Memory Playlist


Everyone’s doing it, so why can’t I…?

Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights
I didn’t know it then, but this song was to establish a pattern throughout my life for quirky songwriters that walked their own path through composition, presentation and expectation. Kate Bush did things s bit differently and I didn’t realise then how important that would become in terms of most of the music I now listen to. My family hated the whining and screeching, but in my 50s I still find it as sexy as I did when I was 14…

Tubeway Army – Are ‘Friends’ Electric?
The only time my Dad took any notice at all of Top Of The Pops was this episode in July 1979, a week or so before my 15th birthday. This alien was on stage, ‘not singing’ to a piece of tuneless montony that was to change absolutley everything from then on.

The Shadows – Frightened City
My Dad (again) loved The Shadows and their music often soundtracked our holiday journeys to Norfolk. I didn’t know then how significant they were, and that tracks like this with evocative sc-fi titles were so influential to many of the artists I have since come to love. Kraftwerk learned style from Hank and his gang… even their name is cool!

Abba – The Winner Takes It All
My cousin used to love Abba, and was teased relentlessly for it when everyone around us was getting into far more ‘trendy’ music. They wrote some incredible songs, clever and powerful. This one still makes me cry.

Blancmange – The Day Before You Came
Spot the link… I saw Blancmange live in 83 I think, on the Happy Families tour, and that remains one of my favourite albums. To see Neil performing again in 2015 was a delight and I am now a big fan of everything he’s recorded. Semi-Detached, for example, is a work of genius.
His cover of this Abba song is truly haunting, and I’d stake my claim for it being about the brilliant-est vocal delivery ever.

Marc Almond – If You Go Away
1982, perhaps? Something like that, on his debut album with The Mambas. I fell in love with him on hearing this song, which was sometime around the news that Soft Cell were breaking up. Somehow then I knew everything would be Ok and a love of torch songs, sadness and desperate beauty was born.
And it opened the door for into the world of Jacques Brel, Scott Walker and all that wonderful melancholy… I owe this song just about everything

Nick Cave – The Weeping Song
I was at a gig upstairs above Oxford’s Jericho Tavern waiting to see An Emotional Fish. This came on the jukebox and was among a handful of moments that made everything stand still and everyone around me disappear. He achieved the same effect a few years later with God Is In The House

Human League – Empire State Human
I may have left quite a large piece of me in 1979… Some of it stains the carpet in a mates’ bedroom where I wasn’t quite confident enough in myself to like the ‘new’ underground music he was peddling. Cabaret Voltaire, Tubeway Army, The League. I still have a cassette compilation somewhere that he recorded for me with this on at the beginning and the end. In some ways, this song is exactly that.

Ultravox – I Want To Be A Machine
I didn’t hear this song until well into the 80s when John Foxx was doing his thing and setting new standards. But once Numan crystallised what I was hearing and confirmed that the music had legs, I decided Foxx was the thing for disconnected kids like me who wanted a long grey overcoat but didn’t have the nerve to wear it.
I bought the first three Ultravox albums simultaneously and at the end of Side One of their first comes this anthem to isolation. It broke all the rules of composition, hit me right between the eyes and I have spent the last 30 years wishing that someday the man who wrote it might brush the dust off and have another go at something similar.
One of my daughter’s really likes it – I forget which one – and thus it is the only Foxx song I am allowed to play audibly at home.

The Smiths – What Difference Does It Make?
1984, and alongside everyone else making their own way through the nonsense of commerical pop music and changing the rules of the game was this weird guy called Morrissey. He carried books by Oscar Wilde in his coat pocket, had gladioli in the back of his jeans and ‘danced’ by whirling his arms around. I did all that too, though as a student in Oxford it was more pretentious than radical. All men have secrets…