Thursday, December 6, 2007

Desert Island Discs: My All Time Top Ten Tunes

Thanks to Steve Jobs, we no longer have to concern ourselves with taking 10 songs to our desert island. Now, if we feel like it, we can take 10,000. But don’t panic, here are my all-time Top 10 best songs.

10. No Surrender
The Boss plays this fast, he plays it slow, and no matter what the tempo, it still rings true. “I learned more from a 3-minute record than I ever learned in school.” There is also a great line along the lines of “these romantic dreams in our heads”. I love the 'No Surrender' attitude. It’s not too far away from Saatchi & Saatchi’s 'Nothing is Impossible'. This will always be a Top 10 song for me.

9. You Still Believe in Me
From the great Brian Wilson's Pet Sounds album. I’ve seen Brian Wilson at the Roxy in LA and my son, Ben, and a couple of his mates went to see him last month in London. There he was belting out songs from the Pet Sounds album and a medley of Beach Boys greats. Wilson has lived the hard life of an artist, but there is no doubt that some of his writing and arranging will last forever. 'You Still Believe in Me' is a beautiful little song and always reminds me of the many people that have believed in me during my ups and downs.

8. Celluloid Heroes
A song by one of the world’s greatest storytellers, Ray Davies. The front man for The Kinks is still going strong with a new album currently out, but his heyday was in the 60’s and early 70’s. That was when he captured that very English spirit of Bulldogs and Union Jacks in a way no one else ever did. Ray Davies wrote some of the great songs of that era, including 'Well Respected Man', and 'Dedicated Follower of Fashion', which were sound bites for the Carnaby Street of 1967. 'Celluloid Heroes' broke into my consciousness before I had ever been to the US; it made me want to visit Hollywood right there and then. “Everybody's a dreamer and everybody's a star.” You could put me down for dreamer.

7. A Whiter Shade of Pale
At the Oscars a few years back, I was at an after party and bumped into the lead singer of Procol Harum. 'A Whiter Shade of Pale' must be one of the most loved and most difficult to understand set of lyrics the world has ever been given. It’s one of the defining songs of the 60’s and recently has been the subject of a bitter lawsuit between two of the members of Procol Harum. Almost everybody from that generation can sing the first verse, particularly late in the evening after a couple of bottle of Bordeaux with a bunch of mates. And I can still skip the light fandango.

6. Fairytale of New York
'Fairytale of New York' starred The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl. She was tragically killed in a water ski/swimming accident but was a terrific talent. From Croydon to Cuba: An Anthology is a must own. The video showing McColl singing with The Pogues is an experience second to none. Living in New York as I do, this song represents a fairytale story for all the immigrants who hitched up and made their homes in this most vibrant of cities.

5. Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts
How do you represent Bob Dylan in a Top 10 list? My mate, Brian Sweeney, swears by 'Joker Man'. For me, I’ve always loved 'Forever Young', 'Mr. Tambourine Man', 'The Times They Are A Changing', 'Positively 4th Street', 'Desolation Row', 'Tangled Up in Blue' and so many others. One of the great Dylan stories is 'Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts'. I must have half a dozen versions of this on my iPod, ranging from Joan Baez to Tom Russell, with the crème de la crème being an impromptu jam version by Mary Lee’s Corvette. But this is more than a great song, it’s also a movie. Russell Crowe as the Jack of Hearts (now that he’s earned his chops in 3:10 to Yuma, we’ll let him play the good guy), Uma Thurman as Lily, Nicole Kidman as Rosemary, and Al Pacino as Big Jim (personality, not size). There are 17 verses and I’m still waiting for the sequel.

4. Bird on the Wire
Leonard Cohen was instrumental in shaping my youth. It was very fashionable back then at Bohemian dinner parties (and if that isn’t an oxymoron, what is?) to play Leonard’s first 3 albums. I went to see him countless times, bought all his poetry and sucked up his artistic suffering. When I die, I’ve instructed for the words “I have tried in my way to be free” to be inscribed on my tombstone. It comes from perhaps Leonard’s magnum opus 'Bird on the Wire'.

3. In Spite of Ourselves
Time for a love song - but a fresh, realistic, humorous love song. Try John Prine’s 'In Spite of Ourselves'. He wrote a whole album about relationships and duetted with many top female singers. It’s also the subject of a great music video concert he gave at West 54th Street, and you’ve just got to listen to the words of this song. If it doesn’t have you grinning, you’re just not country. And, as a bonus, the wonderful Iris DeMent joins in.

2. The Road Goes On Forever
If you’ve ever been to hear Robert Earl Keen live, you’ll know that everyone there knows all the words to all the songs. The one they really belt out, their Shiner Bocks in hand, is 'The Road Goes On Forever'. It is a classic romance song that should also be made into a movie. It is the story of Sunny, his girl, chivalry, loyalty, impetuosity and pragmatic reality. A great tale, a great idea, and alone is worth a trip to hear Robert Earl Keen. "The road goes on forever and the party never ends."

1. Thunder Road
At number one, leaving off where we came in, is another song from Bruce - 'Thunder Road'. He sings it at different tempos and at different times, and I’ve probably got 20-25 versions of it. I never tire of 'Thunder Road'. It fills me with energy and enthusiasm for the day ahead.

Let me have your Top 10.


Phil Darby said...

I don't know about top ten, there are after all so many "greats", but these would be well up there for me. Music is very much about Brandships (The relationships we have with brands). In the case of music its a mix of the performers, what they stand for and the time and place that you personally associate with it.

Cream - Badge
Apart from everything else that Cream meant to us children of the sixties (just about) this has one of those great air guitar duets between George Harrison and Eric Clapton that'll last forever.

Led Zeppelin - Dazed and Confused
Weren't we all then? Yet looking back, it all seems so simple now. John Bonham used to ride down my street on his motor scooter wearing a parka with a Union Jack sewn to the back. Mods - another Lovemark Kevin?

Bowie - Diamond Dogs
I would suggest a real Lovemark that maintained Brandships by reflecting the changes that society was going through. I was sharing a house in Walton-on-Thames with a bunch of guys, one of whom was a dead ringer for Bowie at the time - all henna and face paint. I remember our first play of this album - what an opening this made!

Elvis Costello - Watching the Detectives.
Challenging convention again, but this is on my mind at the moment because I am working on an arrangement with piano and trumpet.

Crosby, Still, Nash and Young - Woodstock
I can't imagine this not being in my top ten. When I first arrived in London it played everywhere throughout the summer of love and for so many people its an anthem. This version is still the best of the many that have been produced.

Elton John - Your Song
Whatever else you may think of him Reg is always the showman. I've probably seen more of his concerts than other artists and I'd still go back. This was his breakthough number though and I remember it paricularly becase after watching him perfom it on Top of the Pops on a TV in my London digs I had a call from a girl in Birmingham who I had secretly had the hots for. She had tracked me down through friends to say she had seen the broadcast too and it made her think of me. Wonder where she is now?

James Taylor - Fire and Rain
I love a job well done and James Taylor is here because this is what he does. Great lyrics, perfect pitch and great easy guitar work. I saw him at the Albert Hall a about twenty years ago and he held the audience in the palm of his hand - a long way from his earlier performances where only the music talked.

Beatles - I am the Wallrus
Hey, you have to have the Fab Four on a list like this and why not this from the Magical Mystery Tour? Its become a cult in its own right. Who was the eggman anyway? Have we decided yet?

Black Sabbath - Wizard
I used to spend the odd (very odd) Saturday morning sitting in a music shop called Wasp on Birmingham's Hurst Street with a bunch of musos who never seemed to buy anything, but played every instrument in the place. Among the regulars were Tony Iomi Geezer Butler and Ozzie. I saw what I think was their first paid performance in a local pub. They opened with this.

George Michael - Roxanne
This is newer and probably the best version of Roxanne I have heard. I don't usually go for covers, but this is one of those times when the song is genuinely better for the application of another hand.

Susan Plunkett said...

I generally think of music as what I come back to each decade and at what particular moment. Heartache felt in 1982, 1992, 2002 - if one listens to the same song in each of those years then that song is in your evocative heart.

For no particular order.

"Such Unlikely Lovers" Elvis Costello. For the part of you that wants to do something very different when you have the suit on. For the part of you that has experienced a poignant and lovely love.

"We Can Work It Out" Back in the US album. Definately the unplugged version from Sir Paul. For those moments of heartache and longing for someone who will resolve. To find words to express our longing to resolve.

Peter Gabriel. What to choose! Just about anything from Real World Live. He hits my sex, my heart, my admiration for those who aspire, my appreciation of beauty.

"Satan's Bed" Pearl Jam. What can I say? I don't understand half the lyrics but the whole guitar and drum beat just gets me going when I am in the right frame of mind.

Various Stones songs do the same. But try 'Thru and 'Thru from time to time.

"Englishman in New York" Sting. For moments when the mind state is smooth and Gatsbyish.

"Burning Down the House" Talking Heads. I tend to flick between songs on the Stop Making Sense album. "Talk Me To The River" I also really like. Aside from anything else you gotta love the guys funky style and knowledge of musicality.

"Pinball Wizard" The Who. Screw you world!!! Celebrate with power revs those who defy 'the man' (what's expected by categories).

"Viking" Los Lobos. Getting in touch with one's own gravelly bassline groove.

"Broadsword" Jethro Tull. If I am longing for the earth and earth connection in a deep way and melancholy. I usually cry listening to it. I love Tull.

"Older" George Michael. Talking to self about common sense.

"Release" George. Love the intro. I'm happy and wanting to embrace the joy others bring with their music.

Hey. That's 11. There's more..