I came across The Charles Hazlewood Show on Radio 2 by accident. Somehow I found out about it and it sounded exactly up my street: popular songs being pulled apart to work out why they’re so good with other music being played as examples. The first show was going to put Elbow’s Lippy Kids under the microscope. After loving them for about 10 years I finally decided this year that Elbow are my favourite band (but shh don’t tell Radiohead).
Charles Hazlewood’s passion for music really comes across in each programme, though of course he can’t get too bogged down in musical theory as not all the listeners will have that sort of background. He therefore he comes up with some interesting turns of phrase such as “baked bean trombones”! Listening takes me back to sitting in my GCSE and A Level Music classes. Far from being dry, a lot of my classes were fun thanks to the teachers that I had. Jack Davies must’ve been around 10 years older than the GCSE class, which sometimes helped and sometimes hindered. He had quite a task ahead of him – a few of the pupils were really interested in the subject and some had simply taken it because they thought it would be a doss. He managed to keep the whole class’ attention mostly through the use of humour. He nurtured my passion for composition and introduced me to minimalist music; in fact it was through him that I first heard Electric Counterpoint without Ricky Lee Jones talking about what the skies were like when she was young.
Martin Ullyatt was a more experienced teacher, and whilst his lessons were dryer (I think the A Level syllabus has a lot to blame for this) he still had a great sense of humour. This was probably essential as there were only four of us in the class and had very different personalities. He mentioned Vaughn Williams a lot so we used to tease him that he had an “I ♥ Vaughan Williams” tattoo and even made him a 40th birthday card to that effect. I’m not sure we thought he was up to knowing what our nickname for Dido & Aeneas was though.
I knew I was going to enjoy Charles Hazlewood’s show but something I wasn’t expecting happened. My brain woke up. It has atrophied a bit due to not being used plus it’s suffering from the unfortunate effects of depression. Most of the time I find following a train of thought as difficult as navigating through Marmite. Which is also why I don’t blog very much anymore – it can take me days to produce the one post. Twitter is perfect because you can put ideas out there quickly and succinctly without having to worry too much about the way it’s written apart from fitting it into 140 characters. For instance it has taken me about two weeks to write this post in little dribs and drabs.
My brain is like a faulty switch – it will be off and you can jiggle it and poke it and it might come on. Or it’ll be on and as hard as you try you can’t get it to switch off. I once made the mistake of listening to the radio show before bed and I was awake for hours pondering what songs I would have played as examples and wanting to reply to comments Charles had made during the show. When I’d listened to the first episode I was super excited; it was like discovering a new band or great album, or getting to the end of a really good book. So I tweeted about it a lot, and lo and behold I get a notification that I am now being followed by none other than Charles Hazlewood. At first I was a bit dubious as to whether it was actually him, I have been followed by someone claiming to be Simon Pegg in the past. We have a little chat every now and again and he seems as lovely as he comes across on the radio and TV.
So imagine my excitement when I find out that one of his bands, The Charles Hazlewood All Stars, are performing Tubular Bells live. It has only ever been played live in its entirety in the 1970s. This band also includes Adrian Utley from Portishead and Will Gregory from Goldfrapp, two bands which I am very fond of indeed. For a lot of people hearing the opening of Tubular Bells gives them the shivers as it reminds them of The Exorcist. The first time I heard it was sitting in the back of the car doing a treasure hunt quiz as part of a fete at my primary school. My mum had just bought the cassette for my dad on a bric-a-brac stall. Now when I sit in the back of my dad’s car it is entirely possible that he will be playing a Goldfrapp or Portishead CD (if it's not wall-to-wall Rammstein). The concert is like he had been cosmic ordering!
The concert is in London, but my mum and I had been talking about going down there for a bit of shopping, going round some museums and galleries and perhaps catching up with some family that live in that area. “What more perfect excuse is there to go?” I think. I go to the venue’s website to see if there are any tickets left and I see my dad’s been “at work” again! Not only are they performing Tubular Bells but also A Rainbow In Curved Air by Terry Riley. My dad grew up when the first synthesisers were emerging so he has a few LPs of what I consider to be fairly obscure stuff. My mum and I tease him for liking that album because it sounds like lots of mobile phones going off at once (listen for at least 1min to get the full effect). But the genius is that it was composed in the 1960s, long before mobiles were invented.
I quickly sent my mum the email equivalent of holding her at gunpoint telling her that we HAVE to go to this concert. Mum passed the news on to dad and she told me that he actually looked quite excited for him! Hotels can be expensive in London, but I found that there are two Travelodges nearby, they have room and are affordable. We decided it would be easier to get the train so we don’t have the problem of where to put the car once we get to London. I thought about seven weeks was booking quite a bit in advance, but it was still going to cost us £300 return. Altogether a one night stay, the concert and the train was going to cost nearly £500 for the three of us! Mum told me the terrible news that we can’t afford it. Of course I knew this as soon as I saw how much the train cost, but the fact that the concert programme even exists is like some sort of miracle and I am absolutely desperate to go. The thought of going had really improved my mood. I haven’t been to London for about 10 years and I do love going out to cultural stuff such as concerts or the theatre, and living in Cumbria there isn’t the greatest opportunity to do that. My hopes were dashed and I was plunged into the depths of despair.
I sent a tweet to Charles begging that the band came up to the Sage Gateshead and did the same concert. About 10 minutes later I got a reply saying “well... actually we are doing it there the following night”. Elation and joy! I ran around, jumped for joy and made high pitched squeals, so enthusiastic was my happiness. It's probably a good thing he wasn't in the same room as I probably would've embarrassed myself further by hugging him! I was annoyed that I couldn’t tell my mum the good news straight away because she is only about half way home from my house. Trying to sit on that news was like trying to sit on top of a geyser.
My only regret is that the effect of being "woken up" doesn't last longer than a few hours. To end this long and rambling post I want to say thank you to my two music teachers Jack Davies and Martin Ullyatt. I also want to say thank you to Charles Hazlewood for helping to reignite that spark of passion that I feel about music (also apologies that it’s made me go on a bit). So cheers Charlie, the song above is for you. See you in December.