In the beginning, you simply can’t get enough. At every opportunity, in every spare second, you’re sneaking a crafty moment alone together, unable to believe that anyone else could ever have experienced the electrifying magic that courses through you. Overawed by the touching, rhythmic, moving-in-time-together perfection that could never have been felt by anyone before now, you yearn for the next moment you will entwine. It is a passion indescribable, and for the lucky ones, lasts years. For some, it never goes away; the desire remains unsatiated until death do they part, in total disregard of the “old people don’t want it, need it, or get it” taboo. For others, like me, there’s an all too sad, recognisable sequence of events which, despite all the promises you made and the genuine belief that you WOULD NOT BE LIKE ALL THE OTHERS, leads you to look elsewhere. You lost your way, one or both of you seemed to change – it wasn’t really anybody’s fault – you just, sort of, well, slipped…
Desperation to impress, to be impressed, to remain faithful, to sustain arousal. Yes. Our relationship with music is, like our relationship with love and lust, a complex one.
Skinny white boys with guitars. That was my thing. As far back as I can remember. Dad was a huge Blondie fan, Mum a huge Beatles fan, and everything I fell in love with from then onwards was imbued with their existence in some way: The Primitives, Transvision Vamp, Voice of the Beehive, Echobelly…get the drift? I was utterly faithful to my genre. Loyalty personified. Like the wife of a Tory MP standing next to her “spent a few too many hours walking the dog on the heath” husband, my head was not for turning. Until I began having serious, long-term relationships, I refused to compromise. No dancing at weddings unless they played The Stone Roses or The Charlatans. Yes, I was a twat.
Of course, once you embark upon relationships, you quickly realise that negotiation and compromise are key. Like choices in sexual practices, a partner may have musical “kinks” you are willing to tolerate. Enjoy? Hmmm, possibly, but largely because you are winning approval from the one whose approval you so tragically seek. Listening to Mumford and Sons, just as an example, is perhaps the musical equivalent of fisting – you could put up with it, briefly, now and again, but you wouldn’t want two hours of it every night for the rest of your life.
Once I began having significant others in my life, these concessions to others’ quirks began to sneak their way in. I’d listen to The Prodigy and appreciate them on their “technical merit”, but I didn’t love them. (Firestarter was my wedding song – the signs were there.) I’ve run the gamut from Buble (musical equivalent of auto-erotic asphyxiation) to Snoop Dogg (BDSM), all in the name of making an other half happy. I’ve endured and listened to whole albums on repeat which simply don’t stimulate me, just to see the look of joy on their face that I’m enjoying the same thing they do…sometimes, you do just gotta fake it, y’know?
Refusal to open your mind, to engage with experiences outside of your comfort zone (musical, sexual, spiritual, or anything that stirs) would make for a dull, narrow-minded, sheltered existence. (Think of all the fun I missed as a grumpy youngster, refusing to dance to Build Me Up Buttercup at those weddings.) But at the same time, no one should ever seek validation at the expense of their own needs. I’m no psychologist, but “Please love me – I’ll listen to anything you want me to if you’ll love me. No, really, what I like doesn’t matter” is probably not healthy. I could quite happily never have spent those hours listening to Slipknot. Twenty terrifying seconds was more than ample for me to form my judgement. I don’t feel they have enhanced my life in any way, and part of me is still stunned that a) anyone who’s known me for more than five minutes could ever think I’d appreciate them; b) I allowed it to happen, and c) I didn’t force them to listen to my beloved Miranda Lambert albums as penance. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not disrespecting Slipknot, I can appreciate that they are brilliantly disturbing and that their lyrics evoke pain, fear, and passion. They’re just not right for me. I’ve always been wary of the “don’t knock it until you’ve tried it” philosophy. There are certain things I don’t need to try to know I won’t like them…and for me, the musical equivalent of sex with a Doberman should have been one of them.
Thing is, the danger with the “I don’t need to try it to know I won’t like it” way of thinking is that it is so easy to slip back into the rut that you’ve been repeatedly trying to escape. (Remember that sequence of events?) Which brings us back to compromise, I guess. Dip your toes into other waters , because how much harm can a tiny taste of dubstep actually do? Falling for trip-hop or peeking at shoegaze won’t kill you; some of my best friends are Black Sabbath fans, and country is for everyone, y’all!
Experimentation is the only way of being sure that you are being fulfilled by your choices. Nevertheless, I have always gone back to my first love – well, musically at least. I threw myself into Britpop with fervour and will still now run through walls if I hear the twanging of an open chord.
Locking ourselves away with a significant other is something we should never stop doing: finding the right one, embracing the evocations, and playing over and over again until you’re left raw with exhaustion is what makes life worth living. Am I talking about sex or music now? Either way, we should be taking every opportunity, every spare second, to sneak a crafty moment alone together; it’s a relationship worth the complexity.
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