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39 is fine: Music to my 40 year old ears

I’ve been thinking about writing about my musical taste since I was in New Zealand.

Now after two weekends of brilliant gigs (Green Day, Elbow and Killers – oh, and Tears for Fears!) in Hyde Park, plus getting over GlastoFOMO, I think 'tis time to talk about my embarrassing musical taste and why I don’t want to be embarrassed about it any more.

So, in New Zealand, The Boyfriend and I spent the last week of our trip driving around the South Island. When I had wifi in a hotel, I promised I’d download some brilliant driving music.

Something happened with the syncing, and when we hit the road, turned out all I had on the phone to connect to the stereo was 80s pop.

Anyone who knows me may suspect this was a cunning trick. Sadly, still not worked out the iTunes. Digital, er, everything is a topic just waiting for a post and shall eb written about sometime for sure.

But the point is, I flipping love 80s pop. Other thing is, that I wondered if I should reveal this to The Boyfriend. He kind of knew, but this was another level. After all, it’s not the coolest, is it? ‘Enjoying getting to know me on this holiday? Great, let’s pop on Africa by TOTO so you REALLY fancy me...'

I risked this being the turning point in the relationship, the moment he thought ‘when we get home I’m finding a woman who likes six music not Absolute 80s’. But then you could argue that since I was on holiday with him, I already had very good taste. (Quick save, there).

Anyway, back to my musical embarrassments.

I think over the years I’ve been a bit ashamed of my musical taste. I also know that it’s not always been mine. My taste is often pinched from my peers because I’ve not always known what I like. Is that true for everyone? And is our musical taste ever-evolving? I guess it must be. Someone introduces you to a new band, and suddenly they’re your new favourite band, too.

Two weeks ago, I saw Green Day in concert, a band I’ve loved since I was 16. I bought their album ‘Dookie’ with a tenner I won on the lottery. I bought that in Our Price. I really miss going into shops for music. I know there are record stores, and stalls, but there was something brilliant about having to go and buy music.

You know, CDs are always so popular at the car boot, people still love 'real' music formats.

The boyfriend reminded me about how you used to sometimes go to the counter with a slip of card to get the special CDs or records, the limited edition ones.

I love being older, having these memories. There’s a picture that went round Facebook a while ago of a cassette and a pencil. ‘Like this if you know the relationship between these two things’ it said.

I love that I do!

But back to the actual music.

I have a few memories of moments of choosing music.

For example, when I was in my mid teens, and I got one of those brilliant stacking systems, with a radio and double tape deck and a record player on top.

I went to Woolworths (WOOLWORTHS! More retro memories!) with my Dad and Brother and stood in front of the CDs wondering which one to get.

But I can remember having no idea what to get. I didn’t know what my taste was. In hindsight, could have been there just wasn’t anything in the chart that I liked. But I didn’t want to get nothing. So I got…. The new Annie Lennox album.

That wasn’t my taste! I tried though. It seemed like a reasonable choice.

That memory often makes me think that I haven’t ever really known my taste. Totes embarrassed to tell you it.

Before that, I'd once got a new cassette. Jason Donovan, Ten Good Reasons.

I can remember playing it on the cassette radio by my bed. I know! Dreams CAN come true.

I’ve also often thought since these two incidences that I have just pinched my musical taste from other people.

For example, Green Day: a bloke called Dan who I was friends with in sixth form and had a massive crush on. (see also: Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Red Hot Chilli Peppers).

Although, didn’t a LOT of people like those bands, too?

Plus in the middle of that was a band I had no shame in liking unless perhaps Dan was around… Bon Jovi. I loved Bon Jovi. Seeing them was my first proper gig, and it was amazing. Off I ran to the merch stall for a t-shirt, sang my heart out.

I got a feeling I’ve had every time at a gig since – a pure joy of hearing the songs I loved sung and played live. It was as if someone had put me inside the record, overwhelming and amazing, I’d got the live music bug.

But still, my choices were often defined by the more confident tastes of others.

I discovered Blur (I think my mate Jenny Sandford was to thank for that!), and decided I liked them more than Oasis, but a uni boyfriend made me think twice about Oasis. I tried, oh, I tried! I was always Blur deep down. He and his mates liked trance, and drum n’ bass – and I went to some clubs with them to see different DJs. Never thought to say ‘no ta, I’d rather go to an indie club’.

My fave night was down at the University Union, where they played cheesy rock and pop. Where we always danced to Come on Eileen and the night finished with Never Forget by Take That.

My friend Lucie had a strong influence on my musical tastes. She introduced me to Pulp and James, bands I’d both rate in my top five all-time faves.

So that was perhaps a case of taking on someone else’s taste in a genuine ‘yes I agree’ way. (Because if I’m honest apart from Black Hole Sun, I was never that into Soundgarden).

Elbow, who I saw last weekend, are a band introduced to me by my friend Becks, and one of my top groups now. I couldn’t contain myself when we got into the gig.

(Shocker – we bought tickets from a seller outside. A tout! The thrill! Another post sometime about doing naughty things your mum and dad would have frowned on).

I’ve been thinking that I never truly knew my own musical taste. But actually, I’ve realised that perhaps I do.

Or, at least, I’m going to be less ashamed of what I like now I’m the grand old age of nearly 40.

The thing is, what I’ve realised is the music I like is possibly embarrassing. But I don’t want to be embarrassed anymore.

Because I’m nearly 40 and why shouldn’t I just have MY musical taste and anyone who doesn’t like it be damned….

Now I reckon if you are my mate and you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking ‘Er, Jen, I’ve never thought your musical taste is embarrassing!’

Or you think ‘Oh crap now she’s going to be even more of an 80s dad rock nightmare’.

Perhaps it’s just me self-judging again.

Wouldn’t that be a(nother) shocker!

Because I know there are some cool kids out there who might think the killers are a bit Dad Rock. And Elbow, for that matter.

Or who frown if I tell you I sometimes have Heart or Magic on in the car.

I just love a cheesy pop song. Little Mix – bring it on. 80s pop, cheesy tunes. Total Eclipse of the Heart… Ooh, Duran Duran (we can blame my brother for that one).

But then I think perhaps we all have certain musical tastes that we love but know others might pull a face at. The test is, like in the car, whether the friend or partner says ‘I love you AND your music’.

Or at the 40ths I’ve been to so far, where we’ve danced our socks off to everything from Birdhouse in your Soul to Teenage Dirtbag and Crazy In Love (no shame there, actually).

When you’re lost in the moment listening to your favourite tunes you forget to be embarrassed. Like yesterday, when I was singing my heart out to Elbow and The Killers.

And when you’re at a gig of a band you love, you’re among friends, fellow fans, and any worries melt away as you chant choruses (chori?!) together. You find your music tribe.

The Boyfriend and I have started thinking about the playlist for my 40th party, and I know I want a lot of indie and pop on there, and I think it could be the ultimate ‘I’m not ashamed of my music’ compilation.

There will be Club Tropicana, there might even be some Bon Jovi. Hey, I wonder if we can download some Jason Donovan. Last one on the dancefloor is.... probably someone with better taste in music than me!

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