The Soundtrack To My Life

‘I don’t have my headphones on yet, but the music is always there. I have a constant walking soundtrack to my life, you see. There is a song for everything.’ (Danny, The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series)

I’m currently reading and enjoying my own books – the entire The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series – which may sound weird and vain, but it’s for multiple reasons. I’ll probably talk about them in another blog post but it just felt apt to begin this post with a quote from Danny and his ‘soundtrack to his life.’

I’m at that stage in my life where I have lived through enough decades to have soaked up many musical phases and fads, for various artists and bands to have had profound effects on me, and for my nostalgia to go into overdrive every time I hear a certain song. Every Saturday when I am cooking dinner, I make a G&T, put on very loud music and dance around my kitchen. Sometimes I go back to the 80’s, sometimes the 90’s, sometimes I play new music! Anything goes!

And while I am dancing and singing and enjoying my drink, I go back in time. I revisit my own life in songs and moments and it’s a glorious and emotional thing. So, for fun, I thought I would break it down. My life in music, in sections, in moments, in songs.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Birth – 10 Alas, at this tender age I had no control over what music affronted my ears and my dominant memory from childhood is being forced to listen to Cliff Richard in my mother’s car. Every car journey, ever. I suspect at one point I thought Living Doll was quite funny, but only because The Young Ones covered it! The rest meant nothing to me, but I bet you if I heard any Cliff Richards song now I would know all the words to it… Other music I was introduced to at this age were also my mother’s favourites, Bobby Darin, Billy Fury, The Everley Brothers, Neil Sedaka… Significant songs: All I have To Do Is Dream by The Everley Brothers and Oh! Carol by Neil Sedaka

10-12 Around this age I fell in love with my first boy band, and boy was I embarrassed about it just a few years later! New Kids On The Block, remember them? Me and my sister were obsessed! We bought all the albums, and any magazine they graced the covers of! We even got to see them live at Wembley Stadium! I don’t think I could stand hearing one of their songs now though. It’s too cringey. They were too awful and the songs meant nothing, but I suppose it was fun at the time and at least it got me into music! Significant songs: Step By Step, Hangin’ Tough by The New Kids On The Block

12-14 Once I realised how awful modern pop music was, I went back in time. In many ways I was a peculiar kid! I don’t know how I discovered Bob Dylan, but it wasn’t from my parents. I remember buying one of his greatest hits cassettes when on a shopping trip aged 12. I absolutely loved every song on that tape. From there, I grew interested in any music from the sixties. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys and so on. We had a little radio in our kitchen and I would keep it tuned to Classic FM or something like that while I sat at the table and wrote stories. I wasn’t interested in pop music in the slightest. Significant songs: Ruby Tuesday by The Rolling Stones, Positively 4th Street and Blowin’ In The Wind by Bob Dylan and Catch The Wind by Donovan

14-16 It was a school friend who introduced me to Guns ‘N’ Roses and I devoured them for a year or two. I bought the albums and used to lay on my floor with my head between the speakers to listen to them scream! As with Bob Dylan, I was intrigued by the lyrics and started jotting them down in notebooks or on scraps of paper I was writing stories on. What really blew my mind though was moving from them to Nirvana. I was totally in love and soon forgot all about Guns ‘N’ Roses (though when I played them in the kitchen the other day, it as uncanny how well I remembered the words!!) I was genuinely devastated when Kurt Cobain took his own life. I remember hearing it over the radio when I was sat in my garden drinking strawberry milk. I wrote a similar scene in The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series. Significant songs: Breakdown and Coma by Guns ‘N’ Roses, Lithium, Dumb and Something In The Way by Nirvana

16-24 The Britpop era. Oh, what a wonderful time to be a teenager! Looking back now, we were so lucky! With the arrival of The Stone Roses, Blur, Oasis and Pulp, not to mention Supergrass, Manic Street Preachers, Super Furry Animals, The Bluetones, the Happy Mondays…. the mid to late 90’s Britpop era was an exciting time to be into music. Around this age I had started going to pubs and clubs with my friends, I met my boyfriend (now my husband) and our first conversation was about the bands we were into. Getting ready for a night out meant putting Oasis on really loud! At this time I was buying music regularly and religiously. Tapes and CD’s of all the bands I have mentioned plus many, many more. We would read Select magazine and NME and watch TFI Friday on the TV, plus Top Of The Pops, of course. I was lucky enough to see some of these bands live and at Glastonbury. Brilliant, happy, carefree times that come back to me every time I hear these songs. Significant songs: Slight Return by The Bluetones, Live Forever and Spersonic by Oasis, Misfits and Disco 2000 by Pulp, Motorcycle Emptiness by Manic Street Preachers, If You Don’t Want Me To Destroy You by Super Furry Animals, Beetlebum, This Is A Low, Tender, by Blur. Too many to mention!

24-34 The lost years. There was some good music about in the early 2000’s, but as I had my first child at age 24, I had less time and energy to seek it out. Top Of The Pops had ended. Many music magazines had died out. We had our own place, our daughter and bills to pay, so music slipped away from us. Kasabian, The Thrills, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Black Keys and Kings Of Leon all took our fancy during this time, but I increasingly found myself turning to the past for my musical fixes. John Lennon and Bob Dylan were the first songs I played my baby daughter. Significant songs: Imagine by John Lennon, Forever Young by Bob Dylan, Clubfoot by Kasabian, Whatever Happened to my Rock and Roll? Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

24-43 Finding new music is hard! I think I’ve got fussier as I’ve got older. Maybe that happens to us all. I was always so open-minded about music, enjoying what was new while appreciating what came before, but now I really struggle to find anything new to get excited about. Perhaps that is inevitable as you get older. New bands and new music tends to be geared towards the young and most of it does nothing for me at all. I think most radio stations play utter bile and most music magazines seemed to have died out or moved online. There is no Top of The Pops or music programmes to introduce you to the next exciting thing. I am lucky though that my 18-year-old daughter is very into music and has very open-minded and eclectic tastes. If I have found anything new to admire in the last decade it is because of her. I particularly love the Canadian band Mother Mother. Between us we have all their albums and we are going to see them live in March! Very, very exciting. They seem to be on my level, whatever that is, and so many of their songs feel like they are speaking directly to me. Significant songs: I’m Alright, I’m Okay, Bit By Bit, The Sticks, Ghosting, Body, Forgotten Souls, I’ve Got Love. Actually, all of them!!

So, what about you? Does your life have a soundtrack? If so, what songs and what bands would be on it? What memories do they bring back for you? Please feel free to share and comment!

10 Songs I Can’t Sing Without Crying Like A Baby

I’m a huge music fan and music seems to creep into nearly all of my books. Danny is addicted to the grunge and Britpop of the 90’s in The Boy With The Thorn In His Side.Joe dreams of owning a drum kit and playing in a band in The Mess Of Me, Jake remembers his missing mother’s love for 60’s music This Is Nowhere and in my current WIP, Bill Robinson is a talented singer. I can’t sing myself. I can’t play any instruments either. Big regrets! But like I mentioned in my post Reasons To Be Cheerful, singing along to songs is one of my favourite things to do. I know my voice is terrible, but there is just something so uplifting and life affirming about letting rip, singing your heart out because you know every single word and because every single word means something to you!

There are, however, some songs I can never sing. Not without succumbing to genuine tears. I told my 10 year old this the other day and he demanded a demonstration. So I tried singing the first one on this list and instantly got tears in my eyes, a hitch in my throat and couldn’t get beyond the first verse. So I thought I’d share them with you. The songs I absolutely cannot ever, not even once, manage to sing without crying like a baby. (If you want to have a listen, click on the links for the Youtube videos of each song!)

  1.   The Littlest Hobo Theme TuneI can’t listen to this, let alone sing this without welling up. I loved this show when I was a dog obsessed child of the 80’s. It never failed to pull at my heartstrings every time the poor dog traipsed off on his lonesome after helping strangers in every episode. I think if I heard it for the first time now I’d be all right. It’s the way it plugs me back into my childhood in an instant that does it. Instant memories and emotions = instant tears.
  2. Slipping Through My Fingers  Abba. This is the Meryl Streep version, because it was through the movie Mama Mia that I first heard this song. I don’t like Abba one little bit, and if I didn’t have little girls slipping through my own fingers, I would also hate this song. But I took my little girls to see this at the cinema and watched this most poignant scene with unstoppable tears rolling down my face. I couldn’t even look at my two little girls while this was on. If I’d been all alone I would have indulged myself in a full on cry, with proper noise. It’s had me every since. It’s everything. Every sentence, every lyric. There’s not a mother out there who doesn’t feel like this, like every moment is slipping away from you, like you can’t ever really know these strange little people you brought into the world. And with girls…Every time I hear it I see my little girls when they had ponytails and dresses, when they were skipping out ahead of me. I wish I could have frozen the picture too. Go on. Have a listen. Have a good old cry!
  3. Bright Eyes by Art Garfunkel. I’m sniffling already just listening to this on YouTube. I still can’t watch Watership Down or hear this song without crying. I just can’t do it. Impossible. It’s another instant emotional link to childhood. I adored this book and this film. I read it so many times. It has a very special place in my heart for that reason. It inspired me to keep reading and it inspired me to write stories about animals. It reflected my love of animals and wildlife. It made me think about life and death. Heavy stuff for a little one! This is what music does to you. It floods you with thoughts and feelings from the past.watership-down
  4. Disco 2000 by Pulp. You might think this an odd one. It’s a quirky, dance song. Typical of Pulp in the Britpop ear. This didn’t make me cry back in the day, oh no. I totally loved it and Pulp were one of the first bands I properly fell in love with, but it does something else to me these days. It reminds me that I’ve grown, just like the characters in the song. It reminds me how many years have passed since the year 2000 seemed an impossibly long way off! It has another emotional connection for me now though. Before I knew I was definitely pregnant with my fourth child, I had this CD on in the car during the school run. It made me cry for the first time and I knew I was pregnant long before I had to do a test! Now it’s always gonna’ make me blub.Britpop
  5. Oxygen by Willy Mason This is a new one for me. This song was out in 2004 but somehow I only came across it a few months ago when they played it on BBC 6Music. It came on and it made me slow down, demanding to be listened to. I think I was cooking the dinner, but I gravitated away from the oven and ended up hovering next to the window where our radio is. I soaked up the lyrics and felt a lump in my throat. So much of this makes sense to me right now. It could have been written specifically for the times we are currently living in, and sadly shows that not too much has changed. I wrote down the artist and the title of the song when it came up on the little bar on the radio and tucked the scrap piece of paper into my cutlery draw. I often do things like that and totally forget about them. But in the end, I did look Willy Mason on YouTube, and was impressed enough to order two CD’s. Since they arrived, I’ve played Oxygen in the car on the school run and I have to mouth the lyrics. I can’t sing it out loud without getting all choked up.
  6. Days – Kirsty MacCollI love The Kinks version, but I think Kirsty MacColl had a really beautiful voice, so I prefer this one. I first heard The Kinks sing this on the radio when I was about 12 or so. I used to listen to old fifties and sixties music on the radio in our kitchen, with my notebook in front of me. I’d write the lyrics around the edges of the paper. This was one I wrote the lyrics down to and I can remember how it made me feel sad and nostalgic, even though I was only a kid, and hadn’t even had any ‘days’ yet! Now when I hear it I fill warm and sad and my mind fills with my own memories of days past. I also can’t hear it without thinking about the tragic death of Kirsty MacColl. So yep, this is another one I try to sing along to and just can’t.
  7. Ten Storey Love Song – The Stone RosesThis one gets me every time. I am totally lost in so many thoughts and feelings when I try to sing to this. My husband introduced me to The Stone Roses when we first met. He used to make me mix-tapes and this song was on one of them. He also used to write me very amusing letters on A4 ruled paper, with lyrics and funny quotes written around the margins. He’s actually not that keen on this song, but I adored it from the first time I heard it. It makes me think of him, and us, when we were young and first in love. I wrote this song into The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, giving Danny and Lucy a similar scenario, where he made her mixtapes and this was on one of them. She wrote him love letters and scrawled these lyrics onto them. We saw The Stone Roses play at Finsbury Park in 2013 after they reformed. It was a dream come true and everything I had hoped it would be. I’m not ashamed in the slightest to admit I had tears rolling down my cheeks as I sung along to this one, and thought about everything it meant to me.
  8. Something Changed – Pulp Another Pulp track, and another one that reminds me of my husband and me when we first met. He also dislikes this song, but that doesn’t stop it meaning something to me. The lyrics seemed so perfect at the time. We met at the local night club when we were 17 and 18. He was there because it was one of his friends 18th and I was there because it was one of my friends 18th. One of my friends went to the same school he had, they chatted for a bit, and then she introduced me, and that was that. I’ve always liked the line ‘when we woke up that morning we had no way of knowing, that in a matter of hours we’d change the  way we were  going.’ The song questions what made the couple go to the same place at the same time, and whether it is fate, or something else.
  9. Little Talks – Of Monsters and MenI’m okay with this one until I get to the last verse. This song has an awesome, catchy tune, but the lyrics are a lot darker. I love the way it has a male and female singer, talking back and forth. For me, the female voice is losing her mind to old age, possibly dementia, and the male voice is reassuring her and also talking about how he can’t bear to see her this way. The last verse goes like this; ‘You’re gone, gone, gone away, I watched you disappear. All that’s left is a ghost of you. Now we’re torn, torn, torn apart, there’s nothing we can do, just let me go, we’ll meet again soon…now wait wait wait for me, please hang around, I’ll see you when I fall asleep.’ Lump in the throat right now, just writing that. It makes me think about getting old and dying and losing the one you love. It packs an emotional punch, I think.
  10. Perfect Day – Lou ReedA beautiful, haunting song, and one that builds up with intensity and emotion, taking me with it. Everything about this song chokes me up. His voice, the story, the piano, the endless search for something perfect and pure, his affirmation that this day was, in fact, perfect, and the way we all have days like that in our heads. I love the way you can interpret it how you like. As a love song, or as a song about drug addiction.

So, that’s my list. There are loads more, but I didn’t want to make this post too long! How about you? Are there any songs that make you well up when you hear them? Are there any songs you can’t sing along to without choking on tears? Or am I just a very strange emotional wreck?? Please feel free to comment and share! I would love to hear your songs too.

(PS. I just remembered one more! This one! Flowers In The Window by Travis. I was heavily pregnant with my first child, and stacking shelves at Asda when this came out. It would play in the shop, and after I had waddled home, hot and sweaty and deliriously excited about becoming a mother, I would find the video on The Box, and watch it. All those pregnant women! The lyrics talk about planting new seeds and watching them grow…You are one in a million… Oh that’s it, I’m off again!)