You Are My Sunshine – Trad.
This song is probably my earliest musical memory. My dad played guitar and sung to a lot us as kids and my mum was always singing nursery rhymes to us too. I have really fond memories of them both singing this song to my sister, brother and I. I’m sure it’s the first song I learnt the words to. I was reminded of this recently when I heard my dad playing this on guitar and singing it to my young nieces. I love how it has come full circle. Recording wise it’s a song that has been recorded by thousands of artists. I chose this recording here because the fingerstyle guitar in this version is the style I like to play most on my old beat up acoustic guitar.
The Ship Song (live) – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
When I was 14 I had an English teacher who was a wonderful weirdo. She mentioned to me one day that I should listen to a radio station called Triple J. They had a music poll every year called the Hottest 100 of the best ever songs, and on that year it would be the best songs for the year. Back then they used to play the Hottest 100 on New Year’s Day. It was 1993 and the first Hottest 100 proper. She said I should also check out a guy called Nick Cave because I’d probably dig him. I’m not sure what she saw in 14 year old me to make that connection but I’m so glad she did. It set me on a path of exploring music on my own terms, not just what I had been listening to on commercial radio stations. That first Hottest 100 poll and the following CD shaped who I am today and the music I listen to. Nick Cave has been an ever present theme in my life. This is not only the first Nick Cave song I ever heard, but also my favourite. I can’t imagine a life without ‘The Ship Song’ in it.
How Much is Enough – You Am I
I first heard You Am I on that same Hottest 100 poll in 1993 when ‘Adam’s Ribs’ came in at #50. ‘Berlin Chair’ was released not long after and I was completely hooked. I first saw them live at the Big Day in 1995 at the Fremantle Oval. I was 16 years old. It was my first big festival and it was completely overwhelming and wonderful. I remember hearing the opening chords to ‘Cathy’s Clown’ over the crowd and dragging my sister over to watch them play. Seeing Tim Rogers on stage in full flight is something to behold. I pretty much went to every You Am I gig I could after that. I still do. All of the You Am I albums, and especially Tim’s solo release “What Rhymes With Cars and Girls”, were the soundtrack to my late teens and early 20s. ‘How Much Is Enough’ makes this list mainly because it’s from “Hi Fi Way”, which I completely wore out. It’s an album I still listen to regularly and there isn’t a bad song on it. ‘How Much is Enough’ is the perfect closer to an epic album and is such a well written song. As Mr Rogers would say “God bless the fucking lot of us”.
Mojo Pin – Jeff Buckley
I had heard Jeff Buckley on Triple J and liked the singles ‘Grace’ and ‘Last Goodbye’ enough to buy the CD “Grace”. When I put it on, the opening track ‘Mojo Pin’ blew my mind. The way he sang and played was so other-worldly and I was completely enamoured. When he went missing in 1997 I had just turned 18. It was 6 days before they found his body after he drowned in the Mississippi River. It was the first death of someone I didn’t know that really affected me. The fact that he went on after his death to receive so much recognition and praise just goes to show how much talent he had. He was such an anomaly in the music of the time in that there was nothing else really like him, and unlikely to be anyone else like him. He played guitar like no one else and could go from a hushed whisper to a wail in seconds. ‘Mojo Pin’ is the quintessential Buckley song in that it showcases all the things that made him amazing.
Untouchable Face (live) – Ani DiFranco
‘Untouchable Face’ gets the nod here because it’s the first Ani song I ever heard. I liked it enough to take a trip to Mills Records in Freo to track down a copy of the live album “Living In Clip”. The way Ani paints a story with her lyrics really spoke to me. The verse on this song when she’s singing about driving at 3.30 in the morning? Kills me every time. What I heard on that album was so different to what I had ever heard before. Here was a chick who could play guitar in a way that was really unique and she wrote whip smart lyrics to boot. As a young woman myself who never really felt like I fit into the societal norms of what it was to be female, I finally had a role model who didn’t give a fuck and was just herself. At 20 years old, I quickly realised that if you just be your most honest and best self you tend to attract other people like that to you. It was such a breath of fresh air and I consumed as much of her back catalogue as I could. It also encouraged me to put my guitar into weird tunings and to just play around to see what would happen. I still can’t play an Ani song to save my life though, her guitar style is so completely unique and recognisable.
Anywhere I Lay My Head – Tom Waits
There are two types of people in the world – people who absolutely love Tom Waits and people who think it’s all a bit weird. I’ve never heard someone say they just kind of like him. My first introduction was through my friend Drew. He kept telling me I should listen to him in that way that only people who obsess about an artist can, so on a whim I picked up “Rain Dogs”. The first two listens I was just trying to make sense of it all. It was unlike anything I had ever heard. Once it got under my skin it held on tight and I’ve been a massive Tom Waits fan ever since. To be honest I could’ve picked several songs from this album but this really is an essential Waits song. It’s full of balladry Waits goodness and ends with a dose of Waits weirdness. As someone who spent many years as a vagabond the lyrics really hit: “I don’t need anybody / Because I learned to be alone / And anywhere / I lay my head, boys / I will call my home”.
Everything In Its Right Place – Radiohead
It’s a big call picking your favourite Radiohead album, let alone song. There was something really captivating about ‘Kid A’ when it was released. There was nothing else like it at the time and after “OK Computer” we were all waiting to see what they would do next. I loved the fact that ‘Kid A’ had minimal guitar. The mantra like lyrics. The choppy vocals. The driving synths. It was perfect. I remember it took a few listens to get it though. One night I couldn’t sleep and put it on my CD walkman and through my headphones I was transported. It’s like everything just clicked into place. Everything WAS in its right place. The album was released not long after I had packed up my life and moved to Brisbane from the west coast, so it reminds me a lot of that time. At the time it was just something I had to do, but with some more time and wisdom on my side I can see it was a pretty gutsy thing to do. The lyric “everything in its right place” is definitely a mantra of sorts for me. When things start feeling unstuck or heading in the wrong direction this is the song I find myself repeating over and over in my head. Fun fact: I have a tattoo related to this song.
Blue – Joni Mitchell
This song absolutely breaks my heart like no other song. It took me a little while to get on the Joni Mitchell train. A lot of my favourite artists and friends named her as an influence but I only bought “Blue” around 10 years ago. I fell in love with it immediately. The way Joni turns a phrase and uses her voice as an instrument really stood out to me. Whilst I really love her guitar playing, the stripped back piano and vocals in this song makes me feel all the feelings. I particularly love the line “You know I’ve been to sea before / Crown and anchor me / Or let me sail away”. The lilting piano often feels like the ebb and flow of the ocean on the shore, which reflects the lyrical content. The way she holds that final note slays me every single time. This albums reminds me a lot of driving through the mountain ranges of Far North Queensland in an old van with nothing but time and my bestie Morgan keeping my company.
The Big Ship – Brian Eno
I’m not exactly sure how I came to listen to this song. I think it might have been on a playlist made by an artist I liked? What I do know is that when I first heard it, I was on a train with headphones and I had no idea what I was about to hear. It starts slow and quietly and just keeps building and building, layer upon layer of lushness. I was so overwhelmed it made me cry on a train of strangers. Awkward. It is by far the most beautiful piece of music I’ve ever heard. This is my go to song whenever I feel a bit out of sorts. It’s a song that to me is filled with so much joy and hope. It never fails to make me snap out on it and focus on the good around me.
Ziggy Stardust – David Bowie
I couldn’t do a mixtape for important moments in my life and not include something to represent ‘a five year crash course in music’. It was a no-brainer to include a Bowie song. Not only was the “Ziggy Stardust” album a great surprise to me, it has gone on to be one of my all time fav afyccim albums. It also reminds me of Dann and Clay, the wonderful guys I get to do the blog with. Dann and I got to be with a group of awesome people as we watched Clay and his band the Wesley Goodlet Jamboree Scouts play this album in full at my old stomping ground, the Newport in Freo. This song was a definite highlight that night and listening to this album and song reminds me of all the really good people I have in my life right now.