Nailing my colo(u)rs to the mast - my music influences

N00b here in the forum but have really enjoyed my first few weeks, especially the “What’s Spinning” thread.

Got me thinking. As I follow pop, jazz and classical discussion threads I begin to wonder how I became the music lover that I am. What is nature and what is nurture? How much are my interests and tastes pre-programmed and how much have I acquired or developed them along the way? So I thought I would start a thread where we can all nail our colours to the mast and air our laundry, and maybe learn something about how we became the music lovers and audiophiles we are? I’ll start.

Child of the sixties. Born 1966 in the shadow of England’s last world cup win(!). Played the flute in the school orchestra and the piano because that was a requirement to make the team. I have subsequently aspired to play the piano all my life with no signs of success whatsoever. The first album I bought was Genesis’ Duke and my first single was Showaddywaddy’s Dancing Party. My earliest influences were punk (very hip in my dorm) and the all the creative mixtures of reggae, rock and indie that were flourishing at that time (Ramones, Buzzcocks, Stranglers, Clash, Sex Pistols, Police, etc.) Growing up almost next door to the Hope and Anchor pub and seeing bands like Madness play there live from when I was 14 (oops!) maybe didn’t help!

My father (93 y o) was an audiophile, and still is! A hugely catholic taste mostly centering on classical (violin - his first instrument), choral, piano and organ (his second), opera, string quartets, orchestral, and just about anything and everything else. His system when I left for school was a Garrard 301, Ortofon arm and cartridge, a Leek pre/power and huge Lowther PM4-based horn speakers which filled the room with beautiful (even harmonic) sounds. He was also a child of his time and contemporary jazz (Davis, Coltrane, Monk, etc.) were also formative influences for him and for me. When I left for school his record collection exceeded 60,000 albums. It’s fair to say the die was cast.

And yet I HATED everything my father played. When he stood in the middle of the living room on a Sunday morning playing his lastest Solti Wagner disc at full blast and conducting the speakers I ran down the stairs and screamed at him to turn it down/off. So now I kind of get it when the Strutslets do the same :wink:

Sometime later in life I started hearing adverts on TV, films etc. where I started hearing classical music and realised I recognised it all. I remember a music lesson at school where the master played a number of well know classical themes (Air on a G String, Trout Quintet, Danse Macabre, BWV 565, Beethoven’s 5th, Eine Kleine, Tannhäuser Overture etc.) and I could name every one. Maybe that’s where my own interest in classical music was born, I slowly realised that as much as I had tried to reject it it was in my blood.

University 1984-1988 and my own taste in music blossomed. In my first week I saw Prefab Sprout live (scarred for life!), and in the following four years I saw just about every band that was active on the UK music scene. I also dived deep into soul (Stax - was it the Levis 501 ads?), reggae (Bob Marley and Jamaican reggae but also Ska, Rock Steady and all its tributaries, as well as the thriving UK scene such as Aswad and Steel Pulse), and all the politically correct tributaries which from which there flowed.

I subsisted through university spending my entire grant on records and stereo equipment (my student flat system was a Rega Planar 3, Mission Cyrus 2, Mordaunt Short MS20s, debt from which it took a long time to recover), to the point that at the end of term I literally could not afford food. Happily many years and many pay cheques later I can only count my blessings and rejoice in all the weekend record fairs I spent vacuuming blue label Stax singles, first pressing Beatles and Kinks albums (got them all - 3 mint sealed Ogdens Nut Gone Flake?) and boxes upon boxes full of curiosities that I would never have discovered today.

Case in point. I have a promotional flyer for one of Prefab Sprout’s first gigs in Newcastle which is signed by every band member. It is literally one of my most precious possessions. As I try to explain to the long suffering Mrs Struts and the Strutslets, many of these artefacts are my horcruxes, they literally contain parts of my soul. It is not just that I am a hoarder, some of these things are so important to me that they are part of me. They are part of my DNA, part of my spirit. Without them part of me dies. Is that wrong?

So here I am. A half lifetime later and now inflicting the same “tyrannical” musical upbringing on my own children. Like me, none of them show any discernible talent at the piano but whatever, I did my best. All three (20, 17, 12) still live at home and I still mercilessly impose Stereophile Class A music reproduction systems in each of their bedrooms. I live in the belief that one day what goes around will come around, as it did for me.

So, these were the forces that formed me. How about you? Bare your souls folks!


No takers? Cowards! :laughing:

I’ll bite. But it’ll take me a bit to type up.

I want to do your post justice :blush:

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Ok, it’s a bit stream of consciousness, but here goes.

Growing up in New Zealand (born 1977) with parents heavily influenced by psychedelics (and their muso friends — Dunedin was great for music) meant there was always a range of tunes playing at home. The Residents, Dr. John, Leonard Cohen (still remember my two-year-old sister twirling around to “Dance me to the end of love”). Grobschnitt. Holger Czukay (and Can, of course). Eno. Talking Heads. Early Pink Floyd. The The. Nick Cave. Nine Inch Nails. Golden Palominos. Frank Zappa. Laurie Anderson (“O Superman” gets me going every time I hear it — very little makes me think more of my dear dad than that), Andy Pratt (esp. “It’s all behind you”). Lee Perry. NWA, Public Enemy, Ween (“Spinal Meningitis Got Me Down” was a particular hit at home).

My first gig was when I was four, and dad still delights in recounting how I rattled off half a dozen of my favourite bands to a chap who questioned the wisdom of bringing someone so young to see The Swingers live. Glad I made him proud :face_holding_back_tears: I can only assume I was on dad’s shoulders. Would have seen bugger all otherwise.

I played the violin (badly; I just liked the rosin) and piano (also badly: it was a short walk to my piano teacher’s and a walk home during an earthquake is all that’s stuck with me). So my love of music has nothing to do with my ability to play it.

PRESSING play, however — that I can do. I put together my first system in my early teens. (Micromega CD player, Conrad Johnson preamp, BGW power amp, Acoustic Research LSTs. Would love to hear it now.) And before that on dad’s (Nakamichi Dragon, Michell Transcriptors Hydraulic Reference, more LSTs). I don’t think I ever broke anything. Gulp.

I’m genuinely not sure about the nature/nurture bit. What I play is influenced by a few main things:

  • background tunes as a kid (though seldom played at background listening levels :grin:)
  • friends’ recommendations
  • guidance from record store employees (half a dozen tips in addition to a dozen varied CDs I’ve just plonked on the counter is a good start, especially when buying in strange lands)
  • dad’s new favourites (recent star being the “Dark Side of the Moon Redux”, which I have had on loop while writing this)
  • travelling, and living in different places. Some examples with standout memories are…

France, as a student: Manu Chao, Louise Attaque, MC Solaar, IAM, Noir Désir. Daft Punk live at a party :exploding_head:

Living in Sweden, Norway and Finland in my twenties: Bob Hund, Kent, Esbjörn Svensson Trio, Goran Kajfes, Radio Dept, Sidsel Endresen, Madrugada, Don Huonot, Absoluuttinen Nollapiste. Laleh. Frida Hyvönen. Love so much music from cold places.

Years spent in the UK over the last couple of decades: Future Sound of London, Underworld, Swans, Captain Sensible, Cocteau Twins, The Clash, Pulp, Tricky (Maxinquaye is still way up there for me in my favourite album list), Tom Waits, The Hold Steady, Interpol. Arcade Fire. The National. Burial. Bobby Conn.

USA: I have to admit I let Roon Radio dictate most of what my ears got when we lived in the States. But it felt like I seeded it well enough to do a sterling job. Interestingly it’s harder to name favourites from my five years in the US. Not buying physical media is probably a large part of this.

Since we moved back to NZ I’ve been listening to a lot of UK rap (Dave, Central Cee, Pa Salieu and others). So good.

I realise now that many of the examples above aren’t actually from the place I started enjoying them in. There’s all sorts of music that never really takes off at home but gets gobbled down elsewhere. The pre-Underworld band “Freur” making it biggish in NZ (if that’s possible) but not really in the UK is a funny one for me. My point is that for me some of the strongest associations are between places and music.

What’s missing from my younger years are two genres that seem to be the go to ones for many audiophiles. Dad was the main one choosing the vinyl/reel/tape/CD (mum shares largely the same taste, but with an occasional “turn that shit off” shouted from the other room) and he can’t stand classical or jazz. As a result I’m woefully unschooled in both. Luckily, my business partner is a big classical fan, and he’s gradually nudging me towards a few examples and tuning his “what might Ben like” algorithm as we go. (I suspect my tastes will broaden as I learn more.) @PAR has been helpful here too — he’s played me some great stuff at his place. Thanks, Pete!

I guess me getting into classical — or not — will be the test of the nature/nurture question you asked upfront, @struts001. I’ll report back in a few years. :joy:

I hope I’m not a lost cause. I’ve always thought that I’ll like good examples of everything, so have my fingers crossed that my run continues and I can nurture myself towards some semblance of a classical clue…


Excellent Ben, thanks for sharing! Lots of notes there that hit a chord (sorry).

I’m sure we can ease you into classical. Just start with the easily digested stuff and work your way forward from there would be my recommendation.

Unfortunately Arcadi Volodos took the opposite approach at his recent concert, challenging the audience straight off the bat with an hour of late Scriabin, which I think even huge fans would admit is an acquired taste, this unfortunately sent Mrs Struts off to sleep. Luckily she didn’t snore. He then progressed into successively more and more accessible Schubert, finishing up (on his fifth(!) encore) with the Andante from the Little A major sonata. I think what I am saying is you should take the exactly opposite approach!

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If you move to Austria, there is a chance you start enjoying classical music…but there is a risk…that you enjoy Yodel :slight_smile:


Reminds me of one of the most Swiss things I’ve ever heard, Chris — last year someone told me that:

“I caught COVID from my choir group and gave it to my yodeling group!”