My ten year old son regularly asks me questions like “Who would you rather be: Aragorn or Legolas?”, “Who would win a fight between Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee?” or “What is your favourite band?”
Some of these are easy to answer (Aragorn, obviously – who wants to be a pointy-eared Orlando Bloom?), some are difficult (I think Lee would kick Chan’s ass, but who knows?) and some are impossible: I really don’t have a favourite band anymore.
There may be a particular artist or band that you keep returning to again and again, (and for me this would include Neil Young, Foo Fighters, Led Zeppelin and a host of others) but I think the notion of an outright ‘favourite’ is something which you just tend to grow out of. My favourite album right now is the one I’m listening to whilst I write this piece (Eno’s ‘Ambient 1: Music For Airports’ if you’re asking…)
Things were generally a lot simpler and a lot more black and white when you were younger. You did have a favourite band which you would defend to the hilt to your friends.
My first favourite band were Madness. When I was the same age as my son is now I bought the greatest hits album Complete Madness on cassette in Derby Woolworths. I played that album to death, loving the scatty humour, ska influenced rhythms and great pop melodies delivered in Suggs’ inimitable style (I can still rattle off all the lyrics to ‘Baggy Trousers’ in an authentic North London accent without missing a beat).
In my teens I had a short love affair with Level 42 (which you can read all about here). For this, I got the piss mercilessly extracted from me by my peers. This makes perfect sense to me now, but at the time I just couldn’t understand why others didn’t share my enthusiasm. My nemesis with regard to band-baiting at school was my friend Neil. Neil hated Level 42 and took every opportunity to tell me how shit they were and how his favourite band, The Cars, were so much better. I hadn’t heard any Cars stuff apart from their hit ‘Drive’ (which I quite liked) but I felt pushed into a corner. So with attack as the best form of defence we relentlessly slated each other’s favourite bands from our entrenched standpoints. There was a brief truce when we agreed to lend each other an album to listen to (I liked the Cars stuff but wouldn’t admit it, he hated the Level 42 stuff and revelled in telling me so) before we got back to slagging each other off again.
The ultimate irony of this particular story is that years later when I had a MySpace site (remember MySpace!) featuring some of the songs I had written and recorded in my home studio, I messaged Boon Gould (the guitarist from Level 42 who was also on MySpace) asking him to have a listen to my tracks. He took the time to listen to them and gave me some lovely comments including this one: “I really like the guitar on the intro to ‘Catching Sunbeams’, it reminds me of The Cars.”
How Neil would have laughed.
Going full circle, I actually wrote that song for (and about) my recently born son, the one who now asks all the questions that started this whole thing off. Have a listen and then let me know what your favourite bands were.