Music makes the world go ’round. It gladdens hearts, brings forth tears and nudges even the most inhibited out of the shelter of their shy Mary-Ellen tortoise shells, particularly on occasions when it’s muddled with a heady brew of alcohol, and spurred on by that small trusted cohort of dudes and dudettes, otherwise fondly known as ‘the lads’!!
Most of us have songs that mark moments and significant events, spark memories, or, were “oh so special” to us for ‘REASONS’, usually hormonal and accompanied by angst, oozy sarcasm, doe eyes, or, MORE TEARS (you can take that look off your faces lads, us girls know the truth! nah!!).
Sometimes though, songs are significant only for the genuine affection we have for them. There doesn’t have to be a big back story. We heard, we loved, we sang. The reason can be as true and as simple as that.
Temporarily disenchanted with writing about everyone else’s nonsense, I decided to look inwards and write about my own. A written #selfie of my own musical milestones: my thoughts, on my choices – music my way……..
Kicking off this mini-series of personal music blogs, featuring 20 swerve-songs covering the years from kid to bigger kid, are the first five musical landmarks of the McSwerve life journey.
WOO! Cue Drum-Roll, flapping excitement, & co
Author’s note: “I am actually cheating by starting here – I should actually be starting with “I tawt I taw a puddy tat” but, I thought those of you of a nervous disposition might crack under the strain, and like poor old H. Dumpty, be beyond getting back together again…..”!
1. Abba – The Name of the Game
I don’t know what age I was when I discovered Abba, but I was small enough to be able to use my mother’s dressing table as a modelling ramp-cum-stage, jigging my legs up and down like a frog, whilst singing into my mother’s hairbrush (yeah, yeah, who hasn’t blah blah, etc!).
I probably started on something simple like Twinkle, Twinkle , up-scaling with age to such 70s greats as Donna Summer and the Jackson Five. But, it was with ABBA, the Kings n Queens of Scanda-pop, that I had my first musical dalliance, a relationship which subsequently blossomed into a full blown love affair with all things Nordic! Oddly enough, whilst other kids were squawking to Dancing Queen, I developed an obsession with The Name of the Game. In all probability, the only words I could have remembered, were “do dooh”, but seemingly I gave it welly (or so my mother mockingly informed me!).
The Name of the Game is THE perfect pop song. Great hook, superb melody, gorgeous harmonies, strong multi instrumental sounds; all neatly finished off with super slick production. No-one has ever touched ABBA’s ability to create such pop perfection, rivalled their impossibly good song-writing, or equalled the flawless “dawn to dusk” light n shade of Agnetha and Freda’s vocals. #unparalleledlines
2. Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights
There is no underestimating the impact this song has had on my life. It is my all time favourite song – nothing will ever remove it from that top spot.
Wuthering Heights is a song to which I return again and again; for comfort, for inspiration, for release. It is one of the greatest songs of all time, penned by one of the greatest ingénue debutantes, sung with a vocal reach that conveyed emotional punch and frailty in equal proportion, which, over the years, many have tried and failed, very badly, to emulate.
I had no idea who Heathcliff was, or where Wuthering Heights was, or indeed that it was the title of a book by an author (Emily Bronte), who in time, I would come to adore. I can clearly recall the first time Kate Bush performed this on Top of the Pops. Transfixed, I sat staring at this beautiful young willow the wisp, all misty and floaty, waving her arms around like an Indian goddess. I remember walking around shrieking “Heathcliff” and little else, wildly swinging my hair from side to side, whilst whirling like a dervish around the living room floor. Ah those were the days!
This song was the start of my love for all thing ‘superlative’; dramatically romantic and romantically dramatic! Wuthering Heights, both song and book, remain my all time favourites, and the gorgeous Kate, forever has, a special place in my heart. #WOW
3. The Police – Bring On The Night
When Punk came along, I was still playing hopscotch. I didn’t understand it. It was loud and rude, full of safety pins, angry looking young men, Syd Snot and some looney looking mad woman flashing her boobs (Vivienne Westwood). On the positive side, Punk DID spawn a more refined version of it’s original self, in the form of New Wave, and with it, came a slew of more radio friendly ‘young radicals’, one group of which were, The Police. Back in the day, Ireland was an age or three behind the UK vis release dates, so when my mother announced we were going to London on holiday, cue excited screaming and jumping up and down, in anticipation of being able to finally buy ‘Regatta de Blanc’ (this was 1981, and it had been and gone from the UK charts for such a time that my older English cousins took the major Michael out of me no end).
Message in a Bottle had been the draw, but after the vinyl hit the turntable, the most glorious sound emanated from the speakers, in the form of Bring On The Night. I played it, until, like tyres, the grooves were nearly worn away. Never the biggest Andy Summers fan, I have to doff my hat to him on this one; the guitar playing is sublime, and when the track hits 2.12 and Summers starts milking that chord, oh man, killer on the loose. Bring on the Night was my first introduction to a more sophisticated sound, and it’s jazz-reggae orientation opened me up to a different world of musical genres.
Ce fut ma petite mort musicale – 4.15 minutes of sonic sex. And for the record… #StewartCopelandwasmyfirstpinup
4. The Stranglers – Golden Brown
One of my favourite songs of all time……period.
Utterly gorgeous! Melodic, early 80s dream pop, by a PUNK band, I adored Golden Brown the first time I heard it, and, have continued to do so ever since. It charms me now, just as much as it did then.
Yup, s’right. Up to this point, The Stranglers had been all “No More Heroes” and “Meninblack”, et Jean-Jacques, avec sa basse lancinante, dans le style du francais. Then, apropos of nothing, wumpf, up pops Jean-Jacques in the box, with this piece of waltzing Cornwell. ‘Golden Brown’ is a modern day minuet: all flat b-minor harpsichord intro, even flatter e-minor body, with quickstep percussion and a lazy bastard “are you lookin’ at me dude, cause I don’t really care, right back at ya” (double) bass. Cornwell, he of the heretofore in-yer-face shout-sing, goes all cavalier baritone, with his just ye know, throwin’ it out there vocal. Needless to point out, this slick little jazz-pop number was The Stranglers biggest hit.
This was probably my first experience of an intricately produced song outside of the norm of “pop”. It brought me into contact with unconventional, left of centre chords, not to mention interchanging overlaid tempos 3/4 (the main body), 6/8 and 4/4. It is an extremely unique, imaginative and delicious creation.
Ah, the memories…..there was a lot of in-house waltzing to this baby…one two three, two two three, ‘with my rancheros’ – I’ll leave you to work that out!
5. Paul Young – Wherever I lay my hat
Where were you in July 1983?
Well, you hardly thought I went through the 80s and didn’t succumb to the charms of this crooner?
Paul Young, the white mans soul singer from Luton, whose singing voice belied his origin. Successful beyond his wildest dreams, Young was top of the 80s musical food chain for about two, maybe three years, and then, plup, he disappeared like a pebble in a pond. The last song I vividly recall him singing on TV was Tomb of Memories, after that it’s a pretty blank test screen.
Young was my first serious encounter with “blue eyed soul”. Modern sultry soul in a shiny suit, he was a crooner with pzazz, who could belt out heartfelt tunes better than most. ‘Wherever I lay my hat’ made all the girls sigh. It was the too cool for school tune that hit the romantic spot for those us knocking on the door of the age of enlightenment.
Need I say any more?
Ladies and Gentlemen, “Let’s Parlez” with fox vox, Paul Young xxx smooch emoji
Bonus Track … Go on, Go on, Go on!
That’s All Folks!