Monday, 11 May 2015

Musical stories

I love music almost as much as I love words.

This morning, I was ironing to the accompaniment of Plan B's 'The Defamation of Strickland Banks'. If you don't know this album, it tells the story of a man wrongly imprisoned for rape and what happens to him inside prison. It's a strong theme, but fabulous music.

I started thinking about how much I like story-music - and decided to share some of my favourites with you.

My first exposure to story-music happened very early on; when I was seven, or possibly eight, I went to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat at the theatre. For my birthday, I was bought the LP of the musical soundtrack. I loved how the story of Joseph was told through song. I still prefer that original version to the modern one (sorry, Sir Andrew) and had the LP put onto CD a few years ago so I could continue to sing the 'proper' version. I suppose every musical tells a story, but there are very few that have no spoken words at all - Jesus Christ Superstar, perhaps? Not as much fun to sing along to though.

(Back in the Am Dram days, Mr Squidge used to act as stage crew - he had to dress up as a Roman soldier for Superstar and was on stage more often than me (crowd member)).

The Planet Suite by Holst was the next one I remember. I used to do my homework to it. I loved how the character of the different planets came through in the music. (I will admit to pretending to be Mars, God of War, and dancing around the bedroom when I should have been doing my maths...)

War of the Worlds... a brilliant book in its own right, but something else when Jeff Wayne mixed readings from the book with music to tell of the Martians' attack on Earth. The Red Weed music is so eerie...

I have a pirated cassette tape of 1984, by the Eurythmics. They wrote the score for a film of the same name, but it was never used. I'd read the book not long before I heard the tape, so I understood the references to Doubleplusgood at the time; I don't recall much of the details of the book now. Unfortunately the tape's not in such good nick either, so I can't play it often.

More recently, I've been impressed by Muse (my favourite band after the Eurythmics!) for their storytelling prowess. Resistance is based - again - around 1984, and I don't think there's a single one of their albums which doesn't have an over-riding theme and a story, if you're prepared to look for it. Showbiz has one, The Second Law does, and Drones certainly does.

I also admire Roger Jones, a christian composer who has written Christmas-themed musicals which we've performed at church. While Shepherds Watched tells the Nativity from the point of view of the shepherds, while Stargazers focuses on the Wise Men. I have been known to sing along to them in July...just because.

And if I had to pick one other band who tell stories in every song they write, it would have to be Madness. Only as I've got older have I really begun to listen to the lyrics and hear the story and poetry behind the music. It adds a whole new dimension to my childhood memories of songs like Baggy Trousers.

So it's not just words that tell stories - music does too. I wonder if you've got any favourites of your own? Drop them in the comments if you have - I'd be interested to see what floats your story-music boat.

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