Friday, 14 March 2014

My Best Musical Discovery

What is your favourite, most enlightening, musical discovery?

Is there a band or an album, or a style of music you had never encountered before, looked at it, thought it unworthy, and then played it and it has blown your mind?

What was the "lightbulb" moment for you?

For me, one of the moments was when I discovered, by accident, jazz. Or more specifically, jazz fusion, but that was the first step into jazz.

In 1991, I was fascinated by guitarists who could tear up a fretboard. However, I was tiring of the overt posturing and stupid costumes and haircuts of the metal bands of the day.

In 1990 I bought some vinyl from a neighbour's garage sale, on the same day that about four houses in my street had similar garage sales. In 1991, we co-ordinated again to have simultaneous garage sales, and this time I'd picked up some more unusual vinyl. The record shown above was one of them and the idea of surround sound, or quadrophonic sound intrigued me, and still does. This album was a sampler of different artists remixed for quadrophonic, including Alice Cooper and Frank Sinatra.

Considering it only cost $1, I bought it, because I wanted to hear the Frank Zappa track on the album. Zappa's records were extremely hard to come by (as they are now) and I took any chance to listen to his work. But I didn't have a quad system, so anything I heard on this quad vinyl was only ever going to be in stereo. No biggie. Move on.

The Zappa track was underwhelming. When I flipped the record over to side 2, I'd skip track 1 (Bette Midler's "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy") and onto track 2, never having heard Billy Cobham before, I just sat back and listened. What I heard was so amazing, that I couldn't believe my ears. This so other worldly, as though it was beamed in from some other planet.

I found out later that this was jazz, played on rock equipment. Fusion, in other words. To be sure, this isn't to everybody's taste. A lot of people who I've played this to complain that they can't hear any "music", but I think that defeats the purpose. This is about playing in an ensemble with next to no rules. When you hear this on vinyl, you have to check to see if the record is on the right speed. It is impossibly fast. Jan Hammer's keyboard solo in the first minute or so is totally off the chain, while Tommy Bolin's guitar solo starts off tastefully enough, before launching into a totally flurry of notes and other strange guitar effects.

This track made me sit up and take notice of the fact that there was more out there than just rock and pop. There's a whole new way of playing and constructing notes. It changed my life. It started me on the road to finally leaving Motley Crue and their ilk in the past. For good.

Take an open mind with this one. You might not get it straight away, but when you do you'll never hear music the same way again.

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