I was born of Music and Dance. Music and dance is me. Every pore of being, every DNA strand has a hook line, riff, drumbeat and vocal imprinted from before and beyond birth. I am no different from the rest of humanity.
Music is in us all from primitive human banging a Mammoth bone on a rock, and going “ugg, ugg, ugg, ugg”, to a natural and heart rhythmic 4:4 beat and doing the celebration dance of a fresh kill. Australian Aboriginals with clap-sticks accompanying the pulsating air sounds of the Didgeridoo that vibrates and stirs every sinew and bone of the body within many rituals of dance. The sounds and rhythms of Africa drumming and dancing like no other. All through human time, music and dance have been wonderful human creations only limited by our imagination and culture.
Our Western roots of music now are from the tribal music of then. Much of now was born from the unpalatable Slave trade from Africa to the Americas. Out of Africa these indentured and chained humans carried the rythms in their souls. Blues, Gospel and Jazz were born. Our explosion of modern music owes a massive debt to these harsh beginnings. Remember……”Black lives do Matter”.
Modern Music and Dance have not all been plain sailing heading into modern times. Conservative America bound to its ultra conservative Pilgrim roots did not appreciate Elvis Presley and his gyrating hips. With Elvis’s first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show in 1957. the decision was made to film him only from the waist up, as his gyrating hips were deemed too suggestive for home viewers. Many Baptist towns had public demonstrations of rock ‘n’ roll record smashing and burning! Catholic school students in New York were forbidden to dance Chubby Checker’s, “The Twist” as it was considered un-Christian!
Two sects of Islam (Salafi and Wahabi), ban all forms of music that are deemed to distract from focus on God. All electric, string and wind instruments are banned with drums restricted to a one handed drum (Daff). The wonderful and emotive flute is particularly frowned upon within these sects. To move or twitch unconsciously to music is considered haram. Baptist, 7th Day Adventist and Exclusive Brethren sects in Christianity have rules that only music and dance can be devotional in nature. Sufi’s in Islam and Revivalist Christian Churches still attract the ire of the ultra-conservative in both religions due to their love of dance and music even if these dances and song are in praise of God. If a person becomes lost into the music and its dance, their focus has diverted from God and their guard has dropped, allowing a path for the Devil and his wicked ways.
For me, there is music in many things. In Islam, Adhan (Call to Prayer) is particularly immersive, meditative and beautiful. The Muezzin (Prayer caller) is an expert of his craft, which is full of harmonics that resonate deep into the soul. Throughout all religions and belief systems, chanting (Gregorian Chants, Buddhist chants and meditations, Yoga chants and meditations), recitation of scriptures in a melodious and harmonic ways present a face and depth of music that is as natural as being human.
Music was inescapable within our family. For me, there was no beginning, just always. Dad (Les Round) an Electrician, is also an accomplished Musician formally trained in Mandolin and wonderful singer (Better than Bing Crosby – maybe I am just a bit biased!)
With his mate Don Banks , guitarist in the style of Django Reinhardt, awesome whistler and harmony vocal, they were the “Harmony 2”, which many times became “Harmony 3, with Geoff Walkley as MC, Joke teller, percussion and keyboards. They packed out the Dr Syntax Hotel, Sandy Bay in Hobart Tasmania for many years from 1958 to 1972. A good time was guaranteed for the audience and the Dance floor was worn down by thousands of shuffling and groovin’ feet. Always, they kept up to date with music evolution and graduated to the Beatles (decked out in Beatles style plastic wigs) as well as old favourites.
Sometimes, a special treat for me and the older sister (Michele), to go there and watch some of the early bracket and then be whisked upstairs to temporary bed which was too early for us now well buzzed children. Much noise from downstairs, but as always it appeared to be the soother for me to sleep, only to be woken post midnight by mum or dad, carried sleeping to the car and waking at home.
One thing that always stood out through the younger years was practice, practice, rehearse and rehearse. Wednesday nights at home with ‘Uncle’ Don and Dad temporarily converting the lounge room into rehearsal room. Dad and Don would re-work arrangements, especially bridging sections, beginnings and the ever important song ending until they got it just right. Their arrangements would always make sure the song finished with a ‘Bang’ rather than a fade out whimper, which Dad always was at pains to point out to me was Plain lazy! To this day, finish with a bang and not a fade out whimper has stuck with me. I agree. Song memory is stronger with music that has a finish.
Great Uncle Charlie was an experimenter and Inventor of all things electrical. We would visit and would usually find Uncle Charlie in his shed behind the house, the room full of magical stuff for a 4 -5 year old. Electrical valves, wiring, weird boxes with lights and bits and pieces not recognisable to my young mind. He built amplifiers, speakers and a double neck electric guitar (jet black, cut glass inlays) that definitely worked. This must have been around 1964/65, maybe earlier in the pioneering days of electric guitar innovation.
I have researched and it seems Uncle Charlie was truly an innovator. Almost no double necks of the electric variety at that time. The Guitar was gifted to Dad some years later. A beautiful black body with cut glass inlays piece of work that myself and Dad still reminisce over till today. Unfortunately, while we were in Singapore and the Hobart house being rented out, this treasured Heirloom disappeared from downstairs storage. Nothing proven as to its fate, but it may have been hocked to a Pawn shop. It still gets me angry.
Then there were weekend visits to my Uncle Arnold house. Always music on the go. Piano, dancing, singing by just about all. He was a pretty handy ukulele player as well. One room was stuffed full of all sorts of musical instrument, that as far as Uncle Arnold was concerned, all could be touched and handled including us inquisitive kids. Fantastic – look but not touch? It was not in Uncle Arnolds vocabulary.
Christmas 1966, a portable record player in its mini-suitcase size with a lift out speaker came with the most eclectic selection of ex-Jukebox 45′ My sister and I just about wore it out. For some reason Dick & Dee-Dee “Be my Baby”, sticks out clearly and recall bouncing around the Lounge Room doing my kid dodgy version of the Twist, screaming the lyrics out. Maybe Mum might have thrown more than one or two objects to get me to shut-up! I more than likely deserved it!
It is difficult to recall any moments when music was not happening. Via big sister, Modern music exploded at home with the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Cream, The Turtles, Led Zeppelin, Free, Osibisa, Iron Butterfly…..and many more. Michele, being almost 4 years older, was a teenage fanatic of the Beatles, filled Beatle Scrap books, religiously collected Beatle Monthly magazines, was avid buying Vinyl, with meticulous personal labelling on every record bought. When the Beatles busted up, the Rolling Stones became instant fave! At age 11, I was listening to “Whole lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin. It was a double A side 45. Michele influenced my music tastes forever. Huge thanks Big Sister! To this day, each of us finds hidden musical gems new and old that is passed onto either sibling for enjoyment.
1972 saw a complete life change – first airplane flight from Hobart to Singapore, new Country, new high school, new batch of friends and an epiphany moment in music. New best friend – Paul Curtis invites me over to his house. In his hands is an album with a provocative Album cover of scantily clad woman reposing with the Band name Roxy Music. With the opening manic piano and the immediate wall of noise following in “Remake-remodel:, my mind went places I could never have imagined in the immediate past.
The intensity and forcefulness of this mash of almost punk, straight rock, psychedelic. traditional English psalms, folk, blues and hardcore electronic literally blew my mind and I was hooked to devour anything new, to want to explore every strange, discordant mixed with melodic and rhythmic sound I could lay my hands on. Buying of Vinyl records exploded. Unfortunately most of the time it had to be listened to under headphones as my new tunes played loudly at home really terrorised mum and dad’s musical senses. With Paul, we started organising and DJing events at High School. I recall – Slade “Mama, weer all crazy now“. being the one song that really got the highschool dance floor going crazy.
Back in Australia from 1975, the music just grew along with the record collection. “Devo” bootleg tape played by mate Jim Chesterman almost had the same impact as Roxy Music. Split Enz “Mental Notes”, opened more horizons. Always chased the Pub bands and was always happy to be the first on the dance floor – all that space to play with! DJ work on River Cruises in Brisbane was short lived as most of the people on board only ever to wanted to hear Elvis and or Country, neither of which graced my record collection. The guy that ran the bookings never quite got my music tastes! One gig as a Club DJ, but again my eclectic collection didn’t really match the atmosphere they were trying to promote which was full on Disco, even though the promo Fliers stated ‘Alternative’ music. Many mixed tapes made for friends and parties that still continue (in electronic form) to this day.
Our memories are festooned and defined by music heard in the past, whether it be a beat, chorus, recognisable opening Guitar riff – Enter Sandman by Metallica stands out. I hear “Groove is in the Heart”, by Deee-Lite and am transported back to signature signing of the Wedding agreement to my wonderful wife Shakirah with that track adding to the euphoria of the moment.
Equal but opposite to euphoria, three tracks, “Stand in Line, No Reaction and Only the Strong”, by Midnight Oil (Aus band), drag me back to the worst day of my life, with death of son Louis. At the time he was already an accomplished song smith, composing and performing:- Louee Ali Ernie……ah ah ah ah ah..Louee Ali Ernie……ah ah ah ah ah! Sung with as much gusto as a Two (2) year old could muster. He died at home, never to wake from sleep. After the trauma, tears, wailing, madness, crazy, frightening and fragmented hours from wakening to this tragedy, we ended up at my fathers house.
Late in the afternoon I went back to the house of death. This was mid winter Tasmania and cold. Every window and door in the house were flung open. In auto mode, my hands somehow found those Midnight Oil songs and onto the turntable. The Hi-fi (200 watt RMS Marantz amp) was revved up and those songs played over and over again at maximum volume. For about an hour I maniacally danced (much like certain Midnight Oil concerts of my Uni days past), stalked the house, every corner and dark space in and under cupboards, wardrobes, beds was explored, arms and hands waved aggressively to expunge the deed of death. I did feel better. The days ahead, not so much, but a story for another time. Maybe, maybe not.
The song lyrics had no relationship to the circumstances of this deathly grief apart from “I just want to scream!!!”, but the drum and bass riff, guitar lead breaks and screaming vocals did the trick to my fresh black hole soul. Back to Dads place for the night. Next day arriving home, the house of death felt as if it had been exorcised, and we could sleep within. I needed the music blasting at full bore the previous day. I needed to maniacally dance and attack dark spaces the day before, and those three songs were the perfect vehicle. A Beethoven symphony would not have done the trick. The music needed to be loud and as raw as my soul. It partially healed. Music is therapy!
I love rock ‘n’ roll, hard rock, blues, bluegrass, punk, psychedelic, funk, hip-hop, break-beats, EDM (electronic dance music) and everything in between. A bit of classical when the mood strikes goes down very well. A few years ago for some reason, it became a sin to call personal music tastes eclectic. I am proudly eclectic. I guess that is what happens after almost 60 years of listening. In modern terms my playlists are a ‘mash-up’. Since the demise of CD’s I have taken to downloading mainly EDM and have purchased fresh Vinyl records from time to time. Recently, I succumbed to Spotify and have been finding old Gems that had all but been forgotten. I held out as long as possible with my dinosaur belief in owning the playlist.
We are massaged and moulded by our environment. How we exist in adulthood has been shaped by our childhood experiences. Childhood was uninhibited, not bound by strict belief systems or parents that repeatedly said No. I was bound to Music, to play it, express my happiness and sadness through it, dance to it, sing and just have plain fun with it. That is Music. Music cannot be ignored or prevented. Offence at Musical types, words or dance are strictly subjective and cannot be imposed on those who subjectivity view it differently. “Each to his own”, is an old saying that is a Gold Standard for non confrontational and harmonious existence.
I promise not to impose my woeful Blues Harmonica playing on anyone anytime soon. But I really don’t care what Society thinks of me, a 60 year old busting some moves on the nightclub dance floor to the latest Club hits. A bit confrontational? I promise you that! No bragging or kidding, I can really bust a move! Fortunately for millennials that used to be in awe (or was that embarrassment?) of my gyrations, the Club days have come to a crashing halt thanks to Covid 19 striking. I will never grace that sweat filled, gyrating and body music atmosphere again. I am now restricted to Saturday Night Fever with the family at home. Not so lucky as the millennials in clubland.
Neither God or the Devil appears to have impacted on my level of moral existence or my enjoyment of modern music. In the words of Plump DJ’s (at about 150 beats/minute) – “ Do you feel good tonight?….You feel like you wanna sing?….Yeh Yeh Yeh…..Do whatever you feel like you wanna do……If it’s good to ya, It’s good for ya……”, and repeat. (“The Funk hits the Fan” by Plump DJ’s) Play it loud and get those hips swinging anyway you want to. (maybe out of sight of young and aspiring to be adult children though).
The following Spotify link presents just under 60 years of musical absorption and is roughly ordered in the year and decade in which they were first heard. It runs about 14 hours and there is no way I am reducing the length.
Warning: some songs contain explicit lyrics and drug references – Rage against the Machine – “Killing in the name of“, Muse – “Psycho“, Butterfingers – “Hook Up” and The Herd – “77%“, come to mind. There may be more that I cannot recall. Also, some provocative Album Art – most of the Roxy Music covers. So, “Get it on, Bang a gong, Get it on”, (T Rex) and Bust some moves!