guitar by playing their stuff!

    If I were to expand my musical boundaries, what direction would I turn?
    Recently I’ve been enjoying investigating folk music and 50s rock n’ roll so I’d probably keep digging into that. I also have a notion to get some early music too like David Munrow kind of stuff.

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    1. Enjoyed reading your contribution, HMO; many thanks. I was hoping that using the Metal sub-genres might lure out some heavy colleagues!

      There’s a massively important theme in what you said: trying ‘new’ or ‘other’ music and returning to a first love is not uncommon and perfectly legitimate. The trick is to allow others to have their preferences too and try to stay open, exactly as you say.

      Although I don’t know Manowar (or Metallica either, despite shopping in a Frankfurt record store with one of the band members in the late 90s. Just him, me, and a massive bodyguard) I do get that there can be comfort in the power and density of music. You’ll no doubt chuckle, but I sometimes return to Atomic Rooster and only yesterday enjoyed ‘Paranoid’ greatly.

      That’s brilliant that you are investigating folk and early rock and roll. With the former, do you know “Electric Eden” by Rob Young? It is an utterly engrossing and thoroughly researched survey of the history and development of (primarily UK) folk. And David Munrow gets a guernsey too! Highly recommended.

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      1. Heavy metal is just over-run with sub and subbier genres. It’s beyond ridiculous! There are a few key ones where I understand the distinction but sometimes… it gets to the point where you talk about, say, a black metal band and someone says “no, they’re blackened death”. Give me a break! Honestly. I often feel like a lot of metal subgenres are more marketing tools than genuine musical divisions.

        Atomic Rooster are on my to-investigate list! I have one song on an ELP box set but that’s about it.

        I do have the Electric Eden book, it’s brilliant but I’ve only read a small portion of it so far. I just know it will be a great gateway! Coincidentally, I just listened to the accompanying album the other night too! It was fantastic!

        And thanks for the guernsey! (I had to look up what that meant…)

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  5. Genres, sub genres, sub-sub genres … it’s a murky world, eh? I guess we all tend to lean towards the stuff that brought us to music, while avoiding certain stuff based on experience or reputation. I tend to avoid a number of the Heavy Metal sub and sub-sub-sub genres. That said, I’ve also been introduced to a number of bands in that field that I’d never had heard of / bothered with before. Some of it, surprisingly, I’ve enjoyed.

    As for the questions there:

    What artist/album do I turn to for comfort? To celebrate?

    Johnny Cash for comfort, Afghan Whigs to celebrate.

    Which album/artist was the most musically influential for me? How?

    Most musically influential would probably be Cash. With a catalogue that vast there’s bound to be stuff that wasn’t successful, but he did it. There’s a lot of honesty and integrity in it … and all that from a simple country boy.

    If I were to expand my musical boundaries, what direction would I turn?

    I’ve been hitting jazz a little. 15 years ago I was picking up Kind Of Blue on CD. At the tail end of last year I was just starting to dig a little deeper with Duke Ellington and Django Reinhardt.

    A friend also introduced me to The Ink Spots … so there’s some interest in those ol’ vocal groups too.

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    1. Although I am not overly familiar with the Johnny Cash catalogue, I know enough to get a feel for what you are saying (I hope). The breadth and diversity give you lots of options, the human voice (and hence, the humanity) pervades his work, and perhaps most importantly your response highlights those vital – but elusive – qualities: honesty and integrity. Someday I might tackle that thorny theme, but for now, thanks a lot for contributing J.

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      1. Pretty much spot on. I’ve always found myself completely lost in his records no matter how often I put them on. Like most artists with a huge catalogue, there’s some stuff that is best avoided, but there’s a load of charm in there, too.

        Orange Blossom Special is a great place to start for anyone – jeez, I’ve pushed that album on so many folks. It has everything.

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  6. I really enjoyed reading this post, and completely agree that denigrating entire styles/genres/subgenres, etc. means giving one’s own taste far more power than it warrants outside of one’s mind. To paraphrase another commenter, there are things we choose to pull off the shelf, and thing we leave on it.

    What artist/album do I turn to for comfort, or to celebrate? Mozart’s works, especially his violin and piano concertos, provide enormous comfort to me because I know that even when he is demonstrating a genius that I might never be able to understand, he is always concerned with beauty and energy. As for celebration, to this day the Missourians (the Cab Calloway band before Calloway) remain the most stomping, optimistic and happy sound I have ever heard!

    Which album/artist was the most musically influential for me, and how? The compact disc compilation Benny Goodman: The Harry James Years, Volume One was not only the first jazz album I ever purchased but the first example of music that compelled me to just listen to it. Its vibrancy, warmth mixed with intensity and balance between discipline and freedom shaped what I take off of the shelf to this day.

    If I were to expand my musical boundaries, what direction would I turn? At the risk of inviting mockery, I would want to explore all of the pop/top 40, “radio friendly” stuff out there and try to understand what makes it tick, musically. It’s hard for me to accept the “it’s all mass-produced, immature trash” interpretation and it would be interesting to discern what makes a pop song popular, relevant, musically interesting or just plain catchy. Besides, most of the music by dead people I reach for was once pop(ular) music anyway.

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    1. Love the opening para, Andrew. We do often assume that everyone sees the world the way we do and shares our taste and values. What a pity it’s is untrue! 😉

      Beauty and energy are life enhancing qualities, and many would totally agree that Wolfgang Amadeus channelled those magnificently.

      Your comment about the Goodman big band added more helpful adjectives: vibrancy, warmth and intensity. I like that last one particularly. It provides a hint about what constitutes authenticity, I believe. Incidentally, the first jazz that grabbed me was a TV broadcast of a (later) Goodman small group with Teddy Wilson (I think) and Red Norvo on vibes. I rushed for my Panasonic top-loading cassette recorder and hand held condenser mic to capture this lively, cheerful music.

      Good to see a brave person willing to vote for Top 40. The above trash-talking notwithstanding, my negativity is not so much an expression of disinterest as of boredom. Often ‘popular’ music – from any age, as you rightly observe – aims at the lowest common denominator… and usually hits that mark.

      Having said that, I foresee a piece on fave ‘hits’ and those unusual or innovative songs that got through the bland-net and lodged themselves in our heads forever. Reckon that might be another fun interactive post for another day.

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  7. Another good ‘un, of course.

    Being part of a tribe was important to me as an adolescent, it gives you a feeling of belonging and instant kinship with disparate others. I liked being able to walk into a room and start a conversation with a complete stranger about music, knowing because the way they’re dressed that they’ll have an opinion on Metallica’s latest – especially if said person were a hot chick.

    When you get older I think it’s natural to fall away from that as you become a more complex person / need the support less / realise it doesn’t quite fit your burgeoning obsession with Black Viking Chiptune / start getting bald …

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    1. That kinship / identity component is so important in adolescence, isn’t it? When everything is swirling with confusion and uncertainty, we need some identifiable rock(s) to cling to. From some of the above responses, it seems that metal (in its broadest sense) has offered that to many. For me it was progressive music. Something about the complexity appealed and something about the inaccessibility mirrored the lonliness/outsiderness I felt. What’s changed, I wonder…

      PS> Is your above strategy how you snared Mrs 1537?

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      1. Metal also has an identifiable uniform too which helps.

        Nope, Mrs 1537 ruthlessly tracked and hunted me down at university. Although later we worked out that we must have been sitting within two rows of each other at an Aerosmith gig in Birmingham a year before we met.

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  8. So, what have we learned so far?

    That we want to connect, to belong, and that music can do that via shared likes (or dislikes!).

    That the music that we turn to has many characteristics. Some of those we prize are:

    – Honesty and integrity
    – Beauty and energy
    – Vibrancy and intensity
    – both predictability (of a style) and innovation (sometimes)

    By the way, the album covers above are the author’s answers to the questions. For today, anyway.

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  9. This strikes me as just the right thing to say:

    “Conclusion? There is no Best, no Worst, no reasonable basis for asserting that my choice is more valid than yours. There is only what we enjoy, what moves us, what connects us… and whether we are prepared to try something new.”

    I listen to lots of stuff. Probably 60% rock, but also country, jazz, folk, and lots of other stuff.

    For comfort? The Grateful Dead or some Outlaw Country (strange combination, I know).

    To Celebrate? Warren Zevon or The Band.

    Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band’s probably had the biggest influence on my life, because I listened to a lot of them when I was a young person, before the Internet. They were my connection to the larger culture, and Bruce said things like “blind faith in your leaders will get you killed.”

    But my favorite singer/songwriters are Leonard Cohen, Townes Van Zandt, and Randy Newman. Go figure.

    I also have a soft spot for Metallica.

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  10. You know, I can see the Grateful Dead / Outlaw Country connection. There is quite a strong country influence in the Dead (as well as other things, of course) and they were certainly socially innovative and ‘out there’ – if not actual outlaws!

    Diversity of listening is so enriching. Like you my ‘likes’ cover many styles. What sort of music-mood am I in this evening? Delightful question and fortunate to have a broad enough collection to cater for most moods.

    Thanks for adding to the conversation, Gene’O. And for that Bruce quote; it’s a ripper.

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  11. George Harrison and all the Beatles together and alone!! Janis Joplin, Buffalo Springfield, Bob Dylan!! Dylan always makes me smile, Harrison’s Give Me Love Give Me Peace On Earth…my favorite song of all time! And Janis, Janis is my girl while Lennon speaks to my soul and Paul makes me sing along and Ringo is Ringo. I like music that stood for something, that was a sign of the times and still is relevant today and will be 50 years from now, like a soundtrack to my life. Most of all I love music on vinyl that spins on the turntable late at night with the windows open and the time slips by on a melody.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and sharing some of your musical moments in such a poetic way.

      Like

  12. […] on ‘Best’ lists (a recent Vinyl Connection discussion of the meaninglessness of ratings is here) and was, I believe, voted most ‘influential’ British folk album of all time. John Paul Jones […]

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