Popular music

Feb 7th, 2014 | By | Category: Pop thinking

Radio Nova cheered an afternoon spent in a traffic jam. Its  classic rock recognizable to someone who could remember the records when they were released. Nova is not too sniffy about its selections; not too concerned about what purists might think. It plays an eclectic choice, even bands who appeared on Top of the Pops are given airtime.

To have admitted watching Top of the Pops among students I knew in the late 1970s would have brought hoots of derision; they watched The Old Grey Whistle Test. On the radio, BBC Radio 1 might be acceptable if one listened to Tommy Vance, John Peel or Alan Freeman, or, just maybe, Annie Nightingale; to have admitted listening to Radio 1 in the daytime would have added to the heap of scorn on one’s head, and, as for the charts, one didn’t mention them.

Chart music was not something to be discussed; it was “commercial”, and “serious” bands did not make commercial music (it was always baffling how bands were to make a living, or even become known without them being commercial). Chart music also meant releasing recordings on 7″ singles and “serious” bands only recorded albums (it seemed difficult to know how one would become acquainted with these bands if their music was only known to cognoscenti who listened to late night radio programmes in order to know which albums to buy).

Crawling westward out of Dublin, the DJ announced that Nick Lowe was coming up. How long was it since I had last heard Nick Lowe? Cruel to be Kind must have been played many, many times since it was in the charts in 1979, but it was hard to remember. Perhaps it was a case of listening to the wrong programmes, or to the wrong stations – or maybe to the wrong people.

What was wrong with just enjoying music for its own sake? Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, and all the other bands favoured by those who scorned “pop”, may have been excellent, but there was lots of other music out there. To have admitted having a pile of Tamla Motown records would have shattered my credibility completely, so I kept quiet.

If Radio Nova, a rock music station, was comfortable with playing Nick Lowe, it seemed odd that an eighteen year old student in 1979 would not have had the confidence to admit he thought it a good song. It was a good song in 1979, and is just as good thirty-five years later.

Nick Lowe




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