A-Z of Dead Man Singing: M

A-Z of Dead Man Singing: M

39 days ago

M is for Music. Nailing Dave’s sound was important for me: think of a British take on American rock, leaning more to country rock than blues and to melody more than bombast. The best triangulation I managed to find was the Faces or early-70s Who crossed with the Band. Dave is strong on rootsy authenticity and has an inherent mistrust of orchestration and other musical self-indulgences.

Inevitably, Dave’s taste in music has a huge overlap with mine, but they are by no means identical. As a rule of thumb, there’s nothing that Dave likes that I don’t, but there is a lot of music I like which leaves Dave cold. He’s not a fan of Glam Rock, meaning that the likes of Roxy Music and David Bowie don’t loom large in his musical landscape. Dave has a knee-jerk reaction against Punk, which taints his view of much that came after it. I like to think that when his life continues after the events of Dead Man Singing, some artists that he has previously disregarded – Elvis Costello for one, Paul Weller for another – might find him more receptive. Dave was never a Prog Rock fan either, whereas my teenage years were generously soundtracked by the likes of Genesis, Yes, Camel and the Alan Parsons Project. He does have a Wishbone Ash album in his selection of 100 albums which, along with Procol Harum, is as close to Prog as he gets. There’s a dismissive remark about the Electric Light Orchestra in the book too, which is definitely more Dave than me.

As I was curating Dave’s record collection it dawned on me that he is eighteen years older than me (he is 40 at the time of Dead Man Singing; I was 22), meaning that I was ignorant of a lot of the music that would have excited him as a teenager. Although my listening tastes have always been retro – much of Dave’s 70s taste was already in heavy circulation on my own playlist – I knew I had to dig deeper to find Dave’s musical soul. That digging led me to discover a number of bands that I had never seriously checked out: the Byrds and their various spin-offs (Dillard and Clark were a revelation), Buffalo Springfield, and Moby Grape are examples of these: very few of them were unknown to me, but like footballers from previous generations: I knew the names and reputations, but had no direct experience of their playing. Now that I’ve put that right, I think of them as Dave’s gift to me.

What music from ‘before your time’ resonates the most strongly for you?

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