During the 1970s and 80s, I mostly listened to pop and rock music, when even the likes of Captain Beefheart, Henry Cow and Popul Vuh were filed under pop. However far out I went as a listener, though, classical music seemed connected to a dreary sense of uninspiring worthiness that was fixed inside an ideologically suspect status quo, lacking the exhilarating suggestion of new beginnings, a pulsating sense of an exciting, mind-expanding tomorrow. There was something monstrous about it, as if in its world there were lumbering dinosaurs and toothless dragons, refusing to accept they were extinct. Next to Iggy and the Stooges and the Velvets, it sounded frail; next to Buzzcocks and Public Image, it sounded pompous. While I wrote for the NME between 1976 and 1984, interviewing stars from Lou Reed and John Lydon to Sting and Mick Jagger, I didn’t think about classical music – it was from the past, back when the past stayed where it was and wasn’t as easy to access as it is now.
I owned hundreds of albums and thousands of singles by the early 1980s, and then replaced them with thousands of CDs, many of them the same rock albums. Now I am rebuilding once more as compact discs become as anachronistic as 78s. I have a rapidly expanding virtual library – in my head as much as inside the cage of Google – that might date as much as the vinyl and CD libraries did, or might last me for ever.
I now listen to much more classical music than I do pop or rock and on the surface that might seem like a classic, cliched, late-life move into a conservative, grown-up and increasingly remote world. For me, though, it has been more a move to where the provocative, thrilling and transformative ideas are, mainly because modern pop and rock has become the status quo.