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Volume #100 February – March 2015
Well this is number 100… the first in this series was September 2002, and the first 50-or-so mixes were monthly rather than once every two months! Not quite sure how I managed to keep that up so long, but here we are. I guess I wanted to do something commemorative for it, and this is basically a collection of my very favourite songs, things that make me tick and get to the very essence of my passion for music. Of course, no amount of tinkering could actually make me happy with the end result because you worry about things left off, but as a snapshot, this is probably as good as I could have done.
01) Rush - Bastille Day (live): In an ideal world I’d just throw on 2112, but real estate is limited to 80-minutes on these mixes and time constraints do play a major part. This version is taken from the third disc of Different Stages: Live, recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1978 (my Dad was actually at this show). While it’s not Geddy’s strongest vocal, there’s something about the performance and the amps seem turned up a notch from previous years. Is there a better way to open a gig than with this riff?
02) The Posies - Definite Door: Frosting on the Beater is quite possibly the best power-pop album ever made, and that’s a bold statement, but almost every song is hit after hit (not commercially speaking!). I first heard this song on a mix a friend made for me, which really just goes to show the worth of doing these things. I can only hope I’ve introduced one band to someone who went on the love them as much as I love The Posies. Thanks Andy. “Better cross your heart, make it people proof”
03) TV On the Radio - The Wrong Way: I remember reading about Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes from a magazine called Plan B (I bought it because Stephin Merrit was on the front cover), and the description was such that I just had to hear it. TV On the Radio were probably the first band of the new millennium that I got incredibly excited about… and they opened the door to a passion for new music in general. I became a fan just before the record came out but somehow missed them in Oxford by about a week. I actually spoke to Kyp Malone in New York shortly after I moved here and he thanked me for not being at that show as they almost broke up as a result of it, he said it was that bad! I doubt that, I’d have still wanted to be there!
04) The Flirtations - Nothing But a Heartache: The question of “what is my favourite song of all time?” has had an easy answer for the last few years, it’s this one. It’s just absolutely perfect, from the lead and vocal harmonies, the horns and don’t forget the incredible bass! They never bettered this song, or even really came close, but that’s ok when you give something this fantastic to the world.
05) Otis Redding - Security: Thinking of an Otis song to use was one of the hardest tasks for this mix. In the end I went with the classic Security, it swings and Otis’ vocals have that clear emotion that few could rival. Overall, I prefer the intensity of the live material, with In Person at the Whisky a must for any home in my opinion, but one of my most treasured possessions is my Definitive Otis Redding 4-CD box set.
06) Big Star - September Gurls: I’d probably put this forward as the most beautiful sounding song of all time, those guitars alone make my bleary-eyed every time I hear them, I’m struggling to even write about this because I just want to put this on repeat. In fact, stop doing what you’re doing and buy Radio City, assuming you’ve been leading an empty existence to this point and down have it already. That wooo-ooohhh at 2:20 kills me every time. “I loved you, well, never mind, I've been crying all the time”
07) Nada Surf - Always Love: I tend to think or Del Amitri and Rush as my default favourite/most important band but that order should probably go to Nada Surf. They were the first band I felt like I had discovered on my own, hearing Popular in the UK when it came out, where it wasn’t the hit it was in the US, going out and buying the record with what little money I had as a teenager and just pouring all over it. They’ve always felt like my band more than any other. I also think Matthew Caws is a criminally underrated lyricist. “To make a mountain of your life, Is just a choice, But I never learned enough, To listen to the voice that told me, Always love, Hate will get you every time, Always love. Don't wait til the finish line”
08) XTC - The Mayor of Simpleton: As an Oxford boy it’s hard to admit that anything from Swindon is of worth to humanity. However, XTC have contributed some of the finest pop-rock songs, this song appeals to my pathetic, hopelessly romantic side. “Well I don't know how to tell the weight of the sun, And of mathematics well I want none, And I may be the Mayor of Simpleton, But I know one thing, And that's I love you.”
09) REM - Fall On Me: The first song I ever liked was Man on the Moon, you could say I was a bit of a latecomer to music, I’d have been 10 I think when that song came out, but I put that down to pop-music in the 80s being a bit naff. REM are probably the only band I find it hard to be objective about, I just love everything (apart from Around the Sun, which is really a damp squib). If I had to pick a favourite album it may well be Life’s Rich Pageant, and this song just has all the ingredients that made them a fantastic band.
10) Radiohead - Let Down: Oxford’s greatest export, the one-two punch they delivered with The Bends and OK Computer is surely up there with the best. I remember the weeks leading up to the release of OK Computer there was such incredible excitement, it seemed like an event that certainly no-one has come close to since (at least not locally). Picking Let Down for this mix probably just shows how much of a miserably bugger I am, but I do often find the saddest songs to be the most beautiful. “Let down and hanging around. Crushed like a bug in the ground”
11) Red House Painters - Summer Dress: My first exposure to Mark Kozelek was hearing Have You Forgotten on the Vanilla Sky soundtrack, and I might have put that version on if I had the time, but I swiftly picked up the 2-cd Retrospective that 4-AD put out, it actually took a few listens for it to get under my skin, but now I’m firmly one of those ugly dude obsessives that Koz writes about so often!
12) Tim Buckley - Song to the Siren (Live - Monkees TV Show): This song, and this version in particular, might be the most significant of my life, it captured a certain time so perfectly and painfully. A love that seemed unobtainable. I haven’t listened to it in a while and now it just makes me feel sad. I really should have also found the time to fit Jeff Buckley on this mix as well… “Did I dream you dreamed about me?Were you hare when I was fox? Now my foolish boat is leaning, Broken lovelorn on your rocks”
13) Del Amitri - Nothing Ever Happens: My love of Del Amitri is completely unapologetic, and they are probably the least cool band to have ever existed. They were my first absolute and complete obsession. I’m still slightly amazed I got to interview Justin Currie last year: http://freewilliamsburg.com/interview-justin-currie/ and I’ll just copy and paste something I wrote from that piece: “There are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and Justin Currie’s ability to write moving lyrics for the lonely, heartbroken, misanthropic and disenfranchised; sprinkled with just enough hope for us all to carry on.” This song also features the greatest lyric ever written “Computer terminals report some gains in the values of copper and tin, While American businessmen snap up Van Goghs for the price of a hospital wing”
14) The Flaming Lips - Do You Realise?: I think this song captures mortality better than any other, with an unbridled realism and beauty. The Oklahomans also put on some of the best shows I have ever seen as well, but their studio output doesn’t really get the credit it deserves IMO.
15) Guided By Voices - Glad Girls: Bob Pollard is one of the most prolific artists around, to the point where he has released a lot of average material, but when Guided By Voices get it right, and they frequently do, the results are spectacular. This song shouldn’t really seem that special, but it never fails to get my pulse racing and want to jump around. While it probably isn’t a shared opinion, if I really had to pick a favourite GBV album it probably is Isolation Drills.
16) The Church - The Unguarded Moment: In a 35-year career, have these Aussies ever released a bad album? I’m not sure (I can’t claim to have all 17), but they also lay claim to this song, which I first heard on the Children of Nuggets boxset, and I think as a result, I do prefer this single-edit as opposed to the album version.
17) Porcupine Tree – Synesthesia: I very, very rarely listen to PT these days, whose run from Up the Downstair until In Absentia (6 albums between 1993-2002) is amongst my most loved of any band. This version is from the original 1993 release, with electronic drums, which I much prefer. The album got a re-issue a few years ago with real drums but it just doesn’t work for me.
18) Ann Peebles - Trouble, Heartache & Sadness: As I was making this mix I was starting to realise how little soul I had on here, which is definitely a mistake… fortunately after a bit of fine-tuning I managed to squeeze on this lovely Ann Peebles tune. Straight from the Heart is my favourite soul record, despite the annoying trait to fade out every single song before the 3-minute mark. I never understood why Quentin Tarantino never used this in a film. “Heartache, stop knockin' at my window, I don't wanna hear what you have to say, You can go down your list of trouble, And be on your merry way”
19) Max Richter - On the Nature of Daylight: I’ll end this mix with a couple of classical pieces, the first is by Max Richter, which is fairly well known and has been used in at least a couple of movies (Stranger than Fiction and Shutter Island spring to mind), but The Blue Notebooks is a lovely collection as it is.
20) Arvo Pärt - Spiegel Im Spiegel: You might need to turn the volume up a little on this one, but I couldn’t not include my favourite piece of music of all time, and it seemed like the right thing to end with. There are many versions of this piece but by far and away the best are on Alina. I can barely get through this without feeling overwhelmed, it’s just the very best of the best. Spiegel Im Spiegel means Mirror in the Mirror in German, and the music is in the tintinnabular style, that Part basically created.
This mix probably describes me as a person better than I can with words. I love every track dearly, and I hope at least one person discovers a new favourite, or at least makes them think about a song they love to the very core of their being. Sometimes it feels like the only thing we have.
Until next time, probably not another 100, but who knows…
Peace and love - Q