The mind rewrites the script of the past.
The sound of The Bee Gees would have once been a cue to change channels. Partly, listening to The Bee Gees would have invited scorn and derision from friends who regarded Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple as defining the boundaries of music; partly it arose from a dislike of the musical ‘Grease’. Listening to Today FM’s classic gold programme, the 1976 single ‘You should be dancing’ evoked memories of that long, hot summer, particularly a Sunday evening in the North Devon town of Ilfracombe.
In those days when BBC Radio 1 broadcasts ceased at 7 pm, the frequency then joining Radio 2 for programmes by presenters like Charlie Chester, it must have been that The Bee Gees were being played on the Sunday evening chart programme on 247 Metres Medium Wave. The only other station that played pop in those times was Radio Luxemburg and reception of its programmes on a car radio in the West of England was never great. Radio Luxemburg was for listening to late at night to hear songs banned by the BBC; it was not for listening to with the family on a bright summer’s evening.
But if the chart programme on that August evening included ‘You should be dancing’, why is it the only song that remains in the memory? How many songs did they play in those days? Wasn’t it just the Top 20, with little time being devoted to songs that were on the way down? One of the chief annoyances about Sunday evenings at school was that the complulsory Sunday evening worship was at 7.00, which meant gathering for it before the chart show countdown had reached Number One.
There must have been a dozen more more memorable songs at the time. You would think that it would be possible to Google ‘Top 20’ and ‘August 1976’ and get a definitive list of what has disappeared from the consciousness while the sound of the Gibb brothers has endured. The only other song that comes to immediate recall was Elton John and Kikki Dee singing ‘Don’t go breaking my heart’; was that really the best of the rest? It was claimed that the appearance of punk music was due to pop being in a complete rut at the time the Sex Pistols released their first dreary, tuneless, nihilistic offering.
But even if music was in a rut (and the disco music so despised by rock fans was still to reach its peak with the rise of to stardom of John Travolta), why would The Bee Gees remain deep in the sub-conscious, why would the sound of a particular song immediately conjure thoughts of a particular place on a particular evening?
Perhaps there is a sub-conscious desire to atone for rude things said about musicians who are great performers; perhaps ‘You should be dancing’ connects with some subliminal sense of opportunities being lost; perhaps Sigmund Freud would have constructed completely different theories if he had listened to 1970s pop music instead of middle calss Austrian angst.