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Greetings Pop Pickers! Time for me to share with you some of my quite literally all time favourite song type tunes of all time......
I'm sure that each song has any number of different meanings to the performers and to everyone who listens to them, but I've deliberately tried to pick out songs that not only I love to hear over and over again, but also that really mean something to me.
10. Keep the Faith - Bon Jovi
Now the evergreen New Jersey stadium rocking legends that are the Jovi, have in my book at least produced any number of classics over the years. My own personal favourite still has to be one of their most up tempo belters - Keep the Faith. As you'll see from some of my other choices, I'm a real sucker for a powerful intro, and this one is no exception. Whenever I'm feeling a bit lethargic and in need of a boost, you can guarantee that when I hear those opening bars kick in I'm on my feet in an instant.
As an unashamedly dedicated sports fanatic, for me, this song absolutely captures all those conflicting emotions you go through whether you are watching or taking part. Its all about keeping going no matter how hard things get, of still believing in the possibility of succeeding against the odds, no matter how hopeless the situation.
!Blowing my own trumpet alert! A few years back when I was lucky enough to be one of the winners of a Radio 5 sporting shorts radio play competition, this tune was my pick for the grand finale of the piece, and I'll always treasure the memories of listening to the track kick in at the end of those 10 magical minutes, knowing that I'd finally realised a long held ambition to get my writing out there. Did I cry? Did I ever!
9. High - Lighthouse Family
Back to something much more melancholy now, and the soulful British combo that produced a succession of heartfelt uplifting tunes in the late 1990s.
When we got married in 1998, we also had a wedding video made, and for the opening sequences the video man suggested that we should put a selection of pictures of us both growing up, right from being tiny toddlers through to when we got together.
This song just seemed to fit perfectly, the lyrics following every step of our very different journeys to our special day, building up to the captivating chorus of "we are going to be, forever you and me". Every year on our anniversary we sit down and watch our video together and the minute this tune strikes up, it all comes flooding back - what a couple of old softies!
8. Dancing Queen - Abba
Whether it be a 70's night, private party, or wedding disco, no matter what time of night, this is one song that's always guaranteed to fill the dancefloor in an instant. Sure Abba have produced a multitude of brilliant numbers but this one gets my vote simply because of the instant euphoria rush that sweeps through you the second you here that distinctive keyboard swish and those opening beats.
Oh and also because it always reminds me of my student days. Believe it or not (and I've never been involved in any productions of Mamma Mia) I've actually seen the lyrics brought to life before my very eyes. Back in 1992 visiting my mates at Swansea University, we went to a house party.
during the preceedings this particular track made its customary appearance and lo and behold at that party was a 17 year old Swedish au pair, and yes she clearly could dance and sway, and was most definitely having the time of her life. So was my mate by all accounts, because there I was in the darkened cellar / utility room grabbing a beer when next thing I know in pops my pal and aforementioned young Swedish lady, taking a sneaky opportunity for a cheeky back room fondling session.
Somewhat unsure where to put myself at this point, I decided the best policy would be to stay hidden in the corner, but then when a sequinned top ended up being tossed in my direction I felt my cover was very likely blown. So just like Hugh Grant in that famous Four Weddings pencil scene I made the most dignified exit I could manage -muttering "are you two alright for a drink?" and legging it sharpish!
7. Its not Unusual - Tom Jones
I've always enjoyed a good old Karaoke sing along, and when we took our first cruising holiday back in 2002, I was over the moon to spot a daily karaoke session running in one of the lounges. My wife on the other hand was filled with trepidation, but went along to support me nonetheless.
My debut number was less than auspicious, I sang Unchained Melody quite nicely I thought apart from getting out of my range a little. I noticed that everyone was standing still trotting out those safe, tried and trusted Karaoke standard easy listening ballads - you know the ones - like Crazy by Patsy Cline, or Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline and it was all going a bit flat. I was determined to have a laugh with it all, so decided to crank it up a notch with my next selection.
Step forward the high tempo'd mastery of Tom Jones, and time to milk it for all its worth. Running around the floor, swirling those hips gleefully I belted out every line to the max - and staggering they all seemed to love it- suddenly cheers were erupting all round, a huge crowd was gathering, and they wanted more! As a result the next few evenings on the ship were a complete blast - loads of people got stuck into it, walking around the decks people were asking if I was going to be performing again. They started extending the sessions and at one point they even had to delay one of the main entertainment shows because so many people were still watching the Karaoke - what a giggle!!
6. Everybody's talking at me -Beautiful South
Calming things down again now, this particular song beautifully covered by the mighty Paul Heaton and co instantly brings to mind chilled out summer days at the seaside. Such a simple, gentle song, so light and airy; whisking you off into a delightful day dream world, no matter where you are or what you are doing.
I remember hearing it for the first time when the original Harry Nillson version featured on the Jolly Boy's coach trip outing to Margate in Fools and Horses, and it immediately brought back so many memories of family days out on the North Sea coast.
This really is my happy place, the bucket and spade, the crashing waves, the windswept dunes, the enormous chocolate icecream cones....
5. The Scientist - Coldplay
To be honest I was pretty torn between at least 3 Coldplay songs, with the haunting beauty of Yellow and the emotion riddled raw power of Fix You also scoring very highly with me, but the one tune that means the most particularly when I'm feeling low and struggling to cope with things has to be The Scientist. The simple sequence of piano chords at the beginning are absolutely spellbinding, and as it builds to the chorus as Martin's wailing words come straight from the heart "nobody said it'd be easy, no one ever said it would be this hard..."
I vividly recall remember hearing this track for the first time in late 2002, just a few weeks after my beloved Dad had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and it just resonated through me, so much came pouring out. The song completely connected with my inability to make any rational sense of what was happening, all my fears for the future, having already gone through the pain of losing my Mum in 1993, and particuarly for his new wife and young family especially my step sister and half-brother who were only 9 and 3 years old respectively at the time.
4. Sometimes you can't make it on your own - U2
Sadly, Dad lost his fight in late December 2002, but with the help of my wonderful wife and big sister we helped my step mum and the kids through it, right from keeping Christmas going through to moving house in early 2003. A year or so on, U2 released a very personal song written about Bono's own relationship with his father and once again it struck home very deeply with me.
Although we are very different characters, we do share so many traits, and for me the lyrics of the song manage to capture the very essence of an unbreakable bond between father and son. However much pain and hurt was caused by some of the decisions he made in the final years of his life, we always needed and were there for each other, and particularly since the birth of my own son, when I hear this track it truly makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. Every time I hear the electrifying wall of guitar sounds power into the chorus "and it's me when you look in the mirror..." the tears start to flow.
3. Angels - Robbie Williams
My mum's life was tragically cut short in 1993 when she suffered carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty heater, and because it was such a sudden loss it took us all a long time to come to terms with what had happened.
What helped me cope, was my overwhelming conviction that the same determined vigour with which she always tackled everything in life would live on in me. That guiding spirit, that sense of greater forces beyond our understanding, is beautifully expressed in the song Angels. From one simple line "I look above, and I know I'll always be blessed with love", somehow everything makes sense to me.
By no stretch of the imagination would I ever consider myself a religious person, but I most certainly believe that the power of love and with it our sense of self and belonging stretch far beyond the world we understand, and this heartfelt song is a tremendous comfort to me.
2. Something Changed - Pulp
We actually chose this much less known track from the all round fantastic album Different Class as our wedding dance song, because for us it represents how we went from being the very closest of friends to being soul mates. Any one watching us strutting around the floor that day with all the bizarre twirls and turns must have been convinced we'd practiced our routine in advance, but the truth was we were just making it up as we go along and loving every minute. Everytime I hear this song I just have to smile.
In the few months after Mum's death I was an absolute wreck, an unemployed graduate living back at home, my semi-retired Dad and me were tearing strips out of each other. Finally I decided to do something positive, read about the great work of the Princes Trust Volunteers programme and signed up for a course with them in Birmingham where I went to University (truly was an amazing experience - that's a whole other story though).
I stayed with a former college flat mate who also happened to be sharing the house with my future wife to be. She was a great comfort to me, she had lost her Dad when she was very young, and was always there as a friend with lots of hugs and reassurance. Having completed the 12 week programme, I stayed on working for a small business, and so over the next year or so, became really good friends with her. A full 18 months since I first showed up on the doorstep, we shared our first kiss. Everything changed!
1. Flying without wings - Westlife
Having dragged you along on my own personal musical odyssey thus far, it's perhaps a bit of a surprise to read that this one unbelievably special song means more to me than all the others combined in this list.
To me it simply has everything, deeply emotional lyrics, incredibly spiritually uplifting music, sung with real passion and meaning.
Back in early 2005, although we'd never made it widely known, we had been trying for a baby for well over 5 years with no success, and had basically resigned ourselves to the fact that perhaps it just wasn't meant to be. Naturally it wasn't made any easier by the fact that our nearest and dearest were constantly telling us how we'd make great parents and we seemed to be surrounded by friends with newborns and little ones.
Just as we'd given up all hope, our little miracle came along. After waiting for so long we were determined that we'd do everything possible to make sure baby would be ok. Part way through the pregnancy we went through a very heartwrenching time because her blood tests revealed a high risk of Downs Syndrome or other complications.
What made it even tougher was that I was working away at the time when she first got the news. After much soul-searching she had an amniocentesis with the risks that entails, so we could find out for definite. I remember listening to the track over and over in my car, the lyrics ripping through my head "impossible as they may seem, you've got to fight for every dream, because who's to know which one you let go, could have made you complete". We'd waited for so long, for this one chance, surely it couldn't be taken away from us now.
I simply can't describe the relief when the results came back as all clear. Knowing that we could have lost him, when our little boy finally came into the world almost 3 years ago to the day it was an utterly indescribably emotional experience.
On that weary drive back from the hospital after visiting hours had finished, it was the first song I played "And you're the place my life begins, and you'll be where it ends, I'm flying without wings, and that's the joy you bring." Funnily enough I had to pull over at that point...
Hopefully many many long years from now, this is the song that I want to be played at my funeral. It says everything about who and what really matters in my life, and that's why it means so much.