The Top Twenty Records Of All Time, Part 2

A little while ago, I gave you the first four of eight songs I’d take away with me to a hypothetical desert island, as all guests do on Desert Island Discs. I promised that the rest would follow in a second post – since it was such a difficult list to devise – along with my chosen book and luxury. There’s no time like the present, so without further ado, I give you all my remaining choices. Songs first!

Just bear in mind that these will be listed from 1 to 4 again, as WordPress doesn’t seem to allow me to enter 5 to 8. I wouldn’t want to confuse you, would I?

  1. “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side” by The Smiths. Like Muse, I knew that The Smiths would be assured of a place here as soon as I started thinking about the lucky eight songs. There are many legendary musical names, such as Lennon and McCartney or Jagger and Richards, that are often grouped together in iconic pairings, but – somewhat bafflingly, in my opinion – singer Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr are rarely put up there with them. I view them as the greatest duo in history. The impact they had upon their band was such that when Marr left in 1987, they had no choice but to disband. This is because neither man was expendable, and no incarnation of The Smiths could have survived without either of them. They complimented each other perfectly, despite their differing styles – Morrissey’s melancholic lyrics and delivery shouldn’t match Johnny Marr’s upbeat and chiming riffs on paper, but in reality they were a force to be reckoned with and remain so to this day. Their talents have made Morrissey a legendary lyricist and vocalist – whatever you think of him as a person – and Marr the most distinctive and talented man ever to play guitar. Furthermore, their partnership was an incredibly fruitful one, in spite of the fact that it lasted just five years, from 1982 to 1987. During that period, the band produced four studio albums in quick succession, along with a whole host of compilation records – Hatful of Hollow stands out among these in my eyes – singles and other non-album tracks. You might expect that this level of productivity means there are many gems to choose from in The Smiths’ catalogue, and you’d be right. It was “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side” that eventually won the toss after much deliberation. It’s one of the songs I often find myself retreating to when I’m in a reflective mood, perhaps as a result of sadness or regret. Like many of the group’s tunes, it resonates with me primarily because of its lyrics. They tell a story of misunderstood love, something to which many of us can surely relate (“how can they see the love in our eyes, and say they don’t believe us?”) For reasons I’m not willing to elaborate on, it resonates very clearly with me (not because of “hatred” or “murderous desire”), and every time I hear the song I am transported immediately back to a difficult time. The song is a thing of such beauty, however, that I often overlook the darkness, feeling only the admiration stirred up by such a great piece of art.
  2. “Lift Me Up” by Moby. I have loved dance music for as long as I can remember, and for me Moby is akin to royalty within the genre. His album Play is my second-favourite of all time – when it comes to the albums I consider to be the very best, I always find that they offer something very different to anything else, and that’s usually something I can’t quite put my finger on. I found Play a relaxing and somewhat dreamlike record when I listened to it for the first time – tracks like “Inside” and its biggest hit single “Porcelain” are the best examples of this – but Moby’s interest in other musical styles, such as gospel, also caught my attention. “Lift Me Up”, however, does not actually feature on this album. It would not surface for another six years, until the release of Hotel in 2005, when Moby ventured into the field of alternative rock. My track of choice would be issued as its lead single, becoming a Top 40 hit in the UK. What seals its inclusion on this list, however, is the role it was given a year later as the theme music for ITV’s Formula One coverage. From 2006 to 2008 it formed part of a very prominent soundtrack to my weekends between March and November, so ignoring one of my biggest passions when choosing the music for this selection was simply never going to be an option. This is the first F1 theme tune that I can properly remember hearing from my formative years, and with the exception of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”, it may well be a contender for the very best of all. Hearing it now takes me right back to watching some great seasons unfold – even though ITV would always insist on showing continuous adverts during the race…
  3. Murray Gold’s 2010 arrangement of the Doctor Who theme tune. Continuing on the TV train of thought for a moment, I give you one of the many awesome variations of this iconic show’s signature tune, composed by Gold for the fifth revived series – the first to feature Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor. I have chosen this version of the piece mainly because of my fondness for said series and the memories it evokes – described here – but it also stands out because of how it fuses a traditional orchestral arrangement with modern synthesised elements. This combination is, in my eyes, very effective. Although it arguably lacked the grandiosity and clout of the previous exclusively orchestral post-2005 themes, it did convey the start of something new and exciting while also retaining the sense of spooky alien mystery that makes Doctor Who great. A match made in heaven!
  4. “D’You Know What I Mean?” by Oasis. We have now made it to the eighth song on my list, and I have decided to save a slice of rock and roll until last in the form of one of the many barnstormers from Oasis’ Be Here Now album. My mind was made up because of my admiration for this record – the black sheep of the band’s catalogue, slated by fans, critics and Noel Gallagher himself – because it showcases rock star extravagance like no other disc I can think of. Those who enjoy it do so because of the very things that alienated its audience (albeit not before it sold eight million copies) – very long, very loud and excessively over-produced songs. “D’You Know What I Mean?” is the first of these, a bombastic, seven-minute number one hit often cited as one of the album’s saving graces. The moment walls of roaring sonic volume fill my headphones, I feel a sense of euphoria of the kind created by all great anthems. I also see the band as they were at that time, enjoying the peak of their fame and all it had to offer. The critics have said that this was to the detriment of Be Here Now, since it has been described as “over-indulgent and bloated”, but I don’t mind that at all. On every listen I revel in being transported back 21 years to an era where proper rockers like the Gallaghers still roamed free. Sadly, it seems that we can only dream of such people in 2018. On the whole, there seem to be very few true characters entering the music scene, and this makes me even more grateful for albums like Be Here Now and songs like the aforementioned. It’s a great shame they aren’t more widely appreciated, but I hope I can rectify that to some extent by listing one of them here.

Now that all of my songs have been selected, I must choose a book to go with them. I do consider myself highly literate and a keen reader, but although I have read quite a few books in my time, none have really made an impact big enough for them to be included here. The Writer’s Tale by Russell T Davies and Benjamin Cook is the only published one that really comes close, since it provides such a great insight into the production of modern TV and the lives of those who write it, but the one that has been most useful to me is one that is yet to be filled. My definitive choice is my own red Moleskine notebook, bought in Waterstone’s during a lunch break last year, in which I now record the majority of ideas that appear on this blog and in other musings. It goes wherever I go, resting snugly in my wheelchair’s sidebag with a pen accompanying it, and a few weeks ago it served as the receptacle for Christopher’s story during my taster session in Winchester. I can’t wait for it to be with me for many more when the course begins. If it’s going to go with me to a hypothetical island, however, it needs to be much longer – so I’ll take it exactly as it is, with all the notes I’ve already made, but with the minor addition of infinite pages so that it lasts forever. I’m going to be there a long time, after all. That’s doable, right?

Finally, we come onto my luxury, and something I was never in any doubt about. Quite simply, I want a TV – although how you’d connect it on a desert island remains to be seen – capable of showing full live and uninterrupted coverage of every Formula One Grand Prix. The future of Formula One on free-to-air TV is a very prominent issue among fans at the moment, and in the UK, Channel 4 is entering the last year of its three-year deal to broadcast the sport. It would nice to have no worries about losing it from weekend afternoons, and alone on a desert island I wouldn’t have to worry about anyone interrupting the start either!

Mason

 

 

 

The Top Twenty Records Of All Time

I’m willing to bet that most people have a definitive list of songs they consider to be extra special to them – their Desert Island Discs, if you like. Mum certainly does, only hers is an ever-changing beast. The Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr Blue Sky” and Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose” seem to be permanent fixtures, but otherwise her self-proclaimed list of her top twenty songs of all time is never quite the same, sometimes from day to day. On occasion, it numbers more than twenty, and although I have challenged Mum on this, it seems I may never get a proper answer regarding what the actual fixed selection is. The questions, however, did lead to me considering what my own list would have on it. I’m not sure I could think of as many as Mum, but I’m confident that I can aim for eight.

On Desert Island Discs (which I only listen to when someone interesting is a guest – Murray Walker and Noel Gallagher featured on the last two occasions), the participant is asked to choose eight songs they would take away with them if they were to be marooned on a hypothetical island. They discuss their reasoning behind each choice before a snippet is played, and at the end of the programme they must also select one luxury (limited only by the imagination as pretty much anything goes), and one book (which they are granted alongside the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare). Following Mum’s indecisiveness, and an extensive pondering period, I have now concluded that they are as follows (in this post you can have the first four, with YouTube links – I’ll get back to you on the rest).

 

  1. “Canned Heat” by Jamiroquai. You need only read this to find out why the Space Cowboys make this list. And I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this song played live!
  2. “Your Love Alone is Not Enough” by Manic Street Preachers and Nina Persson. Whilst this isn’t a very heartfelt song, it gets the blood pumping and has all the hallmarks of a great anthem and crowd-pleaser. On my tenth birthday in 2007, I was given a CD copy of Now 67, on which it features. Along with Paolo Nutini’s “New Shoes”, it was one of the hits on the album that really stood out as I listened to it on my cheap imitation iPod. I knew nothing of the Manics, their reputation or their success when I first heard this, but it paved the way to me becoming a fan, and I now eagerly soak up their music. I’m happy to report that their new single “International Blue” is another winner! Above all of this, however, it brings back memories of a simpler time of life in Year 5 at school. A time of fish and chips on Friday lunchtimes, green ties, house points and two pieces of homework a week. Next to no adult responsibilities whatsoever. Bliss.
  3. “Somewhere Only We Know” by Keane. I’ve always felt drawn to this band, and their use of the piano as a lead instrument on a lot of their material. Perhaps it adds an extra sense of depth, grandiosity or profoundness to their music – I’m not an expert, so I don’t know. But what I am certain of is that I have always been awed by that special something, and it must be at least partially responsible for my decision to take up the piano nearly five years ago. This particular song is one of my favourites because, rather aptly, it always reminds of somewhere – or, more importantly, someone – particularly meaningful to me. It gained added significance in Year 12, when the appearance of the 2013 John Lewis Christmas advert in our Media lessons meant that I got to hear the equally sublime Lily Allen version of the song on a weekly basis for a while. It was a selection that suited the advert perfectly (maybe I’m biased, but I personally believe that John Lewis haven’t managed to top it since), and its use in sixth form made it even more special, since it would be forever connected with a great period in my life.
  4. Any one of four Muse songs (either “Supermassive Black Hole”, “Knights of Cydonia”, “Plug In Baby” or “Defector”). Yes, I know this is technically cheating because I’m supposed to choose a definitive eight, and I know that’s exactly what I promised would result at the beginning of this post. But as soon as I knew that Muse could not be left off of this list, I also knew that I would find it incredibly difficult to single out one of their many absolute bangers for inclusion on it. You know how some musicians talk in interviews about their formative moments, often from their youth? Whilst I will never claim to be a musician, hearing Matt Bellamy’s voice for the first time in Year 12 did – as I have often related since – send a shiver down my spine as the hairs on the back of my neck stood. It sounds clichéd, but it’s absolutely true. I believe his voice can be placed alongside the greatest in music, and its power is a perfect match for the two bandmates who drive the group’s monstrous sound, bassist Chris Wolstenholme and drummer Dominic Howard. The three form an unbeatable combination that I am desperate to see live – and, with new music arriving on the scene almost as I write, I might get that chance sooner than I’m expecting. I had hoped that by the time I’d finished typing Muse’s section, I might have decided which of those four songs to take to my desert island, but it seems that as with the next four (and my book and luxury, you’re just going to have to wait). Watch this space for the tunes to come!

Mason