In 'Blue', Joni Mitchell cried "songs are like tattoos".
In celebration of our recent Vinyl Launch, myself & some of my favourite creatives have shared the songs that forever changed us.
Here's to the songs we've heard after which, we were never the same.
The ones interwoven in our DNA.
Many times in my life I have come to the end of an impasse, taken off my blindfolds and chosen a road, taken the thorns out of my side and accepted the unknown, shed my snake skin and come into a new being.
Sometimes by choice, sometimes by force. There are songs I keep returning to in these times of restlessness and uprooting.
When I leave the old world behind and ask the road to welcome me, I return to Odetta's cover of Tomorrow is a Long Time.
When I first heard her deep, watery voice, I understood that folk and gospel music is of this earth. It grounds me when my spirit wants to fly away. It plants me where I need to be. It shows me the beauty in the still darkness, in the transience of sunrises and sunsets, in the wounds of love that lead us to metamorphosis and freedom. It reminds me that freedom only comes from truly living in the richness of emotion, the colourful and slippery palette of human experience. Tomorrow is a Long Time was originally written and recorded by Bob Dylan, but it is Odetta's way that gets into my flesh and bones. I love that this is a cover. I love that Odetta loved this song so much, that she honoured it by singing herself. The ultimate act of Devotion.
WRITER, EDITOR, JANE BY THE GREY ATTIC
If I let my heart choose and ignore all questions and judgements from my brain about wanting my answer to be "cooler" I'd have to say Vogue by Madonna.
It takes me back to the drama and the freedom and the self-expression of my childhood. I can't help but move when I hear it and I instantly smile.
For a completely different reason, Orange Sky by Alexi Murdoch would have to be my most special song. It symbolises the exact moment I became a mother and was the sound Vahla heard as she made her way onto my chest after being born.
Land: Horses / Land of a Thousand Dances / La Mer (de) by Patti Smith, Roadhouse Blues by The Doors, Sweet Jane by the Velvet Underground and Enter Sandman by Metallica all get special mention for their ability to do exactly what it is that music should do; transport and transcend all the senses and the concept of time.
Upon first hearing The Downtown Lights by The Blue Nile
I was taken by the way in which it left an after image more like a film than a song.
Paul Buchanan’s aching lyrics set against shimmering sheets of synth evoked a distinctive territory of twilight reverie through which one could long drift.
Redolent of the swirling cityscapes of yearning occupied by Robert Bresson’s fated lovers in Four Nights of a Dreamer, the street lights play upon rain-soaked sidewalks and spill through windows into darkened hotel rooms. Within the song, and the album from which it is drawn, the night is forever awash with a hulking tenderness that is unique to the haunted memory of love.
When I first heard Roberta Flack sing The first time ever I saw your face it floored me. I felt a full body realisation of a love all encompassing.
A masterpiece of epic romance that opened up a world of feeling. “And the moon & the stars were the gifts you gave…”
I don't remember where I heard it, I just remember everything thereafter seeming more fragrant.
Billie Holiday's 'Strange Fruit' & Rage Against the Machine's 'Killing in the name of' had me in rapture too, as I came to understand music as a powerful disruptor, a vessel for important message.
MULTIDISCIPLINARY ARTIST, WRITER, CERAMICIST
I was ordering a coffee in a cafe in Islington a few years ago when a song came on the radio - The Ballad of John and Yoko. I maybe didn't even consciously know it at the time, but I had a flooding back of memories of Sunday mornings with my Dad when I was young. My Dad worked a lot as we were growing up, but without fail, every Sunday morning he would make himself a coffee and us a hot chocolate and we would sit on the floor of his office and play records with him. My favourite was always Sergeant Peppers Hearts Club, just because I liked the cover.
It was amazing to have those memories rush back twenty years later in a coffee shop! Music has that power over us, like nothing else.
The first time I heard Meg Baird’s ‘River House in Tinicum’ was in the early days of my writing songs with classical guitar. I bought the CD based only on the cover - Meg is standing in the sun with her back to the camera, long hair caught in a breeze.
To my ears, the song perfectly captures the feeling of leaving town, both musically and lyrically. A sense of getting away to a country house somewhere with one other person.
The rolling, finger-picked guitar line begins simply… and I remember it evoked for me images of trees flashing by as a car moves along the road, or of sitting on a bank as the river rolls by.
I think the song caught me so because it manages to express a certain 'essence' or fantasy that I am often trying to define and express through my music and painting.
Still when I listen to it, I am immediately transported to a secret sense of place and feeling.
CO-FOUNDER OF ELECTRIC LADY PR, MODEL AT PEOPLE AGENCY
I first heard Mazzy Star’s ‘Fade Into You’ the same year I moved to London and was swept away by Hope Sandoval’s tender vocals. This haunting track always conjured a sense of nostalgia and sentimentality for me, even upon the first listen.
It was one of those songs that you hear that speak directly to your soul, almost as though you've heard it before, in a dream, perhaps, or maybe another lifetime.
The song has come back to me throughout the years when I needed it most and will always hold a special place in my heart as a kind of coming of age.