The following post was originally a separate blog. It has been condensed into one post here.
For someone who loves music as much as I do, a book like '31 Songs' by Nick Hornby is almost too gorgeous to be true. It made me want to marry him after the first chapter (or at least take him out for a pint). It's such a simple idea; an eloquent and passionate man describes his 31 favourite or most significant songs for the pleasure of anyone who cares.
Songs are my language. When I hear something that cuts throgh the rest, I want to describe it, share it, play it, be its author, listen to it again and again on repeat. I'm jealous of Nick Hornby, because for him, he can describe why he loves his 31 songs and people will give a toss. I can think, optimistically, of about 3 people who might be interested in reading mine, and one of them is me.
However, I'm damned if I'm going ot let minority interest stop me. When I first decided to compile my own list, it excited me so much that I struggled to get to sleep that night (a rare complaint).
As with guests on 'Desert Island Disks' it's tempting to include songs which will make me look cool, or add the odd classical track to make me appear more culturally aware. I've been careful not to do that here. There are one or two deeply embarrassing songs on the list, but the truth is that I genuinely love them for one reason or another. Musical snobbery sucks. I've kept it real.
Some of the songs were chosen because they represent significant times or people in my life, some because they represent all that I love about a particular artist, and some are there simply for no other reason than that they are beautifully crafted songs. I've chosen to shun modesty by choosing 2 self-penned songs. I'm sure Hornby would have done the same if he were a songwriter. I've not done it to congratulate myself (they're not good enough for that), but just to be consistent; these songs too, have been significant in my life.
As with all of the constantly evolving lists in my head, they are in no particular order. I would find that impossible, like choosing which of my babies I loved the most. Instead I have grouped them together into vague catagories just to give them some sort of order. I've also set myself one or two ground rules. The first is to be ruthlessly honest about what I put in or leave out, putting in the songs that I really love, and not just the ones that would make an impressive or well balanced list. The second is that there must only be one song per artist in the list. This rule was tortuous to keep as I agonised, for example, over which song best represented all that I love about Damien Rice. I must have changed my mind about a dozen times. Not having this rule however, would have meant that the entire list would have consisted of songs by Tori, PJ and Eddi. That would be kind of missing the point really. The list can never be definative. When I first began to compile the list, I had never heard any Indigo Girls or Kate Rusby; artists who I would now say partly define my musical tastes.
I don't mind if you don't love every song I've chosen, but you will certainly get to know me better by listening to them and hearing why they are important. And they are important. I will never quite understand those people who are content only to listen to Christian music, or who only own about a dozen CDs. How do these people feel? How can they interpret the world? What do they do when they need to dance, sing along with the stereo turned so loud it feels like it's you that sings like Ella, or cry hearing the words of someone who understands? I guess they have other ways of doing those things, but these are mine.
Anne Witton said...
This is so great Barney!! I'm so excited because music means loads to me too. I own 13 of your 31 songs so I am listening to them at the appropriate time as I'm going through to get maximum pleasure from the whole experience!!
30 December 2006 13:38
Small amounts of wee are coming out in excitement. Can't wait to sit down with a cup of tea and read this properly when I'm back in the UK. Woop. Well done you. Have 1000 points.
04 January 2007 11:24
Hey, you great big fabulous looncake. I've finally finished reading this and it's by turns intrigued me (Gett Off), made me laugh (Cornflake Girl), given me nostalgia in the good way (Raw Funk) and the bad way (Creep), moved me nearly to tears (Enough, even though I've never heard it), made me browse iTunes a lot, *almost* like Shania Twain (ALMOST) and love you more (all of it). Maybe one day I'll tell you my 31, but I'll enjoy yours for now :)
08 January 2007 08:12
1 The Right Place EDDI READER
The flagships are the songs by artists that I love so much, that one song really isn't enough, but if I had to choose one this would be it. The Right Place is my favourite song of all time by, I think I do have to say, my favourite artist of all time. Eddi has just been so consistent throughout her career. Other musicians I love always have a bum album somewhere, but Eddi is just class. I made a compilation of her songs for a friend, and as we listened to it together the first few seconds of every song induced an "oh I love this one!" in me. I am a fan.
This song is just so perfectly crafted. It tells the story of a changed life and begins reminiscing about the old life. It builds, musically and lyrically to a glorious, joy-filled climax as she celebrates what she has now become, after waiting such a long time. It's a secular song about love changing someone's life but I can't help Christianising it and making it an anthem to a real new life: Five or ten lifetimes ago, there lived a girl that you don't know. She walked about and answered to my name. Oh, but let's not talk of strangers now, of where and when or why and how. I've turned around, and I'm looking at a new day. I've been in the wrong place, long enough to know, that I'm in the Right Place now.
It just doesn't get better than that.
2 Cornflake Girl TORI AMOS
I remember the first time I heard of Tori Amos, and it was when this song was announced on the radio. Randomly, I was in the back of my parents' car, waiting for my sister to come out of her bell-ringing session (when is the last time you heard an anecdote begin like that?) I remember thinking that Cornflake Girl was just the best song title I had ever heard of in my life. It seemed to me like the most fresh and innovative thing in popular music. When the song itself followed, it was like an epiphany to me. I just hadn't heard anything like it before at that time. I'd not heard a pop song that was based around a piano, but that still sounded like pop. I'd not heard lyrics that I didn't immediately understand. I didn't get this song instantly, like everything else I'd heard; it wasn't disposable. It needed my attention and I wanted to give it. This woman was clearly bonkers, and I wanted more of her.
That was the beginning of an obsession with Tori that made me the true definition of a fan. I spent all the money I had on everything she produced, and the woman could do no wrong for me. Every song she made was just head and shoulders above everything else I had heard in my life.
Peculiarly, I actually met her once completely by accident. I used to have a Saturday job in Boots when I was 16, and I loathed it beyond description. I used to day dream about Tori while I sat on my till bleeping soaps and tampons past. I was unaware at the time that there was a recording studio called Jacob's Studios in the town where I lived, or that Tori was mixing her 3rd album there. Of all the tills in all the Boots stores in all the world, she chose mine to buy her toiletries. One always imagines that when one meets one's hero, one will shake thier hand say some choice, but cool words of praise and leave with an autographed album. When you're me though, you go bright red, shake, sweat and stare in a horrifying way. Because I had been programmed like a robot using the Selling the Boots Experience customer service training programme, I was able to utter the pre-programmed words "do you need a bag?" She had about 15 items, and she looked at me like I was the biggest scarlet, sweating moron she had ever seen. "Yes" she said. And then, the immortal words "what do I owe you?" "What do you owe me? WHAT DO YOU OWE ME?? As if you owed me a thing Tori, you've given me so much, I couldn't begin to tell you!" I thought. And pointed to the total on the till. She paid, she left, I watched her go and the customer behind her swore at me for keeping her waiting.
he he he and you thought no one would read this. I am now on the Tori Amos web site listening to some tracks!
28 June 2007 08:19
3 There is a Light That Never Goes Out THE SMITHS
This was the first song I ever heard by the Smiths. I had no idea who they were, but the lyrics appealed to my dark worldview more than anything I had ever heard before. And if a double-decker bus crashes into us, to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die. And if a ten-ton truck kills the both of us to die by your side well, the pleasure - the privilege is mine. I completely fell in love with his macarbre romanticism. I had more delights to come when I heard the wonderful, wonderful words to Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now: "In my life Why do I smile At people who I'd much rather kick in the eye ?" Genius! I had never heard people sing songs that tapped into my pessimism so perfectly, but that did it with such joy-filled music, that it made me laugh at the world instead of wish to leave it. Every word of Smiths Greatest Hits album is such bitter beauty, I don't think I will ever tire of it.
I guess you don't really want all my 'me toos' but I love this song too - how rare for us to agree on both artist AND song!xxB
19 January 2007 08:42
4 Wannabe SPICE GIRLS
When I had just turned 18 I went on holiday without my parents for the first time. We hired a caravan in Bognor and did all the things that teenagers so when adults are not around. The soundtrack to this was a pop single by a new all girl band called the Spice Girls. We played it several times each day and shouted along with the rap in the middle.
The Spice Girls just made consistently perfect pop. I love what Hornby says about people who dismiss pop, in the original 31 songs: "That's the thing that puzzles me about those who feel that contemporary pop (and I use the word to encompass soul, reggae, country, rock - anything and everything that might be regarded as trashy) is beneath them, or behind them, or beyond them - some preposition denoting distance, anyway: does this mean that you never hear, or at least never enjoy, new songs, that everything you whistle or hum was written years, decades, centuries ago? Do you really deny yourselves the pleasures of mastering a tune ( a pleasure, incidentally, that your generation is perhaps the first in the history of mankind to forgo) because you are afraid it might make you look as if you don't know who Harold Bloom is? Wow. I'll bet you're fun at parties."
5 Alarm Call BJORK
It's not that this song is one of the best or most significant in my life. I do love it, it is one of my favourite of her songs. But it is here because Bjork has to be on the list somewhere, because she is wonderful. Bjork is like....like.....nothing and no-one! That's why she's so brilliant! This song in particular has a lot of the elements that make me love her. It is bonkers (as is she) it is unashamedly optomist in a way that doesn't make me want to punch her, it is original and it has her unique littlegirlscarywoman voice that I love so much. "I'm no f***ing buddhist, but this is enlightenment!" she sings, about being on a mountaintop with a radio and 'good batteries'. She makes me believe that life really could be this simple and this wonderful.
6 Cannonball DAMIEN RICE
Damien's songwriting is so perfect I almost can't bear it. It was so difficult to choose one song to represent him, because O is just such a perfectly crafted album, with perfect song after perfect song.
Damien is the first man ever to enter my hallowed Top Five Artists of All Time list. That is a unique feat, but he deserves his place.
I don't know what to say, he is just immaculate.
7 Glory Box PORTISHEAD
Why didn't Trip-hop go anywhere? This song represents the whole of the Dummy album, and Maxinquay by Tricky, by being on my list. Once upon a time there were beats. Then someone invented these delicious, complex, original mixtures of samples and sounds and rhythms. Portishead put a woman with a voice like someone dying of a broken heart on top of it, and Tricky made a partnership with Martina Topley-Bird and topped thier beats with something that sounded like sex and danger and darkness. *Shiver*
There was a lot of crap that came out of the 90s musically (in my view) but THIS stuff, will always sound timeless and new to me.
8 Somewhere Over the Rainbow EVA CASSIDY
I saw a video of her singing this on Top of The Pops 2 one day. Of course I knew the song before, it's one of those songs that is just in the collective consciousness. But who knew that a song about happy little bluebirds, could be so genuinely heartbreaking? There is a Smack the Pony sketch where all these women are sat in an office with this on the radio in the background. One by one they each start crying (it's funnier than it sounds). That's what Eva can do. She doesn't write her own songs (as far as I know) but she is one of those musicians that makes everything she does sound world-class and brand new, even if it isn't.
9 You Know You're Right NIRVANA
It's not that I'm a massive fan of Nirvana. I do love Nevermind, and listened to it a lot as a teenager, but that's partly just because, well, that's sort of what is required. I'm not really a proper rock bitch, so it's not that electric guitars do it for me in the same way as it would someone who regularly frequents the mosh pit. But I do recongnise that there was something very special about Kurt Cobain. I think that the fact that I connect with Nirvana even though I am not a real rock fan, says even more in favour of his talent.
He was one of those people who found living very difficult. That seems a painfully obvious thing to say about someone who took thier own life, but it seems that he always felt that way. He loathed himself, and he loathed the sick world he found himself in, and he found a way to turn that into music in a way that I don't think anyone else has managed before or since. I personally think that this song, the last he recorded, did that the most perfectly. The lyrics are sarcastic and resigned; the sound of a man who has given up the fight. Why? The chorus tells us: "Paaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnn!!!!" That's why. There are all kinds of ridiculous theories about whether or not Cobain's death was really a suicide. Of course it was. Listen.
i think thats my favourite Nirvana song...anyone who can make the word 'pain' last for four syllables is clearly worth paying attention to...
02 January 2007 16:06
10 Ghost INDIGO GIRLS
When my friend first played me Retrospective I couldn't believe that I'd got this far in my life without listening to the Indigo Girls. They are just as I imagined Rooted would sound (but we don't) except they are better, because I couldn't have imagined that well.
I was busy enjoying getting to know the album when I noticed the lyrics to Ghost. This is the first of several songs to appear on my list because it is an infinitely better version of a song I tried to write myself, in this case the cheery Until I Drown.
One of the things that makes the Indigo Girls unusual is that they don't co-write their songs. They each write thier own stuff and Emily's songs are totally different to Amy's. I have to admit that I often end up skipping Amy's, but Emily just writes beautiful song after beautiful song. Her lyrics are really poetry and her structures and melodies are unpredictably complex. My lyrics tend to be reported facts (I feel like this, this is how it feels to feel like this. Chorus.) Emily took exactly the same sentiments and made it into something beautiful, universal but personal, and original.
Everytime I listen to her songs I lament the years I wasted not listening to them. Part of the reason I love them is the fact that they are such a well kept secret. You tend only to have heard of them if you are connected to a certain sub-culture in some way. I realised my need to preserve this when I got a couple of thier albums for Christmas. My parents asked if I wanted to put one of them on the main stereo, but I resisted because I was afraid they would like them. They are special, they are for me and for my friends who see the world as I do. They are not for parents. It would be like your mum fancying your boyfriend. There are some things that they are just not allowed to appreciate.
i love that I had even a small part in your discovery of these lovely very dark blue ladies. And I am with you on the parent comment - I am an Indigo Girls evangelist, but only when that's appropriate!xx
19 January 2007 08:50
11 A Case of You JONI MITCHELL
Once upon a time I only had 3 PJ Harvey albums, and when I declared to a collegue at a record shop I worked at that she was one of my top 3 artists of all time, she scoffed, because I hadn't even heard her entire back catalogue. Well I scoff back! Joni Mitchell is here simply because of Blue and nothing else.
I bought Blue because Tori had covered this song. I found a treasury. Every song ever is about love, and this means that there are a hell of a lot of cliches out there. Joni found completely new and beautiful ways of saying exactly what everyone else has been saying since forever. How often have you compared your lover to a bottle of vintage wine, saying "you taste so bitter, so bitter and so sweet. And I could drink a case of you and I would still be on my feet."? Never. That's how often. That is because you are not Joni Mitchell. (If you are by the way (I did meet Tori in Boots, these things sometimes happen! Maybe she was googling herself!) Do leave a comment!).
12 Raw Funk ODDBABBLE
In films, like for example Dead Poets' Society and Dangerous Lives, teachers are inspiring and instil a love of the subject that somehow manages to transcend all life's ills. In real life teachers are on the verge of a nervous break down and the pupils are so intent on self-harm and premature pregnancy that very little gets learned about anything (or was that just my school?). When I went on to college to study my A levels though, my music teacher came close to these fictional pedagoues. I was a painfully (and I mean painfully) shy 16 year old with very little self belief, and he made me feel like I could really be the best at something, and that that something (music) was the most important thing in all the world.
The place where this was most keenly felt was in the Alton College Jazz Band, which (I felt deeply at the time) was just the coolest thing to be a part of ever. We were 16 or 17, and we did gigs in pubs and were paid with a tab at the bar. Well I couldn't think of anything cooler. The guy waving his arms madly at the front was this legendary teacher. He had an unusual teaching method (which I would not wish to recommend) of being a total bastard. He spent most of the time telling us we were crap, and shouting at us for nothing. For example, I did a sax duet with someone at a concert and it went really well. He came up to us afterwards and said in a fury "I can't believe what I just saw out there!! You didn't bow!!" and went on in a tirade, the exact content of which I have mercifully forgotten, except that it all ended in tears. The thing was, he made us feel like music was so important, that he was (almost) right to shout at us like that. It was scarilege. And so the effect this had on me (and all of us) was not to go away with our tails between our legs, but to think I must do better!! This is too important not to do right!! And so we tried harder.
In the Jazz Band, there were two types of musician. There were those who took solos, and those who didn't. I didn't. I didn't know how! How are you supposed to just make stuff up on the spot?! What is a saxophonist supposed to do with a chord symbol?! Needless to say, I totally idolised the ones that could do it. One time in rehearsals, my teacher decided that we would try. He just pointed to someone, and you were expected to deliver. I was terrified - playing something without music felt like absailing without a rope, and the stakes were impressing my teacher, or being made to feel like I was nothing.
I jumped off the edge, and though I was no Charlie Parker, I did it, and I was in the right key, and he said I was soloing at the next gig. Can you imagine? No, but can you imagine though?? It was the most terrifying and exhilerating thing in the world to take a solo in a gig (which I did several times a night from then on) because I never knew what I would play until I'd played it, and the stakes (impressing or horrifying my teacher) were so high.
For the composition part of my A level I wrote a jazz suite for Jazz Band, and Raw Funk was one third of it. My teacher liked it enough to make it part of the repertoire and he gave me one of the solos in it. Whenever we played it, I mean, I just could not contain myself. My whole world at that time was that band and we were playing something I had written. I just couldn't have dreamed of anything better.
When I listen to it now, I find it embarrasingly derivative, and my solo leaves a lot to be desired, but it still makes me go a bit funny. I think the band is still going, but I don't suppose they play it anymore.
13 Crosstown Traffic JIMI HENDRIX
You're not supposed to like the music that your parents like, it's against The Rules. But The Rules didn't take into account that mine have such good taste. They introduced me to Ella Fitzgerald, The Carpenters, The Mamas & Papas, Queen, Steeleye Span, Dr Hook, Abba, musicals and Jimi Hendrix. Sod The Rules then.
I was a fairly surly, morose and uncommunicative teenager, and like many of my contemporaries my main vocabulary consisted of grunts and sulks. Jimi Hendrix is so special, not because of the legendary way he wealds his axe, but because he was my mouthpiece at that time between me and my Dad. We had a shared love and connection in this music that transended my monosyllabic wall. And it was a language just for us; not for me and mum, or me and my sister, or my sister and him. Only we understood it. He would say "can't you see my signals" and I would say "turn from green to red." And all was said that needed to be said.
14 Creep RADIOHEAD
I believe I have mentioned that I was not a happy teen. I believe I have mentioned that I like it when songs express the things I feel, better than I can express them. Imagine what it did to my head then, when I read the lyrics to Creep on the T-shirt of a girl at college. I felt like someone had reached into my miserable mind and set it to song. And believe me, I was a wierdo. I think that was the first time I had ever experienced that. Most of what people sang about when I was that age was beyond my current experience or imagining. I had never heard anything before that seemed to be about me and about how I felt about being me. Even though those feelings were very secret and private, they were written all over this girl's T-shirt. I wonder if that song by Roberta Flack/Fugees is about something similar? Strumming my pain with his fingers, singing my life with his words.....I felt he'd found my letters and read each one out loud....Hmm, suddenly that song seems so profound to me!
15 You Do Something To Me PAUL WELLAR
I don't really like Paul Wellar's stuff much, but I heard his acoustic album Days of Speed and it did actually change my life because it reminded me that I loved the acoustic guitar - the playing of which gives me more pleasure than most other things in my life. Somehow, the stripping away of drums, Strats and bass, and leaving just one person and their naked instrument, can give profound new depth to a bunch of songs I never took any notice of before. I wanted to be able to do that thing. So I got my dusty guitar out and decided to push past the pain barrier and learn how to play barre chords. I bought myself Suki from e-bay, and discovered that even I could make these sweet sounds. I might never have got there if I had not heard this album.
THE BOOTY SHAKERS
16 Club Tropicana WHAM
I am a person in possesion of a meloncholy disposition, but I can usually have my mood lifted by certain people or certain things. One of the certain things is Wham. (Strictly, that should say Wham! as that is thier official band name, but the exclaimation mark would have made my sentence look amateurish.) Really, really good pop does exactly what it should do. It makes you forget that the world is sick, and makes you think that everything is going to be OK, so let's dance! This song achieves this by telling you about a place where the drinks are free, and all that is missing is the sea (but don't worry, you can sun-tan). What more could you want? Also, that bass-line! Have you ever heard anything like it??
17 Vogue MADONNA
I prefer Madonna as an icon rather than a singer. I think most of her music these days is quite forgettable, and people only buy it because she sings it. But I can remember getting a copy of Like A Prayer out of the library when I was at school, and thinking it was amazing. I just listened to it over and over again, and thought she was the most amazing woman on the planet. Every school kid has to find the music that their parents will hate, that's the Way of Things. My contemporaries had found Guns N Roses, and that certainly ticked that box, but Madonna meant more to me, because she was offensive, but she was a girl. She was my first parent-unfriendly rolemodel, and that means a lot to a girl. This song was not on the album I borrowed, but it is, in my opinion, the best song of her career by far. I don't exactly know what it is that makes it so great, and I'm scared to analyse it incase I rob it of its magic. But it is great, and it will never lose its greatness.
18 Gett Off - PRINCE
It's hard to describe the place that this has in my life.
When I was at school I was miserable. I hated everything about it, and the only thing I looked forward to was Friday night. Friday night, you may be surprised to learn, was choir night - I was in the Surrey County Girls' Choir. I did enjoy the singing, as I always have done, but it was the tea breaks that I lived for. I used to stand on the steps and tell funny stories to the other girls. Usually they were the same stories that were requested every week, each time with a little bit extra added or exagerated. But I loved being the centre of attention, and I loved making people laugh so much. For some reason, this particular thing is inextricably linked to this filthy Prince song. I think that part of one of my stories or performances must have meant singing it. I really can't remember why, but I know that it represents completely the feeling I used to get in those tea breaks at Surrey Girls'. So I love it. I also remember dancing to it on a chair in the kitchen of my halls of residence at university, because I was so over-joyed to hear it again.
19 Be Faithful FATMAN SCOOP & THE CROOCKLYN CLAN
Whenever I imagine myself having a great night out dancing, it is this bassline that comes into my head. To people who do not dance, this is just some rude man shouting, interspersed with some lady singing something meaningless. If you do dance, this is one of the rare anthems, like Crazy In Love by Beonce, that will rock any party, and will be the moment of the night that you will look back on as the moment you really got your groove and lost yourself to the music. Every time.
20 Don't Stop Til You Get Enough MICHAEL JACKSON
There is no very profound way to articulate why this song is so fantastic. It is so fantastic because it makes me want to dance so very badly, and dancing is one of the reasons why music is the best thing on God's earth, because dancing means you appreciate music with every bone of your body. It's as simple and as wonderful as that.
21 B-Line LAMB
I can't think of a better way to describe this than the way I described it on my very first Under A Bushell entry, so here it is: Sounds like a coiled spring that keeps on escaping and then being wound up again, and consequently makes me feel exactly like that when I listen to it. Impossible to listen to below full volume. Impossible not to dance to it even though it’s impossible to dance to.
22 Higher State of Consciousness JOSH WINK
When I was 16 my sister invited me up to visit her at university. She gave me a generous shot of Bacardi and took me to my first night club. This song was playing and I had never heard anything like it in all my life. It was the first time that I really ever let myself go on a dancefloor and this is really a great song to do that to for the first time. It is aural euphoria, climactic, basic instinct, animal music, and it drives me nuts every time I hear it. I really don't know what it is that makes a human being feel good when they move thier body in time to a beat. Musicologists have speculated that it has something to do with simulating the human heart-beat or something. I don't know. I just know that if I was set the task of teaching an alien what dancing was, I would stick this on the turntable, and they would get a little glimpse of what makes us human beings.
THE TEAR JERKERS
23 Who Will Sing Me Lullabies? KATE RUSBY
This is officially the saddest song I have ever heard in my life, and believe me, I am a connoisseur of the genre. If I had heard this song in the first two years of my becoming a Christian I probably would have done great harm to myself. It is actually so sad that I can't use it nestle into the warmth of self-pity when I am feeling sad and lonely, because its balm is just too powerful. It doesn't just say "there there, others have felt like you have, have a little cry", it says "you are right to be sad, because there is no hope for you. No hope. Die." There are times when it is not that helpful to induce these feelings in myself. That is not to say that it is an unlistenable song because it is beautiful and I listen to it often. I just have to make sure I was in a good mood to begin with and that I don't mind feeling sad for the rest of the day.
One of the things that makes Kate Rusby so great live, is that she is a naturally hilarious woman. So inbetween singing these aching songs, with a pure voice that was made for them, she will crack a gag to remind that it will all be alright in the end. She is my International Folk Bitch hero.
24 Leave Right Now WILL YOUNG
I have never heard a song that so directly described that way that I felt in a certain situation as this one. It was as if someone had transcribed the most difficult phonecall of my life and made it into song.
25 Dido's Lament HENRY PURCELL
I'm not a person who generally likes old things in any context, but the teacher I mentoined in the Raw Funk entry taught me to like baroque music. We did a production of Purcell's Dido & Aneaes and being in the chorus for that was one of the best experiences of my life. There is just nothing like being in an opera. Singing brilliant music in our breaks when all our contemporaries were just smoking or talking about crap in the canteen. Having our own costumes made, learning the stage directions, hearing the applause at the end. It was brilliant!
This particular song is the final song, and is just deliciously sad. Before I was a Christian I wanted it played at my funeral which is so incredably pompous I may pause to thank the Lord once again for saving me.
26 Heal Over KT TUNSTALL
I wrote a song called Hush, Hey which was for a friend who struggled a lot, and I wanted to express to her that I was always there for her and that I understood. I was fairly pleased with it lyrically, but musically it felt a bit like I'd come out with an elephant when I was trying to create a swan. Or something. A few months later I heard Heal Over and KT had already made the swan. The chords are delicious (and a pig to play, which makes it all the more intangible) and the words are just what I wanted to say. I love it because it's one of the songs I most wish I'd written.
27 Enough OddBabble
I'm not a very good songwriter. Some of my songs are good, but none of them will make me an International Rock Bitch. This pains me, but from time to time I think, sod it, and write a song anyway. Enough is the first song I ever wrote, and in my opinion it is miles better than anything else I've done, even though very few people seem to think much of it. It isn't complex, lyrically or musically. In fact it is very simple indeed, but it is the most heartfelt thing I have ever made. I have a recording of it that is embarrasing to listen to. I am singing very shyly and the recording is such bad quality that it sounds like the speakers are about to bust every time I hit a high note. But somehow this is the most authentic recording there will be of it, even when the Beatles reform and cover it in the future. I just love it because it's the only time I've ever felt that I said exactly what I wanted to say, and managed to match the music exactly to what was in my head.
Also, it made me cry when I wrote it, and it's made a couple of people cry when they heard it, so I must have done something right in my book.
28 This Mess We're In PJ HARVEY
It may be cheesy, but if you love music, every relationship you are in has to have an 'our song'. 'This Mess We're In' is the 'our song' for the most significant relationship of my life, and the title says it all really. I loved it before it had such personal significance for me. PJ Harvey is an awesome legend, and Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea is by far the best album of her career. This particular song has vocals by Thom Yorke, who is one of those artists who could sing 'Baa Baa Black Sheep', and without trying, make it sound like the most emotive poetry ever written.
The album happened to come out while I was in this relationship and many of the songs seemed to form a backdrop to the kinds of things we were feeling, but this one stood out. Some of the lyrics were fairly generic, but one or two of the lines made us catch our breaths, because they seemed to describe exactly what was going on, and what was going on had seemed so unique to us.
This is so often what I am straining for when I listen to music; someone to say the things I feel, but say them better than me. This song is so significant because it says some of the things I felt the deepest in all my life.
29 Hard To Get RICH MULLINS
I really found the Christian subculture a very difficult one to fit into when I became a Christian. One of the hardest things, was the fact that most of the Christians I met seemed to enjoy the anti-music that is produced by the majority of Chrisitan artists. Not only is ALL of it in the key of G, not only do Christian singers put on a special fake Christian-sub-culture accent, but they also all lyrically pretend that we do not live in the real world.
I'm all for praising God; he's wonderful, and sometimes that's all I can do. But there are times, and these times are plentiful, when it's hard to live and the reason it's hard is the cross I am taking up. There is nothing in the Bible which shys away from this fact, and the wonderful truth is that God is no less worthy of praise when this is most keenly felt.
It is these times; when I am on my knees, and all I can do is look heavenward, it is in these times that I feel I need some kind of music to express the things I cannot express. But all I can find is "lalala, we're so happy, cos Jesus is our friend! Lalala, Everything's great, so no need to bother learning a forth chord! Allelulia!" Frankly, that just doesn't cut the mustard for me.
But then my friend played me this song. It really does say all the things that I pray so often in those times. It dares to ask the questions, even make the accusations that I want to make. It describes things that I really feel as a Christian, not just the things I think I ought to feel. And yet it is not irrevarent, because like the psalmists, in the end we still have to bow the knee because God is God: "And I know you bore our sorrows And I know you feel our painAnd I know it would not hurt any less Even if it could be explained And I know that I am only lashing out At the One who loves me most " And that is how it should be. And THIS is what I want to sing to God. The same things that the psalmists sang. My praise, my true praise, is to conclude that even in the midst of all this, you are still God, and I worship you, because you are so worthy of it.
30 I Have a Love/A Boy Like That LEONARD BERNSTEIN
It's odd how innocence masks things from you. I have been watching the video of West Side Story repeatedly since I was 8 years old. I loved the music and the dancing instantly, and was old enough to know to cry at the end, but I suspect that had more to do with the mastery of Bernstein's music, which would have sounded heartbreaking and bereft even if the people on the screen had been smiling and laughing. As I've watched it again as an adult, I now see things that were invisible to me then. I was horrified recently to discover that what was about to happen to Anita in Doc's store that night was a gang rape. I had never seen the racism between the gangs or the corruption of the police. I laughed at the instant depth of feeling between Tony and Maria, which before I had accepted without question.
I had always thought that this duet between Maria and Anita was an incredible piece of music. I have always loved musicals, but Bernstein's score is just in a completely different league to anything else in the genre. Even if the lyrics had been a shopping list, there is enough passion in the music of this song to make you feel like you've been wrung through the spectrum of human emotion by the end of it. When the song begins, I can't imagine a more perfect realisation of the grief-stricken rage that Anita is feeling as she realises what had just gone on in that bedroom. Then in contrast to this, the purity and simplicity of Maria's soprano cutting through it. She is saying that it really doesn't have to be so complicated. It's just love, isn't it.
Of course as a Christian I can't wholly buy into all the sentiments in this song; the idea that love is the only thing that matters is the kind of sentimentality that excuses infidelity and all kinds of other unlovely things. The song even contains the postmodern line "it's true for you, not for me" so I can't exactly say that it sums up my world view. But true as this is, I cannot help but resonate with what Maria is saying, and what Anita eventually acquiesces to by the end of the song. This idea that it's hard sometimes to really say that you're doing wrong when all you are doing is loving someone. It's one of the harder things to brush aside in the name of your morality, so Maria's arguement always has me sold in the moment of it. And even Anita can't resist, even though the love being spoken about has taken her own love away. It is the music which does this. The words are sentimentality, and it's too fantastic to believe that Anita's mind could be changed so completely if this were just a poem. But the music makes you believe it. And that's why music can be wonderful.
31 You're Still The One SHANIA TWAIN
I tried to deny it, but I can't, I love this song and I don't care who knows it. I love it because it celebrates fidelity; how many other pop songs can you think of with that as thier subject? I love it because of its unashamed romanticism; "we beat the odds together"! "I'm glad we didn't listen, look at what we would be missing"! Even though the whole world was against them, and the others were lined up to tell them it wouldn't work, love won out! *sigh* I love it because whenever Rooted play it, everyone starts swaying and singing along. I love it because it's the happy ending I want to believe is possible "you're still the one I kiss goodnight" even a cynical, miserable old bag like me.
Anne Witton said...
I love this song too for all the same reasons!! And I've never owned up to it before!I have also LOVED going on a musical journey through all the songs that have special significance for you. Thank you for sharing them. Xxx
30 December 2006 14:45
yo OddBabble. I read your song list a couple of days ago when I should have been doing work. In fact I did still do it but I "You Tubed" every song and listened to them all (after reading your reasons behind them) whilst I worked. It was such a great way to spend a whole morning! Thanks so much for it. I loved that I could get to know your reasons behind them and it certainly made me smile. I'd love to do one myself but im not convinced it'd be a touch on yours! Thanks dude!
04 January 2007 09:58
Thanks so much for sharing your songs. I feel honoured that you have taken the time to write about them, and that you have been so complete in your honesty. Thank you!lots of loveBxx
19 January 2007 09:06