So, the conversation went a little something like this. Emma: “Do you fancy doing another playlist?” [Ed. note: I wish I had the guts to use even more Britishisms than I already do. More likely I said "D'ya wanna do another playlist, yo?" Cheers, luv!] Me: “Sure. That would be cool!” [Time elapses.] Emma: “So, uh, are you going to do that playlist?” Me: “Absolutely! What’s it about? When do you need it?” Emma: “You didn’t get my email, did you? The theme is ‘Change’, and I need it next week.” Me: “NO PROBLEM!! I’m on it now.” [Begins to panic.] I thought about it for a while, and beyond Sheryl Crow’s A Change Would Do You Good, which I obviously couldn’t include for reasons of personal integrity, I was genuinely drawing a blank. I expressed this concern to Emma, who gently suggested I should start thinking a bit more leftfield. “It can be music that represents a change in your life, maybe.”
Alrighty then, I thought. This is easy. Pivotal moments, expressed through music. What I needed now was some order, some framework to put them against. I was thinking about the fact that my favourite band had called it a day after just over 30 years. I was also thinking about the fact that, like MTV, I was also 30 this year. And then the plan formed – I would pick ten tracks from over the last 30 years that I would have been listening to at the time, and put them in chronological order, like a sort of musical autobiography. They would have to be good tracks, too.
Ten songs to chart the course of 30 years! Obviously due to the restraints of space there have been some fairly massive omissions. I felt that, given the option, you would probably prefer to be spared the likes of Kylie and Jason, NKOTB, Bros, London Boys, and various other little gems that very young children enjoyed in the late 80s. Neither did we get the chance to delve into my punk phase, nor the all-consuming “Year of Bowie” circa the mid-90s in which I listened to almost nothing else, nor the baffling enchantment with early country music I have developed of late.
The brief that I set myself was to choose songs that were released within the time frame, so the list plays like an abridged musical history, according to me, of the last 30 years. [The first track is a slight bending of these rules, as the album it features on was released in 1980 not 1981, but what’s one year between friends?]
If you want the Spotify link, it is here : Jack Move Changes – although if you’re not paying for Spotify [I’m not] it is incredibly annoying. But the sound quality is much better, so… Enjoy.
1981 – 1983
Nic Jones : Canadee-I-O
(Penguin Eggs, 1980)
From very early years, I remember this album. I remember when we used to drive up to Scotland for our summer holiday, and this album would be playing on the cassette player. I remember hating it, hating the whole folk cliché of it all. [This was probably, to be fair, a few years after 1981-83. Although a precocious child, I don’t think that as a two year old I was aware that there was “cool” and “non-cool” music.] Anyway, long story short – I “rediscovered” this album a long time later, during the folk revival movement of recent years, and was surprised to find that it was still ingrained in my subconscious. I remembered the words, despite not having heard it for probably over 20 years. I found this quite incredible, and actually realised that I now quite liked a few of the songs on it. [Some of them still give me the urge to get out of a moving car, however.] So this was, in all honesty, the beginning of my musical foundations. I don’t think it sounds 30 years old.
1984 – 1986
Suzanne Vega : Undertow
(Suzanne Vega, 1985)
This [and Solitude Standing] were also albums I remembered from being in the car. My dad had taped them onto cassette from the vinyl, and they were often the best compromise we could come to on long journeys. I found the words wonderful, although I had absolutely no idea what a lot of them meant. In my young imagination they took on all sorts of weird and wonderful forms. I have always been ready to cite Suzanne Vega as a musical influence, and perhaps these early years of absorbing her music were to answer for that.
1987 – 1989
Tracy Chapman : Talkin’ Bout A Revolution
(Tracy Chapman, 1988)
I wanted to be really honest with this list – warts and all kind of thing – in which case, Paula Abdul’s Opposites Attract should by rights be sitting here in the late 80’s. [I loved it at the time; but the only reason I bought the cassette single in the first place was because there was a cartoon cat on the front. True story.] But in the end, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. It offended me. Tracy Chapman’s debut was another album my folks played a lot at the time, and it still gets played to this day. It is undoubtedly a timeless classic, and just as relevant today.
1990 – 1992
Seal : Killer
This was around the time when I went up to high school. The first time I heard this track it blew me away. It opened up a whole new world of music I hadn’t really known existed before. The electronic elements still sound awesome today. The track I actually first heard was the Adamski version [there are a lot of mixes available of this song] but this whole album was on a fairly constant loop for most of these years and so I have picked this version.
1993 – 1995
R.E.M. : Crush With Eyeliner
I still love this so much! This was the point at which I became a real R.E.M. fan, and began meticulously trawling their entire back catalogue. Early teen years, I remember being ridiculously awkward. I think I found a lot of poetry and meaning in their lyrics [not necessarily on this track] and I really loved his voice. Like, a LOT. Needless to say, this album frequently got played annoyingly loud, usually preceded by a door slamming. Teenagers, what can I say? The video is also awesome.
1996 – 1998
Beck : Jack-Ass
For a few summers running, we would drive to the south coast of England, get on the car ferry, and then drive down through Europe to Italy. We’d stay a week, and then drive back again. One year, I had Mellow Gold and Odelay on cassette, and I listened to nothing else on my Walkman all the way there and all the way back. I feel like these albums are an integral part of who I am, loathe as I am to say something so… arsey. Again, the lyrics delighted me. Also the quirkiness, and the slightly subversive feeling that this was not the “mainstream” I particularly relished.
1999 – 2001
Tori Amos : Glory Of The 80s
(To Venus And Back, 1999)
Late teens, turning 20. Interesting times, exciting times, difficult times. That’s all I really want to say about it for now. This song seems to just about sum it all up for me fairly perfectly. I’d already been a Tori fan for years, in fact every album she released pretty much lived in my CD player for the month or two after it came out. This album got played a lot at this particular time in my life, and it still means a lot to me.
2002 – 2004
Nick Cave : There She Goes My Beautiful World
(Abattoir Blues/The Lyre Of Orpheus, 2004)
This is another entry wherein I have employed editorial discretion in favour of the more socially acceptable, “cool” stuff I listened to, as opposed to the rather cringe-worthy commercial Goth-rock phase I was also having around this time. [Think Evanescence.] I also felt that this rather personal little adventure down memory lane would not be complete without a Nick Cave track included. I remember at the first wedding I went to in my own right [as in, one of my friends from high school, not a family wedding] they had this as their first dance. That rocks. [They’ve divorced.]
2005 – 2007
The White Stripes : My Doorbell
(Get Behind Me Satan, 2005)
This is, still, the ringtone on my cell phone. The closer to “now” I look back, the harder it is to pick a song that sums up that time in my life, and that time in my little world in general. Perhaps in another ten years, it will seem clearer to me. I didn’t like The White Stripes at first, and then I warmed to them a bit, and then [possibly because my then boyfriend hated them] I really loved them. I like the lo-fi sound and the rough and ready feel to the recordings, and I also think Jack White is a great songwriter and his songs will stand the test of time.
2008 – 2010
The Decemberists : The Hazards of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won’t Wrestle The Thistles..)
(The Hazards of Love, 2009)
If I was going to a fictional desert island and I could only take one album, assuming there was an electricity supply, I would take The Hazards of Love. It is a vast work, endlessly re-listenable. The folk sensibilities that were part of my earliest, formative musical memories are here re-interpreted for a modern audience. As I said above, with hindsight I might think of a song that is actually more fitting for this part of my life in years to come, but for now, this is the one that “popped”.
Jackie Leven : One Long Cold Morning
The ten songs above brought us up to date, but I also just had to put a Jackie Leven song in. He sadly passed away at the beginning of November, and I wanted to honour his music and to get as many people as possible listening to his material. This track wasn’t available on Spotify, so in that list I have included Gothic Road from his 2010 album of the same name. He was an amazing character with an incredible voice, and he always had a tall tale to tell. I was genuinely saddened to hear of his passing. The wonderful thing about music is that it always lives on.
In memory of Jackie Leven, 1950-2011.
Lizzy is owned by three cats in England. She also writes for Beard Rock, innit.
“Musica Comprimida-Compressed Music” image by Ferrari+caballos+fuerza=cerebro Humano, used under a Creative Commons license.