Inheritance tracks is a podcast from Radio 4. Each week, a known person talks through a piece of music they inherited from their parents and a piece of music they would like their children to inherit. If Radio 4 asked me, here’s what I’d say today.
The track I would say brings me most happy memories via my father is “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” by Cole Porter- specifically the version sung by Keenan Wynn and James Whitmore in the 1953 MGM musical Kiss Me Kate. My parents seemed never particularly interested in music when I was growing up. There were a few vinyl LPs hidden in a cupboard somewhere but the hi-fi as I remember it was there primarily to be seen rather than heard. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t use it an awful lot for a few years to record everything off the Top 40 chart show for several years, but it did mean that the resulting tapes were still to be listened to on my walkman upstairs.
It was in the car where music got played. I remember various tapes of Patsy Cline and Petula Clark existing, but primarily the tapes were all soundtracks from classic MGM musicals and stage shows. Mum, dad, my brother and I all learnt a vast catalogue of these from well-known films like Singin’ in the Rain and On The Town to more obscure titles like Call Me Madam or older black and white titles like Flying Down To Rio and Top Hat. This was in the age of VHS and dad had dozens and dozens of those films recorded off the telly as well. I don’t know which came first, but I do know that while you may raise an eyebrow about the idea of musicals, there is so much happiness and joy in those songs, singing (in the rain) in the car to those songs was a very happy time.
Brush Up Your Shakespeare is not just joyful and one of my first memories of lyrical plays on words, it’s also a happy memory to share with my brother, performing it at a school show before we were old enough to understand what’s going on in it. Thankfully no videos were made of that particular event, but I can definitely still remember every single word and I bet he can too.
The track I would like to pass on to my daughter is Breed to Breathe by Napalm Death. In my comparison to my parent’s house, my own is full of music - from pop to classical, jazz to disco, dance to metal. She won’t be discouraged from whatever it is she wants to listen to so really I want her to inherit all my music and discover it all. I know she’ll decide what she likes.
That said, if I could bequeath her just one track, it would be this - one of my favourites of all time. Having parted ways with their vocalist Barney Greenway in 1996, the band soon realised only he really fit their music and they reconciled within a year leaving them free to record a comeback of sorts - 1997’s Inside The Torn Apart. Breed to Breathe is the opener, a rail against and questioning of the topics of genetic modification and targetted breeding. Here in 2019, you could equally read it as a criticism of CRISPR technology and custom DNA splicing. ND have always been outspoken on controversial topics and the grindcore genre they invented in the late 80s provides an appropriate sonic platform for rage and protest.
That said, this song has never been about the lyrics for me. It’s about the intent - the insistency, the urgency, the sheer unremitting forward momentum to it. No matter how many times I hear this track, I revel in the stomp, the joy of the mosh, the bang of the head and the opportunity to vent. It may sound a million miles from MGM musicals and it really is, but to me they both elicit a pure response and when so much music I hear today just strikes me as banal, yawn-inducing stuff I’ve heard thousands of variations on, I’m glad i can appreciate as many sides of a musical coin as I do. I hope my daughter never forgets that music comes in all forms, shapes, sizes, textures and tempos. Breed to Breathe is just one of many awesome tracks at the high tempo, high intensity end of the spectrum where maximum volume yields maximum results and I hope she loves it too.