I love lyrics. I like music, but more than the rhythm or the melody, it’s always the words I’m really interested in. As a kid, in the back of the car at night, on the way home from Manchester, Dad’s cigarette on the steering wheel glowing orange at the tip, I knew every last word of the Cowboys and Truckers* tape, and Dolly Parton schooled me in how to behave in a committee meeting with her badass epic, Harper Valley PTA. (This is why I must not be on the PCC.)
The words – that’s always the thing. The story in the lyrics is so much more important to me than anything, so when I find a musician who also writes poetic words, I can play their songs on repeat for the rest of forever. What would my life be like without Paul Simon’s Graceland album? Or Ben Howard’s entire back catalogue of beautifully worded, often anguished folk. I LOVE it. If it’s faintly depressing, all the better. I’m very boring in this way, and I make the musicians in my family sigh (that’s the rest of them – they are all musical! I am a loner with a paintbrush). I don’t want the music to do anything new or interesting, I just want to listen to the story again (and again and again).
Maybe this is why I love the radio** too, especially Radio 4. It’s the voices I like, the words, and the accents. I have often stopped work, paintbrush poised above the paper in a sort of concentrating pause, for a whole hour, to listen to a gem of a play in the afternoon. I regularly shout at Woman’s Hour, though I love it too. The only programme I turn off is the consumer information slot, You and Yours, as I don’t need very much prompting to imagine that the modern world is quietly swindling me at every turn. It’s safer to live without that programme. My imagination is wild enough already.
The radio in our kitchen is broken – has been for years. Still, it sits there, a silent friend, with all the words trapped inside it. I keep it on the side to remind me to ask for a new one next Christmas. Several Christmasses have passed, and I haven’t asked. The need for it has been overtaken by newer technologies, I think. It doesn’t matter (though I would love a new one), as it’s such a nice looking object in itself***, broken or not. And these days I play the radio through my computer in the studio. I switch to music in the late afternoon, or if the news is so bad it’s making me fret.
After about 5pm, all I really want is radio silence. I like to turn everything off, wash the brushes, take off my painting apron, tidy my desk, be quiet, still my mind, and stop. Not easy when everyone is piling in through the door!
Perhaps the hum of family life is just another sort of music, which I will miss when it’s gone.
*That’s a big 10-4.
* **Don’t give me those radio shows with the presenters giggling like a pack of hyenas though. I think I am getting too old for that (and too grumpy)
***It could never be as splendid as my friend Joan’s old red Roberts radio. She’s 86. She’s had it for years! Roberts radios are clearly a good buy.