Nick’s holiday top 10 listening post

This was my holiday soundtrack while in Santorini this past May. (I went early in the year because I didn’t think we had summers in the UK anymore. How wrong was I?!) Anyway, I went nostalgic, I went current, I was swept away, in fact, by the whole caboodle. Music is the food of love. Read on and enjoy!

1. New Radicals – Get What You Give
I got to know Gregg Alexander through my friends Steve and Liza. When I first met him, he put his mobile phone to my ear and played me his answer phone message, which was ‘ring and a ring and a ring…’ from the chorus of ‘Love Plus One’. I know Susan too, who Gregg wrote the song about. But it just so happens to be one of my favourite songs when I want to feel inspired. I totally love it. It’s like Todd Rundgren on a quadruple espresso.

2. Shearwater – The Hunter’s Star
Shearwater are one of my girlfriend’s favourite bands. I initially thought they were quite noisy (not that she’s a noisy band lover), but then I began to listen to this one song over and over. I can play it five times in a row and it’s fresh as a daisy every time. It’s ethereal work – hooks me up like a vicar. I melt every time the double bass comes in and when the cellos come in, I evaporate. And rhyming robin’s breast with lioness fills my slippers with gladness.

3-4. Supertramp – Logical Song and Dreamer
The 1970s was a very special time for pop music, wasn’t it? Supertramp just came up with a bunch of beautiful juicy surprises. ‘There are times when all the world’s asleep’ – when this simple lyric collides with a simple melody over a subtle chord change – it can transform my whole world. The way these songs have been crafted and the musicianship is just so creative. It’s like musical storytelling at its best. How well do these guys play together too? That’s the magic of bands – people that spend time together making music is more potent than people forced together to play music for a living. I’ve often observed expert classical musicians at concerts playing the greatest music ever written with the passion of a delinquent teenager. It simply doesn’t compare to groups who regularly play together. Take a look at the film The Late Quartet for a prime example of this. Basically, if a band can put up with each other that’s when the magic happens. It’s all part of the creative process. Right, I’m off to read Rudyard Kipling’s “If” again.

5. Villagers – Set The Tigers Free
This song is like short holiday train journey. It starts off partly cloudy in the built up areas of the town, becomes brighter just after lunch and ends up by the sea in full sun. You grab your bucket and spade and make a sandcastle in anticipation of the tide coming in at the end of the day. This tune is a perfect clear landscape. I love how everything is simple and close by. It’s a nice tidy frame too – natural wood, painted white. Lovely.

6. Bill Evans & Jim Hall – Skating In Central Park
Ok, the sun’s going down. Your skin feels sunblessed, your heart is rested and your mind peaceful. It’s time to pop back into town for something to eat. You find the perfect place and to your utter amazement, Bill Evans is on the piano and Jim Hall is on the guitar. Maybe you’ve gone to jazz heaven. So, where’s my dad? He’s at the bar ordering a pint. This music is so organic, it’s like watching two whistling spiders weaving a web together. The thing is, it’s a more like a bouncy castle, more fun that getting stuck in a web. Actually, I just remembered I got stuck in a bouncy castle once. It was one of those big moving ball ones. I think they’re banned now. See where music can take you? Into a fight or flight memory. Music is healing. I will heal this now. Thanks guys. Cheers.

7. Gaz Coombes – One Of These Days
The first time I heard this song on 6music, I thought, ‘hmm I like that.’ The second time I heard it on 6music, I thought, ‘beautiful strange sketchy feel. I wonder who is making such lovely music.’ The third time, I nipped over to the radio quickly to see who it was and to my utter delight saw that it was Gaz Coombes. I’m a Supergrass fan and I hadn’t recognised who it was. The fourth time I heard it was when downloading it onto my phone to listen to it for a fifth time. On the sixth play, it’s a classic. It’s an absolutely lovely song. Love is strange. So here’s proof of the importance of a radio station that supports great artists such as Gaz Coombes. In a healthy music business, sad reflective songs like this would be sitting in the top 10 happy as Larry. I do believe a healthy music business is on its way back after a rough night out. But if it doesn’t make it, we’ve got 6music and we’ve all got our own charts.

8. Billy Joel – She’s Always a Woman
Only Billy Joel is able to capture the essence of such a female with this precision – glad he was the canary in the coal mine here. Had he not experienced it though, we would’ve never heard this song. And for that I tip my hat and respect to you, Billy. Not only as a supremely gifted composer, but also as a fellow human being. Your vocal delivery and piano performance is like that of Aramis, from The Three Musketeers – graceful and effortless. This recording captures an artist at the height of his abilities and here he is giving us a display of his swordsmanship. En garde!

9. Gabriel Fauré – Requiem Op. 48-7. In Paradisum
I’m writing this in an easyJet queue – apparently not considered to be a paradise situation. Maybe I should listen to it because it’s a fast track to paradise. Again when the deep double bass arrives I arrive into the sound of gold (quite close to easyJet’s orange, isn’t it?) Paradise? It’s always here, whether I’m connected to it or not. Taking a deep breath or two in a very stressful queue does work wonders though. Take that paradise situation and put it right! Actually, as I reach passport control it’s “The Last of the Melting Snow” by The Leisure Society that’s put a tranquil smile on things. What an amazing recording.

10. The Bee Gees – Stayin’ Alive
Right chaps, chocs away! Here I am in this metal tube with my fellow brothers and sisters ready to return home to the green and pleasant valleys of the English countryside. I haven’t listened to this song in ages, let alone on this holiday, but here it is, “Stayin’ Alive” by The Bee Gees. The metal tube now throbbing with love and we’re bouncing over clouds. Turbulence means nothing. Bring it on! We’re stayin’ alive. Wooooo! The weaving guitar, the frantic pace, the ace musicianship, the brass lines, the string lines, all perfectly placed to get the heart pounding. This aeroplane is alive with the sound of music! Why, if I had lederhosen on now, I would slap my bare knees and get everybody up boogying on down. It’s a nice windy day and quite a bumpy landing as it happens. Great to be back home.

  • http://Www.bobbipeacock.com Bobbi

    What a great list! Thanks for sharing…I’ve found a few new ones!

  • steve martin

    1 emmylou harris- no regrets 2 goodbye grey- Arnold 3 you we’re’nt in love with me- Billy Fields 4 Blue mantle- the Aliens 5 straight to yoo- Nick Cave 6 Aint that enough- Teenage Fanclub 7 How I long to feel that summer in my heart- Gorkys…… 8 Broken Face- Pixies 9 Positively 4th street- Dylan 10 Dark end of the street- Gram Parsons. I could possibly make another dozen top 10s. If the Gaz Coombes song you mention is the one Radcliffe and Maconi are currently championing the I agree it is ace. I could buy his album on the strength of that song alone.

  • Francis Sinnott

    Hi Nick,
    Well done on the website. It looks really well and is a welcome addition to cyberspace. Opening up questions to the floor is a great idea and I’d like to pose one of my own.

    My question relates to the albums ‘I Love you Avenue & ‘The Apple Bed’. Both albums sound unmistakably of their time, from the synthetic squeaky-clean digital synthetic instrumentation Fairlight/DX7 sounding Avenue to the Brit-pop influenced and grunge guitar effects on Apple Bed.

    I think both albums contain great tracks, ‘Lie with you’ and ‘This is Love’ on Avenue and ‘In Every Place’ and ‘The Man you used to be’ on The Apple Bed being my own favourites. My question is, did you set out to make both albums sound so contemporary to their time and if you had the chance would you change the way they were produced?

    • Nick Heyward

      Hi Francis. Thank you!

      Great question. I can set out in the morning with a definite direction for the songs and by the afternoon it’s another album entirely. This has always been the way. It works most of the time, but it can sometimes be a source of great frustration for myself and for those working with me. At one point The Apple Bed had a very strong middle eastern sound to it. The gifted and versatile Lu Edmonds from Public Image Ltd spend a few days recording with us and I was already shopping for Arabic clothing for new image change.
      Given a time machine, I would probably go full on Arab! It’s never too late…

      • Greg Mccurtin

        What about the gorgeous “Traffic in Fleet Street”. What can you tell me about this song?

  • http://afewgoodtimesinmylife.blogspot.de Walter

    Nice top ten especially your no. 1. One of the best pieces in music ever. Stay well – a fan

  • http://mediateacher.net Carl Casinghino

    Nick, of course I love the top 10. Yes, the Gaz Coombes song is mystically powerful. I had to order one of the signed 12″‘s of it. Actually, I scoured the net for news of his solo work for what felt like ages after the breakup of Supergrass… and finally we got what we were hoping for with “Here Come the Bombs” — I bring it up because it’s kind of like our excitement for the upcoming Heyward and Haircut 100 treats!
    Okay, I just had to write because you put “Get What You GIve” at the top of the list. I am a teacher of moviemaking and French and a little while back when I was working with a (very special) class, we had a sudden brainstorm to do a big project to celebrate a retiring administrator — and for me it was also to commemorate through a joyous and full of life action the lives of a couple of students who had tragically died within the previous couple of years — and we decided to do a lip dub. These kinds of things are all over the place now, but I think we came up with something kind of special. We put the entire thing together in under two weeks — including picking out the songs, which was excruciating! You can’t begin to imagine what the average American high schooler wants to pick for songs, virtually none of which would be approved by the powers that be; in any case, a particular breakthrough came when my brother suggested “You Get What You Give,” which I already loved, and I knew it would work that moment. I just had to convince the students. Not easy. (And make some judicious cuts like the “crashing the Mercedes” line — did it “by hand” with no sweetening, just straight FinalCut Pro in the classroom, pretty hard to hear it!)
    Then the actual shoot was done during a 30-minute homeroom period. It was crazy. But I think — or I hope — we captured the breadth and energy of what kids do and love to create in the walls of a school, at least when it’s at its best. Here’s a link:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oL0hkU7OEcU
    I’m sharing this because I feel there’s something ineffably reminiscent of your the spirit of your work and that of the Haircut-vibe that you and your pals shared with all of us. Give it a few minutes at least, if you can.
    By the way, I had shared with you a few years back a review I wrote of “Open Sesame Seed” that included an appreciation of your career (and accompanied a discussion of the work of the brilliant percussionist and composer Trilok Gurtu).
    And now, my family and I are so excited at the prospect of these new albums you have been talking about. Thanks so very much for keeping up with the inspiring music and messages and creative vibes coming our way.
    All the best, Carl Casinghino and family