Agent Orange – Depeche Mode
When you’ve lived for most of your life in one place, it can be a pretty gut-wrenching experience to leave. Especially when you’ve spent most of your formative years in that house. And especially when it’s a decision you have next to no say in.
In August 1999, shortly after finishing the one GCSE I took a year early (IT, for what it’s worth – the version where most of the work was around learning Microsoft Publisher, but also, thankfully for my later life, Access), my family and I moved house. I was pretty down on the whole experience for a good couple of months, I seem to recall. I had just turned sixteen, which probably had something to do with it, too.
Not long afterwards, I can’t exactly remember when, but certainly within the year, I bought a minidisc player, and for the first time, began to experience really having a personal connection with music – I could listen to almost exactly what I wanted, when I wanted. Yes, I’d had a Walkman, but cassettes were always an imprecise way of taking your music around with you. At last, with minidiscs, you could precisely pinpoint, shuffle even, the songs you wanted to hear.
Which all leads up to the creation of a ‘chillout’ minidisc, the contents of which are still preserved as a playlist on my current iPod. It didn’t get much further than four or five tracks, but ‘music to fall asleep to’ clearly puts me back into the body of my teenage years, trying to get to sleep, listening to those four or five tracks in a very particular order (ironic, for all the talk of shuffle and select, earlier).
Agent Orange – it was only later I discovered the significance of the title, and the references to helicopters, explosions, gunfire, was the song that ended the playlist. By this time, I’d be right on the edges of consciousness. Headphones allowed me to bask in the stereo effects, and the slow, gentle rhythm drew me into sleep. The drums are a hinderance to falling asleep at first, but even they settle into a hypnotic pattern. The plaintive morse code, fading into the background at the end, as a last message before I shut down for the night.
It still works – and from time to time, if I really can’t sleep, I’ll use the tried and trusted technique once more.