The more I think about my musical taste and many of my favourite bands/artists/records the most shocking thing is how long I have been intrigued by and have loved certain bands/artists/records who I can say I go back well over 15 or 16 years with. I really became a collector and a follower in high school which coincided with a revelatory trip to California- Namely Haight/Ashbury San Francisco. While most SF bands are nothing to write home about musically at all the hippy lifestyle was one that I could fit myself into at that age of 16. I grew my hair long- starting with a mod mop top and then moving to a full head of long wavy dark brown locks. For all of high school I dressed outlandishly, but usually with taste. It didn't stop with looks. I became very much an individual and started making my own decisions and avoiding conformity like the plague. I was very rebellious and outspoken, but also very warm and affectionate towards anybody I thought deserved my respect. I could be naive, but aren't we all at that age. I would walk around the school in my psychedelic gear and flaunt my love of all things 1960s, but I had a real hatred of drug abuse. I tried marijuana. I got high the first two times and then it became such a bummer and I saw so much damage happen to my friends that for high school onwards I stayed firmly drug free. I lost many of my friends because they would fry their brain cells on pot then go on to acid and hard drugs. They told me our friendship was worthless because I wouldn't score drugs for them or take drugs with them. I stuck to my rigid anti drug philosophy and watched some very bright young people turn into serious casualties of substance abuse. I made up my mind that if I was going to live out the the 1960s it would be the values I still hold today, the music, and the open mindedness are the spirit of that decade. Unfortunately, after high school finished it didn't take long for my life to unravel. I would partially blame myself and my own shortcomings, but really it was and is something I will never quite grasp how I became such a mean person at 20/21.
After the grim, horrible period of my early 20s around the age of 24/25 some things came back to life for me and I enjoyed a renaissance in rediscovering music and moving my life forward. I opened my mind to new ideas whilst looking fondly back at my "hippy" past. The most important thing musically was both to return to my musical roots and also to go forward. I still love all the classics of psychedelia- Kak, Gandalf, July, UK Kaleidoscope, The Parlour Band, Cream, Hendrix, The Doors first 2, Earth Opera you name it. The biggest upheaval against a musical mainstay would have to be a recent distaste for early Genesis because I way prefer Camel, Yes, King Crimson (although if you ask me Crimson were only great for two albums- Lizard and the first one In The Court Of The Crimson King). Genesis I don't hate, but I certainly think that I've lost interest in their brand of progressive rock. If there's ever a lowest ebb hit by a famous prog band it must be The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway although I could just as easily say everything by Gentle Giant and ELP was that bad. Perhaps in time I will go back to Foxtrot, Trespass, et all and find them just as intriguing as before, but as of now I just feel I need a rest from Gabriel's abrasiveness. One thing I'll say for Genesis- they really worked hard on their music and they toured all over England and Europe to make it. It would take till after Peter Gabriel left for their commercial breakthrough to really hit, but when they had him he was quite a spectacle. I related to him. I still do. An introvert in extrovert's clothing. You could say that Jim Morrison was an introvert who was extroverted too, so I found it easy to identify with someone who on the surface was flamboyant and beneath that very private. If I didn't want to be bothered back then I wouldn't make a big deal of it usually I just would withdraw.
I suffered periods of severe depression and it was only music that brought me out of it. Music has always been for me the greatest invention there is for self-expression and sound-alchemy. I go back way further than high school with bands like UFO because that kind of really charging yet ultra melodic rock could always bring the fight back to me and make me take on the world again. Also, a little before high school, but more so over the coming years The Kinks would become my favourite band. Ray and Dave Davis are for me even bigger than Lennon and McCartney and that's a tall order. Ray Davis is the most perceptive, most sympathetic, most advanced songwriter of the 20th century. Big words, but that is a fact. He practically created the most arch British kind of British rock that would lead to some of the most impressive songwriters to follow him such as the miraculous Roy Wood. Roy Wood would be my other fave. I've been listening to The Move for over half my life and if ever a band could follow in the wake of The Kinks with something EVEN MORE BRITISH then it must have been Roy and pals. While Roy was making millions another budding songwriter wasn't making anything- Jeff Lynne. Of course that all would change come Electric Light Orchestra who I will stand by to the end, but back in the Birmingham pop psych group The Idle Race his revolutionary combination of Beatles and Music Hall wouldn't yield even one hit. Spread across their first two albums The Birthday Party (1968) and Idle Race (1969) is a kind of melding of The Beatles with The Kinks, but a unique take on the lives of troubled and insecure people in England. He and Roy Wood openly wrote about mental illness and depression in a way that could be both comical and poignant. I could always find something deeper than just the wonderful whimsy in their writing. When Jeff Lynne left The Idle Race and joined admirer Roy Wood in The Move it was a whole different thing. The Move had always been heavy, very heavy, but with Jeff Lynne on board they took on Prog Rock. This would last for two albums of loud, melodic, bombastic, brilliant aural assault in Looking On and Message From The Country. It's enough to make one weep over good memories when I listen back to all these albums that have been in my life for so long.
In high school other things were happening to my personality that would be of much importance later in life beyond just music. We were handed All Quiet On The Western Front to read and that book together with a lot of bantering about military might or lack thereof would change my life. The tragic, pointless suffering of the soldiers grieved me very much, but I also began to view soldiers not as adversaries as I had before high school, but as potential friends. I can remember like yesterday the war in the former Yugoslavia and how horrible that was. During the reading of All Quiet.. or just after I witnessed a British soldier of the then Cheshire Regiment sobbing over the discovery of mass graves on the news. I felt a calling to go help and comfort him and the other soldiers fully knowing this was impossible. I wondered about what would make boys not much older than my then age of 16 join an Army and fight. My friends and I talked often about soldiers and we all wanted to go over to Yugoslavia and pitch in. It was weird to have a belief so at odds with the countercultural take, but I felt it gave me a multifaceted identity. However, if somebody told me that years later some of the best times of my life, some of the most wonderful conversations, and some of the closest allies I have would be with British soldiers I don't think I would have believed them. One must have several interests and an open mind- otherwise you'll become anachronistic. You can't live in the past and this is something I am finally beginning to learn. As much as I love thinking of those happy youthful years you have to mature. Now I am open to anything. If somebody wants to be my friend I'm a little more cautious unless I have reason to let my guard down because it feels like the other person is completely honest, but I'm also much more caring about other people than just my own needs in a relationship. I believe in love and I would say I always did. It was for me the music, the protests against war and injustice, and the belief in the power of love that made the 60s for me- not the drugs. I am resolutely anti drug and also resolutely anti Bigotry. Take each person as they come as an individual and DO NOT generalize about anyone who may be less wealthy or of a different background or colour than you. I wish that racism would disappear. I also wish that people would not become so set into a narrow view that they can't move forward with their life. Give and receive. Have a past you can smile about, but be sure to have a future that will bring you even more joy than the past while you have a strong foundation for your present. I have come to know all these things and hope you can too.