Well, July is now officially upon us, and as I sit here writing this I am just over three weeks away from the start of my summer holidays – and beyond that, my great Winchester adventure. In the meantime, however, there is still work to be done, and not just in my day job. There is also the small matter of my poetry project. The titles for my poems are all present and correct – you saw them in “Accordion” – but what form the accompanying material will take is still yet to be seen. I do have some rough opening lines for the first poem, “Time Off For Good Behaviour”, but those were mainly written as an excuse for me to open a new notebook and are therefore likely to change.
Beginning a new notebook of any kind is always a treat for the senses. Everything about it is something to be cherished – the spotless and totally unspoiled cover, the pristine pages that lie within, and every magical indentation your pen makes upon them. The notebook I am using for this particular project came from the University of Winchester itself, and I told myself that it would never go to waste playing host to half-finished ideas. It was therefore set aside for poetry, and that in turn meant that I could not start writing in it properly until yesterday. I will admit that it has been increasingly difficult to resist, sitting patiently on my bedside table, always lingering in the corner of my eye. No matter how big the temptation got, though, I told myself that the end reward would be well worth the wait. I only allowed myself to sign and date the first page, so that everything written in it could form a time capsule I can look back on with fondness in the future.
I wrote the first paragraph of this post yesterday, when I had not yet attempted to change the opening lines I had already composed. I subsequently opened the notebook – and, deciding once and for all that they simply did not work, I crossed them out and started again. The new lines that resulted from this flowed much better and felt less forced. I am planning to show the completed poems to my coursemates before you get to see them here, but I will give you little snippets along the way. Make of these what you will!
For a few precious months, the shackles are off. Lie down in your bed, or feast in your trough.
This freedom’s a nectar you simply can’t waste. Feel every last drop flow through you with haste.
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?
- “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.
- “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…
- 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!
- “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!