Friday, 21 February 2014

Influences #2: Uncle Bill

Uncle Bill was 83 when he passed away at the very end of 2005.  He had been ill for some time.  Like me, Bill was a music lover and I've long considered him to be an influence on me.

When I was between the ages of 10 and 14, I would go and stay with Aunt Dot[1] and Uncle Bill in Plymouth for a week each summer. I always remember Bill had a chair in the corner of the front room right next to his hi-fi and extensive collection of vinyl LPs. I would regularly go through the records and select some for him to play. He'd play me some of his favourite songs and we would often talk about them.

When I went shopping with Aunt Dot during the week, I would always buy records and Uncle Bill and I would often sit down together and play some of them.  Our tastes may have been radically different (he preferred easy listening stuff, particularly if played on an organ or accordion, while my preference was pop), but we respected each other's interest in the medium and learnt from each other.  I do remember he had quite a large number of those old Top Of The Pops albums that were really popular in the 70s. You know the ones – they always had a sexy hipster girl on the cover and consisted of recent hits performed by a studio house band and session musicians as opposed to the original artists. I've never been sure why he had so many of the records in this series.  I'm sure, knowing Uncle Bill, it really wasn't anything to do with the lovely young ladies on the sleeves, but you never know - I sometimes like to think it was.

When I attended his funeral, I recalled fondly much of the time I spent in Plymouth with Aunt Dot and Uncle Bill.  The wake was at his and Aunt Dot's house which was pretty much exactly as I remember it being 20 years before.  Entering the front room, the first thing I did was check out Bill's corner. The hi-fi was newer and the vinyl seemed to have been replaced by CDs, but it was still unmistakably Uncle Bill's domain.

The times I spent with Uncle Bill showed me that ultimately ages, periods and genres don’t matter.  Put two music fans together, whatever their tastes, and they’ll enjoy each others company for hours at a time, for years on end. The song that reminds me most of Uncle Bill is 'Hey Jude'.  We played the Beatles 1967-1970 compilation (aka, the Blue Album) that I had bought.  Uncle Bill commented particularly on 'Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da' and 'Hey Jude', two of his favourites.  It's the latter I took to most and so it remains.

There is no doubt in my mind that, as well as my mum and dad and my cousin John, Uncle Bill played a major part in my music obsession. He fed and nurtured my enthusiasm at an early age and made me realise that there is so much out there you will never hear unless you make an effort to find it. 


[1] Aunt Dot sadly passed in summer 2013, also at the age of 83, the last of her generation of Bakers (which included her two brothers George and my dad David, and her sister Margaret).

1 comment:

  1. I've a late uncle without whom I'd never have had an appreciation of Johnny Cash.