LondonLouis

71, Maschio, Regno UnitoUltimo accesso: Giugno 2014

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Ageing music lover who had the luck to start listening to music at the time of Rock Around the Clock (OK, being honest, I do remember the pre-Rock era of "How much is that doggie in the window" and the likes of Frankie Laine - and disgusted aunts actually stopped me buying Bill Haley). Bought early skiffle records (the Vipers) and Sidney Bechet (who turned me on to trad jazz). The Beatles exploded in my second year at University, and only those who lived through this period can imagine the excitement as the Beatles went global, and were joined on a weekly basis by the Stones, the other Liverpool groups, the Animals, Motown, Phil Spector, Dylan et al - and a large part of the music which emerged in that 1963-5 period has remained eminently playable. Moving to Manchester in the mid-1960s, I shared a house with a guy called John Pilgrim, the washboard player from the Vipers(see above). He was one of the generation who had grown up in London's Soho in the 1950s, when people like Ken Colyer worked the Atlantic liners, bringing rare records back from New Orleans and New York. John had an encyclopediac knowledge of the jazz and blues scene. Since he was into the Manchester folk/jazz scene, I would regular return from a night out to find an elderly American blues singer or a folk group in my bed. People like Sonny and Brownie, Arthur Big Boy Crudup and Martin Carthy all passed through during this era. Later, in the 1980s, I filled in a lot of gaps with the incredible boxed sets which the Franklin Mint put out on Jazz (60+ Vinyl discs, put together with immense scholarship), the Band Era and Musicals. It was these collections which alerted me to relatively obscure talents such as the Claude Thornhill band and fun groups such as Bob Crosby's BobCats. Obviously, old timers like myself envy the ease with which everyone can now range easily across all musical boundaries thanks to institutions such as last.fm. As it is, I'm sitting here looking at a wall of shelves containing 1500 vinyl albums, which basically sum up my tastes from ages 25-35. I still miss the visual excitement of picking out one of the great album covers, pulling the disk out, lowering the needle and then browsing the album notes as the tracks played in the sequence the artists intended. Happy Days!
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Incidentally, just a note on why I'm hooked on last.fm, despite the fact that it has its rough edges (some misattributions of tracks, and the substitutions of inferior alternative takes). Obviously, if what one wants to do is spend a day sampling the output of a handful of artists, other sites allow you to do that much more freely.

However, I am naturally curious, and this is where last.fm comes into its own. Quite deliberately, I am using this site to delve into all kinds of musical strands, a lot of which I didn't know existed a couple of months back (try "Shoe Gazing" or, what I am playing as I write this, "Raga-Folk").

I quickly hit the 500 artist limit, beyond which last.fm's charts don't do rankings (though my library keeps expanding). Although I've listened to a lot of the established greats (Ellington, Armstrong, Dylan, Clapton et al), I've been randomly exploring the whole of my play list, paying most attention to artists in the lower half of it. I'll play the radio of any artist I alight on, often then going on to explore artists in their networks who catch my attention. In some cases, I pick on a tag and explor that (through the "play radio" option). Today, I've done this with "electronica" - which didn't grab me too much - and then with "raga-folk" which has brought a lot of new, talented guitarists to my attention.

I've poked around the playlists of "Neighbours", and I've also followed up links with people who have delivered particularly interesting shouts. Having taken out a subscription to last.fm (which is relatively cheap), I can fully explore their lists, and I'll sometimes play their radios too. (I'm aware that people who don't have a subscription have less freedom to do this, so I'm happy to sign up as a Friend - though my play list will sometimes seem to go in very strange directions)

All this means that for every four tracks I'm playing, I'm picking up around one artist I haven't played before. Obviously, there will be a proportion of rubbish amongst what I'm listening to. Following tags can introduce one to some very weird connections. However, whenever I start off with a serious artist, I am genuinely led to quality, if lesser-known figures.

Funnily enough, I haven't used last.fm's recommendations very much. However, I am seriously impressed with how last.fm works. It's continually bringing me to great music - some of which I've been aware or, but equally often, I've been delighted to discover.

[Additional comments as of March 2010}
Over the last six months I have been massively widening my listening. This is not to try to break any records or to show up well on the Eclectic index. It's purely because I am naturally curious. I've increasingly put effort into sampling the playlists of Friends, or people who put up interesting shouts on an interesting track. Once I find an artist or musical strand I've not heard before, I will then switch to exploring the ongoing links which last.fm suggests for that artist (either by playing their Radio, or by poking round the six recommendations under each track). Since I listen to a lot of artists for the first time, their connections will normally identify yet more artists who are new to me. This may seem a recipe for listening to a lot of rubbish, but if I start from the playlist of someone with decent tastes, I am normally taken in worthwhile directions. Mind you, this morning I amused an Australian niece who is staying with us by seeing what would happen if I started from Rolf Harris' "Tie me Kangaroo down, sport" (the cheesiest of all Aussie tracks) to find myself, after about fifteen links, listening to the crudest artist I have yet found on last.fm (Kevin Bloody Wilson, no less) who then linked me to a series of equivalent (but not as bad-taste funny) US artists. Last.fm can take one in some very curious directions indeed.

[Additional Comments as of 19 Nov 2010]
I'm just starting to form a judgement on last.fm's recent changes. I really miss the ability to play the Loved Tracks of people whose musical taste interested me. In the past, I've learned so much from hitting on someone who was strong in areas which were new to me. I suppose I can still play their radio and just be more ruthless in skipping their less interesting tracks. This will be a nuisance but, on occasion, that will still be useful. I'm going to miss being able to play my own playlists, because I was using them in a major way to identify specific tracks that seemed likely to be woirth listening to. The new Mix and Neighbourhood radios look as though they will be quite good for filling me in with new tracks from artists I'm probably reasonably aware of. What I think the changes have made harder is to go off on musical tangents where one might want to listen to a number of artists for a couple of times, looking for the handful who are worth much deeper exploration. Probably what I want to be able to do is to tell last.fm to give me a selection from my neighbourhood which is 50% artists I haven't played before. At the moment, I am being steered back a bit to much to old faithfuls such as Miles Davis (whom I can listen to any time I want to).

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