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Music was always kicking about in my childhood, but I can't lay claim to a musical upbringing. My earliest musical memories are listening to Brit Pop and Motown on my Dad's poorly tuned car radio, or listening to a tape of Prefrab Sprout and the Cure copied off of old vinyls, whilst wittering away a few hours, playing solitaire and zipping about on office chairs whilst my parents worked, back in the 1995 summer holidays.
It was in 2002 that I took an interest in music, thanks to Sky TV, of all things. I found my way onto MTV2 (the alternative and rock channel), and 3 big, unsightly CD racks found their way onto my bedroom wall, loaded with all the "The" bands that emerged that year, helping to get Rock music back in the single's chart: The White Stripes, The Hives, The Vines, The Datsuns, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and, also, Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age and Red Hot Chili Peppers, my favourite band, featuring my favourite guitarist, John Frusciante.
My music tastes widened through 2003 to 2005: I took up guitar and listened to everything I could get my hands on. I liked just about everything I heard, but my favourite "discovered" genres were Motown, Soul, Punk, Jazz, Funk, SynthPop and 80s Pop. I bought a cheap vinyl player at a carboot, raided my parents old LP collections, and completed a Contemporary Music Course in 2005.
It's tough for me to choose 10 favourite songs. I'm too young to really know what I will consider a classic for the long haul, and I generally prefer albums over artists and individual tracks, but I've given it my best shot:
10 - Get it Get it - Scissor Sister
I connect this song with driving away from a decent gig by REM in early 2005, which is a bit strange. That post-gig-buzz is echoed in this little disco number for me, and it's a shame that Get It Get It is only a bonus track on the UK version of the Scissor Sister's debut album, because it's a great song.
It's one of few songs that make me want to dance, and I really, really can't, and hate, to dance, so that's an achievement. Also, one of my best friends loves this song as well, and, whilst we're almost always on the same wavelength, we practically never agree about music, so that's something of an achievement.
9 - Satellite of Love - Lou Reed
Lou Reed is cool, and, as a result, any top 10 list that includes him is forced to be a little bit cool as well. Lou Reed's debut, "Transformer" is a brilliant album, made to seem even more exceptional for the fact that his other works pale in comparison. It's in turns funny, bitter, emotional and haunting.
I first heard Satellite of Love on my Dad's almost worn out vinyl copy of Transformer. I couldn't possibly tell you if it's a song that's meant to be thought provoking, dreamy or a throwaway track. It isn't a logical song to me, as the more you try to understand it, the less sense it makes, particularly how the different parts of the song fuse together. And of course, it has infamous lyrics:
"I watched it for a little while, I love to watch things on TV."
8 - Talent is an Asset - Sparks
Kimono My House, Sparks' most "famous" album, featuring "This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Both of Us" on it, is an absolute gem of an album, and the best thing I have ever dug out of a battered cardboard box found in the loft. It's a paradox of an album; musically skilful Glam Rock (no offence to Glam Rock) that has aged well, due to its quirky nature
Talent is an Asset is a silly, bouncy little number that made me laugh the first time I heard it, and still makes me smile. It tells the story of Albert Einstein's unavoidable rise to fame from the point of view of a doting relative, and contains some magnificent lyrics, the peak of which being:
Sparks are a band with enough Talent themselves that they can make a comic song musically credible.
7 - California Dreamin' - The Mamas and the Papas
California Dreamin' is a song that sends a shiver down my spine. It's quite simply a beautiful classic pop song, short and bittersweet. I love vocal harmonies and the Mamas and the Papas always have them to spare: Mama Cass is without a doubt one of the best female vocalists I can think of, and any song with her on it is bound to be good.
One reason California Dreamin' deserves a mention, if nothing else, is because I wrote an essay on it for my Music course, and listened to it on repeat for at least an hour, and I can still stand to listen to it now.
6- Fast Car - Tracy Chapman
It's always a bit of a pain to admit that you're parents are right as a teenager, and particularly if it's about music, but sometimes it's unavoidable.
Sometime in 2003, my Dad insisted that I'd like Fast Car, and, once I gave it and put on our old cassette of it, I did. It's hard not to. Tracy Chapman has a beautiful voice and makes amazingly minimal songs. Fast Car's chorus has an ability to repeatedly send a shiver down your spine, no matter how many times I hear it, and transports me right into the lyrics and the storyteller's life without effort.
5 - There is a Light That Never Goes Out - The Smiths
I go through phases of listening to the Smiths, as I find that too much Morrissey can be detrimental to my health, and leads to long bouts of brooding and thinking I'm an artiste.
In 2004 I fell in love, in spite of all my best attempts not to. Naturally, only having been 15 at the time, it was all good and over in a month, but it was like nothing I'd never felt before. As an only child, I had been used to the world revolving around me, and suddenly, I saw the world differently, I wanted everyone else to feel as happy as I did because I loved this girl so deeply. I would go around smiling for no reason whatsoever. I felt like I had constant butterflies in my stomach.
I had it bad, to put it plainly, and There is a Light that Never Goes Out is a song that a teenager in love can completely connect with. It's a song I, unoriginally, connect with long winter nights, driving and thinking, with the street lights dragging on the windowshield (oh dear there's that artiste thing again), thinking about that girl who'd absolutely won me over in every way possible. The lyrics couldn't be any simple, but they say everything they need to. Johnny Marr, a highly underrated and talented guitarist matches the lyrics with understated guitar that chills.
"And if a double decker bus crashes into us, To die by your side is such a heavenly way to die, And if a ten tonne truck kills the both of us, To die by your side, well the pleasure, the privilege is mine."
4 - Clap Hands - Tom Waits
Clap Hand is based upon a children's skipping song, I have recently discovered, and lifts its rhyme and rhythm and some lyrics from the original nursery rhyme it was based on: "They all went to heaven in a little row boat, Clap hands, clap hands."
It's a typical Tom Waits song, off kilter, threatening to go out of tune, and mysterious, a foggy sort of song with good percussion. Tom Waits' voice and vocal style is an acquired taste which I personally love. I've passed many a dull hour travelling by train to college listening to Clap Hand's album, Rain Dogs.
3 - All Alone - Gorillaz
I feel particularly bad about choosing a song so recently released, and placing it so far high up my list, but I can't avoid it.
On one hand, All Alone is a fantastic piece of synthesiser rock/pop/goodness knows what with a powerful "Why didn't I think of that?" sort of simple main lick, blended with hip hop beats, my current favourite rap, courtesy of Roots Manuva and beautifully airy vocals courtesy of Martina Topley Bird. I could just about listen to All Alone on an endless loop, which I practically did when I listened to Demon Days for a solid month last November.
On the other hand, it is also a poignant song for me. As a child, I was home educated for several years, something I now regret as it made me feel very isolated, and I still have trouble with shyness as a result of these years. All Alone's verse lyrics are just that, "All Alone" and it sums up how I felt back then. The first time I heard the song, I felt uncormfortable because of the lyrics, but now that I'm getting less and less shy, I can just appreciate it for being a really good pop song.
2 - Can't Stop - Red Hot Chili Peppers
I'll be honest: the reason I bought By The Way back in 2002, my first "proper" music album, that has since spawned a massive CD collection is the fact that, in the video for By the Way, Flea (the bassist) has blue hair.
I bought By The Way the album about a week after seeing the video and it proved its worth: It made me curious about music and I went ahead and bought their classic album Blood Sugar Sex Magik. I realised that John Frusciante is a great guitarist, bought a guitar, and made one of my life goals to be able to play the beautifully delicate outro of the questionable "Sir Psycho Sexy" (quite possibly my single favourite piece of guitar of all time), and have now seen Red Hot Chili Peppers live twice.
Can't Stop, I've found, is the song from By The Way that had stood the test of time the best. The video matches the song perfectly: It's a bit silly, full of life and feel good.
1 - Common People - Pulp
I remember loving this when I was 6, and I still love it 11 years later. Jarvis Cocker is something of an idol to me, and I always claim a right to like Pulp from the fact that I'm from Chesterfield, and that's near Sheffield. Ish. And Chesterfield doesn't really have any bands to its name, Thompson Twins aside, so I'm forced to borrow The Human League and Pulp, and be proud of them instead.
Pulp aren't particularly inventive: there's nothing exciting about their guitar, their melodies, or any of it really, but Jarvis' lyrics (and dress sense) are a treat, and the band made some good pop numbers, with this being one of the best of the bunch. It's a powerful song, and it successfully perked me up for the mile long walk to college I had last year.
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