Thought Leadership

Six of the best: vintage musicians/bands

By Colin Walls

I have always enjoyed music and have quite a wide taste. In this latest episode of my occasional series, where I present six of my favorites in some category or other, I want to talk about some of my early influences. One hears musicians talk about who influenced them, but I think listening to music gets guided in a similar way …

All through my life, my taste in music has been affected by different things and often by the people around me. I talked about this on a previous occasion. When I was very young, it was my parents’ music that influenced me. As I became a teenager and a young adult, there were other factors, like my peers, who pushed me in different directions – some of which were certainly not approved of by my parents! It is the music that I discovered in the first couple of decades of my life that I want to think about today.

Carole King

In her early career, Carole King was best known as a song-writer and wrote numerous hits of the 1960s. She did have one hit single of her own [“It might as well rain until September”], but it was not until the ‘70s that she started to record and perform widely. Her third [if I recall correctly] album, “Tapestry”, was the launchpad, going on to be one of the best selling albums ever. I think that, in my late teens, I had bit of a crush on this thirty-plus year old woman, but I did enjoy her honest writing style. I saw her live in London about 30 years ago and I was disappointed when she did a show in London last year [I think it was], but did not appear anywhere else.

Joni Mitchell

I guess that I came across Joni Mitchell’s music as a spin off from Carole King’s, as they were close associates. I think that I have around 15 CDs of hers, as my late wife, Linda, also enjoyed her music. I was sad to hear that Joni Mitchell has been unwell of late, so I guess that I will never see her live, but I still listen to her music regularly.


In my late teens, I would often sit up late to see a rather eclectic Music show on TV [“The Old Grey Whistle Test” – OGWT]. One night they featured a long recording of Yes playing at Wembley. I had had very little exposure to progressive rock and a I absolutely loved the complexity and the spectacle. I soon purchased the Yessongs triple album [live recording], which I recall was expensive [£5 – two days’ pay!] and very heavy. [I would have never imagined then that I could carry a sizable music collection in my pocket 40 years later!]. I have continued to enjoy Yes over the years and have seen them live a few times. After the recent, sad death of Chris Squire, there are no founding members of the band in the current line-up, even though Steve Howe seems to have been there for ever. Nevertheless, I am still excited to have tickets to see them again in 2018.

Rick Wakeman

After seeing Yes on TV, I was telling my school friend about how much I admired the keyboards player, Rick Wakeman. My friend told me about Rick’s solo endeavors and lent me his “Six Wives of Henry the Eighth” album. I was so impressed by Rick’s style: his keyboard playing, the long blond hair, the sneakers and the prodigious beer-drinking capability. I have only achieved two of these things in my life so far. I have enjoyed seeing Rick live, in various contexts, in recent years and even got to chat with him briefly. Although mostly his stuff is not her kind of music, Libby is very taken with Rick’s piano playing. We even used two pieces at our wedding! [Something else that I would not have imagined 40 years ago!]


I have quite a broad, catholic [I like the word “eclectic”] taste in music and that can include classical. Nowadays, this genre does feature in my playlists, but, as a teenager, this was rather less the case. However, there is a classical BBC radio channel that ran a late night program called “Sounds Interesting”, on which they would play almost anything new and different. One night they played some extracts from “Crime of the Century” by a band called Supertramp. They had been around for a while, but this album was to prove their passport to success. A few days later, I saw them on OGWT and was hooked. Over the next year or so, the rest of the world caught up. I have been listening to their music ever since. In fact, this album is often heard by my neighbors [I like loud music when I am cooking]; the piano solo on “School” still gives me goosebumps.

Steely Dan

It was only when I went to university that I started to see/hear much live music and this has been a favorite pass-time ever since. However, an enduring favorite band from that time I have never seen live. In the main bar at Bath University, where I would often hang out to play pool or pinball [and consume the odd beverage], someone [I never found out who], would always be playing “Only a Fool Would Do That” on the jukebox. Steely Dan’s jazz/funk-oriented rock music appealed to me then and does to this day. The album “Can’t Buy a Thrill” is, IMHO, one of the best ever. I probably never will have the opportunity to seen them live. However, even though I am very skeptical of tribute bands, I recently say Nearly Dan and they were excellent.

On a future occasion, I will peruse my more recent musical adventures. But, for the moment, please leave me in peace with my Sonos …

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