In Need of Counselling

By Spencer, Charles | The Spectator, February 22, 2003 | Go to article overview

In Need of Counselling


Spencer, Charles, The Spectator


Olden but golden

It's all right, don't panic, this isn't going to be a piece about the symphonies of Mahler. Last month I admitted that `Olden but golden' was a column in crisis, and that though my brief is to write about the popular music of the past half century or so, I was becoming increasingly hooked on classics.

The reaction from readers, friends and family was mixed. A couple of my hairier acquaintances regarded me with grave sorrow, the word 'Judas' hanging unspoken in the air between us. My wife, in contrast, who loathes pop music, favoured me with a rare smile and even pretended not to notice my reckless admission in print that I'd bought a hundred classical CDs in the past two months. She evidently believed, wrongly, that I was growing up at last.

But the cheeriest words came from John Morrison, a regular reader of `Olden but golden', and a devout Bob Dylan fan, who sent me an email, subject: Tidings of Comfort and Joy.

'You sound like a man in need of counselling,' wrote John. `Back in 1964 the proprietor of my local record shop confided in me about a friend who had begun to buy records by people like Stan Getz. "Once they start to do that," warned the shopkeeper, "it's not long before they start listening to classical music."'

I like the idea of the chap who takes a few experimental tokes of allegedly harmless Getz only to find himself caught in a vicious spiral of addiction that pretty soon finds him mainlining Mozart. But, as John asks, what's to be done with those, like me, in musical turmoil?

'About the same time that my buddy discovered Stan Getz, I found out about Bach through the agency of Jacques Loussier,' confides the excellent Morrison, 'and I've managed to maintain an interest in both popular and classical music ever since.'

I found this enormously heartening. When it comes to pop and the classics, why should it be a case of either/or rather than both/and? For those with open ears, and open hearts, such zealous fundamentalism is surely malign nonsense.

Anyway, over the past month I've been listening to both pop and classical with great pleasure. In a 'kill-or-cure' operation, I decided to expose myself to perhaps the most despised of all musical genres, prog-- rock. …

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