Somewhere in a parallel universe, I’m enjoying an île flottant and talking to a parallel Kirsten Young about the eight shellac records I like to have with me when I’m eating my steampunk dessert on an airship.
In this universe, however, I’ve more or less accepted the fact that I will never be invited onto Desert Island Discs, and will never be able to impress people with my populist but groovy selection.
So for those of you who do not have access to the tools needed to access that parallel universe, here they are. In no particular order, Kirsten:
- Springsteen by Eric Church. This one evokes those summers of ’84 and ’85 when Bruce was suddenly huge and we all sang along at Wembley Stadium. It also reminds me of the first flush of romance, my first car, my first enormous collection of Springsteen bootlegs, and a time before computers, internet, multi-channel TV, and the sagging onset of children and middle age. So yeah. Like a soundtrack to a July Saturday night. The genius bit is the “Woah woah woah woah” which of course Kirsty wouldn’t get to in this universe, but in the Parallel universe, they play the whole fucking song. We really did all sing the “Woah woahs” in the crowd at those Springsteen gigs.
- Sheets Down by Connor Christian. This one, parallel Kirsten, is not a nostalgia trip but something I’ve been listening to a lot this year. If you want, it’s July Saturday night in 2013, but more likely, it’s me dancing round the kitchen baking bread and listening to the iPod play through the cheap speaker dock I bought in Asda. It’s being on holiday with the kids, riding my bike around the lanes, and every time it comes on, Kirsten, I can’t get over how good it is.
- Leavin’ in Your Eyes by Little Big Town. Back when I was between jobs, I spent a lot of time in the garage, making music, and discovering independent artists on the MySpace. So it’s the mid-2000s, and I’ve downloaded a few early Little Big Town tracks. Of all the music I discovered that year, I thought they were the best. Fast forward a few years, and I’ve bought a couple of LBT albums, but I don’t listen that much. I think they’re all right, but no better than that. And then two things happen. I’m riding my bike, having just downloaded their album Tornado, and this number comes on. It immediately strikes me as being a perfect pop record, evoking the mid-70s Fleetwood Mac, beautiful harmonies and lyrics universal enough to apply to anyone. The second thing that happened was that we went to the Country2Country festival at the O2 in 2013, and they were the second act on the stage. I was looking forward to it, but not that much. The arena was half-empty, because people had apparently spent all that money just to see Tim McGraw. But on came Little Big Town, and they were fantastic, Kirsten, doing it live even better than on the record: 4-part harmonies and a brilliant set of songs, finishing with a Fleetwood Mac cover.
- Tell me Fool by Vince Gill. I’ll never forget Vince Gill as the host of the Country Music Association awards, back in the 1990s, when the BBC showed them for a happy few years. At the time, I wasn’t keen on Gill’s actual music, but I noted then how he seemed to be respected in the industry and what a genuinely decent personality he seemed to be. Then I saw him take the stage for a number and he astonished me with his superb guitaring*. I became obsessed then with discovering the hidden guitar talents of an artist I’d dismissed as a balladeer. I bought a few of his records over the years. Then, at last, after a really long hiatus between albums, he released Guitar Slinger, which had a great piece of guitar playing (in different styles) on every track. He also played on the same bill at the O2 as Little Big Town and Tim McGraw. McGraw was excellent, but again, the venue was half empty for Gill’s set. And yet this. [Kirsten plays the record.] (Unfortunately, it’s not available on YouTube, but there is this snippet of some guy trying to play the solo along with the track. He doesn’t do a bad job, and you get a hint of what I love about Gill’s guitar slinging.)
- Wait it Out by Tift Merritt. Merritt’s second album brings together producer George Drakoulis, Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench, and the singer herself. I love the excitement generated on this track, which is so reminiscent of 1979-era Tom Petty. (Another one not on YouTube, I’m afraid, so you’ll have to make do with this, from her Live from Austin session – without any Heartbreakers. I think you’ll agree that she fucking rocks.)
- Up to Me by Bob Dylan. One of those strange ones, Kirsten, where he records an album (in this case Blood on the Tracks) and then leaves the best song off. Maybe it’s something to do with balance, whatever. Anyway, three chords and the truth. This, for me, is quintessential Bob Dylan: a world you can get lost in, and a song you’ll never get tired of interpreting. There’s a woman at work, Kirsten, whose name is Crystal, and I start singing this in my head every time I pass her in the corridor. (Doubtless Sony have aggressively taken down any attempt to upload the Dylan version, so here’s some guy on YouTube doing it. Actually, he does it really well, a few forgotten lines, and miles better than Roger McGuinn’s attempt, which deconstructs the melody a little too much.)
- Tightrope by Electric Light Orchestra. From their best album, A New World Record, and lest we forget. ELO are one of those bands that it used to be possible to forget all about. Amazing as that now seems. They’ve been rehabilitated completely into the culture, but somewhere around the time of punk rock, when a lot of really stupid people became arbiters of taste, ELO were deeply, deeply unfashionable, their career truncated early simply because they were perceived as uncool. But they were my first big gig: Wembley Arena, I think it was, on the Out of the Blue tour. Live sound wasn’t up to much in those days, and it was a shitty venue, but at least I can say I saw them in their pomp, and did so while all my peers were putting vaseline in their hair and listening to bilge. What a composer, what an arranger, Jeff Lynn is. Not very charismatic on stage, but you can’t have everything.
- Lookin’ for You (Lookin’ For Me) by Joy Lynn White. Lovely, lovely song from a criminally ignored artist. It’s a problem with the country music industry, with country radio, youtube, the BBC, the CIA, and the RSPCA. How does someone with such a fantastic voice, such great material, just disappear into obscurity? Four albums in 20 years, Kirsten, and all of them corkers. As some idiot on YouTube posted, she has Hugh. Hugh, Hugh talent. (Needless to say, not on YouTube. You’ll have to make do with this one, which is not at all shoddy. Check out the Hammond Organ solo. Sweet.)
This post was a labour of love. I’ll be taking the Connor Christian track if all the others get washed away. Book is Declare by Tim Powers, and I’ll be leaving the Shakespeare and the Bible in the ship wreck. Luxury will be a coffee roaster/grinder.
LIke many very famous people, I have been invited onto this parallel universe Dessert Island Discs before. Like those people, I have chosen a different selection this time. I’m impressed that even two of the tracks are the same. Mr Consistency!
*Yes, that’s right autocorrect: I did mean guttering.