The soundtrack to my life

I compiled a special playlist for my birthday the other week. The initial idea was to choose one song from each year of my life.

The selected songs should have some significance in my life. They may be the best, or near best song of the year, a soundtrack to a time I lived through. Or they might be songs with personal significance – songs I fell in love to or reconciled myself with after breaking up; songs that resonated on my personal frequency at the time. Many of the songs I selected were happily both – great songs that meant something to me. There were other songs though more obscure that nonetheless brought with them a flood of memory or sentiment.

As I started selecting music I realised that the one song per year model whilst cute was flawed. In recent years there are few songs I would select with any real passion, while in other years – formative years particularly – there might be 4-5 songs that had significant meaning for me. As a result, I became flexible in my selections, allowing a few ‘captain’s’ picks. While there is at least a song from every year there are some years when there might be two, or even three (though many worthy songs still missed out). On top of that, I chose a few songs that indicative of the journey, encapsulating something of the 50 years that I’ve lived.

I was asked on the night to send out the full playlist with some commentary attached about the songs selected and their meaning. This is it.

1964:  A Change is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke

I loved Sam Cooke growing up. Perhaps one of the first albums I bought was his greatest hits. There are a number of Sam Cooke songs I could have selected, but most of them predate my birthday. This though is a great and meaningful song. Died way too young did Sam.

1965: Sunny Goodge Street – Donovan

Surprised to find how many Donovan songs I have in iTunes. They’re all good, but this is my favourite, though it’s also one of the more obscure.


Michelle – Beatles

Scarborough Fair/Canticle – Simon & Garfunkel

Friday On My Mind – Easybeats

Love Me Two Times – The Doors

I Heard It On The Grapevine – Marvin Gaye

Love Marvin, and this is not just my favourite song of his, but one of my favourite songs all time.

Wichita Lineman – Glen Campbell

You Can’t Always Get What You Want – Rolling Stones

Had to get the Stones on the list, and this song makes it a life lesson as much as anything: no, you can’t always get what you want. I could easily have added Gimme Shelter or Paint it Black or any number of faves by them, except they didn’t meet the criteria.

1970: Instant Karma – John Lennon

1971: Eagle Rock – Daddy Cool

1972: Changes – David Bowie

1973: Money – Pink Floyd

Love Pink Floyd and their 1988 concert in Melbourne remains the best concert I’ve ever been to. Also, think Roger Waters is a genius. This is a big, ballsy, addictive song with clever lyrics and a great Dave Gilmour riff. Could just as easily picked Comfortably Numb as my Floyd selection, which hit the mark in my existential teens, and which has possibly the best guitar solo of all time IMO.

1974: Jailbreak – AC/DC

1975: Love Of My Life – Queen

Not an obvious Queen song, but very sweet. Meant different things to me at different times of my life.

The First Cut Is The Deepest – Rod Stewart

Cover of the Cat Stevens original, this is superior. I used to hang on these words when I got older and found out more.

1976: Still Crazy After All These Years – Paul Simon

Another song that turns out to be pretty true. As always with Paul Simon, great lyrics. Slip Slidin’ Away another alternative.


Hotel California – Eagles

What a Fool Believes – Doobie Brothers

Like the Eagles, seems to me the Doobie Brothers are unfashionable these days, but back in the seventies, they were stellar. This is a near-perfect pop song, great tune, Michael McDonald’s big voice, and lyrics you nod your head at: yep, I’ve been that fool.  Might have slipped in 10CC somewhere around here with I’m Not In Love – yep, I’ve been not in love in just the same way, more than once.

Isn’t It Time? – The Babys

Can We Still Be Friends – Todd Rundgren

Both this and Isn’t It Time are perfect examples of mid-seventies pop music. Soaring vocals, addictive hooks, and totally irresistible.

Is This Love – Bob Marley

Gee this song gives me happy memories.

Oliver’s Army – Elvis Costello


Romeo and Juliet – Dire Straits

Another of my all-time favourite songs.

Under Pressure – David Bowie with Queen

Bow River – Cold Chisel

Easy to dismiss the Chisels as bogan rock, but so many great songs. This with Flame Trees and Cheap Wine is my favourite Cold Chisel song. Infectious, and great lyrics.

Love My Way – Psychedelic Furs

Released in the early eighties this didn’t really enter my consciousness until later in the decade when I first fell properly in love – thereafter on high rotation, and deeply embedded in me ever since.

Should I Stay Or Should I Go – The Clash

This Charming Man – The Smiths

Josephine – Chris Rea

Not a big hit, not a big name, but back in the day I bought the single of this. It just hooked me.

Blister In The Sun – Violet Femmes

Everybody Wants To Rule The World – Tears For Fears

Underrated band. I have the Gary Jules cover of Mad World coming up, and could easily pick their Woman In Chains for this list also.

Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home) – Paul Young

Great voice Paul Young, great song (cover of a Marvin Gaye original), this came to resonate to me as I began to cut a swathe. A lot of songs from this era have that meaning to me. This is perhaps a tad more bitter, as befitting a teenager who read Sartre, pondered the meaning of life, and couldn’t stop thinking about girls.


I Want You – Elvis Costello

A fucking intense song. So true.

Bittersweet – Hoodoo Gurus

Close To Me – The Cure

How could you not love this? Just gets you moving.

Throw Your Arms Around Me – Hunters and Collectors

An iconic Oz song, but you have to pick your version. They didn’t really do justice to what is a great song till their second or third go. Every boy from this era has Hunter’s memories.

Man With A Gun – Jerry Harrison and the Casual Gods

Not on most people’s list, it’s on mine because it was on the radio the first time I properly fell in love. It’s a cool, clever song from a dude who was a member of Talking Heads (speaking of, Once In A Lifetime maybe should have made this list).

Under The Milky Way – The Church

Great band, fantastic song, just classic.

Fool For Your Loving – Whitesnake

Slave To Love – Bryan Ferry


Tomorrow Wendy – Andy Prieboy

Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana

Remedy – The Black Crowes

Soul To Squeeze – Red Hot Chilli Peppers

Around the time I fell in love for the second time I felt like my soul was being squeezed. I remember listening to this stuck in traffic driving to work. Great song in its own right, but so much more for the memory. Equally significant at the time was REM with Losing My Religion – the words just so right for what was happening with me. And all of Pearl Jam’s Ten album, which I snapped up at the time.

I Need Love – Luka Bloom

Great lyrics and so true, this only really hit me years later when I fell in love for the third (maybe fourth) time. I remember putting it on a mixtape for the girl in question in 2001, wanting her to know how I felt.

Closer – Nine Inch Nails

Fucking all-time great song. That beat is all sex, and the lyrics, “I want to fuck you like an animal…” – well, sometimes you just do. Just go primal.

Somebody’s Crying – Chris Isaak

Secret Garden – Bruce Springsteen


I Will Survive – CAKE

I bought this album. Bit quirky, but real good. This is a great cover of a great song. I remember the video too.

Everlong – Foo Fighters

Talking of great LP’s this was one of the best from the nineties. I could have picked 3-4 songs from it, but this is the song that meant most. A gentle, teasing, insistent song about desire.

Local God – Everclear

The guitar. I felt like that, felt like ripping my shirt off and acting like a local god as the sun beat down. Hoo-ha.

Song 2 – Blur

All I Need – Air

You listen to this and it slowly draws you in. It’s languid, sensual, it plays at that frequency that undoes you before you know it. It’s like love, the same frequency, like one day you wake up and think fuck, I really like her and you wonder at that and then delight at it and then can’t stop thinking about. Fuck, I’m in love. Really? Yes, really.

These Days – Powderfinger


Walking Away – Craig David

Picked only because of the memory. Heartbroken I kept telling myself, I’m walking away…

Mad World – Gary Jules

Get Over It – OK Go

Not the greatest song, but infectious.

Hurt – Johnny Cash

A cover of the NIN song. I prefer this version though it’s a hotly debated topic. Great lyrics, and coming from Cash’ mouth seem so real. He knew this, he had lived this, and the truth came out in his voice.

All These Things That I’ve Done – The Killers

Be Yourself – Audioslave

Better Days – Pete Murray

A memory. I remember listening to this in bed one Sunday morning and believing in the words. I was in love, again, confused and uncertain, and aching from it.

Open Your Eyes – Snow Patrol

What’s happening? Used to be it would take a lot for me to fall for anyone. Then suddenly I’m in the zone and fall in love with one woman, then another, and possibly even a third. This was the second of them. This song was like an anthem for me, something I would listen to and believe as if contained within the words and in our destiny a happy ending. Unfortunately, I had the habit of falling into difficult situations – none of this was ever easy.

Pretender – Foo Fighters

Same woman. The song says nothing about our relationship, but it coincided with our time together, so… This is a great song all the same. Play it loud.

1234 – Feist

Use Somebody – Kings of Leon

Sea Change – Turin Brakes

Lonely Boy – The Black Keys

Somebody That I Used To Know – Gotye

One of the few great songs of recent years.

Same Love – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (featuring Mary Lambert)

Do I Wanna Know – Arctic Monkeys

One of the few decent bands still going around. Great album.

Captains picks:

It Was A Very Good Year – Frank Sinatra

The Best Is Yet To Come – Frank Sinatra

Being optimistic. I actually picked this for my 40th.

My Way – Frank Sinatra

What can I say, I love Frank. Everyone picks this, and not always for good reason. I hope it’s true for me in the wash-up.

Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright – Bob Dylan

Love the attitude, Bob.

Bittersweet Symphony – The Verve


My Shit’s Fucked Up – Warren Zevon

Enough said really. There’s a part of me that shares deeply with Warren Zevon.

Solitary Man – Crooked Fingers

Appropriate on a number of levels, this is a cracker version. Have a listen.

That’s it, pretty much. Interesting exercise, but many great songs missing. A note on release dates – always tricky. Do you go on the album release date, or single? Anyway, there’s a bit of to and fro if you want to be pedantic.

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