What music to do you listen to?
This question makes me alternatively blush and fidget nervously. It’s a loaded question. Answering it is like playing Russian roulette. Your answer will be the foundation of a character assessment that you will never live down.
It’s akin to the Bible story about building your house of rock (good) or sand (bad). Maybe it’s better explained as rock (good) and Justin Bieber (bad).
I fear this question like no other, because my music taste is questionable. I have to be honest about it. It’s not like I listen to Tiffany or Belinda Carlisle. That shows my age. I don’t listen to Britney, Justin or woman who wear raw meat. Yes, I can be just as judgemental. Music is very polarising. It’s why the question Beatles or Elvis can easily distinguish one mindset from another.
I am a child of 80s glam rock. Big hair, tight pants and emaciated bodies. Guns and Roses, Bon Jovi and Aerosmith. I grew up with Dylan, Joan Baez, Uriah Heap and the Grateful Dead. My first CD was Poison. I rocked to Alice Cooper, Metallica and Suicidal Tendencies. I teenage angsted to Pink Floyd, Leonard Cohen, Sinead o’Connor and Nirvana. I had a wardrobe of band t-shirts – Sisters of Mercy, the Cult, Judas Priest, Motorhead, Sex Pistols, Nine Inch Nails and of course, The Doors.
These days I can’t answer the question so easily. I don’t listen to any particular genre. The one common thread through all the music I listen to is honesty. I like music that conveys an intimacy, an emotion and a connection to the musician. I don’t like bad cover versions or pop princess music written by a team of aging white men.
I listen to Eminem, because of the raw honesty of his work. He brutally lays out all the minutiae of his life, his loves and his challenges. He makes no excuses.
Now Ms Spears has a huge amount of experience to draw from – the breakdown, the divorces, the haircuts. Yet, she persists in singing about utter drivel.
I listen to Joan Baez, because her work had no fancy production, her voice and her guitar were all she needed to make a listener weep. I listen to Cowboy Junkies because the intimacy and power of this family come through each song. I listen to Leonard Cohen because he never sings the same song the same way. I listen to Dylan, despite the harmonica, because his prose could start a revolution.
My ancestors, in between painting themselves blue and running amok, had bards. These men were given the task of recording the battles and deeds of the clan in song. The ones that have survived are eloquent, heartrending accounts of the horror of war, the betrayal of trusted friends and the fight to own the land they called home.
In honour of Heritage Day I played Scottish songs on the school run. The Battle of Glencoe never fails to make my blood run cold. Three small children sat spellbound throughout.
When we got to the Scottish Soldier we belted out the refrain. Of course, I ended up promising I’d take them to the land of the kilt.
There is something humbling and empowering about standing under the statue of Robert the Bruce and knowing that his fearsome warrior blood runs within my veins too. No wonder I am such a stubborn women.
Then again, it is the only time I’ve had someone refuse to sell me something because of my name. I was in William Wallace country and bloody Mel Gibson had made sure I couldn’t buy a single bloody thing.
History moves slower in some places than in others. In the highlands, battles that took place hundreds of years ago are still relived today. Not the sort of American Civil War re-enactments where accountants and history buffs get all dressed up. I hooted with laughter because the English Heritage lot put a Campbell in charge of the museum at Glencoe. The McDonalds were up in arms and livid with rage, how could they put such a murderer in charge? It was a particularly bad decision on behalf of the English. I felt sorry for the poor curator.
The thing is, when you stand on the edge of a loch, with the mist creeping over the heather you can hear the echo’s of the pipers from centuries past and feel the feral wildness of the land. It is easy to believe the tales of fairy mounds and magic, to imagine Hamlet’s witches.
The Scots are in general a genial lot, but there is one sure fire way to get a Scot to let loose that famous temper. Call him an Englishman.