My eight-year-old is currently absorbed by a really excellent book called Why Can’t I Tickle Myself?, in which children ask the questions that vex them most (‘Is it OK to eat a worm?’ ‘Why are grown-ups in charge?’) and have them answered by experts in the field. So Bear Grylls tackles the worm question and, er, Miranda Hart does the grown-up one. It’s great, and the eight-year-old will be getting the sequel, Does My Goldfish Know Who I Am?, in her stocking. One of the questions posed is Why Do We Have Music? and this is answered by that inestimable rock god, Jarvis Cocker. He ruminates on what life would be without it (‘boring – and Musical Statues would never get going, would it?’) and ends with:
‘It’s magic & we can have it whenever we want. When you put on one of your favourite songs & get a sort of shivery feeling behind your ears & down the back of your neck, that’s one of the best feelings there is. & that’s why we have it.’
It was in that spirit that I forewent Homeland last Sunday (something I don’t do lightly) and took my eldest to his first ever live-music event. The Capital Radio Jingle Bell Ball is an annual event at the O2 where the chart-toppingest, most digitally-downloaded Grammy-nominated popsters of today do their thing and get really, really screamed at for their trouble. The audience is routinely bombarded by glittery paper and iTunes vouchers are shot out of cannons. In other words, it’s excellent! I did not scream, but I did do some extreme mum-dancing and waved my phone-torch about enthusiastically when asked to by Ed Sheeran. Well, why not?
It got me thinking about the first gig I ever went to, back in 1803. I persuaded my poor long-suffering father to drive me and my best friend down to see The Police at the Cornwall Coliseum, a concrete bunker that has probably fallen into the sea by now. It was halfway there back then. As we waited for the doors to open (keen? just a bit) we huddled into our calf-length herring-bone coats and fretted about the damage the bitterly cold sea ‘breeze’ was doing to our carefully asymmetric hair. My father huddled into the car (he was less concerned about getting a place near the front) and got a Silk Cut going.
But that whole Jarvis Cocker magical feeling was there in spades – and on Sunday I studied my small companion closely as he jigged about to Taylor Swift. Is he feeling it, man? And although he was careful to maintain his all-important ten-year-old insouciance afterwards, he declared the whole thing ‘awesome’ and hasn’t stopped humming (and occasionally whistling) since.
& that’s why we have it.