Music Helps – Just Stop And Listen

by Darrell Smith

10th October, 2018

I am now 32, but ever since an extremely young age, music has been one of the most valuable and important staples of my life. Without it, I think I would be a vastly different person. It allowed me to see things from someone else’s perspective, given me courage and confidence, and later, helped me deal with a mental illness.

I have always felt like a much older person, trapped in a younger body and my music taste is extremely eclectic and different from most people my age. This is something I have always been proud of. It set me apart from people at school, and I could always be found just sat by myself listening to music.

I have a memory back from when I was eight years old. I would sit in my living room with a pair of oversized headphones on, just listening to my parent’s CD collection, eyes closed and somewhere else entirely. I would listen to ‘A night at the Opera’ by Queen over and over.

Back in 2000, I had a minidisc player, and I religiously sat next to my stereo recording albums across to the now obsolete technology. I miss things being done that way though. It’s far too easy to just stream anything you want directly from the internet. It takes away from the experience of holding something physical. Record shops have always been my holy ground. I remember whenever I was out with my parents, I always wanted new music. Video games and toys didn’t really interest me. But ‘Blonde on Blonde’ by Bob Dylan? Yes, please!

It made me pleased to see a revival of vinyl over the past few years, something I collect myself. You cannot beat placing the record down on a turntable, pouring yourself a drink, placing your headphones on your head and dropping the needle down. It is an experience unlike any other. I would even say the same goes for CDs.

I have thousands of compact discs, much more than my collection of vinyl. It is so much more satisfying to me to just stop everything, sit in my favourite armchair and just listen. As a music critic, I think this is where I learned my craft. It wasn’t through my degree, even though it did help me understand what I was hearing, and the reasons why songwriters choose to go in a certain direction with their music. Sitting down and just listening to music without distraction gained me a much greater love and understanding of everything I was hearing. Far too many people use their phones or an iPod. And listen to music whilst doing other stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I use my phone too. I wouldn’t be able to not have music with me when I’m out and about. But for so many people, this is where it stops.
Everything they listen to is a file. And an over-compressed one at that. There is no way it will ever compare to a CD or vinyl recording. The dynamics and subtle intricate details are always missing in the small file size, and for most people, they probably wouldn’t even notice. I probably sound like a music snob, and that’s fine if you think so. But music has always been there for me, through all the difficult and emotional moments of my life. And I just choose to give it the respect it so rightly deserves as an art form.

I grew up listening to what my parents listened to. Bands like Queen, Guns N’ Roses, and The Beatles. When I turned twelve I started listening to Iron Maiden, Green Day and Black Sabbath. That then evolved into Bands like Rush, Talking Heads, Pixies, Metallica and Dream Theater. From there, and with an interest in learning to play the guitar, I started developing an interest in older stuff. Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, Mamas and Papas and Electric Light Orchestra. Then I discovered Fleetwood Mac, Genesis and Yes. This was all before the age of fifteen.

I didn’t have YouTube to suggest bands for me to listen to. I would read music magazines religiously. I also developed an interest in headphones. More so, finding the pair that would make my music sound best. I am currently using the HD660S from Sennheiser. Nothing else comes close to reproducing music how it was intended to be heard. It is what I always use when reviewing music. I didn’t know at that age that there was a name for people who actively tried to seek out the best audio quality, and it turns out, audiophiles will go to some extremes even I wouldn’t. But I believe in why it is important to them. And share their belief that music is one of the purest and most honest forms of art.

I actively disclose and discuss that I suffer from mental illness, as I was fully diagnosed with bipolar disorder last year. One of the things I talk about is music, and how beneficial it can be as therapy. I owe music everything. Without it, I probably wouldn’t be here anymore. But for it to be truly beneficial, it has to be appreciated. So try just stopping, sitting and listening. The washing up can wait a bit longer.

Follow me on twitter for more recommendations on what you should be listening to.

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