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Music

My teenage years went spent listening to pop music on Melbourne radio stations (especially Stan Rofe’s shows on 3KZ, 3UZ and 3XY),  buying 45 rpm records when I had the cash, and collecting information about pop charts. Each week from 1961 to 1970 I would put together all the Australian pop charts I could track down and produce my own weekly Top 40. Only much later did I find that other people had been doing the same during the 1960s, and some of them (such as Sydney’s Glenn A. Baker) had made a living from their collections of old hit parades.

I discovered pop music during that period between the rock and roll boom of the 1950s and the British pop phenomenon of 1963 and 1964. In the early 1960s, the pop charts included a wide range of material, including comedy novelty hits, occasional jazz singles, folk music, instrumentals, ballads and even some rock and roll (mainly from Australian performers). My favourite performers included Roy Orbison, because of the range of his voice and the melancholy nature of his song lyrics, and the British guitar instrumental group the Shadows. My favourite year was 1962, when as many as 70 new singles per week were released in Australia.

I rediscovered classical music through a series of accidents. My father had been a listener to classical music since the age of fourteen, but I could find nothing of interest there when I was a child — mainly, I suspect, because I could not detect the rhythm in most classical pieces. In 1961 our music teacher at school used the example of Dave Brubeck’s hit jazz single ‘Take Five’ to show how interesting and various rhythms could be. Meanwhile, my friend Rick had introduced me to real blues records. Again, the emphasis was on interesting rhythms and polyphonic  arrangements. I discovered polyphony in baroque music, played mainly by Ralph Collins on his Sunday morning ABC program. Collins introduced me to Vivaldi and Bach. Finally, in 1967 my new friends in science fiction fandom, Lee Harding and John Bangsund, introduced me to a wide range of nineteenth- and twentieth-century orchestral music — and showed me how the rhythms worked behind and against the music, not in front of it, as in pop music.

These days my favourite composers are Beethoven, Mozart, Shostakovich, and Bach, as you would expect, and some others not currently in fashion, such as Brahms and Berlioz. My interests in popular music have shifted to the fields where rock and roll travelled when it was thrown out of commercial pop music: alternative country music (now called ‘Americana’), some folk music, and some jazz.

During the 1960s I had been able to buy a small number of singles, and parents and relatives had given me albums. As soon as I had an income, in 1965, I began expanding my collection greatly. The CD is my favourite invention of the twentieth century — finally I could listen to music without scratches and pops (as on LPs) and in very high fidelity.