Music used to be a massive part of my life. When I was growing up in the 1980s, I bought albums on cassette and learnt the lyrics off by heart, either from the inlay or what I found in Smash Hits magazine. My collection contained long lasting joys such as Pet Shop Boys‘ Disco, Janet Jackson‘s Control, A-Ha‘s Hunting High and Low, Neneh Cherry‘s Raw Like Sushi and Madonna‘s Immaculate Collection, as well as things which didn’t quite survive the 80s like It’s Better To Travel by Swing Out Sister and Silk & Steel by Five Star. Later came the CD collection with more Pet Shop Boys, more Madonna, a hell of a lot of Depeche Mode and then a reasonable amount of Muse. I lost count of the number of movie soundtrack albums I enjoyed, and CD singles I bought to make my own playlists for minidisc compilations in the days before iTunes and Spotify.
Music is now far less important to me, for one reason or another. I can’t work out if it’s due to the loss of materiality or the simple fact of getting older. As part of my early connections with music so often involved a tangible thing, I suspect that does have a huge part to play. I have extremely fond memories of every stereo system and portable music device that I’ve ever owned, plus every limited edition album or single that I lusted after for the packaging as well as the sound. These days, my knowledge of current music mostly comes from the radio – BBC 6Music, specifically – and the occasional recommendation from a friend. To be honest, the latest Radiohead album is the only thing that has taken me back to those blissful days where I would spend time just listening to music while doing absolutely nothing else.
Recently, a couple of things have got me thinking about how music has impacted my life. An ex-course mate and I have been writing letters to each other (oh, the joys of a pen-and-ink penpal!) and she asked what my favourite bands/songs were. I said there were too many to list in my letter, that was already a week late in getting finished, but that I would probably write a blog post on it. Then, over on Facebook, a friend posted a mini pub game that he was co-creator of called “Soundtrack to Your Life”. I did something vaguely similar back in 2007, when I blogged about my musical memories, but this list was themed rather than chronological. The game involves selecting five songs thus: 1. Introduce yourself; 2. Blindsided by adversity; 3. Pick yourself up; 4. Fight back; 5. Walk into the sunset. The five I selected – which are valid at the time of writing but, I suspect, subject to change – are as follows:
- Jeepster – T-Rex (because I’ve got the universe reclining in my hair, obvs)
- Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd (it perfectly captures that empty feeling)
- Onwards – Murray Gold (some inspirational music from Doctor Who)
- Uprising – Muse (a glam rock stomp of a fight back song)
- Blue Monday – New Order (OK, so this is more for dancing into the sunset)
As for the the soundtrack to my life… I used the question-and-answer-based social network Formspring a while back and someone asked me what my Desert Island Discs choices would be. I was so pleased with my list that I saved it when I disabled my account, and there are no real surprises for those who know me. I chose 20th Century Boy by T-Rex, Rebel Rebel by David Bowie (not his finest moment, but the song that inspired the name of my burlesque troupe), Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb, West End Girls by Pet Shop Boys, Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana, Depeche Mode’s In Your Room, Muse’s Hysteria, and One Day Like This by Elbow.
I’m going to end this blog post with a video of the uplifting northern romance of Guy Garvey and Elbow, performing that song in front of thousands at V Festival. Thanks to them, I realised that music doesn’t need to be a massive part of my everyday life any more for it to have meaning. One day like this a year’d see me right.