There’s a meme that’s been floating around Facebook lately, asking people to list 30 songs over 30 days. Each song comes with a subject, and the object is to list a song under that subject.
Honestly, I’d have forgotten what I was doing by about day 4, so I’m just going to list them all in two long lists, and then you’ll have a ready-made playlist of songs about colours, drugs, childhood, weddings, and more for your summer holidays this year.
Are you sitting comfortably?
DAY 1: A Song with a colour in the title.
The Power of Orange Knickers, Tori Amos
I could have picked any number of songs to start this little journey with, but I thought I’d set the tone by picking something a little obscure, and a little away from the run of the mill. Tori Amos has a heavenly voice, and her lyrics skirt a fine line between fragile and proud. There’s nobody quite like her in modern pop music. This track, from her underrated 2005 album The Beekeeper, is close to my favourite track from the album.
DAY 2: A song with a number in the title.
One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces, Ben Folds Five
If there’s a song that sums up my High School years, and how I view the idea of ever attending a school reunion, it’s this one. A perfect slice of outsider pop.
DAY 3: A song that reminds me of summertime.
The Party, Uncanny X-Men
Unless you were around in the 80s, it’s hard to explain The Uncanny X-Men. Imagine you threw a bunch of musical instruments and face paint into a paddling pool filled with hyperactive, drunk, toddlers with a collective reading age of about 6…. they’re the embodiment of the decade that taste forgot. As a teenager in Rockingham, their album ‘Cos Life Hurts was on high rotation over the summer of 85/86, and this song is still the one that brings me back to summers on the beach, bombying off the jetty, tyre-fire parties at Long Point on a Friday night, West Coast coolers….. good times.
DAY 4: A song that reminds me of someone I’d rather forget.
Another First Kiss, They Might Be Giants
I’d been a They Might Be Giants fan for years, so when they announced an Australian tour and new album in early 2001, I grabbed myself a ticket and pre-booked the album long in advance. One thing being another, my wife Sharon fell pregnant, and was booked in for a caesarean section on the morning of the concert. I had not intention of going, but by the evening she was sick of the sight of me and just wanted to go to sleep, so she told me: go to the concert. The baby and I will be here in the morning. So, with the CD in the car, and my new tour t-shirt on, I did just that. And it was brilliant. And the album stayed in the car while I shuttle back and forth to the hospital over the next couple of days.
Four days after our daughter was born, Sharon died. And while I’ve been able to listen to the rest of the album ever since– indeed, I embarked on a TMBG spending spree over the next couple of months as part of an obsessive bout of comfort spending– I’ve always found this song difficult to listen to. It’s too tied up with the events of that time, and what they brought to an end. And while I’m happily, blissfully, married– and have been for 12 years– this still brings to mind a dark, painful time, and a person who should never have been allowed to die.
DAY 5: A song that needs to be played loud.
Magic Carpet Ride, Steppenwolf
They might be better known for the legendary driving song Born To Be Wild, but for me, this is Steppenwolf’s greatest song– an insane mish-mash of psychedelic riffs, heroic levels of feedback, and lyrics that read like they came out of an LSD trip even Timothy Leary would have been proud of. And yes, it needs to be played loud— loud enough so that the feedback makes your fillings rattle. Do it.
DAY 6: A song that makes me want to dance.
Uptown Funk, Mark Ronson, featuring Bruno Mars
So close to listing Play That Funky Music, White Boy here, but damn it: I love funk, this song is too damn fun, and I’ve spent too many car trips with this cranked up and the whole family shouting it out at the top of our voices not to include it. For a short while it was absolutely everywhere. It’s impossible to ignore, and if you don’t at least get your nod on, there’s something incurably
DAY 7: A song to drive to.
Radar Love, Golden Earring.
The quintessential driving song, for almost 45 years. And it still bloody rocks.
DAY 8: A song about drugs or alcohol.
People Who Died, Jim Carroll Band
Drugs, alcohol, guns, trains, rooves, more drugs, more alcohol, suicide, glue, other drugs, cancer, angry bikers, drugs…… This is the most unrelenting, single-tin-drum-note-banged-over-and-over again song about the junkie classes I’ve ever heard. I think it’s hilarious, possibly for all the wrong reasons.
DAY 9: A song that makes me happy.
Johnny Appleseed, Joe Strummer and the Mescaleroes
I’m a sucker for string sections in rock bands. And folk-rock. And The Clash. And joyous upswings when the chorus hits. And goddamn it, the Mescaleroes were only together for three years prior to Strummer’s death– you see hints of what they could have achieved in their albums, and no more so than in this beautiful, riotous slice of pop wonderment.
DAY 10: A song that makes me sad.
Have I Told You Lately?, Van Morrison
I can’t remember what the other song was, but when it came time to decide which song Sharon and I should dance to at our wedding, it was this and the other one. We tried this one: Sharon burst into tears. We tried the other one: it was lovely. We tried this one again: tears. The choice was obvious.
I can’t listen to this song any more. Like some other, small, things, the pain has dulled, but the reaction is instinctive: I simply can’t listen to it.
DAY 11: A song that I never get tired of.
Whole of the Moon, The Waterboys
Is there a more joyous, epic, uplifting song about feeling a bit shit in comparison to someone else? This is pure pop perfection.
DAY 12: A song from my preteen years.
I Love Rock and Roll, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
The song that inspired a thousand crushes. well, one, at least. Mine. And it’s lifelong. The ten year-old me didn’t quite know what the angry, guitar-swinging, leather-clad lady was doing to the tingly bits of my insides, but he was bloody well sure he wanted it to keep happening. It’s a love affair, and a set of attractors, that’s still going strong 37 years later. And the song? Well, the song is a total banger. And still a goddamn rock and roll classic.
DAY 13: A song from the 70s.
Solsbury Hill, Peter Gabriel
I’ve been a Peter Gabriel fan since childhood, when his post-Genesis singles were FM radio staples, and I’d never even heard of Genesis so had nothing for comparison. He didn’t sound quite like anything around him, and over the years I slowly acquired his studio albums right up until Up. But this has always stuck with me– it’s another uplifting song about loss and bridges crossed, but there was enough ambiguity in the lyrics to send my imagination spiralling through love affairs, insane asylums (for a very long time, I thought it was about a man being released from a madhouse), death, and prisoner exchanges. Even now, it’s a song I use to let loose my thinking, and allow myself to be swept up by the lonely, windswept imagery. It’s a truly beautiful piece of pop.
DAY 14: A song I’d love to be played at my wedding.
The Ship Song, Nick Cave
A bit of a cheat: this is the song we did play at my wedding, to Luscious in 2005. We danced to it, in full wedding get-up, at the Swancon masked ball, while a dozen friends in fancy dress swayed in a circle around us. It still brings us together: it’s our song, compltely and utterly.
DAY 15: A song I like that’s a cover by another artist.
Tainted Love, Living End
Okay, so we’ve already had one cover, and if it wasn’t for the fact that I have another Madness tune lined up, I’d be using this spot for their version of It Must be Love, which is just about the greatest cover song in history, imho. However, I think we all need to take a moment to appreciate the sheer genius involved in taking one of the most insipid, limp, soft-focus synth ballads of the 1980s and turning it into a foot-stomping, barnstorming slice of rockabilly thunder. Talk about making a silk quiff out of a pig’s leotard.
If you enjoyed that, stay tuned. Days 16-30 will be along any minute!