A peculiar depression, this, the sort that a heavy head cold settles upon you. Little energy to do much beyond lie in bed. Either sleeping or near sleeping or, as I am now, sipping a latte mug of tea and listening to blues music.
Heavy. That's what I feel. Like all my muscles have to work one and half times as hard to move around. So I have now doubt I am in the right place for today. Hopefully, my verve will pick up soon enough.
Until then, though, I'm just going to embrace this sickness-induced lethargy and let time pass. Keeping warm and hydrated, of course. This laptop is on top of the bed, I'm sitting up with a mountain of pillows behind me. Tap-tap-tapping away.
I'm listening to an odd 1960s album. Called 'The Blues Alone', it's an almost wholly solo recording by the English singer-songwriter John Mayall. Not a great record by any means, but quirky. As it is almost entirely solo, (there's only a drummer, Keef Hartley, on some cuts) it's over-dubbed to the maximum and, this being the mid-late 1960s, the technology is not that sophisticated. So there are strange imbalances in the mix, rhythm instruments too loud, vocals too quiet. I like this. It sounds artificial but in a strangely alluring sort of way. There's a good deal of reverb, natural I suspect, that adds to the ambience. Sterile this recording is not.
Whatever weakness this record possesses lies in some – perhaps most – of the songs that are simply forgettable. Others though, such as 'Broken Wings','Brand New Start', and 'Don't Kick Me' are a treat. The latter is my favorite. The mix is all wrong. Almost inaudible vocals, a deliciously loud, choppy and rough rhythm guitar overdubbed by harpsichord and organ. It's another basic blues, falls apart before the end and by rights should be complete throwaway. But it's not. It's hypnotic and entrancing and has been a favorite of mine since I first heard it in the 1970s on a very cheap compilation LP called 'The World Of John Mayall'.
It featured prominently one the very first compilation tapes that I made, played on a portable cassette player – this was well before the Walkman appeared – that I used to take with me on long walks in the country. I didn't have many records at that time, but the combination of songs on this tape (such as The Who's 'Naked Eye' and 'Pure and Easy', The Doors' 'Light My Fire' and 'When The Music's Over', The Velvet Underground's 'Sister Ray' and 'Here She Comes Now', Roxy Music's 'Ladytron' and 'If There Is Something', David Bowie's 'Width of a Circle' and 'The Man Who Sold The World') plus this track, other Mayall cuts ("No Reply", "Key To Love") and a few others made for a selection that I have never ever surpassed in terms of sheer listening pleasure. Despite making dozens of compilations from a much increased pool of songs over the following years. Not to mention possessing players of far greater fidelity than that very lo-fi tape machine.
Why should this be? It's interesting, isn't it. My current audio set-up, although by no means enthusiast high end, sounds rich and full and anything I chose to play sounds far better in terms of fidelity than any music I listened to up into the 1980s. If I was to believe the audio enthusiast's mantra, everything I heard in the past should be of little value. The fact that it was not, and decidedly was not, argues that the sheer quality of sound heard, in terms of actual fidelity, is a distinctly unimportant factor in the appreciation of music.
It doesn't take much thought to realise this is true. It's like wine. The context of how music is heard is far more important than the actual sound of the music itself. Just as a glass of cheap table wine drunk in a special place (for me, for example, the banks of the Seine with a round of Brie and freshly baked baguette) is infinitely more flavorful and satisfying than a very expensive wine drunk in an ordinary situation.
The companies who sell you hi-fi equipment and expensive wines would like you to forget this and fall for the trap that buying something pricey will somehow substitute for such experiences. It won't happen – all that will happen is that you will hear music a little more closely to how it was recorded and drink a wine that has more inherent character. These improvements may be good enough. But don't kid yourself that it is going to get any better than that. Unless, of course, the music and wine become associated with another rather special event. I would warrant, though, that the qualities of that special event would so swamp the qualities of audio fidelity and the natural taste of that wine that they become essentially irrelevant.
All of which is a very long winded way of saying – both the how and the what you do count, and not in the most obvious ways.
Or something like that.