Music Saved My Life
My good friend Bill Botes has this post title tattooed on himself, and it’s a thought I have entertained once or twice myself. Because in so many way’s it is true.
I often describe music as a time machine: this uncanny device that through the action of mere sound-waves can instantly transport you backwards in time to your teens, your adolescence, young adulthood, first loves, major triumphs.
For me it has provided a focus, a creative outlet, an emotional crutch and a career when I fear otherwise I may have ended up doing just about nothing at all.
It never ceases to amaze me when I meet people for whom music is just a take-it-or-leave-it background aspect of their life. For me, it has always been front and centre in more ways than just how my career turned out.
My mother is a singer. All my life she has been singing in choirs: church choirs, the SABC choir, The Bach choir and others. My enduring memory of my childhood in Berario, Johannesburg are filled with choral arias, opera and reams of classical music.
As the youngest of 5 children though, my first memories of ‘pop’ music are of 3 specific examples:
Pink Floyd’s The Wall
The Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack
And Trio’s Da Da Da
When my mother wasn’t playing classical music, my siblings were playing the latest hits, buying No.1 and Smash Hits, The NME and Melody Maker and playing everything from Golden Earring and Deep Purple to Gary Numan and The Sex Pistols at full volume during the daylight hours. By the time I got to the end of Primary school, this priority of music in my life had already begun to mark me out as different from my peers. No-one else at school aged 11 or 12 had in-depth conversations about music, fashion and song lyrics like I would with my tight knit little circle of similarly precocious friends.
If I were to date stamp this sensation of other-ness, of recognising being different to my peers, it would most likely be from around this time: when suddenly I had interests that were radically outside that of my peer group. I have previously said that discovering punk rock changed my life. Well, it did, but music itself had already created a mental ghetto to which I freely fled and I had come to look on myself as different as a result.
Punk rock didn’t last all that long on my radar as a teen. It came back when I joined a punk band at University and has sort of milled around in my consciousness ever since. Music, until I was 17, had always just been something I listened to , day-dreamed to, fantasised about. It wasn’t until I moved to Port Elizabeth with my folks in 1987 though, that it became something I did.
The person responsible for that transformation was a guy I had been friends with at Primary School, who went to Parktown briefly and then moved back to PE. His name is Julian Kievit and he is one of those irritating people who can apparently play just about anything. His approach was: it’s easy, I’ll show you. You write poetry, let’s make songs.
That simple assertion changed everything about my relationship with music and inevitably led to what I have done with music and the music industry after that. It made it possible for me to join bands, manage bands, write about bands. I had the arsenal: an understanding of music, a vast repository of knowledge of music (Thank you siblings) and, because of gigging around, I began to know people in the business. But THAT is a whole other story entirely!
The bottom line remains that music has provided me with everything I cherish in life: as a fan, a musician and a business person. Music did indeed save my life.