On the A-side of this mega-list of songs, I listed 15 songs defined by a meme currently circulating on Facebook. If you haven’t already done so, check out numbers 1-15 and then jump back here as I flip the record and listen to the experimental stuff we let the drummer write so he can get a few royalty dollars to tide him over.
Day 16: A song that’s a classic favourite.
In the Hall of the Mountain King, Edvard Grieg
Let’s substitute classical for classic. This is my favourite piece of classical music. It’s wonderfully evocative, and a superb example of how music can be used to create mood, narrative, and mental imagery. I adore it.
Day 17: A song I’d sing a duet with someone at karaoke.
The Wine Song, Cat Empire
It’s probably not actually suitable for karaoke, given the large sections without any lyrics whatsoever, but this is just such a carefree, riotous, leg-kicking romp of a song that it seems born for singing together with your closest friends, arms around each other, swigging from a bottle as you dance in a circle around a roaring fire….. kind of makes me wish I still drank…… or had friends……
Day 18: A song from the year I was born.
Spill the Wine, Eric Burdon and War
1970. Hell of a year.
Day 19: A song that makes me think about life.
Death of a Clown, Dave Davies
This song has been such a steadfast pat of my playlist for many years, always with a Kinks by-line, that I wasn’t aware it was the first, sputtering shot at a solo career for Dave Davies.
There’s such a thread of despair running through it, a sense of dreams coming to an end in the face of a cold, grey, reality. I can feel the magic slipping out of the world when I listen, feel the cost of pursuing artistic dreams in a world that prizes conformity and stability above all else. I see mirrored futures, wherein I’m finally ground down and irrelevant, tucked into a dusty underground bar with all the other failed anomalies while suits pass by outside the window, oblivious.
Basically, it’s sad as all fuck.
Day 20: A song that has many meanings to me.
Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd
Another mournful ode to things that were, and should have been, and could be. Pink Floyd do agonising self-reflection better than almost everybody. This stripped back, simple arrangement is a forlorn counterpoint to their usual lush, high-production songs. There’s a resonance here that has never left me, a sense of so many things unsaid, and so many potential paths missed.
Day 21: A song with a person’s name in the title.
Henrietta, The Fratellis
It’s rare that I become a solid fan of a band upon first listen, but The Fratellis is a notable exception. Their first two albums were such an infectious combination of high spirits, oddly quirky lyrics that often skirted the edges of fetishism, and licks that dug into your spine and kicked about forever. Plus, of course, there was a time when you couldn’t go anywhere without the la-da-da, la-da-da, la-dada-dada-da of Chelsea Dagger playing from one speaker or another. This was their first single: setting in place a sound that was already mature. It’s rollicking good fun.
Day 22: A song that moves me forward.
Uncertain Smile, The The
Another song that’s gloomy on the surface, but with a subtle thread of positivity and hope running through the lyrics and arrangements. It’s a perfect song for down periods, acknowledging the current situation but offering a hand to lift the listener up. It doesn’t promise miracles, just the knowledge that someone will be there, as you climb back towards the light.
Day 23: A song I think everybody should listen to.
Dear God, XTC
The world has far too many anthems dedicated to the superstition of God. Here’s one that points out the ludicrousness of it all, and how it all comes down to the very human weakness of needing an external excuse for our behaviours. XTC was one of the most pitch-perfect pop groups of the 80s and 90s, with a slew of brilliant, acerbic, and laser-sighted slices of social commentary. This is them at their finest.
Day 24: A song by a band I wish was still together.
If there’s anybody alive who doesn’t understand the unbelievable storm of talent that was Queen, well, I hope it’s warm under that rock. And while they are, in the strictest sense, still together, let’s be honest: no, they’re not.
Listen to this. Listen to the sheer epic awesomeness of it. And then remind yourself that it was recorded while Freddie Mercury was dying. And still, as a dying man, still had that voice. This is my Queen. This is the Queen I wish was still with us.
Day 25: A song I like by an artist no longer living.
Never Mind, Leonard Cohen.
How can a guy in his early 80s still produce a work as seamlessly coherent, contemporary and damn well gripping as this? Cohen was a poetic and musical genius who only got better as he got older, as his voice sunk and deepened and widened into a bed of gravel, as his attentions turned away from lost loves and focussed upon the underlit grimness of his un-travelled paths. Two years after this, Cohen was dead at the age of 82. Just after releasing his final slice of brilliance, the black-as-pitch You Want it Darker. What a loss.
Day 26: A song that makes me want to fall in love.
My Baby Just Cares for Me, Nina Simone
Just a beautiful, beautiful song about love, acceptance, and happiness.
Day 27: A song that breaks my heart.
Waltz #2, Elliott Smith
Everything Elliot Smith recorded was just awash in sadness. After his suicide, many of his lyrics were thrown into sharp relief, as if he was using them to reach out for help that never arrived. I’m not a firm adherent to the belief that there is no line between art and artist– I’ve written too many stories about subjects in which I have no personal experience– but the loneliness and hopelessness in this ballad of love-slipped-past just creases me over every time.
Day 28: A song by an artist whose voice I love.
Ode to My Family, The Cranberries
The Irish accent. The voice, so simultaneously fragile and whipcord strong. The lilt. The wild, wolf-like yodels and howls that haunt the background of their songs. Dolores O’Riordan has the most sublime voice in pop. Siiiiiiggghhhh……
Day 29: A song I remember from my childhood.
I’m The Urban Spaceman, The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band
I don’t know where I first heard the Bonzos, but I was more than aware of them before I saw Neil Innes sing this on the Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl video in early 1984. I’ve been an avid fan my whole life. There’s a peculiarly English eccentricity to the band’s material, but listen closely, and there’s an absurdist observation of everyday life that I find gripping and beautifully astute.
Day 30: A song that reminds me of myself.
Johnny the Horse, Madness
And how else could I end, but with my favourite song from the band that remains my lifelong love. This song resonates with me so much that I’ve utilised the opening stanza for my long-running blog The Battersblog.
And if you missed it up the top of the post, check out days 1-15 here.