A bar isn’t a bar without music – silence is not a sound for summer

The only consolation is that if music isn’t everywhere, we may realise again how precious it is, writes Julie Burchill

I’ve had an enjoyable lockdown on the whole, writing a book on a balcony with a cracking view of Hove seafront. The past few weeks I’ve been delighted to indulge in a weekly sea-front bar-crawl, pleased to queue up at a responsible social distance for G&Ts and soak up the soundtrack blaring from the bars along with the sun. Then, though the watering holes were still welcoming, the music was suddenly turned off. I was mystified.

All became clear when Government guidance on the longed-for re-opening of places of libation scolded that Mine Hosts should ‘prevent entertainment likely to encourage audience behaviours increasing transmission risk… for example, loud background music, communal dancing, group singing or chanting.’

A bar without music? It’s like that sad old song ‘A Pub With No Beer.’ Pity the poor landlord; already having witnessed two hostelries a day closing due to cheap supermarket booze and the smoking ban, now even the rousing rock which has been proved to make punters drink faster is taboo. Because it means you have to be right up close with the person you want to be able to hear, thereby passing along something a little less harmless than dominos - themselves now disgraced as turncoat carriers of Covid-19.

As with all aspects of ‘the plague’, my reaction was sanguine; I’ve had my fun. Yes, it will be weird not to hear the seasonal bangers that make summer loving so sweet but as with so much of the life we’ve lost - from foreign holidays to fondue - most of us are lucky enough to have sunny memories to bring us comfort and joy.

Shops may well become the last refuges of public music; the other day I was standing in a freshly-disinfected mini-mart when West End Girls started playing and instantly I was right back there in the sexy-greedy Eighties, running with my gang in Wild West Wonderland, all of us so innocently avaricious with naturally no inkling of what lay ahead. But even this may not last forever; some stores are already trying out silence. The boss at the MIND shop where I volunteer, Ms Chuang, says ‘We’ve heard nothing from above yet - and I would be sad to see the shop fall silent. Music is very welcoming.’

The only consolation is that if music isn’t everywhere, we may realise again how precious it is. It’s hard to deny that modern music had become horribly safe, summed up by the success of indie-landfill titans such as Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith. If we can rediscover the joy of music that isn’t on tap and has to be sought out, maybe that’s the only silver lining - at the risk of ruefully referencing the Jeff Beck rabble-rouser which caused so many strangers to invade so many spaces in that lovely, silly, touchy-feely world we let slip through our fingers - like sand on a now-silent beach.