We lived in Thorndon – St Mary Street – for just over six years. It was the first house we owned. A wee cottage. We loved it so much. There were great kitchen parties and music was always a feature.
We moved in the day Ray Charles died. I know this because when I was collecting boxes from the service station down the road from our old place – to help with the move – I overheard the news on the radio. And so of course The Genius of Ray Charles was the first CD I managed to unpack and use to “test” the stereo when we had moved. As a music retailer at the time I was always deeply cynical of people buying CDs the day they heard a famous musician had died. I would then go home and play whatever I had by whatever artist had died. The day we moved into our first house I was adamant we must play Ray Charles – out of respect. I was the only one that cared.
That set a trend.
But part of what makes a house a home is the music, right? It’s one of many things, sure. In our case – the books that line the walls, the music, the paintings and drawings that hang from hooks – the open-door policy with good friends, but I keep coming back to the music. Of course I would.
When we moved into St Mary Street we were both smokers – so we sat outside with the doors open, blasting music.
When we moved into St Mary Street I had something ridiculous like 7000 CDs. I now have about 53. I’ve given plenty away, I’ve traded in some. I still buy CDs. I still receive them to review (they’re not free, anyone who has ever received a copy of anything by Andre Rieu- with an expectation that something will be written about it – will agree with me, right?) But I have traded down, one way or another. The record collection (LPs) has mushroomed.
We had so many good times at our last house – and most of them were framed by music. Sometimes it was only me that noticed.
iGot myFirst iPod.
That was the start of something dangerous…
I had always been a fan of the album format, the album form. An evening was soundtracked by a set of albums – partly it was work for me (I could get through some albums to review, where appropriate, later I could trigger blog topics) and it was of course just the way I had consumed/processed music to that point.
Playlists became the new thing – and I themed everything, from dinners with friends, to parties.
We had so many happy times.
After the launch of Katy’s book in front of a crowd of family and friends (and some of the book-launch devotees who would turn up to the opening of an envelope for the hint of a dry white wine and an even drier cream cracker) I got down on one knee. Equally impressive: I got back up. Maybe no one noticed – not even Katy – but the music at the time I chose to “be a man”, as my father-in-law would later put it, was the Lou Rawls version of You’ve Made Me So Very Happy.
Maybe I even let the music be paused for a moment…
For our first wedding anniversary we pushed the table back (just like how he says in that Paul Kelly song, How To Make Gravy) but instead of playing Junior Murvin we played all of the songs from our wedding, dancing around the room to Modest Mouse’s Float On.
One night we – weirdly – tried to out-emo each other for a potential blog-topic, one that never happened.
It was, oddly, a fun night.
There were some sad times too. Framed by music as well. In a Safe Place by The Album Leaf became my safe place. I was sent the album when it was released and fell in love with it instantly. And then, a few years on, when thrown the sort of curveball you never know how to deal with, it became an actual safe place for me. It didn’t leave the headphones for weeks…Songs for Silverman by Ben Folds too…also an album that was making a return to repeat-plays. I talk far too much, am often too verbose, blogging every day, writing far too much. But sometimes the world can’t give me an answer for what has happened. And I go looking for it – or some substitute – in the music I (often) care far too much about…those were just two of many.
We shared a lot of albums in the house.
I introduced Katy to far too many things – a lot of them didn’t stick. But Wilco did. And Katy introduced me to some music too. Shhh! – it does happen.
And so many famous musicians came into the house – although only by phone. I interviewed a bunch of people from here. Sometimes at 2am, sometimes at 7am. Sometimes running home from my real job at lunchtime to take or make a call.
I spoke to Ben Folds but it never turned into a story. He was one of the first famous people I spoke to. He was fascinating. He had some great stories about William Shatner. He told them to me and I scribbled them down in the nook that looks over a part of the city.
One time when I had to leave a concert early to file a review on the night, I made it home and could see the fireworks from the stadium so it felt like I was still part of the concert as I wrote about all of the good things The Rolling Stones played – I had less than 10 minutes. I finished my review as the concert was finishing. Deadline met.
One time Mark Knopfler rang to speak to me! That was surreal, answering the phone, “hello? – Hi, is this Simon? – Yeah – hi Simon, it’s Mark…”
I spoke to a very grumpy David Gray about 8 one morning soon after moving into the house in St Mary Street. He only perked up when I asked him what he hated about being interviewed. Katy made her way down the stairs to head to work, and, knowing I was talking to David Gray, made the face she makes when she sees someone famous. The look – sort of like a more challenged version of Blue Steel – made itself known outside St Mary Street when we saw Wayne Judd pick his bag up off the conveyer belt at Auckland airport one time. That cracked me up.
And then we left St. Mary Street.
The first house we owned. The house where I proposed. The house we unwrapped wedding presents in. The house where I took the call asking me to write for North & South. The house where I interviewed so many interesting people – from SJD to Karsh Kale, from Meatloaf (the second time round) to Jim Kerr of Simple Minds (who even complimented me on the name of my blog…)
We outgrew that wee house. The 87 crates of records and 856 boxes of books confirmed that. We moved to a new place. And the first person that welcomed me into the street had read the blog I had written about moving house – when I posted it back some eight or nine years ago on Stuff.co.nz. He’d read it that morning then spotted me with the moving truck in the street. If he was thinking “oh fuck!” he never said it. Instead he came over and said hi, introduced himself as a passionate music fan and avid blog-reader. I’d see him the next day at a Lil’ Band O’ Gold gig. I think I went and saw Todd Rundgren the night after…and he was probably there also.
The music continued. As it does now. At least for some of us in this street. That guy died a year or so ago. No sweet music filling the street from the home where he lived for so long.
Music is music and we take it everywhere and hear it in our hearts even when it’s not playing.
But music is one of the things that makes a house a home. Because the right music is love. The good music gives heart. Has soul. Provides warmth.
I just wanted to once again give my regards to St Mary Street…
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