When I was growing up, I was largely unaware of music. I mean, I watched Top of the Pops the same as every other kid, but I can't say that I really grew up in a musical house. Most of the vinyl in the house was from the 50s and 60s, although some of dad's cassettes were newer - I still have childhood memories of mum and dad listening to Johnny Cash.
When I was about 15 or 16, I had some friends who were in a band, and they were playing one Saturday night in Helensburgh. It was my first experience of live music outside school, and I loved it. It was made even better by the fact that I knew the boys playing.
A couple of years later, I was at a friend's house. It sounds quite old-fashioned, but it was basically four or five of us just sitting listening to records. The friend in question had a taste in music that was firmly rooted in the blues, especially blues from the American deep south. This particular evening though, the artist of choice was Eric Clapton (the Backtrackin' album if memory serves). When I left his house at the end of the night, it was armed with a copy of the album on cassette.
About seven years ago, I was chatting with a passenger in the taxi one evening, and we got around to the subject of music. By now my musical tastes had diversified quite radically, and I now boasted a CD collection containing such greats as Queen, Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton (obviously) and REM, as well as Robert Cray, Carlos Santana and Kylie Minogue. The passenger I was talking to turned around and told me that I had a very Catholic taste in music - it was a long time before I found out that it wasn't an insult but never mind.
Nowadays the collection now also contains The Killers, Matchbox Twenty, Train and the Foo Fighters. By comparison to my taxi-driving days, I don't spend a huge amount of time listening to the radio but if I hear an artist that I like, I'll at least download the album. If I really like it, I'll buy it!
One thing that hasn't changed over the years is my love of live music. A few years ago my sister introduced me to her boyfriend's brother's band, a really talented 3-piece covers band and I never tire of hearing them play. In the past few years I've seen Matchbox Twenty and Nickelback playing in Glasgow, and just recently saw Train playing in London. I still get a real kick out of the vibe that you get at a live gig and just wish I could afford to do it more often.
Having said all of this, there is nothing that pisses me off more than the kind of drivel being pumped by Simon Cowell on X-Factor or Pop Idol. Yes, I get that it's giving a leg-up to people who otherwise wouldn't make it. The thing is though, if those bands and artists wouldn't have made it without Pop Idol, is that not just because they were sub-standard in the first place? The problem with X-Factor and Pop Idol is that they push their "winners" in our faces. As well as hearing their songs 24/7, they open our supermarkets. In fact, they'd probably show up for the opening of a packet of crisps if it involved some sort of media exposure.
As far as I'm concerned, long live original music. But most of all, long live the original music that comes of a bunch of guys (or girls) fooling with instruments and chords and putting their own talent out there, and succeeding through their own hard work rather than being swept to fame on a wave of television-induced teenaged hysteria.