Earliest Track in My Library:
Fred Astaire, ‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me’ (1937). I love the brittle, vulnerable, very English thing that Fred does here. He’s not the greatest singer, but he knows how to emote it. It’s such a draw-droppingly painful song, framed in such a mannered, restrained, way. ‘The way you changed my life’ gets dropped in there amongst the tiny things of domestic bliss, like a bomb going off. And this is from a world where ‘they’, be they the Nazis or her parents, are still able to effortlessly take her away from him, with no recourse other than a sad song.
Year from Which I Have Most Tracks:
1985, with 75. From Katrina and the Waves’ ‘Que Te Quiero’ through Stephen ‘Tin Tin’ Duffy, Sheila E, Springsteen, Prince, Arcadia, Pat Benatar, Kate Bush, and Propaganda. Is it any coincidence that this was from when I was eighteen, and living away from home for the first time? I was at U.C.L., flunking an astronomy degree, so these are the memories of a wonderfully free countryside summer and a terrible urban winter. With loads of lust.
Earliest TV Theme:
Captain Pugwash, from 1957. But that’s just because I’m weird like that. TV themes from before I was alive. Jolly good fun it is too.
Five Star Ratings from the Year I was Born:
1967, and only one, ‘Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)’ by the Monkees. This is one of the great pop songs, and I wish it was better known. It’s a Neil Diamond writing job, designed to be shouted by someone with huge manly passion, but then handed, wonderfully, to little Davey Jones. It’s mainly just an awesomely tight (two minutes thirteen) groove, for girls in minidresses and long hair to gogo dance to. The lyrics depart completely, with vast and lovely confidence, for a few beats just so we can hear the drum and bass thumping better. But those lyrics are about a real painful teenage opera, choosing between two girls our hero genuinely loves. Talking about this one really does feel like dancing to architecture. The grandeur of the Beatles described once again: even their cheap American knock off band were fantastic.
Five Star Ratings from the Year I was Sixteen:
1983, that is, and only one again, ‘Love Over and Over’ by Kate and Anna McGarrigle. A Terry Wogan favourite track the memory of which I kept in my head for decades before I heard it again. Which was when I purchased the re-released album on CD and realised that the actual song was as good as my memory of it. It’s a strange, folky refrain about how talking about love a lot, or writing love songs, is no substitute for genuine emotion. Done in a very rock way, and it arrives like an express train. ‘When no-one’s looking over my shoulder, I like to write rock and roll, but it doesn’t really hang together.’ I know exactly how she feels.
Five Star Ratings from This Year:
Two, Orson’s ‘No Tomorrow’ and ‘Pull Shapes’ by the Pipettes. Orson got to number one, the Pipettes join Marc Almond’s ‘Adored and Explored’ and Helen Watson’s ‘You’re Not the Rule, You’re the Exception’ in my parallel universe chart of Things I Thought Would Be Number One But Got Nowhere. What I love about the Orson track is that, like The Darkness’ ‘Dancing on a Friday Night’ it describes with great romanticism a genuine, not romanticised, teenage experience. These guys are worried about the cost of the cover charge and whether or not it’s a school night, but they feel the same way about dancing I do. They’ve thrown themselves in and love it, while declaring ‘and I can’t even dance’. ‘Pull Shapes’ has the vast confidence and instant catchiness of a number one record (might it not still be, might there still be hope?), and is again about the personal experience of dancing. I very much sympathise with the Pipette who declares ‘I just want to freak out’ after the others have been describing their dance moves. There’s a call out and answer bit in the chorus, and fake audience applause, like they know this is going to be performed in a stadium some day. ‘Clap your hands if you want some more’ indeed! Shameless! And following their appearance in Torchwood and at the last fan (civil partnership ceremony) disco I attended, these guys are getting to be a fan band.
Top Ten on my Most Played List:
The Archies, ‘Sugar Sugar’: the catchiest pop tune of all time. Who cares if they were animated? I love how the backing singer declares ‘I’m gonna make your life so sweet’ in a very restrained way the first time, and the second time goes all Foxy Cleopatra on our asses. Yeah, I know. This is what I discovered doing this meme. In so many ways, I am Austin Powers.
The Bee Gees and Barbara Streisand, ‘Guilty’: I love Brothers Gibb songwriting. And nobody interprets like Babs. ‘Make it a crime to be lonely or sad.’ And that production job. Those with younger ears probably find soft fairlighty stuff the height of bad taste.
Kate Bush, ‘Why Should I Love You?’: co-written with Prince, and with, of all people, Lenny Henry popping up on backing vocals. The Red Shoes is her most emotional album, and I love the lyrics, the feeling of womblike retreat from hurt, the fierce embrace this gives me. There’s hope and ritual in here. I think Kate probably gets bigtime religion and paganism at once, but that’s what pop stars are for, us to project our own yearnings on them.
Janet Jackson, ‘All For You’: just my favourite stupid dance thing.
Michael Jackson, ‘Don’t Stop ‘Till You Get Enough’: okay, maybe this is, rather. I love the start, where he’s muttering and this huge Quincy Jones drum thing arrives like a tidal wave. Anyone looks great dancing to this.
Air, ‘You Make it Easy’: The first dance at my wedding.
The Isley Brothers, ‘Twist and Shout’: so groovy. The Beatles took everything except the Jamaican horns, and they should have nicked those too. Utterly danceable.
Kylie Minogue, ‘Love at First Sight’: didn’t like it much until she showed us how to dance to it in the video, and my shoulders haven’t stopped moving since. You can tell I’ve always danced with gay men, can’t you?
Kate Bush, ‘Suspended in Gaffa’: she’s saying something profound here, about art and ambition, but I’m not sure she knows quite what it is. She’s often at her best when being vague, seeing things out of the corner of her eye. When she gets specific she can trip over badly.
The Beatles, ‘Golden Slumbers’: it’s all three tracks, really, ‘Carry That Weight’ and ‘The End’. Unlocked the Beatles for me. Contains the history of music in several different movements in a very short period of time. I’ll blog on just these three tracks one day.
Well, that’s me, now it’s your turn. I’d love to see some of these in the Comments section. And if you post one on your own blog, let me know.
ITEM! It’s the dinner for the winners of the Mark Millar Crohn’s Disease charity auction on Friday. I’ll report on how it goes. Many Who writers coming along. Should be a fun night.
ITEM! And at the weekend I’m off to the Anime Expo at the ExCel Centre. So if you’re milling about and you see me, do say hello:
ITEM! I’m loving Torchwood, and it’s Helen Raynor’s episode this Sunday. Judging by the readthrough of her Who script, I think we can expect fireworks.
Until next time, Cheerio!