Apr 21, 2009

Me, my dad and Paul McCartney

I'm sick of being ponderous about asylum seekers, and government, and the press. The tight circle of prejudice, opportunism and human tragedy. So here's a strangely happy little thing.

I’m sick of being ponderous about asylum seekers, and government, and the press. The tight circle of prejudice, opportunism and human tragedy. So here’s a strangely happy little thing.

When I was very much smaller, my father, years dead now, traveled for work to Japan. He returned after some weeks with gifts. Mine was a small portable cassette player. I had never seen anything like this. The concept was entirely alien … the closest thing I’d had, and admitedly this had been a tad retro even then, was a crystal set that I’d used for the time honoured purpose of whispering in nocturnal cricket commentary and Sunday night Hit Parade broadcasts.

This was in the early seventies, a time when personal audio was a science fiction concept. A time  when small radios were called “transistors”, because that’s what they used to replace valves and enable portability.

So my dad brought back this little plastic rectangle from Sony, or Panasonic, or Kawasaki, whatever. It came with a single, unlabeled a pre-recorded music cassette.

This is the kind of thing. Oh dear, life in mono:


And the music? It was the Paul McCartney solo album recorded immediately post the Beatles breakup. It was called McCartney, released in 1970. This would be the limit of my popular music intake until I bumped into the boy in first year high school who introduced me to Elvis Presley. But that, Richard Glover, is another story.

So there it was, me, my portable cassette player and McCartney. And the funny thing is that I still, these 35ish years later recall almost every crotchet of the music, so ingrained it became through repetition.

This week, on a whim, I downloaded the album from iTunes. And there it is now on my iPhone, and with me again. But then Dowland’s on my iPhone too and Purcell and fragments first set on parchment by Andalusian troubadours. And all the rest of it, a great jumble sale of sound.

Music is one of the great constants. Holding its appeal, true to its verities and charm through decades or ages. Always ringing true to that part of the ear and mind that finds beauty in these strange and strangely constant orderings of rhythm and notes. Utterly beautiful for it, and a reminder that some things endure beyond the exigencies of the modern moment.

And McCartney, never mind the attrocities that were soon and still to come, held up across the years. As music can.


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3 thoughts on “Me, my dad and Paul McCartney

  1. tony

    Cassettes eh? I remember them, they were going to kill the music industry weren’t they by promoting home copying and illegal distribution.

  2. Bwca

    “And, of course, that is what all of this is – all of this: the one song,
    ever changing, ever reincarnated
    that speaks somehow from and to and for
    that which is ineffable within us and without us,
    that is both prayer and deliverance, folly and wisdom,
    that inspires us to dance or smile or simply to go on,
    senselessly, incomprehensibly, beatifically, in the face of
    mortality and the truth that our lives are more ill-writ, ill-rhymed and
    fleeting than any song, except perhaps those songs – that song, endlesly reincarnated –
    born of that truth, be it the moon and June of that truth, or the wordless blue moan,
    or the rotgut or the elegant poetry of it.
    That nameless black-hulled ship of Ulysses,
    that long black train, that Terraplane, that mystery train,
    that Rocket ’88’, that Buick 6 – same journey, same miracle, same end and endlessness.”

    — Nick Tosches, ‘Where Dead Voices Gather’

    Wordless blue moan, indeed.
    The Beatles: Rock band.

  3. Blogger on the Cast Iron Balcony » Blog Archive » Fun with ancient technology, for my brother on his birthday

    […] Jonathon Green writes about ancient technology they had when he was a boy. Ah yes, my little ones, we used to have these brick-shaped “cassette recorders” into which you’d put tape cassettes, which were easier to use and more portable than reel to reel (should I add a tag for “archaeology”?) but nevertheless were dreadful little cursed demons which would jam, break, tangle and inevitably lose their audio quality as the magnetic tape deteriorated – or they’d stretch the tape so they sounded like the dying HAL 9000, a character from a story also about ancient technology. […]

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