Monday, November 27, 2006

Songs To Learn And Sing #27

Don't think any less of today's contributor of the song that should stand taller because he's not in a band, OK? It's James from Yer Mam!:

Talking Heads - This Must Be The Place (Naïve Melody)

Huddersfield just wasn't for me. I lived there for the nine whole months that made up my first year of university and not once did I warm to the place. Don't get me wrong, the people were perfectly nice and I lived in an area that was in no way hostile, despite the all-night dub parties populated by shady Yardie-looking types that used to happen pretty much every night at the end of my street. Rats loved the house where I lived (mostly down to the questionable hygiene of some of my housemates, I hasten to add), but we never had any trouble.

I just plain didn't take to the place, probably due to the fact that, up until this point, all I had known was Manchester. The year later, I took to commuting and did so for the rest of my time there. Train journeys, no matter how short, can often take on a surreal, vaguely magical feel. For instance, there's this really long tunnel between Huddersfield and Manchester (somewhere around Greenfield, if I remember correctly) that can be kind of disorientating, especially if the lighting on the train isn't up to scratch. Your eyes get accustomed to the strange, dim half-light and then, all of a sudden, on leaving the tunnel, it's natural daylight again. On those clear, bright winter days, when the sun seems to be about five times brighter than it ever is during the summer, this sudden re-entry into daylight can leave you blinking and rubbing your eyes, seeing spots and feeling woozy. On one of these winter days, just before the train entered the tunnel, I had been admiring the millions of crystals of frost strewn about the lush, green fields of, er, Greenfield. Again, clear blue sky, bright yellow sun, not a cloud to be seen. On leaving the tunnel, imagine my surprise to see a thick layer of pure, white snow, covering the Yorkshire countryside. That's how long this tunnel was.

Anyway, during that first year, my frequent journeys home took on an extra resonance. As I said, I really didn't like the place (a side note: Huddersfield did grow on me over the rest of my time, probably coinciding with the lessening amount of time I actually had to spend there), so when I was heading back to Manchester after a week of bad student nights, bad food and bad vibes (another side note: about 90% of the people on my course didn't like me in the slightest. The only reasons I can think of now as to why they didn't like me are because I wasn't afraid to air my own opinions, opinions that tended to buck the Fresher hive-mind trend, and I was invariably hungover during lectures), the sense of relief and comfort was often overwhelming.

Just as the train departed from Stalybridge (the only stop on the journey), a lyric would pop into my head: "Home is where I want to be/Pick me up and turn me 'round." It was a Pavlovian response, triggered by knowing that I was nearly back in the city I love. I was nearly back in the company of people who tolerated and went along with my contrary, outspoken nature. I was nearly back home. Often I'd only been away from Manchester for five days, but it felt like forever. When the lights of the city came into view, another lyric would pop into my head: "Home is where I want to be/But I guess I'm already there."

Now jump back nine years. My sister is driving back from Bradford, where she went to university. She enjoyed living in Bradford much more than I enjoyed living in Huddersfield, but she still preferred the hustle, bustle and familiarity of good old Manchester. When she saw the 5m sign for Manchester, a lyric would pop into her head: "Home is where I want to be/Pick me up and turn me 'round." She had the same response, nine years earlier. The place we were leaving was different, as was the mode of transport, but the reaction was the same. I learnt this a couple of years ago when talking with my sister about the song in question. In part, I have my sister to thank for introducing me to Talking Heads.

My family, while seemingly pretty generic on the surface, with two boys and two girls, is a little different. There's nothing strange about the three oldest siblings; Janette, the oldest, was born in 1968, my brother, Paul, in 1970 and my sister, Nicola (who later went to Bradford University), a year later, in 1971. Then there's a nine year gap, before I came along in 1980. This fact alone made my childhood an interesting one. At times I felt like an only child, with these three older kids who all had their own things going on, occasionally intruding on my own little world either to impart wisdom, ply me with alcohol or punch me in the arm.

Another, more welcome intrusion was that they'd open my eyes and ears to music that continues to shape my tastes to this day. While other kids were left to find their own way in the often forbidding musical landscape, often choosing to latch on to the safest, most radio-friendly option (Kylie Minogue, Michael Jackson, Jive fucking Bunny), I had a benevolent guiding hand in the shape of my brother and sisters. From the age of about seven, I was exposed to the likes of New Order, Echo & The Bunnymen, The The, Love, Big Audio Dynamite, The Clash and, later, Pixies (fun fact: the first concert I went to was Pixies on the Bossanova tour in 1990, aged 10).

The band that figured most heavily in these wondrous formative years was Talking Heads. I had no idea then that this band were one of the most vital and influential bands of their era, to me it was just music. I had no reference points or even any understanding of why I liked them, I just did. It was the music that I became used to.

I guess this is why This Must Be The Place (Naïve Melody) is so comforting for me (I suspect my sister attaches different feelings to it). It reminds me of a time when my understanding of how music was formed and how it made me feel, was so unrefined and raw, naïve even. When you're a child and being taught how to play football, you aren't thinking about the politics involved in the game or even the actual rules, you just want to run around, kicking a ball. Hearing this song at a young age, you're going to have a purer reaction to it than you would if you were to hear it at the age of 26, when your tastes are more finely honed. Try as you might to react to a song on a purely primal level, once you get past a certain age, there will always be an element of academia involved in your liking of a certain song.

This Must Be The Place doesn't just make me think of home, it is home. Hearing that childlike, see-sawing melody, with both guitar and bass playing the same role, takes me back to the time that I was discovering music, evoking images of strange album covers (at least strange to me, back then), like Forever Changes, Power, Corruption And Lies, Infected and indeed Speaking In Tongues. It also evokes memories of my siblings when they were young and, sometimes, stupid. I occasionally feel sad that I don't have more memories of this time, because of the nine years between the next youngest and I, but having a song that you can refer to at any time to bring this stuff flooding back is all I need. I'll tell you something else for nothing too, it never, ever reminds me of Huddersfield.

3 comments:

Abbie said...

This Must be the Place (Naive Melody) is my favorite song in the whole wide world. As much as I listen to it, I never get sick of it. The beats and the opening rhythm are transcendental to me. Not to mention the lyrics, when I really listen to them closely most of the time bring a tear to my eye.

I think it is more of a love song. Home is the person who you love and therefore your home is where your heart is. My favorite line is did I find you are or you find me. Also, if someone asks, tell them this is where I'll be. It’s as if he has always been there waiting for her.

I'm surprised that not many people are familiar with this song. And to me, it's life changing. They obviously don't know what they're missing.

Fun Fact: Naive Melody is featured in the best movie of all time Wall Street with Micheal Douglas and Charlie Sheen. The song is played when Charlie moves into his fabulous new apartment and is at the top of the world. Daryl Hannah helps him move in and not to mention he is totally head over heals for her.

Good Luck

Abbie

Abbie said...

This Must be the Place (Naive Melody) is my favorite song in the whole wide world. As much as I listen to it, I never get sick of it. The beats and the opening rhythm are transcendental to me. Not to mention the lyrics, when I really listen to them closely most of the time bring a tear to my eye.

I think it is more of a love song. Home is the person who you love and therefore your home is where your heart is. My favorite line is did I find you are or you find me. Also, if someone asks, tell them this is where I'll be. It’s as if he has always been there waiting for her.

I'm surprised that not many people are familiar with this song. And to me, it's life changing. They obviously don't know what they're missing.

Fun Fact: Naive Melody is featured in the best movie of all time Wall Street with Micheal Douglas and Charlie Sheen. The song is played when Charlie moves into his fabulous new apartment and is at the top of the world. Daryl Hannah helps him move in and not to mention he is totally head over heals for her.

Good Luck

Abbie

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