1. Pearl Jam | Black
I am huge fan of Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam. I was heavily influenced by the Grunge scene that originally came out of Seattle in the 90’s. There was definitely something that set Pearl Jam apart from the other bands of that time though, I believe their song writing really took the scene to a whole different level. Eddie Vedder is such a poignant and personal storyteller, the songs really draw you in and effect you on a deep emotional level. This introverted and obviously shy person has a voice so large that it takes him far beyond the restrictions of his shyness. He has a voice that resonates and connects so much with me. The song Black was a big part of the soundtrack to my schooldays. The longing and pain in this song is something that as a high school kid stirred up so much emotion. This song reminds me of skipping school, walking down country roads, stealing cigarettes off our friend’s parents and dreaming of the possibilities that could be out there.
2. Fleetwood Mac | Never Going Back Again
The combination of musicians and songwriters in Fleetwood Mac created a sound that was so unique for their time, and has really lasted the test of Time. Especially with the album Rumours, pretty much every song from that album became a hit in it’s own right. My Dad was a huge Music fan and had all the albums of the 70’s bands like Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, Neil Young, Pink Floyd etc. My early musical influence came from all these bands. Listening to the songs of Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles inspired me to first try to start singing, even though I was so young I had no idea what I was doing, the songs just made me want to sing whether I was any good at it or not. Our parents used to take us on holidays where we would pack up everything for 4 months at a time and drive all around Australia towing a caravan behind us. I remember listening to Fleetwood Mac while driving for hours across the desert, and imagining what that whole American Music scene must have been like back in the 70’s, and trying to figure out all the harmonies in my head. The song Never Going Back Again really takes me back to that feeling of the open road; a feeling of escaping which is what we all plan as high school kids. Now that I am older I can appreciate the musicianship in this song. Lindsey Buckingham’s acoustic guitar riff really is a song in itself, the harmonies are amazing… And these guys pulled these harmonies off so precisely in their live shows, no matter how many copious amounts of mind altering drugs they were probably taking at the time!! The voices gelled so well together, and I think the fact that Lindsey Buckingham actually wrote this song about his breakup with Stevie Nicks and still had her sing the harmonies gives it an extra sense of slight sadness even though the song is kind of up beat.
3. Johnny Cash | Hurt (Nine Inch Nail Cover)
Trent Reznor’s personal story of addiction and regret in the original Nine Inch Nails song Hurt is absolutely brilliant and I would never have believed anyone could come close to bettering his take on this song… Until Johnny Cash decided to record his own version. Johnny Cash’s interpretation is absolutely heart wrenching and breathtaking. Although he did not write this song, he has lived every single word of it, and the pain of this comes through in every note he sings. This was one of the last tracks Johnny Cash recorded before his death and it tells the tale of an old man looking back on a life of alcoholism and the pain he caused to the people around him. His long suffering wife looks on in the video while he plays the piano and sings the lyrics And you could have it all, My empire of Dirt. I will let you down, I will make you Hurt… If I could start again a million miles away, I would keep myself, I would find a way... I defy anyone to watch the whole video of this performance and not come close to shedding a tear.
4. Massive Attack | Teardrop (with Elizabeth Fraser)
One of the first Trip Hop songs to really permeate into the mainstream, and undoubtedly one of the defining songs of this genre. I think most people can remember what was going on in their life the first time they heard this song, it really reached and affected so many people. This song was probably one of my first introductions into Electronic Music, although it still has a lot of live elements. This track kind of showed me that songs didn’t always need to have a big, obvious chorus to be beautiful and effective, it is much more subtle. The vocals are beautiful and the music is evocative and moody. This song kind of sums up a time as well, in the early 2000’s this song was everywhere.
5. Tegan And Sara | Walking With A Ghost
This Tegan And Sara song is just insanely catchy!!! There are very few lyrics, it is almost like a ditty that keeps repeating and it just gets stuck in your head for days, but it makes me so happy!! The song is actually about friends leaving, abandon and trying to get someone out of your head and heart but the catchiness of the melody is a juxtaposition to the lyrics, as it is extremely upbeat. I remember when we were recording an album for my old band Missing Hours this song was our Fire Up song every morning while we were driving to the studio. We put it on loud in the car and sang it every morning on the way there to get us in the mood and make us feel happy! This would be the song playing on the car stereo as we drove up the highway with our first coffees in hand and our hangovers blearing...
6. Love Spit Love | Am I Wrong
I don’t know that this song or band really reached the level of success they deserved, but this is an extremely beautiful piece of Music from Richard Butler. The lyrics Goodbye, lay the blame on luck are so sad, but resigned to the situation. I think everyone can relate to these lyrics – I certainly do; having to let someone go and say goodbye and there is nothing you can really do about it, so you gotta just shrug your shoulders and say oh well, even though there is a much deeper sense of regret conveyed. To me, it is the acknowledgement that sometimes there is no-one to blame, but things just may not work out as you had hoped for whatever reason. The yearning in this song is so audible that it is heartbreaking… The we always thought things would be better kinda vibe gets me in this song… Someone lost without knowing which direction home is. I always related to that on some level. When the chorus drops into the minor fall... The melody... The melody kills me every time.
7. Tori Amos | 1000 Oceans
I probably could have chosen any one of about a dozen Tori Amos songs. I LOVE Tori Amos in her late 90’s/early 00’s Plugged era of Choirgirl Hotel when she was still touring with a full band. To be honest I never really entirely know what she is singing about all of the time, but that doesn’t really matter with her songs. This song has that rare quality that only happens so occasionally in Music, where the melody, the piano and words she is singing combine to create something much larger, almost like a frequency that can open portals into to other dimensions. It is an energetic frequency, kind of like alchemy, the kind of frequency that gives you goose bumps and perhaps if Music can heal, which I am sure it can, these ones are the healing frequencies. My take on this song is that it is about giving anything to bring back someone who has passed on or gone away, but in this song the melody is just so affecting that it almost wouldn’t matter so much what the actual lyrics are saying, because the meaning is coming through so clearly in the feeling and emotion of her voice. When you hear this song you know exactly what it means on an energetic level, even if you don’t exactly know how to word that.
8. Pink Floyd | Vera
OK, so this one isn’t really a song, it is one of the segues from The Wall, which was such an obviously brilliant album and was a huge part of my younger years thanks again to my Dad’s record collection. I love the way Pink Floyd integrated segues into their works, their albums were always concept albums that took the listener on a complete journey. It didn’t matter whether the song was a minute long, if it had spirit then it warranted being on the album. This song takes me back to my childhood, it always reminded me of Berlin for some reason and made me wonder what it would be like to visit such a place. Berlin is where I am actually living at the moment. There is such a powerful sense of nostalgia in Roger Waters’ voice on this track – it is a cry to someone who can’t hear him and it is a call to a past which he knows is not going to return… To me, it felt as though Roger Waters was crying out not just to Vera Lynn, but to all the people from his own past who had faded into memory with the years…Even as a kid I was really taken by this. I ended up performing at an old theatre in London once called The Cobden Club where Vera Lynn apparently used to perform during the War. The idea was very romantic to me, being that Pink Floyd had such an impact on my childhood, even though I am not overly familiar with the music of Vera Lynn herself.
9. The Verve | The Drugs Don’t Work
Beautifully written and such a poignant song. The live strings are perfect in conveying the melancholic emotion. I remember this song coming out when I was living in Melbourne. The Melbourne party scene was huge at that time, probably still is, and I remember this song really making me feel sad about the effects that scene was having on some people I knew who were taking things too far, I guess everyone has known or seen people who have taken this road. This song also brings me back to my cover band days, many nights at The Red Eagle pub in Melbourne we performed this song, my brother and I. They were fun days, we were just out of school and everything was new and exciting!
10. Garbage | Milk
I am noticing now that most of my song choices are from my childhood and school days. This song is the same. Maybe the Music was more poignant then, or perhaps those are the years we are the most deeply affected by what we hear, I think the latter is probably true. For some reason, although I love a lot of music from the past ten years, it is rarely hugely influential or life changing for me, where as the music from my early years truly shaped the person I became, the memories I carry with me and probably the style of songwriting I developed, even if I my songwriting is in no way similar to these artists, it is still greatly influenced by them all. Shirley Manson was - and still is - the epitome of cool in my eyes. She isn’t perhaps traditionally beautiful, but she is definitely beautiful. Her fierceness onstage and slight awkwardness and vulnerability in person make her a very strange but captivating persona. Milk was a huge track, very understated in melody, but dark and moody, the lyrics summed up everything that Shirley Manson kind of was – I am weak, but I am strong... Everyone can relate to these lyrics in some way I think… I loved the contradiction in this – I always felt this way, sort of like we all have these different aspects to our personality on show at different times. I took comfort in hearing someone as seemingly bulletproof as Shirley Manson admitting to the vulnerability of her own character… This honesty really resonated with me and the track is just sublime.