I’ve been struggling this week. I went back to work a few weeks ago and everything has been fine but, of course, the combination of sleepless nights and the struggle to keep 30 lively 10 year olds under control has taken its toll. This resulted in me spending the last few days curled in a ball, rocking in a corner. Not literally, just figuratively, but I can tell you I wasn’t far from it at times. I won’t bore you with the details but I ended up cancelling some plans I’d had for this weekend, which I’d been quite excited about, and opted instead for early nights and Sunday afternoon locked in the office catching up with work. And I’m pleased I did as I had one of the best night’s sleep I’ve had in a long time last night and today I went on a dog walk.
A dog walk?! I hear you cry. Why do we want to hear about a dog walk? Well, dear reader, you don’t, but you might want to hear about what I did on this dog walk. You see, a few days ago, I bought the new Bjork album and I finally got around to listening to it on the aforementioned walk. “Fancy her releasing an album right now!” My internal monologue mused to itself, “Right when I need her to soothe my frazzled emotional state!” You see, dear reader, I love Bjork. I. Love. Her. I love music full stop but she’s my favourite of all time. Her music has seen me through some pretty tough times, I can tell you. Certain songs can lift my soul clean out of my body, make it travel to magical, far away lands in which tiny fairies give it a musical metaphorical massage, before stretching it and contorting it into wonderful and dangerous shapes and then filling me with emotions I’ve never felt. Yes, it’s that good. To me anyway.
So, as I walked the dog and listened to the album I thought, “What a wonderful thing music is! I wonder what my top ten songs are?” And from that thought sprung this blog.
I’ve had a bit of writer’s block lately, see, and every blog subject I’ve thought of has seemed boring or self indulgent or writing for the sake of it. But this, dear reader, has me excited. So excited, in fact, that I’m writing it now instead of making up comprehension questions about Greek temples for my English class tomorrow. Sssh, don’t tell anyone.
I’ve tried to compile my list, not just of my favourite songs, but ones that have had an emotional effect on me in some way or the other. After all, that what art is, isn’t it? And music is one of our culture’s most prolific arts. I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t like music in one form or another. Picking 10 was no easy feat, especially as my (and my partner’s) iTunes collection contains 1239 albums. But, I’ve done it, and I’ve found some long forgotten tunes along the way that didn’t make it to the list. It was lovely, like seeing old friends. It’s evoked lots of memories too – some good, some not so good – but may otherwise have been forgotten had it not been for the music.
Anyway, I digress. So, here’s my list – counting down from 10 in true Top 40 style:
10. Back in the Day by Ahmad
“Back in the day when I was young/I’m not a kid anymore/but some days I sit and wish I was a kid again”
I remember hearing this song back in the ’90’s when I was about 17 and it made me nostalgic for “the old days”. What “old days” I thought I had when I was only 17 I do not know, but it is a proper choon and it is impossible to listen to it without bouncing your head along to the laconic beat. Go on, try it.
9. The War of the Worlds – The musical version by Jeff Wayne
“And slowly, surely, they drew their plans against us…”
Possibly one of the most chilling lines in all of literature and one of the most chilling tales. When I was 8, I hadn’t read H. G. Wells’ classic novel, I wasn’t to read it for another 25 years, but I knew the story, thanks to my mum and step-dad’s record player. They, like many others in the ’70’s and ’80’s, had bought the musical version of the story by Jeff Wayne and my older sister used to love terrifying me by playing it. As soon as I heard those words and the first few eerie bars of music I would run, cowering, hands over ears, to hide behind the sofa with my sister’s evil grin burned into my retinas as she reached for the volume dial. A shiver still runs down my spine when I hear it, even though it’s going to be 40 years old in a few years. Powerful stuff, music.
8. Rockin the Casbah by The Clash
“By order of the prophet/We burn that boogie sound”
A slightly chirpier choice and one which, rather than having me run for cover, has me clearing space for a dance. I remember the first time I heard it – in my sister’s first boyfriend’s car on the way to school. It was a mini and he had a mixtape that we listened to every day and this is the only song I remember from it. A classic in every sense of the word – I have absolutely no idea what the words are or what they mean but it doesn’t ever stop me from singing along.
7. Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes
“If I had an orchard I’d work til I’m sore.”
Like Bjork, I love the Foxes. LOVE THEM. My partner and I first came across them on a great programme on Sky Arts called From The Basement and we’ve loved them ever since. We even went to see them a few years ago and their music was as ethereal and as beautiful live as it is recorded. I could pick any one of their songs for my list; they’re all so good, but I picked this one as it’s my eldest daughter’s favourite (pretty sure they wrote this line was written for her, “gold hair in the sunlight/my light in the dawn.” SOB).
6. You Go To My Head by Billie Holiday
“And I feel you spinning round in my brain/Like the bubbles in a glass of champagne.”
Billie Holiday’s voice makes me so, so sad. And this kind of jazz from the ’30’s & ’40’s makes me sure that I lived one of my past lives in that era; being taken from one smoke filled jazz club to another, drinking too much champagne and having my heart broken by one smart talking wise guy after another, returning home every night to my one bedroom digs and crying myself to sleep in my cocktail dress….. Wow, in Billie’s words, “What a little music can do!”
So that’s the first 5 – I hope you enjoy them. The top 5 will follow shortly, after I’ve cooked dinner and got my English lesson ready…. While you wait, why don’t you tell me what your top ten are?