Thursday, 24 May 2012

Confessions of a muso

The word 'muso' has at least two meanings. The first is a derogatory term for a musician who is overly concerned with style rather than content. The second refers to somebody who is obsessed with music. I fall into the latter category.

I have a large collection of music with a particular emphasis on less well-known artists. I have been known to visit second hand record shops and attend record fairs, although neither are much in evidence these days. Not only do I collect the physical manifestations of (vaguely) popular music, but I also collect music facts too. Did you know that the father of Muse front-man Matt Bellamy played rhythm guitar on the Tornados' track 'Telstar'? Furthermore did you know that was the first single by a British band to reach number one in the US charts? If your answers are 'yes' to both these questions, then the chances are that you are a muso too.

So how does one become a muso? What attracts a person to become an explorer of the domain of recorded music, heading well off the beaten track into the wild hinterlands? Shifting musical tastes seem to be a key factor. In my early teens I listened to a lot of classic rock and heavy metal. The latter led me to explore punk and progressive rock (for many, these are uncomfortable bedfellows). By my late teens my tastes had shifted to that nebulous genre known as indie, particularly gothic rock. This shift was reflected in my choice musical journals too. I stopped reading Kerrang and started buying NME and the now defunct Melody Maker.

By my early twenties I had a full-time job, which enabled me to expand my record collection. I bought albums that friends at university had played to me, while delving into new genres such as hip-hop and reggae. There was generally a linkage from one genre to another; one artist to another. Sixties psychedelia led to dub reggae; Prince and the Revolution led to Sly and the Family Stone. I also started reading magazines aimed at the muso, such as Record Collector and Mojo.

Oddly enough, I am not too precious with regard to formats. I own vinyl (obviously), as well as tapes and CDs. Each have their vices and virtues. Remember, every scratch on a vinyl record was put there with love. Perhaps, now that I am older, I am not so much of a commodity fetishist. I still own coloured vinyl, limited editions, even a few white labels, but now my appreciation is back to being about the music rather than the sleeve design. In this I may be part of the mp3 generation, even though I am into my forties.

The digital revolution is great news for the muso. It offers easy access to previously rare music as well as the chance to sample music through sites like YouTube. There are even social networking sites that cater for the borderline obsessive music fan, such as Last.fm. Perhaps these changes in the way that music is distributed and consumed will mean that there will be a little muso in everyone.