Back in June, an interview came out with Richard Armitage responding to questions about music in his life. I was so swamped with work that month that I had little time to do anything but give it a quick once-over. But I keep coming back to thinking about his answers. The interview might seem like a meaningless piece of fluff, and yet it says to me that he and I would have little common ground, which for me makes “the crush” that much harder to sustain. Now, before you jump into APM (Armitage Protection Mode, for the uninitiated), I think this probably says more about me and my relationship to music and to “the crush”, than it does about Armitage himself. In the interest of exploring my reaction to this, I thought I would do a bit of a compare-and-contrast exercise.
The song I wish I’d written
RA Answer: The Beatles – “Yesterday” – Richard said it was how he was feeling during these times and described it as “incredibly beautiful”.
My Reaction: Sure, okay. But how clichéd. Such a disappointingly conventional choice.
My Answer: For me, the song I wish I’d written changes all the time. It has to be something with lyrics that express deep emotion that I can relate to, with a melody that matches the mood and can be sung with feeling. The instrumentation is secondary. Today’s choice for me is “I Cried for Us” written by the late Kate McGarrigle about the break-up of her marriage to Loudon Wainwright III (of “Dead Skunk” infamy), and performed in 1982 by Kate and her sister, Anna, both from Montreal. I first heard the song done by Trio, the group comprised of Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, and Linda Ronstadt, and fell in love with it. (Apparently, there was a Pet Shop Boys version, too, strangely enough, which might be more up Richard’s alley. And a more overwrought though pretty version by Rufus Wainwright, Kate’s son, singing with Antony. ) Here is the original.
The first song I remember hearing
RA Answer: Grease – ‘Summer Nights’ – Something he really wanted to dance to as a kid, but the record kept skipping.
My Reaction: Well, that sure makes me feel old! I was an adult when that came out in 1978. There was some kind of event they needed bodies for (maybe an album release party?) at the studio offices, which I went to and received a free copy of the soundtrack for my trouble. Not sure I listened to it very much. (On the other hand, I definitely can relate to the records with a permanent skip in them. There’s an Elton John song that I’m always surprised to hear has lyrics that actually join together, rather than skipping disjointedly!)
My Answer: There was always music in my house, whether on record, on the radio, on TV, or being sung by my family. It would be pretty much impossible for me to have a particular first song memory. Maybe, though, I can pick a song from the first movie I was ever taken to the cinema to see, Mary Poppins, which came out in 1964. I still walk around singing ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ from time to time!
The first album I owned
RA Answer: The Magic Roundabout – ‘Dougal and the Blue Cat’ – It was a soundtrack from a BBC kids’ show that Richard found really scary.
My Reaction: He probably remembers it precisely because he found it so scary. I would have been really interested to know, though, what the first album he actually bought for himself was.
My Answer: The first album I bought for myself was The Beatles’ Abbey Road. While it came out in 1969, I must have bought it a couple of years later, when I was 11 or so. I remember my mother commenting on Ringo’s out-of-tune singing on ‘Octopus’ Garden’. I really liked ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’. (I kind of enjoyed dark humour in songs as a kid.)
The first gig I went to
RA Answer: Tina Turner in Vienna, 2009 – He describes this as the first artist he saw live in concert. He was so “awestruck by what she was doing” that he drove across Europe to see her perform again.
My Reaction: That show would have been awesome! Tina Turner, even at 70 was astonishing. But… somehow I just don’t believe that that is “the first gig” he ever went to, although I guess it could have been the first stadium show he ever saw. But the man was 38 years old and had played concert cello and lived as a performer in London and elsewhere. I don’t believe that was the first time he saw live music, somehow. And if it was, then he lived a much different and more sheltered life than I did, that’s for sure.
My Answer: I am and was a big concert-goer in multiple genres, including country, bluegrass, rock, pop, chamber music, opera (once), jazz (in a club once), etc. Embarrassingly enough, my first concert was The Osmond Brothers in Toronto in I believe 1973. I was a Michael Jackson fan (long before he became “The King of Pop”), but my friend Derrice had a big crush on Donny Osmond, so I agreed to go along with her and her parents. I thought after seeing Donny live, I might like him better, but I still was not a fan and retained my big crush on Michael, back in those innocent days. (Sorry, not posting The Osmonds.) Here is my preteen heartthrob singing ‘Ben’, a song featured in the horror movie of the same name about a boy and his pet rat. (Not sure why this is acapella. Sounds like they removed the music. But it sure showcases his voice. My 13-year-old self is happy.)
The song that reminds me of home
RA Answer: ABBA – ‘Happy New Year’ – In Richard’s words, one New Year’s Eve, “This song came on the TV, and my mum picked me up and she was just dancing around the room to this music. I was about 10 maybe. When that song comes on now, I remember that feeling of being picked up by my mum and dancing around the room with her.”
My Reaction: Aww. Especially after losing his mum who he had been so close to, I’m sure this is a special memory for him. (Much as I’m not a huge ABBA fan, in spite of enjoying Mamma Mia.)
My Answer: Show tunes (my mum) and Irish drinking songs or bluegrass (my dad and some sibling sing-alongs) remind me of home. Many of the Irish bunch were quite naughty, like ‘The Jolly Tinker’, one of my favourites sung by The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. I can still see my dad doing a jig around the room.
The song I can no longer listen to
RA Answer: Lonnie Donegan – ‘Nobody’s Child’ – He remembers it fondly because his dad would sing it to him, but its subject matter is so sad that he finds it hard to listen to now.
My Reaction: “Lonnie Donegan”? “Skiffle music”? Hmm. I know the song well, but by the original (Canadian) country music writer/singer, Hank Snow.
My Answer: I don’t think I have a song I can no longer listen to. I have songs that I didn’t like the feeling of and couldn’t listen to even when they first came out. For some reason, much to my husband’s dismay as he is a huge Led Zeppelin fan, that’s true of ‘The Immigrant Song’. Something about the eerie vocals and music struck me wrong when I was a teenager. But I kind of liked it in Thor Ragnarok, as perfectly fitting the mood.
That’s 6 out of the 11 song prompts from the interview. Hope you’ve enjoyed the commentary. What about you? How did you react to this RA interview and do you have song memories for these questions?
Part II will follow in another post.