He ain't heavy...

SIMON SWEETMAN
Last updated 11:33 05/12/2012

I was in Auckland at the end of last week - an overnight trip to record an interview for Good Morning (about my book) and then to do some Radio NZ work.

My brother returned to Auckland at the start of the year after more than a decade away overseas, so the trip was a good chance to catch up.

Kane is my older brother. There's just me and him. And he's nearly five years older than me. So he left for university just when I was starting high school.

We have a lot in common - and yet we are totally different. I'm sorry if that's not a helpful explanation - but it is the truth.

So last Friday we are hanging out, catching up. We're home, at his place, babysitting. His wife is out for the night, their son is asleep. We're making pizzas and swapping the post-work beers for a bottle of red to share.

And then, out of nowhere, our casual chat morphs into a discussion of The Rolling Stones, specifically the Steel Wheels album; we both agree it's the last thing the band needed to do. It was, as far as comeback albums go, spot on. Well timed, well executed.

Then we're off and away, and talking about that golden period from Beggar's Banquet through Exile On Main St. We both agree that Goat's Head Soup is a gem, perhaps the most underrated/undervalued album in the Stones' catalogue.

And from there it's to Soundgarden and Nirvana, and later that Dudes/Hello Sailor split album, and on to The Clash and how Rumours is a better listen than any Fleetwood Mac Greatest Hits album (even though the Greatest Hits has plenty of hits and is worth having of course). The pizzas are prepped by this point, cooking. I'm topping up wines and he's checking on Harry and the radio is on, supplying Bob Seger or Creedence or Tom Petty and we're talking about Blur and Oasis and Pulp.

It was a conversation that rolled and curled and took in film and loads of music - and of course there we were relating it all to where we were at at the time, school, then uni, then work and some travel (in his case).

We brought our parents into the conversation, evoked them, I guess. Mum and dad still play music all the time in the house, in the car - they used to turn me on to music and now it's (part of) my job to pay it back. So I'm the one who buys albums for people for Christmas (still) and birthdays (sometimes).

But along with our folks giving us such a start in music, such an interest, I have the benefit of an older brother. And those of you that also have this will know that an older brother might bring home Led Zeppelin and The Who and The Doors, Coltrane and Miles, The Stones and Th' Dudes and - hey - maybe a few duds, but it's all part of the experience, the education.

Maybe for you it was an older sister. I don't have one of those.

I had a great - fleeting - time in Auckland last week. It was work. I was up there late and early the next morning I was on the phone to FREE FM in Hamilton, plugging the book. Then I was off to TVNZ to record an interview. Then to some meetings. More book-talk. The next day I sat in a studio for more than three hours. And it was all book, all the time. That was the purpose for the trip.

And I'm very grateful for the interest in the book - I'm very proud of the book. And so glad that there have been reviews and interviews...when I flew home on Saturday afternoon I spotted a review for On Song in the Air NZ in-flight mag. All those times flicking through that magazine, never really landing on anything, and then...

But my favourite part of the weekend - on a personal level - was this conversation with my bro. Well, it was almost a non-conversation, in the sense that it just meandered and rolled; it was banter. And it was a way to catch up - catching up through things as much as catching up on things. Having studied up on my own book, to be prepared for interviews, I thought of Don McGlashan mentioning that men "retreat into the world of things" in his discussion of the wonderful song A Thing Well Made.

So here we were, me and my brother, not so much retreating, but certainly occupied by these things. Collectors, both of us. In different ways. Collectors of stories and experiences as well as tangible things. And it was just so easy and effortless after months of living in different cities, and years before that, in different countries too.

We speak about music with our friends, often. Sometimes (but not always) it's a big part of what bonds us with our friends, we might even become friends with someone over shared musical appreciation. But how often do you sit with your family and share not only music but the stories surrounding the music; the stories that connect you and your family - and then connect you all to the music in question?

I thought about this over very nice homemade pizza. By this point we'd retreated into the world of TV. Half-watching Rambo III, I was scanning my brother's CD collection, silently. Remembering all the things that I had bought for him, seeing all the things I had first discovered through Kane's collection. It's probably 50/50 now on the musical introductions. Maybe I've just caught up. Not that anyone really keeps count. Or should bother with that.

Do you talk about music with your family members? Is there someone in your family that you bond with over music; that you celebrate music with and share ideas and concepts and jokes with them too, all linked - of course - to the music you're playing at the time; the music you're describing, re-living and living inside of?

When Blog On The Tracks was in its infancy I wrote a Happy Birthday post to my brother Kane. A (very) simple way to thank him for all the music he served up to me when I was young and eager and impressionable.

Now older, bitter (apparently) and something of a know-it-all I find that the music I first learned about from my brother is, in so many cases, music I still hold dear. And it links me to him.

It's that time of the year of course; we start thinking back. It's getting near Christmas. The year in reflection. I wrote a book. I've been talking about it to whoever will listen for the last month - almost non-stop (at least it sometimes feels like that). I realised, in going back through On Song over the weekend that a lot of it came from my brother. I don't know if he knows that. But I thank him - so much - for that. And for all of the music. And so many more good times ahead. And of course for the super-tasty pizza.

And - again, as today is once again the day (and you've had four years in hiding between blog mentions) Happy Birthday Kane.

Rock On. 

You can keep up with Blog on the Tracks on Facebook and follow on Twitter. You can also check out Off the Tracks for The Vinyl Countdown, reviews and other posts...Off the Tracks is back on track. 

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