The Soundtrack of My Life
Maybe it’s just me, but when I hear a particular song it can instantly transport me back to my earlier days. A snatch of beat, a few notes of melody or even paraphrased lyrics can take me right back to the 1970s, 80s or 90s. Beyond those decades, my interest in new music has gradually dwindled to the point that, these days, I every rarely even venture near the CD sections and no, I don’t have a Spotify account. Here are the tunes that have been most significant to me – those that I’m prepared to share, anyway. This is the soundtrack of my life…
Save your kisses for me – Brotherhood of Man
I heard this song recently and instantly fell to pieces. Seriously, I was out for the night and tears were rolling down my cheeks. It evoked such bittersweet – painful but very precious – memories of my late mother singing this to me when I was tiny, back in the good old days when Britain used to do well at Eurovision. This song won the contest for us in 1976. Yep. We actually won.
See or sample Save Your Kisses For Me here
The Birdie Song – The Tweets
This was the first single I owned, on shiny black 7 inch vinyl. I really do wish I’d made a cooler choice, but there it is. It was 1981 and I was 7, that’s my excuse. When Googling it to find out the ‘artist’ (ha!) and release date, I stumbled across a new story from 2000, describing it as the most annoying song of all time. I can’t argue with that.
See or sample The Birdie Song here
Happy Birthday – Altered Images
Slightly cooler than my previous choice. I have a hazy memory of dancing to this in a hall filled with crazily-dancing kids. I can’t recall whether it was a children’s disco or indeed, a birthday party, but this song was everywhere then and I still come across it to this day. When I hear it – whoosh – I’m back in that smoky, dimly-lit hall in the former mining village where I spent my first seven years.
See or sample Happy Birthday by Altered Images here
Wake me up before you go-go – Wham!
The second single that I actually recall owning. I was going out shopping with my Dad and he offered to buy me a single of my choice. I heard this on the radio as we were getting ready, and Wham! Decision made. I’m not sure if I should broadcast this or not, but I still listen to Wham now. And sing along. I know all the words, even to Wham Rap. Enjoy what you do, indeed.
See or sample Wham! The Final here
You can read all about my Missing George Michael here, if you like, or my favourite GM songs here.
When I’m sixty-four – The Beatles
Like with Wham, I’ve had a lifelong relationship with John, George, Paul and Ringo, even though the former died when I was too young to remember. My mother must have been absolutely devastated, as she worshipped the Fab Four. The reason I remember this, though, is because we were made to sing it in middle school – and to a particular teacher. It was his colleague’s way of ribbing him about his age (not very advanced, surely, then). Perhaps it was just her way of getting his attention. Ahem!
See or sample The Beatles 1 here
Like to get to know you well – Howard Jones
I had a few family holidays to Butlin’s, Skegness, and it was there that we met who would become my future stepmother and – all for my delight – stepsister. I remember the upbeat strains of this tune seeping out from the buildings as we sashayed along the broad walkways, high on holidays and the joy of having a new best friend forever. It seemed to sum up our situation perfectly.
See or sample Like to get to know you well here
Thriller – Michael Jackson
Ahh, the great Mr Jackson, much-missed like his contemporary, and partial namesake, George Michael. Hours of fun were to be had watching his moves on the Thriller video – an absolute work of art and fantastic entertainment. No one moves like that white socked, gloved up hat-tipper did, and he wasn’t a bad singer or songwriter, either.
See or sample Thriller here
Don’t leave me this way – The Communards
A dichotomous ditty if ever there was one, with Jimmy Somerville sounding so happy and triumphant, yet begging his lover not to leave him, so bereft and desolate he would be. An utterly joyful tune, summing up the excitement of the eighties and heralding, with trumpets, the dawn of a new, more open era.
See or sample Don’t leave me this way here
Cry to me – Solomon Burke
Giving Michael Jackson a run for his money in the dance stakes was Patrick Swayze, when he shot to stardom and his swizzle-hips and brooding looks became the object of every teen’s fantasy. Who wouldn’t want to relive that scene from Dirty Dancing, with Solomon serenading, and ultimately seducing, Baby and Johnny? ‘The time of my life’, upon which the film ends, is better known, but this one takes me straight back to those pubescent days, with the first flushes of lust just bursting into blossom.
See or sample the Dirty Dancing soundtrack here
When will I be famous – Bros
I prided myself on not being one of the those girls who was enslaved to whatever boy band of the moment tickled her fancy – and then Bros came along and I was smitten. I had to marry Matt Goss. Luke might do, but I’d have to give that one serious thought, as forever in love with his twin would I be. There followed a few years of tacking up posters, tracking down rare badge packs and finally, seeing them in concert, during which our eyes would meet, and… yep. The full shebang, the whole teeny-bopper cliche, that was me in spades; once those pretty boys burst onto the pop scene I was a goner.
See or sample Bros Gold here
Never tear us apart – INXS
As Bros faded from my mind I began to prefer something grittier and someone deliciously, filthily fanciable. Credited around the time with corrupting Kylie, Michael Hutchence could happily get down and dirty with me anytime. Even though I’d never liked men with long hair (and still don’t). Soulful, growling yet romantic lyrics, this song got me into INXS, still to this day my favourite band of all time bar none. And to think I only tried them because a boy I fancied at school liked them!
See or sample INXS Kick here
Cry little sister – Gerard McCann
INXS also featured on ‘The Lost Boys’ Soundtrack, but this theme tune for me summed up the dark, gothic atmosphere of this timeless horror film. I still have the soundtrack today – absolute classics, both.
See or sample The Lost Boys soundtrack here
I’m free – Soup Dragons
The theme tune to my University days at Salford- well, one of them. They were actually Scottish, which surprises me – their sound seems to recall, for me, the early 1990s in Manchester, where I spent those heady undergraduate days, high on freedom and independence.
See or sample I’m Free here
Smells like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
Frankly, this song used to terrify me, as hordes of male students, alcohol fuelled and seeping testosterone, rushed the dancefloor, moshing and jumping around like they had springs in their DMs. Very scary but somehow – as long as you’d run for cover – rather liberating, too.
See or sample Nirvana Nevermind here
Somebody Else’s Guy – Jocelyn Brown
The other tune that in my mind, evokes Manchester circa 1993. One of my housemates played this tune a lot during the first year and it somehow became a bit of an anthem to us. It was the theme tune to those glory days of lazy lie-ins, dashing to lectures in the ever-present rain. Putting the world to rights in smoky pubs or someone’s room, and subsisting on cereal, toast, beans, and fifty pence pints.
See or sample Somebody Else’s Guy here
Relight my fire – Take That
My student days were punctuated by visits home to see my family and friends – and to earn money, which I then spent on nights out, pub-crawling our way around my home town. This cheery tune, featuring Lulu’s earthy tones, welcomed us to the dancefloor every weekend. From then on, we’d party like it was 1993.
See or sample Relight my fire here
Boom Shack a Lack – Apache Indian
Used in the intro to ‘Dumb and Dumber’, this song is memorable to me as it recalls the one and only girls’ only holiday I went on, to Corfu in the early 90s, with one of my school pals. If there’s a song that would make me more inclined to grind my body and wiggle my belly than this one, the I’ve yet to find it.
See or sample Boom Shack a Lack here
You’re so vain – Carly Simon
Made memorable to me by the aforementioned holliday taken when I was 19, it may seem an unlikely choice, but there’s a reason. During that heady fortnight at a small singles’ resort, this song came up repeatedly due to one handsome young man. Drop-dead gorgeous – or at least he and I thought so. This was sung to him one night at a karaoke bar, and it stuck. It will always make me remember those carefree, single days, and the cheeky snog I may have had with Mr Vain…
See or sample You’re so vain here
Moving on up – M People
I saw M People live in Manchester, right at their peak and right at the time when ‘Madchester’ was the home of all that was happening on the music scene. This song struck a chord at the time for personal reasons. It also epitomised that ‘anything is possible’ feeling of freedom that so characterised my late teens and early 20s.
See or sample Moving on up here
My Way – Frank Sinatra
I moved to Liverpool after graduating and was employed as a temp, along with a whole bunch of other recent graduates. Friday nights (and many others, if I’m honest) were always spent in the pub-next-door to work. As the drinks were downed, the karaoke cranked up by degrees, until one of our colleagues would sing this Sinatra number. He amended the lyrics to reflect our bottom-of-the-pile position as ‘only temporaries’. Cracking days with a very mixed, but utterly fabulous, bunch of folk.
See or sample My Way here
Disco 2000 – Pulp
My second-favourite band of all time, Pulp formed much of the soundtrack to my clubbing days in Liverpool. I preferred dusky, sweaty Indie nights to House, Dance, Garage, Trance or Garden Shed. Fuelled by synthetic, flourescent orange Hooch, we’d cut up the dancefloor, even having a set dance we did to this favourite tune. Don’t ask.
See or sample Pulp’s A Different Class here
Brown-eyed girl – Van Morrison
Sometime after I returned from my year in Australia, I recorded a tape which I called ‘The Best Australia album in the world, ever’ (and I’m not claiming it was the most imaginative title). I cannot remember much of what was on it now, but this definitely was – it seemed to be playing on perpetual loop during my first days and nights in Sydney. Drinking until dawn at my beloved Coogee Bay Hotel. It didn’t hurt that it was a former hangout of INXS and the like, and cast members of then-popular Aussie soap ‘Home and Away’ could often be spotted at the bar. Very happy – and hungover – days.
See or sample Brown eyed girl here
Peaches – The Presidents of the United States of America
This song takes me, Mister and one of my very best friends back to our backpacking days, fruit-picking on a South Australia farm. We picked apricots, actually, but ate peaches by the bucketload – severely challenging the plumbing at the rickety old farmhouse in which we stayed. I’d never had white-fleshed peaches before then, and I still seek them out to this day.
See or sample Peaches here
Place your hands – Reef
Another tune from the farm days – and later on, too, as we toured Australia in crammed but thankfully air-conditioned coaches, marvelling at the rich red soil and pristine beaches. A veritable anthem, joyful and triumphant.
See or sample Place your hands here
Don’t dream it’s over – Crowded House
This was my leaving Australia song, a mournful ditty indeed after having an absolute blast of a year. It was playing in my mind as I dashed to the gate following a final call for my flight, my name read out over the tannoy as I spoke to my family on the phone. I hung up hastily and pelted to depart the country I’d forever, from then on, see as my second home. I wasn’t so much hungover but still a bit tipsy – probably all the better to soften the blow of leaving.
See or sample Don’t dream it’s over here
Something for the weekend – The Divine Comedy
Into my mid-twenties and the full flow of the daily grind, there was a time when Chris Evans played this every Friday morning on his BBC Radio One Breakfast Show. It signalled the end of the working week and heralded the start of the weekend, which was all the young singleton living in London looked forward to from Monday to Friday. This tune euphorically broadcast that the end of the working week was nigh, and fun times were very soon to be had.
See or sample Something for the weekend here
Mucho mambo sway – Shaft
This was actually intended to be a theme tune – and crowd rouser – of sorts. In my travel agent days, I went on a fam (familiarisation) trip to South Africa, geared to 18 to 35 year-olds, and this was the named theme tune. It was the one that would be played each morning at full blast, to get us in the holiday mood, ready for the day ahead. It brings back happy memories of my days in travel, and I feel very lucky to have had such an interesting job – never a dull moment, that was for sure.
See or sample Mucho Mambo Sway here
Charly – the Prodigy
I didn’t even like this song until years after it was released, but I love it now – my husband is a big fan of the Prodigy and I think I got to like them by osmosis or some such. This song even named our first pet as a married couple – and the quirky craziness of the song pretty well suits him to a tee.
See or sample Charly here
Killing in the name of – Rage against the machine
This one sticks in my mind because of what my husband thought I’d feel about this track – and how wrong he was! He thought I’d hate it, but actually, I love it. It speaks to the rebel within, and flies in the face of authority – haven’t we all felt like doing just that? A great song for yelling “f**k you!’ when you’re angry… though not in front of the children…
See or sample Killing in the name of here
Happy – Pharrell Williams
The only one from relatively recent times. How can this song not make you feel good? This reminds me of hot summer days in the sun, by the pool or at the beach, with a very happy child splashing about having a whale of a time.
See or sample Happy here
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