Saturday, 20 August 2011

How Woodstock opened my ears (Part 1)

I could have easily titled this post as "that deaf, dumb and blind boy" and get away with it. Truth be told, when I was 14 or 15 years old, I was totally naive to the world. Literally deaf, dumb and blind to everything in life. I won't talk about everything in my life but just stick to music in this post.

At that time which was around 1969 or 1970, I was already listening avidly to a lot of music and this came by courtesy of the Royal Australian Air Force which broadcast locally from Butterworth to their large base of Australian servicemen and their families. (1445kHz on the AM band.) The music wasn't totally the mainstream pop which was played over Radio Malaysia's English Service or Redifusion. I found the pop music over RAAF Radio edgier and I grew to appreciate it.

Because of RAAF Radio, I had always suspected that my musical preferences at that time were already diverging from the mainstream pop music enjoyed by my contemporaries at school. But by and large, I was still very naive. My tastes might have stood me out different from my crowd but upon reflection now, I was not really that much different from them at that age.

It was not until the Chinese New Year of 1971, I think, that I began having a very slightly wider perspective of music. A few days prior to the celebrations, my father had brought back this triple album from his friend's record shop. Woodstock, the title said.

I put it on the record player and gave it its first spin. (We were still using the old Pye radiogram that came with a Gerrard record player as a standard accessory. No stereophonic sounds then; everything that we listened to was in glorious monaural.)

Frankly and unsurprisingly, I didn't take an immediate liking to the album. There I was, being exposed to the new (in 1971, they were new to me) sounds of folk, blues, soul and rock music for the first time, and I wasn't impressed much. The names of many of the singers and the bands were mostly alien to me. Okay, so over the radio I've listened to Joe Cocker and The Band and The Who, or at my friend's house I've listened to Joan Baez and Crosby Stills Nash and Young, but performers like Richie Havens or John B Sebastian or Country Joe McDonald? Who were they? Butterfield Blues Band? Come again? Boy, did I have a lot to learn!

So after the Chinese New Year break, my father, sensing my seemingly lack of enthusiasm with the album, returned it to the record store. That was the end of my short-lived association with the Woodstock records.

To be continued....

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