And verily, I say unto you, I’m getting there. For, last night, I realised I wanted to listen to Xanadu.
All eleven minutes of it. Mainly for that ridiculous riff, but also the bells. Even the twiddly widdly widdling. Geddy Lee’s voice. Plus the quiet bit, where the small people come out and dance around Stonehenge. Oh, hang on, that’s another song, but I often get them muddled.
Yet, to these ears, when viewed, or listened to, together like one of those spot-the-difference puzzles in kids’ comics, there’s barely a note or twiddly flourish to distinguish Xanadu from Closer to the Heart.
While the latter makes me want to murder the first person I see and chop them into pieces where they fell, the former leads me to imagine the world as a friendlier, sunnier place.
And yet, there’s no bloody difference.
If it sounds like Yes, tastes like Wishbone Ash and smells like Supper’s Ready, then i don’t understand why it’s living in my head.
The first time I heard Xanadu, or Rush, was on the Old Grey Whistle Test, “Whispering” Bob Harris’s late night TV show and a wildlife preserve for the last of the grand old dinosaurs. He was called that because he spoke very quietly. We’re very literal over here.
How my mate Rob and I hooted at the hair, the twin-neck guitar, and what looked like someone tidying up a drum factory warehouse after an earthquake. All the while, the bassist trilled from beneath his impeccable cascading hair, playing keyboards with his feet. Not to mention the bloody lyrics.
And the bells, like the ones which used to wake our mate Phil who lived opposite a church every flipping Sunday morning.
OMG, we thought, though less anachronistically and using not-SFW language, won’t the pretty guys in our class, who not only had a band but knew how to play their instruments, love this?
And didn’t they just?
To our horror, a week or two later, Rob, our own Rob, started buying Rush albums. The rest of the band convened an emergency meeting to decide whether intervention was required to steer him back towards the one true path. We reluctantly opted for pragmatism, at least until we suspected he could afford another eleven drum kits to play simultaneously, or when my guitar playing improved enough to be able to twiddle approximately like that. Fortunately, neither came to pass. He wouldn’t have taken any notice anyway, none of us were any good at being told.
On the other hand, there are some records which, looking back, opened doors to musical genres I couldn’t hitherto understand. Who, for instance, doesn’t find their spirits lifted, feet moving and hips swaying upon hearing Bob and the Wailers?
Well, me, for one. Couldn’t see the point of reggae, at least until John Peel played tracks from “Misty in Roots Live at the Counter Eurovision 79”.
From there, it was like someone opening the curtains in the morning to a world of sunshine. Like normal people experience, in fact. Apart from bloody UB40. Just the other day, I learned, since their schism, there are now two UB40s, both using the same name. As if the world isn’t grim enough these days. But I digress.
Despite listening to and enjoying a track or two by Rush every couple of years, they are the entrance to prog beyond which I cannot journey. There they stand, like the doormen on clubs in my youth telling me I wasn’t going in looking like that.
Which brings be to the questions I am eager to pose to the Hall.
Which genre do took you far too long to find a route into?
And, to paraphrase Macca, who opened the door and let you in?
Is there a genre where you like one artist, even one song, but otherwise find Ian McKellen, dressed as a wizard standing before the Balrog, bellowing: “You shall not pass”?
I’m not talking about genres we can’t get into at all, but opened doors and scintillating glimpses of what lies behind.