As you will surely know if you’ve read anything I’ve written here in the last few years, I have been actively publishing what are, effectively, the “sleeve notes” for the CD of my life.
The thing about those songs is that to qualify for inclusion they have to be directly associated with strong memories of a very particular (but not necessarily important) event or situation in my life. As I said in the introduction to that series of articles, it is not a requirement that I LIKE the song in question – it just has to unlock the box in my head which transports me back to a time and place!
I was explaining this to my dear wife the other day and pointing out the, to me, fortunate fact that the tracks I have written about so far have (with one exception) been ones that I am reasonably fond of.
So there are loads of good songs out there that I love but which don’t have a specific association for me and which, consequently, will not ever be included in the “CD of…” series. I mentioned this as well.
It was, perhaps, not too surprising, therefore, that she then threw me the question that has kept me somewhat bemused with regard to musical matters ever since.
“What” she asked me, “is your favourite song EVER?”
Let’s pause for a moment while I explain something!
The first six paragraphs above were found by me recently as an unfinished document in a folder of stuff taken off a long-defunct laptop – it was shown as last modified on 30th May 2011, nearly six years ago!
I thought it was probably about time I took a stab at finishing it!
There are several problems with answering Faith’s question (which I shall, henceforth, refer to as “The Question”) though – notably that my answer changes over time.
If, for example, you had asked me The Question in early 1964 I would have said “She Loves You” by The Beatles because I used to sing it at school with my friend Paul as a sort of early Tribute Act and it got us chased across the playing field by hordes of screaming GIRLS – which was nice!
A couple of years later and well into the Pirate Radio era I would have plumped for “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys which, when I heard it through the (mono) earpiece of my little Benkson transistor radio for the first time, I thought was the most amazing thing EVER!
But then The Beatles came back with “All You Need is Love” the following year ….. you get the idea?
Another problem I have is that sometimes I don’t realise until many years have passed following its release that I find a particular song moves me enough to qualify as the all-time favourite. This can be because the track in question has been around for ages but I just don’t happen to have heard it (so much music – so little time)! Either that or I’ve heard it (or even own it) but just wasn’t listening enough at the time I acquired it to realise just how much I loved it.
An example of the latter type cropped up a couple of years ago when I was trying to ensure that I had “digital backups” for my (comparatively small) vinyl album collection. The album in question was a “greatest hits” compilation and has a personal significance in that Faith bought it for me for Christmas 1977 not long after we started going out together.
The album in question comprised the hits of the British band “Smokie” up to and including the summer of that year and I made a (fortunate with hindsight) mistake when downloading a digital copy of it!
What I downloaded was not in fact “Smokie’s Greatest Hits” but was rather “The Very Best of Smokie” released in 1980 and including at least one track from later in 1977 which was not on the earlier release. This meant that as an unanticipated bonus I got to hear the Top 5 but sadly underplayed song “It’s Your Life”. When it cropped up on the random play function of my MP3 player it touched something in me so profoundly that I had to go back and repeat it several times!
And if someone had asked me “The Question” at that moment there is no doubt that I would have given “It’s Your Life” as the answer.
Last year I was making a digital backup of another “Greatest Hits” compilation; this one a double CD that I bought from a Library stock sale, by a little-known American band called “The Eagles”. The first CD contained all of their recognised hits from 1971 onwards while the second contained bonus album tracks and “B” sides that the compiler obviously thought would have been hits had they ever been released as singles. I hadn’t bothered playing the second CD until that point.
In this particular instance I do know why I wasn’t familiar with the track I am steadfastly refusing to name until I’m ready – it was on a 1976 album that I had never listened to all the way through and was released as the “B” side of one of the band’s 1977 single hits. To delay the reveal still further I can say that the album was “Hotel California” and the “A” side of the hit single was “Life in the Fast Lane”.
Any Eagles aficionados out there will probably know by now that the song in question is “The Last Resort” and quite how it got to be considered second best to “Life……..” I will never know! I have always had a fondness for anti-corporate, pro-ecology songs (e.g. the entire Beach Boys “Sunflower” and “Surf’s Up” albums) and this one has all of that plus some warnings about humankind always messing up whatever environment we find ourselves in; past, present or future. I absolutely love it and it is my all-time favourite EVER!
For now anyway! Because that song is 40 years old and I only found it a year ago – so what else is out there that I haven’t discovered yet?
I am going to conclude by attempting to make a list of various musical tracks (some released as singles; some definitely not) which I feel would leave my life the poorer if I had never heard them.
It does not include anything that either has or will yet form part of the “CD of My Life” series – neither am I going to provide links to any of these for you from YouTube, as I do with the established series – I don’t want to have ALL the fun! Have a listen to them for yourselves – I’d be interested to hear what YOUR list would have on it and what you think of my choices.
The list also does NOT include the Sparks song that I have chosen as the title for this piece – as the beer advertisement says “It’s good but it’s not quite Carling”!
So here goes (in no particular order and with no final number in mind so that I can add more as needed or as I remember them):
- “The Last Resort”; The Eagles
- “It’s Your Life”; Smokie
- “Bohemian Rhapsody”; Queen
- “Some Fantastic Place”; Squeeze
- “Like a Hurricane”; Neil Young
- “California Saga”; The Beach Boys (all 3 parts – not just the last third, “California”, which is all that normally gets played)
- “Master of the Universe”; Hawkwind
- “Vanilla Queen”; Golden Earring
- “The Battle of Evermore”; Led Zeppelin
- “Hard Times of Old England”; Steeleye Span
- “My Back Pages”; The Byrds
- “Grey’s the New Blonde”; Henry Priestman