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.
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.