Monday, 6 May 2013

Songs in the Key of Life

Desert Island Discs is a long-standing programme on BBC Radio 4 that I’ve hugely enjoyed for a number of years now. With the advent of the podcast, I can delve through the BBC’s huge library of broadcasts over the years and they make for avid listening.

It got me thinking about my favourite songs and the ones I would like to take with me should I ever be cast to a desert island. The trouble is I would need more than the 8 the BBC programme restricts you to.

If you’re having difficulty sleeping, below are some of the songs that I would take with me to a desert island...

Set Fire to the Rain – Adele
This song was never off my IPod at the time just before and during the period I left my wife. I first came across Adele after I wrote on my blog about the American singer Carole King. She was in a concert which was shown on BBC4 and I found it hugely enjoyable. Someone posted on my blog that Adele was the new Carole King. So I downloaded her album ‘21’ and was bowled over. Adele has such a powerful voice it strikes the heart. The lyrics of Set Fire to the Rain brought it home to me how unhappy I was with my wife and how something had to change. It did on 26 January 2012 when I walked out of nearly 30 years of marriage – with Adele providing the soundtrack to a momentous move.

Town Called Malice – The Jam 
I loved The Jam – strangely, more so after they split in 1982. A Town Called Malice was out at the time I was living in Aberdeen and, to me, the song could have been written about the Granite City. When my parents separated in 1969, my mother took me there from Cumbernauld, just outside Glasgow. It was 140 miles away but it could have been the other side of the world. Twenty years later, I left Aberdeen for Edinburgh. Aberdeen is a beautiful, clean city but many – although not all -  of its citizens have a very narrow-minded view of life. I felt I had to fit into one of the boxes Aberdonians put you in – and I sat uncomfortably in it.


Street Fighting Man – Rolling Stones 
The argument has raged for almost half a century – who were the best, The Stones or The Beatles. I feel some of The Beatles’ early songs were naff, for want of a better word, although some of their later work as they headed towards an acrimonious split was quite good. However, for me, The Rolling Stones were consistently good and I have always preferred The Stones more aggressive style. Street Fighting Man epitomises the band – it’s one of the best rock songs ever. It’s astonishing to think Mick Jagger and co are still going strong all these years later.
Nothing Compares to You – Sinead O’Connor
When I left Aberdeen I went to live with my father in Paisley as 1990 began. I was with him for three months. I had never been particularly close to my father, due to him discarding his wife and only child into wilderness just before Christmas 1969, but when I reached adulthood, got married and had children of my own, we became closer. He was an enormous help to me when I left Aberdeen and for that I will be eternally grateful. Nothing Compares to You was number one in the charts at the time I was living with him in 1990 and it reminds me of the time we spent together and the support he gave me. My father died very suddenly seven years later, aged just 58, and never a day goes by when I don’t think about him. When I hear this song, he immediately comes into the forefront of my mind.

It’s Too Late – Carole King

I’ve always enjoyed Carole King’s music and the aforementioned concert I watched on BBC4 in 2011 brought it home to me how much my life needed changing. I didn’t love the woman I married in 1982 the way a husband should love his wife – she was more like a sister to me – and spiralling debt and other problems meant something had to change. ‘Something inside has died and I can’t hide but I just can’t fake it’ – King’s lyrics resonated in my head. I know I hurt people when I walked out of my marriage in 2012 but I risked hurting people even more by staying.


We Found Love in a Hopeless Place – Rihanna
Now I know what little credibility I have may well have disappeared with this choice but bear with me. 2012 saw one relationship end for me – and another blossom. The lovely Marion has rekindled the passion I used to have for life and I have now found love once more. My daughters may snigger but I quite like Rihanna’s music and this song always   reminds me of the love I have now found with Marion. After a difficult time, I have indeed   found love in what was a hopeless place.

Come on Eileen – Dexys Midnight Runners
This song was in the charts when I got married in 1982 and reminds me of happier days with my wife. We were just 20 years old at the time and I thought we could do anything we wanted. Children arrived and we brought Laura and Michaela up to be fine young adults of whom I’m extremely proud. Sadly, my love for my wife faded over the years – but this song is a reminder of when it was at its strongest.


Sunshine on Leith – Proclaimers

Now, as a Hearts supporter, you might find my fondness for The Proclaimers – one of Scotland’s leading musical acts – somewhat strange given the Reid brothers penchant for all things Hibernian. However, I’ve always enjoyed their music and I remember being blown away when I first saw them live in Aberdeen in the late 1980s – just before I left the Granite City for Edinburgh. In 2012, one chapter in my life closed whilst another opened and I moved to Leith. Sunshine on Leith is an apt description of how Marion rescued me – ‘My heart was broken, sorrow, sorrow, you saw it, you touched it, you claimed it, you saved it’. When I first heard the song more than two and a half decades ago, little did I think that one day I would be living in Leith. But while I’m worth my room on this Earth, I will be with you…

 It Must Be Love – Madness
 As a lover of ska music, there had to be a ska song here. I love Madness and I would dearly love to see the Nutty Boys live in concert. I’ve already seen The Skatalites, The Specials, The Beat, The Selecter and Bad Manners live, so Suggs and the boys would almost make things complete. The lyrics to It Must Be Love – an old Labi Siffre song – could have been written for Marion and I. I saw Suggs at the Edinburgh Festival in 2012 when he spoke about his life and did a few songs. He finished off with this one and it brought the house down.

The Story of the Blues – The Mighty Wah!

First they take your pride,
then turn it all inside,
and then you realise you got nothing left to lose.
So you try to stop, try to get back up,
and then you realise you're telling the Story of the Blues.
Felling browbeaten day after day,
I think It's over but I just can't get away.
You said forget it, well don't go jump to the gun,
you're laughing this time next time you might be the one

Pete Wylie’s powerful voice and vibrant music has always meant a lot to me. The Mighty Wah! – one of several creations of Wylie’s in the 1980s – hit the charts with this song and it struck a chord with me. At the time, Thatcherism was at its height and there were major changes at my then place of work in Aberdeen. Bus deregulation, introduced by then PM Margaret Thatcher, meant many staff being shown the door at what was to become First Group. The Story of the Blues depicted the uncertain mood at the time – a mood that was shared by the working classes of the mining, steel and shipbuilding industries in Scotland. Industries Thatcher set out to destroy.

 My Perfect Cousin – The Undertones

My mother brought me up almost single-handedly in the early 1970s and when the school holidays took place I would go to my grandmother’s house where she looked after me and my cousin George. This happened every year between 1970 and early 1974 and George and I had a few things in common. We were both only children, being brought up by a single parent  - and we both had a love of football. Games of Subbuteo, the table football game which was hugely popular in the 1970s, were frequent – but George always seemed to bloody win! A few years later, Irish band The Undertones sang about My Perfect Cousin. I loved The Undertones and while Teenage Kicks ran this this track very close, this was my favourite song as it contained lyrics such as ‘My perfect cousin – what I like to do he doesn’t’ and, with reference to the aforementioned football game, ‘He always beat me at Subbuteo, ‘cos he flicked to kick and I didn’t know’. This song always reminds me of summer days in Aberdeen’s west end.

These are just some of my favourite songs - you'll be thrilled, I know, to learn I may post some more at some point. Where's the valium...?


Adullamite said...

Beatles songs "Naff?"

Don't ever speak to em again pagan!

Mike Smith said...

I wanna hold your hand...!

Joanna Jenkins said...

I'm with you, Adele is fantastic! What a voice. And I've always been a big Carole King fan too.

Loved the Beatles but would def say the Stones are more to my liking, although I wish the old guys had skipped their current "50 and counting" tour. They're a little too old for the same old songs and all the dancing around ;-)

And... So very happy to hear you've found happiness again, Mike. That is great, great news!