The sound­track to my life

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Caro­line Quentin on the magic of mu­sic and how a well-loved tune can turn back time

This morn­ing, while lis­ten­ing to the ra­dio as I scram­bled eggs for the kids, I trav­elled back in time. The DJ played the Peter Framp­ton hit, Show Me The Way. Mag­i­cally, it was 1976 again:

I was no longer a mid­dle-aged mum in Devon – I was a 16-year-old girl, with my best friend sit­ting be­side me while we re­vised for our O lev­els.

Peter Framp­ton was on a poster above my desk, wear­ing tight, white satin, be­ing hugely sexy with a guitar. The toast popped up un­no­ticed and I could feel the breeze blow­ing through my waist-length brown hair. ‘I won­der how you’re feel­ing. There’s ring­ing in my ears…’ Peter sang and, for three min­utes and 33 sec­onds, that long, hot sum­mer was more real to me than the present day.

As I was jolted back to the 21st cen­tury by the prat­tle of the pre­sen­ter, I realised that mu­sic does for me what Mar­cel Proust’s madeleines did for him – it dis­solves time. For that mo­ment, my limbs were sup­ple and tanned, and adult­hood stretched ahead of me, just out of reach, glimpsed through a haze of patchouli, hope and hor­mones.


‘You think you lost your love,

Well, I saw her yes­ter­day.

It’s you she’s think­ing of –

And she told me what to say.

She says she loves you...’

As soon as I hear this, it’s 1964 and I’m at nurs­ery school, proudly hold­ing up my gift to the class: an off-cut of Bea­tles wall­pa­per from the re­cent re­dec­o­ra­tion of my teenage sis­ter’s bed­room. My class­mates and I gaze in won­der at the re­peat pat­tern of the Fab Four placed on a cream back­ground, so they can float around the beds of thou­sands of teenage girls as they drift off to sleep, dream­ing of John or Paul or Ge­orge or… well, John, Paul or Ge­orge. I don’t think poor Ringo got a look in!


A Chopin Pre­lude in C mi­nor and it’s 1963. I hear it crack­ling, nee­dle on black shel­lac. My mum cried as I danced around the cof­fee ta­ble, aged three. I now re­alise she was cry­ing be­cause her own mother had died shortly be­fore I was born, and Mum was doubt­less wish­ing that she’d lived longer to see me danc­ing, just as next week – when I watch my 17-year-old daugh­ter sing and dance in a mu­si­cal at her sixth-form col­lege – I will shed a tear for my mum, who died five years ago, wish­ing she was still here to share the joy.


‘Do you hear the peo­ple sing? Singing the song of an­gry men? It is the mu­sic of a peo­ple who will not be slaves again!’ It’s 1985 and I’m in the re­hearsal rooms of the Royal Shake­speare Com­pany. It’s the first day of re­hearsal for a brand-new mu­si­cal. Claude-michel Schön­berg is at the pi­ano and the com­pany, of which I’m a proud mem­ber of the en­sem­ble, hears the score of Les Misérables for the first time. I turn to a woman and whis­per, ‘It’s a bit gloomy, isn’t it? Don’t think it’ll get much of a West End run.’ Nearly 40 years later, I ad­mit I may have been mis­taken!


‘Who loves you, pretty baby?

Who’s gonna help you through the night? Who loves you, pretty mama?

Who’s al­ways there to make it right?’ It’s Lon­don in 2016 and I think of our fab fam­ily out­ing to see Jersey Boys, the mu­si­cal story of Frankie Valli and the Four Sea­sons. We all LOVED it, and, from that day for­ward, my son, daugh­ter, hus­band and I have per­formed a dance rou­tine in our kitchen ev­ery time we play the song. We’ve got all the right moves – and none of the high notes!

Mu­sic is such an im­por­tant part of our lives and I love that it’s now so ac­ces­si­ble through Spo­tify, itunes, Deezer and the rest. It’s so easy for us all to share our mu­si­cal pas­sions. Thou­sands more mu­si­cal mem­o­ries are be­ing made ev­ery day, which brings me to the mu­sic I’d like at my funeral. It will have to be Up­town Funk by Bruno Mars and Mark Ron­son. And I want every­body on their feet and DANC­ING.

Peter Framp­ton takes Caro­line back to her youth

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