In the process of clearing out the 10,000 surplus emails in my inbox, I've come across another post that I wrote for someone else (in 2009). As I'm loathe to let good(?) content go to waste, and because I find it interesting (even if no-one else does).... I'm (re-)posting it here. Enjoy. I still have a soft spot for Nik Kershaw.
Memories Can't Wait.... a song that reminds me of a friend (originally written for Ben on Silent Words Speak Loudest, or possibly The Art Of Noise. I can't remember)
I didn't grow up in an especially musical household. Neither of my parents are particularly into music and because it had never formed a large part of their lives, it was only natural that my two brothers and I didn't initially form much of an interest ourselves. I've always found it a little hard to understand how two people, both just five or six years younger than Paul McCartney and presumably slap bang in the prime demographic for the Beatles, could have both have missed out on such a vibrant period of British music, but miss it they did. My mum tells me that she owned a copy of Revolver and my dad had a pile of "Top of the Pops" LPs that he had inherited from his father's pub, but their hearts weren't in it and our house was largely devoid of background music.
My first real musical exposure, then, came instead from regular visits to the house of a friend just down the road. Like me, Will had two siblings, although where I was a middle child, he was the youngest by several years. I don't know if his parents were especially into music, but his dad worked for Rotel, manufacturers of high quality stereo equipment, and their house was naturally filled with top-notch hi-fis. Although we spent a lot of our time together mucking about with computer games, playing with our Star Wars figures and riding our bikes outdoors, we did occasionally mess around with the record player and with his brother and sisters' 12" singles. Although I can remember listening to the likes of Murray Head's "One Night in Bangkok", a bit of Level 42 and "Hole in My Shoe" by Neil from the Young Ones, the artist that always stood out the most for me was Nik Kershaw. Both "Human Racing" and "The Riddle" were released in 1984, and we used to sit entranced by songs such as "I Won't Let the Sun Go Down on Me", "Human Racing", "Wouldn't It Be Good", "Wide Boy" and - especially - "The Riddle". Our listening coincided with our reading of "Masquerade", the book of illustrations for children by Kit Williams that concealed clues to the location of a golden hare hidden somewhere in the UK. The book was first published in 1979, but the hare had only (apparently) been discovered in 1982, so the idea of riddles was fresh in our minds as we tried to work out what on earth Nik Kershaw was trying to tell us when he spoke of trees by rivers, holes in the ground and old men of Arran.
Kershaw has, of course, subsequently revealed that there is no meaning to "The Riddle" at all, but to our ten year old minds it was a puzzle well worth trying to solve. Besides, it was (and remains) a fantastic record, and through it I began to discover a love of music that has stayed with me to this day. I can't say that I listen to Kershaw very much any more, but he has the proud distinction of being the artist who created the first two albums that I ever bought with my own money. Better yet, whenever I think of him, I can't help but think of the letter that I wrote to Jimmy Savile in the summer of 1984 asking if he could fix it for me and for my best friend Will to meet our hero. Saville never wrote back, sadly, and he certainly never fixed it for me. Although his parents still live down the road from my folks, I lost touch with Will a few years ago after we both went to University. Musically we had drifted apart, with him baffled by my love of heavy metal and me a touch confused by his love of Lenny Kravitz. We'll always have Nik Kershaw though, and whenever I hear the chiming opening chords of "The Riddle", I'm reminded of my first best friend.