For this issue's music selection I've turned to a friend of mine Chris Read. I asked him to choose 8 songs that were, in his opinion, not as well known as they should be.

As usual click on the picture to the left of this paragraph to get to the collection. So over to Chris...










A few years ago in my impressionable twenties I made a tape for a woman I liked, and I carefully arranged it so that each track had the same position as it had on the long playing record from which it was drawn. She did allow that she had enjoyed some of the tunes, but to what I thought had been my remarkable cleverness in construction she displayed an effortless indifference.


I mention this now because now its time to give you Electricity – by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark as my Song No 1 - As it’s the duo’s debut release, so I feel justified in its use as the kick-off track  - Though the rule is relaxed from herein. This does feel like an opening record. It builds slowly, like, though not to quite the same extent, as ‘Where the Street’s have no name’ on the Joshua Tree or ‘Don’t bang the Drum’ on This is the Sea. Most of all, this is my dance record, and as I dance I can even think that somehow I'm doing something for the environment, as the boys recommend the most environmentally friendly way to generate the power generation they sing about – The alternative is only one, of all sources of electricity, solar electricity. This was written in 1980 before climatic concerns became the headlines they are now, so this can lay claim to being a lyric before its time.





The Counting Crows would seem to agree, as they start Song No 2 with applause, before launching into Mrs Potters Lullaby. This is the longest track I've selected and this is no mistake because this is my favourite ‘Rambling’ song – There is a sort of verse/chorus structure but the words are different in each cry to the eponymous lady. World weary Bon Mots pop up throughout the song - ‘I dream I never know anyone at the party and I'm always the host’ – ‘and though I'll never forget your face, sometimes I can't remember my name. Though my personal favourites are concentrated in the early verses, the overall impression of longing for, well something, is maintained throughout. Somewhere midway Adam Duritz asks ‘Why don't you climb down off that movie screen?’ which is the one indication that the yearning is for a movie star, but for most of the nearly eight minutes the listener can project onto the song his or her own yearnings.





Song No 3 is Central Reservation – Beth Orton.  Some songs don’t become my favourites until I've listened to them for many months. That’s only natural but in this case it took a minor reconstruction of the song. On the record for which it is the title track, Central Reservation was split in two parts, but the version I select here is the ‘Then again’ version that appears on the ‘Best of’ and we get all the song in one.

Beth Orton’s debut album Trailer Park led me to file her under ‘Folk’ though the lasting impression of the record is a spaciness that I can just wallow in. This track I've always thought of as different – Not quite disco, but heading that way – but listening to both records together and the differences seem less distinct. That much is just detail – this song makes it on to the list on the strength of its ‘Carpe Diem’ lyric, again one that I try valiantly to live to. The lyric starts by whimsically recalling a sexual encounter of the night before, but the resulting happy-demented state of mind permeates the whole song, particularly the key tag line ‘Today is whatever I want it to mean’. I should pin it to my bedroom ceiling. Later comes the line ‘Everything that’s good right now, I wouldn’t wish for it to last’, which is one of the more enigmatic lines in any of the songs I love. I could write another page on what I think that line means, but you have probably moved on to Song No 4 now





And that is The Model, not by Kraftwerk, but by Belle & Sebastian. I suppose it’s true of all these songs, but this is one I’d love to have written myself. A collection of vignettes about the singer’s life, all wrapped up in a sweet lulling tune. My favourite stanza is the second, from ‘If you think you with just your eyes you’re mad’ to the adventures of Lisa at a fancy dress party. What’s more, she gets ‘lucky’.




Which is more you can say for the soldier in Suzanne Vega’s  Queen & the Soldier - another story Song at No 5.  The end is a bit tragic of course, as befits a folk song, and a bit enigmatic too – Is the Soldier actually declaring his love for the Queen, and if so why? One feels there must be more deserving women. Anyway it’s all very nicely told, and all leads into the soldier’s last words, all that stuff about getting what one deserves, that seemed when I first heard it a most perfect summation on what life is about. Still does actually, which is how the song gets into my selection.



Time to break the mood with Song No. 6 with a track that makes the list on musical rather lyrical criteria. Roads by Portishead comes top of the list of songs are my favourites because of that ‘tingle factor’, The words are about an imperfect relationship, but its not a song that reminds me of anyone or anytime, its a song that makes me stop and listen if I hear it anywhere, and at about 1:41 when the music breaks I get a tear in my eye every time.



Since I can’t keep up that intensity for long Song No. 7 is just one I find really funny! - Blues gaen oot o’the fashion by Rachel Unthank and the Winterset. It has so many parts there’s got to be something for everyone; Tap dancing, fiddling, sitting on the harbour side and the mysteriously disappearing laddies, with and without their clothing. For a few years now I've expected myself to become a fully fledged Folkie but then I’ll listen to an hour folk music radio and over the half the tracks leave me unmoved. I've no doubts about these young women though. I first picked them up on the radio, but fell totally in love with their whole thing when I saw them live at the Leeds Varieties. 





My final selection is People look unhappy in Cars by Redwood Thinkers, a selection on slightly different rules because this is my ‘Promote local band’ selection.  I've seen them twice now in local pubs and to my untrained ear they sound quite good enough to ‘make it’ in a radio 2 play list kind of way – But then again I think my novel is good enough to be published. This song is sort of Beautiful South sort of Deacon Blue, and what’s more it has an environmental feel to it – Well is about the agony of commuting by car – so I do full I've managed a kind of full circle