What I said back then:
This is really about Perth. Perth Library, to be precise. When I think of our time in Perth, I don’t remember much music at all, for some reason – we bought our first CD player when we lived there, so there must have been a bit; and there are, as we shall see, memories associated with the vast amount of driving I did while I lived there, but Perth itself…
Perth Library had a small selection of recordings which you could borrow – pretty much all on cassette tape, and I would scour the collection for something new and interesting, and generally fail to find it. But when it did come up trumps, it was always with an absolute gem. I had heard Miz Griffith’s version of ‘From a Distance’, a song which can make the teeth curl in the wrong hands – she carried it off beautifully, and I had wondered whether any more of her work would be worth investigation. Perth Library had a copy of ‘One Fair Summer Evening‘, and I took it home, not really sure what to expect. Just the songs alone would be enough to make this a glorious collection, but it comes with Nanci’s peerless storytelling. Every song tells a story, and every introduction comes with a little piece of Texas magic. I was hooked, and another whole avenue of music suddenly opened up to me. When I think of Nanci I remember seeing her at the Albert Hall – hers is very definitely a live experience – but when I think of Perth, I remember discovering Nanci Griffith.
What I think now:
It’s hard to tell, sometimes, just what exactly was going on with my musical tastes around this time. In retrospect, I seem to have been finally allowing myself to have what you might call ‘grown-up’ taste; it was around this time that I rediscovered classical music as well, and while I don’t pretend to have the most wide-ranging and catholic tastes in the world, I do like to think that I can pick a singer or a songwriter out, whatever else is going on. And this also speaks to me of storytelling. I remember sitting at my desk in the flat in Perth, and first properly trying to put together a longer piece of writing. It wasn’t much good, but everyone has to go through that phase of figuring out what kind of storyteller you might be, and how you want to tell the stories, and I think Nanci’s songs and anecdotes fit perfectly into that phase of my writing – learning to economise without hurting the story; it’s a lesson every storyteller needs to learn, and for all the wise instruction I got, I’m still looking with dismay at something in the 150,000 word range.
But at least I know it needs to be edited.
Who thought we’d ever be nostalgic for Woolworths?
There has been relatively little new Nanci Griffith material over the years, and she can fade from my attention for long periods, but when I remember what it is that I love about her, I can be inspired.
Yes, it’s another of those short stories. I used it to try out a completely different voice, and it, in turn, helped me to identify the voices I needed for ‘Going Back’. Leaving aside all the fabulous music, Nanci seems to help me write, a connection I’d missed until now.