I recently wrote a blog post where I admitted that music was, relatively speaking, not very important in my life. For some people, music is the breath of life itself. I'm not one of those possible. I could never listen to music again and not miss it too much, I think.
But that's not to say music doesn't matter to me at all. It does. Sometimes I get very enthusiastic about it. It's intermittent.
Only this evening, I found myself listening over and over again to The Last Morning by Dr. Hook, a song I discovered very recently, through the film Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying These Terrible Things About Me?
The song actually fits into a very specific sub-genre of songs I appreciate: that is, songs about a person's relationship with a city. Other songs in this category are New York, New York (obviously), Last Summer in New York by the Saw Doctors, and Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty.
Anyway, I thought it would be fun to list (and link to) a hundred or so of my favourite songs. I won't say these are my 102 favourite songs. I could probably list another 102 I like just as much. But here goes.
New York, New York by Frank Sinatra (I think the lyrics are unassumingly brilliant)
Last Summer in New York by the Saw Doctors. (I love the refrain "This heat is killing me". I rarely go to gigs, but I actually saw the Saw Doctors in Salthill on Halloween night, 2009. It was a lot of fun.)
Don't Tread On Me by Metallica. (I like songs that get the blood up.)
Royal Orleans by Led Zeppelin. (I like the stop-start nature of this song.)
The Battle of Evermore by Led Zeppelin. I've loved this song since I was a little kid, even before I knew anything about Led Zeppelin. It contains a line that I consider impossibly vivid: "The Dark Lord rides in force tonight."
Black Dog by Led Zeppelin. I like me some heavy. Supposedly the title was inspired by a black dog that kept walking in and out of the studio.
The Boys are Back in Town by Thin Lizzy. Phil Lynott had a unique ability to nail a particular atmosphere.
A Song for While I'm Away by Thin Lizzy. Makes me well up.
Waiting for an Alibi by Thin Lizzy. This song seems perfectly structured to me, and the lyrics are elegant.
Furniture by Horslips. A haunting melody that also makes me weep, with some beautiful lyrics. "Badly bitten by the troubles you had to bear, you invested everything you had in me, hoping I could fly your flag for all to see, but I broke the things you cherished so carefully."
Flower Amang Them All by Horslips. I can't imagine anyone not being charmed by this very delicate instrumental. Straight Irish traditional.
Hall of Mirrors by Horslips. When I was in my teens, my father bought me a Horslips double-album. I had never heard of Horslips (an Irish rock band who sometimes mixed traditional Irish music with rock), and my father had no interest at all in popular music, so how he managed to introduce me to one of my favourite bands is a puzzle for the ages. The funny thing is, I avoided listening to this particular song for years and years, because I assumed it was a foray into psychedelia. When I finally listened to it, it became one of my favourites, even though it IS a foray into psychedilia.
Sweet Dixie by Molly Hatchett. "A good strong beer and a rebel cheer, and man I'm ready to go..." I discovered this song through my brother-in-law giving me his record collection.
Kinda Like Love by Molly Hatchett. A powerful vignette with some excellent lyrics, especially the chorus.
Devil Woman by Cliff Richard. Oh, that bassline...
Across 110th Street by Bobby Womack. I love soaring, cinematic songs like this one. It was written for a movie, and I encountered it through the Quentin Tarantino movie Jackie Brown. I bought a Bobby Womack album on the strength of this song, but none of the other songs grabbed me.
At the Depot. I was a HUGE Rory Gallagher fan in my late teens. I rarely listen to him now, though, and when I do, it's usually not the songs I liked most at the height of my Rory Fever. This is a straightforward rocker that has grown on me over the decades.
Barley and Grape Rag by Rory Gallagher. Rory wasn't the best lyricist, but the lyrics in this memorable tune are quite clever and evocative. "Where the whiskey flows and the dices roll till dawn." God knows how often I listened to this song in my teens.
I Useta Lover by The Saw Doctors. This song transports back to my late childhood and early teens, when it stayed at number one in the Irish charts for a record number of weeks. It was released the same year as the Irish international soccer team gripped the country in the Italian World Cup. I think of this as the last hurrah of Ireland's innocence, when it seemed we could flourish internationally while still remaining Catholic and traditional. Despite the irreverent reference to the Eucharist, there's an exuberant innocence about this song-- we even sang it in choir in my Catholic school. I particularly like the euphony of the line: "D'ou remember her collecting for Concern on Christmas Eve?" (Concern is an Irish charity.)
Love, Life and Happiness by Brian Kennedy. I know this song from a TV ad.
Live and Let Die by Paul McCartney. I'm a big fan of "Macca", and I like the "swirliness" of this song. I can't express it better than that.
Venus and Mars/Rock Show by Paul McCartney. "A good friend of mine follows the stars, Venus and Mars are alright tonight.." I like songs about people having a good time. Two songs, but they run together so well I would never listen to them apart.
I Wanna Go Where the People Go by The Wildhearts are a British pop-rock band who never really attained the success one would expect, considering the catchiness of their tunes. The lyrics of this one appeal to my populist instincts.
Top of the World by The Wildhearts. A blast of pure euphoria, and I like the euphony of the chorus's lyrics. "You don't get no view like you do at the top of the world, where the sky's so blue and the girls are so beautiful."
Everyone's a Winner by Hot Chocolate. This is one of my favourite songs of all time. Again, I like the "swirliness". Pure positivity.
You Sexy Thing by Hot Chocolate. I think a statue's hips would swing to this one.
Death on Two Legs by Queen. Who doesn't love a good angry song? It's hard to beat this one. "You're a sewer-rat decaying in a cesspool of pride." Queen were the band of my early twenties.
Don't Stop Me Now by Queen. One of the most feel-good songs ever, surely.
Killer Queen by Queen. Some very clever, Noel Coward-like lyrics.
Somebody to Love by Queen. "I"ve just gotta get out of this prison-cell, one day I'm gonna be freeee..."
A Kind of Magic by Queen. I like how this song conveys a sense of awe and mystery. I first encountered it on a TV ad while watching Saturday's morning kids programmes.
Freedom '90 by George Michael. This is one of my very favourite songs. I like the momentum and intensity of it, and I also like the lyrics. "All we have to see is that I don't belong to you and you don't belong to me."
Rock and Roll Kids by Paul Harrington and Charlie McGettigan. The song that won the Eurovision for Ireland in 1994. A haunting song with some beautiful lyrics. I actually woke up feeling melancholy one morning, some years ago, because I had been thinking about this song in my sleep! I like songs about people coming to terms with their life experience in some way or other.
Get a Job by The Silhouettes. One of a handful of doo-wop songs that I really like. The timing of this song is strangely comical. I can't explain it, but it always makes me smile. Used to great effect over the end credits of the movie Trading Places.
Get Down by Gilbert O'Sullivan. Just a great pop song.
Life of Riley by The Lightning Seeds. This used to be played over the weekend goals round-up on Match of the Day, when I watched it in the nineties. So it has that happy memory going for it, along with another: I remember hearing it when I was shopping for Christmas presents with my brothers, back when we would save up our pennies and halfpennies for months in order to buy Christmas presents. Also, it's a great upbeat song, written by a father for his newborn son. I love the line: "All this world is a crazy ride, so take your seats and hold on tight."
Marvellous by Lightning Seeds. This one is also upbeat, but with a tinge of desperation in the lyrics. Once again, the word "intensity" comes to mind. I like intense songs.
Sugar-Coated Iceberg. Just another Lightning Seeds song that I don't get tired of.
The Irish Rover by J.M. Crofts, as sung by the Pogues and the Dubliners. An uproarious ballad of an impossibly well-provisioned ship which meets a sad fate, living only the narrator to tell the tale. The writer was truly inspired when he listed one of the crew as "Slugger O'Toole, who was drunk as a rule". There is an Irish political blog called Slugger O'Toole. There should be a statue to him.
Sally McLennane by Shane MacGowan. I remember listening to this song over...and over...and over in my late teens or early twenties. I felt vindicated when I read Shane MacGowan say it was one of his own personal favourites. I never knew the title came from a brand of whiskey. Another "uproarious" song. "I took the jeers and drank the beers and crawled back home at dawn."
Escape (the Pina Colada song) by Rupert Grint. This is a unique and witty "story song", with genuinely well-crafted lyrics.
Merry Xmas Everybody by Slade. You either hate it or you love it. I love it.
How Does It Feel? by Slade. A haunting song. I like reflective songs like this one.
Mama Weer All Crazee Now by Slade. I always think of this and the next one as companion pieces; pure party anthems.
Cum on Feel the Noyz by Slade.
Macho Man by the Village People. I heard this song for the first time in a Starbucks a few years ago and fell instantly in love with it. Deliciously cheesy. And somehow, funny-- I always laugh involuntarily at the "Hey! Hey! Hey hey hey!" part of the chorus.
A Day in the Life by The Beatles. I agree with people who call this the Beatles best song. It's a real "head trip".
In My Life by the Beatles. One of my favourite "reflective" songs.
Nice in Nice by The Stranglers. All I can say about this one is that it's really catchy.
The Raven by The Stranglers. I've had a lifelong love affair with crows, and indeed, all corvids. The raven is here used as a symbol of the Vikings, and the song is sung from the perspective of pillaging Vikings. Although the Vikings were bad news, especially for Ireland, there is a stark beauty to their mythology and culture. "The Northern seas are cold, but they're our own". I like the way this song steadily gathers pace, like a Viking ship making its way to its target.
Waltzinblack by The Stranglers. One of the few instrumentals on my list. A very distinctive and memorable song. It was the theme tune for a cooking show when I was younger.
Suedehead by Morrissey. "You had to sneak into my room just to read my diary. It was just to see, just to see all the things you knew I'd written about you..."
King of Twilight by Iron Maiden. Iron Maiden were the big band of my childhood, since my older brother and my cousin were dedicated Iron Maiden fans. I still like them, though, all these years later. This cover version is magnificently heavy and controlled.
Ace of Spades by Motorhead. Is this the ultimate heavy metal song? Absolutely no frills, it never lets up from the first moment to the last. The lyrics are perfect of their kind: "You know I'm gonna lose, and gambling's for fools, but that's the way I like it baby, I don't want to live forever..."
Overkill by Motorhead. Oh the sheer heaviness! This song sounds like an aerial bombardment, but in a most enjoyable way. "Only way to feel the noise is when it's good and loud..." Indeed! The false ending and the reprise, like some rough beast that refuses to die, is another reason to love this song.
The Slow Train by Flanders and Swann. A lament for railways that closed as a result of the 1963 Beeching Act, this is an impossibly poignant song, especially the lines: "No-one departs, no-one arrives, from Selby to Goole, from St. Erth to St. Ives, they've all passed out of our lives..."
A Transport of Delight by Flanders and Swann. A sprightly ditty about a London bus, with a chorus that gathers lines as the song progresses.
Thank God I'm a Country Boy by John Denver. I'm a city boy, but my heart has always been in the city. "I'd play on the fiddle all day if I could, but the Lord and my wife wouldn't take it very good, so I fiddle when I can, work when I should..."
Take Me Home Country Roads by John Denver. Is there any more powerful theme than homecoming? I always well up at the climactic words: "Driving down the road I get a feeling that I should have been home yesterday". Country roads are one of my favourite things in the world, and I take pleasure just thinking of how many of them are out there, every moment.
Bille Jean by Michael Jackson. Another immortal bassline. I've sometimes wondered if this is the most infectious song of all time. I HATED Michael Jackson as a heavy-metal loving kid in the eighties. It took me a long time to admit how very talented he was.
Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson. Shamone!
Night Fever by the Bee Gees. I think this is my single favourite song of all time. It's hard to say why. I like how the different parts melt into one another, the "shimmering" quality. Although I'm the furthest thing from a party animal, this song seems to carry with it an atmosphere of perfume and hormones and bright lights. And it captures the zeitgeist of the seventies magnificiently. I was three when the seventies ended, but it's still my favourite decade by far. I just love, love, love this song.
Tragedy by the Bee Gees. I like the Bee Gees. Shoot me. I especially like the part that goes: "I really should be holding you, holding you, loving you, loving yooooouuu..."
You Win Again by the Bee Gees. Just another great Bee Gees song.
Dick-a-Dum-Dum by Jim Dale. Surely I'm just being contrarian in including a song so famously naff that Mr. Bean plays it at his birthday party? A song so naff that Jim Dale admitted that, during a schoolyard fight, his kid received the taunt: "At least my father didn't write Dick-a-Dum-Dum?" A song so naff that Des O'Connor covered it?
No, I'm not. I think this is a great, charming, sweet song, full of the insouciance of youth, with witty lyrics. "I've gotta go to Picadilly, gotta pick a dilly of a day to do it on..."
You Shook Me All Night Long by AC/DC. One of many songs that men have written celebrating the larger lady. And why not?
Stars by Simply Red. Impossibly soppy, but I like it. "I want to fall through the stars, straight into your arms."
Say You Love Me by Simply Red. Some nice lyrics in this one. "In every single pair of eyes there is a hunger in it, or its soul dies."
So Not Over You by Simply Red. "Don't know why I still slept on my side of the bed..." Hard to beat that as an opening line of a break-up song. I once owned the album on which this song appears, but I threw it out because one song annoyed me so much-- Little Englander, a Remoaner anthem long before the word "Brexit" was even coined.
Hard Times by Status Quo. Just so bouncy!
Ziggy Stardust by David Bowie. Ziggy played....guit-aaaaaar! I fell in love with this during a date in the Liffey Valley shopping centre. As for the girl, I have no idea what she's doing now. It was playing in a shop or something. The riff is irresistible. And again, the seventies vibe appeals to me.
Golden Years by David Bowie. Gorgeously upbeat, as the title would suggest. "Nothing's going to touch you in these golden years."
Elevation by U2. When I was growing up, I had no idea that U2 were a world-conquering Irish band. I thought they were just a big deal in Ireland. I don't really want to like U2, because of the contradiction between their professed Christianity and their vocal support for the abortion referendum in Ireland. In fact, I stopped listening to their songs for months after the abortion referendum. But I came back to them, because their hits are irresistible. I only know their hits, I've never actually listened to a U2 album.
Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me by U2. My favourite U2 song, and it has some genuinely clever lyrics. "They want you to be Jesus, now go down on one knee, but they'll want their money back if you're alive at thirty-three." It's played over the end credits of one of the lesser Batman films, and it's very effective put to that use.
2 Become 1 by the Spice Girls. Yes, the Spice Girls! I really like this song. I like the violins. What can I say? I know what I like.
Rock DJ by Robbie Williams. OK, so this might be the "guilty pleasures" part of the list. But surely this is an impossible song to dislike, a sure-fire "floor filler". I love the lines: "Heuston do you hear me, Ground Control can you feel me, need permission to land." I wish I had written those lyrics.
The Last Morning by Dr Hook. Another "me and the city" song. I discovered this song last Christmas, and listened to it dozens of times over a period of days. The lyrics are deeply poetic, and I especially like the verse that begins: "This is the cold hard city here", when the second voice joins in and the song seems to build in intensity.
Fool If You Think It's Over by Chris Rea. This is a sweet song that Chris Rea wrote for his young sister, when she was hurting from a break-up. "Newborn eyes always cry with the pain at the first look of the morning sun. Fool if you think it's over, it's just begun."
Mull of Kintyre by Paul McCartney. One of those wildly successful songs that everybody seems to hate. A former colleague of mine told me that it made his ears bleed. Well, I like it. Another song about homecoming.
Spinning and Reeling by Creed Bratton. I first encountered this song in a Christmas episode of The Office, the American version. We hear it for a few seconds during the office Christmas party, during a karaoke session. It's sung by the character Creed Bratton, who is played by the actor Creed Bratton, who was a rock musician with the Grass Roots back in the day. This song comes from one of his solo albums. This is a deliciously upbeat and romantic song. It has all the fizz and innocence of soda (or minerals, as we say in Ireland).
Theme from Shaft by Isaac Hayes. "Who's the black private dick who's a sex machine to all the chicks? SHAFT! Who is the man who would risk his life for his fellow man? SHAFT!". Shaft (the 1971 original) is one of my favourite films, and there's a lot more to it than its unforgettable soundtrack. It's impossible to listen to this theme without thinking of the opening scene in which it features: John Shaft, the private detective of the title, strutting through Time Square on a cold morning, on his way to work. Few songs build a sense of excitement like this one, with its long and suspenseful intro.
I Hear You Calling Me by John McCormack. A great song with a very personal meaning for me. My father was a great lover of John McCormack, and he borrowed the title of this song for an account of my mother's death that he wrote in his community magazine, The Ballymun News. Now he lies in the same grave, a few graves away from John McCormack himself. "I hear you calling me, though years have stretched their weary lengths between, and o'er your grave the mossy grass is green..." I can't hear it with dry eyes.
Tatooed Millionaire by Bruce Dickinson. An excellent solo song by the Iron Maiden singer.
Big Bottom by Spinal Tap. OK, Spinal Tap were a comedy band, but this is a fine rock song. The clumsy sexual innuendo of the lyrics might be naughty, but it's also witty. Another great bassline.
"I Could Be So Good For You" by Dennis Waterman. The theme tune for the eighties TV comedy-drama Minder. As with so many TV theme songs, romance is shoe-horned into the lyrics even though the show was about the relationship between an elderly wheeler-dealer and his minder. The lyrics fit neatly into the tune.
Gimme Some Truth by John Lennon. As little as I like John Lennon's general outlook on life, this is an excellent "angry song", and I like the strings of adjectives used in many of the lines: "No short-haired yellow-bellied son of Tricky Dicky's gonna Mother Hubbard soft soap me with just a pocketful of hope...it's money for dope...it's money for dope."
I'm Too Sexy by Right Said Fred. I love the lightness and frothiness of this song. And the lyrics are funny. "I'm too sexy for your party, no way I'm disco dancing..."
"December '63 (What a Night)" by Frankie Vallie and the Four Seasons. I like the nostalgic feel of this song, and the sense of romantic excitement it conveys. "I got a funny feeling when she walked in the room..."
Monsters Rule, OK! by the Viewers. This is a song from a rather obscure 1983 British horror-comedy film called The Monster Club. The film is literally about a club where monsters go to have a good time. This is a song played in one scene. At the end of the film, a human visitor to the club is granted membership when his escort (a vampire played the Vincent Price) explains to the gathered monsters that humans are the greatest monsters of all. He dwells in loving detail on the vast numbers of humans killed by other humans, and the manifold ways in which this killing is done. "I had no idea you were so talented!", exclaims one monster, to which the human visitor (John Carradine) replies: "We don't like to boast".
Disco Inferno by the Trammps. I love the seventies. What can I say? Burn that mother down!
Eye Level by The Simon Park Orchestra. Another instrumental. This was the theme tune to a British crime drama called Van Der Valk, which reached number one in the UK charts. Cheery tune though it is, the show was apparently quite dark. And set in the Netherlands, strangely.
Love Crazy by Masterplan. I'm a fan and defender of the Carry On film series, which are often dismissed as pure trash. However, even I can't defend the last few entries in the series, including the dreadful Carry On Emannuelle. The only good thing about it was this theme song.
That's Livin' Alright by Joe Fagin. The theme tune to the eighties British TV drama Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, which I've never seen. It's about a group of British builders who go to work in Germany. I like the lyrics of the song because it derives a sort of glamour from hardship and discomfort: "Working on the site from morning till night, that's living alright...Then a night on the town, spreading it around, that's living alright."
Fox on the Run by The Sweet. One of the rare instances where I liked something before it was cool. This song by the seventies glam band became popular again when it was included on the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack. (Some kind of superhero movie, I believe, m'lud.)
Freelove Freeway by Ricky Gervais and Noel Gallagher. Another example of a comedy song which is seriously good. This is originally played by the clueless, egocentric manager David Brent during an office training session in The Office.
Groovejet by DJ Spiller and Sophie Ellis-Bextor. When I was on the Allen Library training course, back in 2001, I attended the Higher Options jobs fair in the Royal Dublin Society. A sample from this song was played on a constant loop in the hall. The jobs fair left me with the impression (as do all such events) that finding a job would be a little less daunting than climbing Mount Everest. But at least I took away a liking for this song.