My life is to a large extent ruled by music. I listen to music all the time. As I write this piece I am listening to music (currently Phaedra by Tangerine Dream, as you ask, with Rush’s Clockwork Angels to follow). Music is in the background of everything I do. Music accompanies me every time I run. My tastes are eclectic – there is little I do not like* – but my choices are limited for my running playlists as the tracks have to accommodate my need to plod**. Never-the-less I change the songs on the playlist every couple of weeks – I always forget that I have done it and I am subsequently taken by surprise each time I run – although I have noticed there are a handful of songs that never seem to drop off the phone. I don’t know why; it is not a conscious thing and, undoubtedly, of no interest whatsoever to anyone else – which is why I intend to tell you about it…
Many years ago on a family holiday to Fuerteventura we encountered a guitarist/singer who inhabited a ‘pitch’ every evening in the local village square. This man (I want to call him Kevin Wilson, but I have no idea why) was simply superb: he played Pink Floyd, he played a version of Still Got the Blues for You which could well have been better than Gary Moore’s own version and he played Cocaine with the kind of protracted solo that Mr Clapton can only have dreamt of. My daughters loved him and, consequently, we had to go to see him every night, except one evening, when he was not there. We had a subdued dinner with much in the way of bottom lip quivering and had began to walk back ‘home’ when we heard a familiar voice in the distance, which we tracked down to a nearby restaurant, where Kevin was playing what I can only describe as ‘wedding songs’ to togged-up holidaymakers. Before we could stop her my daughter charged in, her T-shirt bedecked with the requisite amount of dinner for a six-year old, shouting ‘Kevin, Kevin, I want Cocaine!’ to the consternation of all present, except for Kevin, who just chuckled, said ‘I think you might be a little young for that’ and played it anyway. What a man! Cocaine by Eric Clapton never leaves my running playlist.
Even more years ago than that holiday, my wife and I went to see Roxy Music who were in their full early pomp at, I think, the De Montfort Hall in Leicester. It was an all-standing affair and we were late. I am not tall (five foot eight’ish most of the time unless somebody bothers to measure me, when it is five foot seven) but my wife is substantially below five feet even on tip-toes. Roxy Music were great, but my wife saw nothing other than, she thinks, a glimpse of Bryan Ferry’s foot during Do the Strand – and very happy she was with the whole experience. Roxy Music and, latterly, Mr Ferry have been one of my very guiltiest pleasures since their first appearance on The Old Grey Whistle Test way, way back in the day. Avonmore is the title track of a 2014 Ferry album which proves that despite the occasional detours into As Time Goes By and a peculiar interregnum during which he attempted to be the lead singer in some kind of a Bob Dylan cover’s band, Ferry is still very good at being Ferry when he chooses to be. It never leaves the list.
Bowie has been the musical love of my life and, if I was forced to make a choice, Heroes may well be my favourite song of all time. The song has an incredible habit of bursting out of my headphones at the moments when I think I might just have to give in – but you really can’t stop when that song is playing, can you? I have a particular aversion to the butchered and truncated ‘single’ version of the song and so it is the full album version that has become a fixture on my running playlist. Definitely the most uplifting song on there.
Most surprising song is probably Check Out Time 11am by Sparks which was recorded in 2017 (long after even people of my age thought they no longer existed) for a 7” vinyl single-only release and tucked away at the end of their three-album ‘Best Of’ set. A great song, perfect for running; it always makes me smile – although if I’m passing by, it might look like a grimace.
The rest of my unshakeable running ‘bangers’ are I Feel Free by Cream, which is just a wonderful song that buries into your head fifty five years (yup, 55 years!) after its release; Don’t Fear the Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult which is my ‘funeral song’ – so I thought it would be handy to have it playing if the paramedics have to come and find me; Freedom Calling by Colin Hay – a perfect running beat for me and the only ‘cool’ song to my knowledge to feature bagpipes; Personal Jesus by Depeche Mode, which again has the right beat for me and is, despite the fact that it really should not be, a great song; Shout by Tears For Fears, again a brilliant tempo for my limping running gait with a drum line that you only ever seem to pick up on headphones and finally the greatest rock ‘n’ roll song of all time, aptly called Rock and Roll*** by Led Zeppelin which just means that wherever I am on my run, I have to summon up just that little bit of extra energy required for air guitar.
I would be lying if I said this was anything close to a list of my favourite songs – although that list would be very long and would contain some of these – but clearly they share something that makes them indispensable to me when I run. At any one time, my running playlist contains about 40 songs, which I update fortnightly and, as far as I can see, these are the only songs that have never left it. I have no idea why. Perhaps it is a comfort thing.
N.B. I have made no attempt to provide links to any of these songs as it would certainly end in tears. You will all be far more proficient than I at finding them should you choose to. If I might suggest anything, try I Feel Free by Cream, in order to experience what the world could sound like in 1966.
*I always say that I struggle with Reggae, but I love Bob Marley; I do not understand Rap, but I can always listen to Eminem; Grime has come along 50 years too late for me, but Stormzy is phenomenal. Perhaps the only genre I truly can’t listen to is Country & Western – except, of course, for Johnny Cash…
**As a fan of many ‘Prog’ rock ensembles, I could not envision running to any of them without the risk of dislocating something.
***Although forever known as Been A Long Time by my eldest daughter.
My first ‘running’ post, ‘Couch to 5k’ is here.
Last week’s running post, ‘Twelve Months of Becoming Er…’ is here.
Next week’s little outing, ‘A Very Hot Business’ is here
There are many ‘running’ post in between the two which are all linked, should they be your own particular cup of tea.