They say (well, I say, at least) that the music you listen to in your teens is the music that stays with you the longest, but this effect is so pronounced that even music you didn’t know you were listening to remains wedged in the lizard brain, impossible to shift. When I was at my most musically aware, it seemed that every girl I knew had a copy of Aztec Camera’s High Land Hard Rain, and every one of them was a little bit in love with Roddy Frame, the skinny genius from East Kilbride who’d essentially recorded it. Aztec Camera never quite resonated with me back then: too smooth, too mellow, too (ahem) girly at a time when I liked my music exciting, spiky and chest-beltingly robust.
Or so I thought. Fast forward three decades (three decades!) and I get an email from a very old friend saying he’s got a ticket to the 30th anniversary concert for High Land Hard Rain, and would I like to go? I’ll admit that the venue – the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, of all places – was at least as intriguing as the talent, but I said yes without hesitation. And I’m very glad I did.
Roddy Frame is two years older and about four stone lighter than I am. He’s also modest, gentle, very funny and still so ferociously talented that those of us who play a little bit of guitar were breaking our own fingers by the end of the gig. Roddy played a small solo set to start, and then we were into High Land Hard Rain itself.
Song after song washed over me, played beautifully and all of them wistfully familiar. Some I recognised straight away, others took me a while, but all of them reminded me of quiet evenings in bedrooms in Kent with cigarettes and beer, talking about the future and planning the coming weekend’s parties. The lyrics of the songs seemed to be bravely hopeful and blissed-out; none of your postmodern ironic distance here, thanks very much.
People – most of them women – sang along to the songs, and the old theatre did begin to feel like the biggest bedroom in the world, full of your best mates. I really did have a huge soppy smile on my face the whole night. It might have been the wine. It almost certainly wasn’t just the wine. These songs had crept under my skin and waited there for thirty years to be rediscovered, like old friends you didn’t know the value of when you had them.
So thanks, Tim, for the ticket. Thanks to those old friends – most of them girls – who shared High Land Hard Rain with me back when music was the most important thing in the world. And thanks Roddy Frame for such a delicious evening of modest brilliance.