Having (a) recently read Nick Hornby's 31 Songs, (b) realised that there are 31 days in December and (c) amassed a CD collection which, from start to finish, would run for twenty-four days non-stop, I thought it might be fun to pick a tune-a-day this month.
So, here follow, in no particular order, thirty-one songs that I like, from my music collection. Not necessarily my top-31, or the ones I listen to the most, or those that mean the most to me. And I wouldn't guarantee to choose the same songs if I did it again in January (and not just because that'd be a bit repetitive :-)
And until the middle of January, I'll sneak an MP3 of the track in there too, so you can all have a listen...
I don't think I could embark on any project like 31 Songs and not include the song which has accompanied me for the longest, so Don't Go Breaking My Heart was an obvious choice for the first day.
My earliest memory is from when I was three or four. The girl who lived next door and I are listening... dancing... singing... whilst Elton and Kiki serenade each other on the radiogram in next-door's dining room. This was quite a regular occurence at the time; apparently it was quite a favourite of ours, and we would oft ask for someone to put the record onto that very 70s, sideboard-sized record-player. I've often wondered whether that was an early indicator of my fascination with music, and more worryingly dancing and singing...
And so it continued, one of the first albums I bought on CD in the early 90s was The Very Best of Elton John, basically for this and Rocket Man although I do like quite a few of the other tracks on it. Earlier is better as far as I'm concerned with Elton John, which explains why the only thing he's done recently that I like is Are You Ready For Love. It's good to see it bringing other fans out of the closet though :-)
Bringing this right up to the here and now, Don't Go Breaking My Heart is the only song that I've sung in public. It's become a signature tune for Emily and I to perform at karaoke, something we've done a couple of times in pubs in Cambridge, and it was the first track that I sang at my recent party. I wouldn't mind, but it's all a bit high for me really, so I usually end up missing the odd note here and there. Still, I've been told that it's a good idea to put the tunes you know you'll get wrong at the start of your set, because you'll get them wrong anyway whilst your voice is warming up... maybe that makes it the perfect karaoke opener for me.
Well, before everyone gets too worried that I'm going to trot out another thirty tracks in the Elton John vein, I'll slip in something completely different in a blatant attempt to prove that my musical tastes are varied and ecclectic.
I think I'm pretty safe, with the varied claim at least; I doubt that Ice Cube or Dr. Dre would list Mr. John in their musical influences. The levels of profanity in their songs are at opposite ends of the spectrum too - Express Yourself is probably the only track on N.W.A's Straight Outta Compton that isn't laced with swearing, and the worst that The Very Best of Elton John can manage is The Bitch Is Back. Not that I'm impressed by cursing in songs, I'm long past the stage where I got a rebellious thrill from the number of times the F-word appears in Guns 'N' Roses' Appetite For Destruction, and Express Yourself shows that N.W.A. can produce an excellent track without it.
This is a prime example of how I like my rap, early gangsta or old school. Ice Cube's It Was A Good Day, almost anything from Public Enemy's It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, back to such classics as Rappers Delight by the Sugarhill Gang or I Know You Got Soul by Eric B. and Rakim. I guess it's a sign that you're getting older though when you notice that J.Lo's Jenny From The Block has ripped a chunk of KRS-One's South Bronx...
What a superb line. Look, don't argue, it just is. And it often pushes its way to the front of my brain and demands that I play it in my head. I think that's why Getting Away With It won out over Electronic's other nomination Get The Message.
Lyrics. Of utmost importance if you're compelled to sing along to everything you listen to, which I am. There are hardly any instrumentals in my music collection as a result - it's much harder to impersonate instruments, which is my fallback position if there aren't any words. If I was ever in a band I'd find it difficult to refrain from singing along with the guitar solos! Give me a line, and I can usually carry on afterwards. Of course, I don't know all the words to all songs, but if the song is playing at the same time you can generally improvise for bits you're not sure of until you get back to part that you know, and no-one is ever the wiser. Trust me...
Ah, the story of my life. But strangely I'm more likely to be singing I'll Never Fall In Love Again in the beginnings of a new romance, rather than after things have gone pear-shaped.
I think it's a mood thing. My mood and the music I'm listening to are tightly intertwined. What I want to listen to depends on my mood, and my mood will depend on what I'm listening to. Music can amplify and intensify how I'm feeling, or effect a complete change in my frame of mind.
When I'm smitten, warm, fluffy, easy-listening is the way to go, making this Burt Bacharach penned classic an obvious choice. Other likely candidates are The Carpenters, or Harry Connick Jr. or Can't Take My Eyes Off You by Andy Williams. It's unlikely that I'll be listening to I'll Never Fall In Love Again though. The song has become one of the few that I'll regularly sing myself when there isn't any other music around, but I think an accompanied Bobby Gentry does it much better...
Ain't Nobody is my favourite disco track, although it doesn't get played anywhere near as often as it deserves in clubs. Maybe the recent cover by Liberty X will revive its fortunes, I thought they did a decent job of it, even if the original is still the best. So good, in fact, that my friend Kerry chose it for the first song at her wedding.
A great way to usher in the weekend, or the week, or anytime really... enjoy.
The rave scene. My introduction into the world of clubbing. I just love the frantic, hyperactive dancing, all flailing arms and a blur of feet. I've never understood the need for mind-altering chemicals with it, if the music is good then I've always been able to lose myself in the all-consuming beat and movement.
The Prodigy are past masters at producing such all-encompassing rave tunes. When I saw them at the start of the Music For A Jilted Generation tour in the "world famous" Palace nightclub in Blackpool, my friend Neil drifted off into the crowd after about the second song, at one with the music, and we didn't see him again until the end of the night.
Out Of Space is one of my all-time favourite rave tunes, and also one of my favourite Prodigy tracks. There's so much going on; a nice lyrical hook for us singers, a frenetic beat broken by the occasional quiet section to let you chill, before it builds back up to the next assault... This track confirmed my interest in the Prodigy, the track that pushed me over the edge into buying Experience, their first album. Whilst other rave anthems from the same period have dated, and seem slow by today's standards (Oceanic's Insanity for example seems almost lethargic now), Out Of Space has retained it's energy and freshness. Take your brain to another dimension.
The Christmas season is well and truly upon us now, and many of the local houses are trying to out-do each other to see who can run up the biggest electricity bill for external decoration. All a far cry from the family described in this lovely folk song, There Are No Lights On Our Christmas Tree.
There was a lot of folk music in my upbringing, most of it local to the North-West of England. I didn't really appreciate it then, partly because it wasn't "cool", and partly because of the prevalence of the Lancashire mill songs from the Houghton Weavers. There are still a fair number of Houghton Weaver songs that I like, but I much prefer the groups with a Liverpool slant, such as The Spinners and the singers of this song, Jackie and Bridie.
There Are No Lights On Our Christmas Tree is taken from a recording of the duo live at the Liverpool Philharmonic (iirc, my parents went to see this actual gig) which explains the banter at the start. The sleeve notes on the LP finish with the line "you will be hearing a lot more from the talented Jackie and Bridie", it's a shame that I probably won't.
My parents' record collection was both a source of great interest and of great frustration when I was growing up. As my knowledge of, and therefore interest in, artists from "before my time" grew, my prime source for listening to any of this music were the LPs arranged on the bookshelf, and a couple of boxes of 45s. As a result, I've possibly got a better idea of what's in their record collection than my parents have.
There's some great music to be had in there, some curiousities, and some forgotten gems. Gerry And The Pacemakers, Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers, Rolf Harris, Groovin' With Mr. Bloe, Disco Duck (I'll let you decide which category they each fall into). But for some of the headline, obvious choices there were slim pickings. The Beach Boys? Nope. The Monkees? Nothing doing. Surely some Rolling Stones? None. Well, they both grew up in Liverpool in the 60s, so surely the Beatles are covered? Erm, not really, a couple of singles - I Feel Fine / She's A Woman being a personal favourite - and one album, With The Beatles, and nearly half of that is cover versions.
This has meant that my music collection has profited as a result. I've had to buy the back catalogue stuff myself, so it's on CD rather than vinyl, and I've discovered a lot more Beatles stuff that shows how amazing they were. I still had to get myself a copy of With The Beatles though, mainly for two tracks. Till There Was You is a glorious, light ballad, that one day I'll have memorized all the words to, and Roll Over Beethoven is my favourite rocking-out Beatles tune, raw and full of energy, and the first Beatles song I fell in love with.
You'll Never Walk Alone is a very emotional song for me, and occupies opposite ends of the spectrum of happiness.
Ever since I was young, I've followed the fortunes of Liverpool Football Club, although as the son of an Evertonian, I'm not quite sure how that happened. As everyone knows, You'll Never Walk Alone is the club anthem, and regularly shakes the foundations of Anfield and many a rival stadium. So for the longest time, this song has been the soundtrack to my football spectating - consoling us in our disappointments, but more often celebrating our great victories. The 80s was a fantastic time to be growing up as a Liverpudlian.
Nearly two years ago, however, it gained a more mournful association. A song which, for me, invoked great happiness and elation, a song to sing when you've achieved your dreams, now also marks the greatest sorrow, the monumental gulf in my life. For a long time I had mixed feelings about the fact that my father chose it to be played at my sister's funeral; upset that it had been taken away from me as a song of celebration, and guilt for allowing football to cloud our family's darkest hour.
But it obviously has great meaning to my Dad too. And the sentiment and lyrics of the song are perfect. With the passing of time, my fears that it would be a constant reminder of that painful time have proved unfounded, for to be reminded I must first have forgotten. It is a truly great song, for it has taken up the extra burden without faltering, and is now also a celebration of the memory of Karen.
It's a good job that there aren't many songs about Cambridge. Or about anywhere else I've lived, for otherwise there's a good chance that they'd have driven me mad. Not because I think they'd be played too much in those locations, but because my brain would perpetually be playing them to me in my head.
London suffers from this problem, or should that be "I'd suffer from this problem if I lived in London"? So far I've managed to avoid it by not spending extended periods in the big smoke, but there have been a couple of close calls. First was when I spent a week working in the west end, and stayed in the Sherlock Holmes Hotel. So for five days, I was haunted by Gerry Rafferty performing an endless Baker Street gig.
Since then, I've picked up a few other location-associations in the captial. If I alight at Waterloo station then I get a Waterloo Sunset, regardless of the time of day; but I think that's better than being defeated by ABBA. On another hotel stay I was round the corner from Berkeley Square, so I could continually hear nightingales singing. Thankfully I'm not tormented by nursery rhymes if I'm in the vicinity of London Bridge...
Whilst I can keep the duration of the affliction short, I quite enjoy it. It's nice to be reminded of favourite tunes just because of where you're visiting, so for now at least, the start of the tube journey at Kings Cross (having just arrived from Cambridge) is brightened by the song surrounding the thought that I may be "stuck in a tunnel on the Hammersmith and City line".
For those of you who aren't fans of Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, the line is from their song Lean On Me I Won't Fall Over, and they very generously provided this cover by The Family Cat on their Glam Rock Cops single. Better than their own version, I've always thought.
The Manic Street Preachers are a band who have always surfed the periphery of my musical tastes. I quite like a lot of their work, generally finding them more accessible post-Richey, but not being enamoured enough to buy any of their albums. Until their greatest hits album, Forever Delayed, was released last year, I'd accumulated the odd track here and there on indie compilations, and the CD single of If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next was my only direct contribution to the Manic's pension fund.
The one track of theirs that I always felt my collection was lacking is Motorcycle Emptiness. I'm not sure whether that would've been enough to warrant me buying Forever Delayed, but I managed to acquire a free copy via a competition at BBC 6 Music.
Sometimes when you hear a song that you've not heard for ages, it is welcomed back with an enthusiasm that bears more relation to the nostalgia and freshness borne of its exile than the merits of the song as a piece of music. The appeal of such songs soon wanes, and it is best to discard them; ready for a future rediscovery to begin the process again. I am happy to say that this is not the case with Motorcycle Emptiness, it remains the soaring, best-played-loud tune that I remember.
Now, I'm not a DJ, but I think that Michael Jackson's Billie Jean must be the BMW M3 of songs, the consummate all-rounder.
Just look at the number of other songs it's been chosen to partner. Billie Jean is the cut-up track of choice on a thousand bootlegs... Billie Jean vs. Last Night a DJ Saved My Life, vs. I Know You Got Soul, vs. Don't Stop Moving, vs. Without Me, vs. Frozen...
The reason for this? Simple, it's a classic, from back when Michael Jackson was producing sublime music, so you just know it's going to be a floor-filler. A bit old-school for those who like something they can sing along to, but still funky enough to mix it with the modern dance tunes. It even comes with a built in trailer for the main song, that unmistakable bass line; the DJ can tease the crowd by dropping it into the previous track... you know what's coming, but when will it arrive? Time to abandon your drinks and make a break for the dancefloor, if you aren't there already. And once on that, now packed, dancefloor, the anticipation builds with every loop of that killer hook, first it's just the bass line, then we get the strings... is this it...? no, we're back to the bass line... building the tension... heightening the excitement... until it's all unleashed in an orgy of dancing when we hear that "She was more like a beauty queen..."
I arrived at today without having decided what song I to choose. I've decided on the songs for all the other days in the project, but was having difficulty over the thirty-first song. It didn't seem to be through lack of choice, there are another fifty-one candidates in the didn't-quite-make-the-final-cut folder, but none of them was making a strong enough case for inclusion.
Then, whilst listening to the radio, they played a cover of Louie Louie, arguably one of the greatest songs not in my possession. That's the song.
Luckily, in this age of the Internet, sampling new music is easier than ever. A quick search on Soulseek netted a wide variety of covers of the song, but my favourite is still the one that everyone knows, and the one chosen here, by the Kingsmen.
So the oversight in my collection is on its way to being corrected. Music is only part of my collection when I either own a CD containing it, or a legal MP3 of it. The peer-to-peer networks have been a great boon to my music listening, but have also cost me a fair bit. They are an excellent way to find out more about an artist, to try before you buy, particularly when they have an extensive back catalogue. They don't always make the grade, but more often than not, gaining some knowledge of which songs are my favourites gives me enough information to make a choice when buying the first CD. Over the past year, I reckon about a quarter of the albums I've bought (roughly fifteen of sixty) have been directly because I'd downloaded some of the tracks beforehand.
Louie Louie has got this far before; made it to the listening area, but not tipped over the edge into being purchased. I think this is the final push it needed, now I just have to find it on CD somewhere...
Songs often seem to describe exactly how we are feeling, particularly so with love songs. I guess, given the number of songs that have been written, there's a pretty good chance that you can find one to suit your feelings almost to a tee.
A few years back, when I was even more shy and retiring, I used to take this relationship between songs and feelings a bit far. As I've already mentioned, the smitten Adrian often turns to Harry Connick, Jr. and I've Got A Great Idea has been used on more than one occasion to convey the message that this tongue-tied idiot couldn't manage.
I can confidently report that this hiding behind songs rather than interacting with the object of your affections is an unsuccessful gambit, although I suspect that the song is largely blameless in the whole misadventure. So, it's all out in the open now, which makes it pretty impossible for me to resort to such tactics in the future.
I'm developing quite a liking for cover versions. It used to be that whichever version of a song I heard first, that'd be the one "proper" version and the only one that I could abide. But no more.
The first step to covers' rehabilitation was discovering their use in finding more music. When Deacon Blue did their Burt Bacharach covers, that led me into a wealth of easy listening; the Echo and the Bunnymen's cover of People Are Strange on the Lost Boys Soundtrack showed me the Doors... Maybe some good will come of all this Pop Idol stuff if it encourages people to investigate who did the original versions of all their songs ;-)
Now I relish hearing other peoples takes on songs, especially if there's a clash of genres, the Trash Can Sinatras' To Sir, With Love, for example, Lauren Hill's superb version of Can't Take My Eyes Off You, or McAlmont & Butler doing Take That's Back For Good. My favourite of the genre is Cake's I Will Survive - guitar-based indie meets disco classic and doesn't result in an abomination. It could be argued that the fusion of two of the dominant genres in my musical tastes make this the perfect song for me, but it isn't. Damn good fun though.
Sheila Nicholls is a wonderful lyricist. The music might help with the delicacy of the words, the piano seems to complement them perfectly, where electric guitars would, I feel, overpower the singing. Today's choice was more for an album, than a song, but I finally plumped for Hannah over my other favourites from Brief Strop: Question, Elevator, or the track which introduced me to Sheila, Fallen For You, which was featured in the film High Fidelity.
Loaded is my number one choice of jukebox song. If you happen to be in a pub, and I'm there, and there's a jukebox, and Loaded is on it, then unless you get there first and fill up the playlist with lots of other songs, you will hear it before the night is through.
Don't worry though. It's not like you'd hear it repeatedly for the whole evening (or until I ran out of money); it might be guaranteed to be in my initial selection, but it'll only appear once per pub visit. Thereafter you'll get to hear whatever else takes my fancy from the selection. I'll endeavour to have my choices fit with the mood set by the music that's been playing on the jukebox so far, and the playlist will be a selection of songs that I really enjoy, things I haven't listened to for a while, and tunes that haven't made it into my personal collection, but are good fun from time to time.
And finally, if I run out of stuff I like, I'll start experimenting with things that look like they might be interesting to listen to. So if we get to that stage, there might be a few ropey tunes played, for which I apologise, but how else are we going to discover new favourites?
There are many Pulp tracks I could have chosen, given that I've got almost everything they've ever produced. In fact, I think Pulp are the only band I've ever seen live more than once. I chose F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E because I like it, and because of it's role in the rehabilitation of spelling into the art of songwriting.
Spelling is a little used technique, lyrically, but has come from strong beginnings. Soul music showed us the way, with Carla Thomas' B-A-B-Y as a fine early example, followed not long after by Aretha's Respect. However, in the Seventies, spelling was led down a bit of a blind alley by The Village People and Ottawan with Y.M.C.A (hmm... that's not really spelling is it?) and D.I.S.C.O.. Pulp have rescued spelling from that backwater, and passed the baton to 50 Cent with his P.I.M.P..
Faithless' Insomnia acts as a warning that the mood-enhancing effect of music isn't always a positive attribute.
A few years ago, late one evening, I was returning to Bury St. Edmunds with a few friends after a night out in Thurston (exciting and heady days I know ;-). The roads were empty, the weather was good, so I was enjoying the drive. There are a series of roundabouts as you approach Bury, so there were heel-and-toe downshifts at the entry to each, and then maximum acceleration runs on the way out. The (admittedly a little too loud) exhaust on the M3 was sounding glorious.
As we reached the roundabout with the A14, Insomnia was just starting on the radio, so I decided to continue the adrenaline rush with a quick blatt along the A14 before heading into Bury itself. As we accelerated up the slip-road, the song was starting to hit full steam, and fuelled by the beat I slotted the gearstick into fourth, and continued to accelerate as we progressed down the dual carriageway.
Now the problem with accelerating in fourth is that third only runs out at about 90mph. Usually I'd stop accelerating in third, and then cruise along in fifth, but being caught up in the moment, we ended up cruising along at about 110mph until we got to the next exit.
This is where things got more, err, interesting. As we decelerated down the slip road, I was suddenly aware of a car having arrived just behind us. A white Mondeo. One of those lovely white Mondeo's that soon gained some flashing blue lights on top.
I dutifully pulled over to the side of the roundabout, and wound down my window ready to have a chat with the nice officer.
Unbeknownst to me (obviously, I'm not that daft), they'd been following us since before we hit the A14. Although they did lose sight of us for a while as we joined it; M3s can accelerate a bit better than Mondeos it would seem, but I don't think that they were impressed by that.
Their mood wasn't about to get any better. The policeman wandered up to the offside window, and waited expectently for it to open. This took a moment or two because the person sat next to that window was (a) slightly inebriated, and (b) not a driver, and so not versed in the protocol for being stopped by a policeman. Once my mate had realised that he was required to participate in matters, and had rolled the window down, the officer began his spiel.
A few words into this, he noticed that there wasn't a steering wheel in front of my mate, because the old M3s are all left-hand drive. This realisation stopped him in mid-sentence. "I suppose I should talk to the driver really..." He walked round the front, and had me get out of the car so that he could talk to me.
I got the full drill, derogatory comments that I'd been intending doing laps of the roundabout (which I hadn't), and a breathalyser test (because I'd had one short just before we left, so passed easily). Then, around six months later, I got to present myself in court, before three magistrates (surely overkill for a speeding offence?) and was allowed to give them £300 and walk everywhere for three months.
The moral of this tale? Well, first off, I don't think the police like it if you out-run them and then make them look silly when they do pull you over, and second, be careful as to just when you let yourself get carried away by the music.
When your boss calls you "The Dancing Queen" at the end of the works Christmas party, should you take that as a compliment or an insult? Even if you're a firmly heterosexual male? Well, I took it as a compliment, anyway.
I suspect the comment had something to do with ABBA's finest, Dancing Queen, having been played that evening. I don't recall my exact behaviour when it was played, but usually, upon hearing the first note I'll make a bee-line for the dancefloor, and procede to dance like a madman. That initial glissando is such a call to arms for anyone indoctrinated in the way of disco.
Today is my sister's birthday, and my cousin's 40th, so this evening there's a pretty good chance that Dancing Queen will be heard. Even if it's not, I'm sure there'll be much strutting of funky stuff by all involved to whatever is played...
Angel Of Harlem was my first consciously-chosen favourite song. There's no obvious reason as to why this is, other than it being a great song; I haven't any fondly remembered situation where I first heard it, nor any little anecdote where it was playing in the background.
It even harks from before I really liked U2. And I think that may be why. I didn't own a copy of it. I really enjoyed the song, but couldn't justify buying an entire album just for one track - there was always something else competing for my pocket money, always something which gave a better musical return for my cash.
So the value of Angel Of Harlem was raised by its rarity. I had to rely on radio stations, or finding it on jukeboxes, to get my fix. Until the arrival of U2's greatest hits in my collection, where I can now listen to it whenever I want. It was worth the wait.
Luckily for Radiohead, this song became a massive hit. Lucky for the rest of us too, for without Creep we surely wouldn't have had the opportunity to hear the quirky, but generally superb material which followed. Creep was a flash of brilliance in the otherwise mediocre collection that was Pablo Honey.
Still much appreciated by drunken, angst-fuelled men, and still in my unaccompanied repertoire.
Creep does belong here.
One day I will be able to sing this song. The problem isn't working out what the lyrics are, they're quite clear. No, the problem is the speed with which they're delivered, even Mickey Dolenz was taken aback when he first discovered just how high the tempo is for this Monkees ditty.
I haven't made any concerted effort to learn it, mind, but then I don't usually have to. Repeated listening generally lodges enough information in my head that I can pull the lyrics out on the fly during the song, but I think the breakneck pace of Goin' Down means I'll need more instant recall to get it all out in time. But I'm getting there... bit by bit.
It's Christmas Eve, and what with all the frantic last-minute present buying, and the anticipation of Christmas morn, everyone is a little stressed and excited. So to help you to sleep, so you're not awake when Santa comes, is this soothing Liverpool Lullaby by The Spinners.
This must be the most quoted song in our family, although until recently I only knew the first verse. I wasn't even aware that it constituted a song, I just thought it was an old local rhyme
"Oh you are a mucky kid,
Dirty as a dustbin lid,
When he hears the things you did,
You'll get a belt from your Da'"
Usually just the first line or two, we weren't particularly naughty children, and often with the wetted corner of handkerchief to clean the chocolate or ice cream from our hands and faces. I expect this'll be a tradition that'll run in the family.
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY!
No, the list item for this particularly festive date isn't Slade (or Oasis masquerading as Slade, which is the only version of Merry Xmas Everybody that I own). Nor is it I Was Born On Christmas Day by Saint Etienne, although that is quite a nice festive ditty, or Last Christmas, or Happy Xmas (War Is Over) (John Holt covering John Lennon).
Having exhausted all the tunes featuring the word "Christmas" in their title, I'll move to the one which I have chosen for today. It was quite fortuitous that I chose December for this project, because it meant that I didn't have to worry about including The Fairytale Of New York. For I hate that this is a Christmas song. Not because I don't like Christmas, but because it limits the opportunity to hear this wonderful, folky, crossover hit. The number of times I've refrained from choosing this on a jukebox, because it's the middle of summer, or strained to remember the words to The Irish Rover 'cause it's St. Patrick's Day and The Fairytale Of New York wouldn't work.
So leave your Now 234, your Pet Shop Boys' Pop Art, or whatever else you've just excitedly unwrapped. They'll still be there in the New Year. Instead, listen to The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, for you'll have to wait another year before you next have the chance!
Fingertips (Part 2). Part 2. I wonder if there's a Part 1, and what it sounds like? Obviously, whoever compiled the Tamla Motown Gold collection decided that Part 2 was the better. Not that we compilers are always right, for whoever chose the selection for Stevie Wonder (Song Review - A Greatest Hits Collection) didn't find either part worthy of inclusion! And they could have fitted it in so easily; just by dropping the terribly dated I Just Called To Say I Love You.
I suppose, given that it's his only number one in the UK, that there are a lot of people who liked I Just Called... and who would have been surprised at its omission. More's the pity. I mean, it just doesn't bear comparison with the rest of the greatest hits - Superstition, Living For The City, He's Misstra Know It All, Yester-me, Yester-you, Yesterday...
Fingertips (Part 2) would be a much better accompaniment for such classics. It just goes to show that popularity isn't always synonymous with greatness.
More Motown, sweet, soulful, danceable... somehow Diana and her cohorts can pull it off even when singing about such a delicate and, presumably at the time, taboo subject. Love Child documents life in a single-parent family, something which has become pretty commonplace these days. Now, I could dive into a long discussion of whether music effects social change, or merely reflects it... but I won't. Just enjoy the song.
Easing the tempo a little, Protection is a sublime combination of Massive Attack and Tracey Thorn, she of Everything But The Girl fame. The chilled beat is perfectly suited to Tracey's voice. Even though she isn't sure as to whether she's a girl or a boy (her hair is quite short, but I was pretty sure that she was a girl when I saw her live), this track is so good that it's in Everything But The Girl's live set, and made it onto compilations from both bands.
There's No Other Way was Blur's first smash hit; but the lull in releases which caught the public's ear, and the difference in style with Parklife means that a lot of people aren't aware that this is a Blur song.
So it stands a little separate from the rest of Blur's output, I think, almost a one-hit wonder to "early Blur", a delightful singalong classic, oft chosen for those Madchester-era compilations, even if Blur weren't really part of the Madchester scene (presumably, not coming from Manchester after all). A good introduction to Leisure, which is one of my favourite of their albums.
Dear Jukebox Fillers, and Karaoke Song Selectors,
When you're next looking through some Elvis tracks for inclusion on a jukebox, or for a karaoke system, pretty pretty please will you add Guitar Man? It was good enough to make the cut for the 50 Greatest Hits album, but www.singtotheworld.com don't have it on their karaoke selection, and I've yet to find it in a pub.
Admittedly, there are plenty of alternative Elvis tunes I can choose instead: Always On My Mind, (Marie's The Name) His Latest Flame, I Just Can't Help Believing, or even Suspicious Minds (although the range of that is a bit much for my vocal talents).
But Guitar Man is my favourite, so that's the one I want.
So to the last of the 31 Songs, and the only instrumental. As a singer, lyrics are an important part of songs, so they have to be exceptionally good as an instrumental to make the grade.
And Apache by the Incredible Bongo Band is that good. A remake of the classic by the Shadows, yet taken to the next level with insistent, rhythmic breakbeats of the bongos (I know, who'd have thought it?). Whilst you may not have heard this song, or even heard of this song, you'll be aware of its legacy. For this is the track which gave birth to house music.
For that reason alone it merits inclusion in the list, but the beats fit just as well in their original location as under a house or hip-hop tune. An excellent way to kick off the New Year's Eve celebrations. (Trust me, there'll be plenty of time to make up for the lack of lyrics during the karaoke later on...)
The MP3s are now gone, and so the 31 Songs project is officially put to bed. I found it a very interesting exercise in writing, and I hope that all who read it enjoyed it.
It intrigues me that as the writer, what I get from the project is very different from that which the reader gets. For me, the project is all about the writing: choosing the songs; finding something to write about each of the songs, there was an obvious topic for only a quarter of the songs I chose; keeping to a strict deadline, something with which I had only limited success. For the reader, the content itself is key. This essential difference in what each party gains is explored in some depth by Kevin Kelly.
There are two main insights that I gained into my writing. One is the need to restrict the number of components to a piece. That often, less is more. Just because I can find a number of strands or directions for a particular topic, I shouldn't include them all. I was often pleasantly surprised to end up with a completely different post to that which I'd envisaged at the beginning, when an aside became more attractive than the main theme and so replaced it.
The other insight was the amount of time writing can consume. With hindsight, it was ridiculous to believe that I could write thirty-one articles in twenty days (the aim was to be finished before I headed North for Christmas) in addition to everything else I normally do. As a result, the 31 Songs was almost all I did in December, at the expense of any progress in my own software development. So, whilst a very enjoyable exercise, it showed that my blogging needs to take a lower priority, at least for now.