Oh No Not My Baby by Aretha Franklin
He stopped thinking about his wife and his sadness and he listened to Aretha as if she were a voice inside his head.
She told him her story – something like this. Everyone said her man was a cheat; even her own mother said it. But Aretha wouldn’t believe them. He was not like those other boys who lead you on. Who tell you lies. ‘Oh-oh no not my baby!’ She started the song calmly enough but by the time she got to the chorus she was practically screaming the words. Her voice was a little boat and the music was a Japanese wave, but Aretha kept riding it, up and down. It was downright pig-headed, the way she kept believing in him. There were strings, the bobble of the guitar, a horn riff, percussion, all telling her she was wrong – (‘Wohhh!’ shrilled the backing vocals, like a Greek chorus of girlfriends) – but no, she hung on tight. Her voice pulled the words this way and that, soaring up over the top and then scooping right down low. Aretha knew. She knew how desperate it felt, to love a cheat. How lonely.
He sat very, very still. And he listened.
Double Violin Concerto by JS Bach
Later he switched on the Dansette and she played the Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor. She explained how the music worked like a conversation. Sometimes the violins were telling the same story, and sometimes they were having an argument; first, one led the way, then the other. They might be so close they were like a piece of braid, or so far apart they had to call for one another across the dark. This wasn’t like Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’, when one instrument took centre stage and became (in Peg’s words) a right fucking show off. Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins was about learning to be two halves of a whole.
A Night to Remember by Shalamar
Henry didn’t know this music, he had no idea how you were supposed to dance to it, but as Mandy began swirling round and round, and he hovered close by – not exactly in her way, but in her general vicinity – he discovered a happy movement that struck him as a little like digging, without actually employing a spade. Now that he listened, he felt there was something irrepressibly good about this song, as if everything would be all right. More than that. As if everything was about to happen. Henry put down his spade and began swinging a pair of imaginary tassels. Meanwhile Mandy also seemed to have moved on to something different with her dancing. Hands clasped above her head, she rolled her hips as if she were riding a pony. A button on her blouse slipped loose and he saw the softness of her skin. Smelt the earthy sweetness of her.
‘And I’m filled with a love that’s oh so tender. Get ready. Tonight—’
He wasn’t thinking any more. He was just dancing. Henry lunged past the three-piece suite and grabbed hold of his wife.
God Save the Queen by The Sex Pistols
‘So this is “God Save The Queen” by The Sex Pistols. The song came out in ’77, the year of the Queen’s silver jubilee, when the whole country was planning a street party. And what it says is the future’s over. England’s lost the plot. It makes a mockery of establishment and royalty, but it’s also kind of witty in a really British way. Here was this group of four reprobates who could barely play. And they looked at everyone in their party hats, and they said the one thing no one was supposed to say. They said, Fuck the Queen.’
Ilse Brauchmann sat, stunned. She even forgot she had a boiled egg. ‘The song got banned by the BBC and half the shops wouldn’t sell it but I played it all summer. I considered it a public service. Not that I have anything against the Queen – I like her – but it was important there was a place where the unsayable could still be said. And fair do’s to the Queen, I guess she agreed with me. She didn’t chop off John Lydon’s head or anything.’
Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven
She held up the new album cover. It showed – surprise, surprise – a full moon and some water. ‘I mean for fuck’s sake,’ said Peg.
‘So it isn’t about the moon?’
‘No! It’s a revolutionary piece. It’s crazy. It’s Beethoven taking the rules and snapping them in half. It’s not fast, slow, fast. It’s slow, fast, fuck off. It’s anarchy!’ Peg told the story of the ‘Moonlight’ Sonata. Beethoven had fallen in love with one of his students. He was a complicated man. Moody. Abused as a kid. No idea about things like personal hygiene. He was always falling in love with his students but this one was a countess and she was seventeen.
‘Then bam. A bombshell. Beethoven finds out two things. One: the countess is going to marry a count. Two: he – Beethoven, not the count – is going deaf. He is poleaxed. The man IS music. What will he be without it? So he pours all those feelings into his piano sonata and he dedicates it to Julia. It’s like rocket fuel. I mean, a full moon. For fuck’s sake.’
More about the author
BBC Radio 4 BOOK AT BEDTIME from 17-28 July. From the author of the world-wide bestseller, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, a new novel about learning how to listen and how to feel; and about second chances and choosing to be brave despite the odds. Because in the end, music can save us all ...
1988. Frank owns a music shop. It is jam-packed with records of every speed, size and genre. Classical, jazz, punk – as long as it’s vinyl he sells it. Day after day Frank finds his customers the music they need.
Then into his life walks Ilse Brauchmann.
Ilse asks Frank to teach her about music. His instinct is to turn and run. And yet he is drawn to this strangely still, mysterious woman with her pea-green coat and her eyes as black as vinyl. But Ilse is not what she seems. And Frank has old wounds that threaten to re-open and a past he will never leave behind ...
LISTEN WHILE YOU READ! The Music Shop is BBC Radio 4's BOOK AT BEDTIME. And you can follow these links for specially collated The Music Shop playlists:
The Music Shop playlist: bit.ly/TheMusicShopPlaylist
Father Anthony: bit.ly/FatherAnthonyPlaylist
NB This hardback edition is beautifully produced, with stunning decorated insides.