I blame The Beatles, or the fact that I was a young suburban boy when they rose to fame. Like everyone else, I bought the records, the songs.
60s Australia was a ripe market for the mop top antics of the fab foursome, with their anarchic youthful behaviour, naughty hairdos and romantic harmonies. The Top 40 hit parade became a thermometer of a new age of expression – after the Elvis experience, the Sinatra decade before that, and the jazz age before that. It may have been pure marketing, but the music stood alone in its power to coerce. The darker Rolling Stones became the alternative group of course, but the Australian influences – the Wild One Johnny O Keefe, surfy and bodgie bands, and Little Patti – cemented our local values as uniquely provincial and loud as well, demanding to be heard. It was so much fun. Musical recordings were cheap and abundant.
Bob Dylan went electric at a folk festival. Not all the volume was on stage of course and to be in the audience was everything. The 45 rpm singles and The Long Play Vinyl records (LPs) quite suddenly became the must have documents. The covers were art work, by respected artists of the time. Lyrics were included and accessories added. I regard them as storytelling, individual expressions by artists of their times, of their lives and their history as much as ours in the audience. Not unlike books at all. Lyrics were prosaic and poetic.
I felt that it was more than OK to spend my meagre earnings from an after school job on singles and LPs. There was blues and soul and my music teacher at school played us Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles. We deconstructed it. Jazz also went electric; freedom of expression was the new flavour of the decade. I turned 13 as the 60s turned and learned from my peers. We kids scoured second hand shops in the city for rarities and alternatives to the radio, which soon turned to FM quality. There was abundance. Cheap was better, rarefied and more interesting.
My education in music continued, playing in a brass band no longer meant marching only: we learned Schubert and Duke Ellington, Gershwin and Cole Porter, Beatles medleys. We needed the records even more. It took 20 years till the medium changed; cassette tapes meant easy pirating and sharing of collections: the music changed too, with politics, to support independent and local artists, and thinking. It was inclusive and acoustic, electric and originality was required. The market was extreme with all kinds of musical experiments, blended and ethnic and soft and loud. Diversity became valuable.
Live concerts became huge, a shared experience always the best and most exciting way to hear music. Public expression and risk taking enhancements became common lifestyle choices. Fashion always favours the brave. Festivals highlighted the moods and still do. Marketing played a huge role in musical styles. Some styles were about the crowd, a dance culture.
By the end of the 70s I was a community radio DJ, because the public now had access to media outlets. In the techno 80s compact disks (CDs) made the music format electronic, bits and binary codes enhancing sound. Vinyl disappeared except in private collections and on the dancefloors of specialist clubs.
Musicianship had to include electronic production. Pirating was again also easy. The computer file sharing revolution of MP3s in the 90s meant a degradation of sound quality, but freed up access. Tiny pocket sized electronics meant isolated listening everywhere, especially in public. Dance culture ruled by rhythm.
Many artists became rich beyond expectation; some heroes dying of drugs and lifestyle choices. Assassination was possible in the music world.
I collect original vinyl records again because I care for the history of the music. I don’t buy new re-mastered versions with improved sound, but look for the oldest ones. I wash old ones found randomly, at throwaway prices. Junk shops have more than junk. Occasionally they still sound perfect, but not often. I don’t spend much, preferring to search in antique shops, garage sales and I swap with other collectors. They sound best on the original turntables and amplifiers, so I look for those as well. My taste might be seen as First Editions in the book world. Reduce Reuse Recycle.
“Music is your special friend, dance on fire as it intends.” – The Doors
Brian Venn grew up in the Sutherland Shire, fed by parents who sent him off to school after listening to Mahler or Johnny Cash. He was raised on the Goons and Vietnam, and taught by nuns and Christian Brothers.
University was in the country; Armidale UNE. He studied English, drama and music. Late 70s punk and feminists, and musicians really made a difference. Brian was DJ on community radio, doing programmes by 1980.
Meaningful employment as a postman in the eighties became 20 years full time work. Brian had second jobs working in restaurants at the same time. He travelled overseas and surfed bigger waves in Bali, Fiji and Sri Lanka. He climbed and walked in Tasmania and married and walked the Himalayas. They raised wonderful kids in Bundeena, where Brian volunteered on bush care, heritage and environmental issues, and was the postman. He’s had 2 sailing boats, and 2 awesome children.
Divorced, and after major health scares Brian is happily living back near the beach. Now retired, he works on his health.