Do our Musical Tastes Grow or Shrink as we Mature?

From time to time, Refrain asks some of our favorite artists to contribute to the blog.

Brian Baker is a singer/songwriter/producer with a passion for the environment and Buddhism, themes evident in his songs, music and videos. He plays guitar, bass, piano and keyboards, drums and percussion, sings and relishes his production duties, on his own songs and other artists works.

Brian Baker is back with his latest single “Sometimes (You Lose Yourself)”, a track featuring an infectious groove with slightly darker subject matter than fans might expect. “I really had no idea how prescient the lyrics would be…..At the end of 2020 it was time for me to return home,” he explains,  “I moved from Melbourne, Australia, back to what I consider to be my spiritual home, Northland, New Zealand.” 

Check out the video below while reading Brian’s thoughts!



Do our Musical Tastes Grow or Shrink as we Mature?

by Brian Baker

Are you listening to the same stuff you were listening to as a teenager? Or have you moved on, spurning those first clumsy and embarrassing (?) steps toward a somewhat more interesting, discerning artistic palette? So often I hear people say to me that there’s no good new music these days, only the old stuff is worth listening to. My reply is always the same. That there are many, many great artists out there creating wonderful, vibrant music but you won’t hear it on your local commercial station. Why? Because those stations exist to generate advertising revenue. It’s not their job to help you to discover new artists. And that’s OK. If you want to find these new artists you have to dig. Spotify and other digital providers are very helpful with this. Community radio is also excellent with passionate music lovers as station presenters. But you’ve got to be pro active and adventurous, and take a few leaps. Let me share some of my own music journey with you.

I inherited my big sister’s bedroom when she moved out of home. I was about 12 years old at the time. In her wardrobe I discovered an old monophonic portable record player and a stack of early 60’s vinyl, all 45’s. Mostly Beatles singles, “Day Tripper”, “Ticket To Ride” etc… The sounds that the old valve record player produced jumped right out at me and seemed to sound like classical music on steroids. I’d already done quite a few years of classical and jazz piano lessons but this was something else, something that at the time, seemed wild and adventurous, spilling over with the sheer joy of living. The valves and the tiny speaker distorting would’ve had something to do with it. The brilliant songs and recordings, made to be listened to in mono also had a bit to do with it. It all came together and sounded like a symphony to my young ears! was an experience that altered the way I saw the world and ultimately set my life direction.

So in terms of favourite artists it’s no surprise that The Beatles are on the top of my list. To me they set the mark for everything that followed. As I grew through my teens my peer group introduced me to other great sounds, Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side Of The Moon”, Jethro Tull’s “Thick As A Brick”, Queen’s “A Night At The Opera”, and any Rolling Stones record! My tastes grew. I can remember the first album I bought was The Alan Parsons Project “Edgar Allen Poe”. Led Zeppelin’s “Physical Graffiti”, Cheap Trick “Live At The Budokan”, Lou Reed, Santana and Genesis were also big for me around this time. It wasn’t until 1977 hit – I was 17 years old and the English punk rock scene felt like it was speaking to me directly. Even though I was across the other side of the world in little old New Zealand I had access to a monthly stream of out of date copies of the music press rag “The NME” and I devoured it. I started buying my own singles; The Stranglers, The Damned, XTC, The Jam and hanging on every Sex Pistols release and Clash song. I was still playing them on my big sisters little portable record player – they leapt out of the speaker and sounded great and intense! By that time I was playing guitar in my own punk bands, writing songs and trying to record my compositions – attempting multi tracking by using two cassette players. The path was being taken! New wave had taken hold bringing Tom Petty, Talking Heads, Elvis Costello, Patti Smith and and Devo into my listening circle. Funnily enough I can recall listening to two albums in particular just before I departed New Zealand; Television “Marquee Moon” and The Who, “Quadrephenia”.

Later and after I moved from New Zealand over to Australia my musical tastes exploded again. Thanks to the people I was creating music with I got to fall in love with Little Feat, The Neville Brothers, David Bowie, Aretha Frankiln, Dr John, all of Motown, Bruce Springsteen and a host of great Australian bands especially Midnight Oil, Matt Finish, Cold Chisel and Skyhooks. I was very fortunate to join a band in Sydney whose drummer had a great musical heritage and taste. His brother had played guitar in a very famous Australian act and produced a demo we made. He’d moved on to avant-garde classical composition so suddenly I was listening to that style of music, plus jazz and gospel as well. Split Enz were big for me too. I’d seen their first TV appearance when I was 15 and then saw them live in Auckland before I left for Australia. I never expected to be on stage and in the studio with Eddie Rayner, the bands keyboard player a few years later.

Musical tastes are part of our life journey. It’s fascinating to look back over music that has bought so much enjoyment and that’s been there in some troubling and not so troubling times.These days my appreciation keeps on growing, how good are Radiohead, Derek Trucks, Gillian Welch, Eminem, Bob Dylan (old and new) and the host of amazing independent acts on Spotify? I also find myself going back and discovering

artists and songs that I missed and wondering how I ever missed them? Listening to Tammy Wynette’s recording of “Stand By Your Man” somehow reminds me of those days listening to the Sex Pistols! The band and her vocal are just smashing it out – so intense, so punk.

Weird and seemingly odd associations like this make me wonder what the link is that drew me to certain music, songs and artists. I’ve come to believe that it’s an honesty in the recordings and delivery. I know from my own writing and recording that you have to rewrite and rewrite to capture, as close as you can, the idea you want to express. The same with recording. A guitar line or vocal takes repeated attempts to get the expression just right. All those artists I was listening to, they all did the work, the hard yards, not settling. Occasionally they might get something right first time but in general it was their repeated attempts, honing in on the idea that paid off. Their great artistry is in holding the sense of the idea and emotion through that process and making it sound fresh and vital to our ears. It’s what I strive for in my own music.

People we meet, places we go, all have a part to play in contributing to our musical appreciation and growth. It’s great to have friends enthusiastically tell me what they’re listening to and have it lead to me discovering a new favourite artist or song. In my opinion that discovery and growth never stops. Why would you ever want it to?

What am I listening to now? Thought you’d never ask! Peter Gabriel’s “Up”, Tame Impala’s “The Slow Rush” and Billy Joe Shaver “Live at Billy Bob’s Texas”!
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