I am about six years old, and I am being ‘babysat’ by the mother of two of my school friends. I am sitting in their front room, on one of those sofas that is so soft it’s almost suffocating as you get sucked in to the cushions. Like if you were in one of those big bin-men-machines.
It is the dawn of the millennium and on the television there is a strange sound. There is a hideous fluorescent truck parading down a street, carrying seven strange, happy, dreadfully orange creatures. And while the six year old me (probably stuck in one of Freud’s ‘genital stages’) was probably a bit curious to see the one who had unbuttoned his shirt, I asked my friends who they were. ‘That’s S Club 7’, they said. It was the video for Reach, and that’s the first time I ever said ‘I like this song.’
It seems that Saint Paul had shown me the Road to Damascus. And the saints Rachel, Hannah, Jo, Bradley, Jon and Tina. And thus began my journey into music. I knew my brother was really into 5ive, and I didn’t particularly like them. My dad played me Crowded House, David Bowie, The Bangles, The Dixie Chicks and Crosby, Stills & Nash in the car (and, perhaps most importantly, Neil Young.)
I can still recite every line of Weather With You (Crowded House) and Eternal Flame (The Bangles.)
I knew I loved pop, even though my brother made fun because S Club 7 ‘are so manufactured’ (a word he had, no doubt, heard recently and wildly overused) and 5ive apparently had some credibility to their name (HA HA HA.) Apparently they were ‘for girls’, and ‘they didn’t write their own songs’. But I knew I liked them. And I know now that I had discovered great pop.
Pop music is something I study, and people find it a bit confusing when I say how much I love Aimee Mann, Alanis Morisette and Joan Jett, but that I also own the entire discography of S Club 7. There is no one good genre – there is just good music. And although I find some artists more honest when they write their own music, to criticise those who don’t is a bit like criticising painters who don’t make their own paint. They still find a way to make the material beautiful, and they shape it.
From then on, I knew when I heard a good song. They didn’t have to be credible artists, really. I loved a one-hit wonder, too – if it was good pop. Like Chewing Gum by Annie. When I got to my pre-teenage years, I started to really choose music for myself. Not songs that I knew were good – but songs I knew were beautiful, and were touching. Songs that really shaped who I was.
I bought Katie Melua’s Piece by Piece, Sara Bareilles’s Little Voice and Nerina Pallot’s Fires. Albums which I still love today. I would put on those records, lie on my bed and drift off for fifty-ish minutes while the whole thing played through. My dad once came in and told me to stop playing Nine Million Bicycles on repeat. I’d played it fucking loads. I couldn’t help it. I dove into those songs. It’s like I was a part of them.
Especially as life got harder, as it often does, I relied on music. I associated myself with the lyrics. Once an artist writes a song, it no longer just applies to their own experience. It can be assumed and applied to all of us individually – and that’s why there are so many different tastes in music.
There’s the aural aesthetic, of course, but there’s also the content of the lyrics themselves. Nerina Pallot, in particular, sang about suicide and feeling completely hopeless. And that was weird – but I liked it. I liked knowing that someone felt as completely hopeless as I did then (however redundant it seemed because of her success at the time.) She and a few other artists were the reason why I became a musician myself.
Starting with clarinet, I moved on to teaching myself the piano, then the guitar, and now the ukulele. I write music all the time. I rarely show anyone – if ever. One day I’ll do it, maybe. But for now it feels good to know I have everything I think and feel all written down somewhere. While some people turn to drugs, perhaps, or food, or tequila and fags, I turn to writing music.
I try to pick out pieces of feeling and manifest them into something palpable. Then I can shut them away, or bring them out again when I want to. Music is my best friend, I suppose. I owe it so many things, and I sure as hell wouldn’t be here without it.
Sometimes I cry hearing these old songs again. We’ve all had days where we put on a piece of music that means something to us, sit on our bed and cry into strange sad ecstasy. Catharsis, I suppose. A peak of emotion where our feelings match some sort of strange cosmic signal emitted by a particular song.
I have a few that I’ve played during moments of intense feeling during my life. Sadness, death, love. They let me know, time and time again, that it is ok to feel those sorts of things and react to them the way I do. That it is ok to be human and feel totally hopeless.
Most of all, music lets me know who I am, and I can never ask for anything more.
‘Tall, sexy, muscular and divinely handsome’ are just some of the words not associated with Tim Doble. Some words that are associated with him are ‘University of London student’, ‘strident vegetarian on the verge of being annoying’, ‘too thinky for his own good’, ‘Bridget Jones évocateur’, and ‘quite nice, sometimes’.
To hear more from Tim you can follow him on Twitter here: @BetterThanToday.
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