We’ve got an eclectic collection of CDs going on in the Panda right now. By we, I really mean the music that I choose, which is sometimes endorsed by the boys and sometimes not. However, when you are aged only six and four respectively, mom’s rules apply in mom’s taxi, so basically it’s my way on the highway or no music in the car at all.
Literally. I can be a bit of a dictator when it comes to road trips. Music is my stress relief, and few things stress me more than having to listen to music I don’t like.
As I’ve mentioned previously in my blog, I’ve been revisiting Barbra Streisand lately and singing along loudly while pretending that her voice is actually mine. After a few days, my throat got a bit sore, so I decided to give Barbra a rest. Going for classic mode, I took out a Pavarotti CD and allowed my good buddy Luciano to take over the vocals for a while on the morning drives. I can’t speak (or sing in) Italian so it was an easy way to give my vocal cords a rest.
Then it was time to leave the maestro’s music and add some rock into the mix, so I gleefully hit my Runrig CDs – a Scottish rock band who were in their heyday a little while ago (I suppose you could basically say that about Barbra and Pavarotti also, right? Although I’m not yet ready to say that about me). I used to listen to Runrig during my ‘me-time’ away from South Africa when I was younger. Being a traditional bunch of Scotsmen, the Runrig men also sing occasionally in Gaelic, and there’s a track in the old language that I really love. Soul connection stuff, I think, because I was born in Scotland and I discovered Runrig as a young adult, when I was spending time trying to re-connect with my ancestral homeland and working out who I wanted to be.
Anyway, after Barbra, Pavarotti and Runrig had all been given a really good innings over a couple of weeks, I decided to stay with the rock-type of genre and so I headed over to the music of the US, for some newer stuff in the form of the Kings of Leon. They visited South Africa in late 2011 but I didn’t have the pleasure of seeing them live.
‘Didn’t have the pleasure.’
Okay, let me be honest now, whether y’all like it or not.
In my very first hearing of my new album, the voice of the Kings of Leon vocalist (Caleb Followill) reminded me strongly of a yowling stray cat deciding to have a midnight jam festival a little out of time with the rest of the band of cool cats.
I’ve got images from Disney’s The Aristocats in my head here.
And Caleb is kind of yowling a bit fuzzy and off-key. Whereas the rest of the band are seriously tight. So it felt like a mismatch.
Anyway, I bought the CD in December last year because I was feeling like a bit of a dinosaur on the music front and thought I’d better start getting with the programme again.
No really, I was feeling like a fossil (most dinosaurs these days are fossils by default, with a few arguable exceptions like the awe-inspiring coelacanth and maybe – imagine! the great Megaladon shark).
I actually used to be quite hip with my knowledge of music. I mean, because of my then-job, I used to get into the VIP boxes at big concerts with international and eternal rock stars like The Rolling Stones and Sting, back in the day. And then I found, mournfully, that I’d apparently become a fossil.
But why? How?
Easy to explain. But oh, how it crept up on me when I wasn’t looking.
These days you see, when I’m not listening to my own music, either while driving or at home, my default choice is a serious talk radio show and with it, I try to catch the news as often as I can so I am current and mostly-aware of the world’s goings on. (It’s really a necessity for my job.)
So basically it’s my music, or current affairs. But not the current and fun music stations, not even the one I used to work for when I was younger (I mention this just to prove that I did used to have street cred on the music front).
So I was still getting used to Caleb Followill’s voice one morning, on the album Youth and Young Manhood and thinking that I wasn’t enjoying my morning drive as much as usual. But I wasn’t quite ready to embrace fossildom yet so I gritted my teeth and skipped the tracks manually after a tortured minute or so per track.
And then I discovered the last one: “Holy Roller Novocaine”, which I now know is about a preacher man who’s, shall we say, a bit naughty with the attractive female members of his flock. He’s a bad man, basically. But oh my soul does the song have a catchy tune, and somehow Caleb’s voice is less yowly on this one and a bit clearer. And quite frankly the whole thing just rocks – vocals, instruments, the whole package deal.
So I skipped into work that day on a really good music high and only later on, after a bit of googling, discovered what it was all about. Heehee. It didn’t take away the happy vibes, but it was still the only track on the album that I liked.
And then my children discovered The Kings of Leon.
They asked for them incessantly.
They turned them on without my permission.
They bopped their heads in time to the music – little baby headbangers in the back seat.
All of a sudden Liam was no longer enamoured with ‘Panarotti’s’ number five and ten tracks, and they were both demanding the Kings of Leon, with Matthew’s beaming immortal words: “Hey mummy – thith ith wock and woll!”
So the Kings of Leon are now kind of growing on me over time, but every now and then I insist that we go back to Runrig for a break and the voice of Donny Munroe instead of Caleb.
Now, Donny has a voice.
An amazing voice.
A true and soaring voice that lifts me into inspirational and emotional heights and reminds me of my Scottish ancestral homeland, where the hills roll onward in shades of green and purple and the lochs and misty mountains are the most beautiful patches of nature you could lay eyes on.
But at least, thanks to my children’s current fondness for the Kings of Leon, I am back on the modern wock and woll twail.
However reluctantly, sometimes!
They do say that children keep you young. I guess I’ll find out as time goes by. And in the meantime, Scottish rock still rules. At least in my car.
Epilogue – speaking of voices…
I once had the opportunity to sneak into a practice session when Luciano Pavarotti was in South Africa, quite a few years ago. My friend Ray and I were total youngsters and one night, knowing that Pavarotti was practising with the national symphony orchestra, we snuck along the dungeon-like bottom corridors of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (the SABC) in the long-shot hope of finding him. Coming to the end of an obscure passage, we cautiously creaked open a door and to our great joy, found that we’d hit the jackpot – the great man himself was sitting not fifteen feet before us in full voice!
While we were still sucking in our breath in amazed and awe-struck delight, an officious little man came along and grumpily waved us away. Crestfallen, we started to close the door when the great man actually stopped singing and told the officious little man (with a rather marvellous wave of his maestro’s hand) to allow us to stay. With his trademark bearded beam, Luciano Pavarotti himself beckoned us into the room! Ray and I landed up sitting cross-legged on the floor almost directly in front of him for about fifteen minutes while he sang his glorious song, and then we went back to work.
I have never forgotten it.
Rest in peace, oh great man, and thank you again for your kindness that day. I hope the section of the universe where you are spending eternity still rings to the irreplaceable sounds of your truly beautiful voice.