30 songs: Days are all too long

It might have taken 2 weeks, but here we are on day 4, a song that makes you sad.

I had to think really hard about this one, because songs, books, films, TV don’t tend to affect me like that – Gem more than makes up for me though, last week’s Benjamin Button tearfest being a prime example. That said, I couldn’t help but have a lump in my throat at the opening of Up, so it’s not like I have a heart of stone, right?

Anyway, after a lot of thinkings, I actually came up with two songs that would fit this category. Honorable mention goes to Who Wants to Live Forever? by Queen, which might well have been today’s choice if not for them already having featured. Oddly enough, today’s featured song is by another band who were pretty big in the 80’s, and whose front man is no longer with us.

Step forward Big Country, and their haunting ballad Come Back To Me, from the 1984 album Steeltown. The song is a tale of heartache and loss, told from the perspective of a pregnant war widow, watching as the rest of the street celebrates the end of a war her husband/boyfriend will never return from.

I’m guessing from its release date the song was written with the Falklands Conflict in mind, but really the sentiment is timeless – it’s as relevant today as it was over 25 years ago.

Come Back To Me is actually the second of two war-related songs on Steeltown, the previous track being Where The Rose Is Sown. Told from the point of view of a young man full of bravado as he heads off to war, it’s a great set up for what is to follow.

I’ve linked both songs below for full effect, but do at least listen to Come Back To Me. It really gets me every time.

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

30 songs: I’m a rocket ship on my way to Mars

Way back in time, before MP3s, CDs,. and yes, even before racing airport trucks (although I think we did have Cadbury ads), there were things called tapes. We used them to play music, and they were so small we were able to play them everywhere we went. Including in the car.

Even after I found my own musical taste, it’s fair to say that when it came to in-car music, my dad got the biggest vote. I might be able to sneak something on now and again, but for the most part it was his small tape collection (the much larger vinyl collection being a bit less portable) that got played. And played.

Fortunately (or perhaps consequently) there’s a fair bit of overlap in our musical taste, so it wasn’t all bad. And riding in the front seat meant being able to exert a fair bit of musical control, albeit based on the aforementioned limited selection.

One tape which I absolutely loved was Queen’s Greatest Hits, and it got played to death. It might actually be the first album I knew every word to, although some of the Bohemian Rhapsody lyrics were a little hard to make out let alone understand. That was a favourite song, of course, but then I could apply that moniker to pretty much the whole album – you’d expect quality from a greatest hits album of course, at least back then. Nowadays it seems you can knock out a best of after 3 mediocre albums, one last cash-in before the inevitable fade into obscurity. Not like the olden days…

Ahem. Anyway, Don’t Stop Me Now was another favourite, and if any song can make me happy (today’s topic) I think that has to be it. 3 and a half minutes of unadulterated musical joy that’s so infectious I defy anyone to feel at least a bit happier when it’s being played.

And should there be anyone who falls into that category, there’s always chocolate.

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

30 songs: You gotta spread the word

If picking my favourite song was a challenge, picking my least favourite song might just be even harder. I mean, how many millions of songs have ever been recorded? And even if I like thousands of them, that still leaves… well, a lot that I don’t like.

To narrow things down a bit, and avoid picking something that I’m quite obviously never going to like (Scooter, I’m looking at the likes of you) I’m going to follow Lis‘ lead, and restrict myself to things that I might have liked.

Be Here Now is, for a lot of people, the point where the Oasis bandwagon came off the rails. Definitely Maybe is without doubt one of the best debut albums ever released, and although I’ve never been as keen on (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, it’s still a decent album (for the record, I’ve always preferred Blur’s Great Escape), and I was definitely looking forward to record number three.

I started my first post-university job the day Be Here Now was released. At lunchtime I left my new colleagues behind and trekked down to HMV to buy it – I know it was from HMV, because I’ve still got the crappy numbered certificate that was inside, certifying that I “was there then”. Really!

If you’ve heard the album, you’ll know it’s not very good. Sure there are a few highlights, but overall it was a disappointment, even more so given the hype that had surrounded its release.

One track in particular made me cringe, and that’s what I’ve picked today: All Around the World. The strings sound good, I’ll give them that. But beyond that? The lyrics are fairly trite, the melody is pretty bland, and Liam’s voice grates more than usual. And yet, I think it would have been a decent enough album filler track had it finished after about 4 minutes! The last two or three minutes are not just unnecessary, they’re downright offensive – it’s like they’re taking everything I didn’t like earlier on, and repeating it over, and over, and over again. Aaaargh!

When they released it as a single, astonishingly giving them their fourth UK number one, that was when Oasis really jumped the shark for me. I’d bought every single up until that point, never bought another one again. Yes I might have one or two of their later albums, and yes they did make decent songs after this, but it was never the same again.

I never saw Oasis live. Maybe I’ll go when the inevitable reunion tour comes to town. But if they play All Around the World, I’ll be getting the drinks in.

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

30 songs: Writing’s on the wall

When I started this blog a few months back, I wasn’t all that sure what it would contain, if anything. Music, family anecdotes and the occasional rant were all things I thought would feature though. Four months on, the picture is somewhat different. Since Bob Dylan wrecked my “listen to new (to me) music every weeek and blog about it” project by being too good, it’s fair to say music has taken a bit of a backseat.

Well no more. I’ve seen a few people doing the 30 Day Song Challenge meme (although interestingly I think I’ve yet to see anyone complete it!) and decided to join in. And I aim to finish, although don’t expect for one minute that it will be done in 30 days. Or even 30 working days. This is going to take some time…

So… day one – my favourite song. That’s easy, right?

Not so much. I love music. I’ve bought a lot of music. I love a lot of music, across a host of eras, genres and artists. Trying to distill that down to one song that I can say hand on heart is my favourite… that’s really, really hard. I’ve agonised over this for weeks, thinking up, then rejecting, all sorts of things. Some of those have been put against future categories (planning ahead, you see, although those are liable to change before I write about them anyway) while others have dropped off the list altogether.

So how have I finally made a decision? What it came to was this: it would be very easy to have the same handful of bands cover the whole list, so I’m going the opposite way – every spot will feature someone different. That’s the plan, anyway, whether or not I stick to it is a different matter. But with that rule in place, one song instantly rose to the top of the pile.

For a good while back in the day, it was a rare weekend where I didn’t end at least one weekend night in Fury Murry’s. It might have been run-down, dirty and smelly, but for me, Fury’s (and to a lesser extent the Garage) was the perfect nightclub. You could turn up wearing whatever you liked, the drinks were usually cheap, and the music was so in tune with my indie/rock tastes it was uncanny. I even ended my stag night there, because where else could I have possibly wanted to go.

I think it was probably in Fury’s that I first heard Superstition by Stevie Wonder. Even if it wasn’t, it’s still the first thing that comes to mind when I hear that distinctive drum intro (played, on the original recording, by Stevie himself). What I know for definite is that the song became my Fury’s anthem (Stone Roses’ I Am The Resurrection is a close second). If for some reason it WASN’T played of an evening, I was gutted, and after a while I took it on myself to request it. EVERY time I was in the place. The fact that one of the regular weekend DJs was a friend of a friend helped in that regard.

Many years later, Fury’s Glasgow is sadly no more. But my dancing shoes live on, and nothing gets me on a dancefloor faster than a bit of Stevie!

Interestingly, I told Gem what my opening selection for this was going to be, and what a struggle it had been to settle on one song. “Really”, she said, “I’d have picked that for you straight away”. Proof, as if it were needed, that my wife knows me a lot better than I know myself!

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!