Music’s a funny thing.
A piece of music can transport me back to a moment better than any number of photographs or videos. I can listen to music and remember where I was, who I was with, and how I felt in an exact moment in time.
Knowing this, you’d think I’d be – well – more circumspect in my listening choices. But no, I had my first kiss to Lionel Richie’s Dancing on the Ceiling.
I’m just setting expectations because I’ve been asked to share my Desert Island Discs playlist with you by Lindy, who wants to know what I’d listen to if I was marooned on a tropical island, along with one book, and one luxury. This will not be a highbrow post.
For some people creating a list of all-time favourite songs might be challenging, but the good news is that as well as being obsessed with the idea that I’m potentially moments from death on a daily basis, I am also a teeny bit of a control freak, so I’ve already prepared a Spotify playlist for my funeral wake. This might seem odd, but how can I rest in peace knowing someone might inadvertently play Lionel Richie at my funeral? God forbid.
So here are my eight all-time favourite songs:
John Mayer, Free Fallin’ Live at the Nokia Theatre: Some days, it feels like everything you try and hold onto crumbles at your touch. And it was on a day like that I texted my best-friend, in a slightly tipsy post-divorce haze, and said, “I feel like I’m falling.” Now, my best friend is my best friend for lots of reasons. But mostly because he is the sort of person who replied by sending me a link to this song with a message that said, “Falling is just letting go of the things you don’t need any more.” Also – he came round to my house and brought a bucket-load of alcohol. So, that helped.
The Smiths, There is a Light that Never Goes Out: Because it’s just perfect. I don’t need to say any more than that.
Billy Bragg, Between the Wars: Remember when musicians had opinions? And ranted about poverty and injustice and government stupidity? I loved this song in the 1980s, and I love it now. “I will give my consent, to any government, that does not deny a man a living wage.” Too flippin’ right, Billy. Soundtrack to many Young Socialist meetings and (ever-so-slightly-earnest) long lunches in the student union. In your face, Bieber.
Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Under the Bridge: Listening to this song takes me straight back to my second year of uni in Glasgow. I’d had a family drama and so stayed at uni over the break, crashing at my friend’s flat. My student loan was a distant memory, so we lived on instant noodles from the Safeway across the street – served on toast, with dried parmesan cheese. Mmmm. Our cuisine was made even more exciting with the addition of popcorn, bought at 20p a bag from the Indian supermarket on the Byres Road. We stayed up into the small hours every night, drinking beer and playing FIFA soccer. And listening to this song.
The Weepies, Can’t Go Back: This one’s a recent favourite, but it reminds me of the trip Flea and I took to Brighton a couple of years back. It makes me think of sunshine glittering on the sea in front of Hove Lawns, Flea and I sitting on the stony beach and comparing the size of our feet. It’s Flea learning to ride a bike, and going on a giant bungee trampoline. It’s seeing my friends and feeling myself remember what it’s like to be with good friends who really ‘get’ you. It’s realising it could be a long time before we get to go home. This song makes me think of new adventures and memories and goodbyes all mixed into one. It’s a beautiful song. AND it’s got muppets in the video.
The Pixies, Here Comes Your Man: If I ever want to remember how it feels to be 17 years old, at my first ever music festival, this is the song to take me there. It’s also the song that reminds me of a heady summer spent riding in a psychedelic painted bus working for Greenpeace, and listening to the stereo each evening on our way back into the city after a day of door-to-door fundraising in the suburbs of Toronto. It’s a proper, summer, feel-good song. Perfect for singing ever-so-slightly too loud on hot nights, with the windows down.
James Taylor, Fire and Rain: I reckon there’s probably a generation of kids coming of age who don’t really know the joy of a good pub jukebox. James Taylor reminds me of lots of amazing days and nights, but this song was a fixture on our favourite pub jukebox in my early 20s. My best friend and I would settle into the pub in the early evening, and line up our change on the pool table, then load the jukebox. The last two songs of the night were always – ALWAYS – Hey Jude, and Fire and Rain. This song makes me think about long conversations, DMs and plaid shirts. Happy days.
Ben Folds, The Luckiest: Ben Folds probably takes a spot on just about every Spotify playlist I’ve ever made. And maybe another day, it would be another Ben Folds track on this list. They’re all brilliant, and smart, and often very funny. But today, if I was setting out to a desert island, a song that says “I love you more than I have ever found a way to say to you” seems like the right choice. Because I’m emotionally inept at the best of times, and I like a songwriter with an understanding of social awkwardness.
I’m also supposed to pick a book and a luxury. Which is easier than picking songs. My luxury would be sun block. Seriously. I come in two shades – alabaster and scarlet.
And my book? My Family and Other Animals. Because it’s sunshine and happiness in the printed form, and even though the copy I have is literally falling apart at the seams from being loved so very much for 30 years or so, I still periodically pick it up and read it again.
I’m supposed to tag some other bloggers at this point, so if you’d like to take on the challenge, I’d love to read the recommendations of Katherine, Jaime, Eileen and Merry (since she owes me a favour).