It has been a while since I last posted one of my occasional “Six of the Best” series. One reason for the delay was that the next subject that I wanted to address was my favorite songs. Having to choose just six was beyond impossible – 66 maybe, but not 6. I then had the idea that I could bound my choice by limiting my selection to songs with a theme. So, I decided to just look at songs with lyrics and those lyrics would need to tell a story or convey a message. This helped, but the list was far too long.
We do not celebrate Valentine’s Day – it is just a pseudo-holiday invented/promoted by manufacturers of cards, chocolates etc. I really do not need a special day to express my feelings. However, it gave a me a clue to a theme …
So, here are six of the best songs from my life all of which have some kind of theme related to love:
I’ll Have To Say I Love You In A Song – Jim Croce
When I was 16, my school days were punctuated by my walking home [only 10 minutes] for lunch. My mother would often have a music radio station playing. The news of the tragic, early death of Jim Croce was announced and, of course, his music surged in popularity. This was among two or three of his songs that were played over and over. As a shy, romantic teenager, I thought that this song was about a guy who really had it sorted.
She Is So Beautiful – Mike Scott
I enjoyed the music by the band The Waterboys for many years and then I stumbled across a solo CD by the lead member of the band, Mike Scott. There are quite a few excellent songs on the CD, but I always felt that this one was really from the heart.
Bee’s Wing – Mad Dog Mcrea
We go to at least one music festival each year and always look out for new bands that we might enjoy. It is a few years since we first heard Mad Dog Mcrea and we have encountered or sought them out a few times since. Most of their music is the enjoyable festival fare, which is lively and gets people dancing and singing along. This song is the exception. Clearly other fans appreciate it, as, when they play the first few guitar notes, the audience quietens down ready to enjoy. This is a hauntingly beautiful song of lost love, which has been recorded by numerous other artists, but I cannot find a version that betters this one.
Sweetheart Come – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
If music is important to you, as it is to me, from time to time a musician will appear who somehow changes the agenda. Nick Cave appeared and would not give up. We saw the movie About Time, which included a lot of great music, but the song that really grabbed me was Into My Arms. It could easily have made this list. Not long after, the TV series Peaky Blinders started and the theme and incidental music was all by Nick Cave; the drama of Red Hand made its choice as theme to the program absolutely inspired. We were now listening to Cave’s music quite frequently and exploring his back catalog. One day, we went to see a play by a particular favorite theater company at a beautiful, old, atmospheric theater in Bristol. The play – essentially a love story – was brilliant. At one point, nothing much is happening: an actor is on stage, musing on his lovelorn plight and there is a record player playing a song. Libby and I looked at one another; we both immediately recognized the musical style as much as anything and were captivated. So that was the song to make this list.
Last summer we went to a festival in London to see Nick Cave live. I was skeptical – how could being buried in a 45,000 person crowd, squinting at a stage half a mile away, be remotely enjoyable? As it turned out, we were not too far from the stage. Looking over my shoulder at one point, I realized how many more people there were behind me. When, during the performance, Nick Cave disappeared and then popped up just a few meters from us, our experience was complete. It was, overall, a magical evening that I wrote about here.
You Want It Darker – Leonard Cohen
One of the pleasurable things about starting out on a new relationship, as I did nearly 12 years ago, is comparing musical tastes. All being well, you have common likes, but also can each introduce one another to new favorites. Libby has been a life long Leonard Cohen fan. I had heard little of his music and was open minded. In 2010, he set out on a final, worldwide tour and, of course, we needed to attend a concert. It was quite tough to get tickets, but we got some in Cardiff. It was a large venue by my standards, but modest compared with what he could fill – maybe 2000 seats? The concert was superb – one of my best ever. He talked to the audience and sang, but had taken the precaution of hiring an amazing band of musicians, which was a great bonus. It was a very emotional evening; quite an experience to see this guy – nearly 80 years old – hold this big crowd in the palm of his hand.
Leonard Cohen made his final album in the months before his death and, if I recall correctly, it was released posthumously. After such a long and illustrious career, it would have been unsurprising for it to get good reviews – anything else would have been bad form. I can imagine the reviewers’ relief when they first heard it, as they would have immediately realized that they did not need to be polite, they could give it the honest acclaim that it deserved. The title track, You Want It Darker, is, like all his best work, pure poetry and the production applied to it does it great justice.
Devon Brigade – Police Dog Hogan
I have not read a newspaper – well, not the old-fashioned, ink-stains-your-fingers type – for many years. However, I do regularly read a few specific pieces online. One of them is an autobiographical column by a guy called Tim Dowling. As an American, who is married to a Brit and lives in London, he has an interesting view on life that makes me smile. He occasionally talks about his exploits with his band, which made me curious. So, last year, when we spotted that they were performing at a conveniently nearby location, we went along. It was a very enjoyable evening. Their music was mostly the lively, jumping around variety [as anyone who knows me would expect, I am just talking about my observation of others’ exertions]. However, one song in particular showed the softer side. Devon Brigade was written in commemoration of World War I and has won a number of awards. It is a very simple song that exquisitely portrays the mood of the time.
I have created a Spotify playlist so, depending on where you are located, you may be able to listen to my list. Enjoy!