The recent ‘Top 10 books that have impacted your life’ meme has been making me think about songs that have played a similar role in mine. There might have been books along the way that encapsulated a moment, but in a way, nothing does it like a song. And those songs often reappear unexpectedly in our aural landscapes, transporting us back to those moments, in a way that books don’t. We have to consciously re-read those, and we rarely do.

So what are my songs?

1. The Surrey With a Fringe on Top by Rodgers and Hammerstein (Oklahoma). My dad played the piano and used to play this to me as a child. Years later I went to see Hugh Jackman singing it in Oklahoma on stage. It never fails to have me sobbing by the end. It’s such a loving song. (See also: Little Brown Jug. My dad used to play the organ at a Welsh chapel and every now and again I’d accompany him down there when it was empty and he’d play this for me).

2. Ave Maria by Bach/Gounod. My mum had a beautiful voice and sang in our Catholic church on Sundays. She taught me the Latin words to this and we’d often sing it together. We played Pavarotti’s version at her funeral. (See also: Climb Every Mountain by Rodgers and Hammerstein (Sound of Music). I heard her sing it one night, at a dinner party, with my dad on the piano. She always denied it had happened, but it did. She stopped singing after my dad died so it was a rare thing to hear her beautiful voice.)

3. I Only Have Eyes for You by Art Garfunkel (orig. Warren/Dubin). Mesmerisingly beautiful love song that I played and sang along to over and over as a tweenager. I wanted someone to sing those words to me, but maybe not Art (sorry, Art).

4. Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush. See my ‘Why I’ll Never Stop Trying to be Kate Bush’ post. Says it all.

5. Head Over Heels by Tears for Fears. This is how I felt when I first had a massive crush on someone – bells ringing, heart a-flutter. Still gets me today, and they’re still a band I reckon to be one of the best pop bands ever. Their songs stand out a mile. (See also: Save a Prayer by Duran Duran. Said crush was on Simon le Bon and this is the song where I knew something naughty was going on in the song, but not quite sure what. Apparently, it’s all about a one-night-stand. My mother would not have approved.)

6. Out of Africa soundtrack by John Barry. My family had lived in Kenya during the 1950s but I wasn’t born then. I longed to go and follow in their footsteps and finally got the chance with my ex-husband – we visited Kenya and Namibia. The soaring soundtrack reminds me of our safaris to Tsavo and the Namib desert. We constantly referenced Meryl Streep’s accent and quoted the movie all the way round. Happy times.

7. Hysteria by Muse. The soundtrack to my marriage break-up. It encapsulated the yearning for freedom that I felt at the time. I became obsessed with Muse. (See also: Sing for Absolution by Muse and The Reckoner by Radiohead. This was clearly my Catholic guilt kicking in for wanting the things I wanted at the time.)

8. The Tempest by Pendulum. The angry “fuck you” break-up song after splitting up from a kingsized love rat. Along with Hysteria, you can tell these were my tempestuous years. (See also Hypocritical Kiss by Jack White – the soundtrack of last summer).

9. She Wolf by David Guetta (ft. Sia). The soundtrack to a passionate relationship with a younger man. He couldn’t stop playing it and neither could I. Maybe he saw me as a predator, but in reality, he asked me out. Always the way…

10. Up All Night by John B. This drum and bass track encapsulates my new-found freedom and lust for life. I love playing it really loud on headphones. It also references my insomnia, which has only recently gone away (see ‘Epiphany’ post). (See also: Waiting all Night by Rudimental (ft. Ella Eyre). This track is the sound of my new life in north-west London. I love drum and bass, love Rudimental, and I love Ella Eyre’s soulful voice. It’s my go-to late-night track.)

Plenty that didn’t make the list: Selecter by The Selecter, Dandelion/Cochise by Audioslave, Born Slippy by Underworld, Karma Police by Radiohead, Animal Nitrate by Suede, Vienna by Ultravox, I Feel For You by Chaka Khan, Atomic by Blondie, Prince Charming by Adam Ant, Geno by Dexy’s Midnight Runners.

What are yours?

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Fifty-five-year-old woman flying solo since 2010. Freelance writer, editor, hiker, traveller, yoga teacher. Alcohol-, child-, and hair-dye-free.

2 thoughts on “Soundtracks”

  1. Ooh, I do like a list and I LOVE music so I have to join in this. (Couldn’t do the last one as there aren’t ten books that I’ve repeatedly read) in St Ives for the weekend so it’s on the iPad as plain text with no formatting and some will be more musical themes than individual songs. Music that takes me to a time or place.

    First up is “Downtown” by Petula Clark. We’re all the product of our upbringing, and amongst my earliest memories are my parents’ community activities which included “Record Hops” that they organised in the church hall. We always had records in the house because of that, and I still have this one.

    Next up is “Lola” by the Kinks, which Ray Davies still plays, a song which takes me to school days and the boating pond at Saltcoats. Facebook friends know the story, but I had no idea what the song was about. Small Town Boy indeed.

    “You Can Do Magic” by Limmie and the Family Cooking was my real introduction to ‘pop’ and I’ve loved it ever since. I’m an avid Eurovision fan and never miss it. Who else do you know who has a Vengaboys album?

    “Rebel Rebel” is in to represent David Bowie as his music has changed along with my own tastes and I have singles from Space Oddity through to Where are we now.

    “Walking in Rhythm” by the Blackbyrds was one of the songs that heralded a new interest in my life, dancing. Through the late seventies and early eighties we went clubbing four nights a week and heard more music than I could ever list.

    Average White Band were to be called up,next to represent the jazz funk years with their version of I Heard it Through the Grapevive, which I saw them do at a concert at Glasgow Apollo but this afternoon I heard “Let’s Go Round Again” in a cafe so that’s in instead.

    Another record I have from that period, and still dig out the turntable and play, is “The Warrior” by Ipi n Tombe, a real local flor filler.

    Running through my life like a soundtrack is a constant background of Motown, Stax, and the like. This is impossible to sum up in a single record so “Out on the Floor” by Dobie Gray is no more than a taster.

    There has to be more to life than soul, funk, and jazz so I’ll drop in “This is the Day” by The The from the early eighties. It reminds me of people and places.

    So what now, how will I finish by bringing it up to date? I listen to lots of music but my tastes have stayed with dance and moving to North Kensington has added Ska, Soca, and Reggae. Earlier this year a friend from Trinidad sent me a link with the message ‘you’ll love this’. It turned out to be an old school chum of hers Machel Montano performing the official song of Carnival 2014 and I still go back to the link and play “Happiest Man Alive”.

    Phew, who’s next?


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