Every home should have one: A hi-fi system (and a beautiful friend with Kate Bush tickets)

Every home should have one: A hi-fi system (and a beautiful friend with Kate Bush tickets)

ladies-radio-2Lucky man that I am, I saw Kate Bush last week. Like most people, I didn’t get tickets, but out of the blue a very old friend called me and asked if I wanted to go. She was the singer in a band I was in during the early eighties. Back then she was a lot younger than me (getting older is nice because the differences in age don’t seem to matter so much) and she had a truly amazing voice, really really good. Every time I heard her sing I was just amazed, there was wildness to her voice, it could do the most amazing things, such power and such range. I wrote songs for her to sing and she’d take them and turn them so far beyond anything I could have imagined. The perfect person to go and see Kate with, and still very lovely.

cover art borrowed from discogs

Kate Bush was beyond wonderful. So far beyond, it’s hard to put into words. The Monday after, I stopped for a cup of tea with my concert-going friend to talk about the experience. She has a lovely house, much bigger than mine, it’s got lots of rooms and a beautiful conservatory. Maybe this is just me, but whenever I go to someone’s house I look for where the hi-fi would go, then I look for the hi-fi.  Most of the time there’s something to play music on somewhere, but here in this lovely house, with lots of space, I found myself looking in vain.

I use the term hi-fi in a very broad sense these days. For most people it means something to play music on, or connect their phone to, but here I can’t see anything, until finally, stuck on top of a dresser is one of the smallest and nastiest little systems I’ve seen. Radio 2 was muttering to itself, a little bit of noise in the background to break the silence, so muffled it’s all but unintelligible. I know that trick – the sound of an empty house isn’t always what you want. Every now and then it’s blissful, and I know utter silence is a complete luxury and that for more people than not, it’s something they hardly ever experience. But that was it! I couldn’t see anything else.  Here was this woman, still with a voice like a wild angel, a woman who I know loves music every bit as much as me, and that was it? – this crappy little thing was all she had to play music on. Everything else must have taken precedence: the house, the decking, the Audi.

Nice, but where’s the stereo?

It’s a lovely house, it’s better (and bigger) than mine. But then it isn’t, because sometimes mine is full of utterly wonderful sound and music – and when it is, when a bass note from a grand piano rolls through the rooms like a wave, then it’s the seaside, and when the Tallis Scholars fill the room with complex and wonderful harmonies, it’s a walk in the countryside with the nicest of spring rains falling. It’s a cathedral. It’s a smoky bar with a tiny stage and a band playing far too loud for the space. It’s a field. It’s a room in someone else’s house. It’s a cave. It’s a forest. It’s the warmest, safest and full-of-love-places there is – or it’s dark, frightening and claustrophobic.

I know she loves music. I know how she gets when she isn’t singing and I know for sure that a system would be something she’d love and use all the time. Somehow though, it hasn’t entered her list of needs. Maybe it was CD, with its promise of perfect sound, maybe it was the way that hi-fi systems became commodified. Every shop with electrical in its title was selling systems – and with such great hype as well. Perfect sound forever!

What a shame. A hi-fi system, be it streaming or CD or vinyl, doesn’t have to cost a lot and the difference it makes to the way people listen to and enjoy music is so profound. Music makes your life better. A house full of the sound (and the physicality) of music is a very good house to be in.

So now all I have to do is to persuade my friend to buy a CD player, an amplifier and a set of speakers, along with the best cables she can afford. It will add so much to her life – and in truth, to everyone’s life.

Lots of you know that a good system doesn’t have to cost a fortune and lots of you know how much pleasure it’s bought you. This is a good time to start telling your friends!  Nigel Finn


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commodified friend frightening hi-fi system house kate bush lovely music pleasure voice


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