No - you read it right - vision's okay!
It's true. The ultimate Spandex clad pop band, the Anti-Christ of traditional music, was largely responsible for introducing me to English Folk. I have to admit that up until then Folk had always conjured up in my mind a bygone age, hand-rolled cigarettes, thick woolly sweaters, hats festooned with gaily
(traditional useage) coloured ribbons, women in long skirts and men in shabby, ragged-arsed jeans.
I believe I've mentioned elsewhere in the pages of this blog that it can be a dangerous thing in my house to express approval for any product or gift item capable of being gift-wrapped, placed beneath a spruce-like tree or can slip nicely into a Christmas stocking. One unqualified yummy sound might produce a ripple effect in my house that could see me eating beans on toast every Saturday lunchtime for a decade (causing a potential ripple effect you'll appreciate in far more ways than one!).
I recall the moment quite clearly. We were driving along (don't actually remember where) when one of Abba's songs came on the radio. I don't recall which one, and I know better than to list the titles of the ones it might have been, or I'll only end up humming along to it for the next seventeen days!
Anyway, this song was on the radio - and perhaps because I was driving and it was a lovely sunny afternoon, I remarked quite casually, "Funny how time works ... it's actually quite enjoyable listening to this ..."
My guard was down, or else I should have immediately retracted the statement and added a disclaimer like, "However, this opinion is totally off the top of my head, and although I've enjoyed listening to this single Abba track, it adequately fulfills my Abba quota for the next decade."
I really should've known better. From that moment on my festive fate was sealed!
There's no real disguising the shape of a CD case and as I drew my pressies together into a pile on Christmas morning I wondered what it might be? The new Norah Jones album, Tracey Chapman, Van Morrison perhaps? Or even an old favourite like James Brown, Ray Charles or Otis?
I admit when I peeled off the packaging I was momentarily lost for words. Abba Gold had not until that moment owned any part of my conciousness. Was I having my leg pulled? I looked
for signs of twinkling around the eye area.
Huh? ... Huh? ... and Huh again!
I quickly covered my tracks, "Abba Gold! That's brilliant!" I lied.
An hour later, unable to remove the cellophane wrapper, fully aware that if I actually lobbed the thing into a CD player I would be doomed to those pop anthems rattling around in my head until the Spring, I 'fessed up. I'd chosen my moment; it was after Christmas lunch, which I'd cooked
(always a good time to approach my wife after a nice meal!)
"That's okay," she said, "I was quite surprised when you said you fancied some Abba!"
I was down the HMV shop as soon as they opened after the holiday. I'd recently caught the last ten minutes of Peggy Seeger's Desert Island Discs on Radio 4 and had been much taken with The Joy of Living sung and written by her late husband Ewan McColl. I came across an album of his called Black and White. It was a complilation album, a kind of "Best of ...". I loved
it and so did Jude as well as our son. Around that time one of Jude's brothers, Jeremy, was discovered to be terminally ill. We visited him regularly throughout his illness and he and his
partner Sandra, who were both quite knowledgeable about folk music, introduced us to singers and bands previously little known or totally unheard of. I recall they had just discovered Karine Polwart and one of her songs in particular became very important to them both throughout that difficult time. We got to know something of Tim Hart and Maddy Prior, Martin Carthy, Dave Swarbrick, Bert Jansch, Annie Briggs, Jake Thackray, John Spiers and Jon Boden, Richard Thompson, Kate Rusby, the Waterson family and dozens more whose names are equally worth a mention.
So you see, gentle reader, out of that scorned copy of Abba Gold I discovered a whole new world of pleasure - it literally opened up my ears. Who knows, perhaps one day I may even open up my mind to Abba.
(Coming soon to this blog page - fun competition - to win 5 print copies of Niedermayer & Hart)