Remembering ‘my high flying bird’…

Posted: September 28, 2010 in Music
Tags: , , , ,

I was driving back home this evening listening to the sounds of Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson singing and playing the flute in Thick As A Brick, when I remembered the blog post by a student who wrote about how after a hectic day of classes and assignments she came back to listen to Pink Floyd’s Time. She wrote that it did wonders to her mood.

I completely understood her viewpoint because nowadays I listen to music for around three hours every day in my car, when I drive to and from Lavale or elsewhere! Yup that’s how much time I spend in my Swift every day The quirky sound of Anderson’s flute and Martin Barre’s rasping guitar, the heavy sounds of AC/DC, Deep Purple or The Wall, really help me to shut out the mayhem outside. Thank God for car stereos and THANK GOD for music.

The first English song I had heard was sometime in the early 1970s – and that too by default. I remember I was in school and had missed my bus. As I waited for a while before making the trek to M.G. Road to board the next one, I heard the sound of the piano and this very rich voice singing.

Some of the students were listening to an album on a record player, and I learnt it was called ‘Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the Piano Player.’ The song was ‘My High Flying Bird’ and was sung by someone called Elton John. That was my initiation into the world of English music. To me the lyrics were sheer bloody poetry. If you don’t believe me, check it out for yourself.

Then in 1974 I heard Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon in Rourkela, where I was holidaying with my cousins. It was amazing music. I’d never heard anything like that before and don’t think after. The sound of the clock in ‘Time’ and the slot machine in ‘Money’ completely freaked me out. And the wails of the guitar were like nothing I’d ever heard before. I asked the guy whose house I was in, to play it a louder, and a little louder and then a little more. It was an ethereal experience and I think I understood the meaning of goose pimples that day. It was also the day I realised that rock music is appreciated only when listened to loud!

The next time I got that feeling was when I heard The Eagles singing ‘Hotel California’ over Radio Australia in 1976 or ’77, when it had just been released. RA used to have this programme in the afternoon from 2.40 p.m. to 4.30 p.m. where they played the top of the pops. Even though it was shortwave radio and one had to keep adjusting the antenna, it was just awesome listening to song. Today I am delighted when my son keeps telling me to play the CD.

In September 2008, just ten days after terror hit Mumbai, I drove down there to watch Tull perform live with Anoushka Shankar at the Shanmukhananda Hall. I’d never seen Tull perform live before and felt like I was back in college! It was a wonderful experience and I think Anderson had the audience up on their feet even before the performance started, when he said, “We had to play here tonight. We had to send a message to those lunatics that we weren’t scared of them.”

Which reminds of an interview I read sometime in the Mid 1990s when Jethro Tull was supposed to play in Mumbai for the first time. One question that the reporter asked Anderson had my colleague Sudheer Gaikwad and me shaking our heads in disbelief. It showed how little the guy knew about music and also how important it was to understand your subject before reporting on it. And Anderson’s answer was one that only a funny Brit could give.
Q: Why does Tull guitarist Martin Barre copy Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler?
A: That’s probably because Knopfler uses a ‘Barre’ guitar.

For those of you who don’t know, Dire Straits burst onto the music scene a decade after Tull, and here’s something from the Internet on Martin Barre: Barre’s signature solo on the 1971 Jethro Tull standardAqualungwas voted by the readers of Guitar Player magazine as one of the top rock guitar solos of all time. Also, in 2007, this solo was rated one of the 100 Greatest Guitar Solos by Guitar World magazine. Dire Straits’ leader Mark Knopfler, in a 2005 interview, called Barre’s work with Ian Anderson “magical”.

That also convinced me that only someone who understood music should ever review music albums. Which is probably why I never did, because while I listened to a lot of music, I didn’t know a C from a D or a barre from a note and still don’t!

  1. I heard my first song by The Beatles when I was in Grade 6 – Yellow Submarine.
    It took me a few years to get back to it and understand Sgt. Pepper’s.
    And, I’m glad I did. Beginning to understand the nuances of artists across – ranging from Floyd to AC/DC to Herbie Hancock.
    And moving to Tull now.
    But, thank God for music.
    Coincidentally, I wrote a note on The Beatles last night.
    Also why I’m trying to understand music. The reason you mentioned.

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