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?