Music is a huge part of my life and has been a great comfort through some difficult times. It has also had a profound effect on the course of my life at times. I was once stood waiting for a bus on a Sunday morning and was inspired by a single line from a song (Flower by EELS) to change my life. I wrote my resignation letter that afternoon and quit my job the next day to start my own business. I’ll write more about that experience and why I did it another time.
Anyway, There are a certain set of songs that mark particular points in my life and I thought I would write about those today just to switch things up a bit. I’ll also write more in the future about songs and albums that have a mental health related theme and have had an impact on me in some way.
So, without further ado……
1) Knock Three Times – Tony Orlando
Whilst this probably wasn’t the first song I ever heard, it is the first one I remember. I can’t remember how old I was but I was exploring the attic in my Grannies house and found a record player and a pile of records.
Once I was shown what it was and how to work it, I began working through the pile of vinyl and this is the first song I remember listening too. There were tons of others that I listened to as well but I can’t really remember now what they were. I think this one just stuck in my head because it was the first.
2) God Gave Rock n Roll to You – Kiss
This is probably one of the most important songs to me because I think it is where my love of music truly began. I don’t think this is necessarily down to the song itself (although I think it is a great song). I think the main reason is that it is the first time I remember getting that odd head rush that sometimes happens when you are really loving a song. Even as I listen to it now, I get the same feeling. The BBC has an interesting article on this phenomenon
Another reason I love this song is that it reminds me of a time before my dad passed away and we were all still together as a family. It also reminds me of the huge stereo in a wooden cabinet that used to be all the rage. I love the film Bill & Teds Bogus Journey and it was on the soundtrack cassette for the film that I first listened to the song.
3) Up the Junction – Squeeze
My mum was born on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland and every year from the time when I was born until my dad passed away our Summer holiday involved driving from Leeds to Ullapool to get the ferry over to Lewis.
The journey generally took around 8 hours and we would set off at around 10 at night to arrive in Ullapool for around 6 the next morning to wait for the morning ferry. Mum and dad would always prepare mix tapes for the long journey and there would be music on pretty much the whole journey.
My brother, sister and mum would often sleep for a large part of the journey but I have never been great at sleeping in cars so I would often be awake for most of the journey listening to the music.
There a number of songs that stick in my memory from those journeys including Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs about the artist Lowry, Sylvia’s Mother by Dr Hook and Angelo by Brootherhood of Man among many others.
There are a lot of songs from that time that I am very fond of, things that I wouldn’t normally listen to now if it weren’t for the sentimental attachment but one song that I really love and would still listen to today regardless is Up the Junction by Squeeze.
I have always preferred songs that tell a story and even though at the time I was probably too young to properly understand the themes being discussed, I could tell there was a narrative going throughout the song. Also, I think it is technically impossible for anything that Jools Holland is involved in not to be awesome.
4) China in Your Hand – T’Pau
Some time after my dad died, we were up in Scotland, I can’t remember why we were there now but the day we got back to Leeds, my mum had a call from my auntie to say that her two sons, had died during a diving trip ( it was later established that one of my cousins had most likely died trying to save his brother who had become entangled in something )
So, having just made the long trip back from the Highlands we headed back there the next day by coach. I had a tape of various songs that I listened to throughout the long journey over and over again. For some reason this is the only one that I can recall.
5) Grace Kelly Blues – EELS
This is one of my favorite songs of all time. I was walking round a Borders book store torturing myself by looking at things I couldn’t afford to buy and I stopped at one of the listening post stations, intrigued by the cover art of the EELS latest album Daisies of the Galaxy.
I picked up the headphones and I didn’t move until the album had ended. I can’t really explain why I love this song so much but as soon as I heard the crashing drums and horns at the start of the song I was transfixed.
I’d heard some EELS stuff prior to this, pretty much all from Beautiful Freak but it was listening to this album in that music corner that really cemented my love for them and I have been a huge fan ever since. I was even lucky enough to meet the band a few years ago and get my t-shirt signed by them but that’s a story for another day….
6) T-Shirt Sun Tan – Stereophonics
This is a bit of an odd one and I probably wouldn’t have normally included it if it weren’t for a conversation with my CBT therapist.
During one of our early sessions she asked me when I could last remember feeling completely relaxed and without anxiety.
It was quite telling to her and quite enlightening to me that when I really thought about the question, the only time I could pinpoint was about 19 years earlier when I was walking down a hill near my Grans house in Scotland listening to this song. Picture below from Google maps of the hill in question:
7) Waiting – Green Day
When my wife and I decided to get married, there was a lot of discussion around what music we would have during the ceremony. The two key parts for me were the walking down the aisle music and what would be played after we got married and were walking back down said aisle.
By the time we were ready to get married I had already
brainwashed encouraged Dawn into loving EELS and we decided to have bride of theme from blinking lights as the music for her walking down the aisle.
We eventually agreed on Waiting by Green Day as the song to play after we were married and walking back down the aisle (mostly because I kept pestering about it.) Anyway it is a song I love and it always reminds me of one of the happiest days of my life.
8) Hey Man, Now You’re Really Living – EELS
I’ve been kind of dreading writing my memories about this song all day as it relates to my mum dying.
5 Years ago, on a Sunday morning, just after 9am I got a call from my Sister. I can still remember picking up my phone, looking at the number calling me and fearing the worst but I really don’t think anything could have prepared me for the words that followed, that my mum had passed away. It wasn’t actually that much of a surprise as she had been in a hospice for the previous few weeks but still.
When my sister told me that mum had passed away, I quite literally howled, sobbed, shook and pretty much every other extreme reaction to a piece of news there is.
I also oddly thought back to this lyric from the song:
Do you know what it’s like to fall on the floor, cry your guts out till you got no more. Hey man, now you’re really living.
Whilst it’s sad that a number of the song memories that I have relate to death, I am grateful to have had music to help me get through some difficult times and some reference points to remembering the happy times.