Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The final Desert Island Disc selection: Number 32

Yes, yes, I am sure that there are many of you out there shouting "NOOOO!!!! I haven't got mine in yet!" But you know what, it WAS supposed to have a time limit and even allowing for people picking up the list late, I think we've given enough time and space to this, and there's a full list to be found here.

So without further ado, here is number 32.

It's from my friend Paul who is blog-less but whom I thought would appreciate the idea as we often exchange emails on music.
It's 1990. I'm 14. My record collection is small, and consists mainly of American rock (Guns 'n' Roses, Bon Jovi, even Poison, for goodness sake) and dodgy chart music (I had an especial penchant for Belinda Carlisle). And then I hear 'Birdhouse in Your Soul' and life will never be the same again. It's the song that gets me seriously interested in music. Ok, so the songs that awaken you to a new world of records are supposed to be by people like Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, or Run DMC, but I can claim nothing so cool. For me, this was the song, a nerd's anthem, that led me first to other 'indie' bands of the time - Pixies, The Wonder Stuff - then to The Smiths and The Jam, and then to punk and then to the 60s and soul music and so on and so on. Now, on the rare occasions I hear 'Birdhouse' on the radio, a moment of mild embarrassment quickly gives way to a surge of joy and gratitude. "Not to put to finer point on it, you are the bee in my bonnet..."

I was only 11 when The Smiths split up and it wasn't until I was 14 or 15 (following the 'Birdhouse in Your Soul' epiphany) that I really started to listen to their music and developed for them that obsessional love that typifies Smiths fans. Many of my friends thought The Smiths were 'depressing' but they, of course, missed the point. To the angst-ridden teenager, Smiths records were the opposite: comforting and even uplifting. This, of all Morrissey & Marr songs, expresses most completely what it is to be 16, and to feel miserable and misunderstood. The opening chords still make my heart skip a beat.

I managed to miss out on the whole Madchester scene at its peak (put off, I think, by the floppy-haired Mancunian wannabes Bez-walking around Wolverhampton town centre during the summer of 1990). However, a couple of years later a friend made for me a copy of The Stone Roses' eponymous debut album. That summer, I went on holiday with my parents to Edinburgh. I put the tape into my walkman as the train pulled out of Wolverhampton train station and towards Scotland. 'I Wanna Be Adored,' the opening track on the album, kicked in as the train picked up speed - the drums, the bass, the guitar, the landscape flashing by...a true adrenalin rush. Even today, I often I put 'The Stone Roses' on at the start of a long journey by car, train, or coach, and it never fails to conjure up vivid images of that summer, or to give me tingles.

During the summer at the end of my first year at university in York, most Saturday nights my friends and I would go to a small club called The Bonding Warehouse. That exhiliaring feeling of being young and a little drunk on a long, warm night, like the world belongs just to you and your friends. It was a great summer for music: 'Wonderwall,' 'Common People' and 'Girl From Mars,' the last of which more than any whenever I hear it still sends me back to those glorious nights, still gives me that feeling.

Holly Cole is a Canadian jazz singer. I went out with a Canadian for a while. It wasn't a particularly happy relationship. One good thing did come out of it, though - she introduced me to Holly Cole's music. She's an interesting artist; she once recorded an entire album of Tom Waits covers (Holly Cole, not my ex-girlfriend). I'm not sure whether this is an original or a cover, but it's a beautiful song about the hope that falling in love with someone will wipe out all the bad experiences of a lifetime. "Make it go away, or make it better, isn't that what love's supposed to do?" goes the chorus.

I wanted one protest song in my list, simply because my political beliefs have been shaped as much by songs, bands and singers as by novels, pamphlets and politicians. Maybe more by records than by anything else. It came down to a choice between this, Billy Bragg's version of 'Jerusalem,' Phil Ochs' 'I Ain't A Marchin' Anymore,' Nina Simone's 'Ain't Got No' and Elvis Costello's 'Shipbuilding.' All are proof that songs can be powerful, and good songs really powerful. As I thought more about it, this seemed the one that packed the greatest emotional punch.

Brian is a band consisting of just one person, who is called Ken Sweeney, but who always wanted to be in a band called Brian. He has released (so far as I know) just two albums in the last 14 years, both full of beautiful, tender, catchy pop songs about girlfriends, families, friends, and rubbish jobs. This is from the first album, 'Understand.' There's something so vivid about the characters and stories in Brian's songs, especially on 'Understand,' that makes listening to the record strangely like watching a film. A bittersweet film about a summer of falling in love and getting your heart broken, all shot on super-8. Up until a few years ago, I couldn't have picked out one song from 'Understand' to be my choice for a list like this. Then I met my current girlfriend (see below). After we had been going out with each for a few months, she hesitantly admitted that she had a slight problem with the way I kiss. 'You Don't Want A Boyfriend' contains the line, "You don't want a boyfriend with sloppy kisses..." and so now makes me think of here when I hear it. And, as I like thinking about her, that is a good thing.

My parents have been happily married for almost forty years now. During the early years of their relationship, before they were married, and while both were first undergraduate and then postgraduate students, they spent several years living in different parts of the country, often going months without seeing each other. Fans of Ella Fitzgerald and of Cole Porter, this song became, for obvious reasons, significant for them both. My partner, Liz, is American and had to move back to the States last year, since when we, like my parents before us, have been conducting a long-distance relationship, often going months without seeing each other. Fans of Ella Fitzgerald and of Cole Porter, this song has become, for obvious reasons, significant for us both. Funny how history can repeat itself.
Awh, now ain't that a lovely note to end this meme on?


Marie said...

Sigh. I think I am a little bit in love with Paul. Which is a shame given that I've never met him, he's going out with an American called Liz, and he probably doesn't look much like David Tennant. But what a great collection of records! That's how I judge these things... My ideal partner is probably a branch of Fop.

Paulie said...

I understand the desire to be called Brian.

Mrs NTaH drew the line when I attempted to name my son after Him.

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Marie - I think paul would admit to not having much in common with DT, but I love your statement "My ideal partner is probably a branch of Fopp"

you know what? I love Selectadisc, but I wouldn't want them to be my partner (a bit too pretentious for my taste... although...hmmm... thinking about it, one of the things that I do love about Cloud is that he is smart... that's not the same as pretentious though is it...?)

Paulie - there are too many variations of Paul around here! Like the deluge of Rob's I have visiting I need some way of distinguishing between you all!

But yeah, you're right about Brian: I don't think you would EVER have got away with that naming ceremony (wasn't there someone once who named their child after all the European Cup winning side including the name Brian?? - It seemed to happen a lot in the 70s and 80s; maybe now with teams changing so much and squads being so large that doesn't make sense anymore: it's just individual names that parents use for their kids... Bloody Thatcherism against the collective!

bot37363838 said...

Good work keeping track of all these lists, Lisa. These really have been personal and different, and so much more interesting than the popularity contest type polls.

Anna Lowman (annawaits) said...

Yeah big thanks for bringing them all together- it's been great reading. :)