Anyway, given that I'm in danger of losing my nerve with this - even though I'm gutted at several not on the final list (of which more throughout this list) - here is the Rullsenberg Eight
- Gershwin - Rhapsody in Blue
Not exactly a song, but this track has been part of my psyche for as long as I can remember: yeah, I was tempted to go with a Sinatra track (Cloud played a tape of Songs for Swinging Lovers the first time I visited him in Wolverhampton after we'd met at OU Summer School), and Ella's Cole Porter Songbook blew me away from first hearing it - but Gershwin was on another level. Remember that I love New York? For me, this track IS New York: the New York of the early 20th century, certainly the 1920s-1940s, and is utterly spine-tingling. Cloud suggested it should have been book-ended with the equally New York evocative Weather Report track, "Birdland" (the track that calls to mind 70s taxis urgently papping their horns rather than soaring skyscrapers and hustle-bustle upper Manhattan, looking over Central Park... but there just wasn't room for both. Gershwin it is.
- (Don't Fear) The Reaper - Blue Oyster Cult
You have to remember that I grew up a child of Mud (Tiger Feet!) and with a devotion to Abba. I was resolutely not cool. My parents were older than most other kids' parents: we were a Jim Reeves household. So when I heard this track... what can I say? I went and spent my pocket-money on this and for the first time ever I felt daring and more adult. And, ultimately, it's a story song, and I'm a sucker for those. Rightly, of course, it has been pointed out that it is a deeply seductively evil song encouraging suicide. As Garry Mulholland writes in This Is Uncool: The 500 Greatest Singles since Punk and Disco "Its the only time that a band characterised as heavy metal have moved me to tears repeatedly, yet I'm forced to conclude that this record is possibly very evil. No one should be able to - should want to - make suicide so tempting, so pretty." Clearly, I was a far more disturbed child than my coseted and happy upbringing suggested... But this song means so much to me, I could not leave it out.
- Labelled With Love - Squeeze
I can't believe I was even thinking of tussling whether to include this song, since the instant Cloud put it on the stereo and I started to sing quietly along with the lyrics, I found myself in floods of tears. Guess what? It's a story song. Melacholic as hell, but with an eye for observation of people that typifies Squeeze at their best (the final section of "Up the Junction" does for me as well). It creates visions of the story told with love and about love. Sob.
- The River - Bruce Springsteen
Oh my: imagine having a great crush on someone unattainable, only for you to find yourself receiving an offer from them to drive you to a training course centre which, by the chances of fate, he also has to visit at the same time as you. Imagine the anxiety of waiting at your parents' house for him to collect you to make this drive: a drive that will be several hours across the country. Imagine that he drives you off the main route, down a "familiar country road" and all the while is playing you the double album of The River on the car's tape machine... knowing that though nothing may happen, these moments will be treasured. "Crush on you", "You can Look...", "Little girl I wanna marry you"... and most memorably the title track, with its bleak narrative (another story song) and the most moving line ever: "Is a dream a lie if it don't come true / Or is it something worse". I loved that album from that point onwards, but that song especially wormed its way into my heart. Bitterly sweet.
- Never Stop - Echo and the Bunnymen
From a tape off the radio, to the later collection of singles (also on tape) I played this song so loud, so many times that I swear I busted the speakers of my stereo. It was a song to spit out the lyrics to, one that made my spine tingle and my energy hit the roof. And loved all the more because it once came up in the most unlikely setting. Every city has them, but the Black Orchid was the cattle shed dance-hall to end all cattle-shed handbag dance venues in the 80s in Nottingham. My only reason for going was to luxuriate in the presence of one of my work colleagues, a hulkingly handsome Geordie who loved REM and other stuff well off the beaten track of the dancing music beloved by the office girls. In despair at the evening and our lack of enjoyment, we fell into conversation, ultimately agreeing that the ony thing to do was to ask the DJ to play this track: it was as likely to happen as getting Reidski to enjoy a lifetime of listening to the Stereophonics, but we felt uplifted by the mere act of rebelling by asking - "nnnnnnever STOP!"
- Ask - The Smiths
Once upon a time a girl with badly permed hair stood by a jukebox, selecting Happy Mondays, Squeeze and this track. Only to find that this handsome dark-haired guy in black jeans and blue denim jacket had his selection come up first, despite me putting my money in earlier: he picked just one track "The Boy With the Thorn in his Side". And a match was made, still going strong more than 15 years later.
- Kennedy - The Wedding Present
In the late 1980s and 1990s I practically lived for gigs at Rock City Nottingham, watching the long hair of people in front of me spray sweat as they threw their heads about dancing. And after every gig, there would be a "disco": the classic indie disco of the period as we moved into baggy music. But this was regularly the final track of the night - 1am thrashing about for all I was worth. Brilliant fun and still makes me want to dance like Cloud.
- Common People* - Pulp
You know why...
*Scroll down past the picture for the lyrics - like you don't already know them...
There is so much more: The Beatles are missing ("To Know Her Is to Love Her"), no Dylan ("Desolation Row"), nothing more recent than 1995!! (Ladytron - Startup Chime; anything from George's list), nothing from the world of jazz or hip-hop (Massive Attack's "Unfinished Sympathy"!): I'm just kicking myself for my inadequacies even as I force myself to press publish...