It is hard to pick favourite songs and be tied to them. In the last 24 hours I have listened to Warren Zevon perform a live version of Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner that lasts for at least 10 minutes. I have watched The Rolling Stones perform Sway (from their super-great Sticky Fingers) on a concert DVD and a CD that my wife made – songs from my iPod to give to her sister (though that’s not the title, it’s the central concept) – had me hearing Morrissey cover Patti Smith’s Redondo Beach. Now these are all favourite songs of mine – but had I written this 24 hours earlier I wouldn’t have thought to mention any of them.
In the last 24 hours I have also been reminded of great songs by Josh Rouse, Modest Mouse, Simon & Garfunkel, ABC and The Beastie Boys. The intention here (though I’m sure it’s far too late) is not to pointlessly namedrop – rather to confirm how hard it is to be sure of your favourite music until you hear it. In the time that I’ve mentioned the Stones singing Sway they’ve moved on through a rather craggy country cover (of a Bob Wills song, I think?) and an only-okay new-ish ballad. But they’ve arrived at a rousing rendition of Ain’t To Proud To Beg – originally by The Temptations. Easily another song that could make a list of my favourites; though I’m sure I’m only typing that now (for you to read whenever) because Mick Jagger is spitting it out and strutting the stage while Keef and Ronnie look across at each trading stinging guitar lines, neither of them ever sure that they’re on the same stage at the same time in the same band.
I’m not even sure that there are any songs I can name right now that I simply have to have in my life; that I absolutely cannot do without. I would love to say that God Only Knows by The Beach Boys would make that list. Or Oh Marion by Paul Simon. I would love to tell you that Bob Dylan’s Simple Twist Of Fate was my favourite song by the man that has written so many great ones, or that I marvel every time at the lyrical deftness of Neil Young’s throwaway ditty, Love Is A Rose. And sure, most of this is – in some sense – true. But if I forgot the names of these songs (and the dementia that kicks in, now-40, from listening to far too much music is certainly assisting me in that regard) then I am positive I will come up with more songs to name. More names to drop.
Paul Kelly’s How To Make Gravy should be on my list for the emotion that is conveyed within the confines of what is essentially a three-minute bar-room ballad. Crowded House’s Private Universe makes me nostalgic for the covers band I played in at University (along with, in fact, the majority of Neil Finn’s back catalogue) and I haven’t even mentioned The Beatles.
But more songs will always come along with further lists. With extra discussions. After intense listening sessions with old friends or casual catch-ups with classic background tracks playing behind the beat of the room-filling dialogue. Obviously, I’ll be stoned to death or divorced by my wife if I don’t cede to the importance of Faure’s Requiem, R.E.M’s At My Most Beautiful, Burt Bacharach’s This Guy’s In Love With You and Wilco’s ‘Heavy Metal Drummer – we had these songs at our wedding. But that’s a given (well, my fingers were crossed until I dug back out of that particular tunnel with the last sentence, and – watch me now – digging all the way back down). Ha – speaking of All The Way Down – that’s another great Rolling Stones song. And no, they haven’t just played that. But if they did, I’d want to list it. They have however, in my particular living room at this particular moment, just allowed the all-too-simian Keith Richards his further fifteen minutes of fame – fronting the band. And here he’s singing that song of his The Worst. And yeah, I’ll leave it here, for now I reckon it’s one of the best.