Many years ago, the thought of driving from one business appointment to another in a Skoda, listening to the same DJs I listened to as a teenager would have filled me with mild panic and dread.
As I approach the landmark of eighteen years since my first legal drink, I have to the best of my knowledge, managed to avoid the tell-tale signs of a mid-life crisis. My left nipple remains unpierced and by driving a Skoda rather than riding a Harley Davidson, I like to think I’m keeping it real. Keeping it retro. Keeping it gangster if you will.
For the past few months I have been driving around in a temporary lease car. Blue, blue, electric blue, the car delivered to me was a Skoda Octavia. I had no choice in the matter, so imagine how my heart sank when the keys dropped through my door by the delivery driver had a Skoda key attached?
Yet after searching the narrow, terraced Watford streets to find where said delivery driver had parked the car, I was pleasantly surprised. Skoda it seems, have moved on with their lives.
Comfortable and a surprisingly sporty drive, the most common comment I’ve received is “wow, is that really a Skoda?” Followed by, “well I suppose they’re VWs with a different badge these days aren’t they?”
As a simple soul and father to a toddler, the main feature I look for in a car is a spacious boot. The Skoda Octavia has a cave at the back. I could move into it if necessary but have obviously never seriously considered the prospect.
The other feature of note, aside from the “lovely motif,” is the presence of a DAB Radio and with it BBC Radio 6 Music.
Exclusive to digital platforms, BBC Radio 6 Music plays the kind of music nobody else plays, the kind of music you haven’t heard in ages, the kind of music you always meant to listen to but somehow never had the time to do so. The station has re-united me with old friends from my mid-to-late 1990s “bedroom years” like DJs Steve Lamacq and Mark Radcliffe. Far from a nostalgia trip, up and coming bands are introduced to a new audience through features like “Album of the Day” and “the Rebel Playlist.”
Sometimes driving to music can deliver moments of pathetic fallacy, when the outside world seems to mirror the inner workings of your head. This week , whilst driving back down from Harrow-on-the-Hill in the rain, view of London traffic in front of me; Blue Valentines by Tom Waits came on and instantly summed up my mood. A song I’d never heard before, another back catalogue to search for.
At times the quest to find “new” music can become tiresome and what actually makes a difference is appreciating music which is new to you. Your own discoveries, like getting lost in a town and finding what’s along that narrow street that invites you to walk it. BBC 6 Music has given me many, many more of those moments recently than anything else I’ve listened to, read or watched.
I often wonder how after millions of years of language and music, how any new songs can be left to be written? Haven’t all the songs possible been written already? How has somebody never put those words and chords together in that order before? Why should I listen to anything written by someone half my age anyway?
A more legitimate question in this era of iPod connectivity and Spotify playlists, is why should you let anyone else choose the music you listen to? Great music is for sharing and radio provides spontaneity and shared experience like no other platform. Indeed, audience figures have doubled since the station’s listeners fought a battle to save 6 Music when it was threatened with closure in 2010.
The Skoda returns to the garage this week to be replaced by a Golf Estate, complete with equally cavernous boot and obligatory iPod connectivity. Call me “middle of the road” all you want, in many ways I will miss the electric blue car that makes me hum David Bowie songs.