Wednesday, September 25, 2002


Madness. Around the time that I was a chronically insecure teenager, my only refuge was the Longacre Players. The slightly-more-grown-up version of Aberdeen Childrens Theatre, we met on Wednesday evenings instead of Saturday mornings, and we did proper theatre - I'm not sure if the story of how we put on Hamlet will appear here or not, but we did, and it wasn't half bad, he said modestly. Being theatrical types, we were natural show-offs, and because we were putting on a musical - 'Fiddler on the Roof, if memory serves - there was a piano in the rehearsal room. One or two of our number were properly musical, and able to bang out not just well-known tunes, but also current and even new songs - I remember being impressed at hearing 'Down in the Tube Station at Midnight' on that piano.

Upstairs at no.31 King Street is, therefore, where I first heard Madness. Not on the radio, or on someone's tape recording (this was before Walkmen, folks), but bashed out on the upright piano, either by Alec Innes or Rannoch Donald. Upon enquiring, I discover that it's called 'The Prince', and it's the next big thing. Which it was, really. But this sets me thinking. In 1979, I was listening to Madness and The Specials, to Joni Mitchell and Dire Straits (which reminds me...), to Prokofiev and Mussorgsky, to Ian Dury and The Police, to Tubeway Army and Ultravox, to Thin Lizzy and UFO, to - you get the idea. I find myself wondering whether there is too much music for me to take in today, but it was ever thus. Perhaps my life has simply become more full of other things - I no longer have the time to investigate all the new stuff, when I know I'm never going to get through all the Haydn symphonies... How soon can I retire?

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