On the 15th of December 1979, a certain record got to number 1 in the UK singles chart. This record would stay at number one for a month. It was the Christmas number 1 that year. It was also the last single of the 1970’s to be at the top of the charts, and of course, was also the first of the 1980’s. It was this bands first hit single since the late 1960’s, mostly because this band simply didn’t release singles. It just “wasn’t their kind of thing”.
This record therefore went into the history books as somewhat important. It also went on to make the members of the band a lot more famous than they were before, and inevitably an awful lot richer than they had been before.
It also changed my life.
The record in question was “Another Brick In The Wall (part 2)” by the band “Pink Floyd”. The lyrics of “We don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control...” struck a chord with a huge number of children. At the time i was 12 years old, and like most kids, i didn’t really like school. Yes it was necessary. No there was nothing we could do about it. The thought of being able to rebel like the character in the song, and the children in the video that went with the song was a real buzz though.
I can remember telling my eldest brother that i was going to spend some of my Christmas money on the album. (remember, in those days it would have been on LP - a double LP in fact, and would have cost around £12.99 - a fairly large sum of money in the late 70’s/early 80’s, especially for a schoolboy). My brother, Robert, suggested that i didn’t buy it as he didn’t feel i would like it as the rest of the album was nothing like the single, but said that he would lend me his copy of it to try out.
This he did on his next visit, i duly listened to it, and hated it - it really was NOTHING like the single. I did copy it to cassette tape though, put the tape into a cupboard, gave him the LP back and thanked him for his advice.
A few months later i came across the tape, decided to erase it and use it for something else, but before i did, elected to give it another listen. One of the best decisions of my life. Yes, it wasn’t what i would normally listen to, but there was SOMETHING there that compelled me to give the tape a reprieve. Over the next few weeks, i gave it some more listens, and quite soon i found myself actually going to bed early so that i could listen to it all the way through on a regular basis.
Eventually, i knew every word off by heart, every sound effect, i could “play” the album in my head in real time, i didn’t even need to listen to the tape anymore, but i still did. I wore out two tape copies of it before eventually buying myself my own LP copy of “The Wall”. By this time, Robert had started regularly lending me other albums he thought i might like. More Pink Floyd found itself on my stereo - he did me one tape which i remember in particular which had two Floyd albums on it - “Meddle” on one side and “Animals” on the other. I never did find out what had happened when he recorded it, but “Animals” only came out of one speaker and actually faded out to nothing at one point for a few seconds. It didn’t matter, it quickly became my favourite Pink Floyd album (and still is) - it was a bit of a shock when i finally bought my own LP of it though and heard it in stereo for the first time!!
Robert also lent me some albums by the band “Yes” which totally blew my mind - here was some serious music! Twenty minute tracks - high pitched vocals with lyrics that made no sense, but man, the music - it was like “someone from above” had reached into my heart, opened my eyes (and ears) and showed me what the world could be like.
The years rolled on - i got more and more into music, other bands like (early) Genesis, Jethro Tull, and besides these “Progressive Rock” bands, i discovered heavy metal - Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Iron Maiden, Metallica etc, and introduced Rob to these. He took to it like a duck to water, and in the end he was into more of the heavy stuff than i was!
I had “grown up” by now, was married, and we didn’t see as much of each other as we used to. I had been to a few concerts, and on one of the rare occasions we met up, we talked about them. He still hadn’t been to any gigs. At that time i had been helping out a tribute band called “The Australian Pink Floyd” with a bit of publicity - they were touring the country playing small venues and i tried to get the local ones here a bit more publicity. For “payment” i got a few free tickets to local shows, and invited Rob to come to see them with me in Stratford-on-Avon.
It was his first rock concert, and he loved it - i think it blew him away really - seeing some of his favourite music being played live (bear in mind that the “real” Pink Floyd basically didn’t tour anymore, and in some ways didn’t really exist) - This tribute band had played at Dave Gilmour’s birthday party, and he endorsed them - they were (and still are) seriously good. They even got to use some scaled down versions of the lasers and lights that the Floyd had used on their tours.
Rob now became a big fan of going to gigs, and he and his wife, Pauline, took to travelling around the country seeing various bands, wherever possible making the event into an excuse for a long weekend/few days away. We went to see the Aussie Floyd together again in Leamington Spa. This time i took one of my friends, Simon, along to see them - i’m not sure he will ever forget the encore when they played “Comfortably Numb” and i sang along to it at the top of my voice, complete with the piercing scream before almost collapsing with laughter at the end of the show - yep, i enjoyed that one!!
So, why after all these years have i recalled these events and decided to put them “onto paper”?
I am the youngest of four. Robert got married and left home when i was about 5 years old, so i don’t really remember him being there other than as a regular visitor with his wife, and then children when they came along. Even though there was a large age gap between us, the things we had in common tended to keep us fairly close.
On the 11th December 2013 my brother Robert died. He was 62 years old. He died way too young. He had enjoyed his life, done a lot of things that he had wanted to do, but not as many as he would have liked to - i’m sure he had many more plans for holidays, trips and whatever.
I’m ashamed to admit that we hadn’t seen enough of each other as we should have over the last 10 years or so. I know that people, especially families, can drift apart. We all lead busy lives and have too much to do. We didn’t really have much of an excuse though - we only lived about 10 miles apart, we both had mobile phones and email. We had so much in common, apart from music we were both big fans of The HitchHikers Guide To The Galaxy. We had a similar sense of humour. We both told awful jokes. We were both quick with a quip or comment.
It’s too late now, but i want him to know that i loved him, that i am so very grateful for everything that he had ever done for me - for giving me the amazing gift of music that i doubt i would have got from anyone else - for helping to change my life for the better.
The last few weeks have made me realise that life is way too short - take every opportunity that passes your way. Tell the people you love that you love them, what they mean to you. Tomorrow may be too late.
To my brother Robert, one of the nicest, generous and funniest guys i have ever known. He was a hoopy frood who really knew where his towel was. I’m gonna miss you.