Doing this exercise has made me realise that there is a bit of a bell curve of albums of importance in my life that peaks around my late teens. That’s hardly surprising, I guess – I imagine it’s the same for many of us.

Making decisions about which one album should be included in the years around the late 1980s therefore was daunting. However, I quickly realised it was going to be a simple task when I worked out that a trio of albums that I’ve always connected closely to one another were released in successive years. This trilogy are hugely important to me, and have also made this task a lot easier.

The first of the trilogy is David Sylvian’s Secrets of the Beehive. I wasn’t a Japan fan, and at first I really struggled to get my head around Sylvian’s deep voice. But I can still vividly remember the first time I heard a song from this album.

Every Saturday morning I’d trek over to Grange Park School in Bushey to rehearse in the South West Herts Wind Band. For those not in the know, a wind band is an orchestra without strings. For a saxophonist, this is a good thing because an Orchestra is a Wind Band with violins but no saxophones, unless you’re playing the works of Ravel.

In earlier years my parents would drive me over, picking up another member of the band on route. I can’t for the life of me remember her name because we steadfastly didn’t talk to one another. I do remember her older brother Kieron’s name, though, because once he had passed his test he used to drive us in his mother’s Nissan Micra. 

After one rehearsal, Kieron stuck the David Sylvian album in the car’s cassette deck, and even on the crappy speakers that were default in late 1980s small cars, the horns at the beginning of Let the Happiness In were almost transcendental. I was utterly hooked.

The sheer space on this album. The orchestration. The melancholy of Sylvian’s voice. It’s a work of staggering beauty.

You can see the #51for50 project to date here: https://mmitii.mattballantine.com/category/projects/51-for-50/

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