There was, of course, other music while all this was going on. It was the late sixties, and rock and roll had blossomed into psychedelia and discovered that there were other instruments besides guitars. I loved the sounds, even if I didn't know what it was all about. "Hole In My Shoe." "Itchycoo Park." "Good Vibrations." I learned to love flanged drums and theremins, even if I didn't know what flangeing was at that point and would have thought "theremin" was Henry Crun pointing something out to his companion. Mind you, the words of pop songs didn't seem to make an awful lot of sense, even when they weren't about babies, and I preferred the folk songs in my mum's Daily Express Community Song Book. They were a lot more sensible. Although..."green grow the rushes, oh"...mmm, well, maybe not.
And there was music on the television. The theme tunes of programmes I loved wound themselves around my heart. Doctor Who, of course. Nobody had ever heard anything like that sound before (hard to imagine our lives without it now, of course). But there was also Robinson Crusoe. I still have no idea what was so perfect about that fairly simple tune, or its arrangement, but somehow it still stands out. Lost In Space. Hardly a tune at all, but it worked. Star Trek...the series I loved, the tune not so much. It sounded like muzak to me, cocktail-loungey I would have said if I'd known what that meant. Maybe it was the bongoes. On the other hand, I never watched Z Cars but I loved the theme tune. Simple, catchy, compelling.
And so it went. I never despised film and telly music as opposed to "pure" classical music; they seemed of a piece to me, especially when I discovered what had happened to classical music after Sibelius. Schoenberg? What's that all about? If we were going to dispense with tunes and chords and harmony, then let's dispense with instruments and all. I got quite interested in electronic music, as it was in those days, and I bought myself an album of pieces by Ilhan Mimaroglu and Tsvi Avni and Walter Carlos (pre-Wendy, pre-Bach) with an op art cover in day-glo blue and red that I can still see on dark nights. It wasn't music as I knew it, but it was strange and spacey and interesting, in an academic sort of way.
Teachers came and went. Mr Garratt was one who came. He was an art teacher with Ideas, and one of his Ideas was an Experimental Music Group. I joined, and tried to contribute, but I think my preference for music that was, well, musical, let me down a little. Most of the others in the group, I imagine (I may be wronging them) just saw it as an opportunity for officially sanctioned messing about. Eventually Mr Garratt went, and went on to co-create something called Biff which I think did rather well, but before that he acquired a harmonium from a condemned chapel and gave it to the first years to paint, and when the resultant monstrosity had ceased to be of interest, he gave it to me.
I've spoken here and there about my father. We didn't agree on a lot of things, but that he loved me is proven beyond doubt by the work he put in on that harmonium. Off came the ghastly paint, and all the muck the first years hadn't bothered cleaning off before they painted. On went several coats of rich brown varnish. The pedals were re-carpeted, the back mended and a new top made for it, and he even made a brass reed for the sub-bass box, a B flat which had a lovely round tone. Made a reed. From scratch. The whole thing must have cost him a fortune, not to mention all the time and effort. How could I ever begin to live up to that?
Well, I loved that harmonium (turned out it was a "Rubenstein" from the Estey Organ Company, Brattleboro, Vermont, vintage 1895), and I used to pedal myself into a fine frenzy as I played "Jerusalem" and "Also Sprach Zarathustra" (the bit everyone knows), opening the swell box with one knee and grabbing at the stops in between notes. It was a wonderful instrument, and it did live with us here for a while, but eventually we needed the space, and Neil Chambers took it off our hands. I hope it's still making sweet music somewhere.
In the meantime, however, I had acquired some traits that weren't so attractive. I have, as I've said elsewhere, always lived more inside my head than is strictly good for a person, and didn't actually learn to do the normal social interaction things at the time when everyone else was. So while everyone else was discovering the opposite sex and sneaking fags from their parents and striding brazenly into pubs, I was at home reading a book and thinking myself very virtuous. My experimental phase would come much later, when it was too late to be anything other than ridiculous.
So I became a prig, a swot, and a snob, especially about music. Pop (which by that time was starting to turn into glam, and then into disco) I scorned. Rock I didn't even know about. I was a purist, an intellectual, one of the élite. The fact that I was that because I didn't know how to be anything else was something I rather tried to ignore. The fact that everyone else was having a lot more fun than I was, likewise.
But there, lying on the chairs in the sixth form building, was an LP cover with a sort of silver bent tube on it, floating in the air over a pile of burning bones, and another which was just mostly green shading to yellow at the bottom, and another with a huge pink face screaming in horror. Change was coming...