“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.” – Plato

Christmas used to be about carols, nativity, mice pies and what music, along with an apple and an orange, Santa left in your stocking. That of course was when you got CDs, before CDs those plastic LPs wouldn’t fit in a stocking. But whichever it was, I looked forward to getting that new album. Loved the artwork, especially on the vinyl. Loved that moment of hearing tracks you’d not heard before. The Christmas of 1975, when we were seriously broke, Jan, my wife, bought me a Rolling Stones double album called Rolled Gold. Compilation albums were not common and this contained recordings of all their earlier singles, singles I once had, but had sold at some point to survive. Just loved that album and I still have it today.

The first album I ever bought, happened to be another Rolling Stones album, their very first. I was thirteen, didn’t have the money to buy it all by myself, so I actually bought half an album, the other half been purchased by Mick Milner.  I still have the album, the sleeve is pretty tacky now, but the disc still plays and if Mick Milner reads this, I have to tell him it’s too late for him to claim his half back.

I’m not sure I would trust anyone who didn’t like music and that means any genre. Hearing the blues for the first time in the early sixties, was a revelation.  It got deep into your soul, or at least my soul, the way no other music had ever done before.

The reason I mention it, is because music has always played a great part in my writing, directing and producing.

I lunched only yesterday with a number of people I went to college with.  To say we meet regularly would be a gross exaggeration, but over the years, we have odd reasons to get together.  Roger Davidson, who started life as actor, moved into casting and was resident casting director at The Bill for a good number of years and then became an agent at Stanton Davidson Associates, asked me when I started writing. He got my stock reply which is: “It’s not a case of when I started writing, it’s more about when people started to pay me to write.” Because the truth is, I don’t remember a time when I didn’t write.  I went on to tell him about a one act play I wrote at college called ‘Sight.’  It was about a suicide pact, one of those jolly subjects.  In the final few minutes of the play I put in a sound cue, which was Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Trouble Waters.’  At that time, I wasn’t aware of anyone having used popular music in this way.  I did it because I thought it a perfect addition to the play’s resolution. When the play was performed at my college, I wrote it under a pseudonym, Nicholas Arland.  I didn’t want people’s attitudes and thoughts towards me confused with the play. I have written under pseudonyms on numerous other occasions since then, but not for that reason.

When ‘Sight’ was performed by the professional theatre company Q20, it was performed by Simon Jones and Kevin Hubbard, and again I used Bridge Over Trouble Waters.

I will always write music cues into whatever I’m writing, even though they are far more often ignored than adhered to.

I have over the years written a couple of rock musicals, I hasten to add I didn’t write the music, just the book and the lyrics, and I’ve also directed a number of musicals.  I love working with MDs, choreographers, musicians and of course talented actors that also dance and sing.

When I was executive producer on Holby I introduced a montage sequence set to music at the end of each episode. It wasn’t mandatory, but it was certainly there if writers, directors, producers wanted to use the mechanism.  For me it was a great way to round off the episode and invariably the music gave an emotional boost to the ending.

So now we’re in an era where music is still a massive part of a massive number of people’s lives, but download technology has gradually laid waste those qualities I loved – the cover design, the sleeve notes and listening to the album as a complete work. Vinyl is making a comeback and long may it last, but I fear the ease of access and shortening of attention spans will one day take over completely.  I feel sorry for the generations that haven’t or won’t have the experience I had when I first heard the blues. 

Don’t let bizarre TV talent shows, that homogenise everything and everyone, and the rush for instant stardom be the driving force behind the creative world of music. I have to admit I always did laugh when I saw Sharon Osborne giving advice to those would-be vocalists. If she’d given the same advice to Ozzy there would have been no Ozzy. He’d have been some all singing, all dancing, everything to everyone performer, that would most certainly have plummeted into obscurity.

Shakespeare was on the money when he wrote … “If music be the food of love, play on.”

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