I met someone recently who said they only like one genre of music, and positively disliked many other genres. It made me think. I looked at my library of music and realised it was quite eclectic, and I own songs and albums from many genres. I chose a song because I liked it, or because it reminded me of someone, or a particular time in my life. Once I’ve bought a song, I’ll look up what else the artist has recorded, and buy more if I like it. I’ve never been bothered about the genre. To me, to be locked into one genre is too narrow, closed off, and inhibits new musical experiences.
So what are my favourite ten songs? Selecting only ten is far too difficult, and I’ve gone for thirty. As I’m about to go on holiday, I’ve put them on a playlist, which I’ve listed below – in no particular order, just alphabetical – and noted a few lines about why I chose the song. There’s a youtube clip for each one, which I hope works. I’m an old geezer, so some go back a long way!
Alanis Morisette/Hand In My Pocket. When my youngest son was still living with me, we used to share a room where we both worked away in the evenings on our PC’s. One evening, he said to me, ‘Hey, dad. I think you’ll like this.’ I did, particularly the angry, rocky lyrics.
Amie Winehouse/Rehab. Such a talented singer who had such a short, sad life. I saw her in a gig just after her first album. If only she’d gone into rehab, she might not be dead now.
The Beatles/Yesterday. I heard this song in a car after a date. It worked for us. We went on to be married.
Bob Dylan/Blowin' In The Wind. I used to sing along to this in the sixties with a bunch of friends. At the time, we wanted to change the world.
Carole King/ Tapestry. I heard it for the first time going to work on the day my eldest son was born. It’s become one of the best selling songs of all time.
Coldplay/Viva la Vida. My daughter bought tickets for my wife to see Coldplay in the UK about three years ago, when they toured this album. It was an open-air venue, and it poured with rain. I remember Chris Martin dancing and singing his heart out, totally oblivious to the weather. It was a great evening.
Corinne Bailey Rae/Put Your Records On. I heard this in 2006, when she first appeared in the UK and I was driving to see a friend. I was so impressed; I stopped the car to make a note.
David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust. First heard in the early seventies at a friend’s house. I’ve listened to it many times since, and it still grabs me.
David Gray/White Ladder. This song reminds me of when I went see my youngest son in Vietnam in 2002. He was doing a gap year there. I bought the album for 50p in a rip-off shop in Hanoi, who’d burn copies of albums to order while you waited. I didn’t listen to it until on the plane home. After three tracks it cracked, fizzled, and faded out.
Donald Fagen/New Frontier. A song I used to listen to a lot during a bohemian period in my life. It brings back memories of smoky rooms and getting very drunk.
The Eagles/Hotel California. I used to listen to this when I lived on my own in a small, cold, dinghy apartment in North London.
Elton John/Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. I can’t remember exactly what I was doing when I first heard this song, but I do know I listened to it many times. In the clip – filmed in 73 – Elton John’s wearing some cool glasses.
Foreigner/I Want To Know What Love Is. I used to listen to this when I was in love with a person who’s since died. Very sad, but we had a great time together.
Janis Ian/At Seventeen. This song kicked of the same love affair for me.
John Lennon/ Imagine. I remember this song being played back-to-back on British radio the day John Lennon was shot. The world hasn’t moved on much from then.
Joni Mitchell/ Woodstock. I never managed to get to Woodstock. I tried, but it never seemed to work out. I like all of Joni Mitchell’s music, and it’s hard to chose a favourite, but this is it.
Laura Marling/ Failure. My daughter, who’s also called Laura and is the same age as Laura Marling, told me about her. Laura and I have been to one of her gigs.
Michael Kiwanku/Home Again. A brilliant, new singer with a haunting, unique, and unusual voice. My youngest son put me onto him.
Neil Young/Heart Of Gold. Of all the many of Neil Young’s songs this, for me, is the most haunting and memorable.
Norah Jones/Come Away With Me. I heard this when taking a vacation on the West Coast of America in 2002. We bought the album for my son, who’d just returned from a year away, and we played it continuously in the car.
Otis Reading/Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay. This is a short song that lasts just over two minutes. For me, it’s a reminder of a wonderful relationship.
Paul Simon/Still Crazy After All These Years. This song was at the heart of one of my relationships. It continues to remind me of those times.
Pink Floyd/Wish You Were Here. I think this is Pink Floyd’s cleverest song. It has many brilliant lines: one is particularly memorable – ‘And did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?’ My youngest son sent me the album, Wish You Were Here, when he was at uni. He included a bar of chocolate – which surprisingly turned up in one piece – with a note saying, ‘chocolate is for sharing.’
Queen/Bohemian Rhapsody. I first heard this at the beginning of my bohemian period and when many things changed in my life.
REM/ Imitation of Life. Imitation of Life. This reminds me of when, one summer, Laura and I were painting a garden shed. The song played on the radio, and we both danced around, like in the video clip, with paintbrushes and singing along. I love the line, ‘best thing since bread came sliced.’ If you haven’t seen the video, watch it. It’s weird, but fun.
Ray LaMontagne and The Pariah Dogs/New York's City's Killing Me. I’ve seen Ray LaMontagne twice. I think another of my son’s alerted me to him, and I’ve been hooked ever since. My daughter bought me this album, which I think is his latest. Ironically, I listened to it on a flight to New York.
Roberta Flack/Killing Me Softly With His Song. This song goes back a long time, nearly forty years, and brings back many memories of a wonderful ten years of my life.
Sade/Lover's Rock. I discovered Sade myself when I was stumbling around after a personal tragedy, trying to discover where I was going. I bought the Lover’s Rock album, and have listened to it many, many times, and still do.
Simon and Garfunkel/Bridge Over Troubled Waters. Back in the seventies, over a holiday weekend, a UK radio station did a charity call-in. Depending on how much money was bid, the DJ’s would play major hits. For several years, this song, received the most amount of bids, and was played every two or three hours. The clip’s interesting. They’re aged, and occasionally miss the top notes, but still tremendous to listen to.
Steve Winwood/ When You See A Chance. A song that is probably my signature-tune. I’ve taken many chances – most have worked out. I believe in going for it in life, if you don’t, you’ll regret it later. Steve Winwood is a much underrated rock-blues musician, who’s played and worked with many of the music industry’s legends. He’s respected by them all, and, from what I’ve read, is a really nice guy.
Stevie Wonder/All In Love Is Fair. This is part of my heritage. I was into Stevie Wonder in a big way in the 70s and 80s but don’t listen to him much now. However, this is my favourite track with so-true lyrics that say it all. There’s a magnificent line – ‘A writer takes his pen to write the words again that all in love is fair.’ It’s an old clip, but authentic, and taken about the time he first recorded it. Apologies for the twenty-five seconds advert at the beginning.
Tony Bennett/ I Left My Heart In San Francisco. I heard this first when I was seventeen, many millions of years ago. It’s nostalgic and sentimental, but I loved it then and still do. I’ve been lucky enough to go to the great city three times. It lives up to its reputation.
I’m away now for two and a half weeks, so I won’t post as regularly. I’ll try to do a few.