Category Archives: Life

A Song That Makes You Fall Asleep (30 Days of Music 2014)

Agent Orange – Depeche Mode

YouTube link

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.

A Song You Can Dance To (30 Days of Music 2014)

Disco Down – Shed Seven

Rick Witter – Ian Brown crossed with Jermaine Clement

Like Brian from Spaced, “I don’t do clubs.”. Growing up, the only clubs that my friends ever talked about were the big mainstream ones – I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve been ‘clubbing’ in that way. It really just never appealed. And so the indie disco part of my teenage years never happened for me, unless you count discovering bands at home through my much more music-savvy older brother.

Until 2009. Aged 26. There’s a weird feeling when you find something in the world out there where you feel like you belong – I remember walking around Television Centre on a tour as a kid, thinking “you know what, I could work here..“, and sitting in a booth in the cellar of The Albany pub at the top of Great Portland Street, on a cold night in 2009, I finally had that sense of belonging. Like there actually was a place where people went to listen, and dance, to good music.

It was a night called Play/Pause. It was run by fellow BBC folk, and it was friends from work who invited me, on a night where I’d probably otherwise have been doing not much at home. It was brilliant. On the third visit, I plucked up enough courage to ask whether I could have a trial as a DJ there. A year later, another amateur DJ and I are playing to literally a packed house – they weren’t letting anyone else in. One of the best nights ever.

Every so often I get the idea into my head to try and start it up again, but it’s not happened yet.

Anyway, this song, which passed me by upon release, and for years after, is the one that will forever remind me of those nights, the cramped conditions, the wallpaper peeling off the walls, the less than spotless toilets, the dodgy CD players, the rubber stamps on the hand, the water leaks that I’m sure should have caused an electrical fire at one point. The friends I made, and the music we danced to. Not many understood. But there, it was fantastic.

A Song You Know All The Words To (30 Days of Music)

Breaking the LawJudas Priest

Behold, the bank-breaking power of ROCK, in YouTube form

If I had a super-power, it appears it would be knowing the words to songs. Get me on the dancefloor or in any situation with a song I recognise, and more often than not, I’ll know most, if not all the words, and will be mouthing along with them, possibly at the expense of paying attention to conversation (sorry). So, yet another category that could have had almost any song.

In the end, I’ve plumped for this one, because I was getting a bit bored with the indie music choices, and, well, it’s so ridiculous. Not exactly a complex song with hard to remember lyrics. Indeed, the first time I heard it on the radio I thought it was a spoof (akin to Heads Down, No Nonsense, Mindless Boogie), but no, it’s real. The video is ridiculously cheesy, and I’m reminded of it every time I’m on the Westway flyover in London.

If you need cheering up with some ridiculously over the top rock music, stick this on – and if you want a laugh, watch the video, too.

A Song That Reminds You Of A Certain Event (30 Days of Music 2014)

Map of the ProblematiqueMuse

Video on YouTube

I didn’t really care much for the London Olympics before it started. Never being very sporty myself (although I’ll happily watch a sport, given I understand the rules and so on), it just didn’t really mean much to me. The years between the bid being won, and the event starting, I really couldn’t see the fuss, and couldn’t bring myself either to be enthused or enraged by the thing. Let’s not get into the debate over whether the economics and so on of the Olympics is a good or bad thing now, though.

The night of the opening ceremony, though, something magical happened. Danny Boyle’s show has been praised to the skies, quite rightly. I was sorely disappointed when I discovered that the Closing Ceremony wasn’t going to be directed by him too. I adored the ceremony for celebrating a part of Britain’s history that most wouldn’t put front and centre, and by the hero’s welcome, at last, for Sir Tim Berners-Lee (one of only two times in my life I can remember literally punching the air in delight).

I’m not known for being overly emotional, I guess, but there’s something about a big event, and the art of a good sporting montage and soundtrack, that can just set me off. Listening to …And I Will Kiss still brings shivers down my spine, but, aside from TimBL’s appearance, the moment that hooked me was hearing the opening refrain of Map of the Problematique. It threw me completely.

Here’s the montage – the song comes in at about 2:17, but even the use of The Sex Pistols & The Clash were good omens.

Up until that moment, I’d been convinced that the Olympics wasn’t something for me – that it’d be fun to watch the Opening Ceremony, but it would be strictly a mainstream, typical postcard version of Britain. But that song changed everything. That song, being played on BBC One, when pretty much the whole nation, if not the world, was watching – that song, a single which barely registered in my consciousness around the time of its release.

We’ll come on to a song by my favourite band soon enough (it’s not Muse), but that moment was like hearing something you thought was only important to you, only had special meaning to you, being affirmed, nationally – this music, it said, represents us. This wasn’t the pale, mainstream, UK music by numbers mediocrity of the Closing Ceremony – this was a clear statement that that night was going to be different, alternative, inclusive.

The rhythm, beat and drama hooks you in on a rollercoaster very similar to the effect my imagination goes on when I hear the Doctor Who theme – insistently pulling you down the rabbit hole, tumbling unavoidably towards adventure, risk and danger. The repeated chorus line has an emotional resonance for me, too, alas.

That moment, hearing those notes, being shocked and delighted, getting completely onboard the drama of the evening – made me well up, made me feel proud. The scene was set – and for that one night, at least, the nation was defined by adventure, in my book at least.

A Song That Reminds You of Somewhere (30 Days of Music)

SuzieBoy Kill Boy

Video on YouTube

I was a DJ in a past life.

Summer of 2006. On the home straight for my MSc at Brighton University. I’d missed out on the opportunity at taking a slot on the student radio station whilst doing my degree at UCL, so I was eager to grab the chance during my one year on the South Coast. Turns out, Brighton University didn’t have a radio station.

But the University of Sussex did, and somehow, I got a slot there – Sunday afternoons, between three and four in the afternoon. I’m not sure if anyone was listening, apart from my family – especially after the bloke before me used to end his show with long, long songs from Jesus Christ Superstar – but it was great fun. If I was lucky, the person due on after me wouldn’t turn up, and I’d get to do two hours.

This song was on a promotional CD which was left lying by the faders, and it’ll always remind me of that tiny studio. It’s throwaway indie-guitar-pop, but the melody, and the backdrop of electronica made it a hit for me, particularly as I’d never heard of the band before. It was this, or Seaside by The Ordinary Boys, and, well, maybe not (though that is a great summer record).

My other stint as a DJ at the much-missed Play/Pause indie-disco, at the Albany on Great Portland Street, a few years later, may have been more cherished, but this was a chance to do something a little different – (sort of) proper broadcasting.