Music means everything to me. My friends will tell you that I always have a song in my head and my heart that I’m dying to talk about and share. Albert Einstein once said, “…I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music… I get most joy in life out of music.” I think Einstein and I would have been great friends.
Like most people, there are many songs that hold a special significance in my life. There are songs that remind me of certain individuals, and songs that remind me of particular feelings or events I’ve experienced. And there are, of course, songs that remind me of certain places. I’m a big fan of the shuffle feature on my iPod, and more often than not, a song comes on that reminds me of England, and I’m instantly transported by it. The sights, the smells, who I was with, how I was feeling… all of it comes flooding back. So I thought I’d share some of the songs that always remind me of my life and times in Blighty.
LDN by Lily Allen. Cheeky and fun, this song is a favourite of mine. Before my first visit to England in 2009, my friend and I used to listen to this and joke that we’d meander through the streets of London on bicycles like Lily does in the song, whilst singing this out loud. Well, once we arrived, it turned out that we weren’t very good at even crossing the streets without nearly getting hit by a car (LOOK RIGHT!), so that pipe dream went straight out the window. But despite our lack of pedestrian prowess in the UK, this is still a marvellous tune, and it will always remind me of that inaugural trip.
London Skies by Jamie Cullum. This is the song I listen to without fail when I’m packing for a trip across the Pond. I’ve also been known to listen to it on the plane ride over, and I have fond memories of listening to it whilst wandering through Green Park. It always makes me happy. Keep in mind that I’m a native of a state where the sun shines 300+ days a year. You know what they say; you always want what you don’t have.
Ticket To Ride by The Beatles. I was listening to this song when I saw English countryside for the very first time. My friend and I were travelling on the Eurostar from Paris to London, and when we cleared the Chunnel and I caught my first glimpse of those gorgeous, green, rolling hills… there just aren’t words for how I felt in that moment. My friend glanced at me and said, “Look at you! You’re lit up like a Christmas tree!” I could not stop smiling. I was on a train, listening to The Beatles, in England for the very first time in my life. I will never forget it.
Can’t Be Sure by The Sundays. The Sundays were my favourite alternative band when I was a teenager. A Doc Martens-clad, pensive teenager who gobbled up any and all music from the UK that I could get my hands on. And now as an adult, this song reminds me of people watching in Trafalgar Square. I sat on the steps in front of the National Gallery last year, and listened to this during a solo trip to London. A brilliant track.
There Is A Light That Never Goes Out by The Smiths. This is another song that conjures up people watching memories from Trafalgar Square. I lost count of how many double-decker buses actually passed by (safely, thank you very much) as I sat there, sipping Earl Grey tea from a paper cup, marvelling at the fact that once again I was in my favourite city in the world. I adore The Smiths and Morrissey, and I loved this song long before it was made famous by (500) Days of Summer (which is a fantastic film, by the way, if you haven’t seen it).
London Calling by The Clash. This song is on a mix CD that I have in my car. Last month, during the London riots, it flooded my speakers unexpectedly, and it gave me chills. However, I have another, much happier memory associated with it. Last year, I went to see American singer/songwriter Joshua Radin perform at The Roundhouse in Camden. As I stood inside the venue waiting for the show to begin, a group of young Englishmen passed by me as this song was playing over the sound system. They were obviously several pints into quite a fun evening, and as they careened past me in a single file line, train-style, they loudly sang out in unison, “Cause London is drowning and I… I live by the river!” I laughed, savouring yet another amazing moment in the Big Smoke.
Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty. My only memories of this song up until last year were of hearing it on the radio when I was growing up, and then hearing it featured in the playground fight scene of the film Good Will Hunting. Then one day, whilst trying to find the London Beatles Store, I found myself on the Baker Street. And, musical sap that I am, I immediately found it on my iPod, and let that infamous saxophone hook fill my ears as I walked. This song will always be a part of the memory of my Beatles Day in London.
Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles. After my walk on Baker Street and my rather successful visit to the Beatles Store, I headed to Abbey Road Studios in St. John’s Wood and the infamous crosswalk. I got lost in the surrounding neighbourhood, but I didn’t really mind too much because I was listening to some amazing music. I’ll give you three guesses as to what album I had playing on a loop whilst I was there, and the first two don’t count.
Little Lion Man by Mumford & Sons. These guys are one of my favourite bands of all time. They are quintessentially English, and I genuinely believe they can’t make a bad record. I was in Brighton last year, eating lunch at a pub, when this song came on. In fact, the next three songs were all by Mumford & Sons, and I soon struck up a conversation with the owner of the pub about the band. I’ve been lucky enough to see them live twice: the first time was in a small club where they played to a crowd of about 150. The second time was earlier this year, where they played to a crowd of 10,000. They’re obviously doing something right. Note: There is an expletive in this song, so if that sort of thing offends you, keep calm and carry on…
England by The National. I’ve only just discovered The National. I highly recommend checking them out; their album High Violet is simply brilliant. I first heard this song as a cover, actually; Mumford & Sons did a magnificent version of it on VH1 Unplugged. I loved it, but of course I sought out the original, and promptly fell in love. This American band has somehow captured the essence of England that continues to enamour me more and more each time I visit.
Which songs remind you of England?