Saturday, 26 July 2008

Playlist = Where I Live

I'm always intrigued to find songs that have links to where I live. It's fun to see what connotations they give to the area that I love - the place I call home! I use an exclamation mark here because most songs about the East End of London are less than flattering. Anyway here are the few I've found, all bar the last one within a mile of our house...

1. The Rolling Stones - 'Play With Fire' (Out of our Heads, 1965). This is actually one of my favourite Stones songs - loved it long before I'd even heard of Stepney. The song is about a relationship with a privileged girl whose mother is condemned to 'gets her kicks in Stepney not in Knightsbridge anymore' since her father took her privileges away. I'm not sure what kind of 'kicks' were available here in the '60s but since it was the Kray brothers stamping ground back then I don't suppose they were particularly glamourous! Listen here...

2. The Libertines - 'Can't Stand Me Now' (The Libertines, 2004). It was quite amusing to discover when we moved to London that we lived in the same street as Pete Doherty, formerly of The Libertines. We only discovered it when there was a notice of his trial for possession of drugs in the local press and his street address was given. After that wild rumours would sweep the street from time to time - neighbours claiming they'd seen Kate Moss, his girlfriend at the time, going to his flat. Obviously we saw nothing and he's now moved house! Apparently he's an East-End boy, born and bred. My favourite song of his has to be 'Can't Stand You Now' - it's a fabulous song. The lyrics are very clever - a conversation between two people at the break-up of a relationship giving the two points of view. You have to listen to it to make sense of which voice is which. Listen here...

3. Pulp - 'Mile End' (Different Class Deluxe Edition, 2006). Of all the Brit-pop bands, for me Pulp are the only ones with any lasting credibility. Oasis seem horribly dated already but Pulp's music, perhaps because of its quirkiness, still stands up to the test of time. 'Mile End' is a song about the time when Jarvis Cocker and friends lived in the East End and his description of life there in the big tower blocks is less than appealing - but unfortunately still pretty true to life in the places I go to from time to time. 'Burdett Road' in the song is only 5 mins walk from ours! Listen here...

4. Traditional - 'Oranges and Lemons'. Have you ever considered the lines to the nursery rhyme 'Oranges and Lemons say the bells of St Clements etc...' If you've read Orwell's 1984 no doubt you have. Well it's a pretty grim ending! However, the bells of Stepney feature and they refer to the bells of the Church of St Dunstans right next to where we live.

5. Jools Holland - 'Brick Lane' (A-Z Geographer's Guide to the Piano, 1995). When I was at university a friend lent me a tape of some Jools Holland songs - it opened up with 'Brick Lane' named after the legendary street in East London laden with curry houses. The song, if I remember rightly (it's been a while since I heard it) has people from the street speaking above the boogie-woogie piano. Little did I know back then whilst in a different city I was destined to live just down the road from Brick Lane and able to enjoy a meal out there from time to time.

6. Dizzee Rascal - 'Brand New Day' (Boy in Da Corner, 2003) I'm not a great fan of hip-pop, garage, rap and all the other forms of such music. I can appreciate it as a genuine musical form written and performed with skill but just don't like listening to it in great quantities. Some of the 'boyz' who live around me tell me Dizzee Rascal, a local boy, doesn't sing hip-pop he does 'grime', a musical sub-genre he invented. I've listened to a few of his tracks and much of it reflects the world of his youth in the East End. And yes grime would be an applicable term. Listen to 'Brand New Day here' here, one of his softer tracks.

7. Talking Heads - 'This Must be the Place (Naive Melody)' (Speaking in Tongues, 1983) And so to finish - a song that sums up 'home' for me. As a teenager Talking Heads were my favourite band. I came across them when the film Stop Making Sense was shown on BBC2 and I was blown away by the performance of David Byrne and the ever increasing band that builds up piece by piece over the concert. One of their more lovely tracks is This Must be the Place (Naive Melody). Watch below. I'm not sure what it's all about but it conjures up the feeling of home - the place that you feel settled in, the place where you love to be. The song I think suggests home is in the arms of a person you love. Well, I love where I live, it's where I want to be, with the people who live with me and alongside me. Call me naive, I don't care!

Friday, 18 July 2008

Leonard Cohen>Hallelujah

For 6 months I have had one event in my diary that I've been waiting to come round - and last night it arrived! My Dad and I went to see Leonard Cohen. All the reviews of his current tour (the first for 15 years) suggested that it was going to be a great night - and we were not disappointed.

The band playing with him were impeccable and you might have expected his 73 year old voice to have detriorated but whilst it was low, it was still strong! The first half of the 3 hour concert contained some classic songs and whilst the quality was great it all felt just a little too perfect. When the second half began we were looking for something to give just a little more edge. The second half opened with the brilliant 'Tower of Song', then the classic 'Suzanne' - things were starting to hot up - then came the best performance of the night - 'Hallelujah' (Various Positions, 1984).

'Hallelujah' is probably Cohen's best known song. There have been a number of good cover versions - Jeff Buckley's I think the best - and Shrek brought it to a younger audience. Our children even sang it at their school concert last year. Last night, though, the song had a 5 minute ovation from 18,000 people when it came to a close. There was an intensity in the performance that simply wasn't matched for the rest of the night (although If it Be Your Will came closest).

The line that stuck out for me in the song (and Cohen has a number of different versions of the lyrics) was 'Love is not a victory march, it's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah.' What a great line that is - yesterday it sent shivers down my spine! And how much we Christians have to learn from it about the way of the cross...

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Bruce Springsteen>The River

I know it's The Boss again, but last night provided a good reason for including this song. In our family we like a whole range of music but I've taken it on myself ever since my children were born to make sure that they have ample opportunity to listen to quality music. It sounds snobbish but in my opinion it's just as important as making sure your kids read decent books or eat good food. Because of my particular musical tastes it wouldn't be unusual in our household to hear Henry (aged 6) singing Bob Dylan's 'Mr Tambourine Man' or The Beatles' 'Help'. In fact you can view the evidence here...

Well, last night was a real highlight for me. I was putting Penny, aged 5, to bed and as I was kissing her goodnight she asked if I could sing her a goodnight song. 'Ok - which one do you want?' I asked. She replied, 'Baa Baa Black Sheep I think... actually, no can I have 'The River'?' And so there I was, with a smirk on my face, singing Springsteen's 'The River' (The River, 1980) to her and imagine my surprise when she joined in. I was aware she knew the song but I didn't realise she knew the words, too. And she did know them - almost every one - and she sung them with gusto! And at that moment there couldn't have been a prouder father.

On reflection it struck me that our Father up there is probably just as chuffed when we 'sing' the songs he likes. I don't mean the predictable, repetitive ones from a songbook but the songs we 'sing' with our lives that just bring a smirk to his face.