Friday, 25 June 2010

Lesley Duncan (slight return)

‘Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be’, so say a host of waggish graffiti artists and they could be right as nostalgia only really works in certain circumstances. Music has long been known to be the conduit by which we can revisit the past and relive past glories (or not). Songs that we remember from specific events can sometimes trigger memories buried for decades but the effect isn’t very consistent.

My theory has always been that in order for this effect to work with any certainty, the song in question must be linked directly to a specific point in time and then forgotten until rediscovered long after the event. This must be so otherwise all my favourite songs, and there are many, would all transport me back to their point of origin – but they don’t. And they don’t because they are not fixed to a specific point in time but many points in time, that is, all the times I’ve played them since. The only real memory joggers tend to be those songs that either I don’t own or don’t play much.

Which is why I’ve been wallowing in a warm pool of nostalgia over Lesley Duncan’s ‘Sing Children Sing’. You will recall that I posted about her a few days after her death in April this year and subsequently dug out my tatty copy of her debut album which, in all honesty, I have not played since about 1973. But that’s the point. Because it has not been a regular on ye olde turntable, it is still firmly fixed to the person I was and the circumstances that applied nearly 40 years ago.

In 1971, my music collection only numbered about 6 LPs so this was a time when I was starting out in the music buying business and every purchase held huge meaning. It reminds me of a time when the somewhat earnest young me still lived at home and spent too much time in my room listening to records and trying to learn the guitar. Playing this album now has a strange effect on me as it tries its best to reconfigure my brain into the way it was during that time with all the thoughts, images and sounds that are associated with it. For some reason it is summer and the sound of my Dad mowing the lawn is infiltrating my window. I can see the sun drenched street from my window and wonder why my own room is so cold.

The album itself is very sparsely arranged with just guitar or piano on most tracks and a basic band on others in a way that music is not recorded today. Its simple nature harks back to simpler times but has a sort of honest truth about it that today’s sophisticated recording techniques don’t really convey. It is both a little sad and very uplifting at the same time and to me that is what nostalgia is all about.


Kit Courteney said...

What a lovely post.

I heard a Dire Straits' track the other day that I hadn't listened to for years... and I was suddenly 16 again, in my bedroom and going to sleep with Brothers in Arms playing quitely.

I love a bit of nostalgia!

musicobsessive said...

Thank you Kit! There's a joke about Dire Straits and drifting off to sleep in there somewhere, but I'll pass on that.

I haven't wallowed in such nostalgia for sometime so it takes something special to do it and this album is it. Poor Lesley.

Happy nostalgia-ing!