I have wanted, for some time, to write a post about music, because it has always been such a huge part of my life. Those of you who know me well will know that I have always loved to dance and this has had an effect on my musical taste. I’m not saying that I don’t like the odd atmospheric or slow track, but ‘music that you can dance to’ has often been a pretty good starting point for me.
So let’s get started.
When I think to my first musical memories, they are usually of the music that my Mum liked and bought. There was some real cheese floating around in her mid-70’s record collection and whilst choosing the perfect track, I reminded myself of the delights of Demis Roussos and Manhattan Transfer’s ‘Chanson D’Amour’. But in the end, I chose a great Abba album track – “The Eagle”. We don’t really think of Abba as a synth-led band, but listen to the great pads and trills on this track. It is pure class.
We then have to move on to the obligatory ‘first single I ever bought’. I have to say, I’m quite proud of mine, because to me it is another brilliant song, that has turned into a bit of a classic. It’s The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star”. I have plenty of friends of my age that have to own up to The Wombles, The Baron Knights or The Bay City Rollers, so I think at the age of 11 or so, I was already starting to display some good taste!
My musical taste then took a slight swerve – straight into the arms of ska and two-tone. Madness, by the time I discovered them in 1981, were in the throes of releasing their 3rd album – 7 – and it was one of my first LP purchases. “Cardiac Arrest” – my choice from this period, sums up their sound and their naturally witty lyrics. It remains one of my favourite opening tracks on any album. I loved The Specials’ “Ghost Town” from this period and Bad Manners’ maniacal version of the “Can Can”.
But then my true musical passion started. My schoolmate, Fenner Pearson, (his blog is always a great and thought-provoking read) introduced me to Depeche Mode (as well as The Human League and myriad other ‘futurist’ bands of the early 80’s). I was hooked and having just caught the end of the ‘A Broken Frame’ period, I had to wait until “Get the Balance Right” came out to experience for the first time the excitement of a new Depeche release. I’ve included the 12″ version on the Spotify playlist, as this was the version I bought. It still sends shivers ….
Depeche Mode were the first band that I saw live (1983) and they have endured as my favourite band for nearly 30 years (eek!!).
But in the 80’s, they were not the best band I saw live – nor were the likes of the other futurist and new romantic bands (Duran Duran, Howard Jones, Blancmange, Spandau Ballet etc.) that dominated my record collection. I have always had a love of funky dance music and without doubt the best band that I saw live in the 80’s was Imagination. Many of you will unquestionably be incredulous at that, but I’m absolutely serious. Fantastic musicians, great stagecraft and the most incredible connection with their audience. I’ve included their biggest hit “Just an Illusion” on the playlist and it still brings a big grin to my face.
So where next? Well, I mentioned my love of dancing and in 1985 I hit one of my two dance highlights – getting through to the regional finals of the Malibu World Disco Dancing Championship! Egged on by a big crowd at Cinderella Rockerfella’s in Kingston (classy, I know!), I strutted my stuff to Jermaine Stewart’s “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off”. You should have heard the girls scream!
And so we move on to my University years (1986-1990) which were generally poor years for great bands. Most of my favourite bands had broken up and there is not much that is memorable to me from that period. But I had broken into the university ballroom and latin american dance team, where my partner, Sue, and I travelled the length and breadth of the country representing Cardiff. We were the jive pairing and always rehearsed to Wham’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”, which brings back a load of good memories.
When Vince Clarke left Depeche Mode in 1981, he continued to write amazing synth-based pop songs – first with Yazoo, then The Assembly and then for over 25 years with Andy Bell as Erasure. Vince’s work has always been close to my heart and I’ve included one of his most beautifully-crafted creations – “All Through the Years” – from the I Say, I Say, I Say album in 1994.
The 1990’s, in my opinion, were not a stand-out decade in musical history. From acid house through Brit Pop and then into the Take That and Spice Girls phenomena – none of them really resonated in the same way that the music from the early 80’s had done. The exception to me was the utterly unique Bjork. Her debut album, entitled, err, ‘Debut’ was a complete revelation and her next few albums continued to impress me.
The next track will probably be a surprise. But the BBC’s Fame Academy was a huge hit with my then young daughters and I think remains the high-water mark of reality talent shows – not least because the artists had talent!! “Lullaby” was written and recorded by three of the contestants (one being the now multi-platinum Lemar) in one week. It’s a beautiful song and was the highlight when I took my daughters to the follow-up tour – their first concert.
And so we’re pretty much up to date. But I have one more track. I discovered Spotify about 3 years ago and it opened up the amazing ability for me to get suggestions and discover new artists. One of those has been Marina & The Diamonds – the gorgeous Welsh/Greek singer/songwriter whose album – The Family Jewels – is a real winner. Her track “Mowgli’s Road” is my favourite and included on the playlist. Through Spotify, I have discovered some fantastic new bands, that I wouldn’t have discovered any other way.
Let me know which tracks have inspired you over the years!