BERNIE CONNOR has not only worshipped at the altar of music but he has now transmogrified into a disciple who spreads the good word.
His recent communications have led him to create The Sound Of Music, his two-year-running podcast as well as playing his records at various select nights around town. Not unlike other obsessives, he can chat about music, because he has made sense of a world that others dip their toe into, skimming the surface. Bernie dived right in at the deep end and still hasn’t come up for air. He’s still searching for pearls amongst the effluence and waste that crowd our musical consciousness. I sit in his living room surrounded by music mementos, albums, icons, obscurities and I’m offered a choice of Earl Grey or builders’ brew. We quickly discuss the iCloud and the potential that it may or may not have. He never thought he’d become so technologically literate, but we agree that the future has a way of dragging you along, whilst offering up its limitations and advancements.
This is a long way from going to the Co-op in Speke, where his mother used to take him, to buy singles. One early memory that has burned into his psyche was buying Paperback Writer before he’d even started school in the sixties. “There wasn’t a ‘my’ collection or a ‘your’ collection, there was a family record collection.” The youngest of six, this seems to have set the tone for the man Bernie has become. It is clear he isn’t one for exclusivity. Music to Bernie, even though sometimes inevitably private, has always been a communal thing. This again was hammered home whilst in secondary school when he spotted a record shop on a trip into town that it then took an age for him to re-find. This was Probe in the 70s, where again the people behind the counter welcomed him as a young scamp and his education continued apace. “Eventually I ended up working there and received what I can only call a Masters degree in music. I cannot overstate the importance Geoff Davies played in the development of Liverpool’s music as a whole.” He remembers the band Deaf School and their rehearsals where he could go in and listen as a young teenager. “The band, although adults, treated us with respect, talked to us as equals and that left an impression on me.”
His lifelong dissertation continued when he ended up living in London, New York and San Francisco for different periods in the 80s, taking in all the colours of music’s palette that those particular places have to offer. Upon returning to the UK, he embraced acid house: “I never rcame a DJ in that sense because even though I liked the music I could never play just one type all night, that’s just not me.” I can see why. The word ‘eclectic’ is often overused in articles and features describing people’s tastes. Bernie’s vision of music has a widescreen vista that takes in what seems like an ever-growing list of acts ranging from Karen Dalton, Donald Height, Cornelius, Stetsasonic to Psychic TV, Cat’s Eyes and The Modern Lovers. And they’re just a few samples that have recently been on his show, the highly mixed genre podcast, The Sound Of Music. “When people say that they don’t like reggae, have they listened to every single reggae record? If you’d have told me years ago that I would be conversant in forms of Jazz of the likes of Cecil Taylor or the Art Ensemble of Chicago I would have found it difficult to believe. Now I get it.”
Of course this wasn’t his first foray into putting himself at the forefront of a diverse show. He worked on the Janice Long-backed and now deceased Crash FM in the 90s where again he got to play it his way. Unfortunately it couldn’t last and Crash mutated into what is now known as Juice FM. After spending some time away from the airwaves his evangelical zeal forced him back. We are all better off for it, well, those who have got onto his podcast anyway. “It gets to the point where I wonder if I don’t play some of these records, who else will.” On paper this may sound bombastic but it never comes out of his mouth like that. It’s with a fervent respect and maybe even worry, that certain songs have become vastly overlooked. He still loves talking about these gems. He never joined a band. “I’ve seen some good people become miserable in bands. This passion was enough for me”. It is in reading the sleeves, digging out info, connecting the musical dots and lyrical puzzles, where the magic lies for Bernie.
I could stay and listen all day about a wealth of subjects ranging from King Tubby’s recording studio in his kitchen to when Pete Burns’ appearance alone frightened the shit out of people in St John’s market in the seventies. Alas, the chat’s over but he allows me to leave only after bestowing me with musical gifts to listen to. I’ll also look forward to his show with smiley anticipation from now on. I’ll come again, Bernie. Make mine a builder’s brew.