I‘ve never had a friend with the same taste in music as me. That’s what I was thinking in the bath this evening. I know plenty people who I can share books with, but no-one ever says to me: Can you burn that album for me, can I borrow that, can I listen to that, oh, cool, I’ve also got those at home, I listen to them all the time. It happens that people like what I listen to, but I don’t know anyone who has Ann Nesby, Dwele (who is the only voice that can calm and soothe me completely), Al Jarreau, Lynden David Hall, Lauren Hill, Teddy Pendergrass. It’s always been like that. There was a time when I had a friend in the 80s who loved Al Jarreau. We were both surprised to find each other – we met in a tent during our basic training in the army – and our love for the same singer was an important factor in our long friendship. We haven’t seen each other for years – maybe fifteen – he’s a furniture designer now and from the track on his site, he still has a laid-back taste in music. And then there was a lover who was into Rickie Lee Jones – not something you’d expect in a small bum-fuck town on the southern coast of Israel. But there we were, two gay boys listening to Chuck E’s in Love in his bedroom, smoking dope for the first time, overcome by the munchies and ripping a roast chicken apart with our hands. And, I admit, we also listened to Everything But the Girl. Maybe it wasn’t cool in London, but in Israel it was a needle in a haystack kind of experience.
So, record collections. Never make fun of someone’s record collection. I learnt that from an ex. It’s like laughing at what they look like from the inside. I rely on my record collection more than I rely on my books. I don’t need to read most of my books more than once. I’m not the kind of person who rereads novels; stories – maybe, but not novels. Except one or two. There is a novel that I’ve read a few time. It calms me in the same way that Dwele’s music does. It feels odd talking about this – there’s something so private about the music we love, revealing – and maybe especially so when we don’t know enough people who have the same tastes. The novel is Such Times by Christopher Coe. Coe was one of the members of the Vilet Quill, along with Edmund White and Andrew Hiolleran and others. Such Times is the most lyrical and unflinching (I love that word) work to come out of the plague years. The other novel I go back to is Their Eyes Were Watching God. What am I trying to say here? Something about the works of art that reflect our souls – the voices that we strive to imitate. The clues to the shape of our internal world. The sounds that we can’t do without. I remember a couple of months ago being hit by the realisation that I won’t always be here to love the books on my shelf, that there will come a point when I will no longer be able to listen to the music I love.