Before we start, I should point out that my bias for songs and selection here is based on when I growing up up and what was playing around me at the time. In my opinion popular music has deteriorated every year since around the year 2000. In a good popular song, I’m looking for charisma and something inspired – something which is well written, fresh and honest. The order of the songs here is just the order in which they came into my head when I was asked to come up with a list, so I’m not over-thinking it.
Radiohead ‘Paranoid Android’
‘OK Computer’ is one of my favourite albums. I remember when it came out in 1997. This was the first track I heard from it – the video was shown on television and it really caught my attention – I was fascinated by it. I love the way the guitars are expressive, but also how the track is somewhat dark and off kilter. The bit where the distortion kicks in sounds quite abrasive and jolting, then it drops back into a floaty choir section – great work!
Duran Duran ‘A View to a Kill’
I am not super passionate about this song, but it has some nostalgia for me. It was used in the 1985 James Bond film of the same name. Parts of it (e.g. the tunnel scene) were filmed next to the village of Amberley in West Sussex, where my Grandfather lived. So, my family used to walk around there sometimes.
I like the way the lyrics are sung – a genuine/”real” voice, which represents that time well. The song is interesting to listen to it because it has an interesting harmonic progression and a smart key change for the chorus.
The Smashing Pumpkins – ‘Daphne Descends’
This is one of the bands I heard regularly as I was growing up – they’ve got some good songs in their discography. I used to really enjoy the guitar tones from Butch Vig (a fantastic engineer), like on the ‘Siamese Dream’ album during the clean section at the end of the track ‘Hummer’ – possibly one of my favourite ever clean guitar sounds. Here I chose ‘Daphne Descends’ from the ‘Adore’ album. I like in the verse the way the root note of the G minor chord goes to the E flat, back up to G, then to E flat, F, G. There’s something quite satisfying in that. My other choice from the same album would be ‘Appels + Oranjes’.
Matt Monro – ‘On Days Like These’
This song is used in the opening sequence of the film The Italian Job (1969). I like the way it’s used contextually in a similar way to Tuco’s torture scene in the film ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’. It’s an incredible contrast of the tranquil, relaxing and dreamy, alongside something violent/bad about to happen or already happening. In Morricone’s work the melody being sung by the troops is very special for me (it’s something of a leitmotif – e.g. a variation of it occurring in the dying soldier scene, where he smoke’s a cigar in his last breaths.
Fred Neil – ‘Everybody’s Talkin’
I love the music in this film – particularly the main theme / harmonica piece by John Barry, which Faith No More also covered. This song by Fred Neil is also really memorable.
The Prodigy ‘Their Law’
‘Music for the Jilted Generation’ is one of the first albums I listened to when I was a kid and I would rather just choose the whole album instead of one track. It has so many great drum samples and rhythms. I’ve gone with ‘Their Law’, but I was also tempted to say ‘Claustrophobic Sting’. I first heard the latter when I was camping – the droning intro part sounds dark and fit perfectly with the night-time (and alcohol consumption). It’s a drone of an F sharp with a droning A natural three octaves higher. Tension is added with the passing dissonance in a subsequent sample.
Portishead – ‘Sour Times’
This is a classic band and this song has a 70s film vibe about it, which I really like. It’s also got a kind of melancholic and atmospheric, mysterious feel.
Dire Straits – ‘Iron Hand’
Not an obvious choice of something from Dire Straits, I know. I like it though – it reminds me of being in the Kent countryside, where I grew up.
Björk – ‘An Echo, A Stain’
The extent to which I can get into Björk’s music is limited, but I remember I heard this track the other day and enjoyed it. I should also mention her track ‘Bachelorette’ though because it’s also nostalgic (it came out in 1997).
Soundgarden – ‘Jesus Christ Pose’
This doesn’t really fit the rest of the list, but I do like Soundgarden’s ‘Badmotorfinger’ album a lot. Loads of fat, classic riffs on it, and one of the most important vocalists ever. RIP.
Depeche Mode – ‘It’s No Good’
This is not the typical choice from Depeche Mode’s discography, but it’s again nostalgic for me (‘Ultra’ came out in 1996). The album has a lot of brilliant material on it – this track, ‘Home’ and others.
The Cure – ‘A Forest’
Good song – classic.
Pink Floyd – ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’
No words needed.
Nirvana – ‘Milk It’
I was going to leave it here, but I feel I should mention Nirvana’s ‘Bleach’ and ‘In Utero’ albums. Lots of raw energy and honesty.
Art Zoyd – ‘Anamorphose III’
Last, but not least… yes, it doesn’t fit with the rest of this list, but it’s probably the most important “song” or piece that inspired me for Lychgate. The rest of the list doesn’t inspire me directly for Lychgate, but this does. Gold.