Tony Earnshaw: Music memories matter more than lists

Men, I am reliably informed, like lists.

Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, pictured in 1985. (PA).

Making lists is part of the male psyche. It’s as much a part of what makes us tick as a gender as collecting stuff. Then again it might be argued that it’s also a form of stereotyping. But I have to admit I do fit it.

I found myself making a list this week after attending a gig in Manchester. The band topping the bill was Kentucky four-piece Black Stone Cherry, who I “discovered” this summer. They’ve only been purveying southern American rock since 2001, but then news travels slowly to me.

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And they were great – bringing a 21st century vibe to faraway memories of 70s bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Travelling home with their songs beating through my brain I ruminated on the acts that had preceded them on my personal line-up over three-and-a-bit decades. In doing so I lamented the idols that I never saw live – although that could include anyone whose heyday faded before I was a teen.

My list turns out to be pathetically short: around 30-odd bands. That’s an average of one a year since 1985 when, aged 19, I trudged through the mud at Knebworth as Deep Purple played in a deluge.

Yet there was a significant gap from the late 80s when, for a variety of domestic and financial reasons, going to gigs and festivals became less of a priority than paying the mortgage.

And then there was a shift away from rock towards the likes of the Spice Girls and Christina Aguilera when partnered with a girlfriend (now the present Mrs Earnshaw). So the line-up over time has been eclectic. In June, amongst the throng at the Download Festival to see rock dinosaurs Ozzy Osbourne and Guns N’ Roses, I found my gig-going experience coming full circle.

In the case of the latter a full 30 years had passed since I first saw them at Download’s predecessor, Monsters of Rock. Yet, like Black Stone Cherry, they represented a discovery of sorts, at least for me.

And what of that list? Well, I won’t bore you with that. There’s nothing special, exceptional or unique about it. Sadly I wasn’t at Live Aid (or Live8, come to that). I wasn’t one of the lucky ones that bagged a ticket for Led Zeppelin’s one-off reunion, either. Guess I wasn’t in the right place at the right time. But I was at Queen’s final concert at Knebworth on August 9, 1986, which felt like history was being made even as the crowd clapped along to Radio Ga Ga. That was special, and they vie for space at the top of my list.

And with Black Stone Cherry there’s a sense of seeing a fine band on the cusp of massive success, notwithstanding what they’ve achieved already. Like Queen, who made a comeback combined with a finale, they’ll cement themselves in my mind.

And, of course, they slide comfortably onto that list.