Some music just makes sense to listen to. Like a logical expression or an irrefutable truth, and there are a lot of people who seek this kind of perfection in music for both listening and performance of. A perfectly balanced musical statement so sublime you can only marvel in its beauty and wonder at the great mind that created it. A musical statement can be called, in the technical discipline of music theory, a ‘sentence’ because it forms a full statement of meaning with an antecedent and a consequent and it just feels complete and right. ‘To be, or not to be, ‘ is one of those statements that feels completely right and balanced, and is a fundamental issue of humanity stripped to an embarrassingly simple statement of intent, and is the sort of expression that makes you wonder how we ever managed without it (like the opening statement of Beethoven 5th symphony). One could say only ‘To be’ but it feels too little and leaves too many questions unanswered; add the ‘or not to be’ and the see-saw of human sanity sinks into place and order is restored (Imagine the Beatles writing a perverse song called ‘All You Need is . . . ‘). From one nugget of insight (To be, or not to be) pours forth mighty editions of human thinking and philosophy and we haven’t even entertained the business about whether it is ‘the’ question and we are certainly nowhere near considering any sense of nobility.
The idea of a perfect musical statement has been raised because, although it is something I have studied, know of, recognise, and can appreciate and probably strive for when I am writing music, it has absolutely nothing to do with my state of ‘musical magpie-ness’ and the real reason I love music. Any sort of formal(perhaps normal) insight or thinking falls to pieces when I try to understand how I became such a fan of Boney M and the Nighflight to. Listening to the track there is nothing to it, nothing, you can’t sing along, hum or quote a lyric, and if you do its because you are confused and are thinking of the the next track from the album, ‘Rasputin’ which ‘Nightflight to Venus’ seamlessly becomes.
There is something else altogether indescribable that kicks in as soon as you hear the voice ad countdown at the beginning of the track. Imagine if you can, at 12 or 13 years old, in the old gymnasium at your school, a lunchtime disco, a few flashing lights and a loud stereo; this track starts up and you are left hanging until the damned drum lick kicks in; Drums that have been processed through a flanger! . . . Fantastic, Magic, Stirring, Evocative! Everybody at the lunchtime disco just went bonkers. And we’re talking about 1979, big hair, shoulder pads, fuzzy jumpers (OK it can be pretty cold in Edmonton during the winter), Daniel Hechter Stonewashed Jeans(snug fit), Adidas white trainers with the three blue stripes , er .. . the list goes on and, er, I am describing this from a boy perspective looking at the girls and having no idea what to do next because remember the age we are at here, 12, 13, 14 This may well be the most important, ever, age of discovery, the dawn of awareness. We had Charlie’s Angels, The Bionic Woman, Wonder Woman and Fantasy Island setting out trends and role models on television, and here at the lunchtime disco you are surrounded by this newly discovered species – girls, and some crazy assed dance music with these far out drums, a robotic voice telling us to get ready for something, and here we were, on a space ship going to Venus. I mean girls! They were there all along! I had always got along fine with them and having older sisters I was used to them, no big deal right? However, they suddenly became girls (not my sisters, all the rest of them, though dear sisters, i don’t mean you are not girls, it’s just different . . . bear with me . . . this hole is getting deeper every minute!). Girls! Ack, Boney M! Ack Those Damned Drums!
So dancing became the new ice hockey and going to the disco or the roller disco on the weekend became the new winter time full contact team sport. I was lucky at that moment to fall in with a very great group of friends which constituted many members from each team (boys and girls) and we were able to arrange meetings at the rollerdrome on weekends and there would be house parties and we would take over a garage or rumpus room (basement decked out like a bar) and there would be a stereo and we all brought our records. There was even a lunchtime disco dance club organised because the new French teacher at the school was one of the dancers from Edmonton’s own top of the pops programme on television cleverly titled ‘Disco Daze’, and all us impressionable nearly teenagers, were duly impressed. Many girls and a couple boys signed up for the disco dance club and it wasn’t until I started getting grief from my non-enlightened friends that I had any idea the club might be something to be embarrassed about.
In the face of ridicule by my peers I persisted because I had awoke to a new contact sport and enjoyed the game, the world had changed and it was a fuller, more beautiful place. My vision developed a soft focus condition, I became aware of lip gloss, I would find ways to spend time with girls, even invited a couple out to the movies and I became a good roller skating dance partner (no, really, I’m not kidding, this all happened). Obviously I cannot comment on what might have been the case from the girl perspective, but we all got along quite well, had a lot of fun, nothing ever got too serious, we all enjoyed our school and there are even a couple of folks from that time I am still in touch with. I think it was all good.
So as one of my first album purchases, Boney M Nighflight to Venus, the album and the track, became a shiny bright bit of musical madness. I would put the stereo speakers on the floor facing each other, get the track running, turn it righteously loud, and lay on the floor with my head between the speakers and get lost. If you’ve never done that, I suggest you try and headphones don’t do the experience justice, you have to be there on the floor and it has to be loud enough make the glasses on the coffee table move about and drop off the edge, and those drums from Nightflight will impress you and move you to your core, but it sure ain’t Shakespeare.