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Friday, 13 December 2013

My Musical Memories

I got to thinking, as I was not sleeping in the early hours of the morning, what a huge impact musicals, their songs and their stars, have had on my life. A lot my memories are tangled up with particular songs, albums are connected with specific moments in time, some good, some bad. I felt like sharing. This is practically chronological, though there are some jumps.

I remember seeing the stage show of Singin' in the Rain not long after I started secondary school, sitting in the third row and getting wet at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. It took a long time for me to 'condescend' to see the film. What a mistake that was.

I remember buying the Summer Holiday cast album on CD, bringing it home and my mum demonstrating how to dance along to 'Foot Tapper', one of my final positive memories of her.

I remember the triumvirate of albums that sustained me for what felt like an age but was a mere few months - film cast recordings of The Sound of Music and Grease and the Michael Ball production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I loved the song 'Teamwork' in the latter and miss it since my CD broke and I haven't been able to replace it. 

I remember nearly breaking my ankle jumping over a sofa at a friend's house while listening to The Sound of Music. The friends were in another room, away from my racket. I realised in that moment I didn't belong anywhere near them.

I remember ordering The Harvey Girls on VHS having once seen it on television. It arrived at my Grandma White's house and I told her she could watch it. Jealous, and having had a row with yet another friend I shouldn't have been friends with, I was walking around Wrenthorpe and I called her. She told me she was up to 'It's a Great Big World' and the idea of being with 'friends' when I could be watching that beautiful scene instead made me indescribably sad.

I remember skipping college to watch Pal Joey. And On the Town. Maybe that's something to blame Frank Sinatra for.

I remember buying a book on MGM musicals and taking it to college so I didn't have to talk to anyone all day.

I remember doing an A-Level language project on musical songs in the 1940s and 60s. It stank.

I remember terrorising the neighbours with the Thoroughly Modern Millie Broadway cast recording with Sutton Foster. While dancing along to 'Forget About the Boy' I jumped on a chair and it fell over, sending us both crashing to the floor. Lesson not exactly learned.

I remember persuading my Grandma Brown to buy me three films for £20 in HMV - Singin' in the Rain, Little Shop of Horrors and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. She thought I selected the last one just to make up the three so I took my laptop round to her house and made her watch it - she soon changed her mind. Then there was me dancing the 'Barn Dance' along the corridor in that bungalow, scaring the life out of both my grandparents.

I remember countless Sundays  in my Grandma Brown's kitchen, listening to Elaine Paige on Sunday and writing fan fiction in thick spiral bound notebooks.

I remember taking walks down the backs near my Grandma White's house with a musical compilation recorded onto my Walkman. I danced along stones wedged into the shallows of a lake singing 'All That Jazz', Claire Sweeney's version.

I remember that after getting the Wicked soundtrack I went up a hill near my Grandma White's house and sang along to 'Defying Gravity' at the top of my voice while jumping between a rock and a bench.

I remember the thrill of listening to 'Processional and Maria' from The Sound of Music and how that piece of music still has the power to make me smile and conduct along.

I remember walking to my Grandma Brown's and making sure I was listening to the London cast recording of Mary Poppins and the song 'Jolly Holiday' for a particular stretch along Aberford Road. There was singing, lots of singing.

I remember getting through my first year at uni by taking long walks past midnight with my MP3 player. Particularly, there was a set of steps that headed up to the main road. I danced up and down those, frequently to 'Avenue A' from Mrs Santa Claus, waving at passing cars.

I remember the first time I ever watched A Muppet's Christmas Carol with my flatmate and pausing halfway through to take a call that made me smile more than I had since I got to university.

I remember sitting outside McDonald's near uni listening to 'When the Children Are Asleep' from Carousel and thinking how pleasant that scenario sounded.

I remember the first time I watched Call Me Madam. I was at my Grandma Brown's, my grandfather was in hospital and my great aunt called halfway through the film. I was upset that the phone call stopped my grandmother watching Donald O'Connor dance in 'What Chance Have I With Love?', one of his best performances.

I remember meeting someone and being gutted that The Sound of Music had recently toppled from the head of her favourites list. If only I'd spoken to her a month earlier.

I remember listening to 'It Really Doesn't Matter' on YouTube, learning all the words to distract me from the fact I was living in a fifteen person house I despised.

I remember annoying the neighbours when I lived in Middlesbrough by singing along extremely loudly to 'Do You Hear the People Sing?' three or four times a night.

I remember working to rule in Bradford, sitting in my dad's car until just before clocking-in time singing 'Once We Were Kings' from Billy Elliot loudly enough to irritate anybody in the car park.

I remember after a particularly bad supervisor meeting listening to 'A Star is Born' from Hercules and managing to make myself smile before I left Sheffield.

I remember seeing Liza Minnelli sing 'Maybe This Time' live and thinking that nothing could possibly beat that for me.

I remember seeing Idina Menzel singing 'No Day But Today' and the audience around the Royal Albert Hall joining in to create an electric atmosphere.

I remember sitting in the third row watching Merrily We Roll Along and never wanting it to end. I got a similar sensation when I watched the cinema showing, though I bawled my eyes out at a different song.

There are more, many more. A lot of songs associated with bad moments too but those I'll keep to myself. The point is, while most people say they 'like' music, I really couldn't live without it. These songs are what keep me going and not a day goes by (thanks, Mr Sondheim) where my earphones don't help me blot out the real world, just a bit.

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