What music reminds you of a happy time?

Big Country “One great thing” taken from The Seer(1986)

What music, no matter when you play it or whatever mood you are in, always transports you back to a happy time or happy moment in your life?

I found myself pondering this last week when I listened to The Seer (1986) by Big Country.

I must have spent hours staring at this album cover and pouring over the sleeve notes.

It’s 1986 and I’m at my friend James’s house.

“You’ve got to listen to this,” said James reaching for his new 12″ album.

The needle came down on the vinyl and we listened to the anticipatory crackles and pops as it wound its way to the opening track.

This time we run
This time we hide
This time we draw on all the fire we have inside.
We need some time
To find a place
Where I can wipe away the madness from your face.

Lyrics from “Look away” by Big Country

We sat in almost silence for the next 50 minutes and 30 seconds as this Celtic rock washed over us. It was heavy, it was delicate, it was rousing and beautifully sweet in equal measure.

This was one of those moments of simple contentedness and the simplicity of sitting in the presence of a best friend.

If I remember correctly, James was made homeless that year—or maybe the next. He moved into the spare room of someone from church. This was one of the first albums we listened to on my first visit to his new home.

This album always reminds me of our friendship. The closeness we had. Both the fun and the laughter during these formative teenage years and the moments of sitting in silence with one another listening to music—Big Country, Sting, Jean Michel-Jarre, Guns n’ Roses—letting the music and lyrics change our view of the world.

I know the weary can rise again
I know it all from the words you send

Lyrics from “Remembrance Day” by Big Country

I’ve not seen James in many years—he eventually moved to live in Sweden—but this album reminds me of him every time I play it.

Opeth—Sorceress

One of my favourite bands, Opeth, has a new album coming out this year, entitled Sorceress. This is the title track. It’s very heavy, very doom-y, very old-school prog.

I know that Opeth’s move from outright death-metal-style progressive metal to more 70s-oriented prog on Heritage (2011) divided the band’s fan-base. It took a while for me to really get into but I like it. But then I’ve always felt that bands should be free to do what they want, move in whichever direction interests them. And if I, as a fan, don’t like it, then fine—don’t listen to it. Listen to the stuff that you do like.

I’m really looking forward to the album being released on Friday 30 September.

Studio report

The album was recorded at Rockfield Studios in Wales, where Queen recorded Sheer Heart Attack (1974) and A Night At The Opera (1975), including “Bohemian Rhapsody”.

Guitarist Mikael Åkerfeldt takes us on a tour of the studio.

 

Stream Planet Rock radio in MusicBee on your PC

Pure Evoke-1XT Marshall edition
Pure Evoke-1XT Marshall edition

I wake up most mornings to Planet Rock radio on my beloved Pure Evoke-1XT Marshall DAB radio. But that’s in my bedroom, I don’t currently have a DAB radio in my study and Screamer Radio no longer works for Planet Rock.

Which got me thinking: could I somehow convince my digital music player of choice, MusicBee, to stream Planet Rock? It seems to handle pretty much everything else I throw at it.

The answer is yes; this is how in three easy steps.

1. Find the Stream URL

The first thing to find out was obviously the URL to stream Planet Rock. Thankfully that is displayed very prominently on their listening online page. This is what they currently are (although I guess, they may be subject to change):

  • http://www.planetrock.com/planetrock.m3u
  • http://tx.sharp-stream.com/icecast.php?i=planetrock.mp3

Both work, depending on the player you use, e.g. iTunes, Windows Media Player, MusicBee, etc; I use the first one.

2. Play the stream in MusicBee

Next, we need to tell MusicBee to use that stream.

Screenshot of MusicBee menu
File > Open Stream

That’s as simple as opening the menu and selecting:

  1. File > Open Stream.
  2. Then paste in the URL and click OK.

Screenshot of dialog to enter URL
Paste the URL then click OK

This may take a few seconds while MusicBee connects to the streaming audio feed and then BINGO! you’ll suddenly be listening to Planet Rock on your PC.

Don’t go setting your watch, though, to the streamed version. It can have a few seconds delay between broadcast and it emerging from your PC’s speakers. (My PC stream is currently 1 minute 25 seconds behind my DAB radio broadcast.) This is due to the software buffering enough data to ensure continuous playback, so that if some data goes missing and has to be re-requested from the server or if there is a local data bottleneck the audio doesn’t suddenly drop out.

What’s nice is if you use the first URL (the one ending /planetrock.m3u) then MusicBee will also display the name of the track currently playing:

Screenshot showing the name of the track currently playing: Iron Maiden—Wrathchild
Now playing…

3. Save the stream as a playlist

The final thing we need to do is tell MusicBee to remember this station. It would be a bit of a hassle to have to find, copy and paste that URL every time you want to listen to the radio.

Again, that’s simple.

  1. Right-click the name of the track
  2. From the context-menu select: Send To… > Playlist > <New Playlist>.
  3. A new playlist will be created in the Playlists panel, with the edit caret waiting for you to give it a name.
  4. Enter a meaningful name, mine says Planet Rock DAB.
  5. Then press Enter to save it.

Screenshot showing how to save the playlist
Send to > Playlist >

Conclusion

That’s all there is to it.

While I usually listen to MusicBee using the compact player view, when listening to streamed radio I prefer the mini player view which also pulls in the current track’s artwork.

Screenshot of mini player view
MusicBee mini player view