I Was Wrong

I like to think of myself as a tolerant and open-minded person, at least within certain parameters (so, exceptions for Brexit, Trump, Niall Ferguson etc.). Mrs Abahachi might interject at this point with a “You kept saying you hated X, until you actually went there/tried it” list (you know, things like Austria, Gavin and Stacey, the USA), and I’ll admit that this does sometimes happen – but I hope I’d get credit for being willing to change my mind *and* admit it, rather than trying to pretend that I loved it all along…

Obviously in this context I’m thinking mainly about music. The big example in my life is the entire genre of jazz, which for years I dismissed as pointless virtuosity without any proper tunes, and if there were words at all they were trite and sentimental. But there are others. I remember being shocked, when about 11 or 12, that a friend had an AC/DC record – weren’t they evil and tuneless? I completely failed to grasp rap when I first heard it (White Lines? Nah); likewise sampled dance music of the late 1980s. I loathed the Manics when I saw them do You Love Us on Top of the Pops and read those pretentious interviews…

Okay, maybe I’d do better to compile a list of things that I loved at first listen and still think are genius – it would probably be shorter… What about you? Greatest errors of musical judgement and failure to understand what’s going on? Can even apply to moments in the oeuvre of an artist you generally like – I’ll admit that it’s taken me about six months to realise that Lorde’s Green Light is actually brilliant…

26 thoughts on “I Was Wrong

  1. Ha! There is a long list of things I hated at first but eventually came round to, and they aren’t all musical. Still, I didn’t like the Manics when I first heard them, and I still don’t like their music.

    I like some hip hop, generally the political stuff and the jazzy bits, like US3 and suchlike, but I’ll never like gangsta rap, because it is full of misogyny, machismo and violence.

    I never liked Laura Marling’s music when she first emerged, and I still don’t like her early stuff, but her more recent work is OK. I doubt that I’ll ever buy any of it, though.

    I suppose that, for me, the biggest change was classical vocal music and opera. I used to loathe it all until I was around 25 or 26. For some reason, I had R3 on and they broadcast a complete performance of La Bohème. For some reason, something that had completely passed me by suddenly clicked and I was utterly entranced. It became an obsession. I sought out as many operas as I could and listened to different singers and different versions of the same operas. I also began to explore choral music, Lieder and classical works with voices. My ears and mind had been opened up and I went on to listen to more and more orchestral and vocal music. It brought a whole new world of sound to me, including a huge amount of late-19th and 20th century avant garde music.

    Anyway, I’ll not inflict anything too extreme on people, but here is a piece of early 20th century choral music I absolutely adore. It is the opening movement of A Sea Symphony by Ralph Vaughan Williams. The work is a setting of poems by Walt Whitman from his Leaves Of Grass. It was RVW’s first symphonic work, written over a number of years and first performed in 1910.

    • I listened to a lot of opera in my late teens, simply because there was a scheme that offered really cheap tickets for schools, and my school laid on a minibus up for London a couple of times a term. I’m not sure I ever really ‘got’ it until more recently, and that’s mainly because it’s one of the limited overlaps with Mrs Abahachi’s taste so we go when we can. Interestingly, I’m now more narrow-minded than I was; less time for fluffy drama like Verdi, it has to be something multi-layered (mostly, Wagner), preferably a challenging staging.

  2. Love the Sisters linky at the top! I shall admit that I did have a deep suspicion of ‘new’ goth from exotic hot countries. I mean, how authentic can it be when it’s sunny everyday and you can swim in clear tropical waters whenever you fancy? However, I am a convert to the goth/post-goth/ dark metal of Greece and South America. It still gets dark after all.

    I’ve always wanted to like the Manics more than I do. I still don’t like opera and get very irritated by a lot of music on the radio. I can’t think of an example anyone else would enjoy, but I can suggest some names if anyone is interested.

  3. Wrong about : Happy Mondays, Stone Roses (only after watching Shane Meadows’s doc), Bob Marley, The Jam, U.S. Disco (general)
    Still don’t like : The Smiths/Morrissey, Oasis & most early ’90’s Britpop. Time to stick some Jazz on …

      • I think the whole “love them or hate them” nonsense was the error of judgement. Especially the tripe about how, if you liked Blur, it meant you couldn’t like Oasis at all – or vice versa. At their best they were very good indeed. Far too often they were rather mediocre. I love “Don’t Look back In Anger” and a few others despite them wearing their influences on their sleeves.

    • Yeah, Oasis really are crap, and I don’t much care for Britpop either, except for Suede and Pulp, who sound different to my ears anyway.

  4. I was wrong about jazz too – the ‘Spill took care of that!

    I was wrong in believing that nu-rave was an acceptable genre…..but, hey, maybe it was at the time!

    I was wrong about Radiohead. I hated them for years then came around…..although, I’m beginning to think I may have been right all along…!

    I was right about Pink Floyd though….despite my best efforts and the collective wisdom of the ‘Spill I still think they are the antithesis of everything I hold dear about music….sorry!

  5. Oh no, can of worms ..

    … where do I start.

    As is commonly known I don’t like the Rolling Stones (c’mon amylee you’ve tried numerous times to tempt me when I’ve guru’d but nah!).

    Most songs of theirs start off really well, good guitar and I think oh yes I like this and then …

    … Mick opens his gob and oh, words fail me it is worse than nails on a chalkboard there is something about his voice that makes me scream internally (and occasionally out loud). FWIW I dislike Oasis too.

    Both Mrs. L. and I are getting in to classical; well I’ve always liked the ‘classics’ 1812, Enigma variations, Planets but must be an age thing as I’m really enjoying discovering new classical pieces especially the rousing ones less so the ‘plinky-plonky’ piano pieces though Rachmaninov is an exception.

    Google play is a great source of playlists for new discoveries though I especially enjoy putting an LP on during a Sunday morning and pottering in the kitchen or preparing lunch. We’ve also started attending classical concerts and are fortunate that the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra alternate between several venues near to us.

    I don’t think anyone will ever convert me to hip hop or rap, whilst there is no doubt the lyrical interplay can be impressive I often feel the subject matter and culture negatively affect the performance that said artists such as Sage Francis are first class.

    Today’s “pop” music – why?

    I’ve said before that I’m tone deaf and wouldn’t know an allegro from a fortissimo but to me they’re all the same … same drum machine, same vocal gymnastics, boy bands and male singers churning out faux love songs by the dozen. Just no.

    The whole Britpop thing passed me by .. Oasis, Suede, Blur et al. Coldplay didn’t do it for me either.

    Similarly the 80’s groups such as Radiohead and the Manics did nothing for me either.

    Country – tick – yep got a soft spot for slide and steel guitars, pick-up trucks and beers at the weekend 😉

    Jazz – tick – to relax there’s nothing better, lights down, fire on, glass of red wine – bliss.

  6. PiL. Hated them. Hated punk. Just noise. I thought. But now coming round to (some) punk and I saw PiL on TV at Glastonbury a year or so back and thought they were absolutely brilliant. Maybe it’s that thing where it all just works better live. Or maybe the blandness of much (not all) modern-day pop has got me yearning for a bit of energy and passion. Also cannot stand Morrissey or Meatloaf and that hasn’t changed.

  7. Christ! This has the potential to be a long comment, and just when I was preparing to write a separate long piece to another source.
    Where to start? Aba probably knows but I’ll come back to that.
    I find myself thinking about or listening to music daily, probably more than any other subject. A recent episode involved an event of 75 years ago; at a school assembly one day the headmaster announced that on the BBC Home service at 5pm, so&so, the world famous violinist was going to perform the such&such violin concerto, we should all be sure to listen. I did.
    I thought it was the most godawful awful noise I’d ever heard, absolutely no redeeming qualities. It turned me off from the violin for much of a lifetime. Until that is, I heard the Beethoven Violin Concerto in adult life and loved it. I loved it to the degree that I started collecting violin concertos, I have many.
    Another would be Charlie Parker; in the 1940’s I listened to the Voice of America jazz programs hosted by Willis Connover, I grew to love jazz in all its forms, particularly the blues, until, that is, he featured a program about Bebop. He raved about two musicians who were new to me, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, I hated it, couldn’t stand it, I switched the radio off! It took a while, possibly several years. And then the penny dropped, suddenly I understood, I understood the genius of Charlie Parker, he became my favorite jazz musician.
    So there’s two fairly extreme examples, there’s been more throughout my music listening life.
    I can understand La Boheme, not the avoidance but the acceptance, I grew up in an italian opera household, my bricklayer father could sing [but not speak] most of Puccini and Verdi so it was locked in early on. For Carole I would say listen to the last movement of Mahler’s 2nd for beautiful classical choral music, plus Faure’s Reqium, plus anything by the Robert Shaw Chorale with the Atlanta symphony – a fabulous collection of choral music. Then there’s
    The Greatest Choral show on earth – a double CD of classic choral music.
    And then there’s Wagner, start out with the Ring Cycle, nah, start out with anything – he writes the the most interesting, layered and most musical melodies of anyone, absolutely beautiful.
    Panther, I don’t understand your last sentence re. Pink Floyd, ‘antithesis’?
    I’m not a huge fan of the Stones and it’s mostly due to Mick and his prancing plus I hate hip hop, rap, graffiti and tattoos. I love the Blues.
    ‘Today’s pop – Why’, I’ll drink to that.
    In my dotage I don’t even bother, I’ve evolved even further towards to my roots, to classic jazz, blues, reggae, Mahler, Wagner, Choral and some from the 60’s west coast pop scene. Plus of course Dylan, Paul Simon, Joni, Beatles, Pink Floyd et al.

    • Yes, I know the Mahler very well nowadays, I discovered his music a long time ago now, and I love the Fauré Requiem too. My classical collection will never be as large as my rock, soul, jazz, folk etc one (I’d need a bigger house!), but it is pretty extensive, with a bias towards the later 19th century and the 20th. I don’t mind a bit of Wagner occasionally, but I much prefer Mahler, Schoenberg, Debussy and Bartok.

    • Cheers, GF. Yes, I can well imagine how bebop must have sounded weird and alien – I still find there’s an almost unbridgeable gap from swing (in my case, the problem is finding swing a bit too nice and tame, having been raised on bebop, so to speak), and that’s after reading at least one detailed study of the underlying continuities – do you know Scott Deveaux’s book The Birth Of Bebop?

  8. Okay, maybe I’d do better to compile a list of things that I loved at first listen and still think are genius – it would probably be shorter…

    I also loved Shorter at first listen, depending on whether you count his Weather Report years separately of course.

    I hated In a silent way at first listen, though- a friend at the Mathematics department put it on and we sitted in silence while he nodded his head and I yawned. It was about 4 years later I finally “got” it via another friend who played it constantly on his car stereo, maybe it just needed the sort of environment where you can “absorb” it without really realising.

  9. In A Silent Way hooked me instantly; it was, predictably, Bitches Brew that took a while to grasp. Davis is interesting as the force behind the album that somehow almost everyone gets immediately despite its abstract, even radical qualities…

  10. …although I’d say the album of his most people seem to get into when they first hear it is Sketches of Spain.

    I remember the year I “discovered” the 2nd quintet albums as well as Bitches Brew- it must have been 1993- and all of those also took me a while to really appreciate. In 94 I remember getting into Jack Johnson and Filles de Kilimanjaro more quickly, but it was another couple of years before I could say the same about Agharta/Pangaea and the rest of the seventies output.

    • ESP connected with me instantly – at least in part, I guess, because I was already hooked on Shorter’s solo albums, having worked back from Weather Report (*the* gateway jazz group?) and the second quintet clearly paralleled those. I’ve actually never been very bothered by Sketches of Spain…

      • I’ve also never really had much time for Sketches, but I’ve noticed it being mentioned a lot by people who don’t normally refer to Miles albums. It is perhaps a slight shame that few seem to go on to explore his other Gil Evans albums, which I think are vastly superior, although their “big band” feel might be off-putting.
        I think my own relative slowness in appreciating the second quintet albums was probably to do with my tastes in jazz at the time, which were focused more on the 55-63 period- those albums were quite radical in terms of loosening hard-bop’s reliance on rhythm and its soloing strictures. I found the sixties Blue Note albums far more instantly accessible in the same period. It took Portishead to get me interested in Weather Report; I only started listening to them after hearing the Shorter sample at the beginning of Strangers.
        That’s also one of the reasons I have no beef with sampled music- I’ve discovered so many older albums thanks to hearing sampled fragments over the last 20 yrs in electronic or hip-hop recordings.

      • By the way, did you see that ECM has now released its entire back catalogue for streaming on Spotify et. al., they also seem to be offering streaming services on their own site.

  11. If anyone’s interested try googling ‘Miles Davis’ and read the Wiki essay on his career, very informative and interesting. I’ve just spent several hours reading it plus lots of album sleeve-notes. It clarified how and why my interest subsided after the late 60’s. My interest in Miles is mostly in his 40’s and 50’s recordings, I’m just glancing through Milestones by Jack Chambers, it’s split into 2 parts, part 1, 350 pages devoted to Miles up to 1960 and part 2, 1060 onward.
    I liked all of his work with Gil. big and small.

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