My love of rock music began at a very early age. I’m reliably informed (i.e. by my mum) that for the first 6 weeks of my life, I screamed all night long (am I sensing a pattern here?) but the one thing that would calm me down was when my dad would place the cot by the guitar amp he played his stereo through, and blast out Deep Purple.
My parents divorced when I was very young – and at a time where it just didn’t happen that often – and rock music became something special that we shared with our dad when we saw him. Indeed the fact that it further separated us from all of the other kids just added to that feeling of something precious. Our dad took us to concerts from a very young age; I was 7 years old when I saw my then-favourites Whitesnake headline the 1980 Reading Festival and even sat upon my father’s shoulders, I could still only see the very top of David Coverdale’s curly mop. Because he was absent from so much of our lives, our dad liked to do large gestures, and rock concerts became a favourite. We went to see so many bands as we grew up, got to take a lot of friends with us to see them, had so many great memories. And dad says he got as much enjoyment from seeing us having such a great time as from the music itself.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that my first love was the singer of a local rock band. And whilst I didn’t know it when first meeting them, both other serious relationships were guitar players, though neither was interested in being part of a band. Even my husband was introduced to me as we were both such huge fans of the same band. Fortunately he’s not actually a musician – you’re a temperamental bunch, must be those artistic natures – but someone for whom music is an equally huge and integral part of his life. In short: a fellow rock music fan.
As soon as I became independent and free to be my own person, my beloved first car could usually be found parked outside some music venue or pub, whilst my friends and I would be inside enjoying whichever band we’d come to see that night. When a band we really liked was on tour, I roped in a willing accomplice and travelled across the south of England, going to all gigs deemed “commutable” in an evening. We had some of the best adventures, with some great music thrown in, and without exception those travelling companions remain amongst my close friends today. My closest friend, Liz, is another girl like me, about the same age, who grew up with the same sort of bands being such a huge part of their lives. We just had an instant connection when we met that has never faltered since, and I still absolutely love going to gigs with her. We’re always in such a good mood to be seeing a good band, so excited to be spending some time together, and with someone who knows exactly what the other is feeling, it’s just always such a great time.
I am lucky enough to have become friends with a number of musicians I admire, and I’d like to think they can see how much music means to me as a person. And it has to be said, they do have the best parties. I think it’s just because being rock stars either gives them the confidence or the excuse to be as idiotic as they like, which makes for some excellent stories (my friend once commented it was like watching an on tour version of “men behaving badly”). Plus they’re music fans themselves, so you get bombarded with all of the stuff they like, often stuff you might not have got to hear otherwise. You not only get to listen to all this great new music – as well as your old favourites – you’re also surrounded by like-minded people, who will happily talk about music with you until you (or they) literally fall asleep.
Music has been my companion throughout my life. I can be assaulted by feelings and memories from different times of my life by hearing music that was in high rotation in my stereos around those times. Music to relax to; music to drive to; music to get ready to on a Friday night; music for when you’re happy, angry, pissed off, depressed. Music, music, music. As well as being a large part of many of my happiest memories, music has also got me through my darkest moments. And I’m not just talking the end of a relationship when you play all the slow and mournful songs lamenting some lost love or another. But the heart-crushing and soul-destroying grief that comes with losing a child. When we lost my daughter Freya, halfway through the pregnancy, I played Green Day’s “Wake Me Up When September Comes” at her funeral because it was song that always made me think of her. At first I just thought it was because it was in the charts at the time and hence on many play lists. But when I’d actually listened to the lyrics they were eerily appropriate. And in the months following her funeral, I can guarantee that whenever I felt at my lowest, that song would suddenly be playing from a radio near me. It can be chalked up to coincidence, but I always felt it was Freya letting me know she was ok, and if it got me through those darkest days does it really matter? Music saves.
With music being so instrumental to my meeting my husband, Dave, not to mention the fact that it means we’ll always have something to talk about: it’s no wonder that our kids already are big music fans. Jake has been a Green Day fan since he was literally a baby. When “American Idiot” came on Kerrang! Tv, he’d wheel his baby walker straight in front of it, and jump up and down like a mad thing. I bought him the live DVD for his first birthday and I had to watch that thing every day – sometimes twice – for months on end. Both he and his sister, Kizzy, have their own stereos in their bedrooms, which they get to listen to once lights are out. Jake favours Green Day, the Wildhearts, and the Horrorpops; whilst Kizzy is mad on Avril Lavigne but also likes P!nk and Papa Roach. We always have music on in the car, and they have very definite choices on the matter. And they’re never happier when we’re all doing daft dancing in our front room to some theme song or another that’s just come on the telly – the dances are daft but the huge smiles and laughter are totally genuine. I would never force any of my tastes on them – though they’ll undoubtedly be influenced at this early age – but I do hope they keep music in their lives, for their own sakes. I am positive my life has been so richly enhanced by having music as such an integral part of it.
There’s still no feeling like the total freedom you feel when you allow yourself to let go in the music. Whether it be jumping around at a gig to the live band, or dancing around your living room whilst you’re doing the ironing on a Saturday night. It can lift my spirits and soothe my soul. I love socialising with my friends, but I’m at home when I’m in a pub, or venue, where there’s proper live music playing. I can never completely relax in normal small town pubs like the ones where I live – I cannot trust a lot of the people. Maybe it’s because of the type of person a small town can breed in large numbers; maybe it’s simply because you’re not all there for a common purpose, whomever you may be in your day to day life. Tattooist, school teacher, nurse, IT consultant – you meet all sorts and you’re all on the same level. There are little pretensions and some hilarious outfits.
If my love of rock music is my legacy, it’s one I can live with. With all the social networking sites around these days, it’s easier than ever to get in touch with people from all parts of your life. And the first thing I’m nearly always asked is, “do you still go and see all your bands?”. And though it may show zero growth on my part, I’m very proud to say that yes, I am. Admittedly not as often now I’m a respectable mother, but I still get just as excited waiting for a new album from a band I like, and I still go and see the ones I consider worth the effort of leaving my babies for the night.
There are so many feelings you never get anywhere else; the buzz you get just before a band you love hits the stage; the happiness and enjoyment of jumping around with your mates, getting drunk and silly and making memories; the warmth to the heart it gives you to see your babies dancing and singing along to lyrics entirely inappropriate for their age; the undeniable honour it is to have had a song written about you no matter how the relationship ended; the fun of seeing people trying to work out which band your husband is in because so many musicians at gigs recognise him; the tired legs, sore heads and no voices post-gig nights out; who wouldn’t want that in their lives?
It was in respect of this, that I got one of my biggest tattoos across my back. In certain circles I was known purely by my nickname, “Wildheart”, after (fairly obviously) the Wildhearts, the band responsible for my husband and I being introduced. And as nicknames go, it’s a pretty cool one. Inked by my lovely friend and tattooist extraordinaire, Steph, (and coincidentally, my latest travelling companion when not with my husband) in black and grey, is my nickname for all to see. It says so much about me – it represents all music, not just the one band, and the way it has touched all aspects of my life, and continues to do so.
You can take the girl outta the music but you can’t take the music outta the girl. I am a terminal rock chick. And proud of it.