Sunday, March 05, 2006

Those Desert Island Eight

WARNING: This is the longest blog ever. Ever.

Ben Folds Five - Underground
Ah it all has to start with Benny - his music was the first I ever found that had a real effect on me. I'd heard people say that songs can do this, but I never believed it til I found this guy, this band. Their music cheers me up (especially this song, which I'll come onto specifically), has made me cry (Brick) and laugh out loud (Rock This Bitch, Song For The Dumped). Mainly it makes me smile, and that's where this songs comes in. You have no idea how hard it was to pick from the Ben Folds Five/Ben Folds catalogue - the astonishingly beautiful Missing the War has to get an honourary mentionary - but I just couldn't leave this one out, so here it is. Specifically, I choose the live version from Naked Baby Photos, for the now infamous shout of 'Who the f*ck are you?' during the spoken opening, for Ben's efforts to stop himself from laughing, for the little changes to how lines scan that make it superior to the album version. I'm a Ben Folds geek, don't you know. Ben's critique of counter-culture that you can buy your way into with a nose-ring is hilarious, but above all this song makes me very, very happy, and for that it just has to go in.

The Beatles - For No One
I am so grateful that my parents were hippies and 60s fashionistas (dad and mum respectively) so that I have always been surrounded by good music. Car journeys were made quicker by 'The Best 60s Psychedelic Album in the World... Ever!', the Eagles, ELO. Hell I even look back fondly on journeys soundtracked by Blood Sweat and Tears. There's one band who stand out though, and that's the Beatles - my mum's Ben Folds, which makes her infinitely cooler than me. We had a tape with the singles on, and I remember sitting in my room playing 'The Ballad of John and Yoko'. I especially liked the line 'We're only tryin' to get us some peace' for some reason. That could have gone in, but in the end I've plumped for For No One instead. It's just the perfect little MacCartney ballad which forces you to stop and listen.

Rufus Wainwright - I Don't Know What It Is
After discovering Ben Folds, I experienced the lull I've found isn't uncommon among people who've come across an artist that clicks with them so completely that suddenly listening to other music feels... kinda redundant. Then this beautiful Canadian with a nasally voice and the campest laugh known to man came along and blew that all away. I'd first seen Rufus performing Vibrate on Later... with Jools Holland, but I had my Foldsian glasses on and seeing him play the piano with one hand made me want to shout 'There's 88 keys on that piano - use them!'. I think I probably did. But the guy won me over, first with Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk, then with The Art Teacher, and then with this. 'I Don't Know What It Is' makes me beam from ear to ear - the way it builds throughout is masterly, and I love the way that the backing singers hum the line that later becomes ' to get me over'. It gives me shivers. And he sings the lines "I was hoping the train/Was my big number/Stopping in Santa Fe and the Atchison-Topeka" as if his life depended on it. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Rufus Wainwright is a star, a genius, and one of the best songwriters we've got.

Jimi Hendrix - Hey Joe
Back when I was about 12 (my mum'll correct me, but let's go with this for now) me and my family went to Scotland for our summer holiday, and caught the train to Edinburgh during the Fringe Festival - we didn't go to anything in particular, but it all comes to you out in the street anyway. We stopped to watched this comedy covers band called Bean, and while my bro complained (street theatre was like, so not cool) I'm very glad we did, because I owe my love of Hendrix to them. I'd have discovered him somewhere down the line I'm sure, but this kicked it off. They said they were going to perform a song by the West Country cousin of some guy called Jimi Hendrix. The song was 'Purple Hay' (all in my barn... 'scuse me while I eat this pie etc) and while I didn't get that it was a joke, I did think that it was a damn fine song. Hippy Dad was pretty pleased, I guess, and played me the original when we got back home. Purple Haze, then, could have been in this list, but I love the low down, bluesy dirtiness of Hey Joe, and for that reason it goes in. 'Yes I did, I shot her!' Brilliant.

The Divine Comedy - Our Mutual Friend
In another instance of my mum being cooler than me, she hooked onto the fact The Divine Comedy were great long before I did, but this might be to do with the fact that I used to like things very loud (see next disc) and only relatively recently got the whole subtle thing. Anyway, I always remember mum loving 'Everybody Knows (Except You)' and me really not. Then I got it, and pretended I liked them all along. Anyhoo, I maintain that's because at that point, the album Absent Friends hadn't come out, and I can honestly say it's my favourite DC album, and one of my favourite albums full stop. On that album is this stunner of a track which is Neil Hannon at his absolute best. Our Mutual Friend is funny and heartbreaking, as truly great songs tend to be, but it's the orchestral backing that really gets me. The different beats crossing one another and all building up to the most beautiful sound. Just wonderful. And he's nice guy too (she casually drops in). Haha, I met him at the Cambridge Folk Festival in 2004, just to get the little programme signed and a photo taken. I said it was a pleasure to meet him, and he wrote 'Pleasure's all mine'. How cute is that.... anyway, moving along.

Foo Fighters - Monkey Wrench
Ask me what any of the lyrics to this song are and I couldn't tell you. I'm guessing 'monkey wrench' is involved. But let's face it, where Foo Fighters are concerned, the lyrics are hardly the main thing you concentrate on, are they? What you concentrate on is that wall of perfectly honed RAWK that comes at you full pelt, from guitars, a bass and drums, but mostly just Dave Grohl's mouth. As I mentioned before, I wasn't always a Radio 2 listener, old before my time, finding Belle and Sebastian a bit too loud. (That's a joke). My bro's one-time love of the standard guitar band rubbed off on me, and I used to RAWK. No loud band could come on TV without some member of my family saying 'Anna'll like this' (Family jokes are just the funniest, aren't they??!). I still like to think I RAWK a bit, and this is the proof. The fact that I nearly put in the wonderfully disturbing ballad Walking After You shows that my tastes may have changed a little, but there'll always be space for this slice of no-holds-barred RAWK. I'll start writing 'rock' now, I swear. Grohl is the consummate performer and front man - funny and intense all at the same time - but how he's got a voice at all after 15 years of shouting is beyond me. He does his thing, at his best, on this track.

Tom Lehrer - Oedipus Rex
Now we come to dad's influence again, this time in the shape of satirical comedy songwriter Tom Lehrer. To be honest, Lehrer's a bit of a hero of mine. He did his thing, had a bit of cult success, wrote some kids songs about the Magic Letter E and then went back to Harvard. You don't get much cooler than that. He's just so damn learned and insightful, and not afraid to show it, but also silly and very funny and had (has?) the ability to write songs that, while based on current events in the 60s, still say something about politics today. Take 'So Long Mom, A Song For World War III': "So long, mom/IÂ’m off to drop the bomb/So donÂ’t wait up for me/But while you swelter/Down there in your shelter/You can see me/On your tv." Enter CNN. Admittedly, Oedipus Rex doesn't have the lyrical venom of his That Was The Week That Was stuff, but it's just so funny. Anyone that rhymes 'Oedipus' with 'platypus' - and moreover finds a reason to do so - is a complete genius in my book.

Arcade Fire - Wake Up
My goodness, number 8, I thought we'd never get here. I realise half the stuff I've written is of no interest to anyone but myself, but I've had a lot of fun doing it, not to mention used up a lot of decent blogging material. Expect a hiatus kids. AnywayArcadede Fire. Rufus Wainwright induced another little lull, I guess, and then these guys showed up. What a debut album, I mean really. So full of emotion, so many gorgeous hooks, how they're ever gonna top Funeral, I've no idea. The reason I have this album, though, is that BBC Autumn drama advert that featured Wake Up. Hearing the chugga chugga chugga opening (that's the technical term) was a total 'Beta Band moment' (ie as in High Fidelity when everyone in the shop really get into Dry The Rain...? maybe it's just me that uses that phrase!) and I just have to sing along with the 'ahhhhhs'. This isn't the most eloquent entry, is it? Time to leave off, I think, but just time to say Wake Up grabs my attention every time and won't let go.


Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Anna that is just SUCH a corking list (I keep saying it to everyone, but they are SO great!)

Underground STILL makes me grin and yell happily; For No One can make the hardest heart weep; the Rufus track (you see what I can miss out on!) oh my... I love the "my big number" bit!...

oh it's SOOO good: and you have Arcade Fire (YEAH!) AND the awesome Tom Lehrer... I need to get him on CD as I only have manky tapes. But Oedipus Rex is such an intelligent hoot...

10/10 gal...

Paul Fuzz said...

A life in song. What fascinating reading these desert island discs have made. I've probably learnt more about the oddball characters who populate this little blog universe via their desert island discs than through any other posts I've ever read.

Dug yer list, Anna. Many happy memories.

AnnaWaits said...

Thanks dudes - for ploughing through it all if nothing else! :)

Dean said...

Cool list and argh... now you've got me thinking about blogging mine when I clearly don't have the time to blog it all...
A few thoughts on related things:
"Who the fuck are you?!"
When I saw Mr Folds in Birmingham he played Underground and tried to get people to sing along the bit at the start... except most people didn't know the words, so it was a bit of a mess. Other than that line, which half the audience shouted at once!

You're also one of those rather rare breeds of Divine Comedy fan that prefers the newer stuff. I found Regneration dissapointing and Absent Friends slightly less dissapointing, but for me it's all about Promenade.

And finally if you like Tom Lehrer, check out Mitch Benn, a UK comic who's pretty simmilar and clearly heavily inspired by Mr Lehrer:

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Ha ha: good on the suggestion of "Everything Sounds like Coldplay Now" which is just genius and has appeared as a bonus (unlisted) track on a CD I did for a friend...

Mellie Bean said...

Impressive list. I think I could come up with eight desert island albums, but eight songs? I don't think I'd know where to begin.

But your list and your explanations for it are great!

Dean said...

I was trying to think of a Mitch Benn song to link to that wasn't the Coldplay one but couldn't think of which one to use. Then had a moment earlier today where I realised I'd been utterly dumb and you theatre fans will surely appreciate this one:

Marie said...

Damn! I've changed my mind! I want Underground!

AnnaWaits said...

Damn right you do! I was just listening to it, and it doesn't make me smile, it makes me positively burst and it has that affect every single time.

AnnaWaits said...

Dean - I've just downloaded the whole Birmingham show (great stuff) and i hear what you're saying about Underground and *that* line - he had to bring everyone in afterwords! Ooh, and also, I loved how he said "this should satiate people's desire for the word 'bitch'" when introducting 'Bitches Aint Shit', as if to say 'please don't request 'Rock This Bitch'!! Haha

And yeah, I adore 'Absent Friends', but 'Promenades' my second fave :) Love 'When The Lights Go Out All Over Europe'.

becstar. said...

Come on Alex, you can do it. Come on Alex, there's nothing to it!



Rob said...

Terrific list. My favourite bit of "Wake Up" is the harp entry just before the voices come in. I mean, a harp??? How cool is that? And used very tastefully.

Funnily enough, earlier tonight my daughter was ripping some Tom Lehrer from CD to her iPod and we were all sitting round listening to "Alma" and "Vatican Rag". I think "Alma" is my favourite, but it might be "Masochism Tango" or "National Brotherhood Week" or... anything, really. Genius.

AnnaWaits said...

Genius indeed! National Brotherhood Week and Masachism Tang are two of my favourites too :) And yes, harps are always cool.