Parker Burwell Toop credit Jak Kilby


Music and Literature: Always Great Supports in Adverse Times

I’ve lost count now of the number of UK and American commentators/comedians/politicians giving addresses from their homes, often with a backdrop of their large libraries and record collections. One of the ones I most enjoy is Seth Meyers, who is featured in his loft, with only copies of ‘The Thorn Birds’ as a prop. No doubt these large collections of LPs and hardback books are there to provide evidence of their owner’s cultural heft, and, in music vlogs, the sheer ‘heaviosity’ of their taste and purchasing nous, but the main thing that comes through is what nice houses these clearly affluent people live in. In politician’s cases, it also demonstrates how the comfortably-off are the ones making the decisions about how the much less comfortably-off are living their lives. It’s much easier to self-isolate in a six-bed-roomed house with a massive garden than it is in a bedsit. Politicians seem, as ever, not to appreciate this irony. Boris Johnson awarding himself a month-long convalescence in Chequers is a case in point. Nice ‘work’ if you can get it.

I spend much of my time in our front room, surrounded by my own collection of books and vinyl/compact discs/cassettes, so I am hardly one to point the self-righteous finger At one low point in my life, circa 1982/3, books and records were an absolute godsend - I managed to read all of A la Recherche Du Temps Perdu (incredibly good, and most relevant to my sufferings at the time) and make serious inroads into the establishment of a serious jazz collection. These current times are less grim times for me personally, and I am lucky enough to live in a house, with my wife and youngest daughter (24 years young). Every morning I wake up and commit myself to another day of not moaning, as I am far luckier than so many other people in London and across the country. 

I enjoyed Derek Walmsley’s ‘Masthead’ article, in this month’s Wire (May): “It’s why so many form relationships with music that last a lifetime, resembling a partner, a lover. Music is always there, there is always inherent power in submitting to its vibrations”. This is so true. So I’m looking around my ‘domain’- several hundred LPs (in alphabetical order, of course!) in made-to-measure shelving units, racks of CDs (many hidden away in cupboards due their ‘awkward squad’ status, in terms of both storage and display idiosyncrasies. Then you’ve got the 45s, ranged across one shelf in the main bookcase (another ’in search of lost times? symptom?), and my still considerable cassette collection, which is also hidden away (as are my wife’s collection of 45s. for some reason) as if it were some shameful family secret (I still know its there, though!). These are like extended family members, as Walmsley suggests, a comfort and a succour in these strange times, and I feel ‘contained’ in their presence. Or perhaps I’ve gone quietly mad, and will start talking to the collections soon, as Prince Charles allegedly does with the trees at Highgrove House?

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Banner and book cover photo credit: Jak Kilby