Saturday 28 August 2010
Dylan Jones: 'As soon as I got home, I played my CD of Californian ocean sounds with the Beach Boys over the top'
Twenty years ago, almost to the very day, I was in Carmel in California, about to have dinner at Clint Eastwood's restaurant, the Hog's Breath Inn (at the time he was the town's mayor). As I walked down through the centre of town, I passed one of those generic New Age shops, selling everything from Grateful Dead posters to lava lamps. It also sold CDs of ocean sounds, California ocean sounds to boot. And as I have been in love with the idea of the California ocean from the age of about 10, I had to buy one.
And I bought it with one thing in mind. As soon as I got home to London, I put it into the CD player, and then played one of my bespoke Beach Boys' cassettes over the top, so I could listen to "Surf's Up", "Till I Die" and "California Saga" with the sound of the Big Surf waves crashing in the background. I had almost completely replicated my Californian experience – driving along the Pacific Coast Highway in a rented Mustang – which meant that whenever I wanted, I could take myself back to Route 1 and "Cabinessence" without leaving west London.
Virginia Astley's 1983 mini-masterpiece From Gardens Where We Feel Secure comes complete with its own natural soundtrack, in the shape of recordings of birdsong and sheep. There is a little light piano, some woodwind and some ambient vocals, but mainly this is the sound of the countryside, an instrumental accompaniment to a typical British summer's day. It always reminds me of one of my favourite paintings, The Badminton Game by David Inshaw (finished in 1973), which was influenced by the landscape of Wiltshire, and in particular the houses and gardens of Devizes. Like the painting, the album is a moment in time.
This is mood music at its very best. So if you fancy a day in the country, and can't be bothered to fire up the old MG and drive down the A303, go on to iTunes and download "Morning: Hiding in the Ha-Ha". The day will take on another dimension completely.
All you'll need then is a large glass of rosé and a plate of cucumber sandwiches. Oh, and a small game of badminton.
Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'
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