Island Life by David Slack


Bye, bye, you peculiar guy.

Where would we be without Lee Harvey Oswald? Without him, no assassination. Without an assassination, no mantra.

"I will always remember where I was when I heard he/she/the music died," people say, with wide eyes. You could hear it said often last Friday.

No concept is too awesome, no notion so potent that it is not capable of being trivialised by modern culture. They say: I will always remember where I was when I heard about this! Perhaps they mean: Finally, my life is exciting!

I remember where I was when Lisa-Marie's father died. In the seventh form common room, we played LPs on an old radio-gram I had bought from a second hand store in Palmerston North and carted back to Feilding on the back of my Dad's Vanguard ute. It had a stylus so prejudicial to the well-being of vinyl it was a cultural crime, but I couldn't get a replacement, so that was that. We put on the platters and spun them, because we had to hear the music.

Hamish Watson liked Bruce Springsteen. I can still see him arriving back home from lunch with the Greetings From Ashbury Park album tucked under his arm. "Elvis Presley died," he said, "it was on the radio."
"No way" we said,
"how about that." I lifted off the Yes album I was playing and dropped the needle onto Bruce.

This is my roundabout way of disclosing my voting intentions in the coming referendum. All my friends say they will be voting Yes and this gladdens my heart, because there was a time when it was shameful to be a fan of that band.

Yeah, I know it's not really about that. But you can't tell me you haven't already had your fill.* Let's talk about progressive rock. So bloated, so lumbering, so indulgent, God had to give the world his only Sid Vicious to save the world from stadium bands.

Too bad. I was a bookish kid in a country town who liked reading about existentialism and playing Tales from Topographic Oceans and Close to the Edge. That music has never stopped being my friend, through punk, through ska, through new wave, on to my diversion to Nashville and then Austin and the that I can never get enough of. I still like the Yes music. But you try to tell your friends…

Only in middle age have I truly gained the courage of my convictions. A few months ago I made a deal with Mark Graham. I would get up early on a Sunday morning to talk on his excellent radio show if he agreed to play side 4 of Tales from Topographic Oceans in the background. What a good sport he is. He only hesitated for a long moment. We even bought a new digitally remastered edition off iTunes for the purpose. One each. Doonesbury has started a story this week about legacy rock. That's where the big money is.

So here I am, baring myself with my Yes vote. I'm out and I'm proud. And you know what? I have illustrious company. You start telling people that you got someone to play your favourite progressive rock music on the radio and out come the fellow fans. They emerge from all over the place, in their ones and twos. Chris Barton - as fine and discerning a journalist as you'll find working in New Zealand today - admits to a fondness for the Yes albums. And look, what's this, elsewhere - so to speak - in the Herald? Don McGlashan <a href="" target="blank">muses that maybe in his old age he might be "lurching blindly towards concept albums."

Well, despite having come of age musically in the post-punk years of Blam Blam Blam, McGlashan admits he used to listen to 1970s prog-rock outfits like Yes in his younger years.

"Had I been in Yes and tried to write about a comet, I probably would have done half the song in Sanskrit, so count yourself lucky. And a lot of it would have been in 7/8 [time signature] - maybe that's the next album."

I can still remember where I was when I read that.


*Although if you want to know my opinion, I wholly endorse what he said.

121 responses to this post

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 4 5 Newer→ Last