I spent most of last weekend with a ringing in my ears. In fact, that's not quite right. It was in my right ear more than the left. Which was odd. But I had no-one to blame but myself. You see, I'd been regressing, if not into childhood, then something pretty close.
I can do subtle when it comes to music. I really can. There's nothing quite like some celestial harmony, gentle counterpoint and clever lyrics to get my toes tapping. But, let's be straight. Putting yourself in front of some Marshall stacks and experiencing a gale force blast is good for the soul.
As part of brother number one's birthday present, I'd bought tickets to a night of gentle, sophisticated musical entertainment. Well, actually we went to see an evening of tribute bands covering Deep Purple, Rainbow and Whitesnake from the seventies and eighties. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, if I'm honest. While I was aware of the concept of the tribute band, I hadn't really experienced it first hand. Part of me wondered if this evening was going to be a little iffy, somewhat ragged around the edges, perhaps.
After all, what sort of people willingly set themselves up to copy 35-year-old acts for the amusement of others?
About ten seconds into Speed King I had my answer. Supremely talented ones. However, my right eardrum was already pleading for mercy. "Bloody hell," I said, to no-one in particular. The band soloed and riffed and did things that hard rock bands are wont to do. It was like the Montreux Rock Festival, just with Banks's Mild on draft and a counter selling chips with curry sauce. And the band played on, note perfect.
In the interval I looked at the other audience members. Acres of denim, the odd bit of leather. And hair. Lots of hair. Waist-length in some cases, permed here and there. Some of the women were even worse.
The quality was maintained by the other acts, direct covers of Rainbow and Deep Purple. Dungeons & Dragons from the former, pelvic thrusts from the latter.
As the ersatz 'Ronnie James Dio' sang his moon-and-star-spangled heart out, I was transported back to the family living room, circa 1980. It was a Sunday - it was always a Sunday. Dad would be sitting in the armchair, a column of pipesmoke rising from behind the newspaper. Brother number one would have convinced him to switch off the light classics he'd been playing on the radio so he could put his latest LP on. It was the same one pretty much every week. Or at least it seemed that way. We would sit through the onslaught of tracks like Gates of Babylon, Kill the King, Eyes of the World. The only other thing we would be able to hear, if we'd listened very closely, would be Dad's eyebrows rising gently as he scanned the Sunday Mercury.
"Well, that was, um, interesting," he'd say, with infinite patience as the final chords of Ritchie Blackmore's guitar faded away.
So, gentle reader, what I'm really trying to say is this. Even the most nonsensical, loud, overblown and pompous music has its place. Whether that's standing in a room, pint in hand, with 300 other blokes, or sitting at home before a huge Sunday dinner. Whatever works for you is fine.
Now if you don't mind, I need to shake my hairy head backwards and forwards. I need to get rid of this ringing, you see.