Images tend to pop up in my head instantly when playing certain songs. Luckily this doesn’t happen with every song I listen to. That would probably fry my visual cortex. There must be some sort of trigger, something epical in the music and/or the lyrics that sets this off. The connection between music and images – since the dawn of MTV clarified (or obscured intentionally or commercially) in music videos has for a long time been of great interest to me. There’s a neurological anomaly some people posess and I’m quite jealous of: synesthesia. This quality mixes certain senses. For instance, when one hears a note, one sees a color. It sometimes also concerns smells. More on this can be found for instance in Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks. But that’s another side-track. Concerning my own image-to-sound obsession I’ve tried to, in short, retrace my steps from the first full-blown conciouss image-to-sound experiences.
When I was sixteen or seventeen the first band I was in – as a bassplayer – rehearsed in an old caravan in the backyard of our lady-drummer’s parents. Her father Tijs, was a blacksmith and an artist. They lived in the very, very small village of Helenaveen.
King Crimson — In The Court Of The Crimson King
Pink Floyd – Careful With That Axe Eugene
We ofcourse – being country side youth – smoked some weed at the time which influenced our – er – improvisations. Somewhat later, when I started to find new music on my own with some help of our drummer Jarno, as far as I remember, I stumbled upon the King Crimson song Starless and Bible Black. This song is just over 12 minutes in length and this was exactly the time the bus ride from my house to the railway station of Deurne (in the Netherlands) took. This was my first year at art school and I still lived at my parents place so I had to travel for over an hour every day – back and forth. During the bus ride from the busstop to the railway station I played this song on my walkman.[HD] King Crimson – Starless & bible Black
Ah, the walkman… You know, this portable thing that only works with cassette tapes. Those beautiful magnetic cassette tapes. A rarity these days. Anyway, I’ve gotten to a point where I had visualized a complete movie to this song. Annoyingly enough it was set around a Los Angeles like beach and some beach apartment buildings. Annoyingly, because I was actually in this setting last summer but I completely forgot about my ‘mental movie’ and it could have been a great opportunity to try to re-create my imaginative music video for Starless, though I’m not completely sure what would be the point, to be honest. It also concerned some acting (a row, a couple shouting at eachother out of some windows) but mostly a slow panned cameramovement alongside the beach. It was mostely set around the (musical) contrast between the dreamy first part and the suspensefull second part. Also, Starless evoced some sort of slow motion beach-like overly sunny scene. For me, at least. At the time I was a bit of a goth, so the whole beach-thing seemed out of character but these images popped up and got more and more detailed the more I listened to the song. I still remember almost every scene I invented back then.
The first real images combined with music were compiled a bit before this: I used to bike to my highschool and back every day when I was sixteen or seventeen. This was about 8 or 9 kilometers each way. I got befriended with some people – not very popular people, like myself – who had an excellent access and knowledge about (back then new) music. I suspect I got one of my first Sonic Youth tapes of one of them. Don’t know where it started but within no time I got ‘Sonic Death’, ‘Sister’ and especially ‘Daydream Nation’ on copied tapes. The autumn of 1990 was my autumn of Daydream Nation. I was listening to that tape while biking to school and I’ll never forget the way the trees above my head seemed to shift during the ride on the songs. I especially liked the three songs that made up Trilogy. Still, ‘Daydream Nation’ is one of the best albums ever in my opinion. I must have been looking up at the trees so much it’s a miracle I never actually fell off my bike.
When I was about ten to twelve years old I looked up to my cousins. They were farmer’s sons and almost every wednesday afternoon we would visit them on the farm of my late uncle. It was spacious, there were cows, chickens and stables and some of the spaces were used for other purposes than farming, like the ‘playing room’ in which a large billiard table was put. We – well, my brother and sister and I – used its surface mostly as a landscape to build playmobil-worlds on. My cousins were a few years older and seemed so much wiser. They had mullets (these were the eighties, ofcourse) and they would ride around on mopeds. They also had a very condensed taste in music: there were posters of ZZ-Top, AC/DC , Status Quo and their Dutch farmers-heroes equivalent Normaal on the walls. The logos, the lettering and the skulls were of great influence of my imagery, even back then.
Long before this I grew up with my father playing Electric Light Orchestra tapes in his car. He had tapes of A New World Record and Out of the Blue. The song below is from Time and still one of my favorite songs ever. It just sounds really, really cool.
ELO – Here Is The News – Electric Light Orchestra
My mother owned (and still owns) the double album of Queen Live Killers. She also had a ‘best of’ record of Dutch cabaretier Wim Sonneveld (the song Het Dorp is about the village I went to highschool), songs of a Dutch 60’s troubadour named Jaap Fisher (his actual name was in Dutch a more prozaic Joop Visser and there’s no video of him or his music on youtube because Fisher/Visser seems to block each and every one of them. There’s not even a wikipedia page about him, I think. This is rather interesting. Jaap/Joop just completely disappeared from the face of the earth.) and Dvorak’s Symphony No.9, From the New World of which my sister and I had a sunday morning ritual made by running over the couches and such because there was some sort of ghost-pursuit involved (or a hunting-pursuit, depening on which side of the record was played).
Nevertheless, even before that, my mother wrote down in her baby-memoires about me (being the oldest child of three I’ve got the strange luxury to have the most elaborate infant behaviours described in ‘baby books’) that when I was at some sort of party I was sitting next to another girl my age (four or five years old) listening to the radio when some sweet lovesong came up. Apparently I told this girl I liked the music of those people with the painted faces better: I referred to Kiss. Though I was made for loving you is their signature song, I’ve always found this one much, much funnier – especially when I got to understand the lyrics:
And just a bit before that – and this I actually have some memories of – my favorite song was Roger Glover’s Love is All (Butterfly Ball) , which, according to the internet was released in 1974 – my birthyear – and only got a #1 hit song in the Netherlands. Though I doubt my memories of this song date from 1974, I do remember vaguely waiting in anticipation for the video to be aired during the Dutch music program Top Pop. Probably mostly because the video was very child-friendly (animated, with a guitar playing frog and such) and the song had a really nice and happy vibe. I think I remember me having to take a bath and anxiously trying to get in front of the t.v. with wet hair somehow just in time to see this video. If the dating is correct (1975 or so) this must be the first music-combined-to-image recollection I’ve ever had. Though it seems improbable because I must have been only one or two years old. In that case wanting to get in front of the tv after a bath in time to see this video and actually sitting in front of the tv watching the song must even be my first memory in general. I was very small, ofcourse, and if I remember this correctly sitting way too close to the tv screen. It seemed incredibly big and filled my whole field of view.
Roger Glover & The Butterfly Ball – Love Is All (1974)