Where do you start?
Rather than compile a list of 8 songs to take on my desert island that are my favourites – an impossible task – I have compiled my discs based on memories they invoke of specific times in my life so far. In my view, that’s how it should be.
1. Breakfast in America, Supertramp.
I purchased this single which lead me on to buying my first LP, and takes me back to a 1979 a time of secondary school. This was not always a happy time for me as being a little nieve, I was picked on by the more streetwise members of my class. Not physically bullied but singled out for unkind teasing more or less each day that progressed until I invariably burst into tears. This went on more or less each day for 2 years until I effectvely ran away by requesting I was put in a different class where a majority of my friends were, meaning my final year at secondary school was a much happier one. I remember playing the single, and subsequently the LP, repeatedly in my bedroom on the Bush record player I had been given by my Uncle John. Probably singing along badly as well. A bit of escapism from an unhappy time.
2 This Woman’s Work – Kate Bush
Sometimes a song comes along that just knocks you for 6, and ‘This Woman’s Work’, for me, is one of those songs.
Not only is it a beautiful melody, backed up by Kate’s wonderful vocal, but it also has some very powerful lyrics that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end everytime. This song comes back to me at times in my life when emotional turmoil threaten to take me over, and somehow it helps. The particular lyrics that really hit home for me are still very raw and hence I won’t share with you the story behind the words. Instead I will share with you the lyrics and strongly recommend if you haven’t heard the track, listen to it.
I should be crying, but I just can’t let it show.
I should be hoping, but I can’t stop thinking
Of all the things we should’ve said,
That were never said.
All the things we should’ve done,
That we never did.
All the things that you needed from me.
All the things that you wanted for me.
All the things that I should’ve given,
But I didn’t.
Oh, darling, make it go away.
Just make it go away now.
3. Elgar, Nimrod from Enigma Variations
Nimrod is a popular piece of music and rightly so. Everytime I hear it, like ‘This Woman’s Work’, it still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up on end.
What helped me get through the emotional turmoil I experienced at secondary school, was the School Adventure Club. A teacher by the name of Mrs Allen was an active participant in hillwalking activities in the UK and beyond. She shared her enthusiam for the great outdoors by arranging regular school adventure clubs trips to Dartmoor, Snowdonia, Brecon Beacons and The Lake District. The Lake District became a place that worked its magic on me and became a frequently visited location for many years following my first trip there with the school in October 1977. A week in Coniston and Wastwater Youth Hostels, full board including the cost of the fuel in the school mini bus from Devon, for £7! Bargain! It rained ….. a lot! There was flooding even. The bus broke down on the way up meaning we arrived at Coniston at 10pm, but the week was one I shall always remember. A small group of teenage boys and girls with a number of teachers, who were all nice to me! What a breath of fresh air at a time of unhappiness at school, meaning that these trips became something to look forward to helping me to cope withith the teasing during term.
But why associate Nimrod with The Lakes as at that time I hadn’t knowing heard the piece of music? Well in 1985 Heineken Lager launched a TV advertising campaign based on the famous Lakes poet Wordsworth (that’s not a real ale), with Nimrod as the backing music. Since then, the power of TV advertising has meant that anytime I hear the music, pictures from that advert and the words of Wordsworth famous poem come into my mind.
4. Ode to Joy, Beethoven symphony No. 9.
In my mid to late teens, I had a really good mate Larry. We would spend hours together playing sport and laughing. We had a similar silly sense of humour honed on radio comedy of the time that included The Show with 10 Legs, I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again and The Grumbleweeds to name just a few. 10pm on a week day would more often than not see me glued to my Roberts radio listening to the comedy half hour on Radio 2.
Happy times. However, what Larry also did was introduce me to classical music which meant more often than not my paper round money was spent in WH Smiths record department on MFP (Music for Pleasure) classical albums. One such favourite was Beethoven’s 9th Sympony which included a wonderfully powerful movement that again would make me stop and listen whenever I heard it. Thanks Larry.
5. Bruce Hornsby and The Range – The Way it is
In 1985 I brought my first car aged 21. An Opel Kadett 1.3s in Orange, and it was my pride and joy. This was the age of Live Aid but funnily enough the piece of music that came to mind to remind me of this time was The Way it is.
Shortly after purchasing I had a vinyl sunroof fitted and have lots of happy memories driving with the roof open as the sun always shone then didn’t it?! I have a very vivid memory of driving down the M5 on one particularly sunny day over an Easter weekend, with my well used Bruce Hornby TDK tape playing loudly over my car Trio radio/tape player. The tape was a permanent fixture in my car for quite sometime. Happy days.
This was a happy time in my life. I had escaped the unhappiness of school, I had finished a 3 year apprenticeship with BT, enjoyed my job and had a group of friends who had formed around a local R&B band called Johnny Smeg & The Bluesbums. My Mum found the band name hilarious and would call them The Bluebums and break into giggles. Didn’t have the heart to tell her it wasn’t that part of the name that was the rude bit! So happy days and an introduction to being a roadie that is still with me today with a hobby of Stage Lighting.
6. Peters & Lee – Welcome Home
I think its fair to say that my parents never had a ‘cool’ taste in music. No Beatles, no Rolling Stones, no The Who, Pink Floyd, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix or any other ‘cool band’ of the period. Instead my childhood musical memories was made up of Perry Como, Aker Bilk, James Last, Carpenters and, of course Peters & Lee. My older sister wasn’t much better as she was into The Strawbs for christ sake!
Peters & Lee, a blind bloke and a blonde lady, rose to fame in Hughie Green’s Opportunity Knocks, the forerunner of the X-Factor for those younger than 30. Along with other legends as Bobbie Crush and Lena Zavaroni! P&L LP’s then started to appear in the Pye Stereogram in the living room that looked like a sideboard to the unwary.
So, my childhood, that was a happy and go lucky time as I played outside on my Moulton Mini 1970 bike, football with my mates and building dens down by the river – Frogs Wallop being the most memorable – just went pear shaped when I cameback indoors and was presented with a musical education that was a little bit to be desired. Perhaps that was why I spent so much time outside??!
7. Rod Stewart – Sailing
In 1976, when I was aged just 12, a series was shown on the BBC that documented life on the HMS Ark Royal called Sailor. The theme tune to this series was Sailing by Rod Stewart. My dad loved both the series and the song and it was a familiar tune in the family home for many years.
Moving on to 2001 and my Dad, after a battle with lung cancer passed away. In the week following his death my sister and I helped my Mum with the practical things that need doing after a death and in preparation for the funeral. The service was to be a Humanist service and was a lovely service that told the story of his life. Stories were told and laughs were had as we remembered the good times. When it came to the end of the service and time for the coffin to slip away behind the curtain, we had chosen Sailing as the farewell music. Up until then I had remained in control of my emotions. When I heard the opening bars of that song, the emotion overcame me and I can still remember the lump in my throat as the tears welled in my eyes.
8. Alabama 3 – Mao Tse Tung Said, (Exile on Coldharbour Lane Album)
I remember exactly where I was when I heard this for the first time. The wonderful City of Cork, Eire, 2002.
This was one of our boys trips away. 20, or thereabouts, grown men riding around Cork for 24hrs on customised micro-scooters wearing hollowed out “Pumpkin Helmets’ …. as you do. Our fatal error being pumpkins are orange and we hadn’t registered the significance in relation to Irish history.
Late in the afternoon having been sampling the delights of traditional Irish fare all day, we visited a pub called the Hairy Lemon. Well I swear it was called the Hairy Lemon but when Keith, Mark and I visited Cork in 2006, enquiries for directions to the establishment were met with blank faces. This was probably a good thing as conflict with Mark’s mantra of ‘Never go back’ was hence avoided.
The Hairy Lemon was a drinkers pub full of atmosphere, and playing over the PA system was Alabama 3’s Exile on Coldharbour Lane album. I remember being distracted by the music and the foot began a-tapping, At this moment, my love affair of the music of Alabama 3, especially this album, and their live performances began.
We have had many similar ‘mini adventures’ over the years, sparking the ‘death of a thousand anecdotes’ on many a winter evening over a beer or two. And the Alabama 3 will remind me of these trips on the desert island.
My luxury would have to be a guitar. I’m not that good but I can spend many happy hours trying to improve without putting anybody else through the pain.
My book. Hutchinson’s Encyclopedia. Another happy memory from my childhood and should keep me occupied for hours. And when I finish it, my poor memory will mean I can read it again and it will seem like the first time!
So, what’s your Desert Island discs?